Love can blossom and grow in the most unexpected places. One Chemical Engineer from Massachusetts didn’t expect to find his soulmate in a horse barn in Southern California, but he did. And he hasn’t looked back.
Today, that engineer-transitioned-full-time-groom is supporting his wife’s dreams of be coming an Olympic dressage rider and supporting her 100% of the way as they grow their business together. Donadt Dressage is a full-service training facility, where Ashley specializes in training and Evan is the groom and marketing expert. Both focus on every detail, making this an exceptional duo
Ashley grew up in Washington state and has been “horse crazy” her entire life. She started riding and competing when. She was 7 years old. She moved to California for more opportunities and to continue to work with some of the best trainers while also expanding her own training opportunities of owning Donadt Dressage, a growing horse training operation.
Evan is from the East Coast and earned a degree in Chemical Engineering. He moved west, looking for a career, but when mutual friends took him to a stable in San Diego, he found much more. He met Ashley. And though his love started with her, through the time they spent together, he also discovered an enjoyment for horse she didn’t know existed.
“Evan started helping me in the barn, and learned a lot from me,” Ashley said of her protégé, now husband and business partner.
Evan did land a job in bio-tech, but he wanted to pursue something that allowed him to use his creativity. A marketing position offered some flexibility. When he wasn’t working, he was at the barn with Ashley, learning from her about the horses, recording her rides as a learning tool for her and even making videos to help educate his own family and others about his new equine lifestyle.
Enter COVID-19. Evan lost his job, but according to Ashley picked right up at the stable as a groom and did a fantastic job, helping as her training business grew. As someone originally unfamiliar with the horses, Evan had a keen eye for things out of the norm, picked upon things quickly and was easy around the horses.
“Initially we said it was temporary. It ended up working out so well, and all the clients loved him too, so we kept going with it, and I can’t imagine doing it any other way,” Ashley said about working side-by-side with Evan.
One other groom rounds out the trio. But Evan said he can’t imagine not working as a groom and being with Ashley on the daily. However, his creative juices have kicked in to over drive and between Instagram and TikTok, has created quite the following with nearly 290,000 followers on the two platforms combined.
Just about the time Evan really got in to making his videos, a new “family” member joined him and Ashley in California, Keira. Keira is a coming-7-year-old home-raised mare that Ashley’s mom bred and is out of the Thoroughbred mare that Ashley grew up with. Keira is half Thoroughbred, half Andalusian, and according to Ashley, has a lot of fire in her. She was the perfect addition to Donadt Dressage, as she gave Ashley a horse to demonstrate to clients what her skill level was and also provided a horse that Evan could grow and learn with. She has really come into her own over the past year.
“I love working with Keira so much. She is our family horse. It is fun to have one of my own that I know isn’t getting sold or going any where. I plan to compete her more this year, just to have fun. She is a little ball of fire. She’s tried to kill me a few times. She is very challenging and has really tested me as a trainer. It makes it so rewarding when you’ve been through that entire journey together. She’s my heart horse, my babygirl,” Ashley said.
Evan also has a deep appreciation for Keira, who was taught early on to work for the camera and has starred in many of his social media videos. Evan says that his mother-in-law is a master scrapbooker and always taking photographs, so Keira was already familiar with the camera when she was moved from Washington state to California. Them are made sure Evan knew about her photogenic tendencies and would ham it up for the camera, every chance she got.
“Keira was used to having the camera in her face, so when she came down, she loved having the phone camera in her face,” Evan said
One social media follower, Hayley Keck BioZyme® marketing brand manager, reached out to Evan and asked him if he would be interested in making some social videos for the equine brand Vitalize®. After he and Ashley checked out the product samples that Hayley sent with their veterinarian and got approval from Keira, they were hooked.
“Drinking water is the biggest thing for me in preventing colic. Whenever my horse shave environmental changes because they have gone to a show or are feeling under the weather because of vaccinations or the weather isn’t what they are used to, I feel the Vitalize® Equine Gel helps encourage them to drink their water and keeps their digestive system regular,” Ashley said.
Ashley and Evan both agree that the Vitalize Equine Gel is important when hauling horses to and from shows, and they also have put Keira on Vitalize® Alimend® to support her gastric health and give her the #goodgutfeeling she needs to feel and perform her best.
The Vitalize Ambassadors are big believers in the products that help their horses, and Evan has made several videos featuring the products, to help other equine enthusiasts learn how to help their horses, too.
Evan and Ashley are definitely a match that you don’t find in every barn, but one you can bet on. They laugh together, work together and complete each other’s sentences.
“One of my big goals is to fully support Ashley in her dreams. I know they are big dreams, but she is capable. I am going to support that and Donadt Dressage. The videos are my creative outlet. We’ll see how far they go, and maybe one day they will support us financially. I love being here and love what I do,” Evan said. “There is always room for growth, and my biggest dream is to be on a U.S. Olympic team for Dressage. As my business has been growing, it has been more geared toward horses at the higher level of the sport. I’ll keep working on that dream,” Ashley said.
Big dreams. Two people working together on them. The possibilities are endless for these Vitalize Ambassadors that know that the first step is taking care of their horses ’health.