About Sheri Thornley

Hello everyone....my name is Sheri Thornley and Lynn Morgan, of The Surrey,  has generously offered to help me out in my quest to compete at the upper levels of eventing.  It's been a LONG journey, but it looks like it will really happen.

I've been riding since I was six years old, but never had a formal lesson until I was 25.  I rode with a local 4-H club in upstate NY, and borrowed saddles to compete in the little county fair shows.  In high school I worked at Chester Davis' (Howard Hughes' attorney) Milfer Farm handling Thoroughbred babies and stallions, and at Southwind Farm helping set up the farm for their Standardbreds. One summer I spent in Hershey, PA at Penn National Racetrack swimming horses during the day and running horses from the ship-in barn at night. After college I moved to Maryland and worked at the Greenspring Valley Hounds where I got to foxhunt regularly, either exercising members' horses or starting green ones.  I got my first OTTB then, and took my first real lesson with Grant Schneidman at Peter Green's old farm.  I worked at a feed company for a while and exercised steeplechase horses. I managed Camelot Farm in Monkton for about three years.

A big hiccup in my life was next and I  had to sell my horse and get out of the horses for a living for a while.  But I continued to ride with my friend Packy McGaughan through it all.  I ended up moving to a place where I got to keep a horse for free, and that's when I got Fred.  "That Fred horse" took me through Preliminary, and to more USEA Team Trials for MCTA than I can count.  He competed at the first East Coast Championships when he was 20 years old, and now at 27, still yells at me every day when I'm riding other horses.  He's the youngest old horse ever, and would jump around any course now if you let him.  I got married and had two children, so I didn't get the chance to compete Fred to his potential, but he got me to the point where I felt confident to ride and train other people's horses.  I started riding for Amy Lindgren - she now lives in PA and Boyd Martin rides her horses...hmmm can't imagine why she'd choose him : )  - and over the next 15 years had the opportunity to compete every shape, size, temperament, and talent you can imagine.  In 2003, I was USEA Master Training Rider thanks to Amy's horse Jake, and my Fred and Onyx. I still have Amy's pony at my farm, and her great old horse Kalimar lived here at my farm for over 10 years until he passed last fall at the age of 35.  Also thanks to Amy, I have been on horseback riding safaris in Africa eight times!

I started managing Windy Hollow Farm 13 years ago to help pay for my eventing addiction, and what was turning into a horse collection.  Six years ago I convinced the bank I could run the farm on my own, and bought it.  Now it is Southwind Farm, the name "borrowed" from the Standardbred operation I worked at as a kid in NY.  I've had WAY too many horses since then.  I think an empty field or stall is like an empty space in a garage or workshop - it must be filled.  So of course I still have way too many, but rationalize it quite well.  This old farm is hard work, but we have a great routine and great people.
The real star of this show is Toga.  Ticket to Saratoga is a 10 year old OTTB I bought because he was pretty.  No kidding.  I went to a farm to look at horses to buy (to sell) and the guy said to me "you should see the three year old we're running tomorrow."  So I looked at him and said "can I put him on my trailer?"   I bought him for $2000, right away had him vetted, and had the OCD taken out of his hock before it bothered him.  So while he was recovering from the surgery and crashing from the steroids leaving his system, I was trying to decide if I wanted to sell him or keep him.  The people in my barn fell in love with him and urged me to keep him, but as time went by he showed more and more talent and I was seeing dollar signs.  Liza Horan helped me with him and had him in Florida one winter when someone offered to buy him for quite a lot of money.  Well, this whole story is long and weird, but in short he didn't pass the vet because he had a detached retina and was 90% blind in one eye. THEN.  But now he doesn't have a detached retina and isn't blind in one eye -  he has a heart murmur and "vitreal junk" in his eye.  SO there were a few years where he was for sale for a LOT of money but for one reason or another it didn't happen.  In the meantime we kept competing him and Liza took him to his first Intermediate where he was fifth.  NOT a blind horse!  I finally realized that this was the horse I'd been dreaming of for MYSELF, and quit trying to sell him.

On Mother's Day last year, a horse I didn't really know flipped over on me and crushed my pelvis and four ribs.  That's the story of 2009 pretty much.

Now I ride with Packy again, and this year, just before my 50th birthday,  I got to do MY first Intermediate.  We started at Seneca and jumped clean to finish 8th.  I was so nervous I thought I was going to pass out half way around the course, but then remembered to breathe and let my horse do all the work.  He is a cross country machine, always looking for the flags.  Our dressage is a work in progress, but Toga has it in him to be quite a fancy mover.  He is a funny horse - sometimes spooky and high, sometimes sluggish and lazy, but always dead on when it comes to the jumping.  We've had a couple rough goes this fall, but all from being green at this level.  He's easy to train, fast to learn, and always wants to do the right thing.  Our best trip this season was at Morven Park where we finished fifth with only 2.4 time penalties cross country.

My goal was/is to do the CCI** at Fair Hill and then hopefully continue on to Advanced.  Lots of encouragement from my trainers and friends convinced me to try to get there this year, but at the qualifying CIC** at Plantation Field, my very brave cross country horse misread a drop into the dark as a jump on flat ground and totally jumped me out of the tack.  I was very happy that my first fall off T was aided by an air vest that bounced me around a bit and left me with only some road rash on my arm.  No Fair Hill for me this year, though I did get to go and watch my daughter Addie and her USPC games team win the President's Cup.  I'll be there next year, and will be READY : )