By Anna Stanek
At the young age of 17, Lily Callahan is already making an impact in the Saddlebred world, showing how versatile the breed can be. She has shown Saddlebreds in eventing, hunt seat, western and saddle seat divisions. She has already accomplished winning the Saddle & Bridle Working Hunter National Championship twice, which is a large feat for someone her age. Callahan has also garnered the titles of 2018 ASHA High Point Eventing National Champion, ASHA High Point Hunter National Champion and ASR Sport Horse of the Year. Her passion for horses started off with her first pony, Cookiedough.
Callahan has loved horses from a very young age, following in the footsteps of her mother. Her mom grew up working with horses and attended William Woods University. She worked at Callaway Hills Stables and taught Lily the basics of riding on her first pony Cookiedough. She got Cookiedough when she was five and one of her favorite memories is going out in the field to catch Cookiedough and riding him through the field with just a halter and lead rope.
Callahan has two Saddlebreds, Royal Crest’s Granit Permission (Moose) and The Phantom Pistol (Pistol). Moose and Pistol are boarded at Grey Hawk Stables in Columbia, Missouri. Though she still attends clinics and takes lessons, she has done the majority of the work of training and showing her horses herself for the past three years. Callahan’s hard work has paid off as she has made her mark in the Saddlebred world.
According to Callahan, purchasing Moose was one of the best decisions she ever made. She saw Moose on Facebook for sale in Wisconsin, so she drove up with her parents to try him out. After trying him out, Callahan describes it as the worst ride of her life. She left feeling devastated, thinking she had made a huge mistake. However, the next morning Moose was on the trailer headed home and Callahan now considers the experience as one of her favorite memories.
Currently, she shows Moose in 3-day Eventing and hunt seat. She has been showing him in Novice Eventing but plans to move up to Training this year. Moose has seen great success at Saddlebred shows, as he led Callahan to her two Saddle & Bridle Working Hunter national titles. The pair has even competed at a few barrel racing and pole bending shows. Callahan also attends Dressage and combined training shows. She can be found catch riding at different shows, in addition to showing a Friesian cross and Quarter Horse. She plans to show Pistol this year in eventing.
She has two main goals this year for the show season, one for Moose and one for Pistol. She wants to successfully complete one 3-day Training event with Moose. For Pistol, she hopes to complete at least one mini-event.
“I really don’t set huge goals like “win first place at this event”, or “make it to AEC’s”, I just make little goals throughout the year based on how my horses are performing. Winning a national/state title, or qualifying for a national show is simply the cherry on top,” says Callahan.
Though Callahan is currently getting ready to show in eventing and hunt seat, she hopes to be able to show saddle seat again in the future. She hopes one day to be able to breed a gaited horse she can show. One of her favorite memories comes from her saddle seat horse, Bob.
When she was ten years old, she got Bob as a birthday present. Callahan had been riding Bob, a five-gaited Saddlbred, when her parents decided to surprise her for her birthday. Unfortunately, Bob was later diagnosed with level 4 EPM, a parasite that attacks the spinal cord. The odds were stacked against Bob; however, he was a fighter. It took two years of hard work, but Bob finally regained his strength and was able to return to the show ring.
To Callahan, her horses mean everything to her. She is dedicated to them and has put in lots of hard work in to meet her goals. She loves the connection she gains with her horses from riding.
“My favorite thing about riding is bonding with my horses. I love walking to the pasture and seeing Moose standing at the gate, watching and waiting for me to visit him. I think it is absolutely incredible that I can gain so much trust with such a large, majestic animal. I also love improving with my horses. I love that moment when everything clicks, and our connection grows deeper. I wouldn’t trade my horses for the world.”
When not spending time with her horses, Callahan is busy doing school work. She is from Harrisburg, Missouri, a small town 30 minutes north of Columbia. She is a full-time high school student and is taking four college courses. When she is not doing school work, she can be found cuddling her dog Rue and dreaming of being at the barn.
Callahan’s passion for horses shows through all the hard work and dedication she has put in. She has already made a mark in the Saddlebred world, by showcasing how successful the breed can be in sport horse divisions. Callahan has a bright future ahead of her as she continues to find success with her beloved horses.