Chris Talley, a Pennsylvania native, has been enthralled with horses since an early age. He began his eventing career at the age of twelve competing in local starter trials as well as attending local hunter and jumper shows. Chris’ parents then purchased him a quarter horse mare from a local auction, not knowing at the time she was in-foal. That foal, Tucan Tango, would later turn out to be an incredible blessing in disguise for Chris’ future eventing career.
In 2004 at the age of thirteen, Chris began working on weekends, holidays and during summer break at Iron Spring Farm, a renowned breeding facility. It was there that Chris developed a large array of skills he would take forth in his future adventures. In the years that followed at Iron Spring Farm, Chris began to maintain his own group of sale horses and rented an equine facility in Chester County. He began sourcing thoroughbreds from racetracks throughout the northeast and quickly developed a successful business retraining and selling off-the-track thoroughbreds.
By 2011, Chris put his business operations on hold to further develop his skills as an event rider. He embraced the opportunity as a working student for the Australian Four-Star Eventer Ryan Wood. Chris began competing Ryan’s horses as well as his own and quickly developed an impressive competition record that included success with his own Tucan Tango, a 14.2h paint gelding. Together, they quickly progressed through the levels competing from Training to Intermediate in just six months and scored in the top placings at Intermediate placing 4th at the Virginia CCI*. Upon finishing a two and a half year working student position at Ryan’s, Chris relocated his business to Northern Virginia.
It was after that move when Chris received a sequence of opportunities that moved his career in an incredibly successful direction. In early 2015, Chris was contacted by a racehorse trainer about a six year old thoroughbred that had just finished a successful racing career and was ready to transition him into a new career. Unmarked Bills (aka “Billy”) then traveled with Chris to his winter training facility in Aiken, South Carolina to begin life as an event horse. Chris entered Billy in his first event at Training Level in May 2015 and by August he was successfully competing at the Preliminary Level.
Around that same time, Chris received a phone call from dressage trainer Hannah Salazar to help start a three year old. By fall, he was working with Hannah and traveled to the Spy Coast Young Horse Show Finals with her and her family. Chris realized that weekend he wanted to continue being a part of this incredible group of people and horses. He appreciated Hannah’s uniquely keen eye and natural talent for training horses. Also, having never worked consistently on the flat with a dressage trainer, Chris knew doing so was an essential component for becoming a top eventer one day.
In January 2016, Chris traveled back to Aiken for the winter with a string of lovely horses. Of them was the Salazars’ ten year old gelding Wyeth whom Hannah wanted to see if the special horse would adapt as an event horse. Over the next few months, Wyeth began to develop a love for his new sport and after his first few events he placed second in the Novice Division at Stable View Horse Trials. Chris also had great success with Billy and moved up to the Intermediate Level jumping a tough track at Carolina International to finish third which was a huge accomplishment considering Billy was only fourteen months of coming off the track.
Chris and Hannah communicated regularly about Wyeth’s progress as well as what turned out to be a shared vision for their professional lives. So when Chris returned from Aiken in March 2016, he and the Salazars decided to partner together to create a comprehensive, multi-disciplinary equestrian program. This partnership also proved timely when Hannah and Antonio Salazar turned their lifelong dream into reality and purchased their 100-acre farm a few months later.
Great success continued throughout 2016. Chris took Wyeth on to win the Great Meadow International Nations Cup Bareback Puissance. The pair jumped an impressive 5’3″ – an equally impressive feat considering the same horse had begun jumping only six months prior. Chris and Unmarked Bills continued to tackle Intermediate events including the Virginia CIC2*, Richland Park CIC2*, and Plantation Field International CIC2*. They then went on to compete at Fair Hill International CCI2*, arguably one of America’s toughest events, where Billy placed 15th and was awarded the 2016 USEF National Eventing Reserve Champion.
As Chris progresses in his eventing career, he continues to dominate top events in the country. He started off 2017 winning the CIC* at Pine Top with Zaragoza Acres’ Oldenburg stallion Sandro’s Star and, that same weekend, he also competed with Unmarked Bills in their first Advanced! Chris has gained a valuable amount of knowledge and feels very fortunate to be a part of Zaragoza Acres. He looks forward to the promising future that lies ahead with his horses, students, clients, friends, and family.