Katy Barron – a Hoofbeats volunteer since she was just 8-years-old – began a new job this fall in NYC designing clothes for Kohl’s, jumping into a new and exciting phase of life. Throughout her childhood and adulthood, Katy’s experiences at Hoofbeats have shaped the successful woman she is today.
As an “absolutely horse crazy” 8-year-old, Katy first came to Hoofbeats in 1993, where she would spend every weekend for the next almost ten years. “We were given, what I realize only in retrospect, a lot of responsibility,” she said.
“We did just about everything from setting up the ring for lessons, helping with both disabled/ non-disabled riders, taking care of all the horses, cleaning tack, and mucking stalls. We worked hard, got dirty, and sometimes caused a little mischief- I loved every minute of it!” she explained.
Hoofbeats director Carol Branscome said that Katy was an integral part of Hoofbeats in those days. “This was a big part of her growing up,” Carol said.
In high school, Katy stopped riding and could not spend as many weekends at the barn but continued to volunteer sporadically with big events and photography.
After attending Roanoke College for a few years, she dropped out and started thinking about applying to Savannah School of Art and Design (SCAD). It was during this rough episode of questioning and high pressure, Carol said, that Katy’s mother encouraged her to return to Hoofbeats.
Using her incredible artistic senses, Katy lent her photography skills to Hoofbeats – and it was her 2008 photograph of Eliza that was selected among thousands as the winner of an EQUUS contest. This picture is internationally recognized and has been used in multiple publications. (Try it! If you “Google” therapeutic horseback riding, it will surface as one of the first listed images.)
With these award-winning photos in her portfolio, Katy applied and was accepted to SCAD, one of the most prestigious design schools in the country.
When she graduated in 2012, she could not find a job right away. “Being an unemployed college graduate is a miserable experience,” she said. “The last two years of my life have been some of the most brutal and emotionally trying.” After seven months in New York City trying to a full-time job without success, she moved back home last April, feeling defeated and broken.
Then, on a whim, Katy visited Hoofbeats and Carol introduced her to a beautiful and gentle horse named Sybren. “After that, I kept coming back,” she said.
Carol said she was so thankful to have Katy back. She told her former student, “Katy, if you will help me this summer, if you will design my costume for my Baroque gala, I will teach you how to ride that horse.”
Katy started training Sybren for the TRAV show in October, partnering with another young woman who had also volunteered at Hoofbeats since childhood. Carol said she saw her two former “littles” helping each other with this horse. Katy schooled Sybren for Ashlyn to ride in the show and Ashlyn groomed Sybren for Katy. The two young women supported each other to overcome so many fears and anxieties, Carol said. When they successfully showed Sybren at TRAV, Carol said with emotion in her voice, “I saw the culmination of 20 years of work.”
Continuing to lend her creative skills to Hoofbeats, Katy re-decorated and organized the center’s interior and designed Carol’s Baroque Gala costume. At the Gala, Carol said the judge showered compliments on the costume and one of her friends used it in a photo-shoot for her professional portfolio.
Using the costume in her own professional portfolio, Katy prepared for her final job interview last summer. The worst thing about job interviews – Carol said that Katy explained to her one day – is that they say Tell me about yourself, and you never know what to say. “Can you tell me about myself?” Carol said Katy then asked her. “I answered, Katy, you’re a rider, you’re an artist, and look at what you’ve done this year,” Carol said.
When Katy sat down for her last job interview, the inevitable prompt came – Tell me about yourself. And she took a deep breath and told them what she had been doing all summer long, Carol said.
Katy is now in New York City, designing clothes for Kohl’s. She is also volunteering at a therapeutic horseback riding center in the city.
Reflecting on her experiences, she said, “Growing up at Hoofbeats I developed a moral compass […] As a kid I witnessed the healing power of a program like Hoofbeats- only now, as an adult, do I truly understand it. The past 7 months at the barn […] have revived my soul!”
By Jinae Kennedy
Hoofbeats would like to thank Katy for all of her hard work over the years and congratulate her on her new job. We cannot wait to see her back in Lexington for visits!