Under the definition of "true girt", you will find a picture of a smiling Mindy Coretz.
Her sheer determination and love of horses has carried her along a riding career that started without fanfare or accolades. As fate would have it, she was rescued not by Prince Charming but by a magical pony named Passing Fancy. Years later, the right horse at the right time brought her from humble beginnings to the centre stage of Central Park. Prepare to be inspired by Mindy's fantastical journey from the sidelines to the spotlight.
Name: Mindy Coretz
Home Base: Tulsa, OK
Horses: My personal horses include Cafe Cream and Happy Hour, however I have the good fortune of riding an abundance of wonderful client horses; I tend to consider all of them mine!
Started Riding: I took my first riding lesson the day I turned seven years old. I don't have family history in horses and began begging my parents to let me ride from the time I was very young. They gave in when I was around 5 and called to schedule a lesson, but the trainer Libby Barrow, said she wouldn't start kids until they were 7. I didn't let up over the next two years, and showed up for my first riding lesson the day I turned seven! The best part of this story? I still ride with Libby today! She has taught me from my very first lesson all the way up through becoming the individual lucky enough to be the professional rider for Libby's operation.
Recent Highlight of your Riding career: Happy Hour won a round in four different International Hunter Derbies this year and finished in the top 3 overall in each of those. He also qualified us for the Derby Finals and earned us a spot in the Night Class under the lights while there.
Cafe Cream carried me through my first Grand Prix in February and has since made it possible for me to earn ribbons in several GPrixs and U25 classes.
Horse that had the most impact on your journey: That's actually really hard. I have to give equal credit to two horses. Happy Hour is the obvious choice, He's my horse of a lifetime, my best friend, and has done so much for me. I do not believe I would have had the opportunities I've had in the last two years had Happy Hour had not come into my life and helped pave the way. He has taken me, quite literally to new heights, he has taught me what is means to have complete and total trust in your mount. Additionally, he has given me confidence in my horse-sense over the course of our journey because the process of developing him from a spooky and insecure Pre-Green horse to a confident and capable Derby horse came mostly from decisions that I made listening to my gut instincts.
My time with Happy Hour has been nothing short of the best experience of my life and not a day goes by that I don't think about the fact that I could never repay him for all he has given to me. That said, there would be no Happy Hour and none of the other incredible horses in my life without Passing Fancy.
I was a really timid riding kid. I was extremely lacking in the talent department, athleticism was nonexistent, and I was absolutely scared to death. I remember being scared during every single lesson early on, to the point that I was not able to enjoy riding at all, but for some reason I kept showing up. My first two ponies were hellions. Given the opportunity to pull something rotten or plant me in the dirt, they would seize the moment and do exactly that. Given my lack of talent and athleticism, I didn't stand a chance. They made me go from scared to terrified, but I still continued to show up.
Then Passing Fancy arrived. Fancy was perfect. No, seriously. There are a lot of kind horses out there, but I have yet to see one that rivals my Fancy. She was a type of kind that I struggle to put into words. She never put a foot wrong, always went above and beyond to make up for my shortfalls, and taught me that riding can be fun. I was so scared of horse and riding when I met Fancy and I very sincerely believe that with one more bad experience or partnership I would have been done and very likely would not still be riding. She turned everything around for me and I'll forever be indebted to her. I am so lucky that we ended up being able to retire Fancy, and she is now 37 years old and still alive and well!
Most Challenging time in your Riding career? I had a crash in 2006 that resulted in having my left ankle crushed. This was the beginning of what went on to be not only the most challenging time in my riding career, but in my life. From being bullied at school when I had to attend in a wheelchair, to thinking I'd never compete again, to be unable to get relief from constant pain for years on end, to sitting in doctors' offices listening to grim prognoses, these were the most challenging years of my life. My horse at the time was sold since it looked like I wouldn't be able to make a return, my little sister and her friends began to surpass my riding abilities prior to my crash and they began having opportunities and attending the shows I'd dreamed to get to attend. I had friends who suddenly disassociated with me, and I endured surgery after surgery in an effort to get me back on track. Looking back, it is a mystery to me that my enthusiasm never waned through this entire fiasco, but there is no doubt in my mind that is was this boundless enthusiasm and positivity that got me through the worst of it. The lessons I learned from it are abundant. I learned to find happiness in what I was able to do rather than think too hard about what I was missing out on. I was not able to partake in riding lessons, but I could watch them and take notes and study horse care and try to become a better horse person. I was not able to show, but I could still go to the shows and serve as a mentor for younger girls, an extra set of hands to clap and support my barn family, and help keep the show day smooth and organized. I could clean bridles and roll wraps. It was hard for me to run around with the other girls my age, but I befriended a lot of grooms and learned about their lives and families and really learned to appreciate the job they do. It wasn't always exactly what I wanted to be doing, but it was what I was able to do and I made the best of it.
Most Rewarding Moment: Now that I've been professional for about a year, I have to say that the most rewarding moments are when you have a student finally have that lightbulb moment, or watching a kid who has been working their butt off finally lay down a trip, or even just walking back to the barn and seeing a big group of your riders all hanging around laughing, and enjoying the company of each other and their horses. I am a huge advocate of the idea that we have to be a team in order to be successful in this individual sport, and there is no better feeling then seeing my barn family come together and support one another.
Who has inspired you? I've been so fortunate in that I know so many great people and can really feel the love and support coming from every direction. Whether friends, family, trainers, or mentors, I can't imagine myself trying to make it through a day without them.
Words to Live By: It may be corny, but I love it! "In a world where you can be anything, be kind."- Etta Turner
Simple and to the point!
Looking forward; where do you see yourself? That is so hard! I hope to still be doing what I love but with a decade more of experience under my belt. I am trying right not to learn and absorb everything I can. I want to learn about the industry, I want to learn more about horse care, I want to improve as a rider and as a trainer, I want to learn more about the operation of a successful business, and so much more. I'm definitely hungry for knowledge and success, whatever that might be! That said, my ankle is an ongoing issue and I have to be realistic about the fact that I don't know how long it will last or what problems it will present me with next. I was fortunate enough to get hooked up with a specialist surgeon several years ago who really got me back on my feet, but even now there is no "fix" for my ankle, there is just dealing with issues as they inevitably arise.
Looking back; what advice would you give your younger self? Depends on the day. Sometimes I would offer something to the effect of "Hang in there!! It's all going to work out one day!". Other days I think I would be more like "Are you crazy?! Give up on the horse thing already! All the signs are pointing to the fact that you were not meant to do this!" But man, I am so glad I kept pursuing it. It's been a wild journey, and well worth it.