This week I’m chatting with the young Italian international dressage rider Olivia Moriano. Based in London, Olivia is working hard, combining a degree course with riding . Read on to discover more about Olivia’s story to date…
Tell us a little about you and your horse
I’m a 21-year-old Italian dressage rider based in the UK. I am in my final year of my university degree studying banking and finance in London. I have represented Italy since 2015 and have been shortlisted for the Europeans in 2017, 2019 and 2020. Overall, I have attended 7 internationals at pony, junior and young rider level and I also train with Sarah Millis. Other than dressage and university, I love high fashion and I live between London and Surrey. With both my lifestyles, I love combining my passion for dressage with fashion.
My main horse is called Worldly Wise and he is a 16’3h German warmblood by Weltmere. He has competed up to inter 1 and is training Grand Prix. He previously competed for Great Britain before I started riding him 5 years ago. He is a gentle giant and loves to work. Despite being 20, he is moving better than ever and throughout our international career together, he has made so many of my dreams come true and will a part of my family forever.
How did horses come into your life?
Horses have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. My mother came from a horse background where her father used to train stunt horses for films. My mother’s passion for horses rubbed off on me since a young age. I started off having riding lessons and I fell in love with every horse I saw from then on and haven’t turned back since.
How long have you been riding?
I have been riding since I was 5 years old. I was a keen member of my local pony club where I mainly did show jumping and mounted games on my first pony called Wizzy, who we still have as a field companion today. As I got more competitive, I was given a pony on loan called Pearl who was hard to beat at mounted games. Those days I will never forget, especially as I made friends for life. I fell in love with dressage at 8 years old after getting a very competitive jumping thorough breed pony who was too much for me. This continued my love for riding and as I won more, the more passionate I got with dressage.
When and where do you ride?
I ride at my home in Guildford Surrey. I am very fortunate to have my horses based at my home where my mother and I look after them all. My parents built a beautiful arena for me before I reached international level (before I was training in my top field). With my current horse Worldly Wise (Will for short), we train 4 times a week and hack at least once a week. We also love doing pole work and making sure we add as much variety to our routines as possible. Despite Covid, we usually have a lesson twice a month around our competitions. My trainer gives us lots of work on, so I leave enough time to practice in-between lessons.
How did you start riding?
I started by having riding lessons to see if I was interested in horses when I was around 5 years old. A few years later and after some great years at pony club, I started riding competitively after getting a jumping pony who was too much for me. As jumping was not an option for a while, I turned to dressage to develop our relationship better and never looked back. We won several championships together and represented the South of England on numerous occasions. From then on, dressage has been my chosen discipline and I wouldn’t change it for the world.
What you and your horses currently working on?
We are currently working on perfecting the inter 1 test for the current season. I have found working on harder, more challenging movements helps us better our performance at PSG. With this in mind, I have also introduced some Grand Prix work, such as 1-time changes and passage to help with our collection and fluency. As well as riding in a snaffle instead of a double bridle more often, Will’s submission has improved greatly and his ability to move through his shoulder and better his elevation is better than ever before. I really cannot wait to compete again as our partnership has grown so much over lockdown.
What do you love about riding?
Riding is a feeling like no other. Having such a connection with a horse that trusts and responds to you is immensely rewarding. I love the reliance and trust a horse and rider have with each other and our ability to work as a team to ride the best test possible. Riding is very rewarding; for me teaching a horse some new movements, reflects their intelligence and how lucky we are to be around such gorgeous animals. Riding also fits in with my competitive nature, making just the smallest of achievements grow my love for this sport.
What you would you like to be doing in the future and do you have any goals?
As I finish my banking and finance degree in June, options are open to what I decide to do next with my career. As I cannot picture a life without horses, I am planning to continue riding at international level with my current horse but at small tour level. I am also on the search for another horse to be my next international prospect. I hope to develop my teaching from my yard and look out for a job to integrate my degree and the equine industry.
My goals for the future are to be the best rider I can be and to enjoy every second with my horses. I have the aim of competing at Grand Prix and one day reaching the Italian Olympic team. My short-term goals include representing Italy this year at small tour as I finished my last year as a young rider in 2020.
Have you ever had to deal with nerves in riding?
When I competed in my first international, I remember being extremely nervous as it was such a professional environment where I was competing amongst some big names. However now, I get nerves along with excitement when I compete. Also, as my team and I put so much effort and time into training and keeping the horses in top condition, I feel I need to justify this by doing my best as I know how lucky I am to do what I do.
Although, as covid has postponed so many of my competitions, when I got to compete before the last lockdown, I was so happy and relieved to be competing again, I relaxed so much and enjoyed every second of being in the competition atmosphere as I didn’t know when I would be doing it again.
How do you deal with them?
Over time, I have learnt to use my nerves in a positive way to perform at my best. As Will can feel everything I am doing, I need to control my nerves to make sure he also stays calm.
I control my nerves by just picturing myself in a bubble with my horse as we are the only influence on our performance. With competition experience, a structured warm up and routine helps me with nerves as I know exactly what is going on.
Your Top Tip
Enjoy every second in the saddle. Every competition, every training session is so important to achieving your goals, and no goal is too big. Building a connection with your horses is super important and despite what happens in a competition, to know you have achieved the smallest thing such as getting all clean changes, or a square halt are steppingstones to being the best you can be.
The Final Furlong
Who would be your dream horse to ride?
Very hard to choose! It would be a mix between Cathrine Dufour’s Cassidy, Edward Gal’s Glocks’s Toto Jr and Morgan Barbancon Mestre’s Gus.
Who is your equestrian hero?
Edward Gal has always been an inspiration to me. The connection he has with his horses and ability to ride so effectively amazes me every time I watch him. After meeting him when I was younger at Olympia, he had such a humble attitude despite all he has achieved.
If you could have 5 people to dinner, who would they be?
This is a hard question as I look up so many people who I would invite for dinner. However, due to covid, it would be amazing to have my close friends and family together after such a long time!
Favourite colour horse
Dark bay or black
Favourite horse event
Favourite event for riding has to be Hickstead CDI in the summer.
Other favourite events are Olympia or Windsor.
Italian food is all divine as I grew up with it and it always fills me up for when I have a busy day. My other favourite food is Chinese. My boyfriend and I just adore this after a long week as a treat and there are some great spots in London to eat at too!
Favourite way to relax
Relaxing is something I don’t have time to do much of due to my crazy schedule. However, watching a good Netflix series is always a great option to indulge into, or going out to dinner in London at one of my favourite restaurants with friends and family always makes me relax. A few times a year we always go to see my boyfriend’s family in the Bahamas which is the ultimate treat for us to relax and enjoy the sunshine. Also, in my spare time I play golf and padel tennis which I love as an alternative exercise to riding and is always great fun playing with family and friends.
The Holiday is my ultimate favourite film. Some parts were filmed where I went to college, it always makes me smile, laugh, and cry and is just the perfect storyline to capture why relationships are so special and why some are so unexpected.