Rebecca Hanna gave up a well-paying real estate job and a nice apartment in Dallas to scoop horse poop in Tyler.
Hanna, 25, has been horseback riding and had a passion for horses ever since the age of 7, when her mother asked her what kind of sport she wanted to do and she picked horseback riding. "I was hooked from the very beginning," Hanna said.
When she moved to Tyler at age 13, she rode while attending eighth through 12th grades at All Saints Episcopal School.
She further competed at shows a lot while studying at Southern Methodist University, winning fourth in the Dallas Hunter Jumper Scholarship Circuit in 2011. She also competed in the North Texas Hunter/Jumper Club.
Originally, she figured she probably would not be able to make a living "doing the horse thing" and her first plan was "to get a real job in the real world."
Upon graduating from SMU with a double major in marketing and psychology, she hung up her helmet and stopped riding to pursue a "corporate and adult" career in real estate, leasing medical office space in Dallas.
After a year, she decided something was missing, went to ride with her old trainer and concluded the thing that was missing was horses.
She could not see committing her whole life to her Dallas real estate job and began looking online for horse type jobs. She interviewed in New Hampshire. "It ended up not being what I was looking for," Hanna said.
The first horse job she found was in Tyler as assistant barn manager for Peirce Equestrian.
For six months, Hanna fed horses and turned them out in the pasture. She also taught horseback riding lessons, trained some horses and cleaned the whole barn, including cleaning the horse stalls and scooping poop. The next day, she did it all over.
From that manual labor type job, Hanna went to Bridlewilde Farm in Tyler, where she had ridden while attending All Saints.
"It was a good opportunity, about a year and a half. I got to teach a ton of riders. That's what I wanted to do. Obviously, you had rather teach than scope poop all day," Hanna said with a laugh.
Then Hanna learned that the owner of Bridlewilde was retiring and selling the place. "I started formulating a plan of what I'm going to do when the place sold," Hanna said.
She and her father, Christopher Hanna, of Dallas, started putting together a business plan and purchased a 24-acre spread at 17137 Smith County Road 43. It has an arena and barn and they plan to add a shed and other improvements.
Things worked out and it looked like a good opportunity to start a horse riding facility, Hanna said. They named it RH Equestrian and her father built jumps for horses to jump over.
She knows how to teach horseback riding lessons and how to take care of horses and her father is a good businessman, Hanna said. He has a master's of business administration degree from SMU and she has found her marketing degree helpful in the project too.
"My dad has helped me financially make this happen, and he's always been there supporting me through the hard times. It's a dream come true. Every day, I'm in awe that I have horses in my back yard," Hanna said. "I got to start something I love."
Hanna teaches all ages of riders and all levels of riders.
"My favorite thing is just helping them develop into a better rider. I see all kinds of people, from those who are tentative but afraid to do anything, to confident people who want to jump super high," Hanna said.
Hanna also boards horses. "You can bring your horse here and I will take care of it every day. I also love training horses, so, if you have a horse that is naughty or needs a tune-up and has been in the pasture for a year, you can bring it here and I will work with it a few times a week," Hanna said.
Whenever someone starts with her, she asks them to fill out a questionnaire about what their goal is and what their goal for their horse is.
Hanna focuses on giving English riding lessons as well as boarding and training horses. She is looking forward to eventually also buying younger horses, training and selling them.
"Every day I wake up, it's like a dream because I've been working toward this my whole life. To be able to make a living off something I love is overwhelming. Every day I'm trying to promote it and get more people to come share with me what I love doing," Hanna said.
"It's incredibly exciting," she added. "It's always been a dream of mine to be able to have my own land to keep my horses on and be in charge of everything and do my own thing."
Hanna still competes in horse shows with some of her clients' horses. Sometimes people buy a horse but they are not at the level to compete and they want her to show it for them, she explained.
She showed a horse in Louisiana that was a champion.
"I love competition. There's nothing quite like the feeling of just seeing your horse behaving perfectly after working with him for so long," Hanna said. She has bought a horse she competes with and has a pony available for use in teaching small children how to ride.
Hanna competes now in shows at Texas Rose Horse Park, mainly in three-foot jumping events.
RH Equestrian can be reached at 214-973-2787.