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Taryn Young Q&A: "Horses Just Make You a Better Person"

The Warmbloods+Wine blogger discusses dressage, her horse Rayne, and balancing equestrian sport with her life as a mom and entrepreneur

by Glenye Cain Oakford | Jan 29, 2024, 6:22 PM

Dressage athlete Taryn Young and her warmblood, Rayne. Photo: Fire & Earth Photography

Taryn Young fell in love with dressage early in her equestrian career, and the discipline has contributed much to her life. Young, 36, is a serious competitor: in 2023, she and her warmblood Rayne earned their United States Dressage Federation gold medal. But her love of dressage also has taken her to some less expected but delightful and rewarding places outside of the dressage ring, too. Through her Warmbloods + Wine blog, Taryn has become a popular contributor to equestrian discourse and a social media influencer for those who share her passion for horses and dressage. More recently, she launched the Novella Equestrian apparel line, which offers designs based on real horses and their personalities.

Taryn is based near Chicago, Illinois, where she lives with husband Kyle and son Dunham, who is almost two years old.

We sat down with Taryn to find out more about her love of horses and dressage, what her connection with horses means to her, and how she balances her competitive life with the demands of career and motherhood.

How did you get into dressage in the first place?

I started riding when I was about seven years old. My sister and I started in the English discipline. Of course, you're on lunge lessons at first and learning how to saddle up and all of that good stuff. I was one of those weird kids who, around probably 11 or 12 years old, knew I just wanted to focus on dressage. There was a trainer at one of my barns that I grew up riding at who did dressage as her main discipline. It was so beautiful—the way the horses move, the roundness of the horse, and the different movements. I knew that was going to be my thing. And the rest is history. I've been at it ever since.

I think when you’re in dressage, you meet a lot of people who are just like you. And one of the common characteristics of dressage, I think, is a perfectionist, type-A personality. We like everything a certain way. I think it's a common trait of just being a perfectionist, because there's so much that goes into the sport of dressage.

In dressage, the rider always seems to be chasing perfection, in a way, and when they achieve that perfect moment, it’s amazing but also might be fleeting.

It’s addicting. It’s fully addicting. And we’re always chasing that feeling. I think once you learn a little bit about dressage, you realize you know nothing about dressage. So you continue to want to grow and educate yourself about the sport, because there’s always something to learn.

As a younger person, usually you don’t have access to crazy-nice school horses, so you’re trying to practice dressage with an off-the-track thoroughbred or a pony that’s been in a schooling program a long time. So it comes a lot harder and there’s so much more to work on. It really goes back to the basics and in developing that communication between you and the horse.

Tell us about your favorite dressage moments.

I’d have to say this past year, because Rayne and I earned our gold medal, which is the highest medal you can earn in dressage through the USDF program, and that’s by doing the Grand Prix successfully. It’s competition-based, but it’s also more than that.

We were told time and time again that we would never get there. But I just believed in him. we had this crazy connection horse and rider connection. I've had him since he was four. Reaching that top level with him after believing, knowing that I could do it, and he could do it, and then achieving it—that was one of the best moments in my life, to be honest.

How did you and Rayne end up together?

Rayne fell into my lap. I was leasing Rayne’s mom for a number of years because I wasn't in the financial situation to buy a horse. I was recently out of college and kind of getting back into my hobby of riding horses.

Photo: Fire & Earth Photography

After a few years with his mom, Luna, she sold to a new owner. I worked through a few other lease horses, and then Rayne fell into my lap. He was the horse that knew the least; he was only four years old. He was newly broke. But he was tall, dark, and handsome. I’m a tall person, and I would always make the joke that I should really ride him instead of his mom, Luna. At the time, people were like, ‘Why don't you just buy his mom, because she knows so much more?’

I started leasing Rayne. And then we got into that position again, where someone was going to buy Rayne, and I knew that there was just this connection with him that I couldn't duplicate somewhere else.

