Lexington, Ky. – November 9, 2014 - Adult amateurs like Christine Ekstrand from Santa Monica, Calif., juggle careers, family and homes to pursue their horse passion. Ekstrand, the super mom of doing it all, is the mother of seven children, an orthopedic surgeon and the Reserve Champion of Saturday’s Third Level Adult Amateur class at the U.S. Dressage Finals presented by Adequan. She and Braxxton, her own 7-year-old Hanoverian gelding (by Baroncelli out of Rosana by Rotspon), earned a 67.479 percent to come in second behind Rachael Hicks and Don Cartier who earned a 70.342 percent. Ekstrand was accompanied by three of her seven children, her mother, Gudrun Pappe from Germany and two horses to the Finals at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington. “Being an amateur, you really have to juggle your life,” she said. As the mother of three sets of twins, her four pregnancies took time away from her riding. “Between surgery, the kids and riding, I just juggle the balls and grow arms like an octopus. It puts us in a different situation. It’s something we do for ourselves and you have to have a supportive family to pull it off."
She tries to maintain independence in her training by trailering in with people who are classically trained in the German style of riding so that she can maintain her autonomy while making riding fit around her “other life.” She said she learns different things from a variety of trainers and uses the information to personalize her instruction.
Her children who accompanied her, Erica, 12, Sophia, 12, and Markus, 10, said they are very proud of their mother, who teaches them how to ride. Of the seven children, the three who accompanied their mother to Kentucky are the horse crazy ones. Marcus also has a twin plus there are two 7-year-old girls and a 5-year-old brother at home where their father is holding down the fort. They speak Swedish and German at home and English at school.
“On the weekends we go riding with her,” Markus said. “She helps us with some stuff and then we help her. We help each other.”
Erica said, “We just want to support her because she’s our mom.” Although none of the children compete in dressage, they are competitive in tennis. Both of their parents went to college on tennis scholarships, but their mother doesn’t help them with that skill.
Elkstrand said she came to the Finals in Kentucky because it’s something special for the amateurs who need to know that they can do it too. “It’s possible,” she said of coming to the show, “but you do need good support. You need the backbone at home.”
Hicks, from Prescott, Ky., also won first and second in the Fourth Level Adult Amateur Championship with a 71.750 percent on Fabio Bellini 9 (by Furst Heinrich out of Dakota by Davignon I), an 8-year-old Westphalian gelding, and a 70.458 percent on Don Cartier (by Don Schufro our of Carmina by Cartier), a 7-year-old Rheinlander stallion.
“I have three young kids, 7-year-old twins and an 8-year-old,” she said. “I have a very finite amount of time.” She is very hands-on with her farm but when the children get out of school, she goes back into mom mode, ferrying them to gymnastics and karate lessons.
“The great thing is that I have a really supportive family,” she said. She also relies on her mother to help out. “The barn is about a mile from the kids’ school and I’m lucky that they enjoy hanging out at the barn.”
Hicks sometimes has a Facetime lesson with her trainer, Caroline Roffman, who lives in Florida. She said Roffman stays on her and checks in with her when she hasn’t heard from Hicks in a few days.
Jessica Iorio was Reserve Champion with a 68.810 percent in the Second Level Adult Amateur Championships on her own Roulette (by Loerke out of Penelope), a 10-year-old Hanoverian mare. She is a stay-at-home mom with three boys under 7 who uses lists to keep herself well-organized. “It’s my only time for me,” she said. “It’s tough but we planned it and I have a very supportive family.
Patti Blackmore from Louisiana. Mo., was Second Level Champion on Rubico (by Rotspon out of Wiebella), her own 9-year-old Hanoverian gelding, with a 71.905 percent. She is a small animal veterinarian and the mother of two girls. “I’m extremely organized,” she said. “I have two horses ridden before work in the morning. That way, I am home when the kids get home. I have to make my list and stick to my list.” She, too, counts on her husband and her children to help.
Viki Meyers from Russellville, Ark., is a Regional Sales Manager with International Paper who has the support of her sales team and the people at her barn. She and her own Gold Flash, a 6-year-old Hanoverian gelding (by Gold Luck out of Davinia), were Reserve Champions in the First Level Adult Amateur Championship, a highly competitive class with 33 entries. After working a 10-hour day, she drives an hour each way to her barn and makes a four-hour trek once a month to train with Kim Gentry, who is located outside of Memphis, Tenn.
Meyers was touched that her friends from the barn made the effort to drive to Kentucky to cheer her on during her class. “It’s like an 11 or 12 hour drive - just to see me,” she said. “They drove to watch one test outside in the cold. That’s a great barn."