Wellington, Fla. – April 30, 2020 – Originally from Texas, Andreanna “Andi” Patzwald’s story is relatable to many in the sport — without significant financial backing, one tends to find closed doors rather than open windows blocking the ever-winding path to success.
Growing up as the only member of her family interested in horses, Patzwald began riding at seven years old on a Thoroughbred named Macbeth. Despite her confidence right from the start, her mount was timid over fences, inspiring a refocus on flat work. “It led me to dressage when I was around 13-years-old. He was quite good at it and went on to Third Level,” Patzwald explained. And, it was with him she earned her USDF Bronze Medal.
When it became clear Macbeth reached the peak of his dressage ability, it came time to question whether horses were a childhood phase or a lifelong passion. Being from an average family did not leave large amounts of money to pay for advancing education, horse shows or buying new horses.
“Somewhere a door had to open. It was like running into a wall sometimes, but I kept working,” Patzwald said. “Luckily, I had so many people step up – they changed my whole life.”
At fifteen, Patzwald needed to acquire the ride of a different horse if she wanted to continue developing her skills and advance up the levels. With the seemingly daunting task of finding a solution, she developed a ‘sponsorship’ packet to highlight her goals and distributed it throughout the local community. It was at summer camp she was approached by Carolyn Kotila. After a successful trial ride on Kotila’s Hanoverian gelding, Poetry in Motion, Kotila offered the young rider and her family the option to purchase her horse over the course of five years with a payment plan.
“Poet was a horse Carolyn was insistent on finding the correct rider for,” Patzwald recalled. But, with Donna Wright as her trainer, she had a successful partnership with Poetry, competing in three North American Youth Championships, winning multiple regional championships and earning their USDF Silver and Gold Medals together. “He was my heart horse, that is for sure. He was not a spectacular, expensive horse, but we were a great team!”
Off to College
When college rolled around, Patzwald again realized she had to be creative to keep riding, leading her to create another sponsorship packet to ask for help. This time, it found its way into the hands of the late Mr.Wyly from her church. Mr. Wyly wanted to help her riding career continue, so much so that he fully paid for Patzwald’s horse expenses to allow her to continue her dressage education through her four years of college.
During the summer break of her sophomore year of college, Patzwald took an opportunity as a working student for Tempel Farms in Illinois. In 2008, she graduated college with a degree in finance, but shortly after she would begin a year dedicated solely to horses. She returned to Tempel Farms and gained many titles, including assistant trainer, breeding manager and barn manager.
During her stint in Illinois, she met her future husband, Jonathan, before deciding to utilize her degree in finance. “I was a bank manager for three years while building my training business. I quickly realized that my worst day in the barn was always better than my best day at the bank. Going into the corporate world made me appreciate the horses more than I ever imagined.”
And, after only three years of working in the corporate world, Patzwald committed full time to horses, beginning her training business, Dressage in Motion, in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. Her passion for horses led to the support she needed to become the professional she is today.
After becoming settled with her business, Patzwald and her husband welcomed their son Henry to the world. With a seemingly easy pregnancy, after the birth became the darkest time of her life.
“Postpartum depression literally brought me to my knees. It was a struggle that I couldn’t just put my head down and push through like the other difficulties in my life,’ she explained. “I also needed to learn to be kinder to my body and to know when to take it easy.”
For a woman who is a typical Type-A personality, postpartum depression made her feel incapable of being a mother, amongst other things, what she described as feeling “inexcusable”. Even with her supportive husband, managing the needs of her son and clients became exceedingly difficult. That is when Patzwald sought the help of a psychiatrist, who slowly made it possible for her to begin putting the pieces of her life back together.
“Depression or postpartum depression are real illnesses, not some made-up whim, and when necessary, medication can be extremely helpful with treatment. I can’t stress how much my psychiatrist and medication helped regulate the problem,” she elaborated.
With the proper supportive tools in place, the year following the birth of Henry became an uphill battle in order to return feeling like herself again. She explained she felt, “envious of those who are able to bounce back quickly after having a baby.” But, with time, she learned to be patient with herself and her body, something that was not natural to her. “I am so much stronger mentally, physically and better as a person for it. Henry is the light of my life and I couldn’t imagine my world without him.”
In the years after Henry’s birth, Patzwald made it back into the competition arena, competing horses through the Grand Prix level regionally and nationally, leading her to spend this winter season in Wellington, Florida.
Winter in Wellington
Despite the commitment required to train and compete in the winter equestrian capital of the world, Patzwald knew it was a necessary step if she wanted to continue to develop as a professional. While her assistant trainer Che Dokken kept the ball rolling at their farm in Illinois, her clients took lessons with Patzwald virtually via the Pixio system until her return back north. However, her biggest sacrifice was spending a few months away from her husband and now 3-year-old son to pursue her education and goals.
“This season was incredible for me though,” she said. She brought several horses down to Florida this year to train full-time with Carole Grant and compete in both the national and international rings at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival [AGDF].
“I have cliniced with Carole for seven years now and her system is amazing,” Patzwald said. “Myself and the horses understand it. It has changed my outlook on how I train.”
During this year’s AGDF, she made her Grand Prix international debut on her top mount, Hudson 18, a16-year-old Oldenburg gelding owned by Amy Grahn. Her main goal was to gain experience in the electric show environment and earn qualifying scores for the U.S. Dressage Festival of Champions, so she rode down centerline in two CDI3* divisions. With the help of another supportive client, Patzwald also competed Leslie Barker’s Danish Warmblood gelding named Atoftens Cherick in the small tour in the national ring.
“Coming to Florida was really Amy’s idea because we do not have any CDIs around the Chicago area,” she said. Grateful for the opportunity to be in Wellington, she said competition is just “icing on the cake” while she pursues her passion.