Young rider overcomes unknowns and a fashion-based friendship is rekindled.
by Cassidy Gallman
I met Allison Hopkins just over a year ago. What I first noticed was her outfit. She just looked so cool. Jeans, Birkenstock sandals, a white top of some sort -- it was the prefect mix of sophistication without trying too hard.
Mature but still young.
We were at a competitor’s party at the 2015 USEF Dressage Festival of Champions in Chicago, IL. I saw her walking into the building and I had no idea who she was. Once inside, we ended up bonding over a Thank You banner for the now late organizer Lloyd Landkamer.
When she said she rode at the Junior level, it dawned on me: I did know her. “Do you have a gold collar on your show jacket?” I asked. She skeptically replied, “yes,” with a laugh. Isn’t that how all-great stories start?
As it turned out I had been taking photographs of the FEI Junior class earlier in the day for an article I was writing on fashion. Her style was so different from everyone else and I was hoping to find her to get a quote. It looked like fate decided to intervene. I told her exactly this and she agreed to help me with the article. We exchanged numbers and communicated after the competition and I later mentioned her in The Say Yes to the Dress– Or Coat article I wrote for the fashion issue of California Riding Magazine this time last year.
I wrote about Allison’s do-it-yourself style. Her mom had found a great gold velvet at a fabric store and they created a removable collar and lining for the venting to accent her jacket. I labeled it a “DIY success story.” Months went by and we stayed in touch over social media. When I received my invitation to the 2016 Robert Dover Horsemastership clinic held at the Global Dressage facility in Wellington, FL in early January I was excited to see a friendly face on the list.
Among the amazing things I learned at the clinic was that Allison loves peanut butter. Seriously, she loves peanut butter. On multiple occasions I saw her just eating it out of a cup. I also learned that after the clinic she was putting her beloved horse Windsor up for sale.
Allison imported Windsor from Germany after only seeing a video clip and having a friend of her trainer, Yvonne Kusserow, ride him. When she got him in April of 2015, she hit the ground running with the hopes of making the Region 9 FEI Junior Team to compete at the 2015 North American Junior and Young Rider Championships. Allison and Windsor competed in their first CDI, first FEI Junior qualifier and Windsor’s first show in the United States just after two weeks of knowing each other. And with an incredible support system, they made the team!
At NAJYRC, their team received the bronze medal and at the Festival of Champions, which takes the top 12 horse and rider combinations in the nation, they placed fifth overall. And now after less than a year of knowing him, Allison, due to financial limitations, had to let him go.
Allison rode beautifully in the clinic and caught the eye of all the coaches, including that of Robert Dover, the U.S. Dressage Team coach and chef d’equipe. Allison told Robert about her aspirations to compete at the Young Rider level during the upcoming season and about her difficult situation and he graciously wrote a post on Facebook in hopes of finding her a sponsor who could provide her with a horse for the season.
Months passed, Windsor was sold to a wonderful home and, after pursuing sponsors for the season, nothing materialized. Until her phenomenal support system kicked into gear. Yvonne, Allison’s trainer, offered Royal Falcon, an11 year old German Sport Horse trained to Prix St. Georges, as an option. Yvonne had not considered him before due to the horse’s show nerves but she and the horse’s owner, Mike Mayes, had faith in Allison. Allison rode him for one week before their first qualifier and somehow managed to qualify for the 2016 NAJYRC Region 9 team in one month!
I was lucky enough to see this friendly face at the 2016 NAJYRC in Parker, CO and was able to watch her and Royal Falcon’s (who goes by the barn name Rusty) first ride. To be honest, it brought tears to my eyes. To see Allison there, with the last six month of unknowns was just truly amazing to witness. It is hard enough moving up a level (or two) on a horse you know. But to do it on a horse you had only been riding for two months and who was also inexperienced? That, ladies and gents, is a feat.
It also made me smile to see what she was wearing.
It was like her Junior style but more. So much more. She wore a navy Pikeur shadbelly with personal additions. She switched out the silver buttons for gold and Margret’s Alterations made a removable collar from a gold silk, which also matched her custom gold tips. Allison paired this with a gold and patent leather belt that exactly matched the gold PS of Sweden browband that easily clipped to Royal Falcon’s bridle. Her saddle pad from Equestrian Stockholm had a gold rim and gold plating and her gloves had gold accents. Allison also wore full patent leather Konig boots and Royal wore a fly bonnet with patent leather tips.
It was clear: This was a Young Rider interpretation of Allison’s Junior style. Oh so classy and sophisticated yet so much fun just like the Texas native herself. What I loved the most was it kept up the do-it-yourself theme that seems to follow Allison wherever she goes.
Allison went into the NAJYRC with realistic expectations but the Region 9 Young Rider team came out with a fantastic fourth-placed finish. She and Royal then competed a month later at the 2016 USEF Dressage Seat Medal Finals in the 14-18 division at Lamplight Equestrian Center in Chicago, IL.
And guess what? They won! Yes, you read that right.
An elegant display of riding earned them an 87%, and they won the gold medal. This do-it yourselfer won. I literally jumped for joy. This goes to show what the right attitude can do. The DIY, I am here and I am going to learn the most I can and do the most I can with what I have attitude. It means something. It inspires me and it warms hearts. This is the real gold.
As for Allison, the 2016 season has come to a close. Do you know what this means? Now, Allison is back at square one with a new season looming and no horse. To the University of Texas freshman, this is normal. It is not normal but for Allison, the DIY-er, it is. Allison dreams of standing on an NAJYRC Young Rider podium but ultimately wants to compete in the Under 25 Grand Prix division at the Festival of Champions and to one day represent the United States in the Olympics.
I may have dubbed Allison as the do-it-yourselfer because of her fashion choices but she didn’t do it alone. She has an incredible support system that grows with every person that her story reaches. I hope that includes you. Help me share her story. Let’s help this DIY-er. Let’s help her find a new partner she can grow with.
You can contact her through her email:
Author Cassidy Gallman is an accomplished FEI Young Rider, an active USDF Region 7 volunteer, newly certified yoga teacher, marketing student and, in her spare time, a dressage fashion aficionado. Keep up with her if you dare on Instagram at @cassidygallman.
October 2016 - A DIY Success Story