Tami grew up in rural Minnesota, where there were not many options for kids who wanted to ride and show horses. So how did this successful author find her way to performing piaffe and passage in the 20 by 60 meter sandbox we call a dressage arena? Persistence…a theme that seems to tread throughout Tami’s lifetime!
Hoag’s father bought her first western pony when she was nine years old. “Smokey was the most evil pony on the face of the earth”, Hoag reflected. "He dumped me every chance he got. It was horrible. All I had ever wanted was to ride, and my pony hated me. I was crushed emotionally--and physically, come to think of it. He ruined my back in two places.". And Smokey was a long way from her dreams of riding and showing English.
“You could ride western,” Hoag said, “Or you could ride western. I was considered very strange for wanting an English saddle. I wanted to wear breeches and tall boots, and take my horses for hacks on bridle paths through the woods. I also wanted to play tennis (something else considered snooty in the no-stoplight town where I grew up). It seemed as if I had been left on my parents’ doorstep by yuppies from Connecticut.”
Luckily, Hoag never takes no for an answer. When she was 11-years-old she sold advertising on the side of her pony cart and drove in local parades to earn the $60 it cost to buy an ancient Argentine jumper saddle.
Still, years would pass before any real opportunity to use that saddle came her way. Summers were spent at local horse shows where Tami competed in everything from western pleasure to barrel racing. Finally a trainer who had done some eventing moved to the area, and Tami would have a chance to put that English saddle to use. She was given the chance to learn to ride jumpers on a one-eyed red roan Saddlebred cross. “A lot of people might not have found that to be a golden opportunity,” Hoag laughs. “But I did.”
Unfortunately, Tami was the trainer’s only student, and there were only three horse shows in a 75-mile radius that offered any jumping classes. The trainer packed up and left, no doubt to head east!
It wasn’t until 1988 that Hoag decided to explore the possibilities of dressage. Using all of her detective skills, she tracked down the only dressage instructor in her area. To her great fortune, that person was Marianne Ludwig, a well-known judge, and early mentor of Olympian Sue Blinks. But after getting a good start on a horse borrowed from Ludwig, Hoag’s writing career really took off and her life was consumed by her work. She dropped out of the riding arena for about five years.