By Jennifer M. Keeler

Every year when riders and horses from across the countrygather in Lexington, KY, for the US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan®, they not only bring top performances to the Alltech Arena — they also bring amazing stories. From overcoming tough odds, facing life’s daily challenges, healing from medical and veterinary conditions, or simply being the unlikely underdog, the tales which unfold at the Finals are nothing short of inspiring.

Back by popular demand, USDF’s exclusive series titled “Road to the Finals” will once again share competitors’ stories as they try to earn a ticket to the Kentucky Horse Park on November 9-12, 2017. Each month, a different rider from across the country will allow readers behind-the-scenes access as they pursue their dreams of competing with the best of the best at the Finals. This month, you’ll meet Taryn Anderson of Colorado.

For the last two years, 28-year-old Adult Amateur competitor Taryn Anderson of Colorado has successfully qualified for the US Dressage Finals. And for both of those years, she also had to make the gut-wrenching decision not go to simply because she couldn’t afford it.

“I have desperately wanted to go to the Finals every year I’ve qualified, but it just never worked out for me and I’ve always been so disappointed,” said Anderson. “But this year I’ve been saving money and have set my mind to do it, so I have no excuses if I’m lucky enough to qualify once again.”

Anderson hopes to double her chances for finally achieving her dream thanks to having the ride on two talented mounts. Her accomplished Third Level partner, Addison, is a nine-year-old Oldenburg mare and Anderson’s most experienced competition partner. “Addison always makes me feel very confident because she’s exactly the same at home as she is at shows and not spooky at all,” Anderson noted. “I know we’ll get a good score for every test – as long as she’s in a good mood. She is a mare after all.”

She also has high hopes for Romulus, an eight-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding who has been affectionately nicknamed “Pig Pen” for his messy habits in the barn. “My mom and I found Romulus barely broke in a pasture in 2015 when we honestly had no idea what we were looking for,” Anderson admitted. “I got on him after being told he hadn’t been ridden in months, and surprisingly he didn’t buck me off (unlike the horse I had looked at before him). He seemed so kind and sweet so I bought him, and now here we are, my ‘diamond in the rough’, scoring pretty consistently in the 70’s at First Level. Who would have thought!”

Taryn and Addision get congratulations for their reserve championship in third level freestyle at the 2016 Regional Championship at Estes Park, CO.

Anderson knows what it takes to be competitive at a championship level when given the opportunity. She began riding at just nine years old, and after first stepping into the dressage arena at eleven, she quickly found herself as an accomplished Junior/Young Rider at the elite levels. Despite her blossoming talent, other aspects of life were about to get in the way of her equestrian dreams.

“I fell out of riding for ten years because my horse at the time developed some ongoing physical issues, and I felt so discouraged that I didn’t ride much at all and other things ended up being more important to me,” Anderson explained. “I was a teenager, still in high school, who had just gotten a car and I was kind of burned out by the horses taking all of my time away from other activities. So I started choosing my friends over my horse, so my mom sold him and all my riding stuff. It was actually a great move for the horse who went to a great home with a girl who loves him, and he even went on to Grand Prix!

“But for me, it was probably the biggest mistake I’ve ever made,” Anderson continued. “I was a pretty good little rider with great coaches behind me, so who knows but I think I could have gone somewhere. One of my best friends from that time stayed with the horses, and now she’s competing internationally for the U.S. Team. But you make your mistakes, and the important thing is that I came to realize how much I really loved riding and found my way back. So if I have any advice for a young rider in high school, it would be to STICK with it! You get so much knowledge from the young rider program and if you really want it, you can make it happen. The love for horses will always be there and having a special horse is worth the time away from your friends!”

Taryn getting coached by Scott Hassler at a symposium at Colorado Horse Park

Now as an adult, Anderson’s focus and determination are hopefully paving the way to the Kentucky Horse Park in November. In addition to working extra hours at work to save extra money for the trip, she depends upon the critical support of family and friends to help her get there.

“I work full-time at a framing company owned by my dad, and he lets me take off work early to head to a show, or just rolls his eyes when I show up a few minutes late for work while still wearing my riding gear because my lesson went too long,” Anderson laughed. “My boyfriend drives semis for a living, so he and my dad trailer me around and help with everything when it comes to the ‘heavy lifting’, while my mom is the best horse show mom/groom ever! I also try to help my trainer Greta Vowell with things at the barn and in return that reduces coaching expense at shows. It’s a challenge competing two horses at two different levels and both with freestyles, so it definitely takes a village to get it all done. My whole family is very into it and comes to all my shows and really is the best support system you could ask for.”

Taryn and Romulus at the Colorado Horse Park.

Anderson has a busy roster of shows scheduled over the summer in preparation for the Great American/USDF Region 5 Championships in mid-September, and she hopes every competition will bring her one step closer to finally achieving her goal of bringing her charges to Kentucky. “I mainly want to go to the Finals to compete with the best and see where I stand,” she said. “Since we don’t compete at CDI’s yet, the Finals is the best experience I can get right now with that type of atmosphere in a big venue. And I’m even looking forward to the travel because I want to get the long trip followed by competition under the horses’ belts, so one day when we do hit the FEI levels we can be more ready for the demands of a CDI. Overall, I really think that the Finals would be an amazing experience for me and the horses, and I can’t wait to just get out there and do it.”

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