Catherine Chamberlain

Here is Catherine Chamberlain’s interview with

My name is Catherine Chamberlain. I am sixteen years old and I train in Scottsdale, Arizona. I began riding dressage at the age of nine and have been competing for over seven years now. I am currently a working student for Ashleigh Luca Tyson of Westwind South Dressage and I absolutely love it. I am very dedicated to the sport of dressage and I hope to make it my life and my career. I would love to start my own training business in the future and represent the United States at international competitions such as the World Equestrian Games and the Olympics someday.

My current equestrian partner is Verdicci, or Chance as we call him around the barn. Chance is a nine year old Dutch Warmblood gelding by Krack C and out of Nadine’s Monday by Jackson. My parents bought him for me as a five year old when I was only twelve, and over the past four and a half years we have grown and developed as partners and friends. Chance and I are currently showing at Prix St. George level while beginning to school Intermediate II and Grand Prix at home.

Some of our greatest accomplishments include winning several state and Regional Championships, along with the First Level Futurity in 2008 when he was a five year old. In 2010, we won the Junior Individual and Freestyle Silver Medals at the FEI North American Junior & Young Rider Championships in Lexington, KY, as well as the Junior Reserve Championship at the Collecting Gaits Farm/USEF Festival of Champions in Gladstone, NJ. This year Chance and I took the step up to Young Riders and were members of the Region 5 Young Rider Team who took home the Gold Medal at the 2011 FEI North American Junior & Young Rider Championships. We also qualified for the 2011 Collecting Gaits Farm/USEF Festival of Champions in Gladstone, NJ and the FEI Young Rider World Cup Final in Frankfurt Germany.

Some of my personal accomplishments include receiving my USDF Bronze and Silver Medal Rider Awards, the 2009 Caitlin Ben-Dror Memorial Scholarship, the 2011 KWPN-NA Willy Arts Young Rider Grant, two Renee Isler Dressage Grants out of the Dressage Foundation in 2011, and the 2011 USDF Youth Convention Scholarship. To learn more about me and my riding, please visit my website:, my blog:, my Youtube account:, or my Facebook page:

Our Interview with Catherine:

When did you first start riding Dressage:
I first started riding Dressage seriously at the age of 9. My aunt, Shari Patterson-Blaylock, helped start my career and was my biggest influence during my first few years in Dressage. I would spend every summer with her at her training barn in Payson, AZ, riding every horse I could get my hands on. That is where I developed my love for the horse and the sport.

Who are you training with now?
I am currently training with Ashleigh Luca Tyson at Round Mountain Ranch in Scottsdale, Arizona. I have been a working student for Ashleigh since this past August. I love Ashleigh’s style of training and I feel we work extremely well together.

 What is a typical lesson day like for you and your horse?
Each lesson day varies for my horse and I. We usually work four or five days a week at the most, usually training for half an hour to forty-five minutes. My trainer and I are sure to include a solid warm-up, followed by a break. Then the work begins. Some days we only focus on the basics; making sure my horse is through, over the back, forward off my aids, and listening to my seat. Other times we school some of the movements, always focusing on quality first. We are sure to never drill one movement too much. We often pick two or three movements to work on at a time. For example, one day we will work on half-passes, tempi changes, and extended canter. Then, we wait at least a couple days before returning to those movements. Training horses is tricky; you have to be patient and always put the welfare of the horse first. If you listen, they will tell you how much pressure they can handle and what they are ready to try. It is definitely worth the wait!

How long do you warm up your horse?
When I go to warm my horse up, I usually let him walk on a long rein for about ten minutes. They we do five or ten minutes of trot and canter. During this time I concentrate on my horse’s thoroughness and submission to the aids. We play a little bit with the forward and back, never staying in one tempo for too long. At the end of the warm-up, I incorporate some small lateral movements such as leg yield and shoulder fore. Once my horse feels limber,supple, and sensitive, I know he will be ready to get to work after a walk break.

Do you trail ride with your horse?
I do trail ride with my horse. We have a small bridle path next to our arena, so I like to take him out for at least five minutes before and after our ride. I also like to go out on a long trail ride every week or every other week. I think it provides a great mental break for the horse and can actually be quite beneficial to their fitness.

Do you turn out your horse, and if so do you put any protective boots on him/her?
I do turn my horse out. I think that, as long as they remain safe and sane, it is an excellent way for them to be a horse for a change and to release any pent up energy. I always like to put protective boots on, usually just everyday schooling boots, along with bell boots.

