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Is This Your Last Issue? (p. 33)

January/February 2021

Official Publication of the United States Dressage Federation

ANNUAL SPORT-HORSE AND STALLION ISSUE

Dressage Horse Market 2021:

Has the Pandemic Affected Prices?

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USDF CONNECTION

The Official Publication of the United States Dressage Federation EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR Stephan Hienzsch (859) 271-7887 • stephh1enz@usdf.org EDITOR Jennifer O. Bryant (610) 344-0116 • jbryant@usdf.org CONTRIBUTING EDITOR Hilary M. Clayton, BVMS, PhD, MRCVS EDITORIAL ADVISORS Margaret Freeman (NC), Anne Gribbons (FL), Roberta Williams (FL), Terry Wilson (CA)

An official property of the United States Dressage Federation

TECHNICAL ADVISORS Janine Malone, Lisa Gorretta, Elisabeth Williams SENIOR PUBLICATIONS COORDINATOR Emily Koenig (859) 271-7883 • ekoenig@usdf.org

YourDressage delivers exclusive dressage stories, editorial, and education, relevant to ALL dressage enthusiasts and is your daily source for dressage! Look for these featured articles online at YourDressage.org

GRAPHIC & MULTIMEDIA COORDINATOR Katie Lewis (859) 271-7881 • klewis@usdf.org ADVERTISING SALES REPRESENTATIVE Danielle Titland (720) 300-2266 • dtitland@usdf.org

USDF OFFICERS AND EXECUTIVE BOARD PRESIDENT LISA GORRETTA 19 Daisy Lane, Chagrin Falls, OH 44022 (216) 406-5475 • president@usdf.org VICE PRESIDENT KEVIN REINIG, 6907 Lindero Lane, Rancho Murieta, CA 95683 (916) 616-4581 • vicepresident@usdf.org SECRETARY MARGARET FREEMAN 200 Aurora Lane, Tryon, NC 28782 (828) 859-6723 • secretary@usdf.org TREASURER LORRAINE MUSSELMAN 7538 NC 39 Hwy, Zebulon, NC 27497 (919) 218-6802 • treasurer@usdf.org

EDUCATION “A Healthy Hoof Print” Using the findings of years of research on horse biomechanics, the footing experts at Premier Equestrian share what secrets your arena is trying to tell you.

COMPETITION “Driving and Dressage” International-level rider and driver Sara Schmitt explains how the very different sports of dressage and driving have more in common than one might think.

ACHIEVEMENT “Robin’s Revival” Para equestrian Veronica Gogan shares how para dressage has brought out the best in both her and her 27-year-old mount.

COMMUNITY “More Gaits, More Grins: An Icelandic Horse Story” When you live in the Last Frontier & ride dressage, what breed do you choose? An Alaska rider shares how the tough and rugged Icelandic Horse has become her go-to partner.

It’s YourDressage, be a part of it! Visit https://yourdressage.org/ for all these stories & much more!

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AT-LARGE DIRECTORS ACTIVITIES COUNCIL SUE MANDAS 9508 Bridlewood Trail, Dayton, OH 45458 (937) 272-9068 • ald-activities@usdf.org ADMINISTRATIVE COUNCIL KEVIN BRADBURY PO Box 248, Dexter, MI 48130 (734) 426-2111 • ald-administrative@usdf.org TECHNICAL COUNCIL SUE MCKEOWN 6 Whitehaven Lane, Worcester, MA 01609 (508) 459-9209 • ald-technical@usdf.org USDF Connection is published bimonthly by the United States Dressage Federation, 4051 Iron Works Parkway, Lexington, KY 40511. Phone: 859/971-2277. Fax: 859/971-7722. E-mail: usdressage@ usdf.org, Web site: www.usdf.org. USDF members receive USDF Connection as a membership benefit, paid by membership dues. Copyright © 2021 USDF. All rights reserved. USDF reserves the right to refuse any advertising or copy that is deemed unsuitable for USDF and its policies. Excluding advertisements, all photos with mounted riders must have safety head gear or USEF-approved competition hat. USDF assumes no responsibility for the claims made in advertisements. Statements of fact and opinion are those of the experts consulted and authors, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editors or the policy of USDF. The publishers reserve the right to reject any advertising deemed unsuitable for USDF, as well as the right to reject or edit any manuscripts received for publication. USDF assumes no responsibility for unsolicited material. All materials must be accompanied by a self-addressed, stamped envelope. Questions about your subscription or change in address? Contact USDF Membership Department, 859/971-2277, or usdressage@usdf.org. POSTMASTER: SEND ADDRESS CHANGES TO: USDF, 4051 IRON WORKS PARKWAY, LEXINGTON, KY 40511. Canadian Agreement No. 1741527. Canada return address: Station A, P.O. Box 54, Windsor, Ontario N9A 6J5.

2 January/February 2021 | USDF CONNECTION


USDF Connection

JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2021

Volume 22, Number 5

Columns

42

4 Inside USDF

Onward and Upward

By Sue Mandas

6 Ringside

The Greatest Gift

By Jennifer O. Bryant

Departments 18

Sport Horse

The Thoracic Sling

By Hilary M. Clayton, BVMS, PhD, Dipl. ACVSMR, FRCVS

24 Salute

The Unsung Heroes of the NAYC By Amber Heintzberger

Features

30 Free Rein

42

Dressage Horse Market 2021

34 Clinic

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed nearly everything. Has it affected the demand for dressage horses, too?

By Kim F. Miller

The Gift Horse

Donated dressage horses benefit collegiate riders, special-needs riders, and even horseless youth. Thinking of donating? Read this first.

From education to competition, the USDF and the USEF offer a progression for success

By Christine Traurig and Kristi Wysocki

By Beth Baumert

The Virtual GMO By Penny Hawes

Serendipity

The Equine Pipeline

Managing Emotional Poisons

60 My Dressage

By Natalie DeFee Mendik

54

By Maurine “Mo” Swanson

38 GMO

48

Should I Break My Horse Myself?

By Anne Sushko

Basics 8 Contact 10 Sponsor Spotlight 11 Collection 56 Rider’s Market 58 USDF Connection Submission Guidelines

On Our Cover Shutterstock graphics. Cover design by Emily Koenig.

58 USDF Office Contact Directory 59 Advertising Index USDF CONNECTION | January/February 2021

3


Inside USDF Onward and Upward USDF’s committees are regrouping after 2020 and planning exciting things for 2021

A

s we head into 2021, I’m sure we’re all hoping to be able to put 2020 behind us and to move in the direction of some sort of normalcy. For some, it was a devastating, life-changing year; for others, it was a pause to reflect on the people and circumstances for which we are grateful; for those fortunate enough to be in an advantageous businesses, the year was a success. No matter which category you found yourself in, the coronavirus pandemic touched your life, and one thing we can agree on is how important horses are to all of us. I was one of the lucky ones, and my daily trip to the barn during my prescribed window of time kept me sane and my husband of 49 years unharmed. I used to think that Zoom meant “go fast.” Boy, was I wrong! Every aspect of the USDF—from members and staffers to committees and the Executive Board—put in endless hours developing strategies to make our return to competition a safe reality. All six committees on my own council were affected, some more than others. The Regional Championships Committee and the Sport Horse Committee recommended many changes to their programs to make it possible for competitors to qualify for the 2020 Great American/USDF Regional Championships and the USDF Breeders Championship Series Finals, despite fewer opportunities to compete. Many of these same committee members also chaired task forces to create “best practices”

to help guide us all through the process. One of the first things that took place was the time-consuming process of requesting presidential modifications to many rules to make them COVID-19 compliant. A lot went on behind the scenes, and show managers and officials stepped up to the plate. The response from the USDF members who wanted to get out and compete was amazing. In the end, all but one Regional Championship took place; and out of nine Breeders Series regions, six held Series Finals. At the same time, we heard from a number of riders that having to stay out of the show ring and focus on training without that pressure was a benefit to their horses. Looking ahead to 2021, I am sure that there will be some additional residual adaptations and changes, but there are many exciting USDF programs to look forward to. A sampling: The Adult Programs Committee has rescheduled seven GMO Education Initiative (GEI) programs that had to be postponed in 2020,

4 January/February 2021 | USDF CONNECTION

and it continues to create and provide adult-education programs for USDF members. The Awards Committee has created a new Diamond Recognition Award for those who have earned all three USDF rider medals and all three USDF freestyle bars. Although the 2020 FEI North American Youth Championships (NAYC) were cancelled, invitations to the 2020 US Equestrian Dressage Festival of Champions were expanded for the Junior, Young Rider, Children’s, and Pony divisions. The Sport Horse Committee has created a new in-hand division for four-year-old prospects, which gives owners and breeders another avenue for competition besides Materiale and under-saddle classes. The USDF youth sport-horse ambassadors, who are a part of this committee, have plans for some exciting online education for entry-level youth, as well. The Youth Programs Committee adjusted the criteria for earning the USDF Youth Recognition Pin for 2020. It also created a Young Rider Graduate Alumni Program, which will debut in 2022, to keep the young adults who have “aged out” involved. More detail on the activity of these committees is available in the committee reports on the USDF website. Here’s hoping that 2021 is a more complete and active year for us all!

COURTESY OF SUSAN MANDAS

By Sue Mandas, USDF Activities Council At-Large Director


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Ringside The Greatest Gift For young people who can’t have horses of their own, donated mounts are a lifeline

USDF silver medal on—but when it came time for me to move on, I couldn’t seem to sell him. He wasn’t fancy enough for the deep-pocketed young rider who wanted to stand atop the North American Young Riders Championships podium (and later did, on a much more expensive mount). My 17-hand, big-boned, oldstyle Swedish Warmblood attracted scores of petite middle-aged ladies who liked “E.T.’s” kind temperament but who lacked the strength to sit his big gaits and to get him going sufficiently forward. One prospective buyer criticized my horse for not being sufficiently “push-button”; she thought that an FEI-level horse was supposed to auto-collect when the rider picked up the reins. Another thought E.T. had a previously undiagnosed health issue and wanted him subjected to a battery of invasive diagnostics. And so on. Exasperated, I eventually gave up on the idea of selling. From my career as an equine journalist I knew of several collegiate dressage programs in my part of the country. I’d gotten to know one school’s equestriancenter director, and I liked her and

6 January/February 2021 | USDF CONNECTION

the school’s reputation. We had some conversations, and soon she drove to my barn with her truck and trailer to transport E.T. to his new home and career as the crown jewel of that college’s dressage program. In the years that followed, E.T. taught scores of college students—who were young and strong enough to sit him with ease—about the finer points of dressage. It was aboard my horse (I never stopped thinking of him as mine) that many rode their first halfpasses, pirouettes, and—most thrilling of all, they told me—flying changes, which were his specialty. Periodically I’d receive photos of E.T. doing his thing at a show. I treasured the occasional handwritten notes from the students, who told me how sweet E.T. was, and how much they loved him and loved riding him. One particularly charming message, from a beginner rider, said that she loved grooming and caring for E.T., “and I hope to be good enough to ride him some day.” E.T. lived out his life at that college. Eventually, beginning to succumb to the infirmities of old age in his late twenties, he was humanely euthanized. The equestrian-center director sent me a hunk of E.T.’s tail hair, and I had it made into a bracelet that I cherish. Every time I wear it, I think about the wonderful horse who taught me so much and who helped me to earn my own silver medal, and who went on to give countless other riders their wings. For a horseless rider, there can be no greater gift.

Jennifer O. Bryant, Editor @JenniferOBryant

MICHAEL BRYANT

I

t sometimes seems as if the equestrian world has so many barriers to entry that it’s a wonder anyone manages to ride at all, much less own a horse. Disappearing open space and liability issues, among others, have forced some facilities to close, sell, or raise their rates. Precious few “lesson barns” exist any more, meaning that if you don’t own your own horse, you may not be able to learn to ride on someone else’s. And the horses themselves—well, the cost of even an “average” warmblood today is shocking by most people’s standards. Thankfully, collegiate programs and independent organizations exist that offer eager young equestrians opportunities to ride, learn, and compete in dressage. Although some college participants have riding experience, others had little saddle time or are beginners when they are finally able to pursue their equestrian passion. These riders do so on an assortment of school-owned mounts, most of which are typically donated. As freelance writer Natalie DeFee Mendik explains in this month’s feature “The Gift Horse” (page 48), owners choose to donate their precious horses to colleges or organizations like Dressage4Kids for various reasons. It’s critical that horse owners do their homework before donating, to ensure that their animals are going into a situation that works for all parties concerned, both now and later in the horse’s life. Because when it works, it’s pretty great all around. I know: I donated my FEI schoolmaster to a collegiate dressage program nearly 20 years ago. Entertainer was one of those steady-Eddie types that everybody wants to earn their


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The ISF Advantage


Contact Thank you for addressing the absence of young Black (and Latino) riders in equestrian sports (“Ringside: A Reckoning,” September/ October 2020). In my 30-plus years of riding, I have only encountered two Black equestrians, both of whom were young and talented. The opportunity to pursue this “white” activity is difficult for many, not to mention the monetary cost. Post-pandemic and going forward, USDF needs to reach out and introduce horses and riding to Blacks and Latinos with introductory programs to increase diversity in our sport. JoAnne Ciazinski Danville, California September/October 2020

Official Publication of the United States Dressage Federation

ANNUAL YOUTH ISSUE

Dressage Career? College? Both? (p. 36)

Master Fourth Level with Beth Baumert (p. 16)

Youth-Organized Clinic Wins GMO Award (p. 24)

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Bravo for you. It’s tough to admit mistakes, especially in a public

SAVE THE

DATE 2021 Adequan®/USDF

Annual Convention December 1–4

forum. I can’t say you were wrong— or right—at the time. But you are right for writing this now! Vivian DeMerchant New Brunswick, Canada Loved your editorial in the last issue. Well said! Like you, I am also one of the white privileged. I am not privileged by wealth. I have worked hard, and I still struggle. But like you, I did not recognize the difficulties of those of color. Yet still today, nearly everyone at barns and shows looks like me (but a bit younger!). You may not be able to interview that person who contacted you those years ago, but it is not too late to find another member of the minority who would love to be the focus of your beautiful writing skills—one who could encourage a more diverse group of dressage riders. Barbara Brady Wellington, Florida Bravo on your second most recent “Ringside” editor’s letter (I’m behind). While it is dangerous to condemn the logical and innocently intended actions of the past, it is unhelpful, to say the least, not to question the past from the greater knowledge base of the present. The future danger is: How does one balance the standard that we’re trying to improve in any particular endeavor, dressage or otherwise, with the real need to incentivize and offer opportunities to make up for the disenfranchising sins of the past? I don’t know all the answers, but I know that we have to—in good faith, and with both of the above goals in mind—keep asking ourselves along the way if we’re doing enough to advance both. We could all do well to examine our decisions as bravely as you did. Martin Kuhn New Berlin, Illinois

8 January/February 2021 | USDF CONNECTION

Reflecting on the COVID Pause I wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed your “Ringside” article (“Sabbatical Year,” November/December 2020). The horse I lease, Rodin, is 18 this year. In 2019, we placed eighth at Second Level Adult Amateur at the Great American/ USDF Region 7 championships and were invited to the US Dressage TIME OUT FOR Finals. But LEARNING: Parker and Third Level Rodin, a Dutch Riding has been Pony cross owned by tough. Neither Heidi Riddle of us has done flying changes before, and 2020 has been a welcome relief. We’re still working on the changes, and it looks like Rodin’s age may be a factor in whether we move on or not. We can still compete at Second Level Freestyle, which may be our last hurrah. Thanks for making me feel better about taking a break during these uncertain times! Mara Lee Parker Piedmont, California

USDF Connection welcomes your feedback on magazine content and USDF matters. Send letters to editorial@usdf.org along with your full name, hometown, and state. Letters may be edited for length, clarity, grammar, and style.

