Randy Sherman: International Horse Agent and Advocate of Traditional Equitation as a Foundation for the Jumpers

Thirty-two-year-old Randy Sherman, currently based in Europe, did most of the big eq training and shows with Susie Schroer, Dick Carvin and Francie Steinwedell of Meadow Grove Farm in Lake View Terrace, California. For a boy from small town Pasadena, success in the East Coast Medal Finals was the entrée he needed to set up an international horse brokering business many years later.

When asked to detail his win at the USEF Final in Harrisburg, he paused and said, “I am not a rider that feels a lot of stress or pressure, even when everything is on the line. Standing in the ring in Harrisburg in 2001 waiting for them to announce the final results, however, was a completely different situation. I was leading after the first round but fell to 5th after the second round. Six [horse-and-rider combinations] were called back to work off, and I thought I had managed to ride the work off well, but since none of the riders could watch each other, I had no idea what to think. Not 6th, not 5th, not 4th, not 3rd. If there had never before been a 15-year-old heart attack victim, there was about to be one. I will never forget the feeling when second place was announced and it didn’t sound anything like Randy Sherman.

“That year, everything just sort of fell into place. I did not own an eq horse of my own so Susie Schroer and Dick Carvin of Meadow Grove Farm had arranged for me to try a few horses Don Stewart had available the week leading up to the show. I sat on a couple but the one I felt the best on just happened to be the one that the girls riding with Don didn’t like – go figure! So Gladiator was my choice. Six years old and green. Big, beautiful, and luckily available.

“I had lessons on him each day leading up to the weekend, trying to establish as much as a connection as we could in such a short time. I had a lot of success when I was younger on catch rides so I was pretty comfortable with the situation going into the initial round. I think at that age you just don’t realize how difficult or crazy certain situations are.

“But looking back on it, on all of the possible ways it could have gone wrong, it makes me so incredibly thankful for the education I received from everyone at Meadow Grove. I am quite certain the result would not have been the same without them.”

WH: How did you get started in riding?

Randy Sherman

RS: My mom rode growing up and continued after her and my dad moved to California. When I was about 5, she put me on a pony and as they say, “the rest was history!”

WH: What is your horse show plan for Europe this Spring and Summer?

Randy Sherman and Eternity du Seigneur during the 7 Year Old World Breeding Championships in Lanaken in 2017. Photo: ©Sportfot
Randy Sherman and Eternity du Seigneur during the 7 Year Old World Breeding Championships in Lanaken in 2017. Photo: ©Sportfot

RS: For the moment, I am focusing on my younger horses. I currently have two very special 7-year-olds who I will be preparing for the young horse championships at the end of the outdoor season. Their program will consist mainly of national and international shows in and around Belgium. I am at a show pretty much every weekend of the year.

WH: Please describe your sales operation in Europe and how it came to exist?

RS: At the beginning of 2018, my girlfriend and I opened our own stable in Destelbergen, Belgium. The horses in the stable are a combination of investment horses owned jointly with individuals as well as a few in training from local owners. Our focus is quality rather than quantity. Every horse we have today has the potential to be competing at the international level, and I am sure we will see a few, if not all of them, jumping Grand Prixs successfully one day. Our goal is to produce mature, well-schooled, and competitive horses that their future riders will not only be successful with, but also enjoy working with. In addition to the horses we have in work at home, a large portion of my business caters to finding horses for clients in the United States and abroad.

Prior to opening our own business, I worked for the past 6 years for Stal Lambrecht in Belgium. Before I came to Europe in 2012, I didn’t sit on a horse for 8 years. So when I arrived in Belgium not only did I need a refresher on everything from picking a hoof to shining my boots, but I also needed a ton of miles in the saddle to get back into ring successfully. During my time at Stal Lambrecht I learned more than I could ever have hoped. From maintenance and management to training and producing horses, I had every opportunity I could have wanted to grow as a horseman.

WH: What are your impressions of the California circuit and advice for riders at the upper level on how it compares to European showing options?

RS: The biggest differences I see between the California circuit and European international showing are in the numbers. The numbers of entries per class, the numbers of quality combinations of horses and riders, and the number of euros (or dollars) it takes to get into the ring. It has been a while since I have been to an international show in Europe where the entries were not full. Each class can have in excess of 100 competitors depending on the size of the show, and in those 100 entries, it is hard, if not impossible to pick the winning combination at the outset. While classes at California shows may have less competitors, that does not mean there is less quality throughout the combinations entered in the class, simply that there is less competition overall. Additionally, it is relatively cheaper to compete in Europe than it is in California and in the United Stares in general. When attending an international show in Europe, you will typically pay an entry fee which covers 3 classes over the weekend, regardless of whether you jump the Grand Prix or only a small tour. This makes showing regularly much more affordable and accessible.

For anyone serious about gaining experience in the ring, Europe is the place to be. I took a chance and moved over here with little notion of what the sport of show jumping was really about. But that chance ended up providing me the experience I needed to own and run my own stable today.

WH: What is your opinion of the equitation as foundation for jumpers?

