Amy and Deseado, photo by Meghan Benge

The following appeared in Stable View’s email newsletter, “The Stable ‘View'”:

Amy McElroy has been a great friend and supporter of Stable View and is a familiar face with her students at our Dressage shows. Therefore, we asked her to share a bit more about herself for those riding enthusiasts who are new to town! Amy is a USDF Bronze, Silver, and Gold medalist who coaches students of all levels here in Aiken as well as across the country, and she has worked with several horse and rider teams competitively through the Grand Prix. She especially enjoys helping riders achieve their goals, and being a part of the journey that accompanies their education. In addition to the teaching that she loves, Amy is a USEF Dressage ‘S’ judge who shares her knowledge while officiating, as well as her passion for the sport in her popular “Ask the Judge” column in the Aiken Horse publication.

How long have you lived in Aiken? How has it changed?

I have lived in this wonderful town for nearly thirty-nine years! I moved to Aiken in 1983, but I moved to South Carolina in 1981. After graduating college I took an equestrian position for the former Reflections Stables in Columbia, South Carolina. After three years I decided I wanted to change my direction to enhance my riding career as well as become more involved with dressage. A working student position was the way to learn. Back in those days, you didn’t just go over to Europe to train. I contacted my friend—the late and great Bari Von Buedingen—for advice. Luckily she was looking for a working student at her Graf Bae Farm, a top-notch Hanoverian dressage and breeding farm in Aiken, where the newly hired Swedish dressage rider Hokan Thorn was based. I did an interview and was hired. My experience was priceless and lasted for seven amazing years.

I could write an entire article on how Aiken has changed since I moved here. I think in the past it was more of a winter colony for equestrians. eventing and dressage were limited in this area. Aiken did host two dressage shows held at a lovely facility called Ramblewood. We even had Hilda Gurney judge there one year. Unfortunately, this property is now a housing development. I think the only event at that time was Hopeland Farms run by Robert Dennison. Lellie Ward of Paradise who had just returned from England, and Johanna Glass of Sporting Days Farm were some of my first equestrian colleagues in the area. The town, stores, restaurants, homes, farms, and horse shows have all developed more than one could have ever imagined.

What would you like to see happen in terms of this area’s future equestrian development?

I think Aiken’s equestrian development has amazingly transformed thus far, especially with the influx of eventers (Aiken is nearly the eventing capital of the U.S. in the season). We are lucky to have so many professionals and Olympians who train and call Aiken their home, even if only three or four months of the year. Dressage is becoming more and more popular with many moving here not just for the winter, but year-round. As far as dressage, it would be incredible to see Aiken host a CDI dressage show (maybe even at Stable View?).

We hear many riders are opting to spend time in Ocala over Aiken during the winter season. Why do you think this is?

I actually have not heard that riders were opting for Ocala. I do know back in the 80s Ocala was where all the eventers went. As far as dressage, I still think many are coming to Aiken. Ultimately, Wellington, Florida is still the mecca for dressage during the season. The new and amazing World Equestrian Center facility in Ocala is attracting many dressage riders for showing. Ocala is a quaint horsey town similar to Aiken in many ways.

Is there anything you would like to share about your own business?​

I am a dressage trainer, coach, and a USEF ‘S’ dressage judge. My business is based out of Fair Lane Farm, owned and operated by Holly Spencer, aka The Saddle Doctor. I have happily been at the farm for almost twenty-five years. I currently own with my mom my wonderful horse Deseado, whom I am hoping to compete in the FEI classes this fall. I really would like to do a bit more showing and especially a few more Grand Prix tests. I am often asked, “Do you still ride?” and that answer is yes, yes, yes. I ride usually two to three horses every day, although sometimes more when I am in town. I also teach a lot of dressage lessons every day. I have a great group of riders known as The McElroy Group. I am very lucky to have such dedicated and talented horses and riders. When I am not at the farm, I do get to travel all over the country to judge. This year I am scheduled to officiate at thirty dressage shows including two championships.

Where do you turn for feedback or advice?

There are so many people I can thank that I turn to for advice. My number one would be my amazing husband of thirty-one years. Although he is not really involved with the horses, he can be objective and supportive with any concerns that arise while operating your own business. Others I often look to for horse advice are Holly Spencer, (farm owner, student, gold medalist, and friend), and my dear friend and an exceptional equestrian, Simon Eades. For vetting questions, I refer to my vet Dr. Mitch Byrd. He is always available to answer any questions day or night, and always willing to explain and go beyond whenever needed. As for judging, again there are so many, but my main mentor is the one and only Natalie Lamping.

Any book or YouTube channel or other sources you’d recommend to our readers?

I am an avid book collector but mostly I have a large dressage collection. The most important read for any competitor is your current USEF rulebook. I also enjoy Natalie Lamping’s Facebook group called Lamp Post. I enjoy listening to Amelia Newcomb, I would recommend her to all riders at any stage in one’s dressage. As far as magazines, I subscribe to the Chronicle of the Horse. When surfing the web, I do spend time on the USEF and USDF pages where you can find many great articles and videos.

You recently received a nice surprise from USEF, please share its significance!

I recently received a congratulatory letter and pin for twenty years of being a USEF dressage judge. After passing the USDF ‘L’ program with distinction, I applied for and earned my USEF ‘r’, my USEF ‘R’, and finally my USEF ‘S’ with a designation in Freestyle, Young Horse, and Dressage Equitation. I am hoping to be able to judge another twenty years! FYI, my mentor Natalie Lamping recently received her fifty-year pin.

What can Aiken do to promote Dressage?

I believe Aiken is very much promoting dressage already. We have many rated dressage shows and wonderful facilities, especially with Stable View. Aiken is a destination for many who compete. Those who are lucky enough to live in Aiken never need to travel far in order to experience opportunities to come down the centerline. We have an array of trainers wintering here, as well as living here full time. There are dressage clinics offered all year long. I think Aiken is becoming a dressage mecca.

We’d love to know some of your favorite spots around town!

Aiken has a very unique downtown with several nice restaurants. I am kind of a homebody though. My days are long when I am in town, and I do eat out a lot due to my traveling. However, my favorite place to hang out is my home with the best chef whom I am lucky to call my husband. We do enjoy sitting on our porch and eating outside or snuggling on the couch watching a movie. If I had to pick a favorite spot though, I would say it is the Willcox. The hotel and restaurant hold a very special place in my heart, as this is where we had our wedding reception. My parents rented out the Wilcox in 1991 for my reception, a sit-down dinner for 100 and all of the rooms for our guests, and of course the honeymoon suite. Another Aiken treasure is the Green Boundary Club (although I am not a member). It is always a great treat to be invited by some of our friends. Another favorite is Solo Vino Wine Parlor or The Stables restaurant at Rose Hill.

You have been a great advisor to Stable View. Any additional advice?!

I have enjoyed and have felt honored to be an advisor to Stable View. The facility grows and amazes me each time I visit. I look forward to seeing what big plans are to come!

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