By Jennifer M. Keeler
When she came to last year’s US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan®, Tricia Earley of Region 9 was a relative newcomer not only to dressage, but to horses in general.
“A few months before the Finals, I had never even heard of the show let alone imagined myself participating,” said Earley, who works as a small animal veterinarian in her home of Aledo, Texas. “It was so far beyond my expectations. I only started riding as an adult – I always wanted to as a child but never could. So when my daughter asked for horseback riding lessons, I said, ‘Can I come too?’ I had my first lesson at 40, and I tried eventing and quickly realized it was not the sport for me. But I loved every minute of the dressage.”
Quite unexpectedly, Earley soon found herself on the back of her very own dressage partner in San Angelo, a now 13-year-old Oldenburg gelding (San Remo x Weltfee by Welton). “I found him in Sweden when I went with a friend who was horse shopping for herself – I wasn’t even looking at that time,” Earley laughed. “But he had such a kind eye, and I thought at the time, ‘That’s the horse I would love to have one day.’ Later I did end up needing a horse and he was still available, so I bought him without ever having ridden him – there was just something about his eyes. A just a year later, we found ourselves in Kentucky.”
Defying the odds, the new pair looked like seasoned veterans in the Alltech Arena last November as they were the only combination to break 70% for the unanimous win under all three judges in the Third Level Adult Amateur Freestyle Championship with 71.856%. And it was an experience that Earley enjoyed every minute of.
“I loved how incredibly well organized the finals were – everyone was friendly, especially the welcoming people in the show office that were so patient with my million questions,” Earley explained. “I got to warm up next to people I had only read about. And of course the thrill of competing in the Alltech Arena and trotting around in the awards presentation are memories that will last a lifetime. Last year a friend told me, ‘Just take a second and look around at where you are.’ So I did and it was so beautiful, and I realized how lucky I was to be there.”
Last year Earley and her husband had a long haul to Kentucky, but she considered the trip well worthwhile and can’t wait to do it again. “I am definitely hoping to bring San Angelo back to the Finals again this year, and my goal is to qualify at Fourth Level and in the Fourth Level Freestyle,” said Earley, who will look to punch her return ticket for the Finals through the Great American Insurance Group/United States Dressage Federation Region 9 Dressage Championships, which will be held October 3 – 6, 2019 in Katy, Texas. “My trainer, Pati Pierucci and I are working together regularly to improve San Angelo’s strength and balance, but he just thinks he is preparing by rolling around in the grass with his friends!
“I highly recommend that other adult amateurs consider aiming for the Finals,” Earley concluded. “We are parents, spouses, and have other obligations far beyond horses. We have to balance lessons with our ‘real jobs’, picking up children from school, etc. But those four days at the Finals are an incredible opportunity to focus solely on the joy of our passion, and I don’t want to miss it.”