Article by Lyssette Williams
By Lyssette Williams
Writer and rider Angelica Witherspoon-Cassanova never dreamed she’d author a young adult novel, let alone two. Growing up in small-town Central Florida, she had different aspirations—bright lights, movie magic and horses, of course!
“My twin sister, Erika, and I wanted to be filmmakers,” Angelica said. “Our plan was Erika would write, I’d produce, and we’d be co-directors; Like the Hughes brothers.”
Though no one in her family owned or rode horses, Angelica vividly remembers her first brush with the captivating creatures.
“My aunt Ingrid was driving us home from church and spotted friends riding around in their field,” Angelica said. “After pulling over, they graciously offered my cousins and me a leg up. We were wearing our Sunday best but eagerly clambered into the saddle.”
Seven-year-old Angelica had never seen a horse up close before. Their graceful movement, soft fur, kind eyes and gentle, sweet-smelling breath seared into her memories, forever etching into her heart an unwavering love for them.
Hooked on a Feeling
“I was hooked,” Angelica said. “Horses galloped through my every thought and dream. I read about them, wrote about them, drew them and begged my parents constantly for lessons.”
Angelica’s parents, Janice and Gerald, hoped it was a phase that she’d grow out of. They did their best to quiet Angelica’s never-ending pleas and negotiations. After six years of her dogged persistence, though, they granted Angelica’s wish to take riding lessons when she was 13.
“My parents relented,” Angelica said. “But they placed responsibility on me—if I wanted to take lessons, I had to save up and buy a riding helmet first.”
Pouncing on their concession, Angelica saved every penny she earned. Though nothing fancy, that helmet would open the door to the world of horses. Starting out, Angelica rode at a local hunter-jumper barn, but after several months, it was clear to Angelica’s mother that her daughter’s riding development wasn’t a priority for the trainer. Janice resolved to find a teacher who was both knowledgeable and invested in their students’ personal growth. A chance meeting with another rider in the post office set Angelica in the right direction.
“My new trainer was a woman named Donna West,” Angelica said. “She taught me how to be an all-around horse person. I learned not only how to ride, but also to understand the psychology of what horses think and feel. Donna provided the opportunity to work for my lessons. I cleaned tack until it gleamed, mucked and bedded stalls, and scrubbed algae from the water buckets.”
Due to finances, Angelica didn’t attend many horse shows as a kid. That never stopped her from enjoying horses to the fullest. Fueled by curiosity and a hunger to learn, Angelica explored everything the horse world had to offer.
“I started out riding hunter-jumpers and eventing,” Angelica said. “In college, I tried barrel racing and gymkhana—an absolute blast. I dabbled in saddleseat but didn’t enjoy it. Now, I take dressage lessons from time to time and hope to get back into low-level eventing.”
This is an excerpt from the full article—get the whole story in the Fall 2021 Chrome magazine, which is sent to all current APHA members. Not a member? Join or renew at apha.com/join.