JN Exclusive: Making Childhood Dreams Come True with Raphaelle Cassens

After serving her time as horse show mom, Raphaelle Cassens decided it was time to put her feet in the irons for a try. Now this super mom balances the roles of horse show mom and active competitor as she makes her childhood dreams a reality. JN caught up with Raphaelle to share her inspirational story and her successes at HITS Coachella.

A Lifelong Dream

Like many children, Raphaelle grew up with the desire to ride horses. Unfortunately, that opportunity was not available to her at the time. That door opened up, however, after her two daughters, Chloe and Josephine, caught the horse bug. “The minute my daughters showed an interest in horses we went for it,” shared Raphaelle. 

“I spent many years being a horse show mom and eventually I got a horse of my own and joined them. My kids think it is pretty cool that mom now shows too. I didn’t start riding until well into my forties. Even then I didn’t show much because the focus was always my kids. Now that they are older I can show more. It’s humbling, that’s for sure.” 

Raphaelle in her jumper debut aboard their newest horse, Populaire. Photo by Bethany Unwin.

The LA resident recently began training with Erin Duffy after the retirement of the family’s former trainer, Patrick Spanton, and have fallen in love with the facility at Haley Farms. There, Raphaelle has been able to work on achieving her dreams and the dreams of her children. While her previous focus was on the hunter ring, under the tutelage of Erin Duffy she has recently stepped into the jumper ring as well.

While both her children are grown, with Chloe having recently graduated college and with Josephine enjoying her freshman year at the University of Chicago, Raphaelle has been able to place the focus on her own riding. When they are all together, however, they still ride with one another and aim to show as a family once again.

When You Give a Girl a Horse

“I always say that little girls who never got that pony they always wanted grow up and have five,” joked Raphaelle. The family recently stepped down from five horses to four, all of which Raphaelle has been able to learn and grow with along the way.

Under the Radar, AKA Buddy, is a fourteen year old OTTB that has been a part of Raphaelle’s family since he was seven.  “I learned to ride and show on him and he is my angel,” she said. “He looks like a Budweiser Clydesdale that got shrunken in the dryer!”

Raphaelle Cassens aboard Under the Radar at HITS Coachella. Photo by Flying Horse Photography

Buddy has been Raphaelle’s rock throughout her riding journey taking her through the pre-adult hunters, but in 2016 she decided to give Buddy a bit of a vacation and shift her focus to another one of the family show mounts.

“Calypso is a 2007 Dutch Warmblood that I purchased about four years ago knowing he would be perfect for my daughter Chloe. She was in college at the time and not really riding. I hoped she would come back to it, because riding and showing are something that my daughters and I did together. She has, and as a bonus, she is happy to have me show him as well.”

Together, Calypso and Raphaelle have shown consistently and moved up from the pre-adults to the low adults and have had quite a bit of success in both the hunter and equitation rings.

What’s in Store for 2018

Raphaelle has had quite a successful start to her 2018 season at Coachella, including making her debut in the jumper ring, earning top honors in weeks two, three, and four in the Modified Hunters, and bringing home the champion tricolor in the Adult Equitation in week four.

This win was especially sweet because I always felt like I was really bad at equitation. I’ve been fortunate to have nice movers, but both Buddy and Calypso do not enjoy being ridden in a frame so it’s difficult to find the happy medium that makes for a successful equitation round,” she shared with JN.

With these new successes under her belt, Raphaelle is eager to keep progressing in her riding and move up in the levels with each of her horses. While she has big dreams, she plans on taking it day by day and is thankful to Erin Duffy Show Stables and the Haley Farms team for taking care of her entire family, two and four legged.

“I just want to keep getting better and have fun. I’d like to move up height-wise, but I’m not in a huge rush. I am an old lady who started super late after all. In the end if I go in and come out mounted and didn’t scare the pants off of anyone, it was a good round!”