Who is your biggest influence in your riding?
I have to say that the biggest influence in my riding right now is my trainer Ashleigh Luca Tyson. I have only been training with her since this past February, but I feel she has helped me accomplish more with my riding in the past ten months than I ever have in the past six years! She is very much all about the wellbeing of the horse, which is so refreshing. It is always a fun environment at her training barn, and I think the horses appreciate that as well. She has really helped me to focus on my tactfulness and thoughtfulness when working with a variety of horses.

What is the most important advice you can give other riders starting in Dressage?
The most important advice I can give to other riders starting in dressage is to be patient with both yourself and your horse. Dressage is a lifelong process, and no one can ever learn everything there is to know about this sport. You must be happy with even the smallest of victories, whether it be learning to sit the trot or performing your first leg yield. In time, your patience will pay off and everything will start to come together slowly but surely.

Tell us about your horse.
My horse’s name is Verdicci, but we call him Chance around the barn. He is a nine year old Dutch Warmblood gelding by Krack C. My parents bought him for me when he was five and I was twelve, so we were able to learn and grow up together. I have trained him to the Prix St. Georges and we competed at the North American Young Rider Championships this year, bringing home the Team Gold Medal with our Region 5 team! Chance is a very happy-go-lucky horse with a very sweet and goofy personality. He is fun to be with and I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to work with him!

Who are your favorite riders and why?
I have many favorite riders including Steffen Peters, Brett Parbery, and Charlotte Dujardin. Steffen always seems to have amazing harmony with every horse he rides. He makes it seem so effortless and the horses are always so happy to work for him. Brett had a great position and is an extremely quiet rider. To me he is what a Dressage rider should look like; elegant and tactful. I am very inspired by Charlotte because she has accomplished so much at such a young age. With hard work and determination, she has made many of her dreams come true and her career is only getting started!

Tell us about your parents and how they are involved in your riding career.
My parents have always supported my riding career from the time I took my very first lesson. They have always been there for me both financially and emotionally. Without them, I would not be where I am today. I want to thank them for every vet bill they had to pay, every saddle they had to buy, and every show they had to pay for. But most importantly, I want to thank them for the times that they consoled me after a tough ride, comforted me when me or my horse was injured, and cheered me on through the best of times. They are the best parents a girl could ask for!

 Is it your goal to be in the Olympics someday?
It is my goal to ride in the Olympics someday. It would be such an honor to represent my country and to be part of the U.S. team. One thing I’ve learned in Dressage is that you cannot plan too far ahead or map out your career with one horse. So, I don’t know how, when, or where it will happen for me, but I am ready for it when it does!

 It takes hard work and dedication to be committed in riding Dressage. Tell us how you deal with this kind of commitment to be where your are at today.
Ever since I was nine years old and began showing Dressage, I knew even then that I wanted to make this sport my career and my life. I was so drawn to the beauty and elegance of the horses. There was something about their commitment to their riders made me want to commit to the sport. I have never struggled with my dedication or commitment to Dressage. It comes so naturally to me, I truly know that I would not want to be doing anything else. Yes, you have to make many sacrifices to pursue your career, but to me there was never a doubt in my mind about what I had to do or what I had to give up to do it.
What is your favorite dressage movement and why?
My favorite Dressage movement has to be the tempi changes. They take a lot of practice and consideration until they become the best quality, but they are so much fun to do! I love getting on a horse that does truly great tempi changes. Also, they are not as hard on the horse’s body as say, pirouettes, so you can spend more time perfecting them.

Do you like riding to music?
I do like riding to music. It is fantastic when you find a song that has a rhythm in sync with your horse. You can feel the energy and beat of the song in your horse. Freestyles are so much fun to perform. It took me a while to be able to concentrate on both the musical and technical aspects of the test at the same time, but once you master riding a freestyle there is nothing better to do in the show ring.

What can you tell riders about reaching their goals?
Never rush to reach your goals. Everything happens in its’ own time. I always say to set your goals at the highest bar, but to be happy with whatever you may accomplish. With horses there is always something that may impede you on your way to reaching your goals, so be flexible. Just enjoy your horse every day and never take them for granted.

 What are your goals with your horse this year?

This year I would like to try out for the Region 5 Young Rider Team headed to the North American Junior & Young Rider Championships in Lexington, KY in July of 2012. I love competing at the NAJYRC with so many other great riders from a variety of disciplines. I would be honored to have the opportunity to compete there for the fourth year in a row.

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