By Laura Scaletti
Portraits by Lindsey Long
International-level dressage rider Amelia Newcomb is committed to making dressage accessible to anyone who wants to learn and improve in the sport. With a mantra of “Dressage for All,” Amelia, her husband, Germán Schneider, and the rest of her team at Amelia Newcomb Dressage believe that anyone and everyone can learn to love their ride.
With over 100,000 YouTube subscribers around the globe, Amelia is able to share her joy and enthusiasm for the sport with more equestrians than she ever dreamed of through her online training platform. Amelia’s curriculum breaks riding down into a simple, proven system that anyone can follow and get results, regardless of age, discipline or location.
“My goal is to make good dressage training accessible to everyone who is interested in learning. One way I do that is by producing quality videos to educate and encourage dressage students along their dressage journey,” Amelia said. “The transformations that my students get are insane and my business is changing the entire sport of dressage and the way people learn to ride.”
While Amelia is a talented USDF Gold, Silver and Bronze medalist today, she knows the struggles associated with trying to make your way in the sport without abundant educational resources. “I grew up in Colorado, where there weren’t that many dressage resources available. I was so hungry for knowledge, I would go to big shows just to watch the big-named trainers work,” Amelia said. “That’s why, when given the opportunity to share what I’ve learned along the way, I decided to go for it and start my YouTube channel.”
Amelia’s journey into the world of dressage started when she was gifted riding lessons for her 11th birthday. “My friends were riding, so for my birthday, I got four riding lessons and it was all downhill from there,” she chuckled. “Once I started, you couldn’t get me off of a horse.”
Well, her instructors and parents couldn’t get her off of a horse, but her mounts had other ideas. “The first year I was riding, I fell off 13 times. I was so bad that my trainer told my mom I should just quit and give up because I wasn’t naturally talented at riding,” Amelia said.
Those unplanned dismounts didn’t deter Amelia. Instead of throwing in the towel and taking up a new sport, Amelia stuck with it. At 14, she got her first horse, Geronimo, a 4-year-old Dutch Warmblood. “Probably not the best horse for a novice teenager to get, a nice green warmblood,” she said.
Shortly after getting Geronimo, Amelia’s dream of owning a horse became a bit of a nightmare as he developed a bad rearing habit. While Amelia’s dressage trainer suggested selling him, Amelia was determined to “fix” Geronimo. To do this, Amelia had to step away from the dressage world and get back to basics with Geronimo.
“We sent him to an incredible natural horseman, Larry Fleming. He completely restarted Geronimo with lots of groundwork, putting a rope halter on and teaching him to give in to pressure and lead properly. It was a long road for Geronimo, but eventually he got to the point that I could ride him without him rearing,” Amelia said.
During her detour from the dressage world, Amelia learned a lot of natural horsemanship skills that she still uses today, including how to start young horses and deal with difficult horses. She even got involved with reining and learned how to rope. “I won a ranch roping competition on Geronimo and a dressage show in the same summer,” Amelia said.
Thanks to her patience and willingness to learn what was best for Geronimo, Amelia eventually was able to transform him into a FEI-level dressage horse. “Working with Geronimo was a big turning point in my horsemanship journey. Although my dressage trainer had suggested we get rid of him because he had all these problems, there really wasn’t anything wrong with Geronimo. It was the approach we were using to train him,” Amelia said. “I learned to communicate differently with him, in a way he could understand, rather than just blaming him, getting a new horse or giving up on him.”
Amelia Newcomb Dressage
While going to the University of Colorado, Amelia not only focused on her molecular biology studies but she also kept riding and training as studies allowed. “I’m very disciplined and a hard worker. I would get up early in the morning, go to the barn to ride a few horses before classes started and study on my lunch break. Horses and riding have always been a priority in my life; even in college, I made that a priority,” Amelia said.
Once Amelia graduated, she couldn’t find a job with her degree, so she just kept riding and training horses. Thanks to the time spent at the barn riding and training during college, Amelia had enough clients to become a full-time professional dressage trainer.
Although she doesn’t use her degree daily, Amelia believes her college experience gave her a lot of skills that have been useful in her equestrian career. “In college I learned how to work really hard. I learned how to study and be dedicated to difficult subjects like organic chemistry. I carry on those skills in both my riding and career: to be dedicated and not give up, no matter how hard things get,” Amelia said.
After working in Colorado for four years, Amelia decided to relocate her business to California in 2009. “A big reason I moved to California was to have access to the top trainers. It was very difficult, though; I didn’t have any clients or a lot of money, so it was a huge leap of faith,” Amelia said. “My mom has always told me to do what I love and follow my dreams, so I took her advice when I made the move.”
Today Amelia operates her Amelia Newcomb Dressage in-person training business at Fox Canyon Farm in Somis, California. “I offer full training, have clients I teach, train horses for clients and have three of my own horses I compete,” Amelia said.
A key to Amelia’s training philosophy is working to create harmony between horse and rider. “What I love most about dressage is the bond and partnership you develop with your horse. It’s a long and slow journey that takes years and years, to train a horse to the upper levels of dressage,” Amelia said. “I’ve learned to just be patient and enjoy the journey, as opposed to always focusing on moving up a level or winning at shows. I love the process of creating the partnership.”
