Competing against the country’s top riders doesn’t faze Brandi Roenick. When Steffen Peters and Guenter Seidel kidded her about moving up into the big leagues from the junior ranks at the Festival of the Horse CDI-W/Y/J in Burbank, CA, the 16-year-old says she just laughed and said, “I’m having fun.” Going toe-to-toe with the best comes naturally to Brandi, whose father is retired NHL hockey star Jeremy Roenick and whose mother is Tracy Roenick, herself an accomplished dressage rider and trainer. “Having a professional athlete as your parent can be stressful — they expect a lot from you because of their accomplishments,” says Brandi. “But my dad just wants me to try hard and do my best.”
It’s safe to say that doing her best probably means a little something different to Brandi Roenick than it does to other teenagers her age. She rode two horses at the Burbank CDI (her own Pretty Lady, a 12-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare by Iglesias out of Ivonne, and her mother’s horse Nobel, a 16-year-old Dutch gelding by Rohdiamant out of Hestella) and competed in five classes, including the FEI Intermediaire Freestyle (her first), for which the judges awarded her and Nobel a 64.750%. With Pretty Lady she won the FEI Young Riders Team Test, with a score of 66.974% and was second in the FEI Young Riders Individual Test, with 65.833%. Not bad, particularly given the fact that she’d suffered a torn tendon in her left rotator cuff two weeks ago and was riding in pain.
Tracy Roenick marvels at her daughter’s poise and determination. “Jeremy and I are both very competitive, and Brandi’s seen how hard Jeremy’s worked to be on top,” she says. “Brandi’s very competitive in the ring, but she doesn’t care about the ribbons. You can’t teach that.”
Roenick, who lives with her parents and younger brother, Brett, in Scottsdale, AZ, is a sophomore in high school. Homeschooling allows her to train with her mother as well as with Steffen Peters, which requires weekly trips from Arizona to Shannon and Steffen Peters’ barn in San Diego. “It’s a lot of traveling,” laughs Roenick, who’s worked with Peters for four years. That sounds like a long time for someone who’s only 16, until you consider that Roenick has been riding almost as long as she could walk. “When I was 3 my mom put me on her Grand Prix horse,” says Brandi. “I got my first pony when I was 4 — he took off on me every day, but it taught me confidence. I started dressage when I was 6.”
In 2008 Roenick and Pretty Lady took home individual and team gold medals at the North American Junior & Young Riders Championships (NAJYRC) in Colorado, and last year she took Nobel to the NAJYRC Championships in Kentucky. No matter where she competes, Roenick says, “I’m honestly just looking to get clean rides with my horses. If I can have a 64% or a 65% average, that’s ideal, but the placing doesn’t bother me.”
“I’ve learned a lot from my father — he’s taught me to be a good sportsman and to cheer on my competitors,” she adds. “No matter what the outcome is, I’m always proud of my horses. At the end of the day, my horses always make me happy.”