Spound ready to chase her equestrian dreams into college


Jess Winhurst Photography

Senior Maddie Spound performs at a jumper competition with Chip.

Elitsa Koleva, Co-Managing Editor

A straight-backed, elegantly dressed rider grips the reins of their horse, intuitively guiding their companion forward. With every gallop, the pair exudes confidence. Indeed, equestrianism is a majestic, beautiful sport. But for senior Maddie Spound, who cherishes the bond she shares with her loyal friend, horse riding is so much more than that. 

For Spound, Chip was the special horse who led her through last summer’s competition season. Notably, she won two classical dressage events at the Vermont Summer Festival and Fieldstone Show Park, where her riding form was judged. In addition to that, she won a number of ribbons in the jumping events at the Wellington International Competition in Florida. Ultimately, her success that summer and bond with Chip solidified her love for the sport, leading to her commitment to the University of Charleston, where she will join the Division 1 equestrian team. 

According to Spound, what makes equestrianism so special to her is the connection she shares with horses. From her first horse Beau, who helped dip her toes into the sport, to Chip, with whom she was able to compete on a greater scale, horses have helped Spound grow into the person she is today. 

“It’s really just great to have a bond with a horse and having all your hard work and everything you put into that horse and your relationship pay off,” Spound said. “[The best part is that] you have a partner to do it with.”

After doing this sport for 12 years, it has been incredibly rewarding for Spound to see how much she has improved. What started out as casual lessons at a barn when she was seven years old riding ponies turned into something more serious after she moved to her current show barn, Holly Hill Farm, in Harvard. 

“I’ve been doing it most of my life and I’ve grown a lot, confidence-wise,” Spound said. “I showed in something called equitation, [an event focused on the form of the horse and rider], for most of my time being a junior. I just recently switched over to the jumpers, [which involve jumping over rails of varying heights].”

According to Spound, her trainer of seven years, Cathy Grady, has always been her biggest supporter. Through lessons three times a week and practice runs for the rest of the week, Grady helped Spound build the confidence she needed to refine her equitation and smoothly transition into the more challenging jumping competitions.

“We’ve always been really close and she’s always the one who comes to the ring with me and helps me out a lot,” Spound said. “I can call and talk to her whenever because she’s always been there for me and knows me very well. So she knows how to train me, prepare, and [knows] what my horses need.”

According to Spound, confidence in herself has always been something she has struggled with, so having a trainer that supports her has been crucial to her growth through the years. The bond she shares with her horses has also helped her overcome her anxiety, making this sport stand out to her.

“[Equestrianism] is basically my whole life. I’ve always struggled with anxiety and it’s always been my safe place,” Spound said. “I love being with the horses after school after a hard day, so it definitely means a lot to me.”

According to Spound, getting to go to the prestigious horse riding competition in Wellington, and earning two classic dressage awards in a row at the Vermont Summer Festival and Fieldstone Show Park last summer was a culmination of years of hard work. In fact, one of Spound’s best qualities is her ability to persevere through challenges and follow her sights. 

“Maddie has learned to handle her challenges, some of them being difficult, [but her] understanding of hard work and perseverance pays off,” Grady said. “She understands that nothing comes from luck, only from hard work. She has set high goals for herself and has to work on them daily.”

Aside from training in the ring, Spound worked part-time in order to pay for the competitions she went to over the summer. Whether it be caring for the horses at Holly Hill or getting to shows early in order to prepare the horses for the ring, it felt good to see where her hard work lead her. 

“For me, it’s definitely really exciting. I haven’t had as many opportunities as other people because it’s a hard sport, money-wise,” Spound said. “It felt amazing last year to do all these big competitions and win some of them.”

Although Chip will no longer be staying at Holly Hill, having returned to his original owners in Florida, Spound plans to pay him regular visits. As of now, Spound is set to ride her new horse named Maisie over the summer, with whom she is excited to bond with. In the future, she hopes she can bring Maisie to Charleston with her to ride with the team.

“Currently, [I am not on a team], but in college, I will be joining their team and trying out for that in August,” Spound said. “I would definitely love to keep horses in my life and keep showing [doing competitions]. I’d love to have a career out of this.”