BROOKLINE, MASSACHUSETTS—First-time parents Meghann and John Schnell are wasting no time in giving their newborn daughter, Abigail, the head start she needs in riding.
The lifelong equine enthusiasts and athletes—Meghann competed at Maclay Finals as a junior; John is the son of a hunt master and a former NCAA backup quarterback—have high hopes for their gurgling, bouncing, bundle of baby joy, who turned four months last week.
“Looking at the competitive landscape for ponies, and eventually, in the junior hunter and equitation divisions, we felt we couldn’t get Abigail started developing her skillset soon enough,” Meghann Schnell said.
“Right now, she’s really focusing on gaining the strength to hold her head up, recognizing voices, and realizing that her own hand is not an alien appendage sent from the Upside Down. But in the blink of an eye, she’s going to be learning her diagonals, and needing to use more leg at the jumps, and we’re not wasting any time.”
Accordingly, Meghann and John say they spend about 40 minutes a day—between bottle feedings, diaper changes, and multiple naps—using various visual aids to familiarize their daughter with the basics of horsemanship, from ‘clucking’ and the various noises that ‘neigh-neighs’ make, to the parts of the horse, grooming, and bit types.
“We have all of our scale posters made in black and white, since newborns don’t gravitate toward colors until four to five months,” John Schnell said. “Tummy time is great for improving Abigail’s core strength, which, of course, she’ll need when it’s time to sit up straight in walk-trot classes, and jump her first cross-rails.”
With a family vacation already on the books to Palm Beach, Florida this winter, the Schnells are planning a side trip to the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, where they plan to scope-out the leadline competition with an eye toward Abigail’s Devon Horse Show debut in… 2026.
“We come from a long line of riders on my mother’s side, so I expect Abigail to excel in the saddle from day one. We’ve even put her in a child’s saddle while she’s napping a few times—supervised, of course—just to work on her balance,” Meghann Schnell said.
“Of course, it’s hard to know at four months just how much potential she has, but I feel confident Abigail is right where she should be, if not ahead of the curve. She’s already rolled over once in her bassinet, which is definitely ahead of schedule compared to her same-aged peers.
“I feel confident she’ll be nailing her lead changes in no time at all.”