Moss Creek Equestrian Center
Author: David Gignilliat
Cathy Stangroom likes her job. Her office, laid out over 10 majestic acres in Moss Creek Plantation, is canopied by Spanish moss and teems with prolific pecan trees. Her co-workers include her daughter Calleigh, a string of beautiful horses and Jeffery, the obliging barn cat. Her job, as owner and head trainer at the Moss Creek Equestrian Center, is to share her lifelong passion of riding horses with students of all ages.
“To me, it’s you, the horse, and the course,” said Stangroom, who purchased MCEC’s equine management company in 2003, after three years as a full-time instructor. “You and the horse are a team. You’re having to work with another teammate that doesn’t speak like you, doesn’t think like you, and you are the one that has to become the leader so that horse will follow you and trust you. It’s a relationship that you build, and that’s what I try to teach here.”
Since 1997, the Moss Creek Equestrian Center has offered lessons and riding programs for all ages and skill levels—boarding to training for the competitive circuit at the regional and national level. Stangroom grew up riding horses in Maryland, starting at age eight, and moved to Hilton Head with her family about 20 years ago.
Stangroom believes in giving her riders the full horse experience, not just riding and jumping. To that end, her students learn how to feed the horses (twice a day), and hay the horses (three times), as well as help return them to their stalls. She also offers a summer camp (appropriately called ‘Horsin’ Around Days’) and provides all the equipment and school horses for riders who do not own a horse.
“They have to learn how to adapt to that horse. It’s not just riding the horse the way that you like. You’re going to have to adjust to the animal. And there’s a lot of life lessons in that,” said Stangroom, who teaches a visually appealing English riding style. “You’re not always going to have a boss that you like, or a co-worker, and you have to learn to work with them. You have to learn how to bring the best out of yourself and others.”
Part of her being a good rider—and imparting that knowledge to her students—means making the difficult look simple, the labored look effortless. “It looks easy to ride. It’s not. So when somebody says, ‘Oh, you just sit up there. You don’t look like you’re doing anything,’” she chuckles. “I take that as a compliment.”
The Moss Creek Equestrian Center is located at 15 Moss Creek Drive, Hilton Head, just inside the main gate at Moss Creek Plantation. Stable hours are as follows: Mon.-Fri., 8 a.m.-12:30 p.m. and 6-8 p.m.; Sat., 8 a.m.-12:30 p.m. For more information, please contact Cathy Stangroom at (843) 837-6117 or visit mosscreekequestrianctr.com.