My name is MaryAlice Veronica Liska, and I’m fourteen years old! I live and train in Germany, with accomplished Dutch and German trainers! I am in 9th grade and a vegetarian. I have the most amazing horse in the world named Udex! I am currently schooling second level movements with him! He is a beautiful over seventeen hand tall, Belgian Warmblood gelding with a huge pedigree of Weltmeyer, Weltmeyer II, Balzflug, and Wendekreis! He was trained to the highest levels of dressage very young and hard, with rollkur, and has sustained a huge amount of damage from it! He has his spine locked in a sway position, “rocking horse” gaits, breathing problems; -allowing him to pass gases through his mouth (hiccups/burping) -, and heaps of other problems, both physical and mental. Finally he reached his breaking point and realized the changes his body had been through and the tremendous stress he was put under. He became severely depressed/suicidal and lost all his condition, became mean to humans, forgot how to be a horse, and could no longer preform anything like he used to. When I first bought him (around half a year ago!) I bought him as a rescue prospect to help to gain his weight back and feel better, and also as a dressage prospect! Our trainers, and those who know us, are amazed at the amazing recovery he is making! He is slowly becoming the amazing dressage horse he once was all because of our bond, trust, and taking it slowly. I plan to train with him until at least Intermediare here in Germany, and then see about moving both Udex and I back to America to switch from the European circuit, to begin our career on the American dressage circuit!
When did you first start riding Dressage?
I first started taking dressage lessons when I was ten years old, so I guess three, almost four years ago! I started out riding with intentions of becoming a jumper! I tried jumping lots of times but never really got a rush from jumping. Instead I chose to stick with dressage! Nothing beats the feel, or looks, dressage produces! Who needs to fly when you can dance instead!
Who are you training with?
My current dressage trainer is Ellen Braun! She was second best in two states in Germany for cross country (militare) riding! She used to break in green horses and sell them until one day she was riding a green horse when it reared and fell back on her! She broke a lot of bones and was in the hospital for six months! All she wanted to do was ride, but she wanted to be on the safe side of things and decided to change her career to dressage! She rode dressage until she was diagnosed with cancer, and was forced to end her riding career. Since then she has become a certified “M” judge and trainer! She is one of the sweetest trainers you will ever meet! The most important part to her training is having a great seat! Without it, she just wont tolerate you! She has a really strong connection with my horse, which helps everything slide smoothly! I can’t imagine my riding, or horse without her! Ellen’s quote is “I give my best, you give your best, and Udex gives his best… Together, we are a great team.”
Who is your biggest influence in your riding?
Charles Royal Sexton! He has been there from the start and always has the best advice to give!! He has given me ownership on a few of his race horses, and has changed my perspective on different riding ways!! He has opened my eyes to other equestrian sports that not a lot of people get to be a part of!! Whenever I have a bad day with my horse, Mr. Charley knows just what to say to make everything better!!! He is always the first to give you encouraging advice or a lovely compliment to make your day a totally great one!! When I was going through hard times a while back, he was the one who always managed to say the exact thing I needed to hear to feel better about everything!! He means so much to me!! I know I would not be the rider I am today if it wasn’t for him! Thank you so, so, SO much for being a constant friend and giving the best advice!! Also Dirk and Jacqueline Doldersum! Dirk was on the Veterans Netherlands Jumping team and bred, broke, and sold KWPN’s for years! They also owned a four hundred student per week riding school in The Netherlands! The dutch government wanted to buy the land theDoldersum’s riding school was on! After a few years of thinking about the offer, they decided to sell the land (ending the riding school) and started the move to Germany! In the middle of the move, his wife, -Jacq- was diagnosed with lymphoma cancer! Dirk ended his career to be with his wife! As soon as Jacq’s cancer was finished, they continued the move to Germany! As soon as they were settled in Dirk came down with prostate cancer! He was really sad to know that he could no longer ride his amazing horses! He picked a few talented riders to work his young, fresh, professional horses since he could no longer ride them himself! I was one of the lucky riders he selected to work with his horses!! I rode then for flat work [dressage]! Since then we have become great friends, and I’m always welcome to go take a lesson with one of his barn babies! Dirk and Jacq also come out to my barn and give me lessons with my horse! They have been amazing friends to top it all off! I can’t imagine my life without them!!! I have been blessed with amazing people in my life!!!
What is a typical day in training for you and your horse, and what exercises do you work on more than others?
With my horse a typical day is never typical. Some days every little thing scares him, and others he has so much energy that even a good lunge workout doesn’t make him tired! Depending on how he is feeling that day, we usually start with a nice walk on a loose rein, and then pick up a nice working trot, allowing him to have a nice long and low neck! (When I first got him the only focus was to get him to not curl up from behind the bit! He feared the bit so much and would automatically curl up behind it into a rollkur position!! Since then we have got over that fear and mainly work on him rounding his back more and not trotting in two parts.) After he is starting to feel warmed up and stretchy, we will work on leg yielding, renvers, shoulder in, and haunches in! Of course we also work on making our trot, walk and canter collected and soft! At the moment that simple workout is more then enough for him! We are taking it slow with him and not wanting to stress him out! Every time I ride him I can feel that he is starting to feel better about himself! Some days he does something super surprising! The other day I was riding and I guess I gave him the wrong aid and one minute I’m trotting the next I’m passaging!
What is the most important training tip you can give others?
