During our feature month on Youth in dressage, we reprinted the story “Young Dreams of Gold” about Jenaya Olsen, one of the youngest USDF competitors ever to earn a USDF Gold Medal. Jenaya, the writer of the story we pulled from the YourDressage Archives, shared this great update about what she has been up to since her story was published in August 2018.
By Jenaya Olsen
Dressage in the literal sense means “training,” countless hours of training, not only in the saddle but also outside of it. This sport requires dedication; if you want to make it to the top you cannot be lazy, or unmotivated, you have to give 110% even on hard days. This sport requires sacrifices, long hours at the barn, missing prom, birthdays, weddings, and so much more. When people ask me why I chose to ride, I tell them because there is nothing more rewarding than getting to learn simultaneously with your dance partner, and getting to see all of the work you are putting in start to pay off. Working with a 1200lb animal that doesn’t speak your language is not easy, and sometimes you have weeks or months of little to no improvement, but then a light switch turns on and all of a sudden, everything falls exactly where it’s supposed to. Sometimes it’s dangerous – horses are flight animals, and that sometimes creates situations you can’t avoid.
Coming from a family that doesn’t have a lot of money, I often got to ride very difficult horses, horses that haven’t been treated with respect in their pasts. One of those horses ended up dragging me into a concrete wall last year, completely destroying my shoulder and putting me out of the show ring for almost a year! I was already considering putting a hold on riding to go to college, and this was the perfect opportunity, unbeknownst to me. My incredible sponsor and my mom, Nicole Olsen, bought my current horse, a 2006 KWPN gelding named Beach Boy (Sorento x Good Times). He is everything I ever dreamed about and more; I pinch myself everyday that I get to ride this horse. Together with my incredible trainers Sarah and Lee Tubman, we hope to compete in the U25 Grand Prix this season.
In 2018, I achieved one of my biggest goals, becoming one of the youngest USDF Gold Medalists, and I am unbelievably grateful to everyone that made this dream a reality. The horses that taught me so much along the way: Welcome (Weltmeyer x Donnerhall), the mare that started everything, and Sigalia, who patiently carried me down the centerline of my first Grand Prix with the guidance of his and my trainer, Franziska Seidl. They started me, together with my mom, from ground zero. I am very lucky to have had the opportunity to ride at that level so young, but it left gaps in my basic fundamentals. When I entered the Tubman’s program, I could ride any test from X to X and get it done, but I couldn’t tell you the levels of the Pyramid of Training. So in my first lesson with Lee, when he asked me that question, I blankly stared at him. Today, I can answer that question, and fix problems instead of forcing the tricks to happen. In the couple months I have learned so much, together with Beach, and I can’t wait to learn everything they teach me! We went from walking and halting, working on basic transitions, to getting great scores in the Intermediate 2. The basics are where improvement begins; when you fill in the blanks the results speak for themselves.
13-year-old me would be smiling from ear to ear knowing that she is training in Wellington, amongst the best of the best. Warming up at horse shows, knowing your entire team is standing there behind the little white fence is nothing short of a blessing. Having not only one but two excellent trainers that are nothing but positive and reassuring made me fall in love with this sport all over again. Being a young rider, with aspirations to be a professional one day, with dreams of one day riding for the US Olympic dressage team is hard. You are often not heard, your voice is invalid because you are young. I have felt this way often; I am lucky enough now to have trainers that answer my questions with just as much enthusiasm as I ask them. They have made my move to Wellington as easy as possible and have changed my whole view on dressage and horsemanship. Their team of incredible riders and grooms are my biggest inspiration, and getting to watch their lessons is just as rewarding as riding myself. Donato Farms and Team Tubman have single-handedly created a perfect environment of positivity and learning, where, after every lesson, you are asked if you have any questions. I am the luckiest girl in the world, and I am unbelievably grateful to have Sarah and Lee standing beside me. It is such a privilege to get to call them my trainers and to learn from everything they do.
If I have just one piece of advice to offer to those who think they won’t make it anywhere or are told they won’t, you will! Believe in yourself, trust the process, never give up, and be patient with yourself and your partner. There will always be people that don’t believe in you, but it’s not their job to believe, it’s yours. Thank you to the village of horses, trainers, and people that stand beside me day in and day out and thank you for believing in me.