Priscilla Godsoe lives her life according to Winston Churchill’s famous quote that no time is wasted in the saddle. So, up at dawn and back home after dark, Godsoe’s life is wrapped up in horses
Whether foxhunting or race training, the show jumping equestrian from the mid-Atlantic runs her life as if on Greenwich Mean Time.
In this week’s installment of Reader’s Clubhouse, walks us through a typical day.
Q: Your work is done from a saddle, either at foxhunts, racetracks or in a show arena. Please describe your job.
Fox hunting – My job is as a ‘whipper-in’ for the River Hills Foxhounds in Kirkwood, PA. I ensure that the hounds, in groups of 19 1/2 couples (39 hounds), which are out sniffing for the fox, keep working as a group (pack).
I also make sure they are listening to the commands of the huntsman. His job is to send the hounds into the woods, covertly, or out across a field, and I assist by flanking the huntsman, keeping the hounds between him and me.
In addition, I protect the hounds, for their safety, making sure they cross the roads they’re supposed to, and avoid the ones they’re not to cross.
Since they have their nose down they don’t always look both ways when crossing roads!
On the topic of fox hunting, in America the sport is different than that of other countries. Here in America it is more of a sport of the chase, in teaching the hounds to work together to find the scent line of a fox, and to chase him until he decides to go to ground to his/her hole.
It is not a blood sport. It’s a sport for training and chasing.
There is nothing more fun than being on the back of a trusty friend who can take you over all types of terrain! We jump fences, and enjoy being outside with the hounds!
Racetrack – My job is an exercise rider. I ride for Tim Woolley at the Fair Hill Training Center in Fair Hill, MD. I get on all different horses. My work ranges from breaking yearlings to gate-training two year olds. I gallop across fields getting turf horses fit and clearing the minds of the racetrack-bound horses who need a fresh perspective. I also break and breeze from the gate. On any given day I’m riding a baby to the track for the first time and moments later, breezing from the half on the track. It’s a really fun job that never seems to get boring!
Horse showing – My job here is more personal as opposed to working for someone else. I train and sell jumper horses from my farm Greenfield’s Family Stable in Nottingham, PA. I have a range of young horses to older grand prix horses. The younger horses are always started with the hopes they will become bigger jumping horses. Because of the nature of the business, it takes years to really know if you have a younger horse that is willing to face a course of 14-18, five-foot jumps, at speed, and accuracy. So, my job as a trainer or rider in the show ring is to instill confidence and educate the young horses and then keep the older horses fit and happy.
Q: What time do you get up in the morning, and how does a typical day break down for you?
Foxhunting for me is every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday. On a typical morning I’m up around 4:30 a.m. and would be getting to the track around 5:30 a.m., riding three to four sets and then heading to the kennels to load up hounds and tack up horses and then ship to the place where were hunt (known as the meet), which will start at 11:00 a.m. I usually stay out until 2:30 p.m. before I ship back the kennels, and head home to ride two more horses. After that, I the feed the herd of 22, grab a bite to eat and then ride three or four more horses. I usually head in from the barn at around 8:30 or 9 p.m.— needless to say, I sleep well!
Q: You grew up living so many little-girl dreams of ponies in the yard, and horse shows to attend. Did you ever think that maybe you wanted to be an accountant, or a photographer, or anything else?
When I was little I never thought about doing anything else. However when I was in high school I was pushed from all angles to go to college. For a brief time I was interested in attending a certain military college in hopes of keeping my grades good enough to go into flight school. Before I went too far in that direction, I took several flying lessons at a local airport. I realized that I did enjoy flying! But, I figured I could just as easily pay for lessons rather than go to a college and hope I made it in the program. Despite everyone’s best efforts I stayed with the horses and I’ve never looked back.
Q: Who is the greatest horse you’ve ever known, and why?
Tough… very tough. I would say that I’m thoroughly impressed by a horse I have in the barn now. His name is Dry Martini. He was a G1 racehorse. In 2011 at the age of 9 he ran in the Florida Sunshine Millions and was 5th. He was then retired that February with career earning of over $1.3 million. He was shipped to my farm in May, and has since been jumping fences, going out of trail rides, and enjoying life.
That fall I was competing him at 1.20m jumpers shows in New Jersey and he was winning! In March 2012 I started fox hunting him, and he is currently scheduled to be an outrider horse, or “pony,” for me at the Fair Hill April 22. So, to me that is a pretty great horse.