COURTESY OF MARA LEE PARKER

Diversity in Equestrian Sports


Photo: Alden Corrigan

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Collection Bits and Pieces from USDF and the World of Dressage

ANNAN HEPNER/COURTESY OF ELLE

Elle Features Black Equestrians ★ Hart Wins US Para Dressage Championship ★ Conventions & Shows Go Virtual

IN THE FRAME When dressage trainer/rider Philesha Chandler was a working student, she was asked to do domestic chores while white workers cared for the horses. She’s one of several Black equestrians profiled in a recent issue of Elle magazine (p. 12).

USDF CONNECTION | January/February 2021

11


Collection Elle Spotlights Black Equestrians Who gets to be an equestrian? In its October 2020 issue, the women’s magazine Elle posed that question, sharing Black riders’ experiences in a largely white horse world. Black riders constitute less than 1 percent of US Equestrian’s (USEF) membership, according to the story, and so those in the sport commonly find themselves the sole Black person at the barn, show, or school. Now a Florida-based dressage professional, Philesha Chandler (pictured on page 11) recalled for Elle her days as a working student at a Kansas lesson and boarding stable. While the white working students mucked stalls and handled feeding and grooming duties, she said, she was asked to sweep and mop floors, clean bathrooms, and wash dishes in the trainer’s house. It was one of “many times I experienced racial prejudice in this sport,” she said, and it’s why she now prioritizes mentoring Black youth who are interested in dressage. “I want them to know that we belong here, and they can do this,” Chandler said. In a statement to Elle, USEF CEO Bill Moroney called Chandler’s experience and those of other Black equestrians “heartbreaking and deeply troubling.” In response, USEF has pledged to enact a number of measures to promote diversity and inclusion within its own organization and its affiliated breeds and disciplines, he said. Read “Who Gets to Be an Equestrian?” at elle.com/fashion/ a34050278/black-equestrians/. Article excerpts are used by permission of Elle.com.

PARA-EQUESTRIAN Rebecca Hart Wins 2020 Adequan®/USEF Para-Dressage National Championship The longtime top para-equestrian dressage competitor Rebecca Hart, of Wellington, Florida, claimed another tricolor at the 2020 Adequan®/USEF Para Dressage National Championship. The event was held October 23-25

training, and he has just risen to the occasion.” The reserve champion was another veteran of international competition, Sydney Collier, of Ann Arbor, Michigan, riding her newest

THE CHAMPIONS: Hart and El Corona Texel

at the Tryon International Equestrian Center, Mill Spring, North Carolina. Riding the 11-year-old KWPN gelding El Corona Texel (Wynton x Goodtimes), owned by Rowan O’Riley, Hart won the championship title with a total composite score of 77.029%. Hart called “Tex” “a very powerful horse” and said that “we’ve been working really hard during our COVID lockdown to get prepared and in sync with each other in the ring with distractions and music. This is the first time we’ve gotten to test all of that

partner, All in One, an 11-year-old Hanoverian gelding (Abanos x Dauphin) owned by Going for Gold LLC. The pair earned a total composite score of 76.147%. Each year, competitors at the Adequan®/USEF Para Dressage National Championship vote for the winner of the Lloyd Landkamer Memorial Sportsmanship Award. The 2020 recipient was the Grade V athlete Cynthia Screnci, of Boca Raton, Florida, who won her division aboard the 11-year-old KWPN gelding, Eragon VF (Don Romantic x Fidermark), co-owned by Vorado Farms and the rider.

Online Extra

RESERVE CHAMPIONS: Collier and All in One

12 January/February 2021 | USDF CONNECTION

Watch the 2020 Adequan®/ USEF Para Dressage National Championship on demand on the USEF Network.

LINDSAY Y. MCCALL

DIVERSITY


COMPETITION Global Dressage Festival Plans Full 2021 Show Schedule Spectators and riders alike were saddened when the coronavirus pandemic outbreak cut short the 2020 Adequan® Global Dressage Festival in Wellington, Florida, last March. Hoping for an uninterrupted winter season this year, in October organizers announced the 2021 schedule of Global Dressage Festival competition, to take place January 13 through April 4 at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center. Competition will include 12 weeks of CDI 5*, CDI 4*, CPEDI 3*, CDIO 3*, CDIW, and national-level classes. Scheduled highlights include the 2020 finals for the $15,000 Lövtsa Future Challenge/Young Horse Grand Prix series and the $10,000 Summit Farm Future Challenge/ Young Horse Prix St. Georges series, January 13-17; the Palm Beach Dressage Derby, March 3-7; and the 2021 Florida International Youth Dressage Championships, March 16-21. Learn more at globaldressagefestival.com.

HORSE HEALTH

Morris Animal Foundation Awards Grants for Equine-Health Studies

Denver-based Morris Animal Foundation has awarded nearly $1 million in research grants in support of 14 equine-healthfocused projects at 13 universities and institutions, the organization announced in September. Studies include research into whether genetic testing could help identify horses at high risk of developing potentially fatal cardiac arrhythmias; managing horses being transported by air to optimize their health and welfare; the relationship between the equine gut microbiome and overall health and wellness; and the efficacy of a novel treatment for ocular surface squamous neoplasia, a type of eye cancer in horses. The nonprofit Morris Animal Foundation funds health studies benefiting cats, dogs, horses, llamas, alpacas, and wildlife. Learn more at morrisanimalfoundation.org.

INTERCOLLEGIATE DRESSAGE IDA Competition Goes Digital The Intercollegiate Dressage Association (IDA), like many other equestrian organizations, has adapted to COVID-19 pandemic travel restrictions by going virtual. In October it successfully held the inaugural IDA Digital Dressage Show powered by DigitalHorseShow.com. North Carolina-based USEF “S” judge Robin Brueckmann judged the entries, all submitted on video via the DigitalHorseShow.com platform. All tests were played and placings were announced via live stream. 

VIRTUAL AWARD: IDA marketing and PR officer Kim Beaudoin (right) announces IDA Digital Dressage Show I Intro Level winner and highpoint rider Samantha Formoza of Cazenovia College (NY)

THE NEAR SIDE

GOVERNANCE

COURTESY OF IDA

2021 USEF Annual Meeting Goes Virtual US Equestrian’s Annual Meeting is going virtual. The 2021 event, which was scheduled to be held in Austin, Texas, will be held via an online platform January 17-18. The daytime General Session will be held Sunday, January 17, and is open to all US Equestrian members. Members also will be able to view that evening’s presentation of the annual Pegasus and Horse of the Year Awards. Learn more at usef.org/annual-meeting. USDF CONNECTION | January/February 2021

13


Collection OBITUARY

OBITUARY Martha Smith Simpson

AUSTRIAN HONOR: Linda Smith Buonanno (left) and Martha Smith Simpson receive the Officer’s Cross, Grand Decoration of Honour for Service to the Republic of Austria in 1997 for their “careful management of a cultural institution with such close ties to Austria”

dressage in the United States, died September 20 at her home in Lake Forest, Illinois. Enthralled by the white stallions at the Spanish Riding School of Vienna, the Smiths imported Lipizzan breeding stock and in 1958 established Tempel Farms in Wadsworth, Illinois, under the direction of Alf Athenstaedt. With

trainers including the former Spanish Riding School chief rider the late Karl Mikolka, the Tempel Lipizzans became the preeminent classical-dressage center in the country. It also fostered the careers of such well-known US dressage professionals as George Williams, Bill Warren, Todd Flettrich, and Lauren Sammis. Mrs. Simpson and her sister, Linda Smith Buonanno, continued their parents’ mission on behalf of Tempel Farms and the Tempel Lipizzans. Together the sisters made another indelible contribution to equestrian sport when in 1985 they co-hosted the FEI North American Young Riders Championships (now FEI North American Youth Championships) at Tempel Farms. Organized by Mrs. Simpson’s husband, Howard Simpson, the NAYRC would bring top youth riders in dressage, eventing, and jumping to Tempel Farms a total of 12 times. In 1997, Mrs. Simpson and Mrs. Buonanno received one of the great honors of their lifetimes: the Officer’s Cross, Grand Decoration of Honour for Service to the Republic of Austria in recognition of their dedication to the Lipizzan breed and to the culture and traditions of horsemanship.

Lila Kommerstad, whose sponsorship of Steffen Peters was instrumental in propelling him to the elite ranks in US dressage, died August 23 at her home in Bradbury, California. She was 95.

SPONSORING THE DREAM: Among the horses Lila Kommerstad (third from left) put under Steffen Peters was Udon, whom Peters rode in his first Olympic Games in 1996

A lifelong horse lover, Kommerstad met Peters in 1990 and decided to sponsor the German émigré, who had moved to the San Diego area in the mid-1980s and who was not yet a US citizen. She purchased Udon, the KWPN gelding Peters and his family had bought as a three-year-old and that Peters had brought with him to the US. With Kommerstad’s support, the pair ascended to the Grand Prix level and went on to win a team bronze medal for the US at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. Kommerstad would also own Peters’ successful Grand Prix mounts Akeena, Grandeur, and Marlando. Kommerstad’s husband, entrepreneur Robert Kommerstad, died in 2002.

USDF BULLETINS Attention, 2020 USDF Awards Recipients

I-I and I-II Test Reminder for Year-End Awards

Free Online Reports Available

Horse Ownership for USDF Awards

All 2020 bronze, silver, and gold medals and freestyle bars; Master’s Challenge awards; and Adequan®/USDF year-end and All-Breeds awards were mailed to recipients in December. Contact USDF if you have not received your award by January 30. USDF historical awards reports, owner’s/lessee and breeder’s horse portfolios, and dam/sire reports are available to current USDF participating, group, and business members free of charge. Please note: You must be logged into the USDF website to obtain reports at no charge.

14 January/February 2021 | USDF CONNECTION

For Adequan®/USDF year-end awards purposes, the Intermediate I and Intermediate II tests are not consecutive levels. See the USDF Member Guide for year-end award requirements regarding consecutive levels.

USDF horse registration must be in the name of the current owner or lessee, and the horse must be exhibited in the name of the current USDF owner or lessee of record. If a lease is on file with USDF, the horse must be exhibited in the ownership of the lessee.

COURTESY OF TEMPEL FARMS; COURTESY OF STEFFEN PETERS

Martha Smith Simpson, 78, a daughter of Tempel Farms founders Tempel and Esther Smith, who continued her family’s efforts in preserving and promoting the Lipizzan breed and classical

Lila Kommerstad


Collection FINANCIAL AID The philanthropic organization The Dressage Foundation (TDF), Lincoln, Nebraska, last fall announced a slew of grants from its many funds created to advance dressage in the US.

in 2020, for riders with the potential to excel at the international levels. The first recipient is Kelly Coyne, Virginia Beach, Virginia, and her homebred eight-year-old Lipizzan/ Dutch Warmblood mare, Brilliance. The second is Kristina HarrisonAntell, of Los Angeles, and Finley, her 10-year-old KWPN gelding. Both riders will use the funds to train in Florida this winter, Coyne with Michael Poulin and Harrison-Antell with Debbie McDonald and Button Baker.

Tryon International Equestrian Center in North Carolina with USEF “R” dressage TD Carolyn VandenBerg. TDF awarded four grants from its Cynthia Aspden Youth and Young Adult Development Fund, which provides financial assistance to youth and young-adult riders aged 25 and under.

