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Jumping for Joy

Dana Scott soars above the equestrian competition



Patty Scott

The tension was palpable in the large, airy indoor arena. The only sounds were the soft thud of powerful hooves hitting the sawdust floor at regular intervals and the snorts of exertion from a muscular bay horse as he and his rider soared over jump after jump on the challenging equestrian course. It took only one minute and forty seconds to execute the final twelve obstacles but when the round was over, seventeen-year-old Dana Scott and her horse Wally, a Royal Dutch Warmblood, were the victors at the 2012 National Junior Show Jumping Championships. They had made it look effortless, but the gold medal win at this prestigious competition—also known as the Prix des States–was the result of years of disciplined teamwork culminating in a stunning accomplishment.

“The most distinct memory I have of that weekend is not standing on the podium, but of landing off the last fence in the individual final, knowing that I had won,” recalls Dana. “Not every distance had lined up perfectly, but I had made all the right decisions in each of the four rounds. Meticulous execution is the most rewarding feeling a rider can experience.”

When Dana Scott was seven years old she went to a summer pony camp and, like many girls her age, became besotted with riding. But, unlike most girls, she remained steadfast in her passion and diligence and soon she was competing on a pony of her own. Since graduating to horses Dana has represented Zone 1 (New England) at national and continental championships an impressive six times. Mastering technique isn’t the only requirement to be a champion. Being a competitor from such a young age has also taught Dana how to excel when the judges’ eyes are upon her. “Staying collected and focused under pressure is a skill completely independent of riding ability,” adds Dana.

The misconception that equestrians aren’t really athletes frustrates her. “Riders need to be very strong and fit so they can keep up with their horses both mentally and physically.”

Dana also believes “riding is as much of a conversation as it is a sport.” It’s a partnership like no other. “I find it incredibly rewarding when I can understand the whole of a horse’s personality, and help him to progress as an athlete.” And Wally’s personality is quite distinctive. “My horse is hot-tempered,” admits Dana. “He’s very quick on his feet and over fences, he loves to jump, and he never seems to get tired!”

In addition to carrying a full course load majoring in both Economics and Political Science at Columbia University in New York, Dana is also an accomplished long-distance runner who logs forty miles per week. On weekends, she returns to her family home in Wilton and then works hours with Wally at a barn in Brewster where he’s boarded. From January through March, Dana commutes to Florida every weekend to compete. When asked when she has time for a social life, she replies matter-of-factly, “I’m very organized and quite good at keeping my life balanced.”

Will Dana Scott continue on to the most elite level of equestrian competitions–the Olympics? Or will she end up pursuing a high-profile job in international relations or finance?  My guess is that this disciplined, multi-tasking young woman will somehow manage to accomplish both, and she will execute these pursuits with her trademark drive, passion, and grace.

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