Each issue, MSEDA will highlight a member who is active in the organization to give other members a peek into their horse-loving lives. Interested in being featured? Email Sarah at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alison Otter is the proud owner of a hilarious mini-menagerie. Each animal she owns, from her PSG show horse to her mini donkey, is chock-full of personality. Read on to learn more about all of Alison’s animals, her show schedule for the year and what she does to mentally prepare for the show ring.
By Sarah E Coleman
Photo by Karen Taylor
MSEDA: Where are you from?
Alison Otter: I have lived in Goshen, Ky., from 1st grade through high school, then I went to college in Lexington so I could take my horse. From there I went to graduate school at Florida State University in Tallahassee, Fla., and lived in the Tallahassee area for 11 years before moving back to Goshen.
MSEDA: When did you begin riding?
AO: I began riding when I was 7 with my mom and brother. We took a couple saddleseat lessons and I hated that they would only let you ride in the aisle of the barn, so we started taking lessons at Spring Run and Hilltop Stables, which later moved to Mint Springs.
MSEDA: What is your background in horses?
AO: I grew up in a neighborhood that had a community barn, and my mom fell in love with a school horse we rode in our early lessons; we ended up buying him and keeping him at the barn in our neighborhood.
I have had lots of horses in my lifetime; I was in 4-H, Pony Club and began my eventing career under the instruction of Mary Lowry. I evented through Prelim also riding at Spring Run under Susan Harris and decided when I went to college that the conditioning needed to keep eventing would be too much to endure with school and playing field hockey--so I decided to ride dressage with my event horse Breezy under instruction of Elaine Gibala.
MSEDA: How long have you been competing?
AO: I have been competing since I was 8 or 9 years old.
MSEDA: When did you get your first horse?
AO: I got my first horse when I was 8 years old; he was a Morgan-Arab cross named Heineken. He was way too much horse for me and took off with me in my first 4-H show in the ring. It’s kind of funny now because I remember the judge was chasing after us waving her arms trying to get him to stop. The judge was wearing bright pink pants and red cowboy boots and after much chasing, she finally helped me get him back under control. Not long after that, I sold Heineken to a more experienced rider and got a nice quiet Quarter Horse named Win.
MSEDA: What horses do you own now?
AO: I won Lionus, a 14-year-old Canadian Horse I have had since he was 4 years old. I also own Sisu, a Zweibrucker Horse that is 10 years old; I have had her for almost 2 years. I also own Oreo, a Miniature horse/Shetland cross that is 10 years old (I have had him since he was 4). Because of an accident, he only has one eye. I also own Bamboo, a Miniature donkey that is almost 2 years old. I got him when he was 9 months old
MSEDA: What horses do you compete (and what do you compete in?)
AO: I compete Leonidas Van Pelt “Lionus” in PSG and 4th level freestyle; Sing A Song LC “Sisu” will be competing 2nd level this year.
MSEDA: How long have you been a MSEDA member?
AO: I was a member when I was a kid, but I think it had a couple more letters in the name. (MSEDA used to be known as Midsouth Combined Training and Dressage Association, when Combined Training changed to Eventing, MSEDA followed suite) I rejoined when I moved back to Kentucky.
MSEDA: What are your horse's favorite treats?
AO: Lionus, Oreo and Boo eat pretty much anything! Sisu is picky and likes standard carrots and apples. Everyone loves the German Horse treats.
MSEDA: Do you have any good luck rituals?
AO: Not really. I visualize my tests and usually listen to my freestyle music if I am riding a freestyle. I also love my time with my horses braiding at shows--I talk to them while we listen to music. I play music that fits each horse: Lionus needs to be pumped up since he is a little on the easy-going side and Sisu needs to be calmed down as she is an over-thinker and more on the nervous side of the spectrum. So Bob Marley works well for Sisu and anything with energetic upbeat tempo is good for Lionus.
MSEDA: What do you do full time? Do you enjoy it?
AO: I have my Master’s Degree in art therapy, but when I moved back to Kentucky 4 years ago, I took a job working for our family business. The business was the reason as a child I was able to have a horse and enjoy competing, so now I guess is my turn to give back to it.
MSEDA: What are your favorite equestrian brands?
AO: Hennig, Horze, Back on Track, Kentucky, OneK Konigs
MSEDA: What are your horse's quirks?
AO: Lionus loves to smile even in serious pictures: You pull out a phone or camera, and he is smiling. Lionus also lives with his “minions” Oreo and Boo--they share everything: pasture, stall etc. He is a giant, almost 17.2 hh, and when it rains, they park themselves underneath him and use him as a big umbrella. Lionus is also very playful and had a giant soccer ball in his pasture he likes to push around. The minions also love the soccer ball (which is pretty much the same size as them), but Boo I found has a real love of ropes. I realized this when the ropes hanging by the gate to the pasture seemed to disappear and I realized one day when I saw Boo dragging one around that he was the reason. Sisu likes to be close and snuggle. She is very affectionate and sweet.
MSEDA: What is your goal this year?
AO: My goal with Lionus is to qualify for Regionals with 4th level freestyle and at PSG. With Sisu, my goal is to qualify 2nd level freestyle and at 2nd level. I took both horses to Nationals last year and would love to qualify to go again.
MSEDA: Who do you ride with?
AO: Jenn Boblitt, she is an amazing coach, rider and trainer, and I would never have gotten as far as I have without her.
MSEDA: Where do you ride?
AO: I board my horses at Alta Vista Farm right now, but just recently bought some land and look forward to building my farm there in the next year.
MSEDA: What is your favorite part of Alta Vista?
AO: I love the people. It’s hard for non-horse people to really get what we do. The people at my barn are some of my best friends. We have a lot of fun both at the barn and outside of the barn. We all support and encourage each other. It’s just really nice to be surrounded by people who really understand and love horses.
MSEDA: What is the biggest obstacle you have overcome with your horse?
AO: I have had lots of hurdles as I have moved up the levels, but most really at the core involved finding a better understanding of how a horse thinks and communicates, and relating to my horses as horses not as humans.
MSEDA: Describe your horse in 10 words.
AO: Lionus: heart, smart, goofy, playful, dramatic, versatile, smile, protective, laid-back, giant
Sisu: loving, smart, thinker, alpha, athletic, talented, diva, particular, colorful, unique
Oreo: survivor, loud, special, friendly, pushy, adorable, Rod Stewart hair, follower, resilient, bold
Boo: sneaky, smart, playful, protective, loving, escape artist, baby, gentle, ears, determined
MSEDA: What other animals do you own? I have a dog named Willow. My nephew and brother found an abandoned duck nest and we hatched in an incubator baby ducks. Two of the ducks, Lucky and Kramer, now live on the Ohio River and occasionally visit my brother’s house.
MSEDA: Is there anything unusual about your horses now?
AO: They are all very unique.
MSEDA: What are you passionate about other than horses?
AO: Anything outdoors and active. Love drawing or building things.
MSEDA: What is one piece of advice you wish you had when you were younger?
AO: When I lived in Florida, I had an opportunity to ride in a symposium with Robert Dover at the private barn where I lived and kept Lionus. Robert talked in depth throughout the symposium about the importance of “riding with your mind’s eye.” I have always kept this close to my heart …”if you can see it, you can be it.”
Many times throughout my training with Lionus, people have told me “he is too big to ever get the changes or make it past 2nd level.” I believed in our partnership and in Lionus, and here we are competing PSG and schooling the I1 movements. My advice to everyone young and old is believe in yourself and in your horse: Think big and dream bigger because if you see it in your mind’s eye, you can become it.