By Isabel Linder
I started riding at the age of five, in Shanghai, China. Due to my dad’s job, my family lived in Shanghai from 2004 to 2013. I first started riding, with my sister, when my mom found an advertisement for lessons, and she signed us up as a weekly after school activity. The stable where we took our lessons is one of only a handful of riding stables in Shanghai, and the only one that offers English riding lessons. It is very different from the U.S., where there are horse farms all over the place.
I started on one of the 25 Mongolian lesson ponies that reside at the stable. After years of lunge line lessons and group lessons on these ponies, I moved up to horses (an incredibly exciting thing, as horses were for the big kids). The stable would put on an annual schooling show, but this was the only showing I knew, as there are no dressage shows in Shanghai and horses never left the premises of the farm.
While I had been riding at this stable for years, and always adored the horses, I didn’t really start to develop a love for riding until about 2009, when I was a little older and started taking more lessons. I had my first experience with riding in the United States that year, when I attended a summer riding camp during a return visit to Michigan.
At the end of 2010, my mom and I started the process of getting our first horse. Being the inexperienced horse people we were, we decided to import Yasmine, a three year old Friesian mare into Shanghai – despite being told by Ed, my trainer/stable owner that we should get a laid back 8+ year old. The entire process of buying and importing Yasmine into Shanghai took around six months, and in that time period, Ed taught me the basics of riding and handling young horses, by teaching me on one of his newly started (and safe) four-year-olds.
When my family moved back from Shanghai with Yasmine, we moved close to Traverse City, MI. I attended my first recognized dressage show with Yasmine in the summer of 2014. Even though we may not have seen much success in the show ring, I loved it and developed bigger goals for my future riding.
Those goals lead me to Elvis, the special horse that I competed at NAJYRC and Festival of Champions this summer. He came into my life in the spring of 2015. His owner, Hai Wei, had imported Elvis, a 7-year-old jumper, from Germany to Shanghai. After three and a half years, however, Elvis did not do well in Shanghai, and his health began to really decline. Hai Wei decided that it would be in Elvis’s best interest to live in the US, and so he came to live with my family. When Elvis arrived at our farm, after the long trip, he was in bad shape and in need of TLC. After months of good feed, shoeing, health care, and hacks, Elvis was sound, healthy, and ready to go to work. Only after I began riding him more seriously,
and taking him for a few lessons, did I begin to realize the potential that he had as a dressage horse. Elvis is a very unconfident and weary horse, but as he began to trust me and come out of his shell, he started to really enjoy his work and to try his best for me. He went to his first dressage show ever, in the summer of 2016, where we showed First and Second Level. I decided to try and qualify Elvis for the summer events of 2017.
This summer has been absolutely amazing with Elvis; competing at NAJYRC and Festival of Champions was incredible, and the success that we had was icing on the cake. It would not have been possible without so many people and horses that have helped me to be the rider that I am, and have helped Elvis and I become the team that we are.