2022 HN Blogger Contest: Introducing Round Two Finalists

Nine finalists have made it through to Round Two in our 2022 Horse Nation Blogger Contest! Get to know them here and be on the lookout for their Round One submissions throughout the week.

Our 2022 Horse Nation blogger has seen a staggering number of entries, which made the winnowing-down process for selecting finalists quite the task indeed for our editorial team. Nine bloggers have made it through to Round Two. Our heartiest congratulations to these talented writers, presented here in alphabetical order:

Teresa Alexander-Arab (58): “I started my blog, Journey with a Dancing Horse, in 2011 shortly after buying an Andalusian gelding. (https://journeywithadancinghorse.blogspot.com/). It chronicles my riding and horsepersonship journey. As well as the things they don’t tell you about keeping horses at home. Like how ungrateful they can be. Or how innocent they look when something is broken in the barn and they have NO IDEA how it happened. Or there was a spider. Or both.
“About me: I am a, *cough* 58 year old woman who feels 12 most of the time. As long as I don’t ask my knees. They feel 80. I love to write. Or overshare. However you want to look at it. If you asked me what my superpower is, it is my ability to tangle anything. Like, literally anything. I once coiled the dog up in the hose. And he didn’t even look surprised. Just resigned. My horses patiently wait while I take the 20th knot out of the lunge line or try to figure out how I tangled the lead in the halter. Even my 2 year old understands this. My 12 year old mare just rolls her eyes and sighs.
“I am a manager in health care. A place where you need dedication, a sense of humour and a place to recharge. For me that is the barn. My life is busy, often chaotic but full of fun and love.”
Leah Braman (30-some-year-old): “I’m Leah Braman, a 30-some-year-old mom, teacher, and lover of all things horse. I grew up with horses, learned the basics of riding from my horse-crazy mom, taught myself how to show with help from 4-H, and worked my way up to showing at Tennessee Walking Horse breed shows (sound, flat shod shows only). I am currently horse-mom to 4 critters: Snappy, my 19-year-old heart horse whom I have had since he was 5 months; Raven, a sassy 5-year-old who is helping me rediscover how to teach and learn from horses; Emma, a late teens rescue mare who has taught me more than I can ever put into words about being present and the power of forgiveness; and Cricket, who is really my daughter’s [sometimes naughty] one-eyed pony of unknown origin. [What feels like] long ago, I was focused on showing to win, but these days, I’m all about the relationship with my horses. I would love to show the world that putting the relationship first doesn’t mean you can’t be a success in the show pen, but mostly, I’m just a woman trying to balance her home, work, and horse life successfully.”
Paige Cerulli (35): Paige Cerulli, 35, was bitten by the horse bug while in kindergarten. Since then, her life has centered around horses. Paige is a certified equine massage therapist and works full-time as a freelance writer. She is enamored with Thoroughbreds and grew up riding huntseat, but two years ago Paige went rogue and bought a Quarter Horse trained in ranch riding. She’s continued along with her equestrian identity crisis as she’s dabbled in liberty, Six Feet on the Ground, versatility and trail competitions, and more. Paige lives in Western Massachusetts where she shares her life with three horses (hopefully soon to be four), three cats, several foster animals, and a flock of ducks.
Caroline Cochran (26): “My name is Caroline Cochran. I’m a professional writer and struggling dressage rider who has spent the majority of my 26 years disappointing my family and putting my honors degree to good use shoveling manure, hand-walking fire-breathing dragons, and wrangling adult amateur ladies as an international groom, veterinary technician, barn manager, and working student.
“I have a passion for storytelling, perfect polo wraps, and creative interpretations of dressage movements, but my latest hobbies include trying not to die while tack-walking my rehabbing four-year-old or implode every time he finds yet another new and exciting way to maim himself.”
Becky J. Cocklin (52): “My name is Becky J. Cocklin and I am a 52-year-old Funeral Director and Equestrian. I started my equestrian obsession as a 13-year-old mucking stalls at a boarding/training barn in Dillsburg, Pennsylvania. I started riding hunters/equitation at 17, graduated from Wilson College with BSs in Equine Studies, Business and Finance and Small Business Management. I applied to continue on to Vet School but due to my father’s health, was sidelined helping in the family’s funeral home.  Another two years of schooling at Pittsburgh Institute of Mortuary Science, and I am now co-owner of Cocklin Funeral Home, Inc. I also have my own small retirement and equine hospice farm, Remembrance Farm, that keeps me sane.  I care for retried show, pleasure and race horses and give them a safe place to live out their final days as “Horses.” Right now, I have 7 ranging in age from 10 – 31.
