When Ashley Rand-Torres and Heimdals Champ stride down centreline, people sit up and take notice. The Canadian dressage rider’s stunning Danish Warmblood with the palomino coat has presence and movement and the pair have recently had their grand prix debut at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival.

Ashley, 31, lives in Hudson, Ohio, and Wellington, Florida with her husband Daniel Torres Samaniego ‒ a world-class competitive swimmer ‒ and their two dogs. “We have a fourteen-stall facility in Hudson and rent a farm in Wellington every winter,” says the rider who was born in Green, Ohio, but became a Canadian citizen in 2009. (Her dad is from Waterloo, Ontario, and most of his family still lives there.)

While her first love was eventing which she took up at age 12, after graduating high school Ashley attended Lake Erie College and gradually saw her riding focus change to starting and training young horses. She worked for a time at Bill Mulholland’s Windswept Farm in Georgetown, ON, and while working for Reese Koffler-Standfield in Kentucky she discovered dressage. Over the years she has ridden with Conrad Schumacher, Jessica Ransehousen, Michael Klimke, and Charles De Kunffy.

Currently, Ashley’s top horses are her grand prix mount Heimdals Champ, a 15-year-old Danish Warmblood, and Fendi Fabuleux, who is a 15-year-old Dutch Warmblood competing in the small tour. “My most recent success has to be competing at Global in Wellington with Champ in the CDI 3*,” says Ashley. “This has been a dream of mine for years and to finally get into the international ring was so amazing. The test has a lot of room for improvement, but I truly felt like we were such a team in that ring and he trusted me.”

You can watch snippets of their test here, and note how the experience had the tears flowing afterward. “This sport is so hard and to have such an amazing team behind me who is supportive and has been on this journey with me makes me the luckiest person! I got so emotional after that ride because it takes a lot of everything and they never doubted me or Champ.”

Tell us about your first horse or pony.

At 10 I got a three-year-old Haflinger who turned out to be a great teacher. I didn’t heavily compete at that age; we just had fun racing in fields and jumping over everything we could find.

Is there someone you consider your mentor?

I have the most amazing privilege to be surrounded by incredible people. My mentor in this industry would be my coach Scott Hassler. He has such an amazing outlook on this industry and truly always puts the horses first. Every lesson he teaches is filled with inspiration and passion for the sport and the animal.

Which horse that you’ve owned or ridden has had the greatest impact on you?

Every horse that I have the privilege of riding has something to teach me. Champ has by far impacted my riding career and life. He has given me the opportunity to finish a horse to the grand prix and has taught me to be a better rider, trainer and competitor every day I sit on him.

What is your favourite show venue?

There are so many venues I would love to compete at in the future, but my favourite has to be Global, just because we live so close and the horses feel at home there.

What do you consider your biggest accomplishment?

My biggest accomplishment so far is competing in the CDI 3*. I love being surrounded by colleagues that are better than I am so I can learn and push myself to be the best I can be. That is the feeling I got at that show. Being stabled next to amazing riders, trainers and horsemen and women was inspiring.

What is the strangest experience you have had at a show?

I was leasing a grand prix horse in 2016 and we were competing in the Intermediare 2 at Global. I was severely sick and throwing up while warming up. I ended up have a really nice test while shivering from a fever and throwing up!

If you could ride anyone else’s horse in the world, who would you choose?

Hands down, Cathrine Dufour’s Atterupgaards Cassidy.

Where do you see yourself in ten years in regards to horses?

I see myself helping people on their journey in this sport. I have started a small breeding, young horse program at my facility in Ohio and hope to start my own pipeline where I can train and compete from young horses to the CDI ring.

A woman walking a horse in a dressage arena.

Ashley and Champ at Global. (Susan J Stickle photo)

Heimdals Champ Fast Facts

Barn name: Champ
Age, breed, sex, height: 2009, Danish warmblood, gelding, 16.2 hands
Pedigree: Skovens Rafael X Castro
Breeder: Dorte Sørensen
Current owner: Ashley Rand

Getting to know each other

I purchased Champ right before Covid hit while I was in Wellington, Florida, training with Belinda Trussell. She found him [he had previously been riden by Dane Simone Lunding-Hoppe] and fell in love with his energy and way of going. The plan was to then take him to Canada and start working on training the grand prix. The day I purchased him the world went into lockdown, so I didn’t want to cross the border with everything being so uncertain.

I ended up taking him home to Ohio and just fumbling around for a few months getting to know him. I then took some lessons from George Williams and that was great he helped so much reassure me I was on the right track. I ended up going to Wellington that season and convincing Scott Hassler to help me. As season was nearing to an end in 2021 I decided to move to Wellington full time and continue training with Scott. Our first show together was less than perfect, but it was great to see the feeling I would get in the ring. That year was amazing trying to polish off the Piaffe and Passage.

Personality quirks, fave treats

He is the sweetest horse! I call him a big dog, my Golden Retriever. He loves carrots and sugar. He is the king of the barn and everyone just falls in love with him. He loves his time in turnout and will take long naps in the sun outside. He was a stallion until he was 11, but you would never know.

What celebrity is he most like?

He would be a Mathew McConaughey type!