RS: Equitation is a must. I firmly believe that the success of American riders at home and worldwide is based in the principles of equitation. The fundamental understanding and implementation of the basics of equitation pave the road for a successful future. From heels down to a light seat to fluid, smooth rounds…everything you need to be successful in the jumpers has a basis in correct equitation.

WH: I understand that you hold a college education in high esteem-please elaborate.

RS: During the time I was not riding (2004 – 2012), I had the wonderful opportunity to attend Dartmouth College. I found Dartmouth to be a truly unique place to spend my undergraduate years. I was lucky enough to walk on the varsity baseball team and get a spot as a freshman and graduated with a degree in Environmental Studies.

WH: Has a business background been useful in your pursuits?

RS: After Dartmouth I spent a few years working for a bank in Southern California. While I cannot say those years were my most fulfilling, I did learn a lot about business that I have carried forward into my riding and business career. One key insight that not only applies to business (horse or otherwise) but also to riding is the importance of efficiency. There are a million ways to lose time and focus during the work day. When planning, I try to make informed decisions and stick to them. If all goes to plan, great! If not, adjust and repeat. As with most ventures in life, this one has a steep learning curve. From each success or failure, take the positives with you, forget the negatives, and apply what you learn going forward. Stay well organized, make goals, and work towards them every single day.

WH: To whom do you credit your indomitable spirit?

RS: My work ethic was instilled in me from a young age by my parents. Not through pressure or requirements, but rather by example. I will always be grateful for the values I learned growing up and those that are still reinforced to this day. As my dad would say, “If you want it, go out and work your butt off for it.”

WH: Is there an example of a horse that you have/had where a certain piece of tack or equipment has made a difference?

RS: I ride most of my horses during daily work with a Micklem bridle. I find that almost every horse accepts contact more easily and stays more relaxed in the jaw during work, especially strong or fussy horses. I suggest anyone who is not completely satisfied with their current bridle/noseband setup to give it a try.

WH: What is goal for 2018/2019?

RS: My goal with my horses this year is to prepare my young horses for the World Championships in Lanaken, Belgium, in September. My goal for my stable is to continue to expand my contact base throughout Europe and America in order to find quality horses for my clients.

WH: What horse or horses hold most promise for you?

Randy Sherman and C'est la Vie Velvety. Photo: Martine Tandt
Randy Sherman and C’est la Vie Velvety. Photo: Martine Tandt

RS: One of my 7-year-olds, C’est la Vie Velvety, is truly one of a kind. She is scopey, extremely careful, more clever than any horse I have ever ridden, and incredibly competitive. If I come out of the ring with a rail, it is always my fault! I have only ridden her since last September, but I can say without a doubt she is the most special horse I have ever sat on.

WH: I hope this isn’t too personal but how do you and your girlfriend manage the difficulty of a peripatetic lifestyle?

RS: Riding and showing pretty much means being away from home more than anyone wants. My girlfriend and I met at a horse show and have been together through countless shows since then. I think it’s always easier when you both know what you’re getting into at the beginning. Understanding the hours it takes each day and level of commitment required is not always easy, but finding time for each other is necessary. Even if that means a date night whenever we can or a walk with our dogs on a rare afternoon off, detaching from the horses and the work for even a few hours can make all of the difference.

WH: What is your advice to a young professional rider who is on the road often?

RS: Stay focused, rested and find a program that works for you. In the end we are athletes and to perform at your best means being able to give 100% when the time comes. Find a show day routine that allows you time to concentrate, prepare and compete while minimalizing certain things that can distract you or add pressure where it is unnecessary. For example, I know exactly how many horses I need from the time I leave the ring after watching some rounds to get back to the stable, polish my boots, get on my horse, and get to the warm up without needing to rush or add any pressure. If I am too late or too early, my warm up is thrown off and I don’t always feel completely confident heading into the ring. Everybody’s program will be different, but a rider who is organized and as relaxed as possible heading into the show ring will always be a more successful competitor.

WH: What are your thoughts on competing in Europe vs the United States for ambitious American riders and what is the concept behind crossing over from US to European markets?

RS: With the majority of show jumpers being bred in Europe, the connection between US and European markets is undeniable. I am fortunate to have spent my junior years competing across the US in the equitation, hunter, and jumper rings. This not only gave me a firm basis to pursue a professional career down the road, but also gave me a deep understanding of the market and more specifically the characteristics of horses that are appropriate and desirable for US clients. International sales are a big part of my business today and I aim to continue to find the best horses for all of my clients.

WH: What is your opinion on current state of show jumping in US?

RS: US riders have always been at the top of the sport and that continues to this very day. I love watching rounds of McLain or Kent or Laura or Beezie not only because they, among others, are the faces of US show jumping, but also because they are all really, really good. But beyond the big names, I am always impressed when I have the chance to visit a show in the states. The level of education and schooling exhibited throughout the divisions and classes never ceases to amaze me. The American style of riding is not only beautiful to me in its form, but more importantly in its function. There is plenty to argue about the direction that the sport is headed and the shift to a more “elite” profile, however as long as essence of the American system continues to be seen from the pony ring to the Grand Prix, I will be proud to ride for the United States.

Randy, thank you for taking the time to answer my questions.

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