August is Youth Month on YourDressage! From stories about remarkable young dressage enthusiasts across the country, to articles about some of the opportunities USDF offers to youth riders, join us all month long as we celebrate equestrians aged 25 and under. They are the future of our sport!
Here, a Region 1 youth competitor shares the story of those who have helped her along her dressage journey – her trainers, barn owners, mentors, and of course, horses!
By Katie Staib
My introduction to the equestrian world began in the hunter and jumper rings. I started by competing with my first pony, a Welsh X Thoroughbred mare named Valencia, aka Lacey. After a tough year of troubleshooting lameness issues, and discovering her navicular syndrome, I began rehabbing her with dressage. Although Lacey’s medical issues have been a challenge to manage, I wouldn’t change a thing, as it led me to dressage. Lacey has taught me an incredible amount for which I will be forever grateful.
I have been very blessed to have some amazing role models in my life, and throughout my equestrian journey. Some have been barn owners, amateurs, and trainers. While training and competing with Lacey, I was lucky enough to learn a great deal from Meredith Prange. As much as I have always wanted to have a career in the horse industry, Meredith’s mentorship helped me to see my future in a different light. I love my horses, training, and competing, but Meredith helped me realize that there is so much more out there. Academic success has always been at the top of my priority list, and I’ve decided to go on the path of finding a career to support my love for these animals, so that I can continue to enjoy my passion without making it my career. Meredith’s guidance and support has contributed a great deal to who I am as a person, and I couldn’t be more grateful.
Around the time that Lacey began to have a flare up of navicular, I had to reevaluate my goals for her. By this point, we were up to training all Second Level movements and recognized that the level of lateral work was starting to take a toll on her. While managing and continuously analyzing her movements, I was fortunate enough to help trainer Danielle Bertholf with some really amazing horses. Danielle served as a major part of my support system through many decisions at that time. Danielle helped me to recognize how far I have come with Lacey, and all that we have accomplished. While I didn’t want to give up competing with Lacey, she helped me to remember all of the fun things we could still do together. Danielle was in a similar situation with her mare at my age, and helped me to be okay with letting her semi-retire into light and relaxing work. Ever since then, I have been thoroughly enjoying my little mare in whatever her body can handle!
When my little Lacey started to max out on her dressage career, I was presented a great opportunity by my trainer, Trisha Hessinger, with the help of Betsy Steiner. Betsy had helped to connect us with an 18-year-old FEI Schoolmaster named Draco, owned by Bob Murphy. Bob’s generosity in this opportunity allowed me to learn from a truly great teacher. In the fall of 2020, I began my training with Draco. Trisha has taught me to set realistic goals, but to also not be afraid of setting big goals. The winter of 2020 consisted of getting Draco back in work after extended time off. Not only did Trisha help me learn the intricacies of riding an experienced horse, but also what it takes to increase fitness, stamina, and strength in an older horse. I learned that sometimes horses hold the timeline, and that timeline to success has to be flexible. Regaining muscle and flexibility takes a lot of time, and it is different for every horse. Juggling two horses at different barns, while doing school was a lot; however, during COVID I began to focus on my goals and not stopping until I reached them. There were times where it was very difficult, and I began to doubt Draco’s body’s ability. With patience, time, and little nudges along the way, Draco gave me so much, and I couldn’t be any prouder of him! One of the biggest lessons I have learned from Trisha is to never give up – a goal is never too big to achieve!
There have been countless others who have had an impact on my life and career thus far. I could only wish that I could take what I have learned and pass it on to others in the future.