My name is Riana Porter, I am 5’7”, with brown hair, blue eyes and turning 19 in May. In my spare time I love reading, going up to our family’s cabin on the Russian River and fishing, hanging out with friends, and swimming in the river. I graduated from Analy High School in 2010 and am currently in my first year at the Santa Rosa Junior College taking classes under the Equine Science major. I have a younger sister who is 16 years old and is also dedicated to dressage. I live in Santa Rosa, California and am lucky enough to be 20 minutes away from my trainer’s farm where I keep my horse, Romax. I have been around horses my entire life and not a day goes by that I don’t enjoy riding. In 2009 my horse and I were the Festival of Champions/Collecting Gaits Farm USEF National FEI Junior Champions held at Gladstone. I have my bronze and silver medals and will be working toward my gold medal very soon.
A quote that is true for me:
“The true harvest of my daily life is somewhat as intangible and
indescribable as the tints of morning or evening. It is a little star
dust caught, a segment of the rainbow which I have clutched.” ~Henry
David Thoreau, Walden
A quote that has inspired me:
“It’s not where you’re dreams will take you. It’s where you take your dreams.”
And this is a quote that reminds me never to give up:
“Failure is a part of life, even for the successful.”
Our Interview with Riana:
Q: When did you first start riding Dressage?
For as long as I can remember I have been around horses. I started riding when I was 3 years old, being hand walked on my aunt’s bay quarter horse, Keeper, who she still has. At 5, I began taking riding lessons at the European Pony School where I was taught the basics of jumping, equitation, and cross country. At 7 years old I got my first pony, Shaw, from the pony school. We retired him to trail riding when I was 11 and found a jumper thoroughbred mare that was a bundle of energy. It was then that I accidentally discovered dressage with a local trainer named Lynda Krough. I instantly fell in love with this new type of riding and traded my jumper for my first dressage horse. He was a black, 17h, 6 year old American Warmblood named Baby Boy. A year later Lynda relocated to Oregon, but not without making sure she left me in good hands.
Q: Who are you training with?
I train with an incredible trainer, Sue Curry Shaffer at Fairwind Farm, and have been under her talented eye going on 7 years now. I absolutely love every minute of it. The most amazing opportunities have opened up to me, and I owe it all to Sue. I have had the great pleasure of riding in clinics with many world-class competitors, judges, and trainers such as Axel Steiner, Conrad Schumacher, Morten Thomsen, George Williams, Debbie McDonald and more. She has also given me the chance to learn on her FEI horses and Grand Prix stallion, Donnerschlag, as well as her young horses so that I can become a well rounded rider and future trainer. I am at the farm 6-7 days a week and ride anywhere from 5 to 8 horses a day. I have regular lessons with Sue on several different horses and work quarterly with Axel Steiner.
Q: How do you warm up your horse and why do you think it is important for warm-up?
Before I start my warm-up I walk the horse for about 10-20 minutes; depending on the weather. In the summer I’ll take the horses up and around the hills before and after our ride. I’ll do stretching over the back in the walk, trot and canter and move on to some exercises that supple them. I’ll also do some lateral work and leg yields to loosen the hips. Then I start getting into the heavy lifting (so to speak). I make sure to give the horses I ride lots of walk breaks.
I think it is extremely important to warm-up to help prevent the horse from possibly injuring himself. What goes for us – goes for the horse as well. If riders skip the warm-up, they won’t get the same results as they do as when they warm-up. The reason being, the flexibility, looseness, elasticity and everything else that comes with warming-up the horse would not be there. Staying in top physical condition is essential for the rider and the horse.
Q: Who is your biggest influence in your riding?
Sue Curry Shaffer has been the biggest influence in my riding without a doubt. With her gentle spirit and caring words, she inspires me to better myself as a rider and also as a person. She pushes me to my fullest potential and she believes in me and supports me in every way possible. Sue has had an exceptional career as a dressage trainer and competitor since the early 1980’s. She is a breeder of world-class horses, a remarkable trainer and an incredible rider. Sue is a USEF “S” Judge and FEI “C” Para Equestrian Judge. I honestly do not know what I would do without her. She has given me so many truly wonderful opportunities that I would have never dreamed possible. If someone would have asked me 8 years ago, what do you think you will be doing in 10 years, I would have said riding horses. Never would I have thought I’d be a National Champion, getting ready to qualify for Young Rider World Cup, with the goal of the Olympics in my future. I am where I am because of Sue. She is, in all honesty, marvelous and truly one of a kind.
