Ashley Holzer Aiming for USA Team for 2020 Tokyo Olympics After Four Games for Canada

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Ashley Holzer on Valentine at Wellington. 2019 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

WELLINGTON, Florida, Jan. 22, 2019–Ashley Holzer heads into the third year as a rider for America with the 2020 Olympics as the main goal that, if successful, would make her the first United States dressage team rider to have represented two nations at the Games. She was on four of Canada’s Olympic dressage teams, including the only one in history to win a medal, a bronze at Seoul in 1988.

And if Ashley makes the U.S. team on one of at least three Grand Prix horses she is currently competing, she would be the oldest ever member of an American team at the age of 56.

Before then, she would have a good shot at making the U.S. team at either Big or Small Tour in the mixed level squads at the Pan American Games in Lima Peru in July. But instead, she is focused on her students–Canadians seeking to earn one of the two remaining teams from the Americas for a start in Tokyo. She coaches the two top ranked Canadians, Brittany Fraser who is expecting her first child in June, and Jill Irving, as well as Jacqueline Brooks and goddaughter Lindsay Kellock. As the Tryon World Equestrian Games silver medalist, the United States is already qualified for Tokyo.

Ashley, who switched from riding for Canada to competing for the U.S. in 2017, is now a full-time resident of Florida with a farm in Wellington near the Adequan Global Dressage Festival grounds where she maintains a daily schedule of riding her own horses and training riders from the U.S. and Canada with an Australian resident in the community joining the lineup.

As an elite trainer and competitor as well as seemingly always positive and willing to share her knowledge, she remains highly popular and admired in Canada despite the switch to ride for the U.S. She is married to an American and their two children, Emma and Harry, enjoying success in their careers in Hollywood are also U.S. citizens.

After two years riding under the Stars ‘n’ Stripes, she told dressage-news.com: “The Americans are amazing. I feel so embraced by them.

“When we were in Europe last summer it was such a great time. Everyone was so generous with their time. I had Adrienne helping ride my horse when I got hurt; everyone has been amazing.” She paused and added:

“I feel honored to be a part of this team, actually. I love the fact it’s an incredibly difficult team to get on, a competitive team. That spurs my desire to want to do better. I think the reason the American team is the powerhouse that it is is because of the support of the owners, the trainers, the supporters, the people on the team, they are all selfless.

“I really think that speaks to everyone on the team–they hope their best is their best but they really think it’s important to support everyone else to be their best. At the end of the day I think that’s what makes great sport. I think we’ve really raised the level of sport in this country. A lot has to do with the facility that’s here as well. Everybody knows to be the best you have to have the best.”

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

This year, she wants to take to Europe three Grand Prix horses and the Small Tour mount, Valentine, a nine-year-old Hanoverian mare that has logged four victories in four CDI starts already this year.

Valentine has a special place in her heart, a Valentine’s Day gift as a four-year-old from her husband that she re-named from FN Sensation. She jokingly describes the mare (Sir Donnerhall x Ragazzo) “was a bit of a challenge but has now totally turned the corner from not so reliable to totally reliable.”

Among the others she hopes to take to Europe is Havanna, her most successful Grand Prix mount of the current lineup so far and on which she made her U.S. team debut as a member of the Nations Cup gold medal team at Wellington in 2018 and showed at Rotterdam; Leudelange, Luxembourg and Aachen, Germany last summer. Havanna (Hochadel x Rodgau), also a Hanoverian mare but 12 years old, was bought by Diane Fellows for Ashley to compete.

“The Olympics are totally my goal,” she said.

Though she expects Havanna to be her main partner in the campaign for Tokyo, Ashley says she’s been around horses long enough not to say “no” to any of the horses.

“I’m very fortunate to have so many owners of Grand Prix horses that are supporters that are helping me so we are going to keep pushing toward our goal,” she said. “In one way it’s kind of nice because one horse doesn’t have all the pressure.

“Whoever wants to go gets to go with me.”

Ashley is excited to take the horses back to Europe. She found the 2018 experience with then U.S. team coach Robert and Debbie McDonald, current team coach, was stimulating to see the world’s best and compete with the world’s best.

“It keeps you on your game,” she said, “it’s a very positive thing. Let’s hope Aachen works, but if not we’ll go to all the other shows, too. I’m old enough to know plans change.”