So we figured it out. Rayne became mine right before my husband and I got married. I kept thinking, ‘I'm absolutely crazy,’ but I have never regretted it a day. We really do have this connection, and it's very apparent to most people. And so many people think I was in the market for a horse, and I sought him out or I went looking to buy a horse, but that wasn’t the case.

Rayne has a golden retriever personality. He does not know he is a 17.2-hand horse. He was born at the barn I'm still at, so he's never left this barn. I always joke that he’s never gotten a job and left his parents’ house because he still lives here.

He is just ridiculously playful. Again, just a retriever personality, doesn't know he's big. We call him the gentle giant. He would be like the dumb hot guy in school. Because, you know, book-smart wouldn't be his thing. But the looks would be, “Wow!”

How do you balance your training and competition life with your schedule as a working mom, and as an entrepreneur, too?

I always look at the year ahead and really set goals around the new year. I say, ‘What are my priorities this year, what are going to be conflicts this year,’ and plan the year accordingly. Some years are a lot heavier than others with competition, based on workload and motherhood, which is new to me. This past year was definitely lighter in the competition space, but just as fulfilling. Again, I think it's just goal-setting, figuring out what you can accomplish, and being smart with your time.

I'm lucky that I work from home and have a flexible schedule, where I am able to see my son a lot more than if I were to go into an office every day. And I have a very supportive husband who supports me going to the barn almost daily. When I get a ride in, they know I'm a better person. I fill my cup and so I'm recharged and ready to be the best version of myself as a mom, wife, employee, and everything else.

What made you decide to go into the apparel business?

I started an equestrian Instagram account called Warmbloods + Wine, which was for myself, just to display pretty equestrian finds and talk about my horse journey. Often, I would take a pretty picture of Rayne or whatever horse and would want to post it, but I didn't want to be that annoying horse girl that would always talk a language that no one understood. So I created this account and a lot of people took notice, including brands. So with my story of Rayne and sharing my journey and riding outfits, I found a lot of brand collaborations, and I continue to work with those.

I would always say, ‘I would never promote something I didn't like, but if I were to make this, I would tweak this part, or I would tweak that part.’ And then I realized, why wouldn't I start this on my own? I'm doing this for other brands, and other people are loving what I'm promoting.

So, during the pandemic, when I had a lot more free time, I just started researching how to do this. I don't have any knowledge of the apparel industry or design or anything like that. But I do know what I like to wear. And I'm a creative person by nature. So with a lot of help from Google and reaching out to contacts in the space, Novella launched about a year and a half later.

Photo: Stacy Tierman Photography

Was your journey with Novella similar to your journey with horses at all?

Honestly, I think it's working together with positive and like-minded people in the sport. It is such a niche sport. The more you put yourself out there and form relationships with other groups or trainers or riders, especially through social platforms, you build these relationships because you have such a common interest. In dressage, that’s so helpful, because you have a crew behind you cheering you on, even if it is through social media or meeting up at the shows. With Novella, it was the same. I had a built-in audience for Warmbloods + Wine and friends who had dressage and horses as common interests. So, again, this was the perfect group of people to test out the product, cheer Novella on, and build it to what it's become in just one year.

The logo has a horse in it and was based off a certain show picture I have of Rayne.

I kept thinking, ‘How can horses be even more incorporated in this?’ Then, when I started designing my first piece, I felt that it would really look good on Valentina, my mom's horse, if I were riding her. That’s when it clicked: why couldn't every piece be based on a horse’s characteristics and personality? And it just took off from there.

What do you feel you have gained from your life with horses and within the equestrian community?

I think horses just make you a better person. They tell you more about yourself than you could even acknowledge or admit to yourself. I posted a quote once that a horse knows whether you're sad, confident, happy, excited, before you even know what you're feeling. We always talk about equestrian as being two hearts—it takes two hearts to accomplish what we do in this sport. And I think that's just so powerful. To have awareness of who you are, because horses have brought that out in you and also that you instill confidence in this huge animal. If you have confidence around them, you have confidence to do other things in your life. And I just think that's so powerful.