Featured Rider October 2018 : “Jennifer Bryant”
Current Horse(s) name, breed and age:
My retiree is Davignport’s Diamond, a 2003 Oldenburg mare Davignport x XX). My current dressage horse is Dux, a 2008 Westfalen gelding (Diamond Hit x Florestan I).
Favorite Horse’s name:
I’d feel disloyal playing favorites!
When did you start riding?
At age 10
What or who inspired you to ride Dressage?
My first eventing instructor, Adele Ulrich. I was doing hunter-seat equitation as a teenager and found it, well, kind of shallow.
I wondered whether there was any kind of riding that offered a deeper connection with the horse and a greater challenge. I met Adele and she told me about dressage. I was hooked before I ever took a lesson. A few years later, I stopped eventing and have focused on dressage ever since.
What is your occupation that allows you to ride?
I am a freelance editor, writer, author, photographer, and blogger. I have written or co-authored three books on equestrian subjects. My main client at present is the United States Dressage Federation: I have a contract to edit its member magazine, USDF Connection.
What have been your successes in the show ring?
Depends on how you define success. Some of my proudest moments have entailed getting back in the ring after suffering riding accidents and having to overcome the fear they produced. I am also proud of Dux, who is slowly evolving from an insecure, fearful horse to a steady performer. Seeing him blossom has been incredibly gratifying as a rider and trainer. In terms of tangible accomplishments, I’m proud to have earned my USDF bronze and silver medals; to have earned the 2017 Great American/USDF Region 8 Second Level Adult Amateur reserve championship title; to have placed tenth at Second Level AA at the 2017 US Dressage Finals; and to have beaten a fair share of professionals at Col. Bengt Ljungquist Memorial Championships and other competitions over the years.
What have been your aha moments in training?
Oh boy, there are almost too many to name. Learning to ride a half-halt with seat and leg was a biggie. The day I understood that I needed to speed up my horse’s hind legs and slow the front legs for better balance and impulsion is up there too. Getting the feel of the “give” moment after the half-halt was huge. More recently, it’s been a deepened understanding of what “on the aids” really means in terms of the horse’s focus and attentiveness to the rider.
What is the most difficult thing about riding Dressage?
The. Whole. Damn. Thing. Steffen Peters was right when he said that dressage is the most difficult sport on the planet. There is no easy part — not for me, anyway. None of it has come easily to me.
Which trainer(s) have you worked with who have made the most difference to you and your horse(s)?
Adele, my first eventing instructor, as I mentioned previously. Laurie Falvo was my first “real” dressage instructor. Merrie Velden and Steffen Peters gave me a lot of confidence when I was still pretty green, and taught me about competing. Emma Griffen and Emily Gershberg helped me a great deal with my seat. Todd Flettrich taught me about training and about competing through the FEI levels. Betsy Steiner changed my riding immeasurably when she introduced me to Pilates in the course of our collaboration on a book. Lendon Gray always challenges me to take it to the next level. My current instructor, Ange Bean, has helped me deal with fear and to become a more precise rider, trainer, and competitor. I have also learned a tremendous amount from watching conferences and symposia with Kyra Kyrklund, Stephen Clarke, and Johann Hinnemann, among others.
Do you own other pets?
My husband and I have a cat and two retired racing Greyhounds.
What are your other interests outside of horses?
Fitness, because I need all the help I can get with my riding. I’m a music lover with a pretty extensive library (and a dream of someday riding a dressage freestyle), and I enjoy going to concerts. Given what I do for a living, it should come as no surprise that I’m an avid reader who loves magazines as well as books. I enjoy gardening and love growing herbs and vegetables, and trying to make my little corner of the world better by planting native plants and doing other eco-friendly things.
What advice can you give other amateurs?
Work on yourself. Take longe lessons. Identify your own “sidedness,” crookedness, or weaknesses and address them, not just in the saddle but with targeted fitness programs, body work, and so on. The key to good equitation and influence in the saddle is body control. When I started to address these issues in myself, my riding took a quantum leap forward.
You’re never done learning!
Are you a Dressage Amateur and want to be a featured rider?