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  • Writer's pictureM4E

Meet Sara Rhodes

Updated: Aug 8, 2023

Sara Rhodes, trainer and USEF licensed official, with her dogs Louie and Abbey. Photo Allmyn Photography.

Antioch, IL - Oct. 19, 2021 - Sara Rhodes has been in the horse world all her life, turning professional in 1997 at the age of 18. Twenty-plus years later, Rhodes has embraced her career and continues to grow and expand her talents on all levels of the business.

Rhodes, of Antioch, Illinois, has worked in the trenches from a junior rider since the age of six, to assistant trainer, to running her own business riding and training, to now securing her USEF R judge’s card in hunters and equitation and a small r in jumpers. She’s not afraid of hard work and always looks forward to learning something new.

Back in 2001, Rhodes started judging barn schooling shows and gradually moved up to judging small local circuit shows until she connected with Fran Dotoli in 2019. Rhodes earned her small r in 2019 and has had the opportunity to learner judge at shows such as The Desert International Horse Park, Fox Lea Farm in Venice, FL; Great Southwest Winter Series IV in Katy, TX; HITS Culpepper, Ledges Sporting Horses, and Lamplight Equestrian Center with Dotoli as her mentor. After earning her USEF R judge's card in 2021, Rhodes judged HITS on the Hudson and Lamplight Equestrian Center. She most recently judged the USHJA Zone 5 Individual round of the Team Challenge held at Lamplight Equestrian Center and looks forward to judging more.

Sara Rhodes enjoys seeing the show ring from the judge's box, adding a new perspective to her well rounded horsemanship. Photo Swan Studios LLC

“It’s really interesting to see it from the other side,” said Rhodes. “I enjoy judging and really thank those who helped me on the journey. I’ve learned so much and continue to learn every time I’m in the judge’s booth.”

Rhodes started Autumn Road Farm in 2006 and now runs her business out of Buena Vista Farm in Wadsworth, Illinois. Her business of 20 horses has provided plenty of variety from teaching and riding to hosting clinics and fundraisers. She is a USHJA Certified Trainer and is Red Cross Certified as well.

In addition to working on her judge’s card, Rhodes had the 2020 Zone 6 Champion in the Small Junior Hunters 3’3” and the Reserve Champion Green Hunter 3’3”. Previously, Rhodes coached a student to win the Children’s Jumper Final at the Washington International in 2011 as well as ribbons at the Pennsylvania National. She has qualified riders for the USEF Medal Finals, Maclay Regionals, NCEA Medal, M&S Horsemanship Medal, the Dover Medal, and the IHJA Medal Finals. Rhodes has also qualified numerous ponies for the Pony Finals and her riders have earned top placings such as a tenth place finish overall in the small ponies and a top 25 finish in the pony medal.

Sara Rhodes in the hunter derby aboard Fierra, owned by Parvin Work. Photo ESI Photography.

Rhodes also loves to ride and bring along young horses. She has shown in hunter derbies as well as 1.30m jumpers and everything in-between.

Being the “do it yourself” gal, Rhodes handles all aspects of her stable operation including equine health management, training, teaching, marketing, accounting, billing, and custom programs for horses, riders, and rehabilitation. She is extremely detailed and ambitious and loves adding judging to her list of skills.

While she is away, her assistant Alex Foster teaches lessons and keeps everything going at the farm. The business continues to accept new clients for their small and personalized program, which proves to be successful year after year.

Sara Rhodes and Sheldon Cooper, owned by Heather Concklin. Photo Andrew Ryback Photography

For 2022, Rhodes looks forward to a good balance of judging and training. She is excited about new judging opportunities as she continues to embrace the horse business and all the parts she can play in it.

“The judging is great and so is the training,” said Rhodes. “There’s nothing like hands-on work with the horses, it’s why I got into the business. I’ve learned so much from all the different experiences I’ve had as well as seeing new perspectives. I’m looking forward to what 2022 brings.”

Sara and Blu Sanvalou, owned by Erica Halstead. Photo Andrew Ryback Photography.

For more information, visit the website at

Autumn Road Farm

Located at Buena Vista Farm

41900 North Delany Road

Zion, IL 60099-9661



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