Michaela was highlighted as the KWPN-NA July Member of the Month! Check out the article below!
Over time, any organization only survives if it creates a solid heritage plus a connection with future generations who will eventually carry the torch, and it takes individuals with vision and drive to make that type of legacy a reality. That’s why Michaela Tolman of Boston, Mass. is our July Member of the Month. Coming from a family of renowned KWPN breeders, she’s a young woman with plenty of energy and enthusiasm, and that’s a good thing because Michaela has a lot going on: outside of horses, she got married last September, just defended her Ph.D. thesis in Neuroscience, is having a baby any day now, and starts a new job in Life Sciences Consulting in October! Let’s find out more about Michaela:
KWPN-NA: Did you grow up with horses? Were/are you a rider/competitor?
Michaela: I did! I think I was on a horse in my one piece snow suit before I could walk. Before I got my first pony, I would hook up my tricycle to the cross ties and pick out the tires with a hoof pick. I got my first pony, Sibby, when I was four years old. I rode and showed locally until I was about 14 and left home for high school across the state. I still love to ride – that complete concentration where your whole brain is occupied and the peace that comes with hard work and becoming one with the horse. I was never a particularly brave or well trained rider, but throughout college and grad school I have found ways to get back in the saddle when the itch becomes too great.
KWPN-NA: How did you get involved with Dutch horses? What is your favorite thing about the breed?
Michaela: I was born into Dutch horses. My family has been breeding Dutch Warmbloods for dressage since the late 1980s at Shooting Star Farm and I went on my first horse trip to Holland when I was in elementary school. What I have come to appreciate most about the Dutch horses is their type, character, and the KWPN system. It may be just because I am most familiar with the Dutch horses, but when I am at a show or just looking at young stock, I am generally drawn to the combination of elegance and power of the Dutch horses. Having worked with many of them, there is often an intelligence and independence that I recognize and really enjoy working with. Beyond the horses themselves, I have found that the level of rigor and selection present in the KWPN system is really helpful for not only my own education, but for shaping the breed as a whole.
KWPN-NA: Are there any particular accomplishments you’d like for us to mention?
Michaela: Though I can’t take any credit for it, I am extremely proud of our family’s breeding program and Shooting Star Farm. With only a few mares running around, mud caked, in the middle of the New Hampshire woods, we have produced some of the top horses in the country and gained international recognition for our program. I try to keep us organized and wrangle foals at the keuring, but that is about it.
I am really proud of what the Young KWPN-NA has become over the last two years. Starting from a conversation with Keagan, Maile, and Ryan in Holland, we created an internationally connected community of young people interested in Dutch horses. The previous generations of Dutch breeders and riders had very different tools and challenges than young people do today. In many registries, there is still a disconnect between well established farms and the next generation – bridging that gap is going to be crucial, especially for the KWPN-NA, if we are going to be key players in the international scene for the next 20 or 50 years. The YK has done a lot to bring people together and start the conversation, but there is a lot more to do! One of the great things about the YK is that anyone can get involved – check out the initiatives that we already have in place (youngkwpnna.org), but also reach out to youngsters in your area. What are their goals? What are their challenges? Create spaces and opportunities for conversation and education. I think we are still very much in the exploration phase, but I hope that by having more of these conversations we can start to figure out what is really going to be effective to engage the next generation and ensure that we have a future as an organization.
KWPN-NA: Who was/is your favorite Dutch horse?
Michaela: My favorite Dutch horse is Werites SSF. She is by Freestyle out of our foundation mare, Orchis. I wouldn’t say that she is our best producer, mover, or the perfect type, but at the end of the day, we breed to produce dressage horses and riding her feels like driving a Ferrari. She suffered a career ending trailer accident and wasn’t ridden for years, but I hopped on one summer and she still felt amazing. She reminds me that we breed not only for the confirmation, the perfect pedigree, and that electric hind leg – we also breed to produce top riding horses, even though it can take a decade or more to see your product reach that level.
KWPN-NA: What roles do you have within the KWPN-NA?
Michaela: I have been the Chair of the Young KWPN-NA for the past two years or so. As I mentioned above, I am incredibly excited for the future of this group. Since I am due to have a baby in the next few weeks (which has given me a whole new appreciation for our mares…), I have taken a step back. I think really strong groups and organizations are formed through a wide range of ideas and influences, so I can’t wait to see what the YK board and members do next!
KWPN-NA: Is there anything that people don’t really know about you or would be surprised to know?
Michaela: Though I have always chosen school and education over horses, I had decided after college that if I didn’t get into any of the graduate programs I was applying to, I would go to Holland to ride, go to all the shows and inspections, and eat Stroopwafels for a few years. As fate would have it, I was actually on a horse when I got the call from a Dutch professor at Tufts offering me a spot in their Ph.D. program.