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A Passion for Dressage

by Glenye Cain Oakford | Oct 23, 2018, 3:00 PM EST

Jenaya Olsen, a 14-year-old dressage rider from Naples, Fla., is one of the youngest equestrians to earn a United States Dressage Federation gold medal by achieving four scores of 60% or higher—two at Intermediate and two at Grand Prix level—at USEF-licensed/USDF-recognized competitions, achieved when she was 13. She credits her mom—dressage rider and coach Nicole Olsen—and coach Franziska Seidl in Ocala, Fla., with helping her achieve her gold medal. We caught up with her recently to find out more about the horses she rides and what she loves about her sport.

Jenaya Olsen on Kristine Petrella's Rubiosos-Sohn at Foxlea earlier this year. Photo: Harry Furey

What makes dressage so special to you?

I think it is like dancing. I think it is also magical, the bond you have with your horse and the passion and the work you put into the sport with your horse to build the perfect team.

What do you feel dressage has given you? And what can it give any equestrian, regardless of their chosen discipline?

Dressage has taught me to be patient. Dressage needs a lot of core strength, balance, and skill, which helped me build on my strength. I think people should explore dressage to help them with their own discipline or to help build strength and balance.

Tell us about the horses you ride at home. Who are they and what are they like?

The horse I ride most often is Welcome, a 17.3-hand Hanoverian Grand Prix mare by Wolkenstein II out of Wolke. Welcome is the best horse I have ever ridden, but she can get a little hot sometimes. I ride her almost every day. She is owned by my mom, Nicole Olsen, who is also my daily trainer.

Another horse I ride regularly is my horse, Don Caster, a compact, 16.2-hand Hanoverian gelding by Don Frederico. Don Caster, also known as Cassie, is the kindest and most gentle horse you have ever met, but he enjoys being outside with his buddies a bit much sometimes. I also ride Flying Beauty, a 16.3-hand Polish Warmblood gelding by Asceta. Flying Beauty, also known as Biffi, is our big Labrador at the barn. He follows you around like a big puppy.

My first summer up in Ocala I met Sigalia, Franziska’s horse. She has owned him since he was a youngster and

Jenaya Olsen on her mother's mare, Welcome, at Foxlea in 2017. Photo: Harry Furey

trained him to be such an amazing Grand Prix horse. Sigalia has such a golden personality and is just the funniest horse you ever met. Franziska let me sit on him, and she piaffed him from the ground—I thought that was so much fun. I have learned so much in the past three-and-a-half years from both Franziska and my mom Nicole. I have also learned so much from the horses I have been lucky enough to ride.

You rode both Welcome and Sigalia to the scores that earned your USDF gold medal. Was it challenging riding Sigalia in the Grand Prix, even though he knew his job so well?

I got my Grand Prix scores with Sigalia, and Welcome was the horse I got my other scores with. Yes, riding a pro like Sigalia was difficult, because I didn’t know the proper way to ask for the tricks. So Sigalia did not always understand what I was asking, but he always tried his best.

My mom, Franziska, and I started working on my position on the horse. I was not a perfect rider, nor am I now. I had to learn how to properly ask for the tricks, like the piaffe, passage, doing my tempi changes in a nice line, and the canter zig-zag, which I found extremely difficult to learn. I especially had to work on not leaning back and looking down when I was riding.

What’s your favorite thing about dressage?

What I like best about riding dressage is the bond you have with your horse. My favorite movements are probably the piaffe and the passage. I just think they are fun to ride, but I also enjoy the extended trot and canter. My favorite dressage test to watch is probably the Grand Prix Special, but overall my favorite tests to ride and watch are the freestyles.

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