RAMSAY GRANT RECIPIENTS: Emily Smith and her Quantum Jazz

The 2020 $25,000 Anne L. Barlow Ramsay Grant for US-Bred Horses went to Emily Smith of Florida and her 11-year-old Oldenburg gelding, Quantum Jazz (Quaterback x Jazz), bred by Judy Yancey. Quantum Jazz is a product of the US Equestrian Young Horse and Developing Horse programs, most recently placing fourth at the 2020 USEF Dressage Festival of Champions in the Young Adult “Brentina Cup” championship. Smith will use the grant to train with Endel Ots and to compete at the Adequan® Global Dressage Festival in Florida. TDF awarded two $25,000 Carol Lavell Advanced Dressage Prizes

PRIZE WINNER: Kelly Coyne and Brilliance

GIVING BACK: TD grant recipient Arlene Gaitan

INSTRUCTOR EDUCATION: Angelia Bean on Capitano, a German Riding Pony owned by Shelley Schuler

Two dressage instructors each received $2,500 grants for continuing education from TDF’s new Verne Batchelder Instructor Fund. Angelia Bean, King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, has operated Straight Forward Dressage since 2005. She will use the funds to take three week-long training trips to work with Kathy Rowse. Jane Whitehurst, Odessa, Florida, a professional dressage instructor for 35 years, plans to train with Jill Hardt and to participate in clinics at Hardt’s facility. The 2020 Veronica Holt Dressage Technical Delegate Grant was awarded to Arlene Gaitan, Lakehills, Texas. Gaitan, an adult-amateur rider, is a USDF silver and bronze medalist and a USDF L program graduate. She will apprentice at the

16 January/February 2021 | USDF CONNECTION

YOUTH WINNER: Aspden Fund grant recipient Andie Sue Roth

Maren Fouché-Hanson, 13, of Colbert, Georgia, will train with Gary Rockwell. Sophia Chavonelle, 20, of Windham, Maine, will attend Dressage4Kids’ 2021 Winter Intensive Training program in Florida. Annelise Klepper, 15, of McCutchenville, Ohio, will study with Katherine Bateson-Chandler while in Florida this winter. Andie Sue Roth, 15, of Alamo, California, will continue her training with Brenda Beare.

COURTESY OF US EQUESTRIAN; HIGH TIME PHOTOGRAPHY; STACYLYNNEPHOTO.COM; COURTESY OF ARLENE GAITAN; ASHTON KINGSLEY/ASJK PHOTOGRAPHY

Grants Announced for Riders, Instructors, a TD, and Youth


Sport Horse The Thoracic Sling This muscle group plays a key role in collection. First of two parts. By Hilary M. Clayton, BVMS, PhD, Dipl. ACVSMR, FRCVS

I

n dressage, we train our horses to lift their withers and lighten their forehands. But have you ever wondered how, exactly, the horse accomplishes these things? Once you understand which muscles are involved and how the horse uses them to grow lighter in front, you can help develop them through targeted training and exercises.

motor coordination. To accommodate bipedalism, the shoulder region underwent some major changes. The human chest became flattened from front to back, with the scapulae (shoulder blades) lying against the back of the chest. The left and right clavicles (collarbones) run across the front of the chest, above the first rib. The clavicles act

WELL TONED: Standing with the chest lifted and the withers elevated is a sign of good equine posture, and well-developed thoracic-sling muscles make it possible. Half Moon Delphi, ridden by Great Britain’s Michael Eilberg, shows exemplary posture at the 2014 FEI World Equestrian Games in Normandy.

Let’s start our exploration by taking a look at the structure and function of the key muscles involved.

Your Horse’s Shoulder Isn’t Like Yours As humans became adapted to bipedal locomotion, our forelimbs evolved into arms and hands that are capable of tasks requiring dexterity and fine

as struts to hold your scapulae and shoulder joints at the sides of your chest so that your arms hang down on each side of your body (Figure 1), where they are free to swing back and forth. The equine shoulder is conformed quite differently. A horse’s chest is flattened from side to side, with the left and right scapulae lying against the chest wall on each side

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FIGURE 2. The equine chest is flattened from side to side, with the scapulae lying on each side. A horse has no clavicles.

(Figure 2). Each scapula is triangular in shape (Figure 3), with a rim of cartilage extending upward from the bone. The cartilage is flexible, which allows it to bend as it slides over the contours of the chest. A feature that distinguishes horses and other domestic animals from humans is

JENNIFER BRYANT; COURTESY OF DR. HILARY CLAYTON

FIGURE 1. The human chest is flattened from front to back, with the scapulae (shoulder blades) lying on the back. The clavicles (collarbones) are on the front of the chest above the first rib and have been colored blue.


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2021

FIGURE 3. Range of motion of the equine scapula. The diagram on the left shows the point of rotation of the scapula. When the upper part of the scapula rotates back and down, the lower part rotates forward and up (shown in light gray). The image of the foal shows how much the scapula can rotate during locomotion.

that they do not have clavicles connecting the scapulae to the sternum. Instead, the horse’s scapulae and, indeed, the entire forelimbs are attached to the body by strong muscles, tendons, and ligaments. A key component of this attachment is a group of muscles known as the thoracic sling.

COURTESY OF DR. HILARY CLAYTON

Shoulder Movements The horse’s entire scapula rotates around a point just above the middle of the bone. When the top part of the scapula rotates back and down, the lower part rotates forward and up, as shown at left in Figure 3. This movement raises the lower part of the limb during the swing phase and give the stride more expression. I’ve superimposed an illustration of the scapula on the photo of the foal in Figure 3, to show its maximal rotation and to illustrate how this action elevates the shoulder joint, pulls the elbow joint forward, and allows the lower limb to swing more freely. In the absence of a clavicle, the horse’s scapulae can slide a little over the side of his chest. Sliding in a forward-backward direction contributes to stride length in the medium and extended paces, while the ability to slide up and down helps to absorb concussion during weight-bearing.

The Thoracic Sling As I’ve explained, the horse’s forelimbs are attached to the trunk by muscles, ligaments, and tendons, not by bone. This soft-tissue attachment allows considerable motion of the scapula over the ribcage. When the horse is standing, his forelimbs act as struts, and his thorax (chest) is suspended between them by a group of muscles known as the thoracic sling. As a result, contraction of the thoracic-sling muscles can move the trunk relative to the limbs. The main component of the thoracic sling is a muscle called serratus ventralis, which attaches to the inner surface of the scapula around its point of rotation. From there, the muscle fans out over the lower neck and the chest (Figure 4). On the neck, it inserts on the last four or five cervical vertebrae, and on the chest it attaches to the first eight ribs. Horses typically have 18 pairs of ribs, all of which form joints with the thoracic vertebrae above. The first eight pairs are true ribs, which anchor below to the sternum and impart the strength and stability required for attachment of the forelimb. The last 10 pairs are false ribs that do not attach to the sternum; instead, they unite with one

is the deadline for nominations for Participating Member (PM) Delegates in All Regions To accept the nomination, and if elected, a PM delegate nominee must:

• Be a current Participating Member of USDF. • Have a permanent residence and reside in the region for which they are running to represent. • Agree to serve a one year term, from the time of election in 2021 until the election in 2022. • Attend the 2021 Adequan®/ USDF Annual Convention.

June 1, 2021 is the deadline for nominations for USDF President, USDF Treasurer, and Regional Director in Regions 2, 4, 6, and 8. Nominations for President, Treasurer and Regional Director in Regions 2, 4, 6, and 8 will also be accepted from the floor of the Board of Governors meeting at the 2021 Adequan®/USDF Annual Convention.

e-mail all nominations to

nominations@usdf.org

USDF CONNECTION | January/February 2021

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Sport Horse

another to form the flexible, curved costal arch. The true ribs are fairly short and straight, and the front part of the thorax is correspondingly narrow, which facilitates movements of the scapula. The false ribs have more “spring,” so the ribcage gets wider in the area under and behind the rider’s legs, as shown in Figure 4. The false ribs move as the horse’s chest expands during respiration. You can feel this movement if your horse takes a deep breath. The sling muscles control the height of the horse’s chest and withers relative to the scapulae. In a standing horse, the upper edge of the scapula is lower than the top of the withers (Figure 5). When the sling muscles contract, the withers rise up between the scapulae and become more prominent, and the base of the neck is also raised. Standing with the chest lifted and the withers elevated is a sign of good equine posture. Viewed under a microscope, serratus ventralis has short muscle fibers—around 5 cm in length—that are arranged at an angle of about 45 degrees to the direction of the muscle. These short, angulated fibers are capable of shortening the muscle as a whole by only a small amount.

FIGURE 5. Relative heights of the top edge of the scapula (indicated by arrowheads) and the top of the withers, indicated by arrows. The withers emerge between the left and right scapulae.

This structure is typical of a postural- the mechanics of the thoracic sling. support muscle that develops tension These include the pectoral muscles, or “tone” to support and stabilize the which form the contour of the front body. Through core-training exercisof the horse’s chest and continue back es and correct work under saddle, the between the forelimbs and under the sling muscles develop more tone and girth (Figure 6). They act as forehold the withers in a more elevated limb adductors, pulling the outside position. During the early months forelimb across and in front of the of training, horses often grow one to inside forelimb in such movements as two inches as a result of the increased shoulder-in and half-pass; and they tone in the sling muscles. Conversely, help to keep the limbs and body vertia horse on stall rest may actually get cal when the horse is turning or cirshorter. cling. The pectoral muscles hold the An unusual feature of serratus lower part of the scapula against the ventralis is that it is sandwiched bechest. In order to avoid the tendency tween two thick elastic membranes. for the upper part of the scapula to These membranes aid in shock abwing out away from the chest, there is sorption, especially during extended coordinated activity between the pecpaces: The elastic tissue stretches torals and the muscles that hold the as the forelimb is loaded, then recoils as the horse bounces off the ground into the suspension phase. Although serratus ventralis is the main muscular component of the thoracic sling, other muscles contribute both to the attachment of the scapula to the FIGURE 6. Side view of the muscles that attach the horse’s scapula to the chest. body and to

20 January/February 2021 | USDF CONNECTION

COURTESY OF DR. HILARY CLAYTON

FIGURE 4. The horse’s ribcage as seen from below. The eight true ribs attach to the sternum, while the 10 false ribs form the costal arch on each side. The front part of the chest in the region of the true ribs is narrow. The chest gets considerably wider in the area of the false ribs, which is where the rider’s legs lie.


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FIGURE 7. Effect of contraction of the thoracic-sling muscles (colored pink). The sling muscles are relaxed in the diagram at left, and contracted and shortened in the image at right. The heights of the elbow joint and the top of the scapula do not change, as shown by the horizontal dashed lines, but the withers are higher when the sling muscles contract.

top of the scapula close to the withers, such as the trapezius and rhomboid muscles (Figure 5), as well as serratus ventralis.

How the Thoracic Sling Works

COURTESY OF DR. HILARY CLAYTON

In order to understand how the sling muscles work, it’s helpful to look at a cross-section of the horse’s chest (Figure 7). The fibers of the serratus

ventralis muscle (shown in pink) run downward and inward from the scapula to the ribs on each side. When the horse stands with both forelimbs weight-bearing, its chest is slung between the two scapulae, hence the name “sling muscles.” When the sling muscles contract, they raise the horse’s chest and withers. The height of the

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FIGURE 8. Effect of the sling muscles on posture. The photo at left shows a horse with good tone in the serratus ventralis and other sling muscles. This tone raises the withers and the base of the neck. The horse at right has poor tone in its sling muscles, which allows the withers to sink between the scapulae, the topline to become inverted, and the shoulder joints to appear to bulge forward. This horse gives the appearance of pushing its weight forward and downward into its chest.

USDF CONNECTION | January/February 2021

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Sport Horse

Meet the Expert

D

r. Hilary Clayton is the professor and Mary Anne McPhail Dressage Chair emerita. She was the original holder of the Mary Anne McPhail Dressage Chair in Equine Sports Medicine at Michigan State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, East Lansing, from 1997 to 2014. A world-renowned expert on equine biomechanics and conditioning, Dr. Clayton is president of Sport Horse Science, LC, which is dedicated to translating research data into practical advice for riders, trainers, and veterinarians through lectures, articles, and private consultations. A USDF gold, silver, and bronze medalist, she is a longtime USDF Connection contributing editor and a past member of US Equestrian’s Dressage Committee. In 2020 she was inducted into the Roemer Foundation/USDF Hall of Fame.

forward and supported from above by the nuchal ligament and the muscles on top of the neck (Figure 8, on left). If the sling muscles have poor tone, the forehand sags, the withers sink between the scapulae, the point of the shoulder bulges forward, and the underside of the neck emerges from the shoulder a little lower. The entire topline may become inverted (Figure 8, on right). As a horse moves, there are times when only one of its forelimbs is grounded. In these moments, the sling muscles on the side of the grounded forelimb must maintain the elevation of the withers and, together with the core muscles, support the trunk to prevent it from rolling toward the unsupported side. Several muscles have to act in concert to keep the limbs and body vertical during locomotion. Some of the muscles that move the scapula lie beneath the panels of the saddle. When these muscles contract they get shorter and fatter, so the contour of the horse’s back changes. If the saddle is too narrow or the panels don’t conform correctly to the shape of the horse’s shoulders, muscular contractions cause pressure that may inhibit their activity and reduce the range of forelimb motion. Even if a saddle initially fits correctly, it may need to be adjusted periodically to accommodate changes in the shape of the shoulders as exercise and training develop the underlying muscles and cause the withers to become more prominent.

Half-Halts and Forehand Elevation During locomotion, there is a division of labor between the horse’s hind and forelimbs. The hind limbs generate propulsive forces, while the forelimbs are responsible for controlling speed and direction of movement. In addition—and particularly important in dressage—the muscles of the thoracic sling act to elevate the horse’s forehand.

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Timing of the half-halt is important in encouraging the forelimbs to elevate the forehand. Within each stride of trot and canter, the horse’s entire trunk rotates around his center of mass in rhythm with the stride. As a result, the uphill inclination of the body also changes. The half-halt is most effective when the horse is rotated uphill so that its effect is to reduce the subsequent downhill rotation. If the half-halt is given when the trunk is rotating downhill, it actually tends to put the horse more on the forehand. In trot, the horse is rotated maximally uphill in early diagonal stance (when a diagonal pair of limbs is first grounded), then rotates downhill in late diagonal stance. Therefore, in trot the halfhalt should be given either in the suspension phase (when all four limbs are airborne) or just after the diagonal pair touches down. In canter, the horse is maximally rotated uphill at contact of the trailing hind limb (the first beat, when the outside hind leg is on the ground); it then rotates downhill through the diagonal stance phase (when the inside hind and the outside fore are grounded). In canter, then, give the half-halt with the first or second beat of the stride.

