Acting in a soap opera demands a particular kind of focus and discipline: There are long days on the set, pages of lines to memorize and scant time for rehearsal, not to mention the pressure of having to do it right in one take—while looking good. But three stars of the CBS daytime hit “The Young and the Restless”—Tracey Bregman, Amelia Heinle and Beth Maitland—have found a unique way to let off steam when they’re not in front of the camera: dressage.
Now in its 42nd season, “The Young and the Restless” won the Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Drama Series in 2014. Set in the fictional town of Genoa City, Wisconsin, the show revolves around the wealthy Newman and Abbott families. Currently, Bregman’s character is department-store heiress Lauren Fenmore Baldwin; Heinle plays Victoria Newman, a successful businesswoman working at Newman Enterprises; and Maitland is Traci Abbott Connelly—Victoria’s ex-sister-in-law, a former rival of Lauren and the emotional rock for the Abbott family—who just came back to town.
When these actresses aren’t battling the fictional stresses of Genoa City, they can often be found at the barn. Here’s a glimpse into the off-camera equestrian lives of these leading ladies.
When Tracey Bregman made her debut on “Y&R” in 1983, she thought she’d found “the coolest summer job ever.” Nearly 32 years later, she’s still going strong. “It’s been quite a journey.” Of her character, she quips, “I like to say that I was brought on as a bitch with no redeeming qualities, and now I’m a heroine with an edge.”
Show business is in Bregman’s DNA: Her great-uncle was the prolific songwriter Jule Styne, who composed classic Broadway musicals such as “Funny Girl,” “Gypsy” and “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes”; her father, Buddy Bregman, is an arranger, record producer and composer; and her mother is film and TV actress Suzanne Lloyd.
Born in Munich and raised in London, the Daytime Emmy winner fell in love with horses when she began taking riding lessons at age 6. It’s also when she discovered she had a talent for jumping. “We were only supposed to be doing figure eights,” she recalls. “There was a massive jump in the middle of the arena, and my horse went galloping toward it. Luckily, my hard hat fell in front of my face, so I had no idea what was going on. Supposedly, I took the jump beautifully.”
After moving to Southern California when she was 10, she continued jumping until middle school, when she landed a regular part on the daytime soap “Days of Our Lives” and began doing ballet and jazz dance.
Bregman finally carved out time for riding when her older son, Austin, was 11. “Austin came into this world with a love for horses, and specifically wanting to do dressage,” says Bregman. “When I’d go to work, I always had a little horse in my pocket that he’d given me.” But when her trainer was killed in a riding accident, Bregman was paralyzed with fear and stopped riding. “I couldn’t do it. The horse would start to trot, and I’d panic.” Home on a college break a few years later, Austin announced to his mother that he was going to start riding and that she was going to join him. “He told me, ‘It’s time for you to get over it.’”
The two embarked on their dressage journey in the fall of 2013. “My son had a perfect position, but I had to relearn everything,” Bregman remembers. “I’d go straight into two-point and had the hardest time with the longer stirrups.” But her jumping experience and years of dance helped her find her dressage seat. Then one day her trainer, Tane McClure Arendts, daughter of Doug McClure of “The Virginian” television series, told her she was going to look at a horse. “I said, ‘Have a good time.’ Then she sent me his picture, and I was like, ‘Oh, no. I have to go with you.’ We pulled up, and I took one look at him, and he took my breath away. And that was it.”
Named Walter v. d. Badwei, the 15-year-old, 16.3-hand Friesian gelding had competed up to Third Level and was billed as “the world’s greatest trail horse.” He was also the horse Bregman had dreamed of since childhood. “You know how they say a horse picks you? This horse picked me.” Bregman sees Walter, since renamed Standing Ovation (or “Ovi”), every day. She takes twice-weekly lessons, but she’s just as happy to ride on her own or turn him out.
“I’ve had more people meet Ovi and start to cry, and I wonder what it is in him that causes them to let down their barriers. He has the personality of my golden retriever. He’s a big, beautiful, sweet boy.”
A fan of natural horsemanship trainer Buck Brannaman, Bregman believes “the problems you have in life you work out with your horse. When I can’t get my horse to canter, I know it’s not my horse who’s having the problem—he knows how to canter. It’s me, and usually it’s correlated to something that’s going on in my life. I didn’t realize how extraordinarily hard dressage is. I had no idea what it takes to master each movement. Downward transitions were quite a struggle. My body will say, ‘What is this? Why are we doing this?’ And the half pass? I’ve got 1,650 pounds to move over!” But Bregman takes it all in stride: “I figure I have a good 20 years to perfect this.”
Growing up on the outskirts of Phoenix, Arizona, Amelia Heinle first began riding at a friend’s farm. “I was interested in sports, but I loved horses.” Soon she had one of her own in her backyard, a black Shetland pony named Sandy. “I don’t know how my parents swung it,” she says. By 12, she was doing hunter-jumpers, even winning a high-point award at one show. “Sandy wasn’t the nicest pony; she stepped on my feet all the time and threw me off a lot,” Heinle remembers. “But it was a good learning experience.”
Sandy disappeared one night during a thunderstorm and was never seen again. Heinle was heartbroken, but other horses came into her life: Twinkletoes and Streaker. “We used to ride like crazy when we were kids—bareback, no helmets, just crazy stuff.”
Riding came to a halt when Heinle was 14 and her family moved to New Jersey. Years later, after her career and family—she has two sons and a daughter—intervened, and after appearing on other daytime dramas, Heinle joined the cast of “The Young and the Restless” in the role of Victoria Newman, the businesswoman daughter of the rich and powerful Nikki and Victor Newman. She won a 2014 Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series.
