Ashley Holzer After First American Team Experience Outside USA Wishes She’d Made Switch Sooner

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Ashey Holzer and Havanna, horse and rider both wearing Stars & Stripes, wrapping up the rider’s first tour of Europe as an American. © 2018 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

July 31, 2018

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

Ashley Holzer, despite having lived in the United States for many years and with a husband and two children Americans, dragged her feet to switch from riding for Canada.

Her competition record With Canada included four Olympics, team bronze in 1988; four World Equestrian Games beginning with the inaugural combined championships in 1990; team gold and team silver in two Pan American Games, and riding in an open European Championships.

“At the time I was still very troubled about changing,” Ashley told dressage-news.com after her first European tour with an American squad since switching to ride for the U.S. two years ago. “A lot of people in the world said, ‘Why would you change? You can so easily get on a team’. But I think you want to challenge yourself, you want to be better. You don’t want to be on a team just because it’s a little easier to get on a team. You want to be on a team because it really challenges you.”

After the experience of being in the group that decided the U.S. team for the World Equestrian Games in Tryon, North Carolina in six weeks: “Now, I kind of honestly regret not doing it sooner.”

For the two months the 54-year-old Ashley was around the American riders, “it’s invigorated my riding and made me feel a little younger,” she laughed, “still sore in my back but a little younger.”

Ashley has long been admired on both sides of the Atlantic, as a competitor, a trainer, a wife and mother, as someone who gives her all despite never seeming to take a break and an attitude that is upbeat and filled with fun. She was the test rider at the 2011 European Championships in Rotterdam.

The Americans P.J. Rizvi, who owned Breaking Dawn that Ashley rode for Canada at the 2012 London Olympics, and Diane Fellows, owner of Havanna that Ashley qualified for the European tour, were among the rider’s biggest supporters and wanted her to ride for America.

Ashley Holzer, then riding for Canada, on the American-owned Breaking Dawn at the 2012 Olympic Games in London. It was Ashley’s fourth Olympics for Canada and her last major event wearing the maple leaf patch. © Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

So, too, was Robert Dover, the American coach for the past six years who will be succeeded by Debbie McDonald after the world championships, who “called me every week and that got a little tiresome.

“I’m so happy I did it. Not that Canada didn’t do wonderful things for me, and a lot of my friends are Canadian and I train a lot of Canadians. I love my Canadian team mates.

“But as far as the support staff the Americans have it really is top shelf.

“Robert and Debbie have put together an incredible program. It’s no surprise they’re doing as well as they’re doing.

“There are so many wonderful riders in the world; let’s be honest, I can probably count 30 or 40 amazing riders put on the correct horse would do extremely well. But you cannot do that well unless you have an amazing team behind you and that is what they have created; they have created an amazing riding team, they’ve created amazing training; support–Hallye (Griffin) at the U.S. federation is above and beyond; before I even have a question she’s answered the question. It’s having those people, the vets, the physio people, they have really thought of everything to try to bring out the best in us.

“It is done in a very kind–I wouldn’t say they are out there just to rub your back–they want you to do well, perform, get the job done; but they are there to get you any kind of support they can to help you do that properly.

Ashley Holzer riding Havanna with the American Stars & Stripes on the saddlepad at Aachen. Germany in July. © 2018 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

“I’m so grateful for the kindness and how beautifully the team has embraced me. They are incredible riders. It has been such an amazing experience for me to be surrounded by great people… and to see their inspiring training every day has put a new breath of life into my training. It has been an extremely positive and wonderful experience for me personally.

“It’s easy to get stale, easy to carry on in the same way, easy to not challenge yourself, to rest on your laurels.

“But I love challenging myself, looking at other trainers and seeing how they train. I love looking at how horses are developing. It’s a curiosity in me to see how people do things, how I can improve myself, how I can be a better rider.”

She described her fellow Americans, Laura Graves, Adrienne Lyle, Kasey Perry-Glass who will be on the world championshp team with Steffen Peters and others on the European squad as “incredible!”

“They’re incredible people, horsewomen, riders, trainers and friends. They really are the top of their game. I was always told that people who are true experts at what they do, they help each other, they support each other and I think that is why they are as good as they are.

“To be this good, it’s hard to be at the top and you’re alone. These girls are at the top and they’re not alone. They are all there for each other. I think that support is what makes a difference.”

“It is done in a very kind and–I wouldn’t say they are out there just to rub your back–they want you to do well, perform, get the job done; but they are there to get you any kind of support they can to help you do that properly.”

Ashley Holzer among American supporters at Aachen, Germany. © 2018 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

Although Ashley did not make the American team she will be in Tryon as the coach of two of the four Canadians likely to be on their team–Brittany Fraser on All in and Jill Irving on Degas.

The Canadians she coaches accept her decision to ride for America.

“They know who I am,” she said, and adds, “I think Robert is constantly saying, ‘Can’t they become Americans? Make their horses American.’ He’s always out there trying to make the American team bigger and better.

“I’ve loved training these girls. I’ve trained them for a very long time–longer than I’m willng to admit–and I’m so happy they’re doing as well as they are. They also support me. I’ve been away for a long time and they’re supportive of me on my journey as well. At this juncture, I’m in a pretty wonderful place.

“As I said, it’s given a little life to the old girl. I like it.”

Her husband, is “Rusty” Holzer, whose mother “Baby Jane” Holzer, was a socialite, model and 1960s pop icon who served as a muse for artist Andy Warhol and appeared in several of his art-house films and has been successful in real estate and acquisition and sale of comtemporary art. Rusty competed as a jumper on the U.S. Virgin Islands team at the Olympics in Barcelona in 1992. He is a real estate investor and movie producer.

He travels a lot with her now, was at all three European shows this summer.

For a long time, she explained, he thought he was her bad luck charm, until he was at a show where she did extremely well and Ashley said, “Now you’re in trouble because you’re my good luck charm.”

“He’s been a huge support, he understand the business having been an Olympic level jumping rider.

“I could not do this without a husband who understood what we go through. I’m so grateful for all he’s done for me; out there watching everybody ride. He enjoys it.”

Her grown children, Harrison and Emma, are building successful careers in Holywood.