Tone and Lift The horse’s thoracic-sling muscles are truly feats of anatomical engineering: They attach the forelimbs to the chest, they support the weight of the forehand, and they provide a cushioning spring as the forelimbs are loaded during locomotion. These muscles are crucially important for achieving and maintaining the desired uphill balance that we strive to achieve in dressage. In the next issue, I’ll discuss exercises that you can use to strengthen these important muscles.

COURTESY OF DR. HILARY CLAYTON

bones and joints of the limbs does not change, so the top of the scapula is at the same height regardless of whether the sling muscles are relaxed or contracted. However, the withers lift during contraction, as shown in the diagram on the right in Figure 7. In the standing horse, good posture is associated with having sufficient tone in the sling muscles to raise the chest so the withers are high. At the same time, the cervical part of serratus ventralis raises the base of the neck; this action allows the upper neck to be cantilevered


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Salute The Unsung Heroes of the NAYC What keeps the Junior and Young Rider dressage teams cooking? The chefs, of course. By Amber Heintzberger Photographs by Meg McGuire

B

ehind every USDF region’s Junior and Young Rider teams at the (normally) annual FEI North American Youth Championships (NAYC) is a chef d’équipe. The term is French for “team leader,” and that’s what these tireless volunteers do, and then some: manage, organize, wrangle, encourage, soothe, and occasionally referee.

after year, and who are just as hopeful as the riders that 2021 will see the prestigious competition resume. (See “What Is the NAYC?” at right.) For this article, we asked the 2019 chefs (because of the 2020 NAYC cancellation, no chefs were officially appointed for 2020) to tell us how and why they got involved in this rewarding but demanding

RECIPE FOR SUCCESS: With help from chef d’équipe David Wightman (left), the Junior team claimed the first-ever team gold medal for USDF Region 4 at the 2019 NAYC

Each USDF region has an NAYC point person, called a regional coordinator. That person may also serve as the chef d’équipe, or a second person may fill a chef’s role. Unfortunately, even the best chefs could not manage away COVID-19, and the 2020 dressage NAYC, slated for August in Traverse City, Michigan, joined the long list of canceled competitions last year. So instead of our planned NAYC dressage coverage, we decided to “Salute” the teams’ chefs, many of whom volunteer for the role year

volunteer position. We also invited them to share advice for aspiring NAYC competitors and their parents—and, not surprisingly, they had a lot to say!

sport, and it was hard to find information. As my daughter progressed through the levels—the “youth pipeline” didn’t exist at that time—it was a natural progression for me to get involved in leadership, to help other parents and youth navigate the process. It is rewarding for me to see the camaraderie and sportsmanship that develop among the team athletes and parents, as well as the lifelong friendships that are made. It warms my heart to see NAYC alumni that have been on a team that I managed, now training their own students at the FEI levels. I also love when my alumni give back to our annual fund-raising online auction in the form of lessons and so on. My advice to riders and parents (I have a long list!): 1. A good indicator for readiness to compete at the FEI Jr/YR levels is to enter a few test-of-choice classes at a US Equestrian Level 3 dressage competition. This way, you are “off the radar”: You don’t have the pressure of riding in a qualifying class, and you will very likely be judged by the same judges who are used for the actual NAYC qualifying classes at

Region 1 Debbie DelGiorno, Milford, Delaware Young Rider chef and regional coordinator since 2013 Almost two decades ago, at the time my daughter discovered her passion for dressage, there were a handful of youth in our region involved in the

24 January/February 2021 | USDF CONNECTION

ADVOCATE FOR YOUTH: Region 1 Young Rider chef and NAYC regional coordinator Debbie DelGiorno (left) with the gold-medalwinning 2019 YR team


What Is the NAYC?

T

he Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) North American Youth Championships are the only FEI championships held annually on the North American continent. The NAYC features team and individual competition for FEI Children (jumping), Juniors, and Young Riders, ages 12 to 21, in the three Olympic equestrian disciplines of dressage, jumping, and eventing, at one or more venues. The NAYC grew out of an eventing challenge between the USA and Canada that launched in 1974, and later was christened the North American Young Riders Championships. Dressage joined the roster in 1981, and for decades the competition was only for Young Riders, aged 16 to 21. In 2006, the NAYRC became the NAJYRC with the addition of a Junior division (14-18). That same year marked another milestone with the establishment of freestyle medals in dressage. Since 2018, the cumbersome competition name and acronym have been shortened to North American Youth Championships and NAYC. To qualify to represent one’s country at an NAYC is the most prestigious achievement that a young dressage rider from this continent can attain. COVID-19 restrictions permitting, the 2021 NAYC is scheduled for August 9-15 at the intended 2020 location of Traverse City, Michigan. Start your journey at usdf.org/ competitions/competitionschampionships/najyrc/index.asp.

USDF CONNECTION | January/February 2021

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Salute that competition. If you can consistently earn scores of 64 or 65% in these tests, you are ready to declare your intent to qualify for NAYC. 2. Prior to submitting your application, riders should sit down with their parents and put together a budget. Include training; veterinary expenses; the cost of attending three qualifying competitions, including coaching and travel expenses (gas, tolls, hotel, meals, and so on); and the expense of the NAYC itself (entry fees, travel expenses for humans and horses, coaching, and other team expenses that may not be covered by team fund-raising). 3. Read the FEI’s Clean Sport for Humans information (inside.fei. org/fei/cleansport/humans), and compare all of the supplements, medications, and topical products that you use (including over-thecounter products) against the list of prohibited substances. There are substances used for migraines, ADHD/ADD, and allergies that may fall into this category. An athlete is permitted to apply for a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE), but it is very important that you start the TUE process with US Equestrian as soon as possible. This process, which includes providing your medical records, can take four to 12 weeks, depending on the responsiveness of your provider. Your chef can help you navigate this process while maintaining confidentiality. 4. With your veterinarian and your trainer, check all of your horse’s feed, medications, supplements, and topicals against the prohibited substances listed under FEI Clean Sport for Horses (inside.fei.org/fei/ cleansport/horses); and adhere to the mandated withdrawal times. For example, if your horse needs to be sedated for shoeing, time the shoeing so that it meets the withdrawal times for competing. If you don’t feed your horse yourself, be sure that those who do understand the importance of not

cross-contaminating feed dishes, buckets, spoons, or other implements with those used for other horses. 5. Read all of the NAYC materials provided on the USDF website, especially the selection procedures and the code of conduct. Feel free to contact your regional youth coordinator or chef with any questions. 6. Be prepared to get involved with fund-raising to help cover the expenses of fielding teams to NAYC. Teams have to pay for, among others, tack stalls, team apparel, chefs’ travel and lodging expenses, and the rental of team golf carts and fans if needed. 7. Do not wait until the last minute to apply for your horse’s FEI passport. Make sure that your veterinarian is knowledgeable about how to complete the required diagram of markings; this could save you several days or even weeks of back-and-forth between you and US Equestrian. Nicole DelGiorno, Medford, New Jersey Junior chef since 2017 I grew up in the Young Rider program, starting in dressage-seat equitation and competing up through the Under 25 Grand Prix. I had some really, really good guidance. I also made some mistakes, and I want to make sure I am passing on what I’ve learned so that I can help families in this sport get off to the right start. I am committed to making dressage as accessible as possible to everyone who wants to participate. I think that starts with outreach to newcomers and education about the programs and resources available. I want to make sure everyone feels welcome. Being a cheerleader, a friendly face, and a sounding board for our up-and-coming youth riders is what makes this role most rewarding to me. My advice to riders and parents: Read the rules and qualifying procedures, and know them inside

26 January/February 2021 | USDF CONNECTION

and out. Make sure your trainer reads them, too. A lot of strife can be avoided by being well-prepared with all of the information you need. Plan your qualifying season carefully. Consider your horse’s condition, travel distance to qualifying competitions, family and school commitments, and time between each qualifier. The first time through the process, a lot of kids (and their families and trainers) are surprised at how much of a marathon it can be. Plan to peak yourself and your horse at the right time. You are just as susceptible as your horse to becoming overtired or stressed. Making a game plan for your season can help ensure that you reach your goals and have fun doing it.

Region 2 Erica Furkis, Berrien Center, Michigan Chef since 2018 As a past NAYC competitor, I had experienced how valuable it is to have a chef leading the teams at this prestigious event. Being able to volunteer is part of how I give back to the sport that is providing me with a livelihood. I love being actively involved in an event the magnitude of NAYC, and guiding athletes and their parents through an international team experience. Dressage requires an incredible number of support people to make up an athlete’s team. Watching individual riders come together as a team for a common goal is the most rewarding part of being a chef. My advice to riders and parents: Read everything that is published about the event. So many questions are answered in the documents, and there are many rules and qualification requirements for this type of event. There are very specific deadlines and other important, time-sensitive information. Also, if you have any questions, do not hesitate to ask your regional coordinator or chefs. Most important, have fun and enjoy the process with your horse!


won team gold. It was the first time that Region 4 had ever won a gold medal, and it was a very rewarding experience. My advice to riders and parents: Dream big—like Olympics big—but stay humble. The most humble people I’ve ever met were the legendary German champions Isabell Werth and Dr. Reiner Klimke.

Region 5

Sue Bender, Beech Island, South Carolina USDF Region 3 director; Young Rider chef since 2009 I started as chef in 2009. You need to give back to the sport you love, and these riders are the future. It is rewarding as you see the riders develop. It takes a lot of hard work, and it is an honor to be part of the Region 3 team. There are numerous riders who will never get the experience of being part of a team, but for the riders who do, the friendships and bonds made will stay with them long into the future.

Joan Clay, Fort Collins, Colorado Regional coordinator and junior chef since 2012 I like being able to support our up-and-coming dressage riders and help them realize their riding goals. I also like being able to get to know people from all over the country who are involved in NAYC as competitors, regional coordinators, chefs, volunteers, parents, and show management. I have made so many new friends. My advice to riders and parents: Contact your NAYC regional coordinator and let them know you are interested and that you want to be included in their correspondence. Your regional coordinator can answer questions or direct you to the people who can. Keep up on reading all the pertinent information from USEF and USDF. Read and respond to e-mails and get your memberships and paperwork in order early so you can focus on your training and riding. Also in Region 5: Heather Petersen, USDF Region 5 director; Young Rider chef since 2014

Region 4

Region 6

David Wightman, Murietta, California Chef since 2018 I got involved because I did Young Riders myself, and had many students through the years do Young Riders, and I wanted to give back. I’ve served as chef for Region 7 twice and once for Region 4. During those times, Region 7 won Young Rider team gold, and the Region 4 Juniors

Nicki Grandia, Snohomish, Washington Regional coordinator and chef since 2019 Last year was my first year as chef for the Region 6 team. I got involved because I wanted to give back to a program that had done so much for me. I enjoy helping our team navigate the whole process—the competition, the travel arrangements, the

TEAM SPIRIT: 2019 Region 2 NAYC dressage competitors with chef Erica Furkis (second from right) and USEF national dressage youth coach George Williams (right)

Region 3 Elizabeth Molloy, Cumming, Georgia Regional coordinator/junior chef since 2017 Becoming a chef was a bit of luck and timing combined with a natural fruition after being youth chair for my GMO, the Georgia Dressage and Combined Training Association. As chair, I rolled out a Dressage Seat Medal Finals for our local schooling shows, a letterman’s jacket program for our recognized riders (both eventers and dressage), and brought the prestigious Dressage4Kids Atlanta Youth Festival and Lendon Gray’s TEAM clinic to the area. Our GMO boasts over 220 youth in our program, so we are fairly large. When USDF Region 3 director Sue Bender asked for help one year at our annual convention, it seemed like a natural progression. Furthermore, I had gone to Pony Club Championships in 2013 and 2015, so NAYC in 2017 made sense. I really enjoy fund-raising with and for the team with shirt sales. We have an art contest for a t-shirt and then design our matching polos. It helps to foster a team environment, again from Pony Club, which for me is the highlight of that trip. My advice to riders and parents: Start that passport early, and declare early. As we get closer to the actual

competition, I remind everyone that this is most likely the longest horse show you will have competed in, so leave the show grounds often— hopefully with a dueling passion, like music—to reset yourself.

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Salute

TOP CHEF: Region 7’s Alison Burt-Jacobs (center) receives the 2019 Albers Award from USDF executive director Stephan Hienzsch and USEF national dressage youth coach George Williams

paperwork, and the actual show. My advice to riders and parents: Start early with the qualifying process, the shows, and the paperwork. Keep in mind that the most important part is to have fun!

Region 7 Alison Burt-Jacobs, Malibu, California Chef since 2016 “NAYC is an amazing program and an experience I was very fortunate to be a part of,” Burt-Jacobs told California Riding Magazine after her first time serving as Region 7 chef. “Everyone had a common goal: to ensure that the welfare of the horse and rider was the top priority, and to encourage good sportsmanship and teamwork during the championships.” At the 2019 NAYC, Burt-Jacobs received the Albers Award Perpetual Trophy, presented to an outstanding dressage chef. Of her contributions, USDF FEI Jr/YR Committee chair Roberta Williams said: “Alison lost everything—her home, her belongings, and her barn—eight months ago in the California wildfires. Despite the devastation in her personal life, she was unwavering in her dedication to creating a team experience for all the kids from her region.”