Q: What is a typical day in the training for you and your horse, and what exercises do you work on more
A typical day of training usually consists of a nice and thorough warm-up that prepares us for whatever we are trying to accomplish for the day. We are currently working towards Young Riders this year and schooling some of the Intermediaire, so it really depends on what movements we plan on working for the day. Right now we are focusing on fine tuning the PSG and Young Rider Individual test. Now that the show season is approaching, I am really concentrating on improving Romax’s fitness level. This means doing lots of back and forth from “collected to medium to collected” in the trot and canter, getting him really responsive to my aides and getting him really “under and pushing from behind.” I find it great for the horse’s mind and body to get them away from the “work area” and I am incredibly lucky to be at a farm that has trails with hills! They all find it relaxing to get out of the arena and it’s great for strengthening as well.
Q: What is the most important training tip you can give other riders?
Never rush. When it comes to horses, always take your time. When training, never punish the horse for not doing what he’s asked, especially if it’s a young horse or a new movement. Punishing only makes it worse. The last thing you want to do is make the horse tense. Always work on relaxing and then gently asking, and then asking a little more, and then a little more. With each improvement be quick to reward them. You always want the horse to “offer” and you want to keep riding fun for them. It’s never the horse’s fault.
Q: Tell us about your horse’s personality, what he/she likes and doesn’t like!
Romax Foldager is my horses’ full name. He is an extremely handsome17’2’ Danish Warmblood, imported from Denmark by Sue. He was born March of 1995 and is from the distinguished Blue Hors line, by Blue Hors Romancier and out of Flika. I have owned him for 5 years now and with Sue’s help, have put all the training on him from 2nd level up. He is the best horse anyone could ever ask for. He is so sweet and loving and brave. Romax loves going on the trails around the farm and loves it when the younger horses come running up to him in their pastures to say “hi”. That’s when Uncle Ro comes out. He is the kind of horse that truly enjoys life and will stare you down until you give him a carrot. You can never win! He’s my boy and I am so blessed to have him in my life.
Q: Who is your favorite rider?
Sue is definitely my favorite rider in the whole world, but I do quite enjoy watching Edward Gal. Surprise, surprise!! He is a spectacular rider and he makes riding dressage look so elegant and graceful.
Q: Is your goal to be in the Olympics someday?
Ever since I started working with Sue, my goal of the Olympics has become stronger. When I was little, I thought what all little kids think of when they think of the Olympics. “Oooooo!” Now, as I start reaching my goals, I can definitely see myself representing the United States, so yes it is most definitely my goal to be in the Olympics!
Q: What is your favorite dressage movement?
I enjoy all of the dressage movements so it’s hard to single any one out, but if I had to narrow it down I would have to say the extended trot, extended canter and passage are my favorites. Riding a horse is so exhilarating – it makes you feel like you’re in another world. The extended trot and canter make me feel so empowered, going from a collected gait into this powerful extension and then back again. It gives me chills every time. The passage has such a fun beat and tempo, I grin every time I ask for it. I have a reason for liking every dressage movement and could go on and on. Riding horses it truly a passion for me and when you find that even when a horse is having a naughty moment or is finding the learning path challenging and you still love every moment of just being on the back of such a strong yet graceful animal, that’s when you know that you have found your purpose in life.
Q: Do you like riding to music?
I love riding to music. I find it relaxing and that it sometimes helps me focus on the horse when there are other distractions or I am riding by myself. It also makes it easier when looking for freestyle music because I know which beats work and which do not.
Q: What can you share with other riders the most important advice of learning Dressage?
When a rider is learning dressage, never give up and never say I can’t. Also to always stay relaxed in the body but not so much that you start flopping around. Horses feed off of your every emotion so if you are nervous or timid or scared, do not let it show in your body or voice. I know it sounds impossible, but it’s not. It’s a state of mind.
Q: What can you tell other junior riders about reaching their goals in dressage?
“Fill your days with discovery, and you will fill your life with valuable knowledge.
Fill your hours with caring, compassion and respect, and you will fill your world with love and friendship.
Fill your thoughts with positive possibilities, and the best things in life will surely be within your reach.
Fill your words with encouragement and enthusiasm, and you’ll often find people and circumstances lining up in your favor.
Fill your efforts with purpose, perseverance, diligence and integrity, and your life will be filled with valuable achievements.
Fill your heart with a love of truth and goodness, and your soul will be filled with the treasure of wisdom.
Your life is a most precious gift.
Fill every corner of it with the best that you can.”
The quote above is a quote to live by. This is a quote that has encompassed my life and the way that I live it. If you take every piece of advise from this quote, in time, things will start coming together in your favor because what you make of life and the attitude you bring is up to you. So some advice I can give for reaching your goals is to volunteer, commit yourself to constant improvement, never think that you know everything, don’t expect life to be fair, never give up, try and try again, be open minded but not naïve, and never be afraid to fail for failure is all part of the process.
Q: What are your goals with your horse for 2011?
My goal this 2011 season with Romax is Young Rider Nationals in Gladstone and then FEI Young Rider World Cup in Germany.