EQuine AMerica had a conversation with FEI dressage rider Olivia Lagoy-Weltz in the lead up to the World Equestrian Games Tryon 2018. Olivia was selected as the Traveling Alternate for the US Dressage Team. We asked her about herself, her horse, and what it’s like living the lead up to WEG.
EQ AM: Where is home for you?
Olivia: Home will always be Northern California. It’s where I grew up. But now I live in Haymarket, Virginia and Wellington, FL… and after this year, it feels like Europe as well.
What do you love most about where you live?
In California, it’s definitely the people. In Virginia, it’s the land. It’s such beautiful horse country. Everything grows so well there: the grass, the garden, the trees. I love the summer rain. In Europe, it’s the horse culture. There are so many good horses there and so many good riders. And I love how fast the stoplights are in Holland; they are very good with traffic lights.
Tell us about your start with horses. Where did you first start riding? What was the name of your first horse? When did you start riding dressage?
I used to ride everything I could get my hands on when I was little. The vacuum cleaner, the spring horse… our golden retriever (I was very small as a kid and he was very big). When I was around 6, I started taking one lesson every two weeks in the beginner program at a stable called “Bottomley Farm” in Martinez, California. I used to call horses “bounce me’s.”
When I was 8, my parents bought me Oz who was a 9-year-old Arabian they purchased from the same person we bought our chocolate lab puppy from. They knew nothing about horses and so we desperately needed a trainer. Luckily we found Heidi Riddle also in Martinez, California and I moved to her barn. Heidi did (and still does) both dressage and eventing, so I grew up riding both. I switched to all dressage when I was 18 and moved to Holland right after high school.
How long have you been partnered with your team horse, Rassing’s Lonoir, aka “Lono”?
Since the fall of 2011, so 7 years.
How did you know Lono was “the one” to partner with?
I don’t think you ever “know.” You look for really good qualities and a horse you click with and pick the best thing you can find in your price range, and then you hope to fill in the gaps. Lono was clearly very athletic, he was my size, and he was the nicest thing I saw in my modest budget; he also had an amazing tail (no I didn’t buy him for the tail but… it was a plus). I got really lucky with him.
Tell us something funny about him.
Lono loves Otter Pops. Really if you have it, he would like to try it. Also donuts.
What do you love most about Lono?
His personality. He’s really become very interactive and has evolved a lot.
Who makes up your support team?
There are lots and lots of people but these are the main people:
Debbie McDonald (trainer, coach, and mentor and all around awesome role model), Eliot Danner (husband), MaryAnne McPhail (co-owner and biggest supporter), Nicole Ardito (assistant trainer, manager, rider, groom—basically she keeps the business going when I’m gone. She’s amazing), Micah Andrews (working student, young horse rider, groom, court jester. Also keeps things going when I’m gone and makes everyone laugh), Egbert Kraak (former boss in Holland, mentor, and the person most able to kick me up a notch mentally if I’m struggling), Timothy Ober (vet), Jeremy Fox (Farrier), Tina Steward (friend, mentor, horse chiropractor), Janus Marquis (Horse PT).
Is this your first WEG?
How long have you been working towards this WEG?
We’ve been working towards this level for a long time. This level has always been the goal with this horse. I’ve always believed he could do it, so I guess 7 years?
Which is your favorite test and why?
I like the freestyle because you can really set it up to show off your horse and I love it when the audience gets into it.
What are some of the challenges of traveling in Europe with your horse?
I think getting everything organized around farriers and feeding is the most difficult. Also, living out of a hotel for months at a time is not always easy, particularly over there because there isn’t always climate control in the rooms so summer heatwaves aren’t fun. Also riding only 1 horse a day when you are used to riding 8+ is hard.
What’s the best part about traveling in Europe with your horse?
Getting to spend lots of time with my horse and getting to compete at some of the biggest horse shows in the world. Also getting to really hang out with the other riders and watch each other work. That is a really great experience. We are always so busy in Florida so we don’t often get to just hang out together.
What is something you do for Lono to make the stress of travel and competition a little easier on them?
Turnout! Lono loves to go outside at home. When we stay in places that have good turnout, it really helps him to feel right at home.
What do you do to help yourself handle the times of stress that come with being on tour/qualifying procedure?
I’m still working on that. I think reading a book and just enjoying the people around me. I’m not great at exploring, but sometimes taking a day away can really help (when possible). Doing fun stuff like going to the movies helps too.
The US dressage team has earned itself a reputation for its riders having an incredible team spirit and being very supportive of one another. What’s it like to be a part of that?
Pretty darn cool. It’s really nice to be on tour with a group of people who are so genuine. Of course, we all want to make the team and do our best, but being able to separate that and have it not be personal is really nice and I think very impressive.
What do you most love about your team?
That we can really have a lot of fun together. It makes the process much more enjoyable.
What’s your happiest memory from the road to WEG?
I have one happy one and one funny one. The happy one for me was Aachen. The entire team did so well and we had so many top placings. I had a pretty tough show in Luxembourg before Aachen, so it wasn’t an ideal lead up to the biggest show. Doing well in the GP and doing the awards lap side-by-side with Steffen was already great, but getting a 77% and 3rd in the freestyle and having Shelly win—which put 2 of us in the top 3—was a great way to end the trip.
The funniest memory was going to the movies with the other girls (Kasey, Laura, Adrianne, and Adrienne’s groom Morgan). We went to a scary movie (I am not a scary movie person) and this movie went on and on and on… At the very end, the main character jumped out a window and this guy in the back of the theater laughed, which made me laugh at him laughing, and then all the girls started laughing, and then most of the theater started laughing. It was ridiculous.
What are you most looking forward to doing after WEG?
Getting to spend some time at home with my amazing clients who have been so supportive! Seeing my dogs (2 German Shepherds, Rocky and Trooper) and going to Eliot’s brother’s wedding in Colorado (they scheduled the wedding around WEG for me).