Our Interview with Leah Tenney, Rider of the Month for December/January 2017:
1. How long have you been riding Dressage?
I have been riding dressage for 6 years and before that I rode hunter jumper for five years.
2. What is a typical day for you at the barn?
Each season is a little different. In the summer I muck stalls, tack up other horses, and spend most of my time with my horse. In the winter I do more small projects around the barn and for myself. I take a lesson twice a week and work Tino on my own 4 days a week.
3. Do you turn out your horse before you ride?
I am very thankful that my horse gets turned out around 6am everyday and stays outside until the afternoon. On the very rainy days Tino typically is turned out for a few hours to move around and then comes back inside. During the school week I ride Tino in the afternoon. He usually ends up coming inside right as I arrive to the barn!
4. Do you warm up your horse before schooling him?
Yes, I leave 15 minutes before my lessons to warm up in the walk and trot. Depending on the day and Tino’s excitement level I sometimes lunge him for 10 minutes before I get on.
5. Do you follow the Dressage Training Pyramid on a daily basis?
I was introduced to the Training Pyramid many years ago and have used it off and on. Currently, I use the pyramid during my rides to help me make sure I’m on the right track. Starting my rides with rhythm and relaxation helps me loosen up Tino’s body for the remainder of my ride.
6. What is a schooling session like with your horse?
I ride Tino six days a week. I try to plan my schooling sessions around the content of my lessons, which occur twice a week. I make sure that not every ride is the same. My schooling sessions may include poles, lateral work, jumps, natural horsemanship all the way down to the technical skills. I am always working on improving his fitness level too.
7. Do you give your complete attention to your trainer when in a lesson ?
Absolutely! I always go into my lessons putting in 100%. If I can’t put in 100%, I can’t expect my horse to. My trainer uses a headset every lesson which really helps me block out other things that are going on. My trainer has a very good sense of humor and I thoroughly enjoy working with her every day so it is not hard to give her my full attention.
8. How long are your breaks in your schooling sessions?
Breaks are important, but a key component of breaks are making sure that your horse doesn’t think they are done with their workout. When I am riding I always try to keep in mind that I need to accomplish something before he is given a break. My breaks are usually 2 laps around the arena.
9. Can you name the most important moment in a lesson that has taught you the most?
The most important moments in my lessons are the “break throughs”. To me, a “break through” is when what you have been working on comes together after multiple tries. These moments happen when you and your horse push yourself past your comfort zone. That’s when the real training and learning happens.
10. Do you volunteer at horse shows?
Yes, especially for the awesome region 8! It’s definitely a great opportunity to learn new things.
11.Are you a working student for a Dressage Trainer?
Not currently. I have been a working student before which is another great learning opportunity.
12. Who are your grooms for you at your shows?
I have never had a groom at shows before because I enjoy spending the time with my horse. It is nice to have some quieter time before I ride to groom and braid him. Tino tends to fall asleep while I’m braiding him so it ends up being relaxing for the both of us. My mom comes to every show with me and helps me with whatever I need which I am so thankful for!
13. Do you trail ride and how often?
For many years I did not have access to trails so trail riding was not something that I could incorporate into my training. Recently, trails have been accessible to me and so I started introducing Tino to the trails little by little. This is something that I hope to work on in the future.
14. What are your goals for 2017?
Now that I have spent a year building a relationship with Tino, it is time for me to step it up in my training with myself and my riding with Tino. A goal of mine for a long time was to be a part of the Winter Intensive Training Program with Lendon Gray, and this winter I will be spending 3 months in Florida training with Lendon and 15 other girls. My goals for this year include showing at second level at the Global Dressage Festival, begin learning third level movements and go to regionals at second level. Ideally I would love to try a few third level tests in the summer. A long term goal of mine is to go to NAJYRC.
15. What is your favorite musical freestyle you have seen?
My favorite musical freestyle is Charlotte Dujardin’s freestyle with Valegro. It shows how much harmony they have with each other and the music was inspiring.
16. If you could clinic or train with anyone in the world, who would it be?
Robert Dover. I have never met Robert Dover before but it has been a life long dream of mine to someday ride with him.
17. What can you tell other junior riders about reaching their goals in dressage?
Never, ever, ever give up. Most junior dressage riders have huge goals. One thing that is very important to realize is that it takes patience, time, and dedication to reach those goals. All of us have hard rides that can make us question the things we are striving for. In those moments try to remember that dressage is a marathon, not a sprint.
18. What is your horse’s personality like?
Tino is a goofball!! He is such a fantastic horse. When I bought Tino he needed someone to take charge and lead him in the right direction. During the first winter I had with him I really focused on building our relationship together. Over those first few months I got to know about how sweet he was and how much he was willing to work. Tino loves any kind of treat you put in front of him but his favorite is bananas. He is a pretty brave horse in general but the one thing that can freak him out is water, which is not easy to deal with! It has been a lot of fun getting to know such a willing and kind horse.
19. Please tell us who you would like to Thank for being your best supporters:
I would like to thank my extremely supportive parents and family. I honestly can’t think of one horse show, clinic or lesson that my mom hasn’t been there for. My dad comes to the barn with me on the weekends and comes to as many shows as possible. My brother Nick has always been one of the most supportive people in my life. Although he can’t physically be at my competitions, I always receive a long encouraging text that gets me in the perfect mood to ride the best I possibly can. A few other people I would like to thank are my two closest friends Katherine and Grace, who both ride and have supported me unconditionally. Thank you Amy Green for introducing me to the sport and getting me to where I am today. Lastly, thank you to Tanya Rennie for being an amazing trainer and Lendon Gray for making the WIT program available to me and the other young riders in our country!
20. What is your favorite quote that you love and want to share with others?
“Believe you can and your half way there”- Theodore Roosevelt
Most people that know me know that I have always been someone who has had goals no matter what I am doing. I often have to remind myself that I can’t do the things I dream of doing if I don’t believe in myself. This quote expresses the mindset I try to have when I am riding.