GIVING BACK: Region 9 dressage chef Benny Pfabe (second from right) at the 2019 NAYC

Region 8 Debra Reinhardt, Southbury, Connecticut USDF Region 8 director; regional coordinator and Young Rider chef since 2019 The year 2019 was my first as chef. As USDF Region 8 director, I always felt I wanted be part of the championships, as this competition is so important to the future of dressage. Since it was in my back yard [in Saugerties, New York], it was an easy decision. The function of being a chef was awesome, as you help the team in so many ways, from helping wipe off boots to consoling riders when their ride was not all they wanted it to be. The team really seems to appreciate and respect your function, which makes it totally rewarding. My advice to parents: Be supportive but not overbearing. Meagan Davis, Loxahatchee, Florida, and Saugerties, New York Junior chef since 2018 I competed at Young Riders—I did two years of Juniors and three years of Young Riders—and my mom, Karen Davis, was chef when I did it. I coached there, as well, when my student went; and then I was asked by the USDF regional director to be the chef. The only angle I haven’t seen it from by now is parent, but they’re all “my girls”!

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Serving as a chef is a lot more time at the computer and paperwork than I think most people realize. We’re constantly trying to figure out how the competitors can have a great time. I run my own dressage business, and as chef we’ve got paperwork sent to us last-minute and then need to get it to the kids and back while I run a 15-stall facility. There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes. It really makes me appreciate the work the chefs did during the years I participated. My advice to riders and parents: When you declare as a Junior or Young Rider for that year, start fund-raising! Don’t fund-raise because you’re on the team; everyone who declares is part of the team. The years I competed, two riders who didn’t make the team came as grooms because we raised enough money to pay for them to come. Also, make sure you know the rules prior to getting there!

Region 9 Benjamin “Benny” Pfabe, Dallas, Texas Assistant chef in 2015; chef since 2016 I was coaching a junior rider [at NAYC] in 2015 and served as assistant chef until the previous chef, Ed Lavallee, announced that it was his last year. It was a great opportunity to learn about it and not be thrown into deep waters all alone.


Two Special Salutes

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JOHN BORYS PHOTOGRAPHY; COURTESY OF NANCY GORTON

ur “Salute” to the FEI North American Youth Championships (NAYC) dressage chefs d’équipe wouldn’t be complete without a tip of the hat to two additional outstanding supporters we’ll call chefs emerita. Let’s meet them now. Region 2: Rosalind “Roz” Kinstler, Whitmore Lake, Michigan Chef and regional coordinator since 1997 How I got involved is a little funny. Sue Hughes was Region 2 director, and she asked if I’d like to do the job. I asked what it was, and she said she had no idea, really! And I said, “Sure, why not?” I had to learn by doing it. What’s tremendously rewarding to me is to see so many former Region 2 team riders, now professionals themselves, bringREGION 2 REUNION: Kinstler (second from left) with ing their students to NAYC. former NAYRC/NAJYRC dressage competitors in 2017. Many have stayed in touch Also pictured are former Region 2 coaches including with me over the years and George Williams (third from left), now USEF national call from time to time for dressage youth coach; and his wife, current USDF FEI advice, et cetera. Jr/YR Committee chair Roberta Williams (sixth from left). My advice to riders and parents: First, read the criteria! They are available to anyone, and parents, trainers, and riders should absolutely read through them carefully. Word of mouth, while it can be helpful, isn’t necessarily accurate. The other very important thing is, never be shy to ask questions. Your region’s coordinator or someone at the USDF office usually will know the answer, or at least how to guide you to someone who can. It’s quite the journey to mount a campaign to qualify for your region’s Junior or Young Rider team, but it’s so worth the effort, even if you don’t actually make it. Region 4: Nancy Harrison Gorton, Kansas City, Missouri Chef for 14 years beginning in 2006 I got involved because my daughter was riding for USDF Region 4 at NAJYRC starting in 2006. Once she aged out, I stayed on because I am passionate about helping our young riders reach this level of riding, what NAYC means for our sport, and how it cultivates excellence in life skills for our DEDICATED TO YOUTH youth. DRESSAGE: Gorton and USEF My advice to riders: Persistence is the national dressage youth coach George Williams key to success, especially in dressage.

I am a trainer myself and don’t often have time to volunteer during our horse shows, so I consider serving as the chef as my time to give back. NAYC is a fun show to be involved in, and I enjoy getting things done in order for the team to compete. My advice to riders and parents: Be prepared, know the rules, read the website, and get all of your paperwork in order. Be smart about picking qualifying shows. Watch some videos of former NAYC competitions, and study what it takes to be competitive. Be realistic: Scoring at the championships will be tougher than at most qualifying competitions. And don’t hesitate to ask your coordinator or chefs for advice, that’s what we are here for!

Serving the Sport “We are so fortunate that there is an intense dedication of these chefs to their teams,” says USDF FEI Junior/Young Rider Committee chair Roberta Creek Williams. “It is not a paid position, and it is not a position that garners power.” The NAYC is “an emotional roller coaster,” she says, and the days are long. Through it all, chefs “advocate for their riders and their teams. They make it so that the riders only need to worry about going down the center line.” Williams calls these extraordinary volunteers “the mortar that helps build the team into a structure and then keeps it in place,” and says that they are worth “100 times their weight in gold. We couldn’t do it without them, and each year I thank my lucky stars that we have such an amazing, dedicated group of people.”

Amber Heintzberger is an awardwinning freelance writer, photographer, and author. She lives outside New York City with her husband and children.

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Free Rein Should I Break My Young Horse Myself? Our sport-horse columnist discusses the considerations

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ou’ve bred or bought a young horse. You’ve had fun watching it grow up, and like any proud parent you’ve shared photos and videos of your beautiful baby with friends and family. Now that baby is three or four years old, and it’s time for it to be broken to saddle—to begin its career as a riding horse. “Break” is an ugly word, left over from the cowboy bronc-riding days, but it is the slang term we still use for starting a horse under saddle.

Here’s my take. If you have only one young horse, or just a few, most likely by age three or four it is tame, accepts wearing a halter, leads well, and can be caught in the pasture. It is friendly and likes people, has reasonably good ground manners, and has been taught to stand tied. Perhaps it’s been cross-tied, brushed, bathed, blanketed, and worn tack. If this describes your youngster, then you have a head start in the saddle-breaking process if you de-

GIVE YOUR HORSE THE RIGHT START: Whether you choose to DIY or send your horse to a pro, a careful, systematic introduction to being ridden lays the ground work for a successful future

We hope that neither rider nor horse actually gets broken in the process, but starting a young horse isn’t without its risks, and not every rider wants to undertake the task. That’s why I frequently get asked: Should I break my young horse myself, or should I send it out to a professional breaker?

cide to do it yourself. In my opinion, it is easier to break a horse with no training whatsoever (I’m referring to domesticated horses here, not to wild ones!) than it is to retrain a spoiled horse that has no respect for its handler. In my early years of breeding horses 40 years ago, when I had

30 January/February 2021 | USDF CONNECTION

only one or two foals a year (and I was a lot younger), my young horses had this early training. I groomed them, took them for trail walks, trailered them, took them to breed shows or off property to hang out in a strange environment, and leaned casually over their backs. Most had already at least worn a bridle and a surcingle. I had chosen not to lunge them to save their legs and joints from stress, but they already knew body language and responded to some voice commands, so teaching them to lunge was not too difficult. By the time I mounted them for the first time, they usually looked at me as if to say, “This is just one more stupid thing my person is doing to me.” It was usually a non-event. To be safe, I did hire someone to act as a ground person for the first few times I sat on them on the lunge and for the first few times I rode them off of the lunge. The last time I broke a horse myself was 30 years ago. I had six to break, and my children were still young. When it came time to mount the last horse, I didn’t feel right putting my foot in the stirrup. I realized that my confidence was slipping. My filly was perfectly behaved, but I stopped breaking horses myself after that. I knew that if I lacked confidence, the horses would sense it. I continued to ride young horses for many years, but from that day forward I sent them out to be broken. If you are thinking of breaking your horse yourself, here are some things to consider. • Safety is the top priority. At a minimum, do you have protective headgear and proper hard-soled riding shoes with a small heel— and the skills to use them correctly

DUSTY PERIN PHOTOGRAPHY

By Maurine “Mo” Swanson


and effectively? Lots of people use protective vests, as well. Don’t be fooled into thinking that the quiet, friendly horse on the ground will be the same under saddle. Always proceed with care and caution. Is your horse cooperative, or can he be a bit of a fighter? How has he reacted to new things? Is he placid or spooky? Be honest about your own riding skills. Some of the best breakers I have known would never win an equitation class, but they “stick like glue” and have controlled, sympathetic hands. • Do you have a safe, enclosed place to ride, with solid fencing and good, level footing? • Do you have access to an indoor or covered arena so that the training can continue if the weather gets bad? Many people break their young horses in the summer or fall of their three- or four-year-old year and then give them time off until the weather is good again the following year. I have never done this. Most of my young horses are for sale, so they remain in light work just a few days a week throughout the year. But either approach can work. If you are not in a hurry, let your future dressage partner’s bones, muscles, and joints develop. • Are you a confident rider, or do you get afraid at times (or all the time)? • Do you have someone you can trust to serve as your ground person when needed? • Do you know proper lungeing technique? Are you proficient in ground-driving? (I am not, by the way.) • Do you have experience with young horses, or is this your first one? • Do you have other commitments that will reduce the amount of time you have available to work with your youngster? A steady, consistent program is better than an occasional or sporadic training

session. Taking time in each session works better than a hurried approach. There is no shame in hiring someone you trust to be the first person in the saddle. Age of the trainer and age of the horse are factors. Young people are usually more supple than older people. Young horses are more easily trained than older ones that have become set in their ways and that are physically strong and mature in their muscling.

At my breeding farm, in any given year we have had from six to 20 three-year-old warmblood horses to break. I continue to send them all out to be broke. It is too timeconsuming to do it in house, and my young-horse rider/trainer’s time is better spent working with the horses that are already under saddle, most of which are for sale. Of course, it’s important to find a breaker who will give your horse the kind of start you want. If you don’t

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Free Rein who is about two hours away from my farm. This trip is usually their first trailer ride. They know how to lead, they pick up their feet for the farrier, they have occasionally had to be in a stall, and they generally think people are OK. They don’t know how to tie, though. In order to ship them to the breaker I use, we configure our 2-plus-1 trailer into two box stalls, lower the ramp into the barn aisle, and load them into the trailer stalls without tying them, with hay on the floor instead of in a hanging hay net. Sometimes we use a little tranquilizer to keep them from panicking. My breaker does a lot of trailriding after some training in a round pen, and I find I like this method. It is easier on their young legs than round-pen/indoor-ring training ad nauseum. Two or three months later, my young horses come home with manners during mounting and dismounting. They go in front of the leg in walk, trot, and canter. They have no dressage training, but it doesn’t take long to train them to lunge,

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then to lunge with side reins, then to go into the contact under saddle. For the horses that my breaker has started, their first horse shows have been non-events behaviorally. I am relieved and happy to have found him! I hope that you, too, can find a breaker who works well for you and your horse. Although you may think that the cost to send your horse out to be broken is expensive, keep in mind that it is a small investment over the lifetime of the horse. If your horse returns with confidence and good under-saddle skills, you are on your way. A horse that has been started correctly, with sympathy and good basics, will always be valuable, whether it’s to you or to a future owner. Most of all, enjoy your young horse. My wise cowboy farrier says, “Be happy if you train the horse 1 percent a day. After 100 days, you will have a 100-percent trained horse.”

Meet the Columnist

aurine “Mo” Swanson has been breeding horses for 40 years. With her husband, Jim, she owns Rolling Stone Farm in eastern Pennsylvania, where she stands the stallions Shakespeare RSF and Shavane. She has bred about 400 foals, including 37 Elite Mares and Elite Mare Candidates and two State Premium Mares for the American Hanoverian Society and the German Hanoverian Verband; and 26 Special Premium mares, 12 Verbands Premium mares, 178 Premium Foals, and 48 Foals of Distinction for the German Oldenburg Verband, plus nine licensed stallions. Swanson got her equestrian start in hunters and jumpers, then rode dressage up to the Prix St. Georges level, earning her USDF bronze and silver medals in 2018. Her homebred Hanoverians and Oldenburgs have earned top-10 national dressage rankings and have won many titles both under saddle and in hand. She has consistently been highly ranked in the Adequan®/USDF Dressage Breeder of the Year, the Adequan®/USDF Dressage Sport Horse Breeding Breeder of the Year, and the US Equestrian Dressage Breeder of the Year standings. She won the Adequan®/USDF DSHB Breeder of the Year title in 2016 and 2018, and in 2020 she was named the Adequan®/USDF Dressage Breeder of the Year. She has also been the USEF Dressage Breeder of the Year every year since 2014. Rolling Stone Farm sells young stock and about 20 to 25 riding horses a year. Swanson’s greatest pleasure has been breeding suitable horses for the amateur market in the discipline of dressage with an emphasis on ridability and movement.

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STACYLYNNEPHOTO.COM

already know of someone, try asking for recommendations on social media or from your horse friends. In my opinion, the breaker doesn’t need a show record, but he or she does need some verifiable credentials. Keep in mind that a dressage trainer, a cowboy, a hunter breaker, and a racehorse breaker may be equally successful at starting a dressage prospect. Conduct a site visit before you hire a breaker. Go to the person’s farm, and look to see if there are happy horses and happy people. Check out the condition of the facility and the horses residing there. Are there safe fencing and safe stalls or paddocks? What will your horse get for turnout while there? What is the feed program? You may be allowed to watch the trainer work with a horse or two. Ask whether you’ll receive regular updates on your horse’s training progress, as well as notifications if your horse develops any health issues. My horses know very little when they are sent to my present breaker,


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Clinic Managing Emotional Poisons In riding, we can be our own worst enemies. Here’s help in getting our dressage demons under control. By Beth Baumert

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ome riders are chronically crabby, preoccupied, self-centered, overly serious, or even angry, and a beautiful partnership can never evolve in these atmospheres.

else. That won’t work for long with a horse. The attorney may be in fight mode. She was trained to counterattack and might have trouble getting out of that mode. The secretary has been crouched over a computer all

The horse’s persistent lesson is to help the rider come to the table (or the saddle) every day as a blank slate and experience the now. The horse teaches you to retain or regain your sense of self in the face of personal challenges. Riding is good therapy because the horse mirrors our strengths and our weaknesses. When you bring tension to the saddle, you’ll get tension. Unfortunately, when you bring relaxation to the saddle, you won’t necessarily get relaxation. That’s not fair, is it? Life isn’t fair. Riding tells us a lot about ourselves. With amazing accuracy, horses even have physical problems in the same places as their riders.

