AYER — Odd as it may sound, Kariel Swanfeldt, 14, is already a seasoned competitor at horseback riding.

Her sport is dressage, a highly technical competition where the horse is guided through precision maneuvers by a rider who remains virtually motionless.

Having been competing for five years, there’s a wall in Swanfeldt’s room dominated by 30-plus award ribbons. They share a place of honor with another prized possession, a framed e-mail from her idol, Olympic dressage rider Lendon Gray.

Swanfeldt hopes to compete at that level someday, and by getting involved with competitions across the region, she’s already gotten feedback from Gray and other top riders on that goal.

“They tell me it’s a lot of work and dedication and that I’m lucky I got started early,” she said.

Earlier this summer, Swanfeldt got what could be a big break. After three years of working at the Dunroven Farm in Harvard, she landed a paid internship grooming for a rider who will compete at events across the region this summer.

Proud mother Karin Dynice-Swanfeldt said the opportunity came from hard work with dressage training and her daughter’s job in the barn. The latter includes the less-than-glamorous task of cleaning — or mucking — stalls.

“She watched Kariel muck stalls for three years,” she said. “It was because of her work ethic.”

The experience can only help Kariel toward her goals, said Karin.

“This sport is very expensive,” she said. “You need to network and get sponsors, and that’s what you achieve by being a working student.”

While the summer job is one avenue for getting Kariel’s name out there, her riding résumé is already filling out nicely. She’s placed in the top 10 at 24 competitions in the past two years and placed fifth in the New England Dressage Association’s regional competition two years ago. Her horse — a 19-year-old Arabian named Fascination — was also recognized as horse of the year in 2005 and 2006 by the United States Equestrian Federation.

These days Fascination is moving into semi-retirement, and Kariel’s focus is on training her 2-year-old “baby” horse, Vegas. In a couple of years, she said Vegas will be mature enough for the competitions. Until then, she said her hours are spent each day establishing a connection with her partner.

The sport is judged on the form of the rider and horse, and the rider is only allowed to discreetly use hands, seat and legs to direct the horse. That makes a strong rapport key, said Kariel.

“The biggest thing is to create a bond with the animal so you’re like one,” she said.

Kariel began riding alongside her mother when she was 7 years old and got seriously into dressage at 9. The sport requires a great deal of focus, and she admitted to being nervous during her first competition. Since no talking is allowed during trials, she invented devices to help keep silent.

“I use different things to avoid talking,” she said. “My first show, I thought about baseball the whole time, and I don’t even like baseball.”

Competitions are already starting to pay some dividends, she said. The embroidery company Tally-Ho Inc. is talking about a sponsorship deal once Vegas debuts. It would be her first such deal, and she’s hoping it’s the first of many.

While Kariel aspires to be a professional rider, she’s not putting all her eggs in that basket. She also loves to cook and is planning to study culinary arts at Nashoba Valley Technical High School next fall.

Ideally, there won’t be a need to choose between the two, she said.

“I’m hoping for both,” she said. “Horses by day and a restaurant by night.”