Our Interview with Alexa:
1. When did you first start riding Dressage:
I started riding when I was four, but started riding dressage when I was six.
2. Do you ride without stirrups when schooling your horse?
I always use my walk warm up as a good time to work stirrup-less. I do many exercises such as thigh lifts and leg swings to loosen my hips and sit deeper into the saddle. It is just as necessary for riders to stretch and warm their bodies up for the ride, as it is horses.
3. What is your training regime on a daily basis with your horse or horses?
I always begin with a good 10-15 minutes of walk work, depending on how tight or sore the horse is. I usually incorporate lateral work into the walk warmup as a way to supple the horse. Then, I begin stretching work in the trot or canter for the next 10 or so minutes to get them moving forward and reaching over their topline. I like to ride with the thought that the horse must be able to stretch before they can collect, however there is no set recipe for how to warm up or ride a horse. Princess needs to begin warming up at the canter before I can start the trot and collected work, as the canter requires a natural impulsion. This, in turn, forces her to hold herself up and not fall onto her forehand when stretching. However, my other horse needs a solid 15 minutes of just stretching at the trot before I can move on to the collected work.
4. How important is the warm up and cool down of your horse ?
Warm up and cool down are very necessary to my horse’s daily training sessions, as they are athletes and therefore should be treated as such. Warm up not only allows the horse to ease into the more intense part of training, but it should allow them to become looser and softer over the topline.
5. What is the importance of transitions in your schooling?
Transitions are a huge part of my daily training regimen. Not only do they get the horse stepping under themselves and improve impulsion, but it makes them become more supple over the topline. You can also get very creative with transitions- using them within the gait or during a lateral movement (or both). It will always be one of, if not the most, beneficial exercises you can do with a horse.
6. Do you follow the Scales of Training on a daily basis?
Every riding problem that arises can be traced back to the training scale. It is something riders should always use and evaluate after realizing that there is a problem. I like to think of it as the Scientific Method for Dressage riders.
7. What is the most essential quality in the early stages of training a horse?
I believe that a solid foundation is the number one essential quality in training a young, or inexperienced horse. A solid foundation not only gets the horse to use their natural gaits to their advantage, but it will aid tremendously in propelling the horse up the levels. I see so many talented horse getting stuck at 2nd and 3rd level because of the lack of a solid foundation. No matter how long it takes, giving a horse a foundation of correct usage of the topline and moving freely through their back will benefit them more than doing upper level movements incorrectly at a young age.
8. Have you ever owned a Schoolmaster or have you done the training yourself with your horse?
As of now, I have always done the training on my horses. I do not have a trainer where I live, so I have been traveling for lessons and clinics (normally around 2-4 hours one way). I spend most, if not all, of my time reading and studying so that I can train my horses to the very best of their ability despite the fact that I cannot lesson everyday.
9. Do you to interval training with your horse?
Interval training is one of my favorite things to do with my horses. It is a fabulous way to build a strong topline as well as improve the horse’s gaits. I like to think of the arena as a “gym”, as I have raised trot poles set in the corners, on the diagonals, and on the short side. I also love to do hill and field work to not only get my horses out of the arena, but to build more hind end muscle.
10. How often do you show?
I compete between 6-8 times a year.
11. Do you braid your own horse’s mane?
I braid my horse’s mane, as well as for other people, too.
12. Who grooms for you at your shows?
I actually groom for myself, as well as for trainers, too. However, my mom loves to help at shows, so you could say that she is my groom.
13. Do you trail ride and how often?
I hack around the farm everyday, after every ride, depending on the weather. I think it is a great way to cool the horse out and refresh their minds.
14. What are your goals for you and your horse?
Right now, my main goal with Princess is to solely focus on making her the best that she can be, bringing her up very carefully and correctly. Whether that means taking a step back to improve the little things, or taking some time off from competing to fix the big things. I put her improvement and future above all else, as I do not want to regret pushing her too far too fast. She is a talented horse and I want to be able to take her as far as she can possibly go.
15. Do you have a musical freestyle for you and your horse, and if so what type of music do you like?
In my spare time, I enjoy writing and choreographing musical freestyles. Right now, I have a freestyle written out for Princess using music from my favorite movie, Interstellar. The music is very simple and fits her very well.
16. Name your favorite horse and rider
Hilda Gurney and Keen
17. What can you tell other junior riders about reaching their goals in dressage?
My advice to other dressage riders would be to never give up on what you want. If you can dream it, you can’t stop at anything to make it happen. It wont be easy, never meant to, but you have to keep chugging along and putting one foot in front of the other until you get there, and even then, keep going.
18. What is your horse’s personality like and what is the funniest thing he/she does?
Princess is a very kind horse with many quirks. She loves many types of foods, including Pop-Tarts and Bananas. She is also very talking, greeting me with a nicker and a whinny every time she sees me.
20. Please tell us who you would like to Thank for being your best supporters:
I would like to thank my mom for not only being my best friend, but for being my biggest supporter, pushing me to never give up, and to be the best that I can possibly be. She has never given up on me, which has inspired me to keep pushing, even when things don’t look so bright. I would also like to thank all of the trainers I have ever ridden with, as they have pushed me forward to be the best that I can be. I will always be incredibly thankful and grateful to them.
20. What is your favorite quote that you love and want to share with others?
“The seed of a Chinese bamboo tree spends five years in the ground with no growth. During those five years, it must be watered and cared for every single day. If the care stops, even for a day, the seed will die. In its sixth year, the Chinese bamboo tree will finally break through the ground, growing eighty feet in only five weeks. The question is, did it take five weeks for the bamboo tree to grow, or five years? The answer is five years, as during those years, a strong foundation was being set. Success grows much like the Chinese Bamboo tree.”