angle-left From the Streets of New York

From the Streets of New York

This cowgirl and NRSHA competitor serves and protects in the largest city in the United States.

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By Ranch Horse Journal editor Andrea Caudill

There is no doubt that the ranch horse world draws people from all walks of life. Case in point – Danielle Ambrecht, who by profession is a New York City police officer, but this week has donned her cowboy hat and is riding her mare, Shesa Midnight Oaker, in National Ranch and Stock Horse Alliance Novice Amateur classes at the Zoetis AQHA Versatility Ranch Horse World Championships. 

They are two very different worlds that work together in Danielle. 

If you saw her walking around the VRH show in her NYPD T-shirt on Monday – that shirt is well-earned.  She has served in New York City for 13 years, and currently works patrol in Greenwich Village. 

“So, basically, if you call 911, I show up,” she says. “It’s a rewarding job, most days. You get to help people. It’s fun, it’s very interesting. I see all kinds of stuff.”

The native of Long Island, New York, always loved horses. She started feeding her passion for horses with English riding lessons when she was 5. 

The lessons were sterile, she says – horses were tacked and ready, and there was no opportunity to handle them. She finally remedied that problem as a teenager.

“That progressed into meeting the right people on Long Island and getting more into western riding,” she says. 

She tried cowboy mounted shooting, and eventually found a barn that did cattle events. 

“The owner of the barn does reined cow horse and convinced me to give it a try,” she says. 

When she met trainer Aaron Ralston at a clinic, she finally discovered her niche. Aaron helped her get involved in VRH. 

“I like it a lot; you get to do a little bit of everything,” she says. 

Her mare, whom she calls “Jolene,” is only 4 but is already a good partner. Danielle bought her when the mare was 2 and sent her to Aaron for training.

“She’s probably the coolest horse I’ve ever owned,” Danielle says. “She’s the brokest horse I’ve ever had. It’s kinda cool to go from my horses on Long Island, they’re good enough for what I do there, and then you come to a place like this and compete on a really nice, broke horse.”

Jolene was bred by R.V. and Wes Echols of McDonough, Georgia. The mare is by Docs Oaker and out of the Smart Little Jerry mare Little Ma Bryant. 

Danielle has a big handicap in that she has limited access to practice for her ranching events – she lives in New York, while her horse lives with Aaron in Colorado. She gets to travel to ride and show about four times per year. 

“I love it out here. It’s not only an actual vacation, it’s a time to reflect and just hang out and relax,” she says. “It’s easier to live in the moment out here than in New York, (where) you get caught up in what’s going on. Out here you can enjoy what’s going on just this second.”

There is one aspect where she has been able to merge these two aspects of her life: Working with a project called “Trail to Zero,” hosted by BraveHearts Riding (www.trailtozero.org). The program works to raise awareness of the problem of veteran suicide. 

The ride takes veterans on a 20-mile ride through New York City from Central Park to the 9-11 Memorial; they ride one mile for each veteran that is lost per day to suicide. There are equine therapy programs to help veterans, and BraveHeart reports that its veterans talk about how horses have helped them in their weakest moments. 

“Aaron is very involved with it, too,” Danielle says. “It’s a really, really cool experience. I see the city every single day, but getting to see it through their eyes, that maybe have never been there before and get to ride their horses through the city. It’s an awesome experience.”

The program has had an outpouring of support from the NYPD and they are hoping it will continue to grow.

“It’s an awesome experience,” Danielle says.

AQHA News and information is a service of the American Quarter Horse Association. For more news and information, follow @AQHAnews on Twitter, watch the AQHA Newscast and visit www.aqha.com/news.