This week I’m delighted to be chatting with the talented young American dressage rider Alicia Berger. Based at US Olympian, Jan Ebeling’s family run farm in America, Alicia is working hard and enjoying the success that her talent deserves. She is certainly one to watch. Read on to discover more about Alicia, her ambitions, and her top tips for success.
Tell us about you and your horses
My name is Alicia Berger, and I am an eighteen year-old American dressage rider from Chicago. I just graduated high school, and I will be attending Johns Hopkins for Mechanical Engineering and Pre-Med. I currently have two horses, Trust Me, a PSG Danish warmblood, and Floriano HB, a small tour Westfalen. Both are super sweet, and love being a pet more than anything in life, except maybe carrots.
How did your horses come into your life?
Three years ago, my parents and I were looking for a new horse for me to try to make NAYC. We met Trust Me in Florida shortly after he had recently been imported from Denmark. He was unlike any horse I had ever ridden, and I knew he would take me far and teach me so many lessons. He was my first warmblood, I had previously been riding baroque horses, and he taught me so much! He also took me to my first USDF finals, and then to my first NAYC competition.
I met Floriano thanks to my new training family- the Eblings. My sister bought a horse named Bellini; she is an amazing horse that was owned and trained by the Ebeling’s. In our short initial interaction with Amy Ebling, she knew I needed another horse. Although Amy only watched me ride a few times, she knew the exact horse that I needed; she found Floriano for us a few weeks later on her trip to Germany. We bought Floriano from Amy’s recommendation, without riding him first. Amy was 100% right, and I am so grateful to her and my amazing parents for getting Floriano for me.
How long have you been riding?
I have been riding horses for pleasure for just over ten years, but I only started showing dressage four years ago.
When and where do you ride?
As of recently, I am lucky enough to ride with Jan Ebeling. In a few short months, he has already taught me so much, but it should not be discounted how much I learn from watching other people ride around me. I am incredibly fortunate in that I get to watch Ben Ebeling, Tamara Michei, and several fabulous adult amateurs train and school every day. I have found that sometimes I learn just from emulating the way other great riders ride.
I have the fantastic opportunity to ride a few of the other Grand Prix horses that are at the farm. In particular, one of the people at the barn, Ann, has been so incredibly supportive and generous. She allows me to ride some of her Grand Prix horses and has been a wonderful mentor to me.
How did you start riding?
When I was younger, I fell in love with the horses when my dad took me the nutcracker on horseback. The way they danced and floated across the ground, their power and fitness, their beauty and elegance, everything I saw made me want to ride, so when I was eight, my mom took me to a barn. She had grown up around horses, so she was more than happy to show me around. She took me to my first lesson with the hope that I would learn how to ride well enough to be safe on any trail rides I did when I was older. From the first time I got on a horse, I loved the feeling of riding, and I never wanted to get off. Neither of us would have ever guessed that a decade later, I would be pursing my dreams in dressage the way I am now.
What are you and your horses currently working on?
We are currently working on better connection and impulsion with both horses – everything flows from that basic task. Specifically, I am working on my NAYC tests with Floriano and PSG with Trust Me.
What do you love about riding?
I love the feeling of freedom that I have on a horse, the feeling of flying above the ground. I loved the power I felt as the horse leaped forward and took me with him, charging forward with grace. I loved how riding made me feel about myself, like I was unstoppable and on top of the world.
What would you like to be doing in the future, and do you have any goals?
My Immediate goal is to make and do well at NAYC this summer. My overarching goal is to continue to evolve and get better at dressage, my true passion.
Have you ever had to deal with nerves in riding?
Absolutely. I think everyone has a point where they feel some nerves, especially when you’re competing for something you’re passionate about.
How do you deal with them?
I got a sports psychologist; it was one of the best decisions I made. I used to think, oh, I don’t need someone to help me; I got it. And I would work through it eventually, but at least for me, a sports psychologist streamlines and speeds up the process of dealing with those nerves so I can do what I love, ride.
Your Top Tip
My top tip would be to ride the movement you are on. It’s easy to think about the last moment and get caught up in it, and I do it all the time. The problem is that movement is done, and in thinking about it, you forget to ride the movement you’re on.
Down The Centre Line
Who would be your dream horse to ride?
Obviously, Valegro, the highest scoring horse of all time. However, I see Rafalca, Jan Ebling’s Olympic horse, every day at the barn. While she is retired, I imagine what it would be like to ride her – so close, yet so far!
Who is your equestrian hero?
Again, it is impossible not to want to be Charlotte Dujardin, a young and outgoing women rider who owns the record for dressage score. However, watching Ben and Jan Ebling, and being part of their family and team, makes me admire them so much!
Favorite colour horse?
Black with four white socks
Favourite horse event?
As a rider, making NAYC as a junior last year was my favourite event ever. I was so happy to make it there and so happy to make the final day of freestyle. It is the high point of my competition so far.
I have always dreamed of going to Aachen, but I’ve never had the chance to go. I’m getting the chance to go this summer, and I’m quite confident it will be my favourite horse event ever.
Does coffee count as a food?
Favourite way to relax?
I love catching up with friends
If you enjoyed meeting Alicia you might like to view more dressage rider “chatting with” interviews here You can keep up with Alicia’s progress and check out her instagram page here