Vanessa Craft began riding ponies on her family’s cow farm in Virginia at the age of 5. After a couple of years, of learning to ride by the “seat of her pants,” she moved up to riding horses. Bareback, Western, English – it didn’t matter, as long as she was on the back of an equine, she was happy. She left the horses briefly, while she obtained her Ph.D. in economics from Va. Tech. But as soon as she was settled into a career in academia, she quickly got back onto the back of a horse.
She purchased a green broke, five-year-old Appaloosa gelding for $600 in the fall of 1990 and began taking weekly, and sometimes twice-per-week lessons. Her thirst for knowledge was intense. Being athletic all of her life, she quickly mastered the basics of balance and began competing at the novice level of eventing one year later – in the fall of 1991. Her partner, of course, was the Appaloosa she had purchased – Santana. The pair moved up to training level in the fall of 1992 and then the preliminary level – the first rung of the upper levels of the sport – in the fall of 1993. They competed at the preliminary level for six years before she retired Santana from upper level competition.
In their last full season of competition – the spring of 1999 – she won all three of the horse trials in which she entered – all at the preliminary level. In March of that year, she won the prestigous Southern Pines Horse Trials in Southern Pines, North Carolina. In May of that year, she won the Virginia Horse Trials in Lexington, Virginia. And in June of that year, she won the Menfelt Horse Trials in Maryland. During their stay at the preliminary level, she also completed 4 three-day events – the ultimate test of horse and rider. Her first three-day was the prestigous Radnor Hunt CCN* in Radnor, Penn. in Oct., 1995. She placed 13 th out of 42 horses in her division. She twice competed at the Bromont CCN* in Bromont, Canada, her highest placed finish being 10 th at that event. Her final three-day with Santana was in 1997, at MSCTDA CCN* at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky, placing 7 th out of 28 horses.
Along the way, Santana won Appaloosa Sport Horse of the Year for Combined Training 3 years in a row. And they placed 6 th in the Area I preliminary level championships and 11 th in the Eastern DeBroke championships.
All during his career, Vanessa fox hunted Santana in drag hunts in New England and held the position of “whipper-in” for many of those years. This position is responsible for keeping the hounds on the trail of the “fox” and off the trail of deer and safe from roads with vehicle traffic.
Vanessa delved deeper into the world of dressage with her next horse, Get Out of Dodge. Initially intended as the horse that would enable Vanessa to compete at the Intermediate and possibly Advanced levels of eventing, “Dodger” turned out to be a less-than-stellar jumper. But he gravitated toward the sport of dressage. Vanessa initially showed him at dressage shows as a way of marketing the horse for sale, but once again, her passion for learning took over and she delved deeper into this exacting sport. She moved Dodger up the levels, competing successfully through third level – obtaining scores in the desired mid-to-upper 60 percent range and winning most of her classes at shows such as Dressage in the Sandhills in Pinehurst, NC and Dressage at Lexington, in Lexington, Va.
Vanessa became interested in teaching and training other people’s horses as a way of sharing what she knew, and to continue her own learning process. Having left academia and taken on a writing career, she retained her passion for learning and teaching. She found the one-on-one work with a horse or rider more fulfilling than she had ever found teaching economics to classes of 25 or 30 students.
Vanessa had also developed an intense desire to learn more about every aspect of a horse’s mind and body and how the two interact during part of her writing career – when she wrote material for Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine. During that phase of her life, she studied learning and behavior modification theory in addition to equine anatomy and physiology. That led her to take a different approach to her training – emphasizing breaking down exercises into smaller pieces that the horse could understand, then gradually putting the pieces together. Vanessa’s passion for this type of work recently led her to develop a partnership with Ginger Long of Equetec.
Ginger’s practical experience with this type of work, combined with her keen sense of observation and intuition and overflowing “bag of exercises” to teach horses how to use their bodies more correctly and to relax their minds filled a void in Vanessa’s teaching and training program.
Vanessa is now fulfilling her dream of having her own farm, located in the rolling hills of Oxford, NC where she teaches and trains people and horses in the sports of eventing, dressage, and just pleasure. Vanessa also competes her own horses and those belonging to her clients in eventing and dressage.
For more information contact Vanessa Craft in Oxford, NC at 919-691-1906 or email us.