Rozzie Ryan is an internationally celebrated Grand Prix dressage rider who has competed at the Olympics, World Cup and WEG. Along with husband Heath, she owns and manages Ryan’s Horses, an equestrian training and breeding centre in Heatherbrae, NSW.
Q: How old were you when you started riding?
Q: Was your family horsey or were you the odd one out?
A: Dad was very tolerant and paid the bills. He thought riding was an expensive way of hurting yourself. He’s right! Mum and I learnt together, and she was always my biggest supporter. Char Lassetter Carter is my sister and has been riding and teaching in England since we were kids. Blake my brother is the sensible one who earns money in a normal job.
Triumphant with Jarrah R at the 2019 Sydney CDI (Image by Stephen Mowbray).
Q: Where did your dressage interest come from?
A: It started as something you had to do if you wanted to event. It became serious when I met Stirling Wilton who belonged to Bob and Judy Mitchell. Wilton was a very reluctant eventer and we graduated towards dressage and ultimately WEG in Stockholm.
Q: When did you start to learn about the finer points of riding?
A: Well,I learnt to ride along the beach at West Mersea on the Essex coast at Miss Catchpoles riding school. ‘Catchy’was the best first coach anyone could wish for. I’m still learning the finer points.
Q: Who were your mentors in the early days?
A: My mother, Jane Goldsmith who was a big influence and a wonderful coach, and Anthony Crossley who allowed me to ride one of his horses and feel the piaffe and passage for the first time. After England, Heath’s ‘just get on with it’ attitude was refreshing.
Q: How did you afford to compete when you weren’t a well-known professional?
A: Initially my parents were a huge support, but when Heath and I started in Australia his parents helped us. We competed on a shoestring and I seem to remember the truck breaking down on every trip. We soon went to work for Bob and Judy Mitchell at the NSW Equestrian Centre. They were terrific supporters and innovators on the equestrian scene. Their truck broke down a lot too though!
Q: How did you end up with Heath?
A: I ask myself this quite often! But I met him in England when I was working for Jane Goldsmith (then Houghton-Brown). Heath came and groomed for me at Bramham three day event. Love at first sight.
Q: Did you ever intend for Ryan’s Horses to become such a large breeding, training and sales business?
A: I didn’t but Heath did.
Total focus during the Grand Prix freestyle at Dressage & Jumping with the Stars (Image by Simon Scully Photography).
Q: Which dressage rider do you look to for inspiration?
A: All the riders in the Grand Prix. I love thewarm up arena and seeing what everyone else is up to. I had Donna Carrera (owned by Susie Duddy) in Europe before Beijing. We were lucky enough to do a few CDIs. I was always at the arena familiarisation early in the morning and Isabel Werth was there. She is a truly inspirational rider.
Q: What’s your favourite venue for a dressage competition?
A: Lots. Sydney feels like home turf. Boneo has wonderful surfaces, but I did have to pinch myself when Excellent and I competed at the Bercy stadium in Paris. But my all-time favourite is Goodwood. I competed there in 1990 and it is the most beautiful setting. It was also the last time my whole family was together at a competition.
Q: Who was/is your favourite horse and what makes them so special?
A: Every Grand Prix horse I’ve had is my favourite at the time. You invest your heart and soul in them and they in you.
Q: If you had to specialise in a different area of riding what would it be and why?
A: Have you seen Stacey Westfall? Fascinating!
Q: What can people learn from horses?
A: Lots if they listen to them.
Q: You’ve had several top riders work for you over long periods. Do you have any tips for staff retention?
A: Be inclusive and give people a positive goal to work towards.
Q: What’s something that riders do better today than when you were growing up and vice versa, what do today’s riders need to work on more?
A: Riders have better information, horses, surfaces to ride on and competitions. We were drilled in Pony Club about basic horse care: temperature, respiration, points of the horse and so on. Some of that seems to get missed now
A ‘job well done’ pat for Jarrah R (Image by Simon Scully Photography).
Q: If you could have any horse past or present which one would it be?
A: Heath would disagree but probably Exellent. He was amazing. Somewhat crazy, but amazing.
Q: Is there anything you are looking to improve in your own skill set?
A: Oh,are you kidding? Everything. All the time. Awareness, focus…
Q: What is something that all riders can work on regardless of their discipline?
A: One hundred per cent focus one hundred per cent of the time, and don’t do that hundreds of times but thousands of times.
Q: Favourite food?
A: Cheese and most vegetables. I have to cook for everyone most days but left to my own devices I probably wouldn’t cook another meal for a long, long, long time.
Q: When you’re not riding, how do you relax?
A: I read a lot and like a good coffee with friends. After COVID I’ll be going back to England to see friends and family