Chelsea Edsall: On the Lighter Side

Competing in National Reined Cow Horse Association events is thrilling, but also intense. After months or even years of prep, the stakes are high for a horse and rider walking into the pen. Chelsea Edsall, a world champion non-pro rider and the wife of professional cow horse trainer and NRCHA Million Dollar Rider Clayton Edsall, has experienced just how daunting and emotional things can get at horse shows. About two years ago, she drew on her own non-pro nervousness and routines, and with the help of videographer Nathan Bouley of Snowy Road Media, created a video that poked fun at the things non-pros do on show day. She posted it on Instagram and YouTube, and the video went viral.

@cheeritschelsea toasting at the bar
Chelsea Edsall creates relatable horse-show competitor content for her social media pages, titled “Cheers! It’s Chelsea.” Photo by Jennifer Denison

“We made the non-pro video just for fun; we didn’t script it or anything, just started shooting off the cuff from the real-life things I’ve done or experienced with Clayton’s non-pro [students] and my mom’s [hunter/jumper] clients,” says Chelsea. “People have told me they could relate to the video. They’ve said it reminded them not to be so hard on themselves or take it all too seriously.”

Chelsea and Bouley began making more videos featuring reined cow horse trainers under the social media handle “Cheers! It’s Chelsea.” They’ve also made videos in partnership with Kimes Ranch.

“The videos are oddly super-fulfilling to me,” says Chelsea. “I love making them because there are so many people who experience the same things I have. The videos have almost become sounding boards for riders. They come up to me and say, ‘Guess what I did today?’ Or, ‘You’re not going to believe what happened to me in the show pen.’ It’s almost become a badge of honor!”

Edsall wears several hats as a wife, mother, and partner in her husband’s training business. She’s also the marketing manager of a private equestrian center on the 20,000-acre Santa Lucia Preserve in Carmel, Calif. She never expected that first video would start her on the path to becoming a social media influencer in her own right.

Humbled by Horses

Horses have dominated Chelsea’s life from a young age. Her mother, Christine Vierra, was a hunter/jumper rider and trainer in Stockton, Calif., while her father, a CEO for a large national construction corporation, started off as the local garbage man. Watching both of her parents advance in their respective professions shaped Chelsea’s work ethic and humility.

“The standards and work ethic my father held me to and instilled in me has been monumental in my life,” she says.

Chelsea Edsall poses with Quarter Horse Earthly Riches
Horses have been a staple in Chelsea Edsall’s life from the time she could walk, and today in her job at the Santa Lucia Preserve Equestrian Center and her husband’s training business. She’s shown here with Earthly Riches, aka “Peanut Butter,” owned by Kathryn Phillips. Photo by Jennifer Denison

Though her parents divorced when she was young, they remained nearby and married other partners. Chelsea is close to both her parents and stepparents. She and her younger brother, David, grew up going to horse shows with their mother and the youth and amateur riders her mother coached. They were also known to play practical jokes with their mother’s students, like putting whoopee cushions on their saddle seats to lighten the mood at shows.

“Horse shows were our life,” she says. “My family gauges monumental life events based on what horses we had at the time or the shows we were at. I learned to ride a bike at a horse show from one of the dads, and I lost my first tooth at a horse show. I have scars from the time I fell on the corner of a tack trunk at a horse show and had to go to the hospital. Horses played a huge part in shaping who I am today.”

Chelsea competed in her first horse show at age 3. When she was a little older, her mom would ask her to ride horses that were new to the show string. She never knew what they’d be like to ride and, as a result, she quickly learned to not take showing so seriously.

“I learned from a young age that if you’re associated with horses, whether you’re an owner, trainer, weekend rider, non pro or whatever, at some point you’re probably going be embarrassed by a horse, and humility is all part of it,” she says. “That’s just part of riding horses. I’ve never really cared about looking silly, and I honestly think I have fun showing and riding no matter the outcome or how successful or unsuccessful I was in that situation.”

Chelsea attended college at California Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo, where she took a break from riding and joined a sorority. Naturally outgoing, she thrived in the sorority social scene and held leadership positions. She majored in agricultural business, but didn’t know what she wanted to do.

“I guess I thought I was going to be a farmer,” she recalls with a laugh. “I’d ridden horses my whole life and started out in animal science but changed [my major to] ag business because I thought I’d get to be outside every day, rather than confined to an office.”

After graduation, she found herself in a high-pressure office job working in produce sales and marketing for four years. One day, after receiving a promotion and being congratulated by one of her mentors, she had an epiphany.

“[My mentor]—who had recently been diagnosed with cancer—came by my cubicle and congratulated me and said, ‘Now you get to stare at two computer screens six days a week for the rest of your life,’” she recalls.

He went on to advise her to do the things she wanted to do before it’s too late. Not long after their conversation, he took his life, and it really made Chelsea think about her goals and her desire to work with horses and people.

“I quit that job and went to work as a wrangler guiding trail rides at the San Lucia Preserve,” she says. “It was a huge pay cut, but the rewards were also huge.”

When she started her new job, she noticed that many of the members rode in Western saddles or did both English and Western. She gradually transitioned from riding English to Western with the help of co-workers and clinicians who came to the equestrian facility. She was also promoted to manager of the equestrian facility, where she has worked these past 10 years.

