Photograph by JT Photography
Our Interview with Junior Rider Emma Grace Stokes:
Emma Grace Stokes
14 years old
1.How long have you been riding Dressage?
I have been riding dressage for seven years, and riding in general for nine.
2.What is a typical day for you at the barn?
My typical day usually begins after school. I leave school at 3, drive to the barn, and I’m on around 4:30. I ride my horse and go home. On the weekends my schedule is much different. On an ideal day I go to the barn in the morning. I help with chores. I ride my horse in a lesson and occasionally get to cool off or warm up another for experience.
3.Do you turn out your horse before you ride?
Like I said, during the day I am at school. My leased horse and owned horse go out all day in the large pastures and paddocks.
4.Do you warm up your horse before schooling him/her?
Of course! On the weekdays I go straight to the ring and begin my warm-up there however on the weekends with more time I will go for a walk down the road.
5.Do you follow the Dressage Training Pyramid on a daily basis?
The training pyramid is extremely important. I don’t follow it religiously but I always have the steps in the back of my mind to remind me what my fundamentals are.
6.What is a schooling session like with your horse?
A schooling session with my leased horse Leo starts with walk work. We begin with travers, shoulder in and leg yield. These movements are really helpful getting my horse aligned, supple and making sure he is listening to my aids. Then we warm up in trot and canter. From there on it depends on how he and I feel. We are always working on diagonal steps in the trot and transitions in the canter as well as a lot of no stirrups and balance training for me which also includes lunge lessons!
7.Do you give your complete attention to your trainer when in a lesson?
Yes. I have to pay attention to what my trainer is saying. If I stop paying attention my moment for correction is lost and I have to start over.
8.How long are your breaks in your schooling sessions?
My breaks aren’t too long but I have them often. I usually take a walk or two around the ring and talk over what we are working on with my trainer.
9.Can you name the most important moment in a lesson that has taught you the most?
There are so many important moments but I will have to say the one that stands out the most was when I was on a long reign taking a break during a lesson and my trainer told me to never stop telling the horse something. I hadn’t realized that when I had given my horse the reigns and dropped to the walk I wasn’t paying attention any longer to my rhythm or whether or not my horse was still focused on the ride. I didn’t shorten my reigns ye,t I sat up taller, gave my seat a confirmed direction and speed and made sure my legs and seat bones were felt by my horse. This “small” adjustment affected my ride and has ever since.
10.Do you volunteer at horse shows?
I do! Volunteering is extremely fun for me! I love working and this gives me some time to learn about the work volunteers have to do. I always volunteer at shows.
11.Are you a working student for a Dressage Trainer?
Sort of. It’s a very relaxed job because of my inability to drive a car and I have to attend school.
12. Who are your grooms for you at your shows?
My mom! She’s the best. She helps me at shows and if she’s showing I do the grooming for her. I like to be as independent as I can. I braid, groom, clean tack, and muck out but it’s so nice to have someone there to help out!
13. Do you trail ride and how often?
I do trail ride. The neighborhood around my barn consists of dirt roads as well as some busy streets. In order to get to the actual trail we have to cross roads with lots of cars so I never go by myself. It’s also a long walk to the trail and the trails are long as well so we end up taking a good three hours. I also always go for a walk after my training session (especially if I didn’t go for my warmup) for about 10-15 minutes down the road.
14. What are your goals for 2017?
My goals for 2017 are to show in second level and hopefully get my qualifying scores! I would also like to do clinics with a few trainers like Debbie McDonald.
15. What is your favorite musical freestyle you have seen?
Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro’s “How to train your Dragon” freestyle is my favorite. Specifically when they did it in Olympia 2014 and broke the world record. But all of their freestyles are my favorite so…
16. If you could clinic or train with anyone in the world, who would it be?
There are so many fantastic trainers around but a lesson from Charlotte Dujardin would be a dream come true!
17. What can you tell other junior riders about reaching their goals in dressage?
Always keep learning. Love your horses and always believe in your dreams, (I know it sounds cheesy but it is what it is.)
18. What is your horse’s personality like?
Leo is a super smart horse. Work isn’t his favorite, but he is always trying to please and figure out what you want. He is gentle and kind but also very talented.
Whiskey is my other horse. She is a little “worker bee” she tries so hard and loves to work. She was trained western but we have taught her dressage. She is a gorgeous horse and a very good friend.
19. Please tell us who you would like to Thank for being your best supporters:
My parents are the only reason I get to do what I do so they get the biggest thank you! My trainer and my horses are the biggest part of my life and I wouldn’t be who I am without them. And thanks to my brother, who always encourages me to work hard and never fails at making me laugh.
20. What is your favorite quote that you love and want to share with others?
“You never lose you just learn.”