First sitting on a horse before she could walk, Megan Bryant was always going to lead a life that involved horses. A pony of her own at age five, dressage competitions by age 10 and her first FEI test at 15 paved the way for her to represent Australia at an international event just three years later.
Fast forward to the present, and like many of us, Megan made the best of an interesting 2020. Last year saw minimal competitions, a change in her team of horses… and the opportunity to experience the wonders of technology. A mainstay on the entry lists for Equestrian Life’s Virtual Dressage Competitions, Megan enjoyed working these events into her training schedule and was fortunate enough to win a lesson with Australian Olympian Lyndal Oatley.
Here, we catch up with Megan to find out more about her early days in the saddle, her career highlights, the interesting year that was, and what it was like to learn from Lyndal — who was over 16,000km away in Germany!
Are you able tell me a little bit more about your relationship with riding? When did your love for horse riding begin?
My mum had a horse when I was born, and I always wanted to sit up on her big thoroughbred. Once I was about five years old I got my first pony and I loved riding around the farm with my parents, but was more than happy just at a walk until I was about eight years old when I started Pony Club.
At 10, I started competing in dressage and rode my first FEI test at 15, and while I have competed in most disciplines, dressage has always been my main focus. I love the challenge of dressage, training the horses up the levels, and seeing the development in the horses over many years of training. But most of all I love building a partnership with my horse and having that feeling that they have full trust in me and will do anything I ask. I have had many horses that no one believed in; ones my coaches told me to sell. But with patience and perseverance I took them from nothing to FEI horses.
What are some highlights from your career as a dressage rider?
My number one highlight would be representing Australia at the 2010 FEI Young Rider World Cup Final in Germany with my horse Donnabella; it was such an amazing experience to travel overseas. Winning the Aachen Challenge (an event for young riders held at Dressage & Jumping with the Stars) in both 2011 and 2013, where the winner is decided after riding an FEI test on each of the top three horses with only 10 minutes warm-up, was also a highlight. Winning the Under-25 Grand Prix Freestyle at the Sydney CDI in 2014 with my schoolmaster Northern Xanthus III and then going on to train my first horse from Preliminary all the way to Grand Prix, with Mr Jackson, were also memories that I cherish.
My next goal in the dressage arena is to train a horse we bred to Grand Prix, and Furst Dance MBE is getting very close.
Some other highlights outside of dressage would be completing Adelaide International Horse Trials in the three-star and winning Champion Rider 21 and Under-30 at the 2018 Show Horse Council Grand National.
Competitions within Australia and around the world were (and in some cases still are) cancelled and postponed due to Covid-19. How have coped during this period? Has it been challenging to keep your team of horses on track?
Living my whole life in Cowra, Central West NSW, on a 2500-acre property, I am used to being isolated and not getting regular coaching. Working from home is my normal, my horses are just over the back fence and it’s a one-minute walk to the stables to start my day, so I am very lucky.
We could never understand what a real lockdown was like, as we have so much space on our farm and so much to do we would never be bored. When NSW residents were only allowed to leave home for essentials, which obviously didn’t include travelling for riding lessons, I was still able to travel, for work, to my students’ homes and teach them whilst abiding by COVID rules.