PEPPERELL — Eleven-year-old equestrian Tessa Holloran brought home a Gold Medal and the 2015 Overall Champion title from Lendon’s Youth Dressage Festival.
This flagship event of Dressage4Kids, Inc. recently wrapped up in Saugerties, New York, and offers individual and team competition for riders from ages 4 through 21. Division championships feature a three-phased competition: a written test, an individual dressage test, and a group equitation ride.
Tessa won gold for her division in a sweep of blue ribbons placing first in the written test, first in dressage, and first in equitation. Her numbers were so good she went on to receive the overall high score for the entire show outscoring 300 riders, many twice her age.
No doubt the show of her life for this promising equestrian, but it could possibly be just as memorable as her 2014 appearance at the Festival. Tessa explains, “I will never forget this past weekend. But I also will never forget the 2014 Festival. I stepped out of the ring on my pony Miss K, got a zero for my dressage test and brought me to last place in my division. Everyone told me it was a life lesson, I think it was a big mistake.” The show obviously paled in comparison to her 2013 debut that gained her a Division Bronze Medal.
Like many athletes, the experience served as motivation for her to work toward better results this year. But even with hard work and lots of practice, success isn’t guaranteed. This year Tessa made the trip to the HITS showgrounds with her new Dutch Warmblood mare Usela, affectionately called “Beau” for beautiful. In the schooling (practice ride) portion of the weekend Tessa ranked a disappointing fifth place for her division. She said, “I knew I had some real work to perform my personal best for the show. My trainer really helped me with my nerves, told me to stay focused and helped me get more determined. It worked, I rode better and tried really hard to make the corrections from the schooling test.”
Tessa started riding at three and half on her Welsh pony and went on to train with Orintha Silva of Ten Broeck Farm. She said, “I’m so grateful to Ms. Orintha for her support. And I have learned a lot from Miss K over the last eight years, but now I am sadly too big for her. I am lucky to have an amazing new schoolmaster who is teaching me so many things. And that is not always easy either. Beau knows a lot more than I do and I love her for being patient with me.”
In addition to the three-phased competition, Tessa also won blue for the handling class. Here the “rider” or handler, presents the horse to a judge from the ground in a manner to showcase its best features while still, overall movement, and general conformation. This success she credits to Phil Silva, also of Ten Broeck Farm, who is one the area’s most sought after professional handlers.
According to her father Gary Holloran, “We knew at a very young age Tessa had a passion for horses. She has only been working with Beau for a few months and I think they are developing a great relationship. There’s a lot to this sport and we are all very proud of her.”
The Festival was instituted in 1999 and is only possible due to the support of three-time Olympian Lendon Gray, volunteers, sponsors, judges, and trainers. According to the D4K website, www.dressage4kids.org, Gray set out with a goal that all youths might learn how to become, not just better riders, but all-around horsemen. She has rapidly expanded Dressage4Kids, Inc. a nonprofit 501 (c) (3) organization incorporated for the express purpose of providing educational and competitive opportunities for youth riders and the adults who support them.
Tessa said that, win or lose, all the riders deserve huge congratulations for coming to the Festival and having the courage to try. She also is very appreciative for the support of her family — especially her sister Ella who is “the best groom ever.”
“It might not always go like you hope,” Tessa said, “but use it to try harder. I know I will have good days, not so good days, and even some great days ahead. Sometimes I have my best riding days when no one is looking.”
Her advice? Love your horses and enjoy the journey wherever it takes you.