Starving the Evil Wolf

Negative attitudes and distractions belong to real, wonderful people. Sometimes they are us. Sometimes they are riders who are highly valued in other aspects of their lives. The surgeon is out there saving lives on a daily basis. She can’t leave her phone in the car when she comes to ride. So why does she ride? Probably so she can learn to put her daily challenges aside, but it must be difficult. The family attorney, an hour before getting on her horse, was dealing with the placement of a beautiful child with either a dysfunctional mother or an out-of-state father. The business executive was delegating his problems and having them fixed by someone

day and has trouble sitting tall and looking up. The mom is wondering if she’ll get home before the school bus drops off her six-year-old. Wow. The horse is doing a tremendous service to all these people, but some of the riders aren’t able to maximize their opportunities in the saddle because it just isn’t easy to make a delicious sauce every single day. In fact, these distractions are, by most measures, more important than refining the shoulder-in. Regardless, the horse doesn’t know these aspects of his rider’s life and will consistently disappoint the rider who is “chronically crabby, selfcentered, overly serious, or preoccupied.”

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Exclusive Book Excerpt

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xcerpt adapted from How Two Minds Meet: The Mental Dynamics of Dressage by Beth Baumert, published by Trafalgar Square Books, HorseAndRiderBooks. com. Copyright © 2020 by Beth Baumert. All rights reserved.

MICHAEL ROEDER/SHUTTERSTOCK

WHICH WOLF WILL WIN? According to Cherokee legend, we all have an internal battle between a good wolf (positive emotions) and an evil wolf (destructive emotions)

Fear comes in lots of colors and sizes. Fear of failure, fear of getting hurt physically, and even fear of success. Fear of hurting the horse in rehab, fear of losing the ride, fear of losing your job. It can come in the form of being timid, anxious, or downright afraid.


SANDY RABINOWITZ/COURTESY OF TRAFALGAR SQUARE BOOKS

There’s no critic quite as tough as the monkey mind of the self. Find a way to shake off self-criticism and replace it with constructive self-talk.

Whether you are the teacher of a timid student or you are the timid student, ask: “Is there a good reason for this timidity?” Feelings of fear are sometimes well-founded, and riders would do well to pay attention to their fears. Maybe you should ride a different horse, either because the horse is ill-tempered or because he is inappropriate for any number of reasons. Much has been written about how to gain your horse’s trust, but your horse also has to be trustworthy! Anger is another emotional poison. Riders never revert to anger when they know what they’re doing. Eventing superstar Denny Emerson said, “Anger begins where knowledge leaves off.” The best advice for the angry rider is to get off. The judgmental critic is another negative, and there’s no place for him while you’re riding. As soon as you find this armchair critic sitting on your shoulder and empowering your “monkey mind,” find a way to shake him off. The critic can be positive, of course. Most riders try constantly to make positive changes to their riding position or to their training plan. They wonder if they could be doing

something better, and they welcome guidance and feedback from knowledgeable trainers and other good riders. These left-brained critiques just need to be acknowledged and addressed in a positive way. Negative tension is tight and physically not supple. The rider who has negative tension can’t be harmonious or grounded. Physical tension is also a reflection of mental tension and a lack of open-mindedness. Complaining is the opposite of gratitude. Just as gratitude invites more good stuff into your life, complaining focuses on the aspects of life that you don’t want and strengthens those things. What you pay attention to grows. Scattered or disorganized thinking is common among people who are feeding the evil wolf. Of course Diagram 8 A canter

x K

F

P

V

B

E

R

S

M

H

C Exercise for task-oriented riding

they don’t know they are doing this, but without a clear plan, their efforts are like stabs in the dark, and, of course, horses don’t understand scattered and disorganized thinking. But, as you know, the negative bias or the negative instinct is a human condition, and it affects all of us. The best we can do is be aware of and manage it.

Managing the Negative Task-Oriented Riding Instructors can often dispel the negative by making the lesson task-oriented. The focus becomes how well the horse did the exercise instead of how well the rider is controlling the horse. In the process, of course, doing any exercise builds up the rider as the leader and the horse as the follower, so it helps the rider gain control. For the rider who often rides without instruction, the task-oriented system will help keep both horse and rider focused “on task.”

Try This Exercise for Task-Oriented Riding 1. Track left and go down the center line (see diagram at left). 2. Leg-yield right to the corner letter. Do the task in both directions one or two times and take a break. 3. Next, do the same task with an added challenge: After leg-yielding to the corner letter, develop canter and at the center of the short side, circle 15 meters. 4. Change across the diagonal. Trot at X and repeat in the other direction. Take another break and do another task. This is task-oriented riding, and it puts the rider in a good position. Even if the task isn’t well done, the focus doesn’t spiral into a situation in which the tail is wagging the dog. The rider is calling the shots, and the performance of each task will improve with repetition. Make up exercises like this one that are appropriate for your own horse. [

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Clinic Emotional Toughness Emotional toughness is being fearless in the face of disappointment or challenges and being open to new things. It is being sponge-like and hungry for knowledge. The emotionally tough rider doesn’t mind being humbled because that’s how she learns new things. Every time she is put down a peg, she is actually learning a new aspect of training horses. So what seems like going down a peg is actually going up a peg. The emotionally tough rider sees that failure as evidence of growth. She finds a kernel of pleasure in failure because she learns from it. Mirrors, videos cameras, and eyes on the ground can be tough on the ego, but it’s the only way to go. Years ago, a trainer taught two cheerful women who took lessons at

A Fight Between Two Wolves

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n old Cherokee was teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy. “It is a terrible fight, and it is between two wolves. One is evil—he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He paused, then continued: “The other is good—he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. “The same fight is going on inside you—and inside every other person, too.” The grandson thought about it for a minute and asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?” The old man simply replied, “The one you feed.”

the same time each week for years. One day the trainer decided to video her faithful students. She forwarded the footage as they pulled out of the driveway and never saw them again! The truth can be painful, but it’s your first line of offense. The emotionally tough rider welcomes learning experiences. She doesn’t mind, for example, being put on a longe line to help perfect her position on a large circle. The

The horse’s persistent lesson is to help the rider experience the now.

ideal rider welcomes these apparent little steps down. This doesn’t mean she doesn’t feel disappointed with lower-than-normal scores, but she searches for the judge’s comments and welcomes the opportunity to learn so she can improve the next time. There is no obsession over the need to “arrive.” The mentally tough rider enjoys the journey.

Control the Controllables The legendary German dressage trainer Conrad Schumacher said, “Control the controllables,” and he meant that you shouldn’t be mentally distracted about things you can’t control. You can’t do anything about the weather, but you can decide if you’re going to ride in footing that might be compromised by the weather. You can’t do anything about the time constriction within which you must ride, but you can do something about how you use your time. You can vow not to ride with a hurried attitude. The Zone is out of reach when you’re being chased by the clock. Know what you can and cannot influence, and make wise decisions. It seems that we rarely see riding couched in negativity nowadays— probably because it doesn’t work. Horses train us to feed the good wolf and be our best selves. The bottom line is that emotional poisons are a part of everyone’s life. We just need to learn how to manage them.

Fight, Flight—or Negotiate The “fight or flight” instinct isn’t only for horses. People at war either stand their ground and fight or they retreat. But, because people are more evolved than other animals, they have a third option—one that’s positive. They have the ability to negotiate and be diplomatic. They try to see each other’s point of view, which is the quality that can make us good horse trainers. There is a conflict of interest inherent in the horse-and-rider relationship: The rider wants and needs control while her horse wants to retain his innate spirit and sense of freedom. (This conflict can get worked out and was described in detail in my previous book, When Two Spines Align.)

36 January/February 2021 | USDF CONNECTION

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GMO The Virtual GMO Jump-start your pandemic-era events planning with these ideas

I

f necessity is the mother of invention, then a pandemic is surely the mother of creativity. The year 2020 saw unprecedented changes to the way the world operates—and that, of course, includes USDF’s group-member organizations, or GMOs.

many parts of the country, which left organizers scrambling to keep up with the rapidly changing rules and safety protocols. But horse people are accustomed to dealing with change, and GMOs stepped up and created some clever ways of keeping members engaged,

HOME IS WHERE THE ACTION IS: From board meetings to awards banquets, GMOs increasingly are using videoconferencing technology to bring members together

Board meetings, clinics, and competitions have had to be reimagined. The challenges were unprecedented, although not entirely unfamiliar to those GMOs already struggling to engage memberships spread over great distances: How do you keep members involved when they can’t easily be together? How do you offer dressage education when you’re not able to hold in-person clinics and symposiums with large audiences? To make matters worse, many of the COVID-19 shutdowns started in March, right at the beginning of show season in

educated, and entertained as quarantines and social-distancing mandates spread across the country. In this article, we’ll look at some of the popular innovations that your own GMO may want to implement, even after pandemic restrictions subside.

The Virtues of Virtual With the entire country having to rethink business as usual, virtualmeeting platforms including Zoom, Google Meet, YouTube, and Facebook Rooms became popular resources. GMOs were happy to discover that technology exists to man-

38 January/February 2021 | USDF CONNECTION

age practically every event online— but then GMO board members had the job of learning how to use it! Zoom has become the go-to resource in the age of virtual events. According to CNN Business, the videoconferencing giant saw revenues increase 169% from April to August 2020 as individuals, businesses, and educational institutions flocked to the platform. Zoom’s free plan offers one-to-one meetings that can run up to 24 hours, but meetings with three or more participants are limited to 40 minutes on the free plan. Facebook Messenger Rooms and Google Meet offer a somewhat less-formal feel than Zoom, and both can be easily accessed without downloading any additional software. Messenger Rooms allow up to 50 attendees and are free to use for any amount of time. You don’t need to have a Facebook account to join a Messenger Room video chat. Anyone with a Google account can host up to 100 participants via Google Meet for free for 60 minutes. Everyone attending needs to have a Google account unless the host is a Google Workspace customer, in which case they can share a link to the meeting with non-Google users. YouTube is a great resource for hosting virtual dressage competitions. In a now-common format, riders upload unlisted videos of their tests. The judge receives the links to the videos, then views and scores the tests. Scored test sheets are then sent to the riders. Many GMO representatives we spoke with mentioned the advantages of virtual activities. The most commonly cited benefit is increased attendance at board meetings because members can participate from

SWITCHEDDESIGN/SHUTTERSTOCK

By Penny Hawes


the comfort (and safety) of their own homes. Meeting online also eliminates the obstacles of long drives and sometimes even conflicts with work schedules. “We are having monthly meetings via Zoom and also staying on after the meeting adjourns and visiting, just to see faces and catch up,” says Fort Worth (Texas) Dressage Club president Barbara Harty. Virtual meetings have proven so popular that several GMOs plan to continue meeting via Zoom even after the COVID-19 situation eases.

COURTESY OF CDCTA

Virtual Shows Produce Surprising Benefits Virtual schooling (unrecognized) shows gained tremendous popularity in 2020. As GMO representatives told us, virtual shows helped to bring in some much-needed revenue from competitions, and they offered a safe alternative to members who might not have attended an in-person show. In fact, some GMOs found that previously nonparticipating members entered the virtual shows. As it turns out, the low-key experience has a great deal of appeal for nervous riders, riders of young or green horses, and those who lack access to trailering. As we’ve mentioned, some virtual shows are held completely online, with competitors submitting videos. Others are a hybrid format, combining in-person, socially distanced test riding at a designated location with virtual judging. The Connecticut Dressage and Combined Training Association (CDCTA) opted for the hybrid model, citing the desire to have every competitor ride in the same arena so as to be more like a traditional show. “We wanted the schooling show to be competitive, and we wanted to be fair,” explains CDCTA vice president Mary Ann Smith. “We wanted a designated person videotaping the rides, and we wanted it to be at a show grounds so that everybody

was on a level playing field. We still wanted it to have that competitive feel but be safe.” Smith gives “a grateful shoutout” to the folks at Treasure Hill Farm in Salem, Connecticut, who “took a leap of faith and agreed to let us hold our event at their farm.” The CDCTA used only one corner of the property and kept competitors and show staff in the immediate vicinity of the rings. Rides were scheduled to minimize the number of people on site: Those riding multiple tests were scheduled back to back, and competitors from the same barn were scheduled one after the other so that they could arrive, ride, and leave as a group. Rides were held over three days to ensure social distancing. A CDCTA member videotaped all of the tests from the judge’s position at C. “There was no judge on site, and we had a skeleton staff, which kept the numbers down,” Smith explains. “It was it was a little bit odd that here was a show going on with at times up to 80 rides spread over three days, and there were very few people around.” After all the rides were complete, the GMO sent the videos to the judges, who returned their completed test sheets in less than a week’s time. For just $5—largely to recoup some of the costs of the video equipment—each CDCTA virtual-show competitor could purchase her test video. Viewed in conjunction with the completed test sheet, the video served as a valuable training tool, and the GMO got very positive feedback about its virtual show. “People found this to be a surprisingly enjoyable experience,” Smith says. The Western Pennsylvania Dressage Association (WPDA) opted for the film-yourself-at-home approach. Its virtual show drew mostly Introductory and Training Level competitors, with a few Third Level tests mixed in, says WPDA president Pamela McCready.

