Behind the Reins: Introducing Our Trainers

The Stable at Happy Valley Farms is led by Susan Sjolund and Shawdee Naimy.
0 min read

Susan Sjolund

Head Trainer

A Rhode Island native, Susan trained as a junior with some of the country’s top professionals.Successfully competing and qualifying for indoor finals, PHA and USET classes, and several hunter divisions, she won multiple year-end titles and championships.In her last year as a junior her accomplishments included New England Equitation Champion, RIHA Equitation Champion, RIHA Children’s Hunter Champion and RIHA Working Hunter Reserve Champion.Committed to a life with horses, Susan declared her professional status after studying and graduating from Boston University and L’universite de Grenoble, in France. She began as the Assistant Trainer for Jay Sargent at Sandy Point Stables, in Portsmouth, RI where she prepped client horses, showed sale horses, and taught equitation and hunter riders.

Opportunity presented itself for her to move to Virginia, where she worked with USEF Jane Marshall Dillon Award recipient, Kit Sydnor, at Steep Forest Farm, in Forest, Virginia.Together they developed green horses, managed client and sale horses for fox hunting and show ring riding.From there she was appointed to the riding faculty at Sweet Briar College by USEF Pegasus Award recipient and author, Paul D. Cronin.

She has been the Director of Riding and Head Coach in secondary school and collegiate equestrian programs.While leading the team at Virginia Episcopal School in Lynchburg, VA, she received sponsorship from Sundowner Trailers, Inc, and served on the original ad hoc committee that founded the IEA.She earned the ANRC (American National Riding Commission) highest rider rating, co-chaired the Board of Directors, and served as steward for the ANRC National Equitation Championship.She holds ANRC trainer, clinician, steward, and judge status.

Susan served as President of the Southwest Virginia Hunter Jumper Association (SWVHJA) and co-managed the SWVHJA Annual Horse Show and Medal Finals at The Virginia Horse Center, in Lexington, VA.In 2014 and 2015 respectively she was awarded the USHJA/ANRC Professional Service Award and the USHJA/ANRC Riding Instructor Award.

When asked who’s taught me the most, the answer is the horses” 

Skilled at identifying quality hunter, jumper, and equitation prospects, Susan is recognized as a successful investment agent. With her background in Forward Riding and her emphasis on safety, education, and excellence she has produced winning horses and riders in all three rings from New England to Florida.She has taught theIntroductory Horse JudgingShort Course on multiple occasions at NC State University in Raleigh, NC. She is a USEF “R” judge for Hunters and Hunter/Jumping Seat Equitation and “D” for Hunter Breeding. She is also a United States Hunter Jumper Association Certified Trainer.

Shawdee Naimy


Shawdee's passion for horses ignited at a young age during a transformative experience at horse camp in Tennessee. There, she befriended her first equine companions, immersing herself in the world of farm life, horse shows, and riding along country roads. From ages 10 to 16, Shawdee dedicated countless hours to mucking out stalls, seizing every opportunity to ride various horses — from those in the Tennessee Valley Hunt to pony finals rejects, and from green horses on the farm to cutting horses turned jumpers. She also competed in local shows, honing her skills.

In 2012, Shawdee returned to her hometown of San Francisco, California, where she continued her equestrian journey as a working student under NorCal Medal Final winner, Kelley Lafond, at Vintage Lane. Shortly after, Shawdee claimed professional status an Assistant Trainer with Kelley while simultaneously pursuing her Anthropology Degree at Foothill College.

Nearly half a decade at Vintage Lane, Shawdee mastered the intricacies of preparing countless students at various levels of competition with a focus on the equitation ring and juniors competing at Medal Finals. She also gained valuable experience in importing sales prospects from Europe and managing all aspects of horse care and client/vendor relationships.

Transitioning to Charlebois Farm, Shawdee furthered her expertise under the mentorship of USEF "R" judge and clinician, John Charlebois, focusing on upper-level performance horse management, training, and coaching.

In 2018, Shawdee moved to Knoxville, Tennessee with a goal to establish her boutique hunter/jumper training program, Ashva Equestrian, and scout her personal hunter derby prospect, Honey. The program thrived with a bustling lesson roster with successful sales and competition endeavors.

Upon moving to Chattanooga, Tennessee in 2021, Shawdee shifted focus to developing Honey and briefly stepping away from full-time professional work. However, Shawdee couldn’t stay away as opportunities arose, prompting her full-time return to the industry. Her passion and dedication to supporting her students and upholding excellence in horsemanship remains unwavering after nearly 15 years of professional involvement.

At present, Shawdee is diligently working towards achieving her USHJA Trainer Certification (set to be completed by Fall 2024) with aspirations to compete in National and International Derbies with Honey, further solidifying her commitment to excellence in the equestrian field. Outside of the horse world, Shawdee is a licensed Realtor and lives with her fiance, Michael, and her three dogs, Charlotte, Edley, and Margaux. Michael and Shawdee enjoy cooking cuisines from all over the world, hiking, succulents, exploring Chattanooga, furthering their education, and traveling — especially to the beach.

Get news from the farm

We’ll send you the occasional email with our latest blogs, videos, and news.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Green and white illustration of a mansion surrounded by trees