It’s been a good winter for 27-year-old Chase Hickok. After transitioning from the Under-25 events in which she’s been competing with Sagacious HF—the 18-year-old Dutch gelding owned by Al Guden of Hyperion Farm—since 2014, Chase moved into the big leagues under the watchful eye of her trainer, Endel Ots. And if recent results are indication, it’s just where she’s supposed to be.

After closing out 2016 with a number of strong showings, including wins in both the Grand Prix championship and Grand Prix Freestyle at the National Dressage Finals in Lexington, Kentucky in November, Chase and Sagacious HF moved on to the Adequan Global Dressage Festival in Wellington, where they’ve achieved some of their best performances to date. Among them: fourth place in the Week 8 CDI-W Grand Prix, and a second place finish in their first CDI-W Grand Prix Freestyle in the Palm Beach Dressage Derby with a score of 75.620%.

It’s clear American dressage has its eye on this talented up-and-comer, and we do too. From words to live by to her love for true crime TV, we sat down with Chase to give her our 20-Question quiz.

1. At what exact moment did you fall in love with horses?

Horses have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. My mom would take me to the stables as a child, and I got my first pony when I was five!

2. For riding, do you prefer black boots or brown boots?

Black! I’m a traditionalist that way.

3. If you could do any other equestrian discipline, what would it be and why?

Show jumping. Or maybe polo? Both are much more fast-paced than dressage, which is appealing. Although I’m not sure I’m brave enough for either!

“KASK helmets are the most comfortable I’ve ever worn.”

4. What is the most embarrassing thing to have ever happened to you while riding?

There was a period there with my first pony, Texas, when it seemed like I’d fall off every single day. Sometimes several times in one day! I was too tiny to mount from the ground, and too stubborn to ask for help, so I learned to get my knee in the stirrup and shimmy my way back up. But looking back, I’m sure it gave everyone else a good laugh!

5. What is the most inspiring thing to have ever happened to you while riding?

I find myself inspired every day. Whether it’s watching someone else ride and train, or when I finally have an “aha” moment in my own training. That said, the way my relationship with my current Grand Prix horse, Sagacious HF, has grown over the last three years is the most inspiring and humbling experience of my life. He is often opinionated and sometimes complicated, and has certainly tested me a great deal over the years, but his heart and generosity are without bounds. That he has come to trust me as he does is the greatest reward.

6. What is your favorite #TwoHearts Moment of your season?

Definitely watching our US Dressage team bring home the Bronze Medal from Rio! But for me personally, placing second in our first CDI Grand Prix Freestyle under the lights at the Palm Beach Dressage Derby this year. It was one of those tests that felt completely effortless and almost surreal. While the score (over 75%!) and placing were rewarding, the sentiments from the judges and spectators about how visible our bond is, the strength of the partnership we’ve created, and how they can tell that Sagacious wants to please me is the greatest compliment I’ve ever received. It’s what makes it all worthwhile!

7. What was the hardest lesson you have had to learn in your riding?

There are two: patience and flexibility. These certainly go hand in hand. With horses, things rarely seem to go as planned. Horses have a mind and a schedule of their own. Putting too much pressure on your horse, or yourself, often backfires. I’ve found that having faith in my system and my abilities is the only way to counteract this feeling of urgency, and the tendency to compare yourself to others. That’s the other lesson I had to learn – that we are all on our own individual paths, and that by being true to myself and fair to my horses, I can never truly fail.

8. Who is your mentor and why?

My parents. They can always tell when I’m not being true to myself and are always there to keep me grounded. They’ve been there on this journey from the very beginning and are my most constant, genuine supporters. Their belief in me is unwavering. In my most anxious moments, I get a great deal of strength from knowing I am their daughter.

9. If you could ride a horse from the past, who would it be?

Brentina! Debbie McDonald’s freestyle at the World Cup Final in 2005 was absolute brilliance. As good as it gets, in my opinion!

10. If you could ride a horse right now, that is not your own, who would it be?

Dorothee Schneider’s Showtime FRH is spectacular. Or Isabel Werth’s Bella Rose. There are so many!

11. How do horses keep you grounded in the industry that you live/work in?

Horses are so pure and unaffected. They don’t care if you’ve had a bad day. They don’t know how many medals you’ve won, what score you got, or what ranking you are. They aren’t concerned with gossip or public opinion. They show up, every day, and give us their best. It’s amazingly humbling and a wonderful reminder of what truly matters in life.

12. What is your favorite guilty pleasure?

Dateline. Or any of those true-crime mystery shows, really. I’ve probably seen every episode.

13. When were you most happy on a horse?

Every time I’m on a horse. That’s why I do this!

14. If your top horse were a famous person, who would he be?

“Sagacious HF might be Sean Connery.” (Staurt Crawford/via Wikimedia Commons).

Hmm… Sagacious HF might be Sean Connery—or maybe Clint Eastwood. He has a wicked sense of humor, but is never goofy. He’s a gentleman for sure, but very set in his ways and has clear ideas about everything. (And he’ll make sure you know it!) He can be a little crotchety, but very sweet, in his own way.

15. What is one piece of riding clothing or equipment you could never do without?

My Trilogy Saddles. They keep me and my horses pain-free.

16. What is your helmet of choice and why?

KASK! They’re the most comfortable helmet I’ve ever worn, and are universally flattering.

17. Which famous clothing brand do you wish would come out with an equestrian line?

I think Lululemon Athletica would make amazing, super comfortable riding apparel.

18. What is your biggest splurge to date when it comes to your riding and/or horse(s)?

Besides the horses themselves? Probably regular acupuncture and chiropractic adjustments for the horses. Or treats. We always have to have lots of treats.

19. What is the best piece of riding advice you have ever received and who from?

My trainer, Endel Ots, always tells me “Don’t ride last year’s horse.” It could really be, “Don’t ride last month’s or last week’s or yesterday’s horse,” too! I love this, because it’s such an important part of the mental aspect of riding. It’s so easy to hold onto experiences, especially negative ones, so the reminder to give my horse, and myself, the benefit of the doubt really changed how I approach my training each day.

20. What is your life motto?

If you work really hard, and are kind, amazing things will happen.

-Photo credits (from left): Shannon Brinkman for NF Style; Al Guden; Susan J, Stickle. All photos courtesy of Chase Hickok.