Our community as family: Jenny K lends a (braiding) hand

Our community as family: Jenny K lends a (braiding) hand

November 05, 2019

Last month I wrote about envy between riders, and how it often seems hard for us to genuinely support each other.  This month I want to highlight our equestrian community as family, and how some of our top riders model good sportsmanship, generosity and kindness.  

As many of you know, I was blessed to compete in the Franktown Meadows Hunter Derby last month.  It’s not really a horse show—it’s more of a special event—set in the spectacular foothills of the Sierra Nevada near Carson City.  The venue is elegant. Everything about the event is gracious.  Horses, riders and spectators alike are happy just to be there for a few days.  There is a camaraderie among competitors and a uniquely supportive vibe. But it’s also a very prestigious event, with lots of prize money at stake, especially on the last day for the $30,000 International Hunter Derby.  

Darby Bonomi Franktown Meadows

Photo Credit: Alden Corrigan Media

To my delight, that afternoon, I read this wonderful story about superstar rider and trainer Jenny Karazissis, as told by another superstar rider and trainer, Nick Haness, on Facebook. 

We had a last minute change of plans with one of our horses, and he was accidentally not braided for the [International Derby]. The braiders had already left, and Jenny heard that I was in need of someone who could quickly braid before the big class starting at 1 pm.  With all of her own horses to prepare and organizing herself for the $30,000 Derby, she offered to braid my horse with only 2 hours to spare. She dropped everything…and grabbed some yarn and started braiding away.

Wow.  This makes me so proud.

In his post, Nick goes on to acknowledge Jenny as a truly wonderful friend, competitor, and horsewoman.  I only have to add that she is an incredible role model for us too—as a horsewoman and overall person.  How many of us in that situation would have offered to do the same (even if we could braid?) Most of us would be caught up in our own preparation or nerves and wouldn’t have considered it. 

Of course Jenny did it graciously, and then got right on her horses and rode with precision to the reserve championship.  What a class act.  This example reminds us that we have so much more in the tank than we think—and giving to others generates a positivity that allows one to do more, rather than less, and to make a contribution beyond ourselves.  Jenny’s example goes beyond good sportsmanship to selfless generosity.

Nonetheless, in the big picture, Jenny’s action is relatively small.  Horse people come to each other’s rescue in large ways all the time.  I think of a group of riders at the last show who dropped everything to help another who took a horrific fall.  I’m reminded of the massive California wildfires and the groundswell of support that was generated practically as soon as there was smoke in the sky.  Horsemen and women with trailers emerged from all corners, offering rides, help and donations.  In these situations we are not competitors—we are family, and we know no boundaries.   

Thank you, Jenny, for reminding us that we are a community—a family—of like-minded individuals gathered together to pursue this amazing sport we love so much with animals we adore.  Yes, we compete against each other, but we are first and foremost family.  Championships come and go, but relationships are what really sustain us.  When our family members are in need, we swoop in and help, without care for ourselves.  The horse community, in small ways and large, has shown itself to be deeply generous and caring in times of need.  I’m grateful—and proud—to be part of it. 

All the best,


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Darby Bonomi
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D A R B Y B O N O M I Ph D
Darby Bonomi
Performance Psychology for Equestrians

For over 25 years, Darby Furth Bonomi, PhD has facilitated positive transformations in clients of all ages.  As a practicing psychologist and consultant, Darby has worked with many people to achieve lasting change and establish the foundations for mental wellness.

Now in her primary role as a performance psychologist and family consultant, Darby merges her life-long experience in the equestrian world—as a rider, parent of riders and owner—with her vast toolbox of psychological and coaching interventions to help riders of all levels and their families reclaim the joy in their sport, leading the way to improved performance and better health. She loves helping clients untangle the complicated situations that tend to arise when horses are added to families.

In addition to writing the wellness column for Street to Stable®, Darby is a contributor to California Riding Magazine, along with publishing her own blog. She serves as an advisor to Giant Steps Therapeutic Equestrian Center and is on the Advisory Committee for the United States Equestrian Team Foundation.

A dynamic speaker and change maker, clients have sought out Darby to help improve their lives, both in and out of the saddle. She is devoted to making the equestrian world—and the world at large—a kinder, gentler and more respectful place.

Darby currently shows in the amateur owner hunters and equitation with her horses Little Wing and DaVinci, alongside her teenage daughters. She is married and has a college age son who steers clear of the barn. She lives in San Francisco.

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