Meet Equivont Brand Ambassador Payton, an avid Dressage Queen, and learn about her experience as an equestrian with Autism.
As long as I can remember, horses have always been part of my life. As a rider with Autism, horses changed my life inside the barn but my life outside of the barn.
My riding journey began at the Shea Therapeutic riding center in California. In the adaptive riding program, I transitioned through the stages of hippotherapy, semi-private and private lessons. The program had a foundation in dressage- I think I was hooked the moment I did my first leg yield at 10. I In therapeutic riding- it is not just about riding accomplishments- it’s also about how it impacts your life. was able to gain core strength, cross mid-line, learn how to tell time using the dressage letters as a clock and gain confidence. As I gained confidence in the saddle that confidence helped me outside of the barn in school. The more I was at the barn, the more my love for horses grew.
After nine years at Shea, we moved to Texas. On one of my last rides at the Shea, Janelle talked to my mom and told her “Jennie as long as you find the right instructor and the right barn Payton would be ready to transition to a dressage barn.” My mom always kept that in the back of her head. As anyone knows transitioning barns can be hard for anyone. For someone with Autism, change is even more difficult. I was devastated.
Once in Texas, I started at Healing with Horses, a therapeutic riding barn. I was cantering, but not fully confident yet. Here I was able to focus on my mental strength. So much about being on a horse is how you approach the ride when you first get on. I gained confidence in cantering and competed in my first walk, trot, show at Healing with Horses.
As my riding progressed, I progressed. I gained confidence in school. It was time to transition to dressage. I found my current barn, White Fences Equestrian Center. It was the perfect match. I can go to the barn and it is so peaceful and it helps calm my anxiety. Horses feel like an escape where I can just let go of whatever is bothering me and just go and ride. When I transitioned to dressage is when my riding took off- I realized, it was me and the horse- I had to trust myself and the horse. I no longer had a side walker. Discovering that trust in myself was a huge moment.
I started taking lessons at white fences and met my trainer Daemie Kennedy. Daemie teaches in way that works with my learning style. She understands when she needs to push me and when we need to take a break. I competed in my first show and I was hooked the moment I saw the sparkle. I am currently paired with Bilbo. We are a team and that consistency has helped my riding grow tremendously. The patterns of dressage have helped my processing. I still need a caller for my tests, but the lessons I have learned in the show ring have helped me grow as student and as a member of the equestrian community. I know more than ever that I will be in the equestrian community for a long time—I am looking forward to becoming a therapeutic riding instructor so I can help others find the joy in horses the same way I did. Because of dressage and horses I have accomplished so much- I can truly say I am proud of myself. Autism doesn’t define me or my riding, it just makes me think about things a little differently.
Thank you Payton for sharing your experience as a rider with Autism! Payton is excited to celebrate hitting 1,000 followers on Instagram and will be hosting a giveaway featuring fun prizes including a $20 Gift Card to Equivont! Check out her account @dressagequeenatx to enter the giveaway and follow her riding journey!
Payton started her equestrian journey through therapeutic riding, and you or a loved one can, too! Get connect to Nonprofit Therapeutic Riding Programs near you on Equivont.