Endel Ots, at 26, has come a long way from his “Bonanza” days as a kid taking lessons in a local stable. A rising superstar on the American dressage scene, Endel was thrilled when he was named as the alternate for the 2011 United States Dressage Team for the Pan Am Games on Toscano, a KWPN gelding owned by Kristin and Steve Cooper. “I was in Europe working and training at Hubertus Schmitdt’s barn and I got a call from the Coopers asking if I would like to have the ride on Toscano to try for the Pan Am Games,” Endel said. “I had ridden and shown many horses successfully for them over the years and we were good friends. I was excited for the call, but it was a hard decision to leave Hubertus.”
To prepare for the Games, Endel and Toscano moved to Wellington and started working with Danish Olympian Lars Petersen. Endel discovered that Wellington was the place to be and he and Caroline Roffman, who also rides with Lars, have combined their talents and started their own training and sales barn. “Our goal is to create a top training center in Wellington,” he said.
Sidelines: What was it like being the alternate for the Pan Am Games?
EO: It was such a great experience to be part of the team. To work with Ann [Gribbons] every day and to train with some of the best riders in the country on a daily basis was a dream come true. It was great to get to know them as people and not just as the riders you see in magazines or at shows. I made some great friends there and we celebrated my birthday together at Cesar Parra’s house and we all went one night into New York City.
Sidelines: What was it like riding and competing Toscano?
EO: It has been a great experience to get to ride and show a horse like him. He has a super work ethic and so much talent. I helped ride him as a six year old and it is great to see his development. I felt very lucky every day to have been a part of his success story.
Sidelines: How did you make the move to Wellington to train with Lars?
EO: I had watched Lars ride and train since I was little and I very much admired his work ethic and training. I wanted to ask someone who knew him personally so I checked with my friend Caroline Roffman. I always respected her riding and professionalism and I knew she had worked with Lars for years and raved about him being a world-class rider and a great trainer. I talked with the Coopers and told them that if Toscano and I were going to have the best chance to make it to Pan Am Games, that training with Lars was the way to go.
Sidelines: What are your riding goals?
EO: I am hoping to get an opportunity to train, campaign and show another horse like Toscano. After the Pan Am Games he went home to his owners in Chicago. I am looking for another horse that I can bring to that level and after getting a taste of what it is like to ride on a United States Team I am more confident that is what I want most.
Sidelines: What are you looking forward to about working with Caroline?
EO: When I moved from Europe to Wellington, Caroline and her boyfriend Travis offered me the extra bedroom at her house. Caroline and I spent a lot of time talking about horses and we found that our personalities compliment each other very well. We both have strengths and weaknesses that the other can appreciate. It’s nice to go into something knowing you have someone who has your back and who can also give you another perspective on situations that come up.
-By Jan Westmark Allen