Sophia Chavonelle is a USDF Bronze and Silver Medalist based in San Diego, California
An active member of the dressage community since 2013, Sophia served as a Region 8 PM Delegate, USDF Youth Programs Advisory Subcommittee member, and the New England Dressage Association’s Youth Liaison for several years before her move to the west coast.
Sophia grew up riding at Vienna Farm in southern Maine, where she stayed for over a decade. In 2016 she earned the USDF Youth Volunteer of the Year award, an annual recognition of the volunteerism of young riders from around the country.
With her horse W Spotlight, Sophia competed at the 2018 North American Youth Championships on the Region 8 Junior team. Sophia also attended the Dressage Foundation’s 2019 Young Rider International Dream Program at the CHIO Aachen.
Both of these events greatly enhanced Sophia’s desire to one day be a U.S. Team rider.
After attending the 2020 Dressage4Kids Winter Intensive Training program, Sophia took a dream opportunity to work for Sabine Schut-Kery. While her heart will always be with the east coast, California has proved to be an immeasurably important step for taking Sophia’s professional riding career to the next level.
Sophia is currently based at The Palms Equestrian Center in San Diego, California alongside Sabine, Marie Medosi, and Christine Traurig. She hopes to compete her horse Jetson EP in the Developing Prix St Georges in 2023.
“Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.“
All About Me
I am a twenty-two-year-old rider originally from Windham, Maine. I started riding when I was just five at local barns, mostly trail riding and playing games bareback. In 2011, I joined the family at Vienna Farm, which is where I was introduced to the fantastic world of dressage. I competed in local schooling shows until 2014, when I began a lease on my coach Tanya Rennie’s amazing schoolmaster, DeJure. With Jure, I competed from Training through Third Level, earning my USDF Bronze Medal and several Region 8 Championship and NEDA Year-End awards.
In 2016 I earned the prestigious USDF Youth Volunteer of the Year award for my “dedication to dressage and the ability to be a positive role model for other youth, through exceptional volunteerism.” In the same year, I bought W Spotlight, a 2008 Westfalen gelding (Sir Donnerhall x Floristan), and we immediately began working towards the FEI Junior level. In 2018 we earned a spot on the Region 8 North American Youth Championship team, placing 10th in the Team division (not so well in the Individual, unfortunately). Competing at the NAYC allowed me to experience the camaraderie of working with a team and fueled my desire to one day be a U.S. Team rider.
In 2019 I, along with three other riders, was accepted to experience the Dressage Foundation’s Young Rider International Dream program at the CHIO Aachen. There, we witnessed some of the best riding in the world and got to meet some of the world’s most renowned trainers and industry professionals. It was truly a life-changing experience that I will never forget.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Spotlight and I were unable to fulfill our dreams at the Young Riders, beyond one CDI-Y in Wellington, FL in 2020. Following this winter season, in which we attended the Dressage4Kids Winter Intensive Training program, I took an amazing opportunity to work for Sabine Schut-Kery in Napa, California.
Working for and riding with Sabine has proved to be an enormously important next step in my riding career. From the responsibility of riding and caring for our team of horses while Sabine was in Tokyo, to grooming for her in Wellington, to riding one of our breeding stallions in his first U.S. licensing, the learning curve has been huge and I’ve been absorbing as much of it as I can.
I tragically lost my boy Spotlight in the late summer of 2021, due to a joint infection following a routine treatment. While this was, without a doubt, the hardest thing I’ve had to endure, everything happens for a reason. In the spring of 2022 I found my next partner, Jetson EP (Bordeaux x Sambertino.) While I have now “aged out” of the young rider scene, I hope to bring Jetson into the developing horse program once our partnership has grown stronger.
Sabine and I have now relocated to San Marcos, California at the most beautiful Palms Equestrian Center, alongside the incredible trainers Christine Traurig and Marie Medosi. I have such a special group of people and horses surrounding me, and I am incredibly excited to see where this new chapter takes me.