I “met” Amanda on where else… Instagram of course! Where else do you meet people during Covid!? I have enjoyed following her and chatting with her and I thought she would be a great person to feature on our next Everyday Equestrians article! Enjoy (and give her a follow if you like occasional beautiful photo shoots)! Thank you for sharing Amanda!
What is your name and where are you from?
Amanda Graf from Wooster, Ohio.
What do you do for a living?
I’m a Physician’s Assistant.
How old were you when you first sat on a horse/pony? Took your first lesson?
I was always the horse-crazy kid from a non-horsey family, and got a much later start in the equestrian world than most. My first time on a horse for anything more than a pony ride at the county fair was when I was 8 years old, and convinced my dad to take me on a trail ride at Mohican. My first lesson did not come until age 11. I had been diagnosed at age 10 with Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis which pretty severely impacted my life and mobility for several years until medications advanced and were able to get it under control. One silver lining from that darker time was that doctors were adamant that I get whatever kind of physical activity I could tolerate to help prevent more mobility loss, and I was able to use that as a case to get horses into my life in the form of therapeutic horseback riding. I eventually graduated from therapeutic riding into some intermittent hunt seat lessons as a teen. I would then have a long hiatus from riding until I finished grad school and had the finances and ability to really dive into the equestrian life.
How often do you get to ride now?
Like so many adult amateurs, I often struggle with trying to balance a demanding full-time job that funds my passion, with actually finding the time to pursue said passion. In a good week I may get to ride 5-6 times, split between two barns and a few different horses as I do not currently have my own. When work gets extremely crazy, I may only ride twice a week. It can vary a lot as I do not have my own horse and have been riding solely lease and lesson horses over the last several years. My goal once I have my own dressage mount again is to ride 5-6 times a week, consistently. I hope to still be able to put some additional rides in on different horses even when I have my own horse, as I really feel it helps to highlight my strengths and weaknesses and improve my riding.
How did you land on your current discipline?
I have ridden dressage for the last 7 years. I had started out riding mostly hunt seat, but was introduced to dressage as the owner of one of the first horses I leased was a dressage rider. I ended up taking lessons with her instructor and found that dressage was a perfect fit for my very detail-oriented personality. I haven’t looked back since! I do also enjoy getting out of the area and hacking out on trails-it is such a nice way to wind down after a tough schooling session, or to clear my mind after an intense work day.
What are your favorite equestrian brands?
I might have a slight addiction to riding clothes! Some of my favorite brands are Romfh and Horze/Equinavia for breeches. For tops I like Asmar Equestrian and have also been really liking Solid Citizen. My favorite dressage boots are Celeris.
Tell me a story about your first horse.
Several years ago, I was shopping for my first horse. I had tried soooo many horses over many month and was feeling super frustrated with the whole horse shopping process. My trainer at the times was visiting one of her trainer friends a few states away, and called me about a couple of very nice OTTBs there that she wanted me to try. I ended up driving through the night after working all day Friday, to be able to try these horses on a Saturday morning. I was pretty exhausted and kind of skeptical, especially when I saw the arena was not fenced in (does anyone else get really bad anxiety trying out a new horse??). I was then introduced to the most striking dapple grey mare who, while very green, was super calm and unfazed by farm equipment or wild turkeys. I had that immediate feeling of “this is my horse.” I had a slight panic attack after paying and making arrangements to bring her home, wondering if I made a mistake. What if she was totally different when I got her home? Fast forward to two days after she came home, and we quietly hacked around the property. An entire flock of birds flew up from the grass, and she barely batted an eye. I sadly lost her to complications from a freak pasture accident just a few months later, but I often think back on what an awesome horse she was with just the best brain ever.
Tell us about a favorite riding memory.
Riding in other countries – Isle of Man and Tblisi, Georgia. It has been amazing getting to see some magical landscapes around the world from horseback. My non-horsey husband also proposed on horseback during one of our trips, so that was pretty special!
What is the worst injury you’ve had riding?
I had a pretty severe concussion in 2015. I had had various other horse-related injuries, but this one was harder as I had some significant longer-term effects and it ended up really messing with my confidence for a long time. I am very thankful for patient trainers and lesson horses, along with my sports psychologist who helped to gradually build me back up after that experience.
What is your proudest riding moment?
Probably the first time I confidently cantered down a long side after my accident.
What are your riding goals for the year?
I plan to start looking seriously for my next dressage partner by the end of this year. In the meantime I will continue lessons and hopefully audit or ride in some clinics.
What are your riding goals long term?
I want to continue studying dressage and working my way up the levels to earn my medals, hopefully with my own horse whom I can grow a strong bond with in the process. I would like to gain more confidence with showing. I would also love to go on some riding holidays – namely I would love to do an African horseback safari, and also spend some time on a working ranch out West.
If you could clinic with anyone living in the world right now, who would that be?