December 2016 - A Road Less Travelled

Young international dressage aspirant Ayden Uhlir opts for a “horse ranch instead of a horse.”

Talent and drive are usually not quite enough to make it to the top of any of the Olympic equestrian disciplines. That’s why young dressage rider Ayden Uhlir recently dug deep for a creative and realistic plan for financing her international ambitions.

Early on, she realized that Sjapoer, her partner in 2013 North American Young Riders Championship individual gold, would need to be sold to help fund her future. After finding a home for him with a friend of her San Diego trainer Christine Traurig, Ayden began spending more time in Germany, working with Johann Hinnemann, and thinking more about her prospects.

“I knew I would have much less chance of multiple highest level horses and competitions if I just had one horse at a time,” she realized. “So I decided to think outside the box.  I spoke to my Uncle James and got him to match my Sjapoer money and I went shopping for a horse ranch instead of a horse.”

She found Flyaway Stables in Battle Creek, Michigan, where her money went a long way. The 40-acre property has 33 stalls, an indoor arena, two outdoor arenas and a house.

“I can import young horses to bring up, I can buy or breed babies and I can make money importing horses to sell,” Ayden explains. “This gives me dozens of opportunities to find multiple horses and to make money for horses and a career in dressage.”

Ayden Uhlir

Giving back is also important. She’s a beneficiary and big believer in Lendon Gray’s Dressage For Kids program, and plans to donate one barn, 11 stalls, to D4K as a permanent home for their camps. “This I hope will help to develop the breadth of the sport and to create a young, growing fan base,” she says.

Some construction projects are already underway to convert the former jumper training facility for dressage and Ayden hopes that a few young horses will be moving in within six months or so.

As excited as she is about the new plan, funding it by the sale of Sjapoer wasn’t easy. “It broke my heart,” she acknowledges, even with him going to a good owner. “But that’s the reality that a lot of us face.” Another benefit of owning her own property is that she’ll have a place to keep the Sjapoers of her future. “I wanted to make sure I am never in that position again, of having to sell a horse.”

Throughout 2017, Ayden plans to split her time between Michigan and working with Johan in Germany, where immigration rules restrict her to 90-day stays every six months. By the end of the year, she hopes to be living and bringing new stars along at Flyaway Stables full time.

-Kim F. Miller