This week I’m absolutely thrilled to be chatting with the amazing, German based, Australian Paralympian dressage rider Amelia White. Amelia who is heading to Tokyo shortly as part of the Australian Paralympic dressage team, switched from eventing to dressage following an accident when she was a teenager. Her story along with her ambition and determination is inspirational and I’m so grateful to her for taking the time out of her hectic schedule to chat with me prior to heading out to Tokyo. We hope you have an amazing and successful Olympics Amelia, and will be cheering you on every step of the way. Read on to find out more about this very talented young lady, her horses, and her life to date.
Tell us a little about you and your horse
Genius is a 10-year-old KWPN by Blue Hors Romanov x Don Schufro. Most of the time, he’s very much a Big Friendly Giant – he is 18.3hh – with a super cool, chilled personality though he is extremely motivated and happy to work. I think it’s very fair to say he is rather spoilt! I bought him jointly with my parents in 2019, and together we have trained up the levels to competing openly at PSG level, as well as FEI Grade V para dressage.
He is an absolute joy to be around, and I am very privileged to be able to share this journey with him.
How did horses come into your life?
I’m not from a horsey family and I remember begging my parents to buy me a pony from around age 5. Eventually, it was agreed upon that I would be allowed to have a few riding lessons and then my parents would see how interested I really was. They set me a challenge – to read, research and learn everything I could about horses. These were pre-google days so every weekend was spent in the public library. I imagine it took around 6 months and then I went to them one day and said I had kept my end of the bargain, and when was I going to start riding?
A few weeks later I toddled off to my very first lesson on an ageing school pony named Seamus with my bike helmet, purple track pants and black school shoes. It was the beginning of an adventure! From there, I got my very first pony at age 9 – a New Zealand bred riding pony by the name of Teddy. Together, we show jumped to 1.10m before I moved onto horses and went into eventing.
How long have you been riding?
I started my first lessons at age 8 and never stopped!
When and where do you ride?
I train between 4 and 6 days per week with Helen Langehanenberg. I am based at her stable in Germany.
How did you start riding?
I went to a local riding school to start learning after a bit of research about riding schools around the Sydney area. I had weekly lessons for around 6 months, learning all the basics and after I jumped for the first time, I fell in love and decided I wanted to continue showjumping. Not long after, the school horses were not quite up to jumping the heights I wanted to jump, so it was a good time to start looking for my first pony.
Together, we ended up jumping to 1.10m – not all that bad for a little pony of 13.2hh!
What you and your horse currently working on?
Training all things Tokyo at the moment! Genius’ program is very entrenched in routine at the moment with training days, days off, time for the fields and so on. Before the Games, we are really focusing on the small things, suppleness, and self-carriage. We are refining our training, my riding and maintaining our fitness.
What do you love about riding?
I love the challenge. Working with horses can be so incredibly challenging but immensely rewarding. I love how we work together every day and slowly build up to achieve the end goals you set for the partnership.
I also think it’s very hard to define what it is I specifically love about riding. For as long as I can remember, riding was/is something that I just HAVE to do. I’m not happy without horses in my life, in whatever form that may be. Just being around them every day makes me so incredibly happy. After my accident, and during the very extensive recovery phase, it was incredibly difficult to get through my day without riding. It was also during this time that I made as very conscious decision to not give up, to push through and get better so I could ride again.
The first moment I sat back on my big, grey eventer is something I won’t ever forget.
What you would you like to be doing in the future and do you have any goals?
I always have goals! Obviously, Tokyo was and still is such a huge goal. I think it’s very easy to lose sight of where you want to be after a selection to a Games. For me, I would love to think about increasing the number of horses I have as right now, I just have one. My goal is to get myself more established in the higher levels of open dressage, beginning with an international small tour start. What’s life without a bit of a challenge? Looking further ahead, the World Equestrian Games are just around the corner and another team selection would be incredible.
Away from horses, I am beginning my professional career as a lawyer, so I certainly have some “legal goals” to move up in the law industry.
Have you ever had to deal with nerves in riding?
Yes! In my eventing days, after a few serious falls, I really lost my nerve. It got very bad after I had fallen during a showjumping competition and ended up in an induced coma on life support in the hospital. I returned to riding, but the nerves were incredibly bad. I didn’t realise how it had affected me.
I would get incredibly worried a week before the competition that only got worse the closer I got to the start box. It took many years to overcome these nerves, but they also carried across to my dressage career for a while. I won’t say they ever truly went away, which in my opinion isn’t a bad thing – a little nerves can help you to perform at your best.
How do you deal with them?
Finding a routine really helped. I just went to competition after competition and developed my own “show routine”. This helped me build confidence, and I surrounded myself with the right people to support me through it all. Preparation was key as I trained harder at home, and then the show became easier. The horses became more confident, and I rode with a lot less nervous pressure on myself. Now, even more so with the Games looming, it’s very important to channel this feeling into something positive that you can use. My nerves are more excitement!
In the words of my trainer: panicking about it will not make it any easier on yourself, so just enjoy it!
Your Top Tip
Practice the difficult things. Eventually they get easier.
The Final Furlong
Who would be your dream horse to ride?
I would have loved to have ridden Charisma from Mark Todd or Peppermint Grove from Gillian Rolton.
Who is your equestrian hero?
I really admire Helen Langehanenberg, and I’m incredibly fortunate to also train with her.
If you could have 5 people to dinner, who would they be?
Amelia Earhart, Audrey Hepburn, Julie Andrews, Kate Mulgrew and Carrie Fisher
Favourite colour horse?
I cannot resist a dapple grey! Sadly, you don’t see many of them in dressage.
Favourite horse event
I hope I will be able to say that my absolute favourite horse event will be the Tokyo Games! Although the competition CHI Al Shaqab in Doha, Qatar is also a very firm favourite.
My mum’s chicken schnitzel and my Oma’s German potato salad
Favourite way to relax
When I find out, I’ll let you know!
I’m old school and love “The Sound of Music” and “My Fair Lady”.