Widely known as a horse lover and animal magnet, Dawn Weber, active member of the USPA Equine Welfare Committee, was recently named the Clint Nangle Equine Welfare Award recipient for her steadfast dedication to and genuine compassion towards the animals pivotal to the sport of polo. With this recognition, Weber becomes the fifth woman to receive this award, following in the footsteps of other well-known names like Gwen Rizzo, Sunny Hale, Robin Sanchez and Pamela Flanagan.
Hailing from Northern California, Weber grew up with an innate love for horses and animals despite her family never being involved in the equestrian world. At 6 years old, she took her first lesson and never looked back, spending years saving up enough of her own money to buy a pony from the San Francisco Zoo by the time she was 9. She worked diligently to cover the costs of care by cleaning houses, demonstrating an early and impressive understanding of the hard work required to support an equestrian lifestyle.
Honing her love for the sport in her early 20s, Weber’s passion has taken her from Eldorado and Empire Polo Club in Indio, California, to Hobe Sound Polo Club in Hobe Sound, Florida.
While she dabbled with jumping in her teens, Weber found her true passion in polo in her early 20s when her boyfriend introduced her to the sport. Recalling her first experience donning the mallet, Weber shared, “From that instant, I was hooked.” She went on to play at Eldorado Polo Club and Empire Polo Club in Indio, California, funding her experiences first through a career in finance and then through her work with JRD Saddlery.
Weber’s focus in her business has always been on equine welfare, prioritizing safety and comfort for horses. Emphasizing that every horse needs a saddle that fits properly, she stressed, “It’s all about the horse. Making them comfortable [helps] them perform better.” Weber’s work has also spread awareness of other aspects of equine welfare. Pleased with the evolution of this understanding, she continued, “I’m happy [players] are starting to understand that dentistry, a nice bit and saddle fit are all crucial.” Weber’s business extends beyond just polo, including other equestrian disciplines like dressage and show jumping.
Owner of JRD Saddlery, Weber’s focus in her business has always been on the safety and comfort of horses, and through her work has been able to spread awareness of other aspects of equine welfare.
Above all else, Weber loves that both her career and favorite hobby are centered around caring for and connecting with horses. She commented, “It’s full circle. I work really hard to be able to enjoy playing.” Weber also appreciates the calming effect horses have had on her life. She continued, “Horses are therapeutic in the sense that they can come over for a nuzzle, and it’s like all my problems go away.”
Weber’s equine-related guidance does not stop at her business. Often offering help to those in need of advice, Weber has established herself as a wealth of horse and polo knowledge eager to assist by privately helping owners find reasonably-priced hay, checking on horses when owners are out of town or finding homes for horses she comes across. Players also reach out to her to ask her opinion when they are concerned about their horses. Always willing to help, she never turns anyone away, despite the fact that she has 13 horses of her own that require her daily attention.
A crucial member of the USPA Equine Welfare Committee, Weber dedicates her time educating others about horse care and resolving challenges that the committee faces.
Now, Weber resides in Florida, where she has lived for the past 10 years. She has competed across the state, but calls Hobe Sound Polo Club (Hobe Sound, Florida) home. It was shortly after her move that Weber joined the USPA Equine Welfare Committee, where she has since spent her time educating others about horse care and resolving challenges that the committee faces. She has also been called upon to check on horses the committee has received calls about several times and has participated on many subcommittees, including the recent distress fund. Additionally, this past year, Weber took in a group of neglected horses and nursed them back to health, again showcasing her pure, genuine desire to ensure animal well-being in any way she can.
After nearly a decade on the committee, Weber is still just as enamored by the opportunity to bring about real change in the treatment of our equine partners. She shared, “The bottom-line thing that ties me into [the committee] is just how amazing the horses are and giving them a voice because they don’t have one. A rider can make a decision for themselves, but the horse ends up going along with the ride. That’s why I got involved with the USPA Equine Welfare Committee.”
An animal magnet throughout her life, Weber’s generous spirit has attracted a wide array of animals outside of horses, including squirrels, chicken, cats, owls, and even a giant tortoise.
Weber’s place on the USPA Equine Welfare Committee has created an invaluable positive change in horse treatment and education across the Association and all its members. Her unwavering love for horses and their well-being makes her more than deserving of this recognition. Always modest, she closed in saying, “Horses are my passion and I’m so honored to have been nominated. I’m humbled to receive this award, but I didn’t do anything extraordinary.” The USPA, however, recognizes Weber’s daily efforts as something quite extraordinary and thanks her for her continued dedication to the horses that make the sport of polo possible.