Riding school instructors are chosen for their equestrian training, their ability to impart knowledge and level of professionalism. The instructors will work with students to achieve their individual goals as riders and determine the best course of lessons for student progress.
Rick Harris, IndependentTrainer, has been an equestrian professional for over 20 years. Rick grew up riding ponies in Richmond, Virginia, and has worked as a trainer for 10 years in Saint Louis and 8 years in New Orleans in addition to freelancing in Middleburg. Rick has competed successfully in hunterís circuit championships in Gulfport, Ocala and Indio, as well as numerous grand prix competitions. Rickís students have competed successfully in divisions from ponies to junior/amateur owner jumpers in addition to competing in Medal and Maclay Finals, Pony Finals and Young Riders Championships and several have ranked in the top 10 nationally. Rick enjoys bringing along young horses and preparing horses for their junior and amateur riders to show.
Kristen Swope, Riding School Director, is a dedicated hunter/jumper professional with a variety of exceptional experiences. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Equine Science with concentration in equestrian instruction and training from Lake Erie College, where she competed successfully in IHSA, IDA, and ICTA. Kristen also studied abroad at England’s Hartpury College, completing coursework in Equine Veterinary Science, Equine Anatomy, and Equine Psychology and training in classical dressage and stadium jumping. Kristen also trained with three day eventer Julie Randall in Aukland, New Zealand. Before coming to Equest Farm, Kristen worked as an instructor, trainer, camp and horse show organizer as assistant to Susan Horn at Prospering Farm in Prosper, Texas. Previously, Kristen was a private trainer at Echo Hill Farm in Rhinebeck, New York,
a trail guide in West Virginia’s New River Gorge, and was an assistant instructor under Bernie Villeneuve at Andrews School Equestrian Center in Mentor, Ohio.
Kristen has developed students through beginning lessons to showing successfully, with students consistently in the ribbons and most in the top five for the year end. Kristen Swope has been Equest Farm’s Riding School Director since February of 2010. She has restructured the riding school while teaching lessons from beginner level to 4’9”, designing a consistent lesson program, overseeing high quality instruction from four assistant instructors, maintenance of stables and horses with the barn manager, and scheduling and organizing the lesson program with the secretary. In addition, Kristen is the coach for the Tulane University Equestrian Team.
Dani Gricei, is a rider, trainer, and breeder of hunter/jumper horses that hails from Northfield, Minnesota. While she began competing in Grand Prix competitions in 2002, she began professionally showing in 2005. In addition to being a five time member of the Zone 6 NAYRC show jumping team, Dani was also Grand Champion at the National Horse Show in the Amateur Owner Jumpers in 2004 and the winner of the 2012 1.35 Meter Gienow Barrage at Spruce Meadows in Calgary. Before working at Equest, Dani previously worked for Accolade Farms in Grand Bay, Alabama from 2003-2014.
Kaeli Nichols, originally started riding at Equest back when she was six years old back when it was still called City Park Stables. Although she took a break from riding for some time, Kaeli picked up riding again on the LSU Equestrian Team in 2010. Kaeli spent three years as a high school English teacher, but found that her new calling was to teach riding lessons instead of teaching the academic world. Kaeli loves to watch new riders learn to jump cross rails for the first time. Her favorite school horses are Scarlett and Smokey.
Amanda Velez, started riding at Equest when she was seven years old in summer camp. After her first week, she was hooked on horses and continued to ride throughout her teen years. Eventually, Amanda began work as our diligent tacker and eventually moved up as an instructor in the riding school in 2013. Her favorite school horses are Donkey and Trigger.