Morgan Heinrichs is a 20-year-old college student from Longmont, Colorado. While hoping to one day represent the United States in international dressage competition, Morgan is also working toward completing a degree in business. Morgan is currently training with rider/trainer Sue Halasz.
Morgan started riding when she was five years old and began competing in dressage at age twelve. Having earned her USDF bronze and silver medals, Morgan has competed at Training level through Intermediare-1. Morgan has qualified for and competed at the North American Junior Championships twice in both 2008 and 2009 on two different horses. In 2008 she was a part of the Region 5 gold medal winning team with her horse Orlando. That same year she also placed 6th individually and won the individual Freestyle gold medal.
1.When was the first time you saw a rider and horse performing Dressage?
The first time I saw dressage being performed was at a horse show in Colorado.
2.When did you first start riding Dressage?
I had my first lead line lessons when I was five years old. For the next few years I took regular English lessons on school horses. When I was ten my parents bought me my first pony named Luke. Luke was a super jumper and I became interested in the hunter/jumpers for a year or so. When I was eleven we moved to a strictly dressage barn and I was completely hooked.
3.Who was your first trainer and who are you currently training with?
My first dressage trainer was Jenny Baldwin. In 2010 I had the amazing opportunity to be a working student for Courtney King-Dye. I am currently training with Sue Halasz. I feel very fortunate to be able to work with Sue. Not only is she an incredible rider but also a phenomenal teacher. She has really understood my horses and has helped me learn how to ride them to their potential. 4.What training advice has been the most influential in your riding?
Always follow your instincts. If you think something is too much for your horse it probably is. If you think your horse is capable of more they probably are.
5.How do you warm up your horse and why do you think it is important for warm-up?
I warm-up each of my horses a little bit differently with the same basic concepts in mind. Royal Mirage is a tighter horse by nature and requires more suppleing work. I start her off on a long rein walking for 5-10 minutes so that her muscles and joints begin to warm-up. Then I pick her up in the walk and do some lateral work-shoulder-in, haunches-in, half-pass, leg-yield. Once she is accepting of my aids and beginning to loosen up in this work, I pick up the trot in a stretching frame. I continue with the trot, using big figures and changes of bend until I feel she is swinging over her back and really with me. I keep her in the stretching frame in the canter and work with her until she is on my seat and I can give the reins and she reaches even more to the bit. When she can do this I know that she is through and carrying herself. My other horse Orlando requires a fairly simpler warm-up. Orlando is a naturally supple horse. My focus with him is to test that he is in front of my leg. I also warm him up in the stretching trot and canter. I use big open lines and large circles to keep him thinking forward. I make sure the feeling is good in the contact but overall his warm-up is very simple. I think it is very important to have a warm-up routine that both you and your horse can rely on. However, horses, just like people, do not always come out each day feeling the same. For that reason, I think it is important to be able to adjust to how your horse is feeling that day and give them the time they need.
6.Do you follow the Pyramid of Training scale?
Yes, I think the Pyramid of Training scale is great to keep in mind when riding.
7.Do you include rest breaks in your training sessions?
Yes of course. When we are riding we are training an athlete. It is not realistic to expect the horses to do their best work if they are physically fatigued. A rest break is not only necessary for their muscles to recover but it is also a reward.
8.Do you watch your peers ride in lessons and what do you learn?
Anytime I have the opportunity I like to watch other peoples’ lessons. I think that no matter the level you can usually always take something away. You may get a reminder about position, learn technique to riding a complicated movement, improve your own teaching ability, or simply observe how different horses move and use their bodies. If you want to learn there will always be more knowledge out there for you, so don’t pass up these opportunities!
9.How often do you show?
From January through June I usually show once a month, sometimes twice. In the fall I probably do one show every other month. I like to keep my horses and myself used to traveling off the property, but I also think it is very important to have mental down time for both horse and rider.
10.Who grooms for you at your shows?
I like to groom my own horses when I show. I have a routine for how I groom and tack up my horses. I like to do this myself because then I know exactly how my horses are feeling. Because I normally show two horses, I am very lucky to have an incredible mom who is willing to help me out at shows when I can’t manage everything myself.
11.Do you braid your own horse?
Yes I always braid my own horses, for two reasons. One, I am a little bit of a control freak and like to do things just so. Two, I always love to spend time with my horses and I find that braiding them before I show is a great time to focus on my rides ahead.
12.What is your horse’s personality like and what is his/her favorite goodie?
I am fortunate enough to have two horses that I train and compete with. The first is Royal Mirage. “Royli” is a 1999, gray, Oldenburg, mare by Royal Diamond. Royli and I have been partners for 7 years. Royli is an extremely sweet, hardworking, willing horse. She loves to be told she is right and will try even harder. If she doesn’t do exactly what I want it is not because she doesn’t want to but because she doesn’t understand what I am asking, I try to always remember that. She will try her heart out for me. She is very particular about how you groom her and doesn’t like it when most people touch her. She is very much a princess. If every person has a horse soul mate she would most definitely be mine. Royli’s favorite treats are apples and granola bars.
My second horse is Orlando, or “Ollie” to those who know him. Ollie is a 1996, bay, Dutch, gelding by Rohdiamont. Working with Ollie has been a journey. I have really had to think outside the box with him to find what makes him tick and how I could make him enjoy working for me. Because of this, our successes together are and have been extremely rewarding. If Ollie were a person he would have a very sophisticated sense of humor and laser sharp wit, he is constantly making me laugh. Ollie is extremely smart and will tell you exactly what he wants. He is definitely not afraid to look desperate for a cookie! 13.Do you trail ride and how often?
Yes I love to get my horses out of the arena. I try to take my horses for a quick hack before or after I work them everyday. Once a week they have a “hack day”. I believe it is so beneficial for the horses mentally. If you are able to ride up and down some hills that can also be very beneficial physically for the horses as well.
14.What are your goals for you and your horse?
Some of my goals for 2012 include competing at the Festival of Champions and earning a place on a team to compete at the NAYRC.
15.What is your favorite Dressage music freestyle performed?
I love the freestyle that Hans Peter Minderhoud performed at the 2009 Las Vegas World Cup with Exquis Nadine, it was a lot of fun to watch!
16.Who is your favorite rider?
I don’t think that I can choose just one! I have to say that I very much admire Steffen Peters and how he develops and maintains a huge amount of suppleness and relaxation in all of his horses.
17.What can you tell other junior riders about reaching their goals in dressage?
I am a strong believer in setting goals, both short and long term. Go after your goals full force but don’t forget why you started riding in the first place. In my opinion it has to be about the love of the horse.
18.What can you share with other riders the most important advice of learning Dressage?
I think my biggest piece of advice would be to learn to appreciate the basics. No time is ever wasted working on the basics in dressage. If you are riding at a lower level all of the work that you and your horse are doing is setting the stage for the upper levels. If you are riding at Grand Prix the basics are just as important. My second piece of advice would be to take charge of your own learning. Quiz your trainer, vet, farrier, or horse chiropractor (you get the idea) about any questions that come to mind. So much of dressage is about feel, but the technical side is also very important. Find some good dressage books and study them as if you were going to have to take a test. Take time to learn the definitions of words like “impulsion”, “engagement”, and “cadence”.