This week I’m chatting with dressage rider and trainer, Annie Phillips. Based in California, USA, Annie is passionate about developing the building blocks of a harmonious dressage partnership that bring confidence to both horse and rider. She teaches her methods at the Arriba Vista Ranch in Sunol and spends her time competing, training and coaching at training clinics as well as virtual instruction. Annie holds a B.S. degree in equine studies with a specialization in equine training from Delaware Valley University. She has also completed a M.Ed. with a specialization in athletics from Goucher College while managing their equestrian facility and aiding in the development of their equine studies minor. This combination of formal training, equine management background, and years of practical experience has formed her unique approach as a dressage trainer. Read on to discover more about Annie’s story to date…
Tell us a little about you and your horses
I am a dressage trainer in the San Francisco bay area in beautiful and sunny California. I own two mares personally, Conflora (Lily) and Sonora (Nora). Lily is a petite US Hanoverian mare (Contucci x Fuerst Von Feur) with a heart of gold and a work ethic to match. Nora is a young Oldenburg powerhouse (Soprano x Donnerhall) and just learning how to use her powers for good. They are very different mares, with very different strengths, but I adore and treasure them both equally.
How did your horses come into your life?
They both found me, I was not in search of a horse when either came into my life. I believe everything happens for a reason and that horses are here to teach us. I think both came into my life when I needed them most.
How long have you been riding?
I first began riding when I was 6 and bought my very first horse of my own at 16.
When and where do you ride?
I ride at Arriba Vista Ranch in Sunol, California. I work them five days a week. Typically, one of those days is a cavaletti or hack day, if weather allows. My horses are also turned out daily, I think it is crucial for their physical and mental well-being to be allowed this free time outside.
How did you start riding?
I started riding at a small lesson barn in my neighborhood as a young child. I experimented with hunters, jumpers, eventing, and starting young TBs before I discovered the wonders of dressage. Once I sat on my first dressage horse I was hooked! There is no feeling like it in the world. I cherish and chase that glorious feeling every day!
What you and your horses currently working on?
Currently with Lily we are schooling third level and some fourth level movements and learning half- steps. Nora is just beginning her dressage journey. In her short life has had to rehab from bilateral hock OCD surgery as well as a back injury. After two long years of rehab and recovery she is starting the fundamentals of dressage and thriving!
What you would you like to be doing in the future and do you have any goals?
I would love to see both of my girls move up the levels, but I recently have gotten a lot of fulfilment from the podcast, Equestrienne Podcast (@equestrienne_podcast), that I have started with my best friend and co-host Caroline Brockman. Caroline, a barrel racer from Virginia, and I chat about how a growth mindset has benefited both of our endeavours as equestriennes.
Have you ever had to deal with nerves in riding?
Yes! I think we all have to battle nerves in some way. Whether it is getting back on after a fall, riding with a new clinician, or riding down the centerline with all of your peers watching; we ride 1,200 lb animals for sport, so something is bound to unnerve us at some point.
How do you deal with them?
I do a lot of visualising to help combat my nerves. I see how things can do well, and I imagine how things turn out in my favour and choose to focus on how an event can turn out in my favour rather than let it unravel me. I also do a lot of visualization before I show. I ride the test numerous times in my head before I go down the centerline so that by the time I’m actually competing, it feels like I’ve done it before.
Your Top Tip
Always believe that hard work pays off.
The Final Furlong
Who would be your dream horse to ride?
Who is your equestrian hero?
Oh gosh, there are so many fantastic top riders to look up to! I would have to say Laura Graves! I am so inspired by her journey with Diddy. If I can give a second- Debbie McDonald.
If you could have 5 people to dinner, who would they be?
Fallon Taylor, Carl Hedin, Jim Carrey, Laura Graves, Charlotte Dujardin. What a dinner!
Favourite colour horse
I love a dark bay!
Favourite horse event
Any Olympic games makes me weepy.
Sweets! I have such a terrible sweet tooth that I have to fight daily.
Favourite way to relax
Spending a good date night with my husband Mike and furry babies!
Anything Jim Carrey! I grew up loving anything Jim.