With18 horses in full training, Patti Becker stays busy. “I like the work,” she says. “It’s busy and hectic and like anybody else I get cranky and tired but having a good business is a blessing.” She’ll take 11 horses from her stable to Florida this year and has another six students that will join them down there. “They can’t be in training with me all year so they go to Florida.” Patti will also continue honing her newest skill while in Florida—ballroom dancing.
Patti continues to enjoy showing and bringing along Sandor and Wish. She competed Sandor, who is co-owned by Anne Ramsay, in the USEF Developing Horse Championship in 2007 where the pair finished in fifth place. He moved up to I2 and Grand Prix in 2008, and although he qualified for the I1 Championship in 2008, they decided the trip to California wasn’t worth the expense. Wish is one of Carole Allgauer’s horses that Patti competes. The pair competed at the five-year-old class at the Markel/USEF Young Horse Championships in 2008 with a strong fifth place finish.
Carole’s husband Frank bought Wish as a three-year-old in 2006 from Hugh DeKoning in Holland, and they’re very excited about. “He has a super mind and is really athletic and really talented.”
Tuesday through Saturday Patti works at Fireside Farm. If she clinics she does it on Sundays and Mondays. “I really am anal,” she says. “I don’t take days off. I want my horses at home to get five days a week minimum. In Florida they get six, and if I have a Sunday here where I am not really going anywhere, then they get worked.” The staff at Fireside is top notch, and Patti says she relies heavily on her long-time groom.
“He knows them all inside and out,” she says. “I can ask him any question when he brings them in to me, and he can answer it. He’ll tell me if they’re stiff or crabby before I even ask. But I do spend a little bit of time with each of them every night before I leave. I give them a carrot, and I talk to them so I do feel like I have a relationship with all of them.”
Patti the Teacher
Patti views herself as a proactive, positive teacher and enjoys her students. When she was younger and riding with her aunt, the aunt told Patti that she might not be a good teacher, because she had the natural gift of feel and didn’t know what she was doing half the time, much less how to explain it. “I don’t like to not be good at anything that I want to do.” So she proved her wrong. Although she rides some of her amateur’s horses, she really sees her role as a teacher who teaches the owners to ride their own horses. She does get on them once a week or so but more as a check.
“I have a great group of amateurs that are moving up and doing really well,” she says. “They’ve won regional championships, and one did her first CDI this year. That’s really a highlight for me.”
In 2007 Patti decided she needed a hobby. In November of that year she found that pastime—a new passion that would give her a life outside of horses but also improve her riding. One of her students took her daughter to dance lessons, and Patti decided it was something she would like to try. “I grew up with my mom watching Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire and those were the movies that we always watched, and I always wanted to take dance lessons,” she says. “That was something I always wanted to do, but I was really more wrapped up in the horses. As a kid I didn’t really have the discipline to do both. Plus I was riding several horses a day.”
In time Patti learned that she was good at dancing and would enjoy trying her hand at competing. “I wasn’t planning on competing when I started; I just wanted a hobby,” she said. “But I did two national competitions this year.” The Fred Astaire CCDC in Las Vegas was her first competition, and she won top female student out of 11,000 entries. Next she did the Fred Astaire AAC in Chicago and won top female student overall and top female bronze student. “Las Vegas worked out well because it was right at the end of the Florida season,” she says. “I always take a week off then anyway and give the horses a week to rest. So it just worked out.”
Patti keeps up her dance regiment in Florida and danced every day last winter. “It’s helped my riding so much, the body work, the position and the core strength, and it’s more fun than Pilates and other things,” she says. “It’s more like riding, because it’s using all of those muscles mentally in a more similar way to riding because you’re doing something totally different and having to function. You’re not focusing on a particular exercise like in Pilates. You have to be able to remember the steps, listen to your partner and still use your core all at the same time.”
In the summer she dances three times a week and practices every day for 45 minutes. In Florida she attempts to dance a double (an hour and a half) every day. “It’s harder to practice in Florida,” she says. “At home I have a small studio set up in the basement where I can dance in front of the mirrors.”
Dancing is more of a workout than some might think. “If we’re working on technique and practicing one particular movement you sweat, you work hard,” she says. “I’ll feel more sore the next day if I’m dancing through stuff. I know a lot of people who use it as an exercise program. It’s a workout. Some days it’s more like weight lifting and some days it’s more like cardio.”
Patti the Author
Not the type to sit around and watch TV, Patti prefers to relax with a good book when she has some time on her hands (which isn’t all that often!) Patti describes herself as word-oriented and decided a few years ago to start writing what she calls an ‘airport novel’. “It’s not a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel,” she says. “It’s just something I’ve always wanted to do. I work on it a little bit at a time.”
Patti is no slouch when it comes to a well-rounded education. She got her degree in English literature from the University of Wisconsin Parkside along with a minor in history. She was also accepted into law school and has thought about getting her Ph.D. in English so that she could teach someday.
The Future Looks Bright
Patti continues to work with Jan Brons who she’s been working with for almost five years. “Patti is extremely dedicated, and her work ethic is fantastic,” said Jan. “She is really easy to teach because she doesn’t analyze what I am saying…she just goes ahead and does it. She is willing to do the work necessary to get where she wants to go.”
Patti has many goals for herself, her students and her horses. She is completely content with the career she has today but is open to furthering that career. “My goals are to become more of an international rider and do some competing in Europe,” she says. “I am aiming that way for the summer of 2009 to take Sandor and Wish over there. Of course I’d like to make the team, but I think there’s a lot of luck, skill and timing involved in that. If I’m lucky enough and blessed enough to have that happen I’d be ecstatic. That’s my goal, but I don’t think I’d feel like a failure if I didn’t.”