From Hoops to Hooves

Erin Flynn Mobley once roamed the courts and filled the box scores as a basketball star at Newton High School, but once she completed a successful collegiate career on the hardwood, she turned her lifelong passion for horses into a fulfilling vocation.

by David Roten

“You either have the bug or you don’t.” Erin Flynn Mobley was bitten by the horse bug at age 4 and has not been the same since. “Horses are my life,” she said. The statement is not just a romantic notion. It is also an acknowledgement of the blood, sweat and tears that go into being a professional rider, horse trainer and farm manager.

Mobley—founder of Divine Sport Horses—shares her 10-acre Mansfield farm with husband Josh, 7-year-old daughter Olivia and 14 horses. Her mother, who helps care for the horses when needed, also lives onsite in what was once a dairy parlor. Josh seldom rides but pitches in with mowing when he is not working as a supervisor with Walton County EMS. Olivia has been riding “since she could sit up” and assists her mother with farm chores if she is not riding her pony, Twinkle Toes. The family dog watches over the proceedings. “Everest goes wherever Everest pleases,” Mobley said. 

Mobley’s love for horses began as a child when she was introduced to them by her mother and aunt, who were themselves horse riders and breeders. Though her love affair with horses began early on, she took a 10-year hiatus to play basketball, starring as a point guard with Newton High School in the late 1990s. Mobley was recruited by several Division I schools before settling on Augusta State University, where she started as a freshman. However, the lure of a bigger city precipitated a transfer to Oglethorpe University in Atlanta. There, she led her team to the national tournament in each of her three seasons and once set a school record by knocking down seven three-pointers in a single game.

Once the final buzzer sounded and signaled the end of her basketball career, it did not take Mobley long to figure out what she would do next. 

“Horses are my life.”

Erin Flynn Mobley

“As soon as I was done,” she said, “I was like, ‘OK, horses—got to get back into the horses.’” 

She did so with great verve. 

Today, some 15 years later, Mobley rides herd over a business that involves training horses and riders, as well as breeding and selling horses. A century-old, renovated barn and three-board fences dividing multiple paddocks are obvious signs of a seven-year-long and running “work in progress.” Mobley has taken what she learned as the acting captain on the basketball court and applied it to her business, especially as it relates to horse and rider. She pushed back on the idea that horse riding, unlike basketball, is an individual sport. 

“You and your horse are a team,” she said. “It’s a partnership for sure.” She stressed the importance of knowing your team and being able to communicate well with them as a trainer. “It’s like, ‘How do I train this horse and this rider the way that they will go best and the way the horse will understand and the way the rider will understand?’” 

(l to r) Heidi Price, Sequence, Erin Flynn Mobley and Josh Mobley

If there is one aspect of the business Mobley likes better than training others to ride, it is riding herself. However, for her, it is about more than just getting back in the saddle.

“Let’s be clear,” she said, slipping confidently into coaching mode. “I’m a competitor, right? You practice to play basketball games. You train to compete at horse shows. Is training fun? Yes, but the end goal is the competition. It’s too much work and it’s too hard if you can’t compete.” 

Mobley, an admitted adrenaline junkie, grew up competing in an equestrian discipline called hunter-jumper, but it was not quite the fit for her. “I needed a little bit more excitement,” she said. She found it in the sport of eventing. An Olympic sport, three-day eventing, as it is sometimes called, is often referred to as “the triathlon of riding” because it is made up of three components: dressage, cross-country and stadium jumping. 

(l to r) Erin Flynn Mobley and Emma Shaughnessy Riding Salem
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“Dressage is basically ballet in a little white box with a horse and rider,” Mobley said. “Cross-country is endurance and strength and guts and heart. Stadium jumping is, ‘Can you show jump clean (no rails knocked down) after you’ve galloped across the country the day before?’”

Over the years, Mobley’s competitive spirit, skill and love for the sport have served her well, as she has enjoyed an impressive measure of success. Before turning professional, she was named Intermediate Amateur Rider of the Year by the United States Eventing Association in 2012. She has bred and trained more than a few horses and sometimes buys thoroughbreds “off the track,” potentially saving them from being shipped to overseas slaughterhouses. She has also trained some thoroughbreds to high levels of competition and re-homed others according to their abilities. 

Mobley concedes that striving to be the best in such a competitive sport as eventing, especially with limited resources, can be a grind. Is it worth it? 

“Oh, yeah,” she said. For Mobley, there are always goals to pursue, even if they turn out to be unattainable in the end. “You always have hopes and dreams—this horse might be the Olympic horse—but they’re pretty far-fetched dreams.” 

Royal Ruckus is Mobley’s all-time favorite horse and a thoroughbred. She calls him Shorty. “He was a little guy, 15-hands,” she said, “tiny but mighty.” When it came to practicing as opposed to competing, Shorty and Mobley were on the same page. “My dad always called me a gamer, and Shorty was a little bit that way,” she said. “Like at home, yeah, he’d go through the movements and the motions. When we got to the show, it was like a whole other level. We were both gamers.” 

The basketball player-turned-equestrian revealed a mindset that can make even seemingly unreachable dreams come true: “Yeah, you practice and you prepare, but when you get in the primetime, you’re like, ‘OK, this is it. This is our Olympics.’” 

Click here to read more stories by David Roten.

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