Five-year-old Stacy Parvey was an avid animal lover and her mother, Cathy, had always enjoyed pleasure horses, so the two found a shared love when they started taking riding lessons together at a local boarding barn. “It was our mother-daughter activity. My dad and my brother had baseball,” recounts Stacy. The pair each bought a horse and by age six, Stacy was competing her Arabian gelding in English, Western, Hunters, and Jumpers. Her mother accompanied Stacy to horse shows almost every weekend. The Parveys’ trainer in their hometown of Fort Myers, Florida was Elaine Hollis, who used dressage as the basis for teaching several disciplines. “We did leg yields even when we were riding Western Pleasure,” Stacy points out. “Dressage was always my foundation even before I chose it as my sport.” Stacy advanced her horsemanship when Elaine and Cathy launched a 4-H Club and she became an active member. Stacy also credits Elaine and her mother with bringing dressage to their hometown, noting, “My mom was one of the first to own a Warmblood in Fort Myers.”
The tipping point for Stacy’s lifelong involvement with dressage was her introduction at age 12 to the late Jill Hassler of Hilltop Farm. Elaine audited a clinic given by Jill and determined that the Parveys could benefit from her training. Cathy and Stacy hosted clinics with Jill at their farm. Jill invited Stacy to the intensive summer camp at Hilltop and at age 13, Stacy and her mare JJ went to the Maryland farm. “I would watch Scott Hassler ride Cabaret, Cor Noir, and Parabol and strive to ride like him on my Appendix Quarter Horse!” Stacy recalls. “I saw what upper level dressage was all about. It was fascinating to me.” Stacy also went to Wellington, Florida that year to watch Scott compete in the Pan American Games Selection Trials. “It was all very exciting. I felt like that’s what I wanted to do,” says Stacy. “The Hasslers took me in as part of their family. It’s been that way ever since.”
For five consecutive summers, Stacy went to Hilltop Farm for training camp. During the rest of the year, she rode at her parents’ farm, which has an Olympic size dressage ring and a lovely six-stall shed-row barn. “My parents would buy the “fixer-upper” horses that had training issues and with the help of Elaine Hollis, I trained them,” Stacy recounts. “The idea was to then sell the horse, make a little profit, and buy a little bit more advanced horse; because of my attachment to each horse I wasn’t very happy about the idea. I developed a seat very quickly and each horse taught me so much. In the end it was a very good education. When I started dressage, I began at Training Level and rode all through the levels. My parents did not want me to have any holes in my education. It was also important to Jill that I had a clear understanding of each level and what was expected of me and the horse.”
After high school Stacy moved to Hilltop Farm to be a working student. She rode horses, groomed for the Hasslers, rode her own horses and trained with Scott Hassler for two-and-a-half years. She set her sights on the North American Young Riders Championships. “I had a lot of traumatic experiences,” she says. “My Young Riders horse had navicular disease and we had to send him home.” Stacy then brought her Thoroughbred mare Finesse to Hilltop. “She was an extremely talented horse that Jill found for me, but she was too nervous,” Stacy recounts. Stacy acquired a promising horse that Hilltop imported from Holland, but tragedy struck when the gelding fell on the pavement and died from a staph infection. “My parents were very supportive in trying to find the horse to compete in Young Riders,” Stacy says. “Then I was 21 and it was too late.” Stacy still owns JJ and Finesse –the mares are in their twenties and retired at her parents’ farm.
While Stacy endured heartbreaking challenges, she also advanced her life positively. She attended community college part-time. “My dad is a successful attorney and it was very important to him for both kids to go to college. I wanted to fulfill his expectations for me,” Stacy explains. In 1998, Stacy met Olof Larsson, a Swedish Combined Driving champion. The duo became friends and stayed in touch. In 1999, Olof took a job in Ocala as Barn Manager for U.S. Equestrian Team driver Chester Weber and encouraged Stacy to return to Florida. In 2000, Stacy moved back to Fort Myers where she could ride at her parents’ farm and be near her new boyfriend. Stacy and Olof married in 2005. Stacy notes, “The most important relationship I’ve made through the horses is the relationship between my husband and me.”
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