Megan Heeder, an 18 year old from East Lansing, Michigan, took part in the Emerging Dressage Athlete Program this summer with Lendon Gray and Courtney King-Dye. “I had great lessons over the weekend through the Emerging Dressage Athlete Program before competing in the 2011 inaugural Midwest Dressage Festival,” Megan said. “The show was a terrific way to end a weekend of intensive dressage training.”
Megan trains with Maryal Barnett, although she currently doesn’t have a “home barn” because she is a freshman at the University of Notre Dame. “The past five summers I have also ridden with Lendon, while living in Bedford, New York as a working student. Those summers were some of the best times of my life,” she said.
Megan began her riding career when she was six, riding ponies at a local stable. “After the first lesson I was hooked! I quit dance, gymnastics and tennis because all I wanted to do was ride. When I turned nine I got Sonny, a wonderful Morgan gelding, and began taking dressage lessons with Maryal.”
Sidelines: What do you consider your career highlights?
MH: One of the competitions I will remember forever is the 2009 Youth Dressage Festival in New York. Simba and I had been together for about six months before the Festival and faced some daunting training obstacles. We were Grand Champions of the show and he seemed so proud, as if he knew how wonderful he was. Standing on the podium and seeing all the diligence and hard work come together was a fantastic moment. I also showed in three NAJYRC qualifying competitions this summer. This was an amazing learning experience for me because I had only showed in about five recognized shows before beginning the challenging process of qualification. Simba and I narrowly missed making the team and that was disappointing; but I learned a great deal from the opportunity.
Sidelines: How did you end up at the University of Notre Dame?
MH: I had to decide between the University of Notre Dame and Michigan State University. It was a very difficult decision for me, because my horses were staying in Michigan regardless of where I went to school and both schools had things I liked. Ultimately I knew I wanted to go to Notre Dame, but was reluctant to commit because I knew I couldn’t take my horses with me. After hearing about my dilemma, Kim Boyer told me she had a young horse going down to South Bend, where Notre Dame is, who needed a rider. At that point I had one day to make up my mind, and that was enough to make me decide to go to Notre Dame. I am very excited to begin working with Cochise HGF in December.
Sidelines: What are your riding goals?
MH: My ultimate goal is to ride in the Olympics; but I have decided to focus on my education for the next four years, at least. I am looking forward to working with a young horse after having the opportunity to ride a schoolmaster for the past two and a half years. I will be able to continue developing my riding and education as a horse person while getting my academic education as well.
Sidelines: What has being a dressage rider taught you?
MH: I have met some of the most amazing and generous people though dressage. Because I am the oldest of six children, competing in recognized shows, especially FEI classes, was cost-prohibitive. Many generous individuals have helped me by attending fundraisers and donating their time and energy to give me the opportunity to make my dreams a reality. Dressage has given me the opportunity to see the beauty of the human spirit and meet some of the most influential people in my life. Being away at college has also made me realize how special my horses are.
Sidelines: What other hobbies do you have?
MH: In addition to riding I also run and sing. I am on the Notre Dame cross-country and track team and also sing weekly at mass. As a child I was in the Michigan State University Children’s Choir, which won two Grammy awards.
Running and training has given me perspective on training and working my horses. I can sympathize how they feel after a hard workout and understand how important hacking and recovering is for the horses. Singing is an art form that parallels dressage in many ways. My musical training has helped me in creating freestyles; I did all of the music for my junior freestyles on my own.