The Dressage Expansionist

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ON THE NATIONAL STAGE: Tevis (second from left) receives the 2019 USDF Youth Volunteer of the Year award from USDF Youth Programs Committee chair Roz Kinstler, 2018 USDF Youth Volunteer of the Year Emma Kane, and USDF FEI Junior/Young Rider Committee chair Roberta Williams (Jennifer Bryant photo)

USDF’s 2019 Youth Volunteer of the Year has big plans—for her career, for her riding, and for the sport of dressage

By Colleen Scott

Reprinted from the May/June 2020 issue of USDF Connection magazine.

Nineteen-year-old Ruby Tevis was honored as the 2019 USDF Youth Volunteer of the Year. It was quite a turnabout for someone who never intended to pursue dressage.

A casual rider in early childhood, Tevis began regular saddle-seat lessons at the age of 11 in her hometown of Lexington, Kentucky. But in 2014, Maggie Taylor offered her a partial lease of Rembrandt, her Arabian gelding and a lower-level dressage schoolmaster. Tevis got hooked on the sport and has never looked back.

“I fell in love with dressage,” Tevis says: “all of the structure, the challenges. I loved trying to learn how to do things like leg-yields and other movements. Learning how to communicate with a horse such that it could understand what you were asking for was fascinating to me.”

Since then, Tevis has immersed herself in the world of dressage, both in the saddle and out. She’s become a tireless volunteer and advocate for youth in the sport, and her efforts resulted in her standing on stage at last year’s Adequan®/USDF Salute Gala & Annual Awards Banquet to receive the prestigious national trophy.

Will Work for Rides

“As a teenager, I really couldn’t afford to have my own horses,” Tevis says. “I had to knock on a lot of doors and look for opportunities to exchange barn chores or grooming for riding other people’s horses.”

After riding “Remy” for a year, Tevis spent the next three and a half years trading work for saddle time on various dressage horses. She currently works for dressage pro Linda Strine, who trains out of Fairview Farm in Nicholasville, Kentucky. In November 2018, Tevis began leasing a Grand Prix-level schoolmaster, the Friesian gelding Beerend W, owned by Paul and Vickie Short. At 20 years young, “Bear” still had a lot to offer and gave Tevis the opportunity to learn.

“It was perfect timing,” Tevis says of the lease opportunity. “He was finishing the Grand Prix with Linda but wasn’t ready to retire, and I just happened to be looking for a horse to explore the upper levels with. His owners generously offered to lease him to me, and I am very grateful for their support.”

The 2019 competition season was a milestone for Tevis, who with Bear not only competed at the FEI Young Rider level but also earned her USDF silver medal. This year, she hopes to qualify for the Adequan®/FEI North American Youth Championships or the US Dressage Festival of Champions. The $5,000 Young Rider Development Grant that she received from her USDF group-member organization (GMO), the Kentucky Dressage Association (KDA), will help her pursue that goal.

A Force for Change

COMMITTED: 2019 USDF Youth Volunteer of the Year Ruby Tevis and friend

Remembering her own unfamiliarity with dressage, Tevis was inspired to help educate and connect other young enthusiasts. She joined the KDA board as its junior/young-rider representative in 2018 with a goal of helping the GMO to augment its existing youth-focused offerings, which included development grants and a college scholarship.

“I made it my goal to expand on these programs by forming the KDA Youth Club,” says Tevis. Open to all KDA Jr/YR members, the KDA Youth Club is intended “to bring affordable and accessible dressage education to KDA youth members” while offering a fun, social community, she says.

“It started as a pizza party with a $200 budget,” Tevis says, “and now the board has approved a $1,000 budget for 2020.”

Tevis also serves as co-editor of the KDA member newsletter Impulsion, which features a regular “Youth Salute” column.

“Ruby has taken the bull by the horns in her job as young-rider representative on the board,” says KDA president Bill Kraatz. “She has greatly expanded the reach and activity of our youth membership and is even working right now on a clinic/symposium featuring an Olympic and World Equestrian Games veteran, geared first to our young riders.”

Before Tevis received the USDF Youth Volunteer of the Year award, KDA recognized her contributions, presenting her in 2018 and 2019 with the KDA Merry Sunrise Award, given to the youth member who has most significantly contributed to the organization through volunteerism.

“It is important to note the hard work of thousands of volunteers that make our sport possible,” Tevis said after she received the USDF honor. “I encourage every GMO to expand on their youth programs and invite what will be the next generation of riders, trainers, judges, breeders, and volunteers to participate.”

Laying the Groundwork

Like many young equestrians, Tevis juggles schoolwork with riding. A rising junior at Midway University in Midway, Kentucky, she is pursuing a marketing degree with a minor in sports management. In addition to carrying a full course load, she somehow finds the time to compete on Midway’s equestrian team, to ride apart from the collegiate program, to volunteer, and to work for Strine.

She hasn’t yet decided on a career, but Tevis is confident of one thing: Her future will include dressage, either as a professional or as an adult amateur. Through her interests in marketing and media, she’s become intrigued with those aspects of the equine industry, which led her to join the US equine-media professional organization, American Horse Publications (AHP), as a student member. Last year the high-achieving Tevis was a finalist in the annual AHP Student Award Contest, and she’s a finalist again for 2020, with the winner to be announced at the AHP Equine Media Conference in late May.

Tevis’s involvement with AHP (plus her Kentucky location) have helped to open some doors in the industry. She has volunteered in the media room at the US Dressage Finals at the Kentucky Horse Park, allowing her to combine her dressage passion with her love of journalism and photography. She’s also contributed articles and photos to the English equestrian-lifestyle magazine Sidelines.
“It has been an amazing experience writing for Sidelines,” Tevis says. “I have been able to reach out to some of the biggest names in the industry and hear, then tell their stories. I draw inspiration from their journeys and apply it to mine.”

Big Dreams

No matter what Tevis does in the future, it’s likely she will continue making her mark in the dressage community. And if she has her way, it will be a big mark. For instance, she’s contemplating the possibility of expanding on what she has done at the KDA, on a much larger scale.

“I would be interested in starting a nonprofit that would help make dressage more affordable and accessible,” she says. “I’m passionate about reaching out to people who want to participate but who don’t know where to start. Anyone can participate in dressage, but sometimes they just need a little help understanding how. I know from experience that anyone can do this. It just takes some perseverance and creativity.”

Perseverance and creativity being qualities Tevis appears to have in spades, we’ll be eager to see how her career unfolds. For now, we salute her already impressive list of accomplishments.

Colleen Scott lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she works in the marketing industry supporting an equine client. She competes with the half-Arabian mare Kiss a Girl LOA.

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