Amateur Rider, Working Professional: Canterbury Farm’s Michelle Durpetti on the Indoor Experience

November 16, 2016 - Hampshire, Illinois

Michelle Durpetti and Lucca at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show.
Photo by Al Cook Photography
Michelle Durpetti and Lucca at the Washington International Horse Show.
Photo by Collin Pierson Photography
Michelle and Caitlyn enjoy the unique walk through Washington, D.C.
Photo by Collin Pierson Photography
Greg Franklin, Michelle Durpetti, and Caitlyn Shiels.
Photo by Collin Pierson Photography
Michelle Durpetti and Lucca at the National Horse Show.
Photo by Collin Pierson Photography
Michelle and Lucca enjoy a moment to conclude their indoor season.
Photo by Collin Pierson Photography

Amateur equestrian Michelle Durpetti is a driven businesswoman with a passion for work, along with a lifelong passion for horses. This fall, Durpetti made some of her biggest dreams come true, competing at three of the most coveted national finals with her young horse Lucca. Riding at Canterbury Farm, based in Hampshire, IL, Durpetti worked all year with the guidance of trainers Greg Franklin and Caitlyn Shiels in preparation. It was a whirlwind of travel and competition, but 38-year-old Durpetti had the time of her life.

Not only did Durpetti show, but she also took home ribbons in the extremely competitive Amateur-Owner Hunter 3’3” divisions at all three prominent events, which included the Pennsylvania National Horse Show in Harrisburg, PA, the Washington International Horse Show (WIHS) in Washington, D.C., and the Kentucky National Horse Show in Lexington, KY.

Durpetti, who has her own company and works for three others, commiserates with her fellow amateur riders on what it takes to balance life and riding. She made qualifying for the indoor finals a priority in 2016.

“My family has two restaurants and an event venue. I run my wedding planning company, and I sit on the board for a charity, so at any given time I have four or five job descriptions on my plate. What I took from those 12 days at indoors, was that really no matter what comes my way, I can take a deep breath and figure it out,” she explained. “I worked every day that I was at the shows. I made a commitment to myself to put away my phone and prepare at the shows. Then after riding, I went back to work.”

A resident of Chicago, IL, Durpetti also overcame immense fear and nerves to get back in the saddle this season after a bad fall rattled her confidence in early 2015. Durpetti was not sure if she would ever return to the show ring, let alone the high stress environment of competing in any major finals, but the support of a great team at Canterbury Farm and a very special horse helped all of the stars align.

Durpetti formed a fantastic partnership with her horse Lucca this year. The Dutch Warmblood gelding (by Zento) is just seven years old, but showed his dependability and wonderful character throughout the indoor circuit.

She described, “Lucca and I were learning as we went, and we just fell into this rhythm because he is a trier and he is a horse that never holds a grudge. He takes a look at things very thoughtfully, just sort of shrugs, and goes about his job. He is an old soul.”

Along with great confidence in her horse, Durpetti had trainers Franklin and Shiels by her side, and the addition of help from renowned horseman Don Stewart.

“I think Caitlyn evolved into a different level of trainer,” said Durpetti. “I am so proud of her. She has believed so much in me that I was able to believe in myself again.”

As any amateur balancing a career, horses, and a busy life knows, there is a lot of work, time, and patience that happens before even stepping foot in the ring. Durpetti shared her advice and some of her experiences in juggling all of life’s craziness and reaping the benefits.

Keep a Level Head

-Walking into the ring at Harrisburg on the first day was the biggest test of mental fortitude that I have ever had. While I was wait-listed at Harrisburg and WIHS, we planned like we were going to the show. Caitlyn and Greg really started building my confidence in the beginning of the year, and we strategically chose horse shows and classes to get me out of my comfort zone. We did a lot just for experience. Just winning a ribbon was a gratifying experience.

- Preparing for the atmosphere and challenging conditions at indoors took trust in the team around me, trust in my horse, and just doing the work. I was in lessons dropping my stirrups in the weeks leading up to indoors like I was a junior going into equitation finals. I started riding when I was nine, but came back to it as an adult just seven years ago. This was a true test!

- I think the most important thing is committing; every class, every horse show, every lesson, every time you ride. This indoor experience unexpectedly brought me consistency and confidence that I have not felt in my riding since I can remember.

Have a Great Team Around You

-Caitlyn and Greg respect my life outside of riding, as they do with all of their clients. They understand what it means to be an amateur, and they work hard to be honest with me and tell me what it will take to achieve my riding goals.

-I had the incredible opportunity to work with Don Stewart. He was the last piece that fit into the equation to really help my confidence. He was so kind and so willing to share his knowledge and really helped Caitlyn and I fine-tune so many things. I will never forget the opportunity to work with him as long as I live.

Find the Right Horse

-You call on the experience that you have had while riding; it is really about riding at the end of the day. I had a bad fall a year and a half ago. I was off the horse for three months and did physical therapy. Nothing would have prepared me for the mental injury that I sustained in the fall, because the fear was so great. Then, in comes Lucca. His brain is unbelievable. Being on a horse with scope and heart was like a revelation. I fell back in love with riding.

-Riding is a privilege, and I have never realized that more than in the last few weeks. I felt so privileged to be at those events with such a wonderful horse and a great team behind me. The camaraderie, the sense of belonging, and good old-fashioned horse showing was something that I was so lucky to have been a part of.

Durpetti, Lucca, and the trainers, horses, and riders of Canterbury Farm will now have some down time at home at the beautiful Canterbury Farm in Illinois while they gear up for the winter season in Florida.

Canterbury Farm would like to thank the following sponsors for their continued support: Blueberry Hill, Butet, Éce Equestrian Co., EquiFit, inc., Hayward Sportswear Ltd., O3 Animal Health, ReitenRight, Samshield, and Tucci.

About Canterbury Farm
Canterbury Farm maintains a horse show schedule on a local, regional, and national level that is created with their customer’s competitive goals in mind. For over 35 years, Greg Franklin has ridden hunters and jumpers to numerous championships nationally and has brought home numerous Zone 5 ‘Horse of the Year’ awards. Franklin has qualified horses and riders for the Pennsylvania National, Washington International and the National Horse Shows including the Medal and Maclay Finals. He has also shown internationally at Canada’s Spruce Meadows in the 1.40m and 1.45m divisions and is a certified trainer with USHJA. Additionally, Franklin holds his ‘R’ card in Hunters, Hunter Seat Equitation, and Jumpers, and judges throughout the country.

Born and raised in Sheffield, Massachusetts, Caitlyn Shiels began riding at the age of eight. A highlight of Shiels’ early career was being a team and individual gold medalist at the 2004 North American Young Riders’ Championship. Shiels went on to apprentice under such professionals as Andre Dignelli, Mclain Ward, Ken Smith and Kate Stoffel-Oliver. Almost immediately after she joined the Canterbury team in 2013, Shiels and Franklin both began earning championships at major shows. Their partnership is an excellent balance of training both on the horse and from the ground.

With qualified trainers, attention to detail, and a caring staff, Canterbury Farm is committed to excellence in horsemanship, and to giving all of their riders a great experience in the show ring.

For more information, visit www.canterburyfarmchicago.com or email info@canterburyfarmchicago.com.