Here is our interview with young rider Jessica DiConstanza:
Q: Tell us about yourself.
A: My name is Jessica DiCostanzo. I began riding in San Juan Capistrano, California and moved to Santa Barbara last year to attend UCSB. I was the 2007 JR/YR southern CDS champion at 4th level. I began riding at Prix St. George shortly after in hopes of making the Young Rider team.
Q: When did you decide to ride dressage and when did you start riding?
A: I began riding when I was 7 as a hunter/jumper. After getting a horse of my own at 11 we took on the jumper arena. When I was about 14 I began to take a dressage lesson once a week to improve my jumping. Before I knew it I was at 3rd level and realized that I needed to pick between jumping 4 foot plus courses and dressage, because the two together were too strenuous for one horse. I let my horse decide and have been riding dressage ever since.
Q: Who are you training with?
A: I started riding with Wilma Blakely in San Juan Capistrano. While riding with Wilma, I would clinic with Olympian Kathleen Raine as well. When I moved to Santa Barbara for school, I began riding with Olympic bronze medalist and FEI “C” judge Charlotte Bredahl, and have been riding with her ever since.
Q: How often do you train?
A: I ride my horse 4 days a week dressage and one day of trail riding with two days off. I ride usually about 3 other horses per day incorporating dressage basics.
Q: What is your warm up routine?
A: I usually start with stretching exercises before I even get on. Once I’m on I start with a free walk and then push my horse towards an extended walk. I start on an oval shape between “B” and “E” at the stretchy trot working for a leg yield feeling on the open ends. I then push him into a canter with lots of leg yields and shoulder fores to get my horse to use his hind end with lots of coming and going.
Q: Tell us about your horse and his/her personality.
A: Ciano is actually my first horse. He is a 1992 Westphalian gelding. I have had him for almost ten years and he has taught me more than any horse ever will. He is definitely a very opinionated type of guy with tons of personality. He is totally an alpha male with every horse and every one but me. I would describe our relationship as that of an old married couple where neither one of us is ever really in charge; were more of partners than anything else.
Q: Do you go trail riding?
A: At least once a week, otherwise Ciano gets really cranky. He loves to go out and explore and ALWAYS has to be in the lead. He is a solid citizen on trail and will go just about any where I point him.
Q: What are your goals with your horse?
A: To learn as much as possible from him and to take care of him as well as he has taken care of me. I would like to keep showing him as long as he keeps wanting to show.
Q: Who is your mentor and why?
A: My mentor is a 60-something year old cowboy who also happened to be my shoer named Mark Rogers. Mark was the only one who helped me with my horse when he was “dangerous”. He taught me how to ride and fix just about anything. Most importantly, he taught me how to effectively and respectfully treat horses and people. He shared with me his knowledge of horses which has inspired me to always keep pushing for more.
Q: What can you tell other junior riders about reaching their goals in dressage?
A: Don’t ever dismiss someone’s advice about riding. There is not one person who knows all the answers about dressage nor one who can perfectly word a feeling on a horse for every person. Rick Oas, an owner of Pollyrich Farms in Solvang, CA, once told me that riders are artists. You have to take in other people’s advice and interpret it in your own way to make your riding unique.
Q: What is your favorite dressage movement?
A: I would have to say there is no better feeling than nailing 2 tempis. It really feels like I am dancing with my horse. But I will say that all movements become way more amazing when riding to Dave Matthews and John Mayer.