Since graduating from Mount Holyoke College this spring, Asheley Ireland of Westbrook has been working with horses in Georgetown, Mass. As captain, she led her college dressage team to win the national championship in April, and is now getting ready for a show in September. During a visit home last week, she sat down with the American Journal to talk about her sport, her shows and what she sees in her future, aside from horses.

Q: When did you start riding horses?

A: When I was about 10, my best friend from Westbrook went wandering through the woods and ended up near the golf course across from Ed’s Batteries and she met a woman who had a horse and offered to give her lessons for $10. She told me about it, so I did it, too. I leased a pony from Smiling Hill Farm. Her name was Bambi. Then I was hooked. We were in the Westbrook Together Days parade when I was 11.

Q: What kind of shows do you compete in?

A: It’s called eventing, and it’s basically a horse triathalon. There are three phases. The first one is called dressage and you do certain movements at certain points and get judged on each one. The second is cross-country, and you have to jump certain obstacles, over logs and down ditches. Then you do show jumping. ESPN called it the most dangerous sport in the world. Unfortunately, there’s been a lot of casualties lately. To me, it’s the greatest sport because you have to train an animal to do all different things for you.

Q: Have you ever injured yourself riding?

A: In November of 2007, I was jumping in a demonstration for prospective students, and the horse rolled over the jump with me and landed on me. I broke my collarbone in four places and had a metal plate and eight screws. I just got that taken out, so that was exciting. You could see the metal plate. It was pretty gross. I was like, ‘This needs to go.’

Q: What has been your greatest win?

A: My college team winning this spring was a big one. That was really exciting. Individually, last summer, my horse Dream and I won the Figure Trophy for the best young rider in Maine. It was the second time I won. The first was in 2004.

Q: Do you have any competitions coming up?

A: I have a competition in the first week of September. My competition horse (Dream) got injured this year, so I’m riding different horses. She pulled a ligament – the same one that Seabiscuit did. I’m riding a horse for a friend and I’ve been training it for a while. So, this is my chance to see if I did a good job.

Q: What would you eventually like to do as a career?

A: I would like to be a public defender. I feel so fortunate that I’ve been able to get such a good education. I feel like I should give back. I’ll always ride, but there’s so many ups and downs and variables. You’re only as good as the horse underneath you. It’s a tough sport and it’s an expensive sport. I’ll always pursue it very competitively. Dream is in Gorham recovering. Hopefully, she’ll come back, and we’ll continue where we left off. She’s a really talented horse. I hope to bring her down to South Carolina for the winter season and do that for two years, and then go to law school.

Q: If there was a movie made about your life, what would it be called and who would play you?

A: I get told I look like Melissa Joan Hart a lot. I’ve gotten chased in the mall before. For a title, how about, “Ob-La-Di” from the Beatles song, because the one thing I’ve definitely learned with all the ups and downs I’ve had in my riding career the past couple of years is that life does always go on.

Q&A with Asheley Ireland – A champion weathers sport’s ups and downs

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