Allie Cyprus, a 17-year-old high school senior from Magnolia, Texas, went down centerline with her 11-year old Welsh Cob Madoc Gareth (Sydenham Henry x Okeden Mai) and competed against the pros in the open classes at the 2015 U.S. Dressage Finals. The two took on tough competition in the Fourth Level Championship, Fourth Level Freestyle Championship and the Prix St. Georges Championship classes. They scored in the 60s in all the classes and placed in the ribbons in the freestyle class with a 68 percent.
Cypus was ready to move up to Young Riders, but because her horse is not a big Warmblood, she wanted to take a year to confirm him at Prix St. Georges. Her trainer, Nancy Hinz, suggested she compete in Open classes and Cyprus and Gareth moved up the ranks from local, to regional to the national show. It was her first year to show at the finals and said it’s a bit rattling to go up against the big boys and girls, but she knew she could handle it.
“It’s a little intimidating but my horse grows,” she said. “He goes from 15.3 to 16 hands. My trainer says, ‘You know he’s little but he looks like one of the big guys out there.’ I feel confident and I work hard. There are amazing riders and great quality horses, so it’s different than regionals, but I felt ready to compete. It’s intimidating in the warm-up with six giant Warmbloods, but you just have to stay on your line and go. You can’t let intimidation get to you. My mind has to be on the job.”
Cypus credits a lot of her confidence to Lendon Gray’s Dressage4Kids (D4K) program, which encourages riders under 21 to grow in their horsemanship through a variety of learning opportunities and programs. She has participated in the D4K Emerging Dressage Athletes Program (EDAP) as well as the Robert Dover Horsemastership Clinic held in Florida in January.
At the last EDAP clinic held in the Houston area, Gray allowed Cyprus to shadow her while she instructed riders. Cyprus has been teaching and conducted a clinic for beginning 10 to 12-year-old riders, so she took notes as she imagined what she would say to the riders. Later, Gray and Cyprus dissected the notes and Gray took the time to explain why cshe hose her words during the clinic. “Lendon was amazing,” Cyprus said. “That was a great experience and I learned a lot.”
Cyprus, who has already been accepted to Texas A&M University to study Animal Science with an emphasis on animal nutrition, will head to South Florida for the January Robert Dover Horsemastership Clinic held at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center. This will be her fourth year to participate in the event in which some of the top names in high-performance dressage give lessons and Gray arranges for other horse professionals from farriers to saddle fitters to speak to the participants.
The 2016 line-up includes Steffen Peters, Laura Graves, U.S. Team veterinarian Dr. Rick Mitchell, Jane Savoie, judge Janet Foy, sports psychologist Laura King, journalist Ken Braddick, master saddle fitter Charlie Tota, international competitor Endel Ots, and Kimberly Herslow, a member of Gold Medal-winning U.S. dressage team at the 2015 Pan American Games in Canada.
“Dressage4Kids gives us so many opportunities,” Cyprus said. “With Robert Dover and all the clinicians they bring in--I would never be able to learn from those people if it weren’t for Lendon and her program.
“I liked the chiropractor and anything for the health of the horse,” she said of the 2015 clinic. “A lot of us don’t pay attention to our horses and our trainers or parents look after them. I think when we start to get to our young adult years, we need to pay attention and be able to talk to the vet.”
Cypus, who plans to take her horse through Young Riders and on to the Brentina Cup, is thankful for the variety of scholarships the D4K program awards and has applied for one to train with Pam Goodrich in Florida before the Jan. 5 start of the Robert Dover Horsemastership Clinic. Goodrich trains Cyprus’ trainer, Nancy Hinz. “That could be really expensive, but Lendon is awesome with all the sponsorships she gives to make it very affordable for everybody,” Cyprus said. “They may have the time but not the money. I’m hoping to get a scholarship to help pay my way. Keep your fingers crossed!”