As Amelia was getting to know dressage trainers and riders in California, she met her now-husband, Germán Schneider. “When we first met, I was very clear with him that horses were my priority. So, if he was OK with being second to the horses, he could stick around,” Amelia said. “It’s super important to have a partner who is supportive of you and your passion. I couldn’t do what I do without his support.”
In 2018, Amelia started making dressage educational videos to post on YouTube. “It started out as a passion project where I decided I was going to make a new YouTube video each week. I didn’t really think that someone could learn to ride online; it just seemed crazy to me. Little by little, as my subscribers grew, I started to see that it was possible to actually help people with their riding over the internet,” Amelia said.
At first, Amelia simply wanted to share what she had learned along the way through her experiences with Geronimo and others. However, once she saw people could learn virtually, she started making more structured free and paid programming.
When COVID-19 caused horse shows and barns around the world to come to a standstill and everyone was locked down, Amelia saw her online business blow up. “During the pandemic, a lot of people started watching my videos and writing in to tell me how the videos had helped them so much and they’d learned more from me and my videos than they had from years and years of traditional lessons,” Amelia said. “I’ve always wanted to help people improve their riding and find a better way to communicate with their horses, so to be able to reach a bigger audience and help a lot more people is very exciting.”
Each Wednesday, Amelia uploads a new free video on her YouTube channel. “Usually, it’s just a tip to help you with your riding. It can go from something very basic and simple to more advanced. We also have a Facebook group, to go along with our YouTube channel, called Amelia’s Dressage Club where members can reach out and ask for help and we offer support,” she said.
Amelia also offers more structured courses via her website including competition dressage courses, targeted workshops, USDF accredited masterclasses, private one-on-one zoom training and Strides With Amelia.
“Strides is my ongoing subscription program where riders stay in the program month after month and have lifetime access. I have one student in Japan who sends me videos every month. I watch the videos, give her homework, she watches the exercises I recommend and it’s amazing to see the progress she’s made with her horse. She doesn’t have a trainer in Japan, so to know that I’m helping someone on the other side of the world virtually is pretty incredible and amazing,” Amelia said.
Through her online programs Amelia feels like she’s bridging a gap and making the sport more accessible for anyone and everyone who wants to learn. “It’s really important to me that people feel like I’m there for them. I don’t care if they have a super-fancy horse or they’re going to the Olympics, all that matters is if they want to learn and are willing to put the time in,” she said. “If so, I can help them with their horses.”
While Amelia started the online offerings as a one-woman show, she’s thankful to have a big support team to help her get everything done both in the barn and online. A key member of that team is Germán.
“Germán has his own clients; however, over the years I’ve gotten him more and more involved in the online stuff. People really enjoy when he comes online with me, because he’s very funny and he explains concepts differently than I do,” Amelia said. “He definitely adds a different perspective to the business and content than I bring, so it’s wonderful to have him be part of it.”
When not helping others get the most out of their dressage ride and horses, Amelia can be found working with her three horses, Harvey, Kensington and Luigi. Amelia bought each of them as young horses and has worked toward training them up the levels. Harvey is 11 this year doing Grand Prix; Kensington is 8 doing Prix St. George; and Luigi is 7 doing Fourth Level. “I just love training young horses up the levels,” she said.
As part of her “Dressage for All” mission, Amelia believes it’s very important to continue her own education and competing because that’s what allows her to be in touch with her students and how they are feeling. Amelia frequently trains with Johann Hinneman with all three of her mounts.
“Let’s face it, dressage and riding is really hard. It can be very discouraging, and I think it’s really important that we’re all here for one another, supportive and encouraging,” Amelia said. “Sometimes we just need a little support from another horse friend when we’re having a hard time. I hope my Amelia Newcomb Dressage community provides that for riders.”
While Amelia would love to compete internationally one day, right now she’s enjoying the journey. “I’ve worked really hard to build up my business in order to be able to afford my three horses. I just love figuring out their different personalities and finding out how to bring out the best in them based on their personality. I’m a big believer that every horse that comes into your life teaches you something different about yourself, so I’m just trying to learn from each of them,” she said.
Through her hard work, Amelia was the 2021 winner of The Dressage Foundation Carol Lavell Advanced Dressage Prize and is a member of the USEF Dressage Development Program with Harvey. Through these recognitions in the sport, Amelia hopes to continue to train her horses up the competition ranks.
As Amelia looks toward her future, one thing is for sure: She’s going to continue sharing her passion for dressage education with others. “My dream is to one day have a farm where we can live and keep our horses. I’d love to run a school program where I’d be able to teach students and have school horses at the farm as well,” she said
At heart, Amelia is still the 13-year-old horse crazy kid who didn’t want to get off her horse at the end of her lesson. For her, horses are part of her past, present and future. “I love my job more than I could imagine anyone ever loving a job,” she said. “Sometimes people tell me that I need to take a day off, but when I wake up in the morning, the first thought that comes to my mind is riding and my horses.”
For more information, visit amelianewcombdressage.com and on Instagram @amelicanewcombdressage
Photos by Lindsey Long, lindseylong.com