By Lindsay Shaw
For as long as I can remember, I was surrounded by horses; I loved them and wanted to be with them all the time. I started riding when I was five years old and never looked back. When I first started, I rode once a month with a group of friends who just wanted the experience. My parents noticed the absolute love that I had for horses and they allowed me to continue riding for fun, but little did they know that this ‘fun activity’ would turn into what it is now: my passion.
After a couple of years of recreational riding, I attended a week-long riding camp with my best friend. I did not know it at the time, but this experience would change my life. I was eight years old when I met Chrystal Wood, who was the director of this camp, and I never knew she would be such an influential person in my life. She has been in my life ever since, and she will continue to be my mentor, trainer, and very close friend. Chrystal took me under her wing and without her, I would not be where I am today; for that, I am forever grateful.
One discipline that Chrystal specializes in is dressage, so she trained me with a dressage mindset. I fell in love with it, the techniques that you use, the connection with your horse, and the overall picture of you and your horse together as one. Being a member of USDF helped my love for dressage and my appreciation for the sport grow.
As an eager twelve-year-old, I wanted to learn everything I could about horses and soaked up all information that I received like a sponge. Still being Chrystal’s student, I followed her to a small boarding school for girls in Tyrone, PA, the Grier School. Grier has many academic achievements and extracurricular accomplishments. Personally, I was interested in the riding program at Grier. I applied and was accepted to attend the Grier School at the start of my eighth grade year and I am very proud to say that I will be graduating from Grier in 2020. Currently in my junior year, I have learned so much from Grier, in all aspects, and I am excited to continue to learn new things every day.
Being a part of Grier’s riding team has made my experience very special and my teammates and I will be friends for life. We eat together, we go to classes together, and we all live under the same roof. During the school year, we compete as a team and participate in the Interscholastic Equestrian Association program (IEA). Being a part of IEA since my sixth grade year has helped my riding, and helped me bond with my team immensely. My favorite part of IEA is that you do not need to own your own horse, and you are exposed to riding all different types of horses. This develops your riding techniques, as it showcases your talent and ability to ride any horse and improves a rider’s quick thinking and decision making skills.
Two years ago, IEA piloted Dressage as a third discipline in their association. I was beyond excited and eager to join as fast as I could. Chrystal gathered all of Grier’s dressage riders and many hunt-seat flat riders to join this new program and help it grow. Last year was IEA Dressage’s first nationals, and I am very happy to say that the Grier School’s Dressage team won National Champion! Being a part of the first Dressage Nationals for IEA, and a part of the National Champion team, was so thrilling. This year at IEA Dressage Finals, we came back as a team and won National Champion again!
We worked with our coach every day, over the past few months, on our dressage. All of our hard work really paid off. As a contributor to my team, I was able to win National Champion in both my Dressage Test and Dressage Seat Equitation Team classes. I am also very fortunate to say that I won National Champion in both my Dressage Test and Dressage Seat Equitation Individual classes. In my Open Dressage Test, which is a modified First Level test, I achieved High Score Champion of IEA Dressage Finals. This achievement also made me USDF High Point Champion. As a result of these accomplishments, I was honored to learn that Sports Illustrated magazine will be adding my bio and photo in an upcoming issue.
I am still in shock from the weekend of IEA Dressage Finals! I am so thankful for all the opportunities that have brought me to this point in my riding career. Without my Grier School team, IEA, USDF, and my wonderful trainer Chrystal Wood, I never would have achieved these accomplishments. Next year, Dressage will be an official program in IEA and I am so excited to see what next year has in store for me and the Grier School.