I know, I know, you are FREAKING out too! I’ve literally talked about having my own website/blog for FOREVER and now here we are FINALLY doing it! I have gotten so much inspiration from other equestrian lifestyle bloggers and I just kept thinking to myself, couldn’t I do this too? I know I’ve teased a blog on my Instagram here and there, and you all seemed very interested & responsive which makes me so happy to know that you all would actually read this and support my latest endeavor. If you follow my Instagram (@alcequine), you’ll know that I’ve re-branded myself and merged my personal account with my equine account. I did this because I really want to showcase what my life is like as an amputee because I feel that disabled people are too often disregarded and overlooked – as if they do nothing with their life because they’re disabled. There’s a “gap” almost between abled-bodied riders and Para-Dressage riders and I want help bridge that gap and to share my journey with you; as a Para-Dressage Rider and human being.
If you are new here, let me tell ya a little bit about myself, what I do and what I want to accomplish. My name’s Alyssa and I currently reside in the Dallas, Texas area with my boyfriend and cat. Originally born in Ukraine, I was adopted at the age of four and was raised in Southern California. I have a rare congenital condition called Paraxial Tibial Hemimelia which affects the growth of my right leg and my hands. I had my leg amputated above the knee shortly after I came to the US and was given my first prosthetic almost immediately after. I’ve lived with a prosthetic limb my entire life, so I’m pretty much used to it by now and have adapted to do any type of sport or physical activity that I want. My hands are fully functional, but I’m missing my middle fingers and some bones in my wrist. Although it does not affect my day to day activities, not being able to give someone the finger has its downsides.
I started riding around the age of ten when I got riding lessons for Christmas from my sister. I remember the first horse I rode was a bay mare named TB. She was a saint & solidified my love for horses. After a few rides at that specific facility, they asked us to stop coming as they saw me as too much of a liability & no longer wanted to take me on as a student. I was crushed & I didn’t ride much after that, just here & there when someone would let me on their horses. Fast forward 8 years & I’m in college in Edmond, Oklahoma and on the US Women’s National Paralympic Sitting Volleyball Team. I had completely let go of horses and moved on with my life and dived into another sport. But, as neat of an experience as it was, about 2 years in I realized it wasn’t what I wanted to do any more and that’s how I ended up in Texas and involved with horses again.
I started training with the US Paralympic Dressage Coach Kai Handt when I first arrived. I rode a ton of different horses and got some showing experience – which is something I’d never done up until this point. I eventually got paired with a sixteen-year-old Warmblood named Daytona Beach and my world was shook. She had previously been owned by a Grade I Para-Dressage rider and had actually been to the 2016 Rio Paralympics. We started slow and just competed in Intro and Training level and we actually made it to Regional Championships here in Texas! This was a big deal for me since it was my first year dabbling in any type of competition. I eventually ended up leaving the facility that Daytona was at and she got bought by a good friend of mine that lets me ride her every week. Eventually, I plan to buy her back and let her retire with me!
After leaving Daytona and all I had done with her, I found a new trainer and am now partnered with a 21-year-old Friesian named Tjitte (Chid-Da). He’s a 4th level horse and has taught me so many new moves like leg yields, flying changes, passage, etc. There’s nothing this horse can’t do and he is so patient with me. It’s funny to think that they know when something is off or different about a person and they take extra good care of you, because maybe they think you are a little more fragile than the average two-legger. We’ve been a duo for about 8 months (as of August) and I’ll continue to ride him until he has taught me everything I can learn from him or until I get my own horse — whatever comes first.
As far as para-dressage goes, it basically means disabled people doing dressage. There’s a grading scale to measure the severity of each individuals disability – I am a Grade V which is the highest grade possible, which means you have to complete more advance movements in your test whereas Grade I is the lowest grade and they perform the least complicated movements in their tests (Grade I only walks). My goal is to someday make it to the Paralympics, however, I’m still in the beginning stages of riding & competing in para-dressage so it might take a few years. I haven’t shown since 2018 and due to financial issues (horses are expensive), I will not show until that works itself out, whether that’s by getting several raises, winning the lottery, or getting sponsors that love the horse and the sport as much as I do. Along with that, I don’t own or lease a horse either. That will all come in due time and I know everything will work out the way it’s supposed to as long as I work hard and keep moving forward. I don’t say these things to sound like a downer or a beggar, this is just the reality of my situation and many other peoples’ situation as well!
That being said, I’m sure at this point you are asking yourself, “well, what should I expect?” SO MUCH GOOD STUFF! I’ll be sharing everything from lifestyle posts, product reviews, amputee tips & tricks, my training, and diving deeper into the para world. Expect fun interviews with fellow para-athletes, a look into how they make their equipment work for them, how they compete, and everything in between. I know I haven’t been riding professionally for years or know that much about training a horse, but I want this to be one of the go-to blogs that you can dive headfirst into and rely on to always bring you the best of the best whether it comes from me personally or an outside source who has more knowledge.
I also want this to be a safe space for everyone. If you’ve been following me for a while you’ll know that I’m very open and honest about anything and everything — my life, family, relationships, disability, my struggles — and I want that to carry over onto this platform as well. If you have questions, suggestions, need to talk to someone – anonymous or known – feel free to send me a message through the contact page and I will respond. I want to be available for you guys and whatever struggles you might be going through. I know especially for me when I was growing up I never really knew other amputees and I had to figure things out for myself. Eventually, once I grew up, I started meeting a lot of other amputees and a new world of possibilities opened up for me. Not to mention, the amount of support and love that they poured into me was overwhelming and I want to be able to provide that to you guys as well.
To end this post, I just want to say a massive thank you to everyone! You all are so amazing, and I’m humbled every day that I get to share my story and life with all of you!