THE VIDEO FROM C: For the Connecticut Dressage and Combined Training Association’s virtual dressage show, competitors rode their tests in the same arena, but in front of a video camera instead of a judge. Test videos were then sent to judges for remote viewing and scoring.

“It’s easier for somebody riding multiple horses to do it this way,” McCready says of the DIY-video method. “They feel like they don’t have to run back and forth and change tack and all of that.” The WPDA found that its approach struck a balance between making riders feel comfortable and challenging them just a bit—a good format for novice competitors, McCready believes. “Riders didn’t have coaching while they were doing their tests because we encouraged them to be a big girl and do it on their own,” she says. “I think that’s a big first barrier for people to conquer—to just go ride the test without hand-holding.” But “It’s a lot less scary when you can turn off the video and go do it again. The next time lets you relax a whole lot.”

Celebrate and Educate Typically, GMO year-end awards parties are a big deal. The events are a chance for members to dress up, socialize, have a good meal, and bring home ribbons and prizes as

USDF CONNECTION | January/February 2021

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testament to the hard work they’ve put in all year. Banquets are usually held at restaurants or event locations, but that option was obviously out of the question in 2020. Still, clubs found ways to make it work. The Georgia Dressage and Combined Training Association’s 2020 gala, typically a black-tie affair, was held on Zoom instead, says GDCTA president Caren Caverly. On the party agenda: an ugly-sweater contest, sharing of videos and recipes for dishes and beverages (adult and otherwise) prepared for the virtual pot luck, and, of course, lots of socializing. When we talked to Caverly in the fall of 2020, she said the GDCTA was hoping to compile video clips of toplevel riders announcing the champion and reserve for each division. Being acknowledged by dressage or eventing stars, the GMO hoped, would take away some of the sting of not being able to receive awards in person. Unmounted dressage education is usually a part of a GMO’s offerings, and during the pandemic several clubs pivoted successfully to host a variety of creative online events. Holly Zickler, president of the South Florida Dressage Association (SFDA), helped to kick-start the effort early in the shutdowns. She organized a virtual meeting during which GMO representatives from around the country brainstormed ideas for sessions that they could offer to members either alone or in conjunction with other clubs. Zickler compiled the list of ideas and uploaded it to the USDF GMO Officials Facebook group. Darian Quinn of the Eastern New York Dressage and Combined Training Association gave the effort an assist by putting together two videos explaining how to use Zoom. She uploaded them to the Facebook group for all GMOs to access. (“That was a good thing,” Zickler jokes, “because we’re all a bunch of unsophisticated horse people!”) Although several GMO representatives expressed interest in collaborating on an online event following

40 January/February 2021 | USDF CONNECTION

that brainstorming session, planning stalled until USDF president Lisa Gorretta suggested that Zickler invite Colorado-based FEI 5* dressage judge Janet Foy to be a guest at a virtual book-club meeting. Foy happily agreed to discuss her book, Dressage for the Less-Than-Perfect Horse. SFDA secretary Kellie Kaspriske hosted the June 24 event, and more than 50 GMO members from around the country participated. GMOs have also organized their own solo virtual educational events. The Fort Worth Dressage Club “had a vet speak and do a PowerPoint [presentation] via Zoom on eye injuries in horses,” says Harty, “and we have a bit-fitting Zoom meeting coming up.” The FWDC was also planning a virtual holiday party “where everyone dresses up and enjoys some sort of fun games and gag gifts.”

Collaboration Is Key In order for GMOs to thrive in this challenging and ever-changing landscape, they need to share information and to be open to new ideas. Work with other GMOs. Contact other clubs in your area to discuss the possibility of organizing events together. Spread the word about your silent auction, book club, or webinar. Be flexible, resilient, and open to learning new things—all qualities that most of us dressage enthusiasts already possess. With the possibility of COVID-19 restrictions running well into 2021, virtual is the new norm. We hope that this article will be a great resource and conversation starter among GMOs. Let’s move forward together.

Penny Hawes is a coach, writer, and experienced board member. She lives in Virginia with her husband, daughter, and a plethora of cats, dogs, and horses.


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Special Report

Dressage Horse Market 2021 The COVID-19 pandemic has changed nearly everything. Has it affected the demand for dressage horses, too?

SHUTTERSTOCK GRAPHICS. COVER DESIGN BY EMILY KOENIG

BY KIM F. MILLER

42 January/February 2021 | USDF CONNECTION


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n the early going of the coronavirus pandemic, some sellers of sport horses braced for a big drop in the market, while prospective buyers watched and waited for anticipated

bargains. Those bargains never materialized. “The value of horses has really held well,” says FEIlevel competitor Jenny Wetterau, of Mission Viejo, California, a partner in the import and sales business Dressage Horse Source in southern California. “There haven’t been any COVID flash sales.” If anything, dressage horses are in higher demand now than they were pre-pandemic, sources say. “It’s actually a seller’s market right now,” says FEI-level rider/trainer and sport-horse breeder Kate Fleming-Kuhn, who operates StarWest in New Berlin, Illinois, with her husband, fellow dressage pro Martin Kuhn. “I think COVID is bringing home for people the things that are most important to them. What I’ve seen in my personal experience and in those living around me is an increased level of dedication—of looking at our mortality and realizing, ‘This is what is important to me.’ That segues into sales because people seem even more willing to make an investment in a horse.” Fleming-Kuhn admits that the uptick was a surprise. “At the beginning of the pandemic, I had a few horses for sale, and I thought this would really negatively affect sales. For a few weeks it did, but that has gone.” In a world in which many people continue to face serious economic difficulties, those in the dressage market find themselves in an unusual position, Fleming-Kuhn acknowledges.

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How Much Horse Can Your Money Buy? The good news: The market for dressage horses in the US is strong. The bad news (if you’re a prospective buyer): The market is strong. For this article, we asked our sources to give us some ballpark price ranges for horses at various ages and stages of dressage training. Our experts also share advice on how to conduct that search for your dream horse—including the most common buying mistake they say amateur riders make. Fleming-Kuhn, like many dressage pros, has sold horses at both ends of the price spectrum. In her experience, a conventional economic phenomenon holds true in the horse world: Higher-priced items tend to hold their value in tough times, while lower-priced items tend to suffer more during downturns.

SUCCESSFUL SALE: At StarWest in Illinois, Kate Fleming-Kuhn has sold many quality horses, including the 2005 KWPN gelding Agathon JP (Jazz x Sultan), who’s pictured with his current owner, adultamateur rider Kelly Griffith

“We might see a little fluctuation in the mid- to lower-priced horses,” she says, “but what I am mostly seeing is that fair market values are holding pretty consistently.” Dressage rider/trainer Lauren Chumley, whose business model includes a robust sales operation at her stables in Pittstown, New Jersey, and Wellington, Florida, had four or five sales and a potential $400,000 or so in the pipeline when COVID shut down the Florida winter circuit in mid-March 2020. She brought the horses back to New Jersey early and expected the “dead quiet” of March, April, and May to last. In June, July, and August, however, her phone was “ringing off the hook.” “The only pattern with sales is that there is no pattern,” Chumley says with a laugh. After 15 years of selling dressage horses, the one sure thing she’s learned is that “a good horse is a good horse, and it’s going to sell.”

What Do You Want in a Dressage Horse? Start your horse search by making a wish list—the more detailed and prioritized, the better. Ask yourself: “What is important to you?” advises Wetterau’s Dressage Horse Source business partner, Sarah Lockman, of Murrieta, California, who’s also the 2019 Pan American Games individual dressage gold medalist. USDF CONNECTION | January/February 2021

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Consider temperament, quality of gaits and movement, bloodlines, age, sex, level of training, health and soundness history, and any other factors that are must-haves. To help match a client with the right horse, Lockman asks: “How much of a commitment do you have to putting more training and education into the horse?” Some buyers, she explains, want to bring a horse along and have the skills and resources to do so, while others want to compete soon at a certain level and want a horse that’s ready to go. Besides your dressage pursuits, “Do you also like trail riding?” Lockman says. If participating in other equestrian activities is important to you, look for a horse that can multitask in those areas, she advises.

What’s It Going to Cost? It’s expensive to breed and raise a horse. “There are so many things that go into producing a horse,” Lockman says. “Most of the time, before the horse is three—even before he’s been started or trained— most have $20,000 or $30,000

already invested to them.” That’s why even young sport horses usually aren’t cheap to buy. Lockman and Wetterau source and import horses primarily for amateur riders “who want to learn, get their medals, and ride a very good Prix St. Georges horse,” Lockman says. Such horses typically sell for $50,000 to $150,000, the partners agree. Of course, not every horse has Grand Prix-level potential. The ones that do tend to be more expensive than their less gifted brethren. What “separates the men from the boys in terms of cost,” as Lockman puts it, is the active hind leg required for collection in the piaffe, passage, and pirouettes. Depending on its age, history, movement, and other factors, such a horse will easily fetch five or six figures; if it’s deemed to be of international quality, you might even see an extra zero on the price tag. Before you abandon all hope of ever being able to afford a dressage partner, however, know that “the nice thing about dressage is that you don’t need a big warmblood or an

44 January/February 2021 | USDF CONNECTION

JENNIFER M. KEELER/YELLOW HORSE MARKETING

PONIES ARE HOT: Talented sport ponies and small horses can command big bucks, says trainer/rider Lauren Chumley, shown competing the 2011 German Riding Pony (Westfalen) gelding Nikolas (Novalis T – Capina Mia, Classic Dancer), owned by Melissa Dowling, at the 2018 National Dressage Pony Cup Championship Show

imported horse to do it,” Lockman says, “so that just opens everything up.” The discerning and patient buyer, she asserts, can find gems with dressage aptitude in nonwarmblood breeds, which are often less expensive than their warmblood counterparts. And yes, even in the sport-horse world good deals occasionally come along. “I just recently saw the cutestmoving Quarter Horse that I know is going to be First or Second Level champion of the world!” says Lockman. She adds that her own current Prix St. Georges horse, Dehavilland, was bought for $2,500 at a breeder’s sale; and that she recently found a talented junior rider a suitable three-year-old for $5,000. Smaller, by the way, doesn’t mean cheaper—at least not any more. There was a time when huge warmbloods commanded top dollar and smaller mounts were considered less desirable, but those days are over. Chumley, who has carved out a niche as a trainer and seller of smallish horses and sport ponies, says that “there is a real strong market for the smaller, safe horse,” particularly for kids and petite women. German Riding Ponies going Third and Fourth Level have been especially hot sellers for Chumley of late, she says, and the fanciest ones can get into the six figures, “especially if it is easy to ride and has easy flying changes.” At times, it seems to sellers that everybody’s looking for the same unicorn. As Chumley puts it, “I get a lot of calls from people looking for a Third Level-plus horse that is extremely safe, has no maintenance issues, and is eight years old.” If that describes your own unicorn, better come prepared: “If you can find that horse, that’s a $60,000 horse.”


If your heart is set on that $60,000 horse but your budget says otherwise, you have a choice to make. “It’s hard to be patient, but sometimes it’s worth saving up a little more for a year,” Lockman says.

COURTESY OF SAMANTHA KIDD

The Age Debate: Younger vs. Older There are two nearly surefire ways of finding a dressage horse for less money: buy a young horse, or buy an older horse. Both options have their pros and cons. For very experienced amateurs and professionals, young horses can be the ticket to getting more talent and potential at a lower price. There are some spectacular success stories, such as the legendary Verdades, who was purchased as a foal for a teenaged Laura Graves; together, the pair eventually rose to the top of the international dressage sport. The dream of finding the next Verdades fuels sales of young horses for breeders like Samantha Kidd, whose Arion Sporthorses in North Carolina is doing a brisk business in its inventory of mostly youngsters, from yearlings to three-year-olds. Arion began building its brand at local sport-horse breed shows, and it’s now firmly in the national spotlight after Kidd was named the 2019 and 2020 Adequan®/USDF Dressage Sport Horse Breeding Breeder of the Year. Kidd says she markets primarily to FEI-level professionals, with an estimated 10 percent of her buyers being “fabulous” amateurs. She was warned that breeding for the highest level of the sport might not be the best business model in a sport dominated by amateurs—but she must be doing something right because sales are soaring. In fact, she says, the pandemic and its travel restrictions may have given her business a boost

IN DEMAND: Breeder Samantha Kidd says her Arion Sporthorses young horses are selling like hotcakes. Pictured is the 2020 Oldenburg colt Violin ASH (Vitalis x Damon Hill), owned by Ann Edelman. Violin ASH was the Adequan®/USDF Dressage Sport Horse Breeding Horse of the Year in the Colts/Geldings of Current Calendar Year division.

because buyers who would never purchase a riding horse without seeing and trying it in person seem more open to taking a chance on a youngster based only on viewing a video. “We had 15 babies born in the US this year, and we’ve sold 11 of them,” Kidd says. “I’m getting calls on a daily basis for everything from foals to three-year-olds, and I’m now passing [the leads] along to [breeder] friends.” Kidd offers a few recommendations for the young-horse shopper. “I’m big on bloodlines because you kind of know what you are getting,” she says. “And you never want to sacrifice conformation or movement. That will usually come back to bite you in the end, especially at the upper levels.” Even with young horses, prices are such that buyers still may have to compromise. “If you are [shopping] for a twoyear-old with $30,000 and not able to get what you want,” Kidd says, “look at a yearling or foal and go with the best bloodlines and the best conformation you can get. It’s better

to get what you want and wait that extra year.” Kidd admits that it can be difficult to assess a young horse’s value. “We all know that a horse is worth what someone will pay for it,” she says. “There can be some crazy prices—both high and low—that can make it difficult, especially with a young horse.” She advises shoppers to do their research, including getting “a sampling of what’s around in the location where you want to buy. See what average prices keep coming up.” The opposite strategy to save money on a horse purchase is to look for a “schoolmaster”: a trained horse that still has a lot to give but that’s old enough that its value has dropped. Such a horse may require “maintenance” to keep it sound and comfortable, and it may be somewhat past its competitive zenith in terms of level. When we get to the subject of schoolmasters, our experts sing their praises, especially for amateur riders. “I cannot overstate how underutilized older schoolmasters

USDF CONNECTION | January/February 2021

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are,” says Chumley. “I wish all my amateur ladies had 14- or 15-yearold horses that don’t spook at the flowers. That’s where you get more training for less money.” Chumley points out that advances in veterinary medicine have enabled many horses to continue performing comfortably for years more than in decades past. Whereas anything over 12 was once called “aged,” it’s now common to see horses in their mid-teens or even older at the top levels—even at the Olympics. “You do have to be smart about it in terms of what workload an older horse can handle,” Chumley says. One of her own horses was competing Prix St. Georges in June 2019 and passed away peacefully in the pasture a month later. A 30-year-old former FEI horse in Chumley’s program keeps busy giving up-down lessons.

