'In a sport that takes unsurmountable tenacity and determination, I have had to be endlessly motivated by my failures; letting passion drive me ahead to build gateways that allow for forward momentum after setbacks'
At the age of ten, I lay flat in a hospital bed with a broken pelvis and internal bleeding; just hours earlier my horse had fallen on top of me in a freak accident. My mom later told me that my single persistent question was “how quickly can I begin riding again?.” I believe that sets the stage well for the way I feel towards horses, and the sport of dressage.
At thirty-two years old, I have been riding horses for twenty-seven years: almost ninety percent of my life. My drive to find horses to ‘be around’, began even prior to being able to sit in a saddle. Before I was allowed to ride, my parents had suggested that I write letters to a few neighbors who owned small farms close to our house. I left a hand written note on each of their doorsteps, asking if they could use an extra ‘set of hands’ to help with their horse’s care. Out of kindness, one neighbor called our home phone with a ‘yes.’ The job provided my first lessons in horsemanship - cleaning stalls, filling water buckets, and grooming the horses.
A few months later, my mother heard about a farm in a close-by neighborhood that offered riding lessons to children. After a visit to the farm, I received approval from my father and, using the small amount of money I had made on weekends polishing the neighbor’s brass mailboxes, started once a week riding lessons. From that point on I was hooked.
After a year of riding, and countless falls off of naughty school ponies, I had progressed from riding once a week, to leasing a horse and riding three times a week. I started picking up odd end jobs around the barn, earning money to help pay for the addiction, and was able to continue increasing my time in the saddle. By the age of eight, I was spending every afternoon at the barn after school, and all day at the barn on weekends.
I fearlessly rode any horse I could get my hands on. I learned everything I could about dressage along the way, which often meant riding the horses that no one else wanted to ride. I knew from a young age that the experience I gained with each horse would help get me one step closer to being able to train any horse well - a crucial part of long-term success for any top dressage rider.
Passion and Persistence
Unlike many professional sports, where aging works against you, dressage is the opposite. Mastering each level of dressage, and creating the partnership with a horse talented enough to climb the levels to the top, can easily take decades to achieve. Along the way setbacks are common, and can easily extend that timeline. The top dressage riders in the world are generally between thirty and fifty years old. As a result, I have always known that my dreams of riding on an international stage would involve a lot of personal sacrifice and that frequent disappointment would accompany the journey.
It was during a two-year apprenticeship as a rider for Olympic Dressage medalist Charlotte Bredahl, while attending UCSB, that I knew I wanted to create two things for myself when I graduated. The first was to have a career outside of being a professional dressage rider; one that would allow me to maintain my love and dedication to horses without becoming burnt out or losing my drive to achieve my dressage goals. The second was that I would find a way to maintain a professional level of riding, caring for the horses, and continuing my education in dressage. My ultimate goal is to someday be considered for selection by the USEF (United Stated Equestrian Federation) to represent the United States of America in a team event, such as the Pan American or World Equestrian Games.
Standing for what I love
For the past decade, in addition to my full-time career, I’ve spent seven days a week at the barn, for six to seven hours each day, riding and caring for my horses. There is not a day goes by that I am not up at 3AM to pursue my passion and my dreams.
I’ve endured all of the blood, sweat, and tears that accompany all professional athletic endeavors, but have also I have been fortunate enough to ride for some of the United States’ top coaches, riders and dressage judges, gaining invaluable experiences and knowledge. I have trained countless horses, and competed successfully in the FEI levels of dressage.
I think the sport hooked me from a young age because training each horse is like solving a different and unique puzzle. Determining how to best teach the horse through my riding aids, and progressing to each ‘next level’ through partnership with the horse, will never get old for me. The success I’ve experienced in those combined training sessions over weeks, months, and years, has filled me with immense pride for what I have been able to teach horses to do. The bond I’ve form with each horse, and the mutual trust and respect, is incredible in and of itself.
From being selected for national competitions to importing horses from Europe, this sport has taken me on adventures I would have never thought possible. My strongest motivation over the next several years is to develop a small group of talented horses and strive to compete at the top of the national and international stage for the sport of dressage.