By: Pamela Young
U.S. Olympic team ‘dark horse’ finds there’s a right time for everything.
Six months ago, dressage newcomer Kasey Perry-Glass and her 13-year-old Danish Warmblood gelding Goerklintgaards Dublet made their debut at the grand prix level. Now they are looking forward to a trip to the Olympic Games where they will compete in their very first championships as representatives of the United States.
Kasey, 28, says she hasn’t quite been able to wrap her head around this rather short and stunning leap from relative obscurity to Olympic selection. “It has happened so fast it hasn’t quite hit me yet,” she said when Horse Sport caught up with her during the US Team’s European tour in June. “But the belief has always been there.”
Kasey grew up in Sacramento, CA. Her family was not exactly average; dad Bob pitched pro baseball for the Angels before an injury truncated his career, while mom Diane raised six children and helped run the family’s chain of grocery stores. Kasey rode as a child, thought eventing was her calling, but at 17 switched to dressage. While earning her degree from Cal State, Kasey hooked up with Christophe Theallet who “really opened doors” for her, introducing her to Danish Olympian Andreas Helgstrand, who paired her with both her international mounts, Scarlet and precocious stable star, Dublet.
In 2015, Kasey packed her bags for the winter season in Wellington, FL. It turned out to be a breakthrough year for “Team Believe,” as Kasey was selected with both horses for the European tour to decide the Pan Am team. That trip brought her closer to Debbie MacDonald and last fall ‒ Kasey newly married to her farrier husband Dana ‒ left California and moved to Wellington to start intensive training with the US team veteran to bring Dublet to grand prix level.
The pair performed their first grand prix test in January at the Global Dressage Festival in Wellington. Their score was 72.34%. By the time the GDF had finished, the pair were number 4 on the US Olympic rankings behind Steffen Peters on his two horses and Laura Graves on Verdades. An encouraging start for sure, but heads really started to turn in Compeigne, France, at the end of May, when Kasey and Dublet won the 5* grand prix with 77.44%. British Olympic champion Carl Hester said he felt more comfortable about winning a medal in Rio before Perry-Glass perked things up. “Now I’m worried,” he said.
In Kasey’s own words, “Just goes to show there’s a right time for everything.”
What is your typical day like?
I get up around 6:30 or 7:00 and I’m on my first horse at 8:30. I do everything myself, so it takes a while to do all three of my horses, plus there’s a lot of travelling back and forth to train with Debbie while she’s in Wellington. After work I will ice them and then turn them out for the afternoon. They come in at four and then depending on how dirty they are I’ll hose them off or vacuum them. While they’re out I’ll clean tack, get their feed ready and sort out any mess I’ve made. The barn is separated from the groom’s quarters (where we live) by a breezeway, so we are just steps away. It took me a while to get used to being so close and to sleep through all the noises they make, because you can hear everything.
Wellington is a perfect place to be if you want to compete. It was always a long drive to show in California. Because we are so new to CDI level, it was important for us to get in the arena as often as possible so Dublet could get used to all the different sounds and stresses.
How did you get started with horses?
When I was young, Mom needed an outlet from raising all six of us, so she’d go to this small local stable and we would do as kids do while she rode. My sisters really got into it and were quite competitive. I got plunked on a western saddle, but I wanted to be like them and be able to post, so I switched to English. I got into eventing when I was in Pony Club and did that quite a while. Then, at the barn where I was training, the lady brought in a local dressage instructor to help us with our flatwork. I thought how difficult and how technical it was. I was in high school and also playing basketball, so it was hard for me to find the time keeping up with the conditioning training needed for eventing, so I just got more and more involved in dressage. I spent summers with Gina Duran and was competing at Rancho Murieta at prix St. Georges level. It got to a point where I needed more help on a daily basis and schooling to a higher level, which was when I started going to Christophe.
How did you and Dublet meet?
We were going to Norway to try a horse and Mom said ‘I’m not going all that way just to try one horse,’ so Christophe suggested we go to see what Andreas Helgstrand had as well. I ended up not liking the one in Norway and then tried about 10 or 15 at Helgstrand’s. Dublet was the last one and I was so tired and I didn’t like the way he moved. But once I got on him – oh my gosh! He’s unbelievable; so much fun to ride, quiet, patient. I said to Christophe, ‘You have got to get on him!’ He said ‘Yep, this is the one.’
Can you identify a turning point in your career?
When the team won the Nations Cup in Wellington this year. Dublet gave me his all and yet I had the feeling there is still so much more in there. I just have to be careful how I use it. I felt that we had a really good shot at making the Olympic team after scoring 73.00% in the grand prix and 81.325% in only our second freestyle.
Were sacrifices made along the way?
A lot; mainly involving family. So many missed birthdays and Christmases and missing my nieces and nephews growing up because of all the time away from home and my husband – we can’t always be together. Knowing that they are all okay with it makes it better, but it’s still a big sacrifice.
Is there an ingredient besides horsepower that gives you an edge?
I’m very competitive, but I have a very compassionate side. If I feel I am pushing too hard, I stop. You can get a result without frying your horse. My horses can trust me not to overdrive them. If I ever do, I beat myself up about it.
How would your friends and family describe your character?
Driven and focused, but also lighthearted. I like people to like me. There’s no sense in being super-serious all of the time.
If life hadn’t taken you where it has, would you have had another profession?
Well, I hope to do it eventually. I would like to buy a big piece of property out in Wyoming or Colorado and raise cattle and horses. I love western riding. I would be totally into cutting and barrel racing. I met my husband Dana on a 60-mile horse drive – he was one of the cowboys – although it took another eight years before we got together.
Where is your favorite place in the world?
Right now I would say Sun Valley, Idaho, where I go to train with Debbie. The countryside is so beautiful and so tranquil, yet there is always something, a wine or music festival or an event, going on.
Where would you most like to go that you haven’t been?
I would love to go to Paris. It looks like such a pretty and romantic place and I could easily eat their food and drink their wine.
Where did you last go on vacation?
On our honeymoon we went to South Lake, Tahoe. It was nice to be away from everything, walk and relax and people-watch.
Do you have a fitness regimen?
I just started cross-fit and I run four times a week. I used to run marathons, but once you hit 20 miles you hit a wall and it was too much for me. Half-marathons are more realistic. Under two hours would be a good time for me. If I am going to the Olympics I want to be in the best shape possible.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
Flamin’ Hot Cheetos – I love them! Dana sent me four bags during the European tour and I am trying to make them last, but it’s not easy!
Do you have a life lesson to share?
Believe in yourself. People may say you can’t do something, but as long as you believe in yourself, you can.
If you were having a dinner party and could choose four guests, living or dead, who would you invite?
Blake Lively, Ellie Goulding, my grandfather, and my husband. Blake is such a classy woman. I think she is someone you could learn a lot from. I walked down the aisle to Ellie’s song “How Long Will I Love You.” My grandfather is such a hero to me … and my husband, for obvious reasons!
Money or medals?
Medals, because I don’t care about money that much.
“I would like to buy a big piece of property out in Wyoming or Colorado and raise cattle and horses. I would be totally into cutting and barrel racing.”