Q&A with Alyssa Rose
What is your name and where are you from?
-My name is Alyssa Cleland and I live in Dallas, Texas but am from California! I was adopted from Ukraine when I was four and came to the US! I lived in California my entire life until I moved to Oklahoma for college! After living in Oklahoma for two(ish) years, I found myself in Texas doing this whole ‘horse thing’ full time!
At what age did you ride your first horse?
-I was 10! The first horse I rode was named TB. She was an old bay mare and she was the sweetest! I was always obsessed with horses and it was so cool to be able to finally live me dream out and ride a horse! My love for horses only got worse but I had no idea that I’d end up being around them full time like I am!
Have you ever owned/leased a horse?
-Yes – both! I used to own a horse when I was 13-14, her name was Jojo and she was my first horse! I didn’t do much with her except take her on trail rides! After I moved to Texas and started training at NTEC I leased NTEC Cappi for a few months, but we weren’t compatible! I then started riding NTEC Daytona Beach pretty exclusively, but I didn’t lease her! I rode her to my first regional championships and she really taught me a lot! I know her new owner pretty well & will be working with Daytona while she’s away or just during the week when she can’t make it out – so it’s almost like I lease her (yay me!)
Tell us about Tjitte!
-Tjitte is the coolest horse ever! He’s a 21-yr. old 4th level Friesian. He was imported from the Netherlands as a young horse and has been my trainers’ personal horse his whole life! He is pretty spoiled and gets plenty of love/treats from the both of us! He’s never had a para rider on him, but he handles it like a champ! He’s very responsive to my aids and the upper level movements just come so easy to him!
What horse has taught you the most about yourself?
-All of them for different reasons, I think! Horses have been involved in my life at like monumental areas and I can just look back and see who I was as a person and look to where I am now and just be like WHOA! I don’t know if they have taught me about myself so much, I feel like I’m pretty in tune with everything me related – but they’ve definitely have just been there for me when I needed them!
What horse has taught you the most about riding?
-Definitely, Daytona! When I first started riding her, it was honestly a struggle! She definitely has her own idea about things and is not an easy horse to ride! She makes you work for want you want which is great but could also get frustrating at times! She is a very hard horse to get supple which is something we constantly worked on but never really got – it always took like 20 minutes to get her anywhere near being round enough to start working! But she is on the older side and had a long life before I met her where she didn’t get the best care so I’m sure she is a little burnt out! She gave 100% every time I rode her and for that I couldn’t be more grateful!
What is your most memorable moment with a horse?
-Probably regional championships with Daytona! I will never forget it! It was just such a big moment for me because you show and train for months leading up to this and then you’re like there and at championships and it’s like a big deal! I have all the gratitude in the world for that horse and what she’s given me!
Does anyone else in your family ride?
-Nope! I’m the ONLY one in my immediate family! My mom used to when she was a kid, my cousins used to do showjumping and my aunt owned race horses. I guess horses have always kind of been there, but I’m the only one that’s really taken it to this level and live my life around them!
What would you say is the hardest part of being an equestrian amputee?
-Honestly, probably just figuring out what cues work for your horse and which ones don’t! It’s been a crazy ride, but everyone is SO supportive like on Instagram and the barn I ride at! And with the trainer I have now, I don’t feel like I can’t do anything! She has me doing flying changes, half passes and piaffes – like it’s crazy! Once you find a horse that is responsive to everything though, it just kind of comes easy…I guess? There’s still a lot to work on, but I don’t feel like me and my horse aren’t equipped to learn things and get the job done!
What is your favorite part about horses?
-Just how different they all are personality wise! It’s so fun just getting to know them and all their little quirks! As well, they don’t judge people! They see me and a two legger the same way! They don’t care if you are missing body parts or not – they just take you for who you are and try their best!
What are your biggest achievements?
- Surfing with Bethany Hamilton in Kauai
- Getting 2nd place at an international volleyball tournament in Brazil
- Going to college (even though I still have to finish!)
- Regional Championships in 2018.
Honestly, that’s the only big horse one I can think of! There’s obviously a ton of little milestones/goals I’ve accomplished within my training, but those are things that I think are part of like the natural process of riding and learning!
What is one-piece of advice that has helped you get to where you are today?
-Stay in your lane! There are so many people out there trying to do the SAME thing as you and that’s ok! There’s going to be people that are better than you – LET THEM BE! You should want to grow and get better because YOU want to, not because you feel like you need to be better than the next person! Everyone has their own individuals’ strengths and weakness, just like you have yours! I think just focusing on what you are doing and trying to accomplish every day is the best thing to do for yourself and your sanity!
What is one piece of knowledge that you feel should be passed along to every equestrian?
-Take lots of naps, they are good for the soul! :))
A massive thank you to Alyssa for sharing her story! You can learn more about her and Tjitte on her Instagram page, @alcequine!
-Paint Me Dappled