Along Comes a Cowboy

Interested in reining, cutting and cow horse, Chelsea attended the Magnificent 7 All Around Stock Horse Challenge at the Western States Horse Expo in Sacramento, Calif., in 2013. One of her top trainers at the equestrian facility, Mike Vipham, had just accepted an assistant trainer position with emerging cow horse trainer Clayton Edsall, who was competing at the event.

“I was determined not to like Clayton because he was taking my best employee, but he was so cute,” she recalls. “I thought he was the most talented horseman I’d ever seen ride.”

The two met again while Vipham and Clayton were in town for a horse show and came to visit the equestrian center. When they arrived, Chelsea was practicing her roping with an old worn-out rope she found in the tack room. Clayton was not impressed with her rope, but was interested in getting to know Chelsea and teaching her to rope. A week later, he sent her a new rope.

“I blew him off because I wasn’t going to get involved with a cowboy,” she says.

She changed her mind, however, as she got to know him better, learning that he was a genuine working cowboy from a ranching family in Montana and was driven to improve as a trainer and horseman.

“I thought we could make a really great team with his training and my marketing and business experience,” she says. “My weaknesses were his strengths and vice versa.”

The couple started dating in 2013 and married in 2018. In between, Chelsea started managing Clayton’s training business, based in Oakdale, Calif., at the time, while Clayton focused on training and showing horses. She also continued managing the equestrian center a few hours away in Carmel, assuming roles in marketing and event planning.

After Clayton won the World’s Greatest Horseman competition in 2016 on Skeets Oak Peppy, his wife started showing the gelding. In 2021, she won the non-pro limited world championship at the NRCHA Celebration of Champions.

Cow Horse Camaraderie

While winning horse shows is important to the Edsalls’ training business, their connection to the cow horse community runs deep.

“Everybody is so welcoming and supportive of each other,” she says. “I thought it was a great place to raise a family and spend the rest of my life. Some of my best friends are other non-pros and trainers’ wives, and our kids are growing up together.”

Chelsea Edsall with Maliblu Barbie
Chelsea Edsall has experienced all sides of the reined cow horse industry as a trainer’s wife and competitor. She is shown here with Maliblu Barbie, aka “Barbie,” owned by Kathryn Phillips. Photo by Jennifer Denison

Family and career responsibilities prevent Chelsea from competing right now, but she contributes to the cow horse industry through Clayton’s training business, as well as developing opportunities for cow horse trainers’ kids to compete in their own classes.

“There’s been a huge influx of kids in the NRCHA,” she says. “Using my [event planning] experience at the preserve, I worked with Kristen Cushing and the NRCHA to create ‘Buckaroo’ classes. The kids ride a pattern and work the flag to the best of their abilities. We recruit NRCHA trainers to judge, and the kids win trophies and buckles. Last year we introduced a duck cutting that was popular.”

During shows, Chelsea used to be found helping her husband warm up or cool down horses, groom and wrap legs. Nowadays, however, when she’s not coordinating youth events and videos, she’s in the stands with their children—Weston, 7, and Rylee, 6—and clients while Clayton shows.

“After 10 years together, you’d think I wouldn’t get so nervous, but I still do,” she says. “I want to see Clayton and our clients having success, and of course I love their horses.”

A rising social media personality in the Western industry, Chelsea was the emcee at the Essence Exchange during the 2023 Cowgirl Gathering in Fort Worth, Texas. But she has a hard time calling herself an influencer. Instead, she thinks of herself as a content creator and looks forward to creating more videos in hope of making people laugh.

I want to let people know they’re not alone and bring humor to their lives,” she says. “Showing can be so intense, and I like to make people laugh and see the lighter side of it.”

Where to Find Cheers! It’s Chelsea

Instagram: @cheersitschelsea
Facebook: @cheersitschelsea
YouTube: @cheersitschelsea

Style Statements

Whether she’s running errands with her kids, working at the Santa Lucia Preserve Equestrian Center, competing in a horse show or going out on the town, Chelsea Edsall brings her own style to the scene.

“To me, fashion is about balance and wearing pieces that work for your body type,” she says.

Everyday: Chelsea’s favorite casual wear includes a feminine lace top from Maverick Western Wear in Fort Worth, Texas, that she can dress down with tattered jeans from the Gap, simple gold jewelry, and Ariat booties.

“I think my style is authentic to my background—California Valley Girl meets Western,” she says. “I love gold more than silver, and a lot of my jewelry was passed down from my [Italian] grandmother. She had simple, classy pieces and big statement pieces I like to combine.”

In the saddle: When she’s riding, Chelsea likes to wear stretchy CR Ranchwear shirts or the one designed by Vera Vasily, shown on page 32 by Vera Vasily that she received as a gift. She likes a splash of pattern or color on the cuffs, paired with a merlot-colored hat from Western Legacy Co. and Jennifer style jeans from Kimes Ranch.

“I like to be different and add something fun to my outfits,” she says. “I want to look put together and have pops of color, but I want the focus to be on my horse.”

On the town: With her busy schedule, Chelsea doesn’t go out on the town often, but if she does, she likes to combine color and texture, such as the silk top with a vintage Mexican-style skirt shown on pg. 31, paired with small gold accessories and custom boots featuring Our Lady of Guadalupe.

This article about Chelsea Edsall appeared in the Summer 2023 issue of Western Life Today magazine. Click here to subscribe!

Jennifer Denison

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