Covid pandemic regulations have thrown many a wrench into equestrians’ plans over the last 19 months, but 26-year-old Tanya Strasser-Shostak was able to overcome a major challenge in that regard with a lot of help from her friends, old and new, during ShowPlus Dressage at Devon.

Days before she was scheduled to compete at the Heritage fixture on Philadelphia’s Main Line Oct. 1-2, she drove across the border from Quebec alone. Her mother, Evi Strasser, was supposed to join her, but since she had just returned from visiting her own mother in Germany, due to Covid restrictions, the U.S. wouldn’t let her drive into the country unless she quarantined for two weeks. Evi was, however, told that she could fly into the States.

“So the consensus was, I was going to keep driving with her two Grand Prix horses and my (Fourth Level) horse and pick her up (at the airport) in Newark,” Tanya related.

“But when she got to the airport (in Canada) they said she was misinformed and couldn’t come. I was already across the border and I couldn’t just turn around either, because I needed a PCR (Covid) test which takes a few days, so I decided to keep going.

“So my mom said, `Why don’t you try to take them [the Grand Prix horses] and see if you can show them?’”

That was a tall order for someone who didn’t have a groom and had never ridden a senior Grand Prix at a CDI, much less under the lights in a stadium known for its atmosphere. And there she was, a young woman, alone with three horses in a foreign country.

Then it turned out she wasn’t alone after all.

“We approached Tanya right away. It’s amazing that she even tried to do all this on her own. So we all went, “What do you need, what can we do, let’s make a plan,” said Grand Prix competitor Diane Creech, an Ontario resident who had no problems driving to Devon because she is a dual U.S./Canadian citizen.

“I don’t know how Tanya made it across the border with three horses all by herself. To show them all by herself,” said Diane, who thought it was special “for a young person to have that maturity and inner growth.”

Canadian Olympian Lindsay Kellock, who lives in New York, was there at midnight to help Tanya unload the horses, and others supplied everything she required.

“This is what goes down the [barn] aisle: ‘Tanya, do you need something?’” reported Diane.

Since she hadn’t originally planned to ride FEI, Tanya didn’t even have a tailcoat with her, but Swedish rider Cristina Devine loaned her one.

Diane’s daughter, Vanessa Creech-Terauds, who had competed with Tanya on the Canadian Young Rider Team, took her mother’s horse back to the barn after she rode in the Grand Prix Special qualifier so she could school Tanya, who was riding later in the same class. Vanessa noted they also videotaped Tanya’s rides so Evi could see them and offer advice. And that wasn’t all.

“It’s a lot more support, she knows she can always call on us. It’s just the Canadians sticking together,” said Vanessa.

People from other countries also helped.

Since she hadn’t originally planned to ride FEI, Tanya didn’t even have a tailcoat with her, but Swedish rider Cristina Devine loaned her one.

U.S. breeder/trainer/rider Bridget Hay also pitched in, even though she didn’t know Tanya previously.

“She’s stabled right next to us and she’s a good kid,” Bridget explained about her desire to help.

“Her family, the horse family, they have all just stepped up to the plate and helped her,” said the show’s FEI Chief Steward, Elisabeth Williams.

“Tuny Full (Page) braided her horse right after she got her some food and said, `You eat, I’ll braid.’ Everybody’s just trying to make her know that it’s warm and cozy in here; we’re all loving on you.”

Tanya was grateful for the assistance.

Show secretary Monica Fitzgerald “and everybody has been so accommodating, my federation as well, and especially my mother,” said Tanya.

She acknowledged “it was big leap of faith” for Evi to say of her two Grand Prix mounts “take the opportunity and ride them.”

“It’s a testament [to Evi] that I could ride him for a day and a half and do Grand Prix.”

She credited her mother’s training for enabling her to pull it off with Déjà Vu Tyme in the Grand Prix Special qualifier, where she was second to Diane and Chrevis Christo with a score of 65.130 percent.

“At home, I ride him walk, trot, canter. This was the first time I got to really ride through a whole test like this in years. It’s a testament [to Evi] that I could ride him for a day and a half and do Grand Prix,” said Tanya, who had ridden him in Small Tour many years ago.

The experience put a smile on her face and kept it there.

“I love this show, it’s such an amazing venue. I was just so happy I could participate and that it worked out this well,” Tanya said

“It proved how much of a community the equestrian world is and so nice to know they all come together.”

Dressage at Devon Grand Prix Special winner Diane Creech salutes the efforts of her mount, Chrevis Christo. (Photo © 2021 by Nancy Jaffer)

Diane won the Grand Prix Special with Chrevis Christo on 69.659 percent where Tanya was fourth, marked at 62.447 after problems with the one-tempis on the center line.

Between Diane and her daughter, they took six blue ribbons, as well as the award for the show’s top Oldenburg with Robbie W.

But it wasn’t easy for them, or anyone else from outside the U.S. who chose to show at Devon.

“It was really hard to get across the border. Then it costs so much more, you have to hire (horse transportation) and fly yourself, you have to get Covid tests coming here and going back.

“We had to get a Covid test done here in a 72-hour window. We went to CVS (drugstore) between our classes.” The problem was, Diane pointed out “you don’t know when you’re getting it back” and they needed it by Sunday when they were leaving.

It worked out, but it’s been tough times all around.

“Everyone loves coming to Devon, so I think not coming to Devon was a heartbreak for a lot of Canadians,” Diane said.


(Complete results here.)