15 Questions with Grand Prix Dressage Rider Alexa DerrPosted on September 21, 2017
Hard work is… well, hard. But, dedication, perseverance and a little bit of creativity can really pay off when you’re working towards a dream.With USDF Bronze, Silver & Gold Medals; USPC C2 Flat and H-B Certifications and a B.S. in Business Administration and Marketing under her belt, Alexa Derr is proof that rolling up your sleeves to accomplish something great both in and out of the saddle is possible.
And that’s not all. Alexa has also been blessed to be a part of several Dressage4Kids outreach programs. Because D4K has opened so many doors, Alexa decided to create an online auction as her way of expressing gratitude to her supporters while also paying it forward for future youth in the sport of dressage. Her passion is infectious!
Alexa is based near Reinholds, PA, at Vue de Lou Dressage, a private facility at her home. A stellar 2017 competition season has catapulted her into the U25 Grand Prix. Only weeks before her Grand Prix debut at Dressage At Devon, Alexa agreed to answer some questions about finding balance, paying it forward, and stepping out of your comfort zone to progress.
1. Tell us how you got started in Dressage.
In all honesty, I was tired of being bucked off after jumps! I needed to work on my balance so I took a lot of lessons on the lunge line without stirrups. Then, after attending the Grand Prix freestyles at Dressage at Devon when I was about 11 years old, I was hooked!
2. Your coach is Scott Hassler—how has he had an impact on your riding?
I really respect Scott for coaching me on a trainer to trainer basis. He is encouraging, helps me make plans for training and horse shows, and most importantly understands how to navigate the minds of myself and Versace.
3. What is your favorite part of Dressage?
My favorite part of dressage is the bond you get with your horse while you are training up the levels. I live for the light bulb moments.
4. If you could do any other equestrian discipline, what would it be and why?
I would LOVE to barrel race. Every once in a while, I get an adrenaline rush and think that my energy would be well served running barrels.
5. Let’s talk about Dressage4Kids. What’s the idea behind this youth development program?
Lendon Gray started D4K with the idea to give youth riders an avenue to learn about dressage and have comradery across the country. Its mission is to encourage riders under 21 to become true horsemen; to offer scholarships; to develop good sportsmanship; to support programs for adults who in turn educate youth; and to have fun. Their programs include TEAM clinics, Winter Intensive Training, Horse Masterhsip clinics, the Youth Dressage Festivals, the horse donation program, and non-riding educational events.
6. What advice or encouragement can you give to young riders who are trying to make it in the dressage world?
Competing FEI takes patience, perseverance, and education. It’s best to find creative ways that make juggling school and training easier so that you can flip flop which one takes priority depending things like tests and presentations, and training and competitions. If both are always a top priority, you will wear yourself out and your performance will suffer. Put yourself out there and apply for opportunities even if you don’t feel you will get it. The more you step out of your comfort zone, the more confident you will become in your own abilities.
7. What’s a typical barn day like for you?
LOL typical… there is always something that makes each day different, but I do follow a general flow for the day.
Before I leave for work, I check on the horses and turnout. When I get home in the afternoon, I bring horses in from the field and start riding. I like to start with Versace because he is more work on me mentally than physically so I can keep my body feeling strong longer. Then, I untack and Theraplate him. While Versace is wearing his ice boots, I get my next horse ready. I usually finish riding by 6 and then will teach lessons. Because I live above the barn now, I have taken over doing night check most nights. I love being able to check each horse over and give them all kisses goodnight.
8. What are some of your one of your favorite riding pieces and why?
I love my DeNiro tall boots.. durable, stylish, and fit me like a glove.
My 2kgrey breeches allow me to go from the stable to the streets in no time, they are fashion forward, and just as comfortable as yoga pants.
I can’t live without my SSG digital gloves either… they provide really good grip, even when it is raining, and last longer than any other glove I have owned.
9. What is the most embarrassing thing to have ever happened to you while riding?
I try to avoid embarrassing moments or block the occasional ones out of my mind haha
10. What’s the most inspiring moment you’ve had on a horse?
I don’t think that any one moment inspired me more than another, but my journey inspires me every day and I will always be grateful for every single person who has guided me along the path to the Grand Prix.
11. What kind of life lessons would you say horses have taught you?
Horses have taught me that life is predictably unpredictable. While you can set your sights on a goal, you have to be flexible on the path you take to get there.
12. What is the best piece of riding advice you have ever received and from whom?Always be an advocate for your horse - Lendon Gray Click To Tweet
It doesn’t matter if you are in a clinic and paid a lot of money to be there, if you feel that what is being asked of you and your horse is not in his best interest, respectfully speak up.
13. How do you manage nerves before a big class?
I use Young Living Essential Oils Peace & Calming in a diffuser while I perform my test on foot. I try to make it more of a dance to help loosen up and have fun! I use a lot of positive visualizations too. Right before I enter the ring I pause to pat my horse and take a deep breath which helps any last minute nerves fly away!
14. What is your biggest splurge to date when it comes to your riding and/or horses?
15. When you’re not riding, where might we find you?
Line dancing with friends, relaxing on my deck, or working at my family’s recycling center!
-Photo credit: Lynn Rose Equine Photography