Champion Jan Ebeling has created an American dynasty in dressage — and there’s nothing he loves more than training alongside his son, Ben.
As a boy growing up in Germany, Jan Ebeling remembers watching equestrian sports on television. Little did he know that one day, he would represent the United States Equestrian Team at the highest level of dressage.
Over the past few decades, Jan and his wife Amy have built a veritable dynasty in American dressage — one that is only further cemented by their son, Ben, an impressive star on the rise in both dressage and show jumping.
The Ebeling family is currently hard at work putting the final touches on their strategy for the upcoming summer competitions. While Jan won’t be going to Tokyo, he’s had his share of time at the top: His lengthy list of accomplishments includes being a member of the U.S. Dressage Team at the 2012 Olympics, World Cups, Nation’s Cups, World Equestrian Games, Pan American Games and more.
Living with the New Normal
Despite the fluctuations in competition schedules due to COVID-19, Jan’s motto has stayed consistent: Do the work every day and stay prepared.
“Making plans is a great thing. But sometimes plans don’t come out the way you thought they would,” says Jan. “My view is that we’re riding our horses the best we can every day. You do your best and prepare yourself and you see where that takes you.”
For the Ebeling family, currently stationed in Wellington for the winter season, their routine is jam-packed. “Our day starts in the barns at 7am with 23 horses in training” he says. “Later in the morning, the clients come and I teach lessons. In the afternoon, we groom the horses, hand-walk them, and get them out a second time to walk and graze.”
After a storied career with his 2012 Olympic Games mount Rafalca, Jan spent time finding his next champion. He is currently focusing most of his efforts on three special horses in his stable: Indeed, Bellena and Status Royal OLD. “I’m very, very excited about these horses. They’re all very different in type of movement and they’re mentally very different too,” he says.
“When I ride one and then get on the other, I really have to change gears. One of them, I can push. The other one, I have to be very careful. It’s fun to have a variety of super nice horses and have them all be different.”
Slow and Steady Wins the Race
As a child, Jan was first introduced to the sport of show jumping. “I remember in the summer, the only thing that was on TV was soccer, but there were a couple of horse shows that would be live-televised. Like three or four shows — never dressage but always jumping.”
“I was so intrigued with jumping,” Jan remembers. “I loved watching it and it was always my dream to jump — but I never had a good jumper in my life, ever. But I always had really good dressage horses and really good dressage training so I ended up on that path.”
In time, Jan realized just how much he loved the sport of dressage. “I find it so intriguing and so interesting to figure out the training of a horse and tap into its power,” he says. “My personality is more of a dressage rider because I am extremely particular about the very, very small details.”
Over the years, one of the biggest lessons Jan has learned is the power of patience:
“The fastest way to success is a very slow route,” Jan explains. “It’s a very time-consuming sport. There are no shortcuts. You go at the pace that the horse can do — and it takes time. We’re eager to show and we’re eager to do our best and win, but the one thing you have to remember is that it’s a slow process. It takes time and it doesn’t happen overnight.”
A Legacy of Greatness
Ultimately, Jan’s priorities are aligned with finding true excellence in the sport. “We’re not riding because we’re trying to chase the blue ribbon — we’re riding because we love to train and do our best,” he says.
And their success is truly a family — and team — effort. “Our biggest supporter is my wife, Amy. I don’t think it would be possible to do this without her,” says Jan. “She’s always the one in the background, but she plays a huge role. She manages not just the barn — she manages us, she promotes us and she rides herself. She does everything that needs to be done.”
And Jan is grateful for their supporters as well: “We have a great team. We’re just very lucky to have the horses that we have and to have the support from our friends and sponsors like Beth Meyer, Melany Lipar and Ann Romney among others.”
And as Jan and Ben can attest, finding success at the top of their sport requires a village. “Riding is an expensive sport,” he says. “It doesn’t have to be but when you do it at the international level, it means that you have to have horse quality that is not so easy to come by. That’s where you have to rely on people to help you.”
One of the Ebeling’s long-time supporters is Ann Romney, who has been by their side for over twenty years. “She was there when Ben was born — and she was actually the one that fed him his first ice cream. She’s been with us for many, many years and has been like a grandmother to Ben.”
As Jan looks to the future, he’s hopeful and excited about their family’s mark on the sport and the potential of both father and son finding success this summer — especially with Ben poised to make an Olympic bid and truly follow in his father’s footsteps.
“This is my proudest moment and I know Amy feels the same way. It’s fun for us to see that our son is interested in what our life’s work has been,” says Jan. “For him to have that much interest is fantastic — and for him to do so well in a relatively short period of time is amazing. I’m so proud. There’s nothing better than watching him and seeing his rise; it’s the greatest thing for me.”