My defining qualities:  Tired, always very tired; Creaky, most of my joints don’t have full RoM anymore; Sarcastic, probably because of tired and creaky; “Fluffy, due again to tired and creaky and the ability to live on Diet Mt. Dew, peanut butter cups and ice cream or anything else that can be eaten at 12:00 AM when all the work is done. BUT, I have the great ability to laugh at myself and the goofy ponies of Remembrance Farm every day.
“Embarrassing tidbits: I have set off my own pager to get out of “People social thingies” to go back to the barn to ride or MagnaWave one of the horses. I have also gone on several death calls still wearing my riding gear, covered in sweat and dirt (the dead wait for no-one or for that no-one to shower). I attached an add for a 4yr old OTTB to an Obituary (instead of the picture of the deceased) and sent it to the Papers. And the best was leaving two syringes of sedation that I had picked up from the Vet and that needed to be refrigerated, lying on the Clergy’s lectern at the front of the Funeral Home’s Chapel the morning of a funeral and watching the Pastor trying to figure out what they were, who they belonged to and how he could hide them with his Bible. (yeah, I’d have to say that was my greatest A-hole moment, thank god I’m blond, well, kind of…). So, as you can see, I can laugh at myself….”
April Kmiec (48): My name is April Kmiec, a 48 year old mother of three daughters and too many animals to list. My dad introduced me to horses at a young age and I never looked back. I’ve spent many years running barrels, dressage lessons and just riding. as much as I can. My husband and I live on a ranch in Texas where we raise cattle. I work as an accountant in order to fund my horse passion.
I fiercely defend my family, friends, and animals. I tend to be a Type A person but horses and animals let me destress and be me. My mom used to think running barrels and riding was too dangerous. In order to get her not to worry so much about what I was doing I convinced my dad to let me ride a bareback bronc at a local rodeo. I was in 6th grade. I did not make the 8 seconds but I did make about 4 seconds and garnered a lot of respect from the cowboys around me. Never again did my mom question me running barrels or jumping.
Jamie Maguire (30): “My name is Jamie Maguire. I am a professional in the equine industry, currently working as the Equine Manager at the UVM Morgan Horse Farm. I am 30 years old, and have been an avid horseperson for way too long. I am an honest writer, and tend to do the whole “write and hope my readers get my humor” schtick. I’ve written some blogs for SmartPak in the past while I was employed with them and have attached the one I like most about my Morgan, Isadore. Isadore was supposed to make me rich but instead he made me soft. I guess that’s fine, because he’s the best.”
Layne Shaffer (31): “Hello, my name is Layne Shaffer, I’m 31 years old and reside in Thomasville, PA. I did not grow up with horses, I actually couldn’t really tell you of anyone in my family that is a ‘horse person.’ My parents finally gave into my begging when I was around 10 years old and found a local woman who gave riding lessons- probably hoping that after six months or so I would lose interest.  Now, 21 years later, I am the manager at one of the top Thoroughbred breeding farms in the state of PA, have competed at multiple IBRA National Finals, one Retired Racehorse Project Makeover and the inaugural TIP Barrel Racing Championship. What started out as English riding lessons and my parents allowing me to purchase my first pony at 12 years old, has turned into a passion for running barrels and the thoroughbred racing industry. Most of the time I love my job and I enjoy sharing stories from inside the industry that buck the stereotypes that many people have about the Thoroughbred breeding and racing business. In the pathetically small amount of “spare time” that I have outside of something involving the horses at either work or home, I enjoy doing custom beadwork because, not only did I inherit approximately one third of my mother’s artistic talent, I 100% inherited her “I can make that myself” gene. I am also an avid Harry Potter fan, borderline total geek, but I promise that I did not actually name my current OTTB Floo Powder, that he came with that name, and it was simply a sign from above that he needed to come live in my barn. I’m currently somewhere in between ‘I can live with a completely torn LCL for the rest of forever’ and ‘I will get my knee fixed as soon as we get through the TIP Championships and MD Million Day.’ Either way, I’ll be the one hobbling around the Horse Park come October in a pink and turquoise knee brace- because who doesn’t opt to match all of their horses tack when they tell you that you get to pick the colors of your custom brace?”
J. Marin Yonker (50): At the tender age of 50, though she’s old enough to know better, Marin relishes exercises in humility and opportunities for growth: parenting, gardening, writing, bee keeping, and last, but not least, riding. As an adult amateur eventer/jumper in the Seattle area, Marin is a self-professed horse nerd who wishes there was more time in the day for actually reading and watching all of the resources she collects to become a better rider.

We’ll be hearing more from these authors this week as we will be running their Round One submissions. We’re looking for reader feedback on these entries, so don’t be shy — let us know which of their articles made you laugh, touched your soul or inspired you as you read them this week!

Go bloggers! And go riding.