Ask Stevie Murphy what she loves most about equestrian sport, and her answer is not the double-clear rounds or the top grand prix finishes. Instead, it is the relationships with her horses. She embraces the opportunity to be mindful of their needs, to get to know them like her best friends, and to care for their well-being.
It is that mindfulness of her horses’ care and her close relationships with them that have helped the 24-year-old rider from Prince Edward Island climb the competitive show jumping ranks and made her a future Canadian star to watch.
Learning from the Best
For Murphy, her appreciation and passion for horses is hereditary, having been passed down from her parents, Danny and Martie Murphy, and shared early on with her siblings Georgie (17), Dannie (20), and Will (21). Together with her family, Stevie grew up riding and showing on Prince Edward Island.
“That was really special,” said Stevie, who began her career training with Jen Hamilton, who she credits with teaching her the value of dedication and the importance of practice. “The pictures and the memories of us all riding together are really great. It was a lot of fun.”
Ultimately, Dannie and Stevie chose to expand their equestrian endeavours beyond their home province, and the two sisters began training with Erynn Ballard at her family’s Looking Back Farm in Ontario.
“I learned so much from her,” said Stevie of Ballard, whom she trained with for nearly six years before moving on to train with Canadian Olympic silver medalist, Jill Henselwood, for another two and a half years. “I’ve had the privilege of training with such great Canadian riders that all have a different approach to the sport. It has been so nice learning from all of those very talented riders and gaining insight into their outlook and training.”
Now, the list of talented riders that Stevie has had the privilege of learning from has expanded to include Canadian Olympian Beth Underhill, whom Stevie began training with in January.
“I have been working with Stevie the past few weeks in Florida and find her to be a very keen student,” said Underhill, who is training Stevie at both HITS Ocala in Ocala, FL, and the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, FL, this winter. “I believe her to be a young rider with great talent and resolve who will be an asset to Canadian show jumping in the future. She knows her horses well and is educated and hands-on in their care and well-being. She’s focused and intent on creating the best partnership she can with her horses.”
A Focus on Wellness
For Stevie, her partnerships with her current top mounts, Ebab RK and Cabaliero 2, are four and one year in the making, respectively, and both began while Stevie was pursuing higher education.
In 2018, Stevie graduated from Lynn University in Boca Raton, FL, with a degree in international business. A year later, she graduated from the Institute for Integrated Nutrition, based in New York – an opportunity and an education that she credits with helping make her a better rider and horsewoman.
“It taught me a ton about how to prepare myself to compete as far as rest, nutrition, and mindset,” explained Stevie. “It’s really complemented my riding. It’s given me a lot of information about how to treat my horses and what to feed them – really a whole perspective on wellness and optimizing mindset.”
Stevie’s education also enabled her to launch her own business, Sincerely Stevie, through which she offers health and wellness coaching, as well as creating and sharing delicious recipes.
“I’m so passionate about wellness products and services,” she said. “I believe it’s really important in life to have a balance. Horses are my passion, for sure, but also having something else to work on is important to me.”
For Stevie, it is also something that complements her riding and horsemanship well.
“I’ve learned the importance of really checking in with yourself to recognize what you need and how you feel,” said Stevie. “I’m a huge fan of yoga. Sometimes I find that a very relaxing yin or restorative yoga class is really great for me, just to calm me down, get me centered and grounded, and to then carry that intention throughout my riding.
“It’s very easy to get overwhelmed and nervous, but I find that with breathing techniques, it’s much easier,” she continued. “I’ve learned to just come with a mindful, calm, focused approach, to stick to your plan, and to be grateful for everything. Practicing gratitude is a game changer – just being grateful for my horses and my team is a great reminder.”
Grand Prix Results to be Grateful For
This winter, Stevie has found a lot to be grateful for, including the opportunity to represent Canada in the Under 25 team competition held during week four of the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, FL, top-five grand prix finishes in Ocala, and Ebab RK’s return to competition following time off from a sport that is inevitably full of highs and lows.
“My riding career highlight probably would be this past year at Bromont. I was fourth in my first CSI3* grand prix with Ebab,” said Stevie of the horse that she has been bringing along since he was six years old. “We had a double clear, and it was a 1.60m track. So that really was a moment when you get to see hard work paying off. He’s a very complex guy. He’s very hot and needs a certain ride, but I learned it and practiced.”
Shortly thereafter, the 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Nabab de Reve x Quidam de Revel) developed a tooth issue, cracking a large molar and ultimately needing to have the tooth extracted.
“He had to have it pulled, which led to a few more complications, and unfortunately he couldn’t work until January,” explained Stevie, who just recently jumped Ebab RK in his first 1.30m class since returning to the show ring.
While Ebab was out of competition, Stevie focused on getting to know her newer partner, Cabaliero 2, who goes by the nickname “Larry” around the barn.
“Riding is very humbling sport, so while he was out, I got to know ‘Larry’ much better,” said Stevie. “Everything happens for a reason and because of Ebab being out, I had to get better at riding a colder, bigger horse. That paid off, and in December at Ocala, we were second and fourth in the two grand prix classes!
“Cabaliero is a much thicker, stronger, colder horse than Ebab, but he has a lot of scope,” said Stevie of the 10-year-old Holsteiner gelding sired by Clinton 1. “It’s just learning to harness that consistent and thought-out ride to use his scope as he likes.”
Over the coming months, Stevie plans to continue to compete “Larry” in grand prix classes at HITS Ocala and develop their partnership through her thoughtful and educated care of her horses.
“I have a goal of competing in a number of the grand prix classes and learning and learning and learning! I want to learn different courses, different course designers, all of that,” said Stevie. “Over the past year, I’ve been transitioning to taking primary care of my own horses, which has really been a great learning experience as well.
“It’s been an eye-opener as to how similar they are to humans in terms of their care and how to work them,” continued Stevie, who keeps her horses alongside those of her boyfriend of three years, fellow young Canadian show jumper, Alex Jamael. “To know them like that is really my favourite part of being in this sport. Just getting to take care of them and being around them all day long has helped me a lot with riding and competing because I feel like I know the horses on another level.”
Following her time in Ocala, Stevie looks forward to continuing to care for her horses at home on Prince Edward Island and at shows throughout Canada where she plans to contest Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) competition with increasing frequency.
“Last summer was my first real season of doing FEI grand prix classes, so I’d like to continue that and work on getting more FEI points and traveling to different venues and continuously getting to know my horses better,” said Stevie.
“I just have a lot of gratitude for my team: my groom, Maureen; my parents; and Alex. Alex has been a huge part of everything that I’ve accomplished in the last two years. He’s a huge supporter and very honest and always there for me,” concluded Stevie. “Having those people that you trust and can count on gives you, and even your horse, a ton of confidence as far as what you can accomplish in making your goals and dreams come to life.”