Welcome to the WEF 2023 Rider Spotlight Series! To kick this season off, we caught up with Bliss Heers, who you may remember from our Rider Spotlight Series during WEF 2021. Since we last spoke with Heers, she has continued to make headlines thanks to consistent top placings. This past October, Heers captured her first five-star Grand Prix victory on the Major League Show Jumping circuit, competed in the prestigious La Silla Young Horse Championships, and won the Major League Show Jumping 2022 Team Championship with Team Helios. Keep reading to find out how Heers always puts gratitude first in this sport, her plans for WEF 2023, and much more!
How did you get into riding?
I got into riding when my mom suggested we take a mother-daughter riding lesson together. I was playing tennis at the time, but once we took that lesson, I caught the bug immediately.
You speak a lot about gratitude and the importance of showing up to try your best. In a sport so driven by results, can you explain how important this thought process is?
In life things can go right or wrong. You can wake up and decide whether to be in a good mood or a bad one. In this sport, your partner is a living animal with a mind of its own, and things are always changing. The things you can always be grateful for are the opportunities and the relationships that are formed with these animals. There’s something incredibly special about how these horses are willing to perform for us and share their hearts with us.
As athletes, we can all have moments where we feel discouraged. In a course, there might be moments where something didn’t go our way, but there are also parts that did, and that’s what’s important to remind ourselves of. This process is a big reason why I enjoy working with young horses; you can build a relationship with the horses and can feel the progress every day, not only progress in the horses, but as a rider as well. Taking a step back and seeing how far you’ve come in moments of frustration can be difficult at any level, but it’s what helps you show up and put your best effort in each time.
You were recently part of Team Helios in the Major League Show Jumping circuit, winning the team championship. What was it like working with a team for so long?
Ashlee Bond and Eugenio Garza brought the team together. They wanted to pick competitors who were not only ready to give it their all to win, but also pick a team with good character. Most of us knew each other beforehand, but no one expected to end up being so close. To have a team that is truly rooting for each other makes a big difference. If you are going into this type of competition without all the experience in the world, or you don’t have the horse that somebody else does, the fighting spirit when your whole team is cheering you on brings out the best in you. I’m incredibly appreciative to have had that team.
You have a team of horses across all experience levels. Between all of them, what is the importance of establishing and keeping to the basics?
Across the board, flat work is of primary importance! Basic flatwork allows you to keep the horses in the proper condition without overcomplicating things. I had the opportunity to work with Michael Matz a couple seasons ago, and I do my best to stick with the principles he re-enforced, which involves straightness, balance, balance around through corners, and staying with the horse. The simple things are something we tend to lose sight of but are the most important. I do my best to keep these principles in mind on a daily basis without getting stuck in the same routine. I like to take my horses out on the trails and along the canals here in Wellington because it allows us to practice the basics but change the elements up for the horses and enjoy the ride.
What are your plans for WEF 2023?
The goal is to compete in some five-star classes towards the end of the season and move some of my younger horses up. I have a seven-year-old and some very talented eight-year-olds that will be making their WEF debut this season. However, I’m using the next few weeks to train along the canals and get us ready for the International Arena.
What piece of advice would you give to someone who wants to be at your level in the sport?
Be patient, enjoy your horses, and enjoy the relationship with your horses. Never doubt the power of a positive attitude. It’s so hard to get out of being critical all the time, but that is the sport. There will always be something that doesn’t go your way, but the best thing you can do is be a problem solver. Look for ideas, for options, ask questions, and try new things.
Keep an eye out for Bliss Heers to make her debut at WEF 2023!