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What horses are you showing?
I’ll be going back to the show ring in the fall with Lonestar and
Bacchus.  They’re both Grand Prix horses, and we’ll be showing
in the CDIs.  Like every other Grand Prix rider in the country, my
goal for 2012 will be to go to the Olympic trials.
What have you learned from your longtime trainer
Betsy Steiner?
Betsy has been my friend and mentor for more than a decade
now.  I can literally read her mind during a training session.  I tell her
all the time, “I don’t know why you bother to speak.  I know exactly
what you’re going to ask me to do!”  From Betsy I have learned so
many important things:  the importance of developing a classical
seat and position; to love and appreciate the complexities of the
so-called “basic” work;  to ride not only with my body, but with my
mind and with my soul;  to be able to visualize the concepts we
talk about in theory, and to manifest them.  I’m incredibly blessed
to have such a teacher, and to have that teacher also be such a
loyal and true friend.
When you frst discovered dressage did you think you
would make it to the Grand Prix level?
Of course!  I would never think any other way!
What do you consider some of your riding highlights?
Oh, my goodness, there have been so many.  Qualifying
for Devon and regional championships at my very frst dressage
show -- which was Raleigh!  Scoring a 70 in my frst Prix St.
Georges that same summer. Placing twice in the open division at
Devon that fall.  Mastering riding that horse in a snaffe -- a goal
not for the faint of heart, I assure you!  Placing in my frst ever
Grand Prix with Feliki at the Gold Coast Opener in 2001, in a huge
open class.  Winning the Dressage Under the Stars Freestyle
Championship with her in 2010 after everyone had told me in
2007 that she would never come back from an injury and that I
should retire her.  Riding the Pas de Deux on Coco Chanel, with
Betsy on Feliki, for Team USA in the Challenge of the Americas in
2006.  We had three days to prepare that freestyle from scratch,
and it was our score that won the overall championship for the
team.  That was a magical evening, and will always be one of my
most cherished memories with Coco.
Do you have a favorite horse?
I have been absolutely blessed to have had some truly
extraordinary horses come to me.  My frst dressage horse,
D’Artagnon, was an extremely diffcult horse to ride, but I knew
when I bought him that he would make me a better rider, and he
did.  On him I went from never having ridden a test to being one
of the top amateur PSG riders in the country in just two seasons.
Then Feliki came to me.  I wasn’t looking for her.  I had to be
talked into buying her because I was afraid that at 13 I would have
only a couple of seasons with her.  She is 24 this year and still
challenges me every day to become better.  What I have learned
from her goes so far beyond riding.  She is my example of how
to live:  With ferce intent.  To never say never.  To never give in
without good reason.  And not to judge myself by a calendar. Coco
Chanel was special the way angels are special.  Bacchus has
continued the lessons Feliki began.  I was told in 2008 he would
never come back from a near-catastrophic suspensory injury, but
I stuck it out and stuck it out and stuck it out with him.  He came
back into real work a year ago, and he rewards me for my belief
in him every day.  Our best years are still to come. Lonestar has
given me trust and faith in my own abilities, not just as a rider, but
as a trainer.
You were injured not long ago, what happened?
That all started with my love for bad boys and sad stories of
talented, but misunderstood horses.  Rush Hour is a horse with a
wealth of talent, but a few unfortunate personality “quirks” I was
willing to deal with. Long story short, I took my attention off him
for a split second on a day I shouldn’t have, and he planted me in
the dirt with serious intent.  That’s no mean feat on his part.  I do
not come off horses but once every ten years or so, and not for
lack of trying on the horses part.  I don’t ride easy horses.  If there
isn’t a challenge in there somewhere, I’m not interested.  Anyway,
I blew out my left knee entirely and was very lucky not to have
broken my pelvis and/or my back (I was, however, solid purple
from waist to the back of my knee for almost two months.)  All told,
I was out of the saddle for the better part
of three months, and missed most of
the season.  I was extremely depressed
about it, but I also knew that I could have
very easily been killed that day, and I
wasn’t.  I was very lucky to avoid major
knee surgery, thanks to Dr. Craig Ferrell
at Vanderbilt Bone and Joint.  I’m back
riding full-on, three a day as of the end of
May.  The knee is still not stable laterally,
and will probably never be, but I can
ride, and that’s all I care about.
What are your riding goals?
My overall goal is continue to study
in the classical school and to be able to
help my horses to be all they can be.  In
the show ring, I want to have that little
American fag sewn onto the breast
pocket of my tailcoat.  I want to be 100
years old showing all the folks in the rest
home pictures of me riding in the big
shows in Europe.
You donated one of your
Tami may write spine-tingling thrillers, but she has a great sense of humor
Photo by Johnny Robb
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