My name is Sadie Lahey, I am 18, and I am from Eagle, Idaho. I train with Ernst Herrmann. I am currently competing at the FEI Young Rider level (PSG) and preparing to attend college at the University of Colorado this fall. I plan to major in Biological Engineering, with a minor in Biochemistry. My horse, Up To Date P (or Uppa), an 11-year-old Dutch gelding, will be going with me to college and we will continue our dressage training in Boulder, CO.
Some of our accomplishments include: 2010 competitor at NAJC, 2011 Individual Gold Medalist NAJC (with the highest score in the team test), 2011 5th Place Freestyle NAJC, 2011 3rd Level Jr/Yr Champion – USDF Year-end Awards, 2011 4th Level Jr/Yr Regional Champion, Invitation to 2011 Festival of Champions – 2nd ranked rider, and 2012 NAYRC – qualified.
I started riding at the age of four at a western barn in Montana. I began riding dressage at the age of seven with Jan Herrmann (Eagle, ID) and started competing at the age of eight. My parents bought me my first horse, Patterson (a Welsh Cob x TB cross), when I was ten and I competed Pat through second level dressage, 3’ jumpers, and novice level eventing. When I was twelve, I switched and began training with Ernie, Jan’s husband, who is my current trainer.
In November, we all made the trip to Holland to look at horses with Chris Taylor and Jan Brouwer. In December of 2009, Uppa walked off the trailer at Once Upon a Horse. In 2010, we fought issues with Uppa’s weight and soundness and ended up the drop score for our team at NAJC. In 2011, we traveled to Kentucky, and despite some health concerns on my end, it was a much-improved show for Uppa and me. We had the highest score in the Junior Team test, won the Individual Gold medal, and placed fifth in the freestyle. The freestyle was my favorite part of Kentucky last year. Even though it was pouring so hard I couldn’t hear my music and I was completely soaked through, Uppa just put his head down and said, “I got this, Mom.” It was a really fun experience. In 2011, we were also recipients of the KWPN-NA Willy Arts Grant.
This year, we successfully made the jump from solid 3rd level to fairly solid Prix St. Georges in about six months. We qualified for the NAJYRC and I look forward to the adventures to come. I am grateful to have had such wonderful people helping and supporting me along the way, and I am especially grateful to Ernie, who has taught me so much and helped me reconstruct Uppa into a higher-level dressage horse. I am also so thankful to my parents for supporting my dreams and helping them to become a reality.
Our Interview with Sadie:
- When was the first time you saw a rider and horse performing Dressage?
When I was six, at a barn in New Hampshire. But the first time I watched real, higher-level dressage was when I was seven, at Once Upon a Horse, when I watched Ernie and Jan riding in a clinic with Carol Plough.
- When did you first start riding dressage?
I began riding at age four, but I first started riding dressage at age seven, at Once Upon a Horse with Jan Herrmann. I started on Cherish, an ex-reining Arabian horse, who put up with just about all of my childish mistakes.
- Who was your first real trainer and who are you currently training with?
My first real trainer was Janet Herrmann (of Once Upon a Horse). I trained with Jan for about five years with my first horse, Patterson. When I was twelve, I began riding with Ernst Herrmann, Jan’s husband. Ernie is my current trainer. His teaching has been invaluable and it has made me a smarter horseperson and a better rider.
- What training advice has been the most influential in your riding?
I tend to be a fairly emotional rider and I used to take it personally when a horse didn’t do what I asked, right when I asked. Ernie’s advice to take my emotions out of my riding has been extremely influential. It’s something I still struggle with, but recently, I have become much more un-emotional and much more rational with my riding decisions and corrections. As a result, I am able to correct the horse much faster but in much less drastic ways.
The other training advice that has been very influential in my riding is to always reward the horse when they do something correctly. Walk breaks after a good couple of mediums or a good pirouette have been really important to building both Uppa’s self-esteem and work ethic and my own.
- How do you warm up your horse and why do you think it is important for warm up?
