Emily Wagner & Wakeup–Success Far from Center of Dressage Builds Dreams

7 years ago admin Comments Off on Emily Wagner & Wakeup–Success Far from Center of Dressage Builds Dreams
Emily Wagner on Wakeup at Paragon Dressage CDI3* in Estes Park, Colorado where the pair won the Interediaire I and Freestyle in only their second CDI. © 2013 Dr. Mike Tomlinson
Emily Wagner on Wakeup at Paragon Dressage CDI3* in Estes Park, Colorado where the pair won the Interediaire I and Freestyle in only their second CDI. © 2013 Dr. Mike Tomlinson

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

Emily Wagner is so far out of the dressage mainstream that she doesn’t need more than two fingers to count the number of international dressage competitions a year within a long day’s drive, but her American-bred, raised and trained Wakeup has had an effect on her life that is so profound she gave up her goal of becoming a doctor to devote herself to dressage in the middle of the United States.

Emily is so far away from the intensive CDI circuits in Florida and California–about 1,450 miles (2,300 km)–with their top combinations from throughout the Americas and Europe that she can watch and learn from that she finds the bills for hay in those centers mind boggling. After all, they grow it where she lives and don’t have to ship it in from thousands of miles/kilometers away.

And although she thinks every day whether being in the center of dressage and not the center of the United States in La Cygne would be good for her riding she prefers life in the community in Kansas of not many more than 1,100 people where friendships are built to endure a lifetime and dressage is not one of life’s experiences for most of her friends and colleagues who have a down-to-earth common sense and compassion for their neighbors and community.

But the talent of the black stallion, now eight years old and officially an American Warmblood (Wagnis x Macho) diverted Emily from her goal of going to medical school to become a doctor and instead working fulltime on the family farm and breeding station with up to 45 horses.

And although La Cygne may not be Wellington, Florida or Del Mar, California, she has built a record of success that is enviable–as a champion in United States Young Horses and competing at the world championships in Verden, Germany.

Now, the pair are competing at small tour, and after the showing at both the CDIs within driving distance of La Cygne in Lexington, Kentucky in May and Estes Park, Colorado last weekend she is tied for 12th place on the Tim Dutta U.S. Intermediaire championship rankings with a good chance of making it to the finals in Kentucky in October. The top 15 riders and horses are invited from qualifying through CDIs of which only two remain in the country before the championships.

Emily Wagner and Wakeup competing at the World Young Horse Championships in Verden, Germany in 2010. © Ilse Schwarz/dressage-news.com
Emily Wagner and Wakeup competing at the World Young Horse Championships in Verden, Germany in 2010. © Ilse Schwarz/dressage-news.com

Emily is refreshingly candid about the choices she has made so far as she has ridden Wakeup through young horse events to become a dream come true for American dressage–a rider with talent, a smile as wide as a Kansas prairie and a horse about as American as can be expected in a warmblood world.

Though now at small tour and preparing for Grand Prix, more choices will have to be faced.

If she makes it to the U.S. Intermediaire Championships that will be enough to fulfill another of her goals–for the moment.

In the couple of days between Paragon Dressage in Colorado and then this year’s U.S. Young and Developing Horse Championships in Wayne, Illinois this week she talked with dressage-news.com.

Emily did go to California for a month last year to work with Lilo Fore, who makes occasional visits to Kansas for clinics. She described the experience as “really good for me.”

“For me,” she said, however,”I like to be on my own here in Kansas. The karma is really good. It’s nothing like California or Florida. There’s not the concentration. But there are more combinations involved in high performance dressage, from Nebraska and Missouri as well as Kanas.

“Wakeup is kind of a poster child–born in Kansas, bred in Kansas, raised in Kansas. It’s fun to see a horse not from Europe.”

The same labels apply to Emily whose mother runs the farm with help in varying degrees from Emily, two brothers, and two sisters–all pitching in to mske it work as best they can with other careers and school work that ometimes take precedence.

Emily Wagner riding Wakeup in U.S. Young Horse Championships. © Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Emily Wagner riding Wakeup in U.S. Young Horse Championships. © Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

With so few accessible CDIs, Emily said, “I think about moving, thinking I need more help, I need more training, to watch people who are much better than me.

“It absolutely crosses my mind all the time. Horse riding is great. But I love the Midwest. I love the people. Family is important to me.

“And there is something about not being involved all the time. Everything is just a little bit more relaxed and laid back. That works for me.

“There might come a point where I might go to Florida. There’s something to be said for being a bit of an outsider.

“I don’t need to keep up with the Joneses. The heartland is not exactly where you think of big breeding, it’s not really the Mecca of the sport.

“I’m proud to be from the Midwest. It’s fun. People knew me since I was three years old riding ponies.

“Here in Kansas we belong to the people. We are Kansas. They own us. It’s an amazing thing to come back and hear people you don’t even know well congratulate you.”

Although Wakeup is much stronger, he needs to keep building strength to be competitive at the higher levels.

“My goal is he goes and shows his potential,” she said. “Of course I want to go and do well.”

She acknowledges that expectations are higher for both Wakeup and her as a result of her their success so far.

Asked whether that success has changed her life, she said:

“He has changed my life completely, but changed me, not at all.

“If I hadn’t gotten Wakeup I don’t know if I’d really be riding dressage. I went back to school to become a doctor. If this had not come along I don’t think I would be riding dressage.

“In that sense, it has totally changed the course of my life. It has had a profound impact on me.

“I like to think that as a person it has not changed me.”

Emily said she has had and still has average horses that she appreciates for what they are but Wakeup is “unbelievable, that he is my horse and I get to ride him and get to appreciate him every time I get on him.

“I hope it hasn’t changed me as a person but he has totally changed my life.”

There is not the same infrastructure in Kansas supporting high performance dressage horses, Emily said, with no water treadmills, for example, but the quality of veterinarians and farriers is top notch with access to the latest treatments and techniques and are open to practices that work.

Wakeup, for example, has competed with the best on bth sides of the Atlantic while receiving veterinary and farrier care from local practitioners that has kept him sound and competitive.

No, she admits, there may not be the same high technology infrastructure as Wellington or California, but “in Wellington you can’t find a green pasture for the horsesto run around.”

There are, she said, tradeoffs.

Wakeup will most likely do the developing Grand Prix in 2014 as he has one-tempis changes, piaffe and passage though “not polished.”

“It’s up to him to give me his time line,” she responded to a question as to Wakeup’s championship prospects. “I’ll let him decide. I would love to fulfill dreams of mine to be on a United States team. But anything can happen at any moment…”