Only FOUR more days to go until we kick off the 2020 AGDF season! This week, we are shining the spotlight on four-time Olympian Ashley Holzer. Along with boasting over 50 FEI-level wins and four top 10 team placements at the Olympic Games, she is also a renowned coach. Continue reading to get to know this talented equestrian athlete and come watch her in action soon at AGDF 2020!
Photo courtesy of Susan J. Stickle
Tell us about your horses!
I have Valentine who I was successfully showing in the small tour last year. I’m hoping to bring her out to grand prix this season. I don’t think in January, but I’m hoping we can get in the grand prix ring before the season is over. She’s super talented, so I’m very excited about her! I have another horse, Mango Eastwood, who’s owned by Diane Rose. I’m probably going to show him in the national show in the middle of January, and then bring him out in the CDI ring. I have another grand prix horse whose name is Radondo. He’s been over in Europe for a while. I have a new mare, Bliss, who’s owned by Diane Fellows, and she’s a pretty spectacular animal. She’s going to be coming out to do the small tour. I also actually have a lot of students who are trying out for the Olympics – seven are trying out for the Canadian team. It’s going to be a busy, but fun season! As my dad used to say, when things get a bit hectic, just take it one day at a time.
How did you get involved with horses?
It’s a funny story! My mom and dad are both from Scotland, so I used to spend all of my summers over there. A lot of the kids ride in Scotland. My dad bought me a book called ‘Jill Goes Pony Trekking,’ and I begged my parents after I read it, ‘Please can I ride!’ I can’t tell you how long I begged them for, before they finally signed me up for riding lessons at Sunnybrook Stables in Toronto. That’s where I learned how to ride.
Photo courtesy of Susan J. Stickle
How have horses impacted your life?
I’ve always really loved horses. I feel incredibly fortunate that I get to have the life that I have, and it’s all because of horses. I pinch myself every day about how lucky I am to spend my life training riders and horses. I’ve always loved it. I’m very, very lucky that my husband was also an Olympic rider in the jumping field. He totally understands the sport and the life. I don’t think I would’ve been able to do it, had it not been for my husband. It was pretty hard for my children sometimes because the sport has you moving around a lot, so I couldn’t have done it without their support, too. As I grow older, I feel very fortunate to have a passion and to be able to live that passion every day. Not everyone has that luck.
My daughter [Emma Holzer] rode a little bit. My son [Harrison Holzer] rode until the pizza got delivered, and then he wanted the pizza! My daughter is a very beautiful rider. She rode in hunter classes and rides a little bit of polo. She’s a gorgeous rider, but it’s not her thing. She loves to sing and act. My son is also a big-time actor. They’re very successful in their own fields. They’ve done incredibly well for their young age, but horses aren’t their thing. My husband still to this day says that horses aren’t his thing, but he comes out to watch me a lot and is a great help.
What has been your biggest career highlight?
I’m very lucky, because I’ve gone to the Olympic Games, World Championships, and Pan Am Games. I have an Olympic medal and a few Pan Am medals. I’m lucky in that I’ve gotten to compete at many wonderful competitions over the years representing Canada before I became American. Honestly, I would say the biggest thrill wasn’t really the medals. My horse, Pop Art, was ranked 5th on the FEI World Ranking list. That was a huge accomplishment for a horse who I bought as a young prospect. We had a really incredible journey together! We were 8th at the World Championships in Kentucky. All of my friends were there with this huge sign for him. It was so cool. Honestly, sometimes I get as much joy from an incredible ride at home with a horse who might be struggling with something, then just ‘gets it.’ Stuff like that is really heartwarming for me. It’s very satisfying.
What are your hopes for this season at AGDF?
I knew this incredible skier who had to stop in her thirties, and I thought to myself how lucky I am to be in a sport where I don’t have to stop in my thirties because my body won’t allow me to do it anymore. I’m not going to lie – I feel my age, but I think the longer I can keep going, enjoying the sport, competing internationally, and having fun doing it, I’m going to do it as long as I feel healthy and able to do it well. That’s what I’m hoping for this season!
Photo courtesy of ESP
What do you enjoy most about competing at AGDF?
Global allows me to be an international rider without leaving the continent. That just wasn’t possible a long time ago. You really had to be over in Europe to have amazing judges. There was just no possibility of shows at this level here. The fact that Global allows us to be on world-class footing in a world-class atmosphere to get our horses used to it… That’s the thrilling part about it. It allows us to stay in America and be great. Everyone comes here now. You know, Kasey, Laura, Adrienne, Steffan, and so on are all top riders in the world. People don’t understand that sometimes. I mean, this is the BEST in the world! They’re amazing, and we made them in America. It’s thrilling.
What advice would you give to someone who’s going to be competing at AGDF for the first time this season?
Take advantage of the fact that they have national classes in the back ring with super judges. It’s a little less pressure on your horse, and there’s great footing and great judges. It gives them a little bit of an atmosphere, but there’s no tent. Get the horses out a lot and have them see a big horse show without putting them in the big ring right away. For people who are in the big ring right away, enjoy it! This really is a great showcase of our sport, and we’re lucky to have it. Thank the sponsors and supporters who make the show possible because without that, you’re riding around in circles with nowhere to showcase it. Thank the volunteers and people who put the show on. Thank the poor secretaries whose entries I’m always late on, but I’m getting better at it! Thank those who make it possible because Global really is a spectacular competition.
Thank you, Ashley. We look forward to watching you compete at AGDF 2020!