When Chelsea Sterling of San Clemente, CA, went to college, she took about a four-year hiatus from her horse show life to experience new things and focus on her studies.
Today, she’s returned from her break, feeling inspired and more ready than ever to hit the show circuit again.
Sterling attended Azusa Pacific University where she obtained her bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies. Describing her time there as, “…the best college experience,” she most enjoyed the community aspect of the school, which felt like a big family. In taking a break from her horses, she says she was able to focus on her studies and fully invest herself in all facets of the college experience. It was a time of substantial growth for Sterling whose biggest lesson learned at college was in stepping out of her comfort zone, something which led to once-in-a-lifetime experiences for the young lady.
Travel was a primary focus in the experience department for Sterling, who went several places while in college. In her sophomore year, she studied abroad in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa for three months. A season of her life which she refers to as the most “life changing and life-giving experiences thus far,” Sterling adds that while there, she studied, but also visited service sites where she had the privilege of serving the community of Pietermaritzburg. “Some of the things I saw were truly heartbreaking, yet also so encouraging to see the way the Lord works in the midst of despair,” she shares, “A big takeaway from that trip for me was the reminder that we should all be living with a sense of optimistic faith, even against all of life’s adversities.” Sterling then took a second trip through her school, which was a six-week summer missions’ trip to Pucallpa, Peru. Always having a heart for children, she says she thoroughly enjoyed the trip, and that it was extra special because, “…it was based playing with and serving kids of Peru every moment of each day!”
Aside from these school-affiliated trips, Sterling says she’s always loved to travel and has been to four of the seven continents. She plans to continue this trend throughout her lifetime in order to expand her horizons and explore and learn the cultures of the world. Both school and travel allowed for time away from riding, but Sterling is glad to be headed back to the show pen. “It was a much-needed period of time for to me focus on more than just horses,” she shares, “…although in the end, I certainly did miss it, hence us getting a new horse and jumping right back in!”
Sterling started riding for fun around age nine, at Ortega Equestrian Center in southern California. There, an immediate bond was formed between her and the animals she spent countless hours with. “My mom had always wanted a horse and when I was finally old enough we gave it a try together and loved it, therefore, we started this journey and have continued it together ever since,” she shares, “When I first started it was for fun, but soon after I was introduced to showing and the rest is history!”
Today, Sterling rides with and has her grey gelding in training with Kellie Hinely of Trendsetter Performance Horses in Chino Hills, CA. She has owned Huntinforthehighway, aka Hunter, for a little over a year. Now a junior horse, Sterling says she and Hinely have done all the training on Hunter and 2019 will be his first year to show. “He (Hunter) is killing it in the trail with Kellie Hinely, and he and I are getting more experience and confidence in the horsemanship,” she says. Sterling and Hunter will show in Horsemanship, Western Pleasure, and Trail, and she shares that 2019 will be the year for Hunter to gain more show pen confidence along their journey to earn points toward an AQHA World Show qualification. And for the horsewoman, there’s nothing quite as special as being back in the saddle. “It has been especially fun with Hunter, as Kellie and I get to teach him everything,” she says, “…it is so rad to watch him unfold into the horse he was destined to be.”
Sterling has certainly had some great help along her journey, as well, referring to Hinely and her mom, Kathi, as her biggest influences whether in the show pen or life in general. “Kellie (Hinely) has a way of proving to be a strong contender in the show arena, but she is also one who portrays the best sportsmanship outside of the arena,” she shares. Calling it a “true testament” to Hinely’s character, Sterling adds that she strives to be like her trainer in the showing industry. “As for my mom, she is truly the kindest and most full of grace human I know,” she shares, “…she is my biggest cheerleader and supporter, everything I do in life she is right by my side!”
And life for Sterling couldn’t get much better right now. She’s thrilled to be back and have time to visit with family and friends, and is working a job in a design warehouse, which she admits keeps her intrigued and having a lot of fun. But more than anything, her travel and time away from riding has made her realize just how important that part of her life remains to be. “Riding and showing horses has allowed me to learn trust and patience,” she shares, “Trust and patience is key, not only in horse showing, but also in everyday life!” For Chelsea Sterling, both attributes have paid off in the long run, while she attended college and literally traveled around the world and back- to the show pen!