Top dressage rider Kasey Perry-Glass was five years old when she hopped on her first horse. The steed was kept at a local barn, which her mother visited as a getaway from the kids. It was not quite an escape, however, since the 5-year-old, along with her brother and four sisters, followed their mother to the stable. Soon after, Perry-Glass got her first pony, and she has been making history ever since.
Dressage competitions dot the globe, and as elite equestrian competitors, the Olympic bronze medalist and her horses are international travelers.
“I’ve been over in Europe for the last three summers now, competing on Nations Cup teams, Olympic teams and events like that for selections,” Perry-Glass said.
The winter months signal a calmer time for her horses, which have earned a well-needed travel break when Perry-Glass settles down in Wellington.
Though “settles down” isn’t quite an accurate description of her time here.
Neither Perry-Glass nor her bay, Dublet, rest on their laurels, but rather take advantage of the milder temperatures and top local competitions to prepare for the next big, international event.
“In the coming winter months, I will be competing to, hopefully, get a spot on the World Equestrian Games team,” Perry-Glass said.
Tryon, N.C., is the site for the 2018 World Equestrian Games, where Perry-Glass hopes to gain a little bit of a home-court advantage when the equestrian world heads to the United States next September.
“[Tryon is] known for having great facilities, and now it’s just about preparing them for the WEG and being able to accommodate all the horses and grooms and riders,” Perry-Glass said. “I think that they really have a good layout there to make our country look really good.”
As a young girl, Perry-Glass learned to ride western style and went on to hunter/jumpers. As she grew, so did her love for horses and her desire to compete. An introduction to Pony Club, the equestrian educational organization, fueled her affection.
“It is a great organization that helps kids get involved with horses in a healthy way; to really learn the basics about anatomy, the care, the riding part,” Perry-Glass said. “They really go over a large spectrum of the horse and the discipline.”
Over the course of her career, Perry-Glass has been under the tutelage of top professionals in the field of dressage. She connected with Carmela Richards’ Oak Creek Training Stables in California. It was there that Perry-Glass gained many friends with the same interest, including many competing at high levels of eventing.
Richards introduced Perry-Glass to her first dressage trainer, Gina Duran. Under 10 years of Duran’s watchful eye, Perry-Glass competed extensively, increasing her desire to compete on a higher level.
“It kind of spiraled into me wanting to be international and really push for a career in it,” Perry-Glass said.
At the level at which she would go on to compete, Perry-Glass would require an incredible horse with which to partner. Dressage coach and trainer Christophe Theallet traveled to Europe with her to find that perfect horse. They came back to the United States with Dublet.
The gelding proved to be the right choice, as he and Perry-Glass forged a winning partnership at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
The pair were further established as a force in international dressage with a seventh place dressage Grand Prix finish at the 2017 FEI World Cup Final in Omaha, Neb., in March — one of only three Americans to land in the top 10.
Olympian Debbie McDonald has been Perry-Glass’ coach for the last three years and is credited with getting the now 30-year-old to the Olympics last year. They met the prior year in Europe, where Perry-Glass was on the Pan American Games selection team. Unfortunately, she didn’t make the Pan Am team but confesses to begging McDonald for the chance to train with her in Sun Valley, Idaho.
“I knew that the next year was going to be pretty intense, and she welcomed me in,” Perry-Glass said. “Within a year, training really hard, she got me on the Olympic team. It’s pretty impressive to say that someone can do that, coach-wise.”
Lots of kids dream of competing in the Olympics, but it’s hard to comprehend the cost until it happens for you.
“It is a lot of sacrifice,” Perry-Glass said. “It’s nice for people to know that these athletes who go to the Olympics are in everyday training, whether it means physical training, emotional training. You know, all the psychology around it. We’re training constantly, and it’s also a lot of sacrifice for a family.”
Surprisingly, in her formative years, Perry-Glass was a homebody. She never relished going too far away from her parents. Nevertheless, she was the first of the six kids to leave home and now travels around the world. She knew this had to happen if she was to achieve her goals, and as a result, she moved to Spokane, Wash.
“I loved the idea of a new place,” Perry-Glass said. “Something inside me just clicked.”
Still, leaving home was a sacrifice for both Perry-Glass and her family. She only saw them if they were able to attend a show, or on the off occasion when she would make it home for Christmas.
“It’s a lot of sacrifice to train for that goal, but it’s well worth it,” Perry-Glass said. “It pays off in the long run. Any dedication like that pays off.”
She speaks glowingly of her family, referring to them as “Team Believe,” a motto they adopted when she first started competing. The family’s focused attention over the last four years has been on her. According to Perry-Glass, there’s no question in her mind that “Team Believe” shares the same goals.
“We really push ourselves as a family. We push ourselves to be better people and to really fight for what we want and to really believe in ourselves.” Perry-Glass said.
The dedication and sacrifice required to succeed was passed down from her parents. Her mother is a constant champion for the importance of believing in oneself, and her father, a psychologist, once played Major League Baseball.
“It’s a little bit different in this sport, because a lot of people don’t really have that, and I feel really lucky,” Perry-Glass said of her family’s involvement. “They keep me balanced.”
Her parents and siblings aren’t her only cheerleaders. Married two years ago, Perry-Glass said that her husband, Dana, keeps her grounded.
Glass also works with horses and helps to run a family business in Colorado where the couple met. “He knows the idea around the sport and the discipline,” Perry-Glass said. “He gives me an outside perspective of what life is like outside of the sport.”
The newlyweds are also combining their talents into a new business. Two Worlds Equestrian will encompass both the dressage and western disciplines.
2018 will be Perry-Glass’ fourth season in Wellington, where she lives close to the show grounds.
“I can get into a class or just get some extra training there,” she said. “It sets you up very nicely for other venues and gets you the mileage that you need.”
Perry-Glass expects to compete in four shows this winter, two in February and two in March.
Her long-term goals are more personal. “I really want to have a family. It is very important for my husband and I,” Perry-Glass said. “We want to have at least two kids. As of right now, that’s my other dream and goal.”
Learn more about Kasey Perry-Glass at www.kaseyperrydressage.com.