‘I was told I couldn’t do it – now I want to inspire others’: Meet the rider aiming to be the first female dressage Olympian from the Middle East

  • When Shayne Allise Steyteyieh was growing up, she was advised to abandon her dream of riding horses. However, the Jordanian rider did no such thing, and now aged 30, is on a path to becoming the first female Middle Eastern dressage Olympian.

    “I always had the dream, even though I didn’t know much about dressage when I was young, but as a Middle Eastern girl, I was always told I couldn’t do it, and that I should focus on something small in life,” explains Shayne, whose father is from Jordan, but who herself grew up in northern California in the USA.

    “I thought I might have more chance of accomplishing my dreams across the country, and so at 18 I decided to move to Kentucky,” she adds. “I showed up at a yard, Woodspring Farm, and the trainer there, Kathy Priest, said that I could work for her, but I would need my own horse.

    “That night I saw an advert online for a thoroughbred, and I messaged the owner to explain that I was young and had no money, but I had a night job and would be a working student during the day, and hoped to ride at prix st georges [PSG] by the end of the year. She ended up sending me the horse to ride – and we competed at PSG by the end of that year.”

    That horse was Just Livingston, a now 19-year-old chestnut gelding by Loerke, and with him Shayne went on to compete in international young riders in her first year of dressage. But it was being introduced to Thiago Mantovani of Campline Horses, who invited Shayne to visit his base in Portugal, that kickstarted the next stage of her career.

    “Immediately after arriving at Campline, I thought, ‘These are my people’,” says Shayne, who is now based at Campline, working alongside the likes of Campline’s Tokyo Olympic riders João Victor Marcari Oliva (Brazil) and Rodrigo Moura Torres (Portugal). She was taken aback by the levels of their support and confidence in her abilities and prospects.

    Shayne Allise Steyteyieh: an ambassador for dressage in Jordan

    With her new partner, the eight-year-old Lusitano stallion Infinito Campline, whom she describes as “incredible”, Shayne’s ultimate goal started to take shape – riding for Jordan at the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.

    “It has always been important to me to ride for Jordan,” explains Shayne, who lost her father in early 2020 but still has extended family in the country. “Growing up, I was always being told I needed to think small, and now I want Middle Eastern women to have a role model, someone to show them that they can achieve their dreams. There is a lot of negativity in the world, but I want to use dressage, which happens to be what I am passionate about, as a platform to inspire others, help them make it through another day, another year – and to represent my people.”

    Shayne Allise Steyteyieh

    Shayne explains that while Jordan is one of the more liberal Middle Eastern nations, many women grow up with a “limiting mindset”.

    “I have always wanted to, not prove others wrong, but prove myself right,” she says, adding that she hopes to help the sport of dressage grow in Jordan and the entire Middle East.

    “Jordan has not had a dressage rider at top level before – it is predominantly showjumping and endurance there – but I think there is some excitement about it.

    “I would love in the future for there to be a dressage team from the Middle East – that is a huge dream of mine,” she says with passion. “I want to help a dressage culture grow within the Middle East, and encourage women in particular to feel a passion for it as I do. Dressage is a sport of discipline, passion and love and it helps give someone purpose every day. I also think that Lusitanos with their great characters and minds really have a place in the Middle East.”

    For now, Shayne is focused on getting out competing in 2022 and setting her Olympic dream in motion. She’s been on quite a journey to get to this point, and the next chapter is just beginning.

    “I’m here thanks to a little bit of crazy, and a little bit of luck, and an incredible team,” she laughs. “And now I am going to work my absolute hardest.”

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