She didn’t pick up riding again until three years ago, borrowing a friend’s horse in Malibu, but her schedule was too full to stick with it. It was Heinle’s 4-year-old daughter, Georgia, who inspired her to give horses another try. “Georgia said she wanted a horse for her birthday, and every night we’d get on my laptop and scroll through images of horses. It’s all we talked about.”
A visit with co-star Tracey Bregman and Ovi got the ball rolling. “He was one of the fanciest horses I’d seen and so friendly,” Heinle recalls. “I just fell in love with the breed.” She told her trainer Arendts she wanted a horse just like him.
Last fall Heinle started riding a 10-year-old, 16.1-hand Friesian gelding named Norman fan it Pompebled, winner of the Friesian Horse Association of North America USDF All-Breeds Third Level Adult Amateur and Vintage Cup Championships in 2013. She calls him Prince Caspian, after the character in C.S. Lewis’s “The Chronicles of Narnia.”
“I knew about dressage, but I was an adrenaline junkie—I loved jumping. But dressage is exciting in a different way. It’s a rush when he goes from this beautiful walk to a canter. He’s a big mover, but it’s like liquid.” Heinle’s in no rush to compete. “I’m just getting to know him. He’s a little shy, still trying to figure it all out because he’s new to the barn. I sing country-western songs to calm him down.”
Balancing time in the saddle with work, family and her new lifestyle blog takes some doing. Some days Heinle starts shooting before 7 a.m. and isn’t done until after 5 p.m. “Or I might get lucky and be able to go to work, ride and get home when my kids get home from school.”
Heinle feels she finally has a handle on playing Victoria Newman. “I know when I’m doing a scene exactly how I want it to go. It took this long to finally get here. That’s not to say I don’t have crappy days where it looks awful and my acting is worse than I’ve ever seen it or days when I think, ‘Why the heck am I even on camera?’
“If that is what dressage is like, I’m ready—I’m prepared to fail miserably in the beginning and just enjoy it. Whether it’s riding a horse or acting on a soap opera, if you’re enjoying what you’re doing, none of the other stuff really matters.”
When she’s not portraying Traci Abbott Connelly—for many, the “moral compass” of the show—or working in production for nighttime television, Beth Maitland can usually be found designing quilts and other textiles. But nothing brings her more pleasure than her horses. In fact, soon after she landed her role on “Y&R,” she bought a Jeep, got an Australian shepherd and began riding every Saturday.
Born in South Dakota and raised in Arizona, the Daytime Emmy winner had always dreamed of having a horse. “We had a swimming pool in our backyard in Arizona, but all I wanted was a horse.” Her friend Jack Allocco, the composer for “Y&R,” made her wish come true when he bought Maitland a little Appaloosa mare named Rosie and gave it to her for Christmas. “That was over 30 years ago,” she says. “I haven’t been without horses since.”
These days her stable houses two Friesians, a miniature cremello, an Oldenburg and a buckskin Quarter Horse that she and her husband use for trail riding. “I’m very fortunate to have my horses at home with me,” she says. “I know if someone’s sick, if somebody’s down and I know how much water they drink because I fill their buckets.”
When she first started riding, Maitland rode Western. She went on to perform on the TV special “Circus of the Stars” and mastered Roman and trick riding. Working with Percherons expanded her interest in other breeds and led to her interest in Friesians, whom she describes as “uncomplicated, loving and giving.”
Her first Friesian, a gelding named Draakhart, inspired her to try dressage. “It was a hard road to take for a horse whose natural movement is not dressage to be ridden by someone who had done Western and circus riding,” Maitland recalls. She credits former Medieval Times trainer Jose Manuel Iglesias and “S” judge Sonja Vracko with showing her the ropes. “Sonja is such a great ambassador for dressage, particularly to an over-50 woman pulling up with her big round horse.”
When Draakhart died of an intestinal rupture, Maitland became involved with the nonprofit Fenway Foundation for Friesian Horses, which contacted her last year about taking in a Friesian mare who had foundered during pregnancy. “We’d brought back my husband’s Oldenburg from laminitis by taking him barefoot and changing his diet and supplements, and I’m now the proud adopter of this beautiful mare, ZaZou, who is the daughter of Scott and Shelley Kelnhofer’s stallion Nanning 374. She’s built more like a sporthorse; she’s going to be a contender.” Maitland also has a 14-year-old Friesian gelding named Draak.
For Maitland, dressage is without question the hardest thing she’s done. “It’s harder than acting; it’s harder than being an opera singer, which I did in my early years; and it’s harder than being a textile designer or artist. Competition is not my chief focus, and at my age, standing up on horses is no longer an option. I do a job in front of and behind the camera that is constantly judged, so my whole purpose in horsemanship has been relationship-building. It keeps me sane, keeps my feet on the ground and keeps me going to work so that I can feed them all! Ultimately, I want to be a good rider, not worry if I’m cinched in or if my jacket fits perfectly.”
Maitland believes her story resonates with those who are not professionals or young athletes, “but lifelong lovers of horses who use dressage to inform their relationship with their horse. And for over-50 riders and riders who wear breeches bigger than size 12, there is still a message to just get out and ride. Train. Love your horse. Try. To me, that’s what dressage is all about.”
Some 32 years after she made her debut on “Y&R," Maitland still connects with her fans, who even mounted a petition to bring her back when her appearances on the show grew scarce. “In the early days, Traci was the underdog—shy, insecure and struggling,” Maitland explains. “She’s evolved into the heart and soul of the show.” Now that her character is back in Genoa City, Maitland has talked to the producers about introducing a horse into the mix. “I said, ‘Maybe we can have Traci buy a little equestrian property on the lake.’” Stay tuned.
Special thanks to Tane McClure Arendts and Dressage For All Disciplines, Ashlyn Littmann of Pink Mousse Equestrian for wardrobe assistance and Gwen Huyen for makeup.