Amelia Neal going to the 2019 Dressage National Finale

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Amelia Neal going to the 2019 Dressage National Finale

Heather Vaughan, Staff Writer

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A sophomore at Westford Academy, Amelia Neal, has qualified for the horseback riding 2019 Dressage National Finale on April 13.

The competition is in Waterville, Ohio, at Otterbein University. Neal is in the Class 3 Junior Varsity Novice division, and will be competing against nine other riders.

Neal says that horseback riding runs in her family, so she has been riding since she was three years old; however, she did not start competing seriously until she was 12 years old.

Neal has never competed nationally before because she competes in a new type of dressage called Dressage International Equestrian Association (IEA), and this is the first year they are running a national competition for it.

“I’ve been to different big competitions to watch, and it’s really nerve wracking. I’m very nervous to go and actually compete and not just watch. It’s a big deal, it’s nationals,” Neal said.

In dressage IEA, they are provided a horse from the barn where they are competing instead of riding their own horse that they practice with.

“That’s another reason why I’m nervous, because I am going to go to nationals and ride a horse that I don’t know,” Neal said.

In order to qualify for nationals, Neal competed in smaller competitions in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Hampshire. She did well enough in these competitions to qualify for the national competition.

Neal rides a horse named Comedor when she does regular dressage as opposed to Dressage IEA. She rides at a barn called Harmony Horse Stables in Littleton. She normally rides three days a week, but since she is now training for nationals, she has been riding four days a week.

At her practices, she works with her instructors to work on her position and how she looks. She is not as concerned about how the horse does since she will not be riding her horse.

“I can’t get my horse to where I want it to be if I don’t look good, if I’m not centered and balanced,” Neal said.

Some days she has a half an hour private lesson, which is conditioning for her, and other times she has an hour long group lesson, which she says is helpful because it prepares her for what it will be like when she is in the ring at competition. There will be several horses in the ring while she is showing her horse, so the group setting prepares her for that.

A challenge she has faced in reaching the level she is at now is the popularity of dressage in New England. Most serious horseback riders go down south where it’s warmer, so they can ride all year. Since it is cold for some of the year in New England, there aren’t as many people up here that do horseback riding.

Neal has also faced some challenges with the size of the barn where she rides.

“Don’t get me wrong, I love my barn, it’s just not a competition barn, it’s not a very high ranking barn,” Neal said.

Neal says her favorite part of horseback riding is the connection she has with her horse.

“I love that feeling when my horse is listening to me . . . and I know that I’m one with the horse, and it’s just a good feeling,” Neal said.