Stanford University student Chase Hickok is experiencing college at its best. The 21 year old English major from Durham, North Carolina is focusing on her education while still riding and competing thanks to the fact that her Dutch Warmblood gelding Palermo has accompanied her to Stanford.
“I took a year off school to pursue riding, which gave me the luxury of focusing completely on dressage. Now I’m focusing on balancing my education while still riding and competing,” Chase said. “I’m very fortunate to have Palermo at school and I manage to sneak out for visits several times a day. My education is extremely important to me; but riding will always be my number one passion!”
Chase described Palermo as a horse that asks a lot of his rider. “He can get very hot but also knows when it’s time to go to work. I’m just so fortunate to ride such an amazing horse. He has a lot of talent for the upper level movement; but it’s up to Palermo to tell me how far and how fast we’ll go. He’s very workman like under saddle; but is a total clown on the ground. He absolutely loves bananas and will do anything for one!”
Sidelines: Have you always ridden dressage?
CH: I started out doing hunters and eventing and I was an active member of Pony Club for many years; but I always liked dressage the best of the three disciplines. I also rode hunters for a while as a member of the Stanford Equestrian Team. I love the precision that dressage requires. Every day brings a new set of challenges; but it’s incredibly rewarding when you make even the slightest step forward. I think to be truly successful in the dressage ring you have to build a very unique relationship with the horse. The horse must feel safe with the rider and confident in his own ability before the rider can begin to ask the difficult questions dressage poses. I love building the partnership with a horse. After that, the willingness of horses never ceases to amaze me.
Sidelines: What do you consider your career highlights?
CH: Getting to compete at both the North American Junior Young Rider Championships and the Festival of Champions the last two years was an honor in and of itself. However, my career highlight has to be winning the Young Rider Individual Bronze and Freestyle Silver Medals this past year. I also ended my Young Rider career by winning at Devon, which was a thrill and a great way to finish off the season.
Sidelines: What are you doing with your career right now?
CH: After Devon, I returned to California to complete my junior year at Stanford University. I was excited to bring Palermo out to California and continue our training on the West Coast. I’m really excited to take the next step and look forward to making our debut in the Young Riders Grand Prix.
Sidelines: What are your riding goals?
CH: Competing in the Brentina Cup is my immediate goal. It’s a big jump in terms of what’s required from both the horse and rider. I’m really enjoying working toward this goal and hope to compete again at the Festival of Champions in the Brentina Cup Division. I would also love to bring a young horse up through the levels. I think that’s an entirely different challenge and experience; but one that creates a very unique bond.
Sidelines: Do you have fond memories from when you started riding?
CH: I started riding when I was four and got my first pony when I was five. He was a black and white pinto named Texas. He was the best pony because he was very patient. I’d fall off and he’d just stand there and wait for me to get back on, only to fall off again shortly there after.
– By Jan Westmark-Allan