In the Saddle – An Exclusive Sit-Down Interview With Alyssa Phillips
BY AMBER HEINTZBERGER | AN OHP EXCLUSIVE
Alyssa Phillips with her 2023 Pan Am Games partner Oskar
IMAGE COURTESY OF ALEX BANKS
A new farm, a spectacular international eventing career, and a stable of new clients — OHP’s dear friend Alyssa Phillips is ready to launch.
GROWING UP IN TEXAS, Alyssa Phillips’ equestrian role models tended to ride Western. Her own first experiences as a rider were in a Western saddle, but once she discovered eventing at age six, she never looked back.
Alyssa was a successful Young Rider who started her own horse business after graduating Texas Christian University with a Strategic Communications major and Business minor. Career highlights include winning the 2021 Land Rover Kentucky Three Day Event CCI4S, and the 2023 Rebecca Farm CCI3S riding Oskar and CCI2L riding Cornelius Bo. Alyssa was fortunate to represent the US at the recent Pan American Games in Santiago, Chile as the traveling reserve, riding Oskar.
During the five years that she trained with Jennie Brannigan, Alyssa was inspired to relocate from Phillip Dutton’s barn in Pennsylvania to Florida where she later purchased a farm. Alyssa’s farm in Ocala, Shady Oaks East, is the perfect location to grow, both as a competitor and as an equine professional. She purchased the 28-acre property owned by fellow Texan eventer Mike Huber.
Since purchasing the property, Alyssa installed two Wordley-Martin arenas and gave some things around the property a facelift.
“I’ve added some cross country jumps, and people come and pay a fee to ride in the rings. I have mirrors up and a whole jump course, and I bought a horse gym treadmill that people have come to use. Especially in the winter with more people coming in, people tend to use the training facilities. We have a four-horse walker as well that is currently getting a roof put on it; after having one at Phillip’s it’s so nice to have, if it’s raining and horses can’t go out, or for warming them up and cooling them out. I’ll be excited when it’s ready to use.”
She continued, “It’s nice because the whole right side of the property is the barn, ten paddocks and house. When Mike bought it was just the barn; he bought ten more acres next door, and my two arenas are there. There are beautiful oak trees and a hill. It’s not flat, which I love about it. It might not be a Pennsylvania hill, but when you trot up it the horses have to work!”
She said that the sandy footing is ideal for horses, and even when heavy rains fall the property does not flood. The property is located across the road from Cardinal racetrack, and she said that the barn, which was originally 24 stalls and constructed to house racehorses, is an open shed row style barn. She converted two of the stalls into a large tack room.
Alyssa and Oskar competing at Great Meadow, Virginia in 2023
IMAGE COURTESY OF ERIN GILMORE
“Mike bought a property just down the street; he’s trying to retire, but Jacob and Cornelia Fletcher and I dragged him into coaching us! He has a 6-stall barn now, so he just downsized.”
Alyssa said that during the summer her barn has nine horses in it, but during the winter season it fills up. She rents a block of stalls to a professional eventer and her clients beginning in January, but the rest of the time it’s just Alyssa and her clients. She said that she likes to let the paddocks rest during the off season to keep the grass in good shape.
“When I bought the farm, it was the perfect place, especially with the WEC opening up,” she said. “Everyone’s figured out the routine of going to WEC and doing the dressage and jumping shows. This is my first year being based here year-round, and it’s so nice not to have to pack up and move! I’m 27 now, so it was on the back of my mind that it was time to go out on my own. I decided I needed to be brave and go for it. It’s nice to have my own farm because it saves figuring out all the logistics of renting. I’m still able to train with my dressage coach year-round; I also train with Mike Huber, as well as Leslie Law.”
Her current string of horses includes Oskar, 14; Cornelius Bo, nine; and a horse that she bought a couple weeks before she shattered her ankle, named Keep Calm. After rehabbing her ankle, they got back into the competition ring together and did the prelim at Stable View in September. She also has a couple of young horses: “Gigi won the Modified at Stable View. She’s a firecracker, she’s the only one I have to slow down instead of kick!” she laughed. Alyssa wrapped up the fall season by winning the CCI3-L at The Event at TerraNova in Sarasota, Florida riding Cornelius Bo. TerraNova is a top-class event that is just a couple hours’ drive from Ocala.
Alyssa and Cornelius Bö had a successful year in 2023 and will move up to the 4-star level in 2024.
Alyssa said that she appreciates the Ocala horse community, and being strategically located is good not only for connecting with fellow eventers but developing her business.
“The horse community is great, where I live there are a lot of eventers: Karl Slezak is up the road, Cornelia and Jacob Fletcher are across the street, and I really appreciate that the community is strong and I look forward to exploring it more. Just spending the time here year-round, I’ve met people who want to come use my facilities and have since developed relationships with them. It’s really a flourishing place.”
While being a part of the horse community is a major perk, Alyssa has also enjoyed becoming part of the community outside of the horse world.
“I’m about a 15-minute shot straight into downtown Ocala,” she said. “Whenever we rented properties on the other side of Ocala closer to HITS, we’d get stuck in a little ‘bubble’ over there, but downtown is great, there are a lot of good restaurants and they’re opening more all the time. It’s more lively these days. Through physical therapy for my ankle, I’ve met a lot of people who have opened my eyes to what Ocala has to offer. A lot of people live Southeast of downtown, while most horse people live north of there. Just talking to non-horse people, I’ve discovered a lot of places that I might not have discovered on my own. I need to find time to go out and do all these at people told me about!”