For Stella Prescott, it’s a simple matter of loving what you do. The lifelong horse enthusiast said her job as director of the Hunter-Jumper program at the Child Equestrian Complex of the University of Findlay couldn’t be more perfect if she had designed it herself. “For success, it starts with really loving what you do. I feel very fortunate that the job I have with the university is the perfect match for me,” she said.
The former owner of Star Ridge Stables in Hardeeville, S.C., 41-year-old Prescott can no longer ride due to health issues, but that hasn’t stopped her from pursuing a career helping students fulfill their equestrian dreams.
Since August of 2011, she has led three-hour-plus UF classes in horse training, equitation (how a rider’s position affects a horse’s travel), and how to become an instructor. Her days begin at 5 a.m. and her work can last until 8 p.m. Her classroom is the university’s 30-acre equestrian complex, located about 10 miles from the main campus.
In the process of pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in animal sciences, her students also learn such life skills as communication, time management, empathy for living things and dealing with other people. Prescott said because it’s well-known the horse industry requires long hours and does not pay well, she knows the students involved genuinely love and are committed to the work.
“People, in my experience, get involved in the horse industry because they are passionate about it,” Prescott said. “This world gives you an immediate connection to family. Within the students themselves, they are really supportive of each other. And as trainers, you get to know them on a really personal level.”
The Georgia native started riding at six years old at a horse camp near her home. She never owned her own horse, but a trainer she rode with through high school kept a mount for her. At 15, Prescott switched trainers and got involved in competitions and showings.
She attended the University of Georgia, where she worked breaking horses. But her final year of college was spent studying horse breeding during an internship at Queensland University in Australia.
After earning a Bachelor of Science in Equine Science, Prescott did some runway modeling and got part-time work grooming horses and cleaning stalls in Georgia. In 1996, she was hired as a stable manager at the Olympic games held in Atlanta.
Following 10 years of owning and operating her stable business, she decided to accept the university’s offer to direct their equestrian complex, which includes one outdoor and three indoor riding arenas.
Perhaps the greatest life lesson her students learn from horses, Prescott said, is patience. “They are not machines. It has to be a team effort,” she said. “They’re like a dance partner or a teammate. You can’t lose your temper.” She misses riding, but feels being on the sidelines, nurturing her students, is more exciting than being in the saddle. “Their success is due to what they learn from me, and that’s always been a really good feeling. I still get to see that ‘lightbulb’ moment with students. It’s a great thing to be able to have that positive influence on so many people,” she said.
The bottom line, Prescott said, is “you have to love what you do. I love what I’m doing.”