My Other Life with Amy Grahn

PM360 recently spoke to Amy Grahn, SVP, Global Clinical Development and Operations at Horizon Pharma, about being a dressage rider.

PM360: How did you get into horse dressage?

Amy Grahn: I have ridden horses since I was five, but took on dressage—which is an Olympic sport—in my adult years (when I could afford it!). Beyond the money, I became interested in 1988 after my husband and I transferred to California. I had my trail horse, Champagne, at a multi-discipline barn where the owner rode lower level dressage. One day, she took me to a dressage demonstration in Pomona where U.S. Olympian Hilda Gurney was just back from the Pam Am games with her horse, Willy the Great, and rode her medal-winning Grand Prix freestyle. That was it—I was hooked!

What do you enjoy about the sport?

Dressage Queens as we call ourselves are Type A people (a lot of women!) because the care of the horse and the intensity of the training requires such attention to detail—one miss que and you have blown a movement! To get a 1,200 pound animal to do the work that is required in dressage is absolutely an amazingly fulfilling feeling. I spend six days a week at the barn riding or working with my trainer. But beyond the riding, I love spending time on the ground and bonding with my horses and taking them on hacks (aka rides) outside to relieve the monotony of training.

How have you done since taking on dressage?

Last year, I made it to the top of the sport with my horse Zabaco, a Dutch breed. I competed regionally and nationally as an adult amateur at Intermediate 2 (I2) and Grand Prix (GP) including Grand Prix freestyle (GPF). Regionally, I was reserve champion in all three—a hat trick! At Dressage Nationals (Lexington, KY), Zabaco and I were reserve champion at the I2 and third at GP and the GPF—my first year ever riding at the top level. I also earned my United States Dressage Federation (USDF) gold medal. Previously, I earned my bronze and silver medals and my bronze and silver freestyle bars. I only have my gold freestyle bar left to earn.

Photo Credit: John Borys

Beyond winning your gold freestyle bar, do you have any other goals you hope to achieve?

I had great plans for Zabaco and I following our National Dressage competition in November. Unfortunately, he died five days later from complications after colic surgery. It still is very hard to even contemplate the loss of this fantastic animal and our partnership. But Zabaco has allowed me to be able to ride even higher-quality horses and I bought a new Grand Prix-trained dressage horse in late December, Hudson. My goals now are to win the Grand Prix and Grand Prix freestyle at Nationals this year with Hudson! It will take time to develop the partnership required for this high level of riding, but we already have found a confidence and trust in each other, so we are on the right path.

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