Any ribbons you win are not for the horse at all, but more so for you. All your horse wants is to be loved! If you can love him, then that’s more then enough! A good friend, Marie Matte, described that perfectly to me, as well as come up with that clever phrase. You really have to listen to your horse when your riding dressage! I think too often we forget what our equine friend has to say! One of my favorite quotes from Pat Parelli, “You either asked the question wrong, or asked the wrong question!” That is so true!! If we think about how our horse wants us to ride him, then we can almost always succeed!! Not every horse is the same.
Tell us about your horses personality, what he likes and doesn’t like?
Oh boy! The list of things Udex does not like goes on and on!! To sum it up, most treats, most people, and being alone, he totally despises! He hates almost every treat out there!! If he doesn’t like the treat, he will spit it out or just downright refuse it! If I buy a cheaper leckerli, (what we call treats in German) he will spit it out immediately!! The only things he really loves are black licorice, carrots, green apples, Himalayan salts (oh yes, he is picky with salts too!) and the occasional sugar cube! If he doesn’t know you, he won’t take a treat from your hand, or even acknowledge you!! He really hates meeting new people!! If you call him in the paddock and he doesn’t know your voice, he will walk away from you and be impossible to catch! Udex is verrrry allergic to bees and when stung goes into anaphylactic shock!! It is really scary having a horse that’s so allergic to something so common! I always keep a fly mask and fly sheet on him at all times in the spring/summer, just to be safe!! Also, Udex hates getting shots! He has broken numerous amounts of lead ropes trying to get away from the injections! (If you can imagine a super tall horse, weighing in at over 1800 hundred pounds on the loose and ready to kill, you have my horse.) If you look past all the things Udex hates, and he accepts you as a friend, you will meet the most amazing horse in the world. He has a heart of gold and is always ready to please! His best friends at the barn are the two Shetland ponies! He defends the water station from all the other big horses as the two Shetlands take their turn to drink.! He will never bite, buck, kick or rear at anyone or anything! He does have a huge amount of undying energy though that never leaves him! He is a total joy to ride because he is always fresh and responds so well to my aids! I have never rode a more talented and willing horse!! Udex is a really special boy, and I highly doubt there is another one like him out there!
Who is your favorite rider?
Adelinde Cornelissen!! I think everything about her is amazing. She is one of the most talented, determined riders in the world! I admire the fact she stuck with Parzival, and made “the horse that no one wanted” into one of THE best dressage horses in the world. Most of all, Adelinde is so humble about everything. She knows how it is to not have a lot of money, and to not have good horses and trainers handed to her.. She really works hard for what she has. I really hope I will get the opportunity to train with her one day! Adelinde and Parzival are definitely a team to look up to!
Is it your goal to be in the Olympics someday?
Of course it is! That has to be one of the biggest accomplishments a rider can get to! In the meantime, I’m focusing on more realistic goals.
What is your favorite Dressage movement?
I really enjoy the extended trot, both to watch and ride! I love seeing how fancy horses can make their trots! It is sooo amazing to watch!! Also when riding an extended trot, it feels so great knowing that you are making your horse take his normal stride into something so huge and powerful! Whenever I think dressage, I think extended trot!
Do you like riding to music?
I really despise the fact people ride to music. In my opinion the moment a person starts listening to music, they stop listening to their horse! Of course, every one is different and I am sure to some it helps them stay focused! To me, it just keeps me distracted and takes me away from where I should be, which is one with my horse.
Do you go Trail riding?
In my younger years, I rode my friends pony trail riding every day for hours!! During that time I developed a really great seat from galloping for fifteen minutes straight!! Trail riding was a great break from the world and I felt very free riding out in the wild! Now I don’t take my horse on trails! I don’t like the feel I get from going out anymore, and to me it’s somewhat boring. I prefer to just stick to strict dressage! To me that’s more fun!
What can you share with other riders the most important part of learning dressage?
Dressage takes a lot of time, patience, and hard work. Just like a gymnastics or ballet, one move absolutely must be mastered before being able to move on to the next!! It takes time to learn and preform those moves with grace and ease! No one gets it right on the first, second, third, or even fourth time trying! Dressage is really difficult, but its that rewarding feeling you get when you can look back and say “I did it, and I did it pretty dang good at that.” that makes it all count!!
What can you tell other juniors about reaching their goals in dressage?
Sometimes dreams seem unreachable! About a year ago the situation my family was in was not too good, and I thought I would have to give up my dreams of owning a horse, let alone becoming a professional dressage rider. I went online and cried my eyes out looking at all the junior and young riders living the dream I wanted so bad. Every night I prayed that something would happen and I could have a shot at the dream too. My prayers were answered and I was blessed with my beautiful Udex and amazing trainers! If you don’t stop believing and never give up, it WILL happen!!! Keep your hopes up high and walk with your head held tall, because with the right amount of hope and faith your dreams and goals will be a reality right before your eyes.
What are your goals with your horse in 2011?
My current goals with Udex are to keep at his recovery at the same pace we have been going at! Already he is looking worlds better, has so much muscle, his spine is unlocking, a great attitude, and such a happier over all appearance both on the outside, and inside. Everybody that knows and sees him can tell you how amazing he is, and what a fighter he is! When I first got him he was depressed to a suicidal state where he would not eat and was giving up on life. I am so proud to know that he no longer feels this way about life, but instead always tries his hardest for me! If you have ever worked with a rescue horse, you know that that feeling you get when that horse that you put all that time and effort into is looking at you with thankful eyes, and getting a second change at life, is the best feeling in the world. You haven’t lived if you haven’t taken time to help a horse. So yeah, my goals for 2011 are to help Udex feel his finest. Hopefully by 2012 we will be ready to start showing and work on our bronze medal!!
“It is a dance, between horse and man, spirits in unity! I will be true, when I ride you, in perfect harmony. When you cary me!”