Science and Messenger Hill Mothers Agree: Horsemanship is Great for Girls

Tryon, NC – May 13, 2016 - Mothers' Day week the Messenger Hill Farm team had a successful outing at Tryon International Equestrian Center. But for two mothers of Messenger Hill Farm riders it wasn't about the six championships, one reserve championship and the stockpile of ribbons the team brought home. It was about how the experience, under the tutelage of Freddie and Jodi Vazquez, teaches life lessons to their children.

A scientific study conducted by the * University of Pennsylvania with cooperation with various equestrian youth organizations has shown that youngsters, both boys and girls, who learn horsemanship skills show better decision-making, communication, goal-setting and problem-solving. In addition, working with horses helps them to develop positive values and life skills. These two mothers couldn’t agree more.

Sharon Watrous is co-owner of Chalk, a women’s designer boutique in Evanston, Illinois. She and her husband John have five children, two who ride with Freddie and Jodi Vazquez at Messenger Hill Farm. 

When Chloe was 5, a Watrous family friend gave her a series of lessons at Messenger Hill Farm. She was hooked. She fell head-over-heels for the sport. Shortly thereafter, her younger sister Elodie joined the Messenger Hill Farm team.

Chloe Watrous and . Sugarbrook Game Plan. Photo courtesy of Messenger Hill Farm.

Chloe Watrous and . Sugarbrook Game Plan. Photo courtesy of Messenger Hill Farm.

“We are not horse people at all. It never entered our minds that we’d be part of this world,” Watrous said. “We’ve watched our children flourish in it. We’re very grateful we’re able to give it to them.”

Elodie Watrous and Sugarbrook Game Plan. Photo courtesy of Messenger Hill Farm.

Elodie Watrous and Sugarbrook Game Plan. Photo courtesy of Messenger Hill Farm.


Currently the girls share the rides on four ponies. Chloe often prepares the ponies for Elodie to compete. Watrous says that it has been extraordinary for Chloe because she has the opportunity to ride more ponies and compete in more divisions.

“What we love is that it teaches them so much poise and independence,” she said. “It is pure joy for them even though they work really hard.” 

Watrous describes the two girls as different as night and day.

“Chloe (who turns 11 in a few weeks) is cerebral,” she said. “She’s a very thoughtful rider and a thoughtful person. She’s quieter. Elodie just turned 9 and is spirited and funky and sassy.” 

Watrous shared that the girls adore Freddie and Jodi. Though they train with both, Jodi and Chloe’s personalities gel and they work particularly well together. Freddie and Elodie she seem to be cut from the same cloth.

“Freddie says that Elodie is a mini Freddie,” Watrous said. “He gets her. He knows how to talk with her. What we appreciate about their teaching style is that is not about the results, it is about achieving their goals. It is more about the learning process.” 

Lynn Taylor and her husband Mark are from Lake Forest, Illinois. Married for 35 years, they also have five children; four boys and the youngest, Ellery, the only girl. 

“Ellery played lots of team sports but she just didn’t love it,” said Taylor. “I thought we would try riding. She loved it! It motivated her in school.”

Now 18, Ellery began riding with Freddie and Jodi when she was 9. She was in their lesson program when her parents gave the nod to go to her first horse show. Then, she leased and showed hunters.

Freddie Vazquez coaches Ellery Taylor atWEF 2016.    Photo courtesy of Messenger Hill Farm.

Freddie Vazquez coaches Ellery Taylor atWEF 2016.
Photo courtesy of Messenger Hill Farm.

“Freddie and I spoke about the option to move to the jumpers,” Taylor said. “She had a fearlessness about it and loved it. We bought our first horse four years ago.”

Carlos Santana, a Warmblood gelding was only 6 years old when he arrived from Germany. Ellery and Freddie Vazquez worked together to bring the young jumper along.

“It has been a remarkable experience for her,“ Taylor said. “Jodi and Freddie’s philosophy is about dedication. Sportsmanship is paramount. They’re expected to behave in a polite and respectful manner at all times. Ellery gained a lot from that. It has really served her well.”

Ellery and Carlos recently moved up to the junior jumpers. Last week in Tryon, the Messenger Hill Farm Team was ecstatic with their performance in the Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumper 1.20m, earning a top placing. 

“Freddie and Jodi have brought her on this entire ride. They’ve challenged her and given her opportunities where she had to step up to be successful.” Taylor said. 

This fall Ellery will head to the University of Colorado Boulder for her freshman year of college. She plans to ride in the Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association while at school.

“It has been a terrific experience,” Taylor said. “As a parent, watching her ride and knowing the joy that it brings her – It is an amazing gift.”

About Messenger Hill Farm

Messenger Hill Farm is a full-service hunter/jumper business owned and led by Freddie and Jodi Vazquez. Located just north of Chicago in Mettawa, Illinois, Messenger Hill Farm offers training, lessons, competition and sales.

Freddie Vazquez represented Puerto Rico at the 2015 Pan Am Games and the 2014 Central American and Caribbean Games. He served as chef d’équipe of the Team Puerto Rico’s young, junior and child Nations Cup teams at the Winter Equestrian Festival. Jodi Vazquez is a top hunter competitor with countless AA championships to her credit. The Vazquezes teach the American style of riding as advocated by George Morris. They are known for their goal-driven approach and attention to detail.

Messenger Hill Farm offers a show schedule at all levels; including local, national and international. The Messenger Hill Farm team competes at the Winter Equestrian Festival,Tryon International Equestrian Center, Kentucky Horse Shows, Lamplight Equestrian Center, Ledges and more. For those new to the sport, Messenger Hill Farm offers a lesson program with quality, well-cared-for horses.

Click here to learn more about Messenger Hill Farm or call 847-573-1100.

*The Impact of Equine Activities on Youth Development Study was conducted by the Pennsylvania State University Department of Dairy and Animal Science in co-operation with the American Youth Horse Council, 4-H, the American Quarter Horse Youth Association, United States Pony Clubs and the National High School Rodeo Association..