Wednesday, Apr. 17, 2024

No Excuses Here: Amateur Rider Kristen Paysinger Balances Dressage, Eventing And Shifts In The Emergency Room



Aiken, S.C.—March 1

A 7:15 a.m. ride time for dressage sounds early to most, but by Kristen Paysinger’s schedule, it’s actually quite late.

Paysinger kicked off the inaugural $50,000 LiftMaster Grand-Prix Eventing Invitational as the test rider after working the night shift in the Aiken Regional Medical Center emergency room.

“I’ve been working nights all week, so this morning was a little rough,” Paysinger said with a laugh. “But it was cool; it was neat; we don’t get to do a lot of atmosphere like this at the dressage shows, so that was neat.”


Kristen Paysinger and Commander II did the test ride for the $50,000 LiftMaster Grand-Prix Eventing Invitational. Ann Glavan Photo

An amateur dressage and event rider local to Aiken, Paysinger balances her career as an emergency room doctor with her riding goals.

“There are some sleepless days, but it’s not as bad as it sounds,” Paysinger assured. “Everything is 10-hour shifts, so it’s not that bad. I try to ride the horses during the day, and then I go to work at 4 p.m., and I work till 2 a.m. I’ll sleep in the morning, get up, ride and then go back to work.”


Kristen Paysinger and Commander II cutting through the morning fog in Aiken. Ann Glavan Photo

Paysinger has owned the horse she did the test ride on, Commander II, for the past eight years.


“He’s the first horse I’ve owned,” Paysinger said. “I rode as a kid; I got to do like a lesson a week, but my parents weren’t really into. My dad told me to go get a good job and buy my own horses, so that’s what I did!

“I finished college and med school and my residency, and then six weeks out of residency I went and bought Commander,” Paysinger continued with a laugh. “They always say you buy something big for yourself when you finally finish all that school, so he’s my present to myself.”


Kristin Paysinger and Commander II. Ann Glavan Photo

Paysinger intended for Commander to be her event horse, and they competed successfully up through training level, but then the gelding sustained an injury to his check ligament.

“It’s a shame he got hurt because he really liked eventing, but I thought he’s a nice enough horse, we can try pure dressage,” Paysinger said.

She started working with dressage trainer Amy McElroy and they soon discovered Commander had some real ability for the sport.

“We started playing around with the half steps I thought all right, maybe this is really something,” Paysinger said.


Kristen Paysinger and Commander all smiles as they kick off their test ride. Ann Glavan Photo

Since starting pure dressage in 2012 Paysinger has moved up the levels to Intermediaire I and is currently going for her USDF gold medal. When she’s not doing dressage with Commander Paysinger still gets to event with her other horse, Lusitana, with whom she won the amateur training level division at the Nutrena American Eventing Championships (North Carolina) with in 2016.


“She’s really brought Commander along and trained him herself up the levels,” McElroy said. “She’s an excellent student; she has a very nice feel, and she’s just beautiful on a horse.”

Paysinger’s goal is train Commander all the way up through Grand Prix, and doing the test ride at Bruce’s Field seemed like an excellent dress rehearsal for the bigger stage.

“It was an awesome opportunity to ride in front of three judges; that was neat,” Paysinger said. “It was fun pretending like it’s the future fancy show I’m going to do with him!”

The action is just getting underway in Aiken, check back for more updates from the $50,000 LiftMaster Grand-Prix Eventing Invitational! Dressage goes until 1:30 p.m.; show jumping starts at 4 p.m.

You can watch the livestream, here.

Full results are here.




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