Establishing her very own hoofprint

Ever since she witnessed people riding horses gracefully during the Olympics, sophomore Anna Chan wanted to perfect the elegant sport of dressage.

When she was in sixth grade, Chan became committed to pursuing a career in dressage, an equestrian sport that requires the rider to use precise signals to prompt the horse to make movements such as leg yields, the rein-back, flying changes and the extended trot. Dressage focuses on using the relationship between the rider and the horse when executing movements.  

Since she began riding, Chan has been progressing through the five levels of dressage competitions: Training Level, First Level, Second Level, Third Level and Fourth Level. Riders must pass three tests in each level before moving on. To improve her skills in the sport, Chan receives lessons from her coach at Fox Creek Stables in Chino Hills.

“She’s a person that I look up to and respect, but she is like a friend to me,” Chan said. “She understands me well and is constantly getting me to improve. For example, she knows that I get tense and nervous during shows even before I say anything.”

Currently, Chan is in the First Level and practices three times a week with her Arabian horse named CRA Mostly Mine. Before a lesson, Chan goes to the dressage barn to groom, equip and warm up with her horse in the arena. She starts the lesson by doing exercises with Mostly, performing movements that her level requires and working on being in sync.

“I look forward to every lesson. I feel like I’m learning so much everytime I go. Also, I get to bond with my horse and enjoy time with him,” Chan said.

Chan sends cues to Mostly using her body and legs to signal the desired movement. To move forward, she kicks both of her legs, and to stop, she sits back in her saddle.

“Over the time that I’ve owned him, I feel that we’ve bonded closer. We understand each other. He’s got his own quirks that make him unique, and we work well together. He tries to lick everything he can reach. Sometimes, he’ll whinny so people [will] give him treats,” Chan said.

Chan prefers dressage over normal horseback riding because of the elegance involved in dressage. Many people don’t believe dressage is actual horseback riding because the rider’s signals are barely noticeable, making it seem like the horse is doing the movements by itself.

“It looks easy and beautiful, but in reality, it takes many hours of practice to achieve. It requires a lot of finesse and skill, and even though it looks effortless, it’s actually not,” Chan said.

Chan participates in three to four competitions each year in West Covina and has won three so far.

“I try to stay calm because the horse can feel when I’m not, and me being nervous makes him nervous as well. It’s stressful and nerve-wracking, but in my opinion, it’s worth it in the end,” Chan said. “It’s sometimes difficult and frustrating when you can’t get a move right.  No matter how hard you try, it seems like you can’t get it right. The horse doesn’t want to listen to you, and you have to figure out how to work around it. I have to figure out how to regain his attention and get him to focus on me. But the moments when you figure something out or get something right more than make up for it. It’s a sense of accomplishment. You spend so much time perfecting something that when you get it right, you feel like your hard work has finally paid off.”

By Ethan Cheng, Staff writer
Photo courtesy of Anna Chan

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