Rider Connect from Bit of Britain: Olivia Caspers

Photo credit: Amanda Plucker

 

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Rider Connect from Bit of Britain: Olivia Caspers

Today’s featured rider is Olivia Caspers a junior rider who is learning as a working student for one of the top riders in North America.

If you would like to be featured in Rider Connect, email me.

 

Get to know Olivia
I am 19-years-old and I am currently a student at the University of Minnesota, working towards my Bachelors of Science in Biochemistry. I am currently competing at the Preliminary level with my 6-year-old OTTB, Cereus Contender aka Stratus. With horses, it’s extremely hard to plan their future; I’ve learned the hard way that you have to take every day as it comes, and work as hard as you can in the moment. With that being said, I am super excited about this horse’s future, whatever that includes.

I started riding when I was old enough to get lessons at a local schooling barn; I quickly became an obsessed horse girl! As soon as my parents could drop me off and leave me at the barn for hours on end, they did. At around 10, I became obsessed with doing chores around the barn, and would stay hours after every lesson to help around the barn, learning about everything possible related to horses.

Mikey (5yo OTTB/Project horse) and Cereus Contender (right). Photo credit: Amanda Plucker

Olivia’s horse power
I bought Stratus when he was 3-years-old from my trainer at the time who found him on the track. When I first bought him, one of the main things that I loved about him was how athletic he was. As he got stronger and older, this came back to bite me in the butt; it’s truly a blessing and a curse! The past couple years he truly has grown up into a great horse with so much talent and potential; he’s definitely my horse of a lifetime.

Photo credit: Amanda Plucker

Training
I started out training at Windy Ridge Ranch, a local schooling barn, and this is where my passion for horses, horsemanship, and Eventing began. This barn, run by Mark Ward and Katie Clapp, was the perfect place to grow up because it definitely shaped my hard work ethic and character, even from a young age. Mark really took me under his wing to teach me things like horse care, injections, and wrapping. From here, I took my first working student position at North Brook Eventing Center, a local Eventing barn, run by Jan Fisk. Jan was amazing to work for because she gave me so many riding opportunities with young OTTBs and client horses, and I am also so grateful for every ounce of tough love she gave me because in the end, she made me strong, disciplined, and independent. I was also blessed to be a part of a Junior Development Rider Program with Becky Holder. I am so thankful for her because she really pushed me to be the best rider I could, and helped me come up with training plans for my young horse. When I mentioned that I was interested in taking a gap year before college, Jan pushed me to try and work for one of the top riders in the country, I had some connections with Allison Springer, so I reached out, and ended up getting a working student position with her.

Photo credit: Amanda Plucker

Allison Springer is one of the most influential people in my riding career, she really shaped me into being the eventer that I am now. One of the biggest things I’ve learned from her is the value of proper dressage. She truly is a dressage queen. She sits on any horse and her excellent feel takes over; its like magic. I also really appreciate her because she taught me to have a better mental game, to go with the flow (even if there are a million and one things to do), that the horse always comes first, and she gave me so many times to make her proud (even if I messed up so many times before that).

I remember one day I was helping her set jumps while she schooled her horses. It was probably her fourth horse, so we had been out there for a bit. I was so focused on watching her technique – her hands, her back, her lower leg; I wanted to learn from her in any way I could. She rode past me and asked, “Are you getting bored yet?” I remember thinking to myself, ‘That’s crazy! This is what I live for – learning from you!”

The year I spent out east was great in many other ways, too. I got to have lessons with so many amazing riders, and I got to watch the best of the best train. I also was exposed to a lot of young professionals and other working students, including one of Allison’s other working students, Jill Thomas. Jill had a tremendous amount of hustle, and it was a great representation for me. She was also an excellent rider, and I got to learn so much from watching her ride her own OBOS Darko (now competing at the Advanced level). I truly admired all these people because they made me so motivated to work as hard as I possibly could, because, at the end of the day, these are the people who are going to make it in this industry. If I could do this year all over again, I would. I plan on continuing working for Allison whenever I get breaks in my school and during summers. Until then, with school starting, I have made riding my first priority (after class), so I can go ride five times a week!

 


 

Horses are not for the weak of heart
The past year has definitely been full of ups and down moments. In December, Stratus got a puncture to his stifle joint and fractured his tibial plateau in a freak paddock accident. This led to him having about 6 months off and rehabbing. Though this was definitely not in the plans for my gap year, I was so blessed to be around so many amazing horse people, great veterinary surgical centers, and superb veterinarians who all helped to make sure Stratus was coming back as strong as he possibly could. This experience was one of the hardest ones I’ve ever had to go through, and I am so thankful for the other working students and Allison for helping me so much. I can still remember Allison telling me that, “Horses are put in our lives to teach us so many lessons, heartbreak included.” Horses are not for the weak of heart.

Photo credit: Amanda Plucker

No one was really sure how well Stratus was going to come back, if he would be back to 100%, or if he would be able to jump. The first time I was allowed to trot him, he struggled, and I had a sinking feeling in my stomach that he would never get back to feeling normal. Allison and I both took his rehab seriously and slowly. We went back to stage one, and focused hard on his flatwork for a couple months, then adding a month of cavalettis. We had several vet appointments in between them, and he was coming back better than we could have imagined, and he was starting to feel better than he did before his injury. Slowly we added jumping back into his fitness regimens, and it was probably one of the best feelings.

This past weekend, we competed in his first show back since his injury. We did the PT, and he did better than I could have imagined. He felt stronger, healthier, and more rideable. All the dressage work Allison and I did, really made a difference in him and I am beyond blessed to have my favorite horse back in action. Looking back on his injury, I can see how much closer this made me to Stratus, and restarting him from the ground up may have been a blessing in disguise.

Best of luck this year Olivia! 

 

If you would like to be featured in Rider Connect, email me

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