HARWICH— Sixteen-year-old Isabelle Santamauro, a Pony Club member and riding student at True North Farm in Harwich, recently competed as a member of the Central New England Region inthe Research Project Competition at the 2019 United States Pony Clubs Equine Symposium in Stamford, Conn. Santamauro was awarded second place nationally with her project, which involved the exploration of solubility and efficacy of antibiotic medicines for horses.
Competitors were judged on their project’s purpose, research methodology, results, and presentation skills. Judges were leaders in the equine community including veterinarians, academic researchers and past graduate A pony clubbers (the A certification is the highest riding certification available to Pony Club members). Santamauro, who goes by Izzy, is the daughter of David and Britta Santamauro of Mashpee. She is a C2 certified member of the United States Pony Clubs, Inc.
The United States Pony Clubs, Inc., commonly known as Pony Club, was founded in 1954 as a nonprofit youth organization to teach horsemanship and riding through a formal educational program. Over 10,000 Pony Club members, ranging in age from 4 to 25, meet in over 600 clubs and riding centers across the country. Santamauro has been a member for nine years, and says she has found it educational and helpful in expanding her knowledge of horses.
“Not only is it knowledge-based but it is also emphasizes communication skills as well as team building,” Santamauro said. “When I was younger, I did Pony Club rallies where I had to work with a team to have all of the safe horse management equipment as well as speak to superiors with confidence and control.”
Santamauro moved to Cape Cod with her family two years ago. Upon her arrival, finding a local barn was a top priority. She discovered True North Farm in Harwich through the Pony Club, and fell in love with the place and its welcoming community of horse people at once.
“The Pony Club is great because you have some older Pony Clubbers able to help out the younger and more inexperienced clubbers,” Santamauro explained. “It's just an interconnecting place that has a great atmosphere for everyone to have fun. It is a really fun group. Kay Slater, the owner of True North Farm, is a great teacher and knows exactly how to say the right things to maximize my riding potential, and is a great horsewoman who takes very good care of the horses.”
Was Santamauro nervous about presenting her research project in front of the Pony Club judges at the 2019 United States Pony Clubs Equine Symposium?
“It was very nerve-racking,” she admitted. “Yes, I was very nervous to present. Every moment I had free I was practicing my speech. However, once I actually started talking, it was easy to settle in. I realized that these judges were actually enthusiastic to hear my talk and I was proud to tell them. It soon became fun for me just to tell them about this project that I like so much, and at the end I wasn't just reciting this nervous speech to them, I was talking to them about something that I was genuinely interested in.”
What does the future hold for Santamauro? For a while she was interested in a career in veterinary care. It was her dream to work with large animals and horses as well as continue her riding career. She soon realized, however, that in order to become a vet she would likely have to give up riding, since a large animal veterinary practice requires such long, grueling work days.
“It's still in the back of my mind, but currently I am also interested in ophthalmology,” Santamauro said. In the short term, her plans are to achieve HB certification (a Pony Club certification that covers horse management knowledge and skills)and possibly her C3 (a certification that reflects a basis of competence in riding, ground schooling, and horse care) this summer. She hopes to continue with Pony Club, and since there are many younger riders at True North Farm there are lots of opportunities to be involved.
In addition to spending time at the barn, Santamauro said that she is academically focused and tries to do her best in school. She enjoys community service and is involved with community service through her school, Falmouth Academy.
“Once a week a few students from my school and a teacher go to the Falmouth Service center (we bag food as supplements), to the Falmouth senior center (we teach the seniors about the use of their phones or computers in mini tech sessions), and Neighborhood Falmouth (we answer requests, such as cleaning their yard, going grocery shopping etc.),” Santamauro explained. “I really enjoy this type of meaningful work.”
Santamauro doesn’t own a horse at the moment, but she recently started a full lease with an option to buy a special fellow from Florida (a 16.3h Hanoverian) named Pete.
“He is a super sweet guy,” Santamauro said. “Pete is wonderful but still needs to learn a couple things if I would want to event him in the summer. That being said, what I love about this sport is that it can be so rewarding. You might have a bad day or not the best ride, but then the next day you can have so many wonderful moments that make it all worth while. I also love eventing because you have all three disciplines: dressage, show jumping and cross-country. When you have a horse that loves galloping over the fields, it is the best feeling in the world.”