Uppa is naturally fairly behind the leg and I am quite a bit smaller than him (I am 5’4” and he is a very solid boy at almost 17 hands), so my warm up focuses on stretching him over his topline while asking him to move forward off my leg. I do a lot of very stretchy walk circles to start with and then ask him to do a few serpentines in a loose, forward trot. Then we move to the same thing in the canter. The biggest tools I use with Uppa are transitions (especially within the gates), circles, and leg-yields.
The way I warm Uppa up helps to ensure that he is loose and using his back and hind legs. It also gives him confidence that he is doing the right thing, exactly when I ask him to. Our warm up puts us on the same page right at the start of each ride and then helps us to communicate better throughout the ride. I think that the warm up is the most important part of every ride because if you keep a fairly consistent warm up routine, you can tell whenever something has changed with the horse (whether they are more forward/behind the leg, stiffer/looser, etc.) and you can adjust your riding/goals for the day according to how the horse feels and reacts.
- Do you follow the pyramid of training scale?
Yes (I even have a copy of it taped to my mirror in my room!). I think it exists for a reason and that following it can create a healthier, more consistent horse in the long run.
- Do you include rest breaks in your training sessions?
Definitely. That is something that Ernie really emphasizes, and since I have asthma, I am also very grateful. A typical training session for Uppa and I lasts about 45 minutes. Within that, we usually take three short walk breaks. The number and time for each varies depending on our goals for the ride and how Uppa reacts to my aids (a good horse = more breaks).
- Do you watch your peers ride in lessons and what do you learn?
Yes and it always inspires me to fix something about the way that I ride. I love watching other Juniors and Young Riders because they are riding the same tests as me, so I can say to myself “you need to prepare that corner better” or “see how she rode that? That’s what you need to fix.” It really helps me to get into a better mind-set for my own training.
- How often do you show?
The show season in Region 6 is fairly short. Our shows start in May and end with Regionals in September. Most of the time, I show about once or twice a month through May, June, and July and then we usually use August to focus on training and improving before Regionals.
- Who grooms for you at your shows?
I do. I’m pretty particular about what I do with my horse and how it’s done, so I always like to take care of him myself. Plus, my horse is a lot of fun to be around and I don’t want to miss any of his quirky antics. My parents or a friend will usually help with smaller chores, like walking him while I clean out his stall, or holding my coat and water while I warm up, but, in general, I am in charge of my horse’s care.
- Do you braid your own horse?
Yes. I have always been the one braiding my horse. Even at my first show, I braided my horse (with purple yarn that kept falling out during my ride). I like to spend that extra time before a ride with my horse. Braiding time can be somewhat meditative for me because I focus on my horse and try to get myself in the right mindset for our upcoming test.
- What is your horse’s personality like and what is his/her favorite goodie?
Uppa’s personality, in one word, is quirky. He has a funny sense of humor and enjoys taunting other horses (usually with grain or treats). He gets into EVERYTHING. He even learned how to open my tack trunk to get to the treats. He chews on anything that he can get into his mouth (my hair, cell phones, whips, water bottles, etc.) and enjoys licking everyone that comes near him. He is quite the drama queen as well and always has to be the center of attention. He envisions himself as this macho guy, but in reality, he’s a totally clumsy wimp. Uppa has been an experience for me. I don’t think I’ve ever met a horse with more personality. Some days, he absolutely loves being in the show arena, and others, he goes in there and says, “I’m so over this. Get me back to my food.” He has no problem being naughty (his favorite pastime is walking around on his two back legs) or telling me exactly what he thinks of me and my techniques. He’s a goofball and I’ve learned so much from him.
His favorite goodie… Well, he eats just about everything, but he especially loves doughnuts, muffins, and Gatorade. One time, while I was eating breakfast, I went to fix his blanket in turnout. As I leaned down, he took the doughnut right out of my hand and then looked at me like, “Well, where are the others?”
Sadie was our Rider of the Month for October and November of 2012