“If you want a more educated horse, an older horse can be great,” says Lockman. “In trade for helping to maintain it, you get the pleasure of having a horse that someone else put all the ‘wet saddle pad’ time into.” Schoolmasters may cost less than equivalent performers in their prime, but older doesn’t necessarily always mean super-cheap. “Prices for a 12-year-old FEI schoolmaster can vary quite a bit,” says Fleming-Kuhn. It’s not uncommon to see a $25,000 price tag on an nice, educated horse with some soundness issues, she says; by comparison, a top-quality horse of the same age with relatively few soundness issues might well cost in the six-figure range. The results of the prepurchase exam and the horse’s temperament will affect price drastically in this category. Shying away from buying an

46 January/February 2021 | USDF CONNECTION

COURTESY OF SARAH LOCKMAN AND JENNY WETTERAU

BUYERS AND SELLERS: Dressage Horse Source Partners Sarah Lockman (left) and Jenny Wetterau. They’re pictured at the 2020 USEF Dressage Festival of Champions aboard Summit Farm’s Westfalen mare, Balia (Belissimo M x Florestan); and Wetterau’s own KWPN gelding, Hartog (Apache x Scandic), with whom Wetterau won the Markel/USEF Developing Horse Prix St. Georges Dressage reserve national championship.

older horse is the flip side of the mistakes Chumley sees too many amateurs make: buying a younger horse than is desirable for their skill level, or purchasing more horse than they are comfortable with, or both (Lockman refers to it as buying the red Ferrari). The timid novice rider who brings home a big-moving, athletic four-year-old “may be inadvertently buying a horse for [her] trainer,” Chumley quips. “Modern sport horses are bred to be quite athletic,” Chumley says. “They are not mean or naughty. They have a lot of movement and intelligence, and if you don’t direct that energy, I’m going to get a call from you in six months.” That’s not to say that an amateur should never buy a young horse, she adds: It can work if the rider has experience training young horses or is in a program with a reputable trainer, she says. Chumley believes that some inappropriate horse purchases could be avoided if trainers would risk having the occasional uncomfortable conversation with their clients. “You need to be a little direct— blunt, maybe—about what they can find in their budget and not be afraid of upsetting the clients. … That will save everybody a lot of trouble.” Doing otherwise “doesn’t do anybody any good,” concludes Chumley, who points out that “it’s not fair to the horse, either.” For the client who’s swooning over that completely unsuitable “red Ferrari,” Lockman suggests that trainers try a redirect: Budget permitting, encourage the client to indulge the desire for a “wow” horse by buying an appropriate mount with flashy markings, show-stopping coloring, or gaits that are fancy enough to impress yet still ridable by the buyer.


SUSANJSTICKLE.COM

The Perils of Pricing and PPEs The world of horse dealing is rife with stories of sales in which the price paid was not the seller’s actual asking price. “There are cases where the ‘price’ [paid by the buyer] was $100,000,” says Chumley, “but I know the horse sold for $60,000.” This is one of many areas of horse-shopping in which the help of a knowledgeable and wellnetworked trainer or friend can be invaluable. The horse world is a small one, and dressage pros hear the gossip and know other pros’ reputations. They also tend to have a well-honed sense of the horse market and current price trends. “Look on websites and contact as many people as you can, and you’ll see a kind of pattern in the pricing,” says Kidd. The more you know about the market, she says, the better you’ll be able to discern whether a horse is overpriced, fairly priced, or a steal. Then there’s the prepurchase exam and the question of whether “findings” should affect a horse’s purchase price—a complex topic that warrants its own article. Buyers can and do use issues as bargaining chips, and sellers occasionally decide that they’d rather lower the price and close the deal than hold firm and then have to disclose the finding to future buyers. Determining which issues will impact a horse’s performance and longevity is “always open to interpretation,” according to Lockman and Wetterau. And the buyer’s own level of experience—and degree of risk tolerance—are important factors, as well. “Jenny and I would buy about 50 percent of the horses we pass on when shopping for clients,”

Lockman explains. “We work with a group of trusted high-quality veterinarians, and we know that some issues will never be a problem; but if it’s a client that we don’t know, they might have a problem with it. We are way pickier about that for our clients than for ourselves. We probably pick up one in every 20 horses that we look at to import for clients.”

The Dating Game Finding the right horse at the right price isn’t easy, our sources agree. Age, they say, is the factor most likely to affect price. Buyers on a budget should whittle their wish lists based on skill and experience levels. A bombproof temperament and years of correct training should be high on the shopping list for most amateur riders, while a seasoned equestrian may be up for the challenge of training a young horse in exchange for more athletic potential. A trusted and experienced friend or dressage professional is an ally in any shopper’s search. Horse-shopping is an exciting process, but it can also be stressful and emotional. Lockman advises going in prepared and then trusting the process, even if it takes a while. She likens looking at horses to “trying to find your soul mate on a blind date” but reassures: “If you’ve done your research and you know what you want before you start shopping, you’ll know when you find it!”

Kim F. Miller is a freelance writer and photographer. She lives in southern California and can be reached at kimfmiller1@mac.com.

Expert Tip: Buy These Two Gaits

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specially if you’re looking for a horse to take to the higher levels of dressage, a good-quality walk and canter should be a priority on your list, say Sarah Lockman and Jenny Wetterau, who are partners in the southern California-based import and sales business Dressage Horse Source.

CHAMPIONSHIP CANTER: Experts recommend buying the best walk and canter you can, if upper-level competition is your goal. The 2020 Markel/USEF Young Horse Six-Year-Old Dressage national champion, Spirit of Joy (Sir Calypso x Sandro Bedo), a Westfalen gelding owned by Jeannette Pinard and ridden by Marcus Orlob, shows how it’s done.

“When you are riding in a test situation, the judge’s first [assessment] is the gait,” says Lockman. “If the horse’s canter is an 8, then your canter half-pass [score] can climb from there.” Even with scores earned for execution of the movements, she says, “You can’t go too much higher than the quality of the horse’s gaits.” The trot, Lockman and Wetterau say, is the gait most likely to be improved with proper training, which is why in evaluating a horse they emphasize the other two gaits.

USDF CONNECTION | January/February 2021

47


The Gift Horse Donated dressage horses benefit collegiate riders, special-needs riders, and even horseless youth. Thinking of donating? Read this first.

THE WIND BENEATH THEIR WINGS: Donated mounts provide opportunities to riders who might otherwise be horseless. Class of 2019 Emory & Henry College student Delaney Oursler rides the 2002 Hanoverian mare Sunny Moon, who was donated to the college’s equestrian program in 2016, at a 2019 dressage competition in Tryon, North Carolina.

48 January/February 2021 | USDF CONNECTION

SUSANJSTICKLE.COM/COURTESY OF EMORY & HENRY COLLEGE

BY NATALIE DEFEE MENDIK


D

onating a horse to a dressage program can be the perfect combination of practicality and doing good. Ideally, it’s a win-win: The horse enjoys a soft landing, with an appropriate workload, security, and lots of TLC; and both the donor and the beneficiary reap financial benefits. Nonprofit entities that accept horse donations have diverse needs and offer varying lifestyles for the horses, and the reasons for rehoming range from tight owner finances to horses retiring from their current jobs. So what’s in it for the horses? The owners? The recipients? In this article, we’ll look at the reasons horse owners may decide to donate instead of selling, and we’ll offer advice on finding the right situation for your horse.

A Leg Up: Dressage4Kids’ Lease Program “Many horses that have been donated to us have been for sale and for some reason are not selling,” says Olympian and Dressage4Kids founder Lendon Gray. D4K, which began as a youth-only dressage competition and educational offerings, now includes a robust horse-lease program that seeks to bridge the gap between potential donors and young people who otherwise may not have access to suitable dressage mounts. A common sales obstacle, Gray finds, is “a little physical problem,” which can range from difficulty handling the heat in a southern climate to a soundness issue. On occasion, the reason for donating has nothing to do with the horse’s health; it’s that the owner is retiring from riding or has decided that the horse is no longer suitable. In any event, she says, “by far the majority of horses that have come to us…have turned out to be fantastic.” In fact, D4K has been the recipient of some topnotch dressage horses (for one example, see “Donated Horse Takes Her Rider to the Top” on page 51). And it’s not just the “fancy” horses that have paid it forward: Lower-level horse and pony matches have given numerous kids a solid start in the sport. D4K’s lease program essentially acts as a matchmaking service. Unlike collegiate dressage programs and the like, D4K is unique in that the organization doesn’t actually keep and care for the donated horses. “We don’t accept a horse until we know who will take it,” Gray explains. Young people interested in leasing a D4K-owned horse complete an application. When a donated horse looks like a good match, the applicant is given the oppor-

tunity to try the horse and even to have it vetted, although occasionally riders accept a horse sight unseen, according to Gray, who says the organization has accepted nearly 70 donated horses since its lease program began. A few D4K leases have involved a bit of a gamble on the rider’s part. According to Gray, “Some people who have taken on these horses have spent a tremendous amount of time finishing rehab and money maintaining the horse.” If the investment pays off, “in exchange, they have a wonderful horse. We had one horse come to us—a lovely Grand Prix horse—part of the way into rehab for a soft-tissue injury. The rider spent more than a year rehabbing the horse and now has had the horse going Grand Prix for several years.” Not every horse that D4K receives is top-caliber, but the opportunity to learn and compete is there for kids that are willing to make the most of it, Gray says. “There have been a handful of kids who have gotten horses that have taken them into FEI and on up to Grand Prix. While some have received lovely, lovely horses, others have gotten what I considered somewhat limited horses, and they have still gone up through the levels, and it really made a difference in their lives,” she says. “It makes me really proud of what these kids have accomplished.”

Scholastic Settings With the popularity of equine-related degrees and intercollegiate equestrian competitions, a number of colleges and universities with equestrian programs accept donated horses—although they may not advertise that fact, preferring to develop relationships with horse owners, who spread the word to other potential donors that a college’s equestrian program will take proper care of their cherished mounts. “All of the horses that we use for both the team and the educational parts of the program are either donated to us or leased to us from owners,” says Lisa MoosmuellerTerry, equestrian-center director at Emory & Henry College in Emory, Virginia. E&H offers BA and BS degree programs in equine studies, and riders can participate in Intercollegiate Horse Show Association and Intercollegiate Dressage Association team competition. As Moosmueller-Terry explains, some people choose to lease to E&H “because they would rather retain ownership of the horse,” but 75% of the horses in its program are donated. “We have had fabulous donors and repeat donors who have gifted us with very accomplished horses,” she says. “If these programs did not exist, there would be a lot of horses out there that really have no place to go,” USDF CONNECTION | January/February 2021

49


Therapy Settings

Moosmueller-Terry points out. She says that typical donated horses are high-level performers that may not pass a prepurchase exam or that need to step down a level. Happily, “College

programs are well-equipped for this scenario: We can take the horse that can no longer compete at the FEI levels and give him a job at Training and First Level.”

Thinking of Donating? Start Here

I

f you have a reliable, serviceably sound horse with dressage training that’s ready to move on to a new home, chances are that a number of equestrian programs would love to talk to you about a potential donation. As the sources in this article recommend, research programs carefully to find the one that will best suit your horse’s needs and that will provide him with good care. To jump-start your search, check out the following organizations: Dressage4Kids, founded by Olympian Lendon Gray, leases donated dressage horses to selected youth riders. Learn more at dressage4kids.org. Many (but not all) colleges and universities with dressage programs are members of the Intercollegiate Dressage Association, a national organization that offers intercollegiate team dressage competitions and that promotes dressage as part of the college experience. Find the list of current member schools at teamdressage.com/coaches/member-schools. Start your search for an accredited therapeutic-riding program at the member-center directory of the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship (PATH) International: pathintl.org.

50 January/February 2021 | USDF CONNECTION

The Forever Home (or Not?) Some horse owners like the idea of donating because they believe that— unlike with a sale—their animal will have a home for life and will never find itself unwanted or passed along to a new owner. But that may not always be the case, our experts caution. “In general, if you are thinking of

SHAWN HAMILTON/CLIXPHOTO.CA

HORSES AS HELPERS: A bombproof mount might have a future as a therapy horse, such as this pony in a therapeutic-riding program

Obviously, not every horse being rehomed is an FEI-level performer; in fact, when talking about donation arrangements, many of us envision the solid-citizen stalwarts. Many such steady Eddies find their way into therapeutic-riding programs, says Lee Dudley, executive director of Equine Partnership Program in Elizabeth, Colorado, which provides both mental-health counseling and therapeutic riding. Programs that fall under the “therapy” heading, says Dudley, generally include mental-health programs and therapeutic-riding programs for the physically disabled. These distinctions are notable, she explains, as the two sectors seek different types of horses. “Programs for physical disabilities are looking for the unflappable ‘old soldier’ kind of horse,” she says. “Those horses, surprisingly enough, have to be pretty sound, because they carry a lot of weight, and a lot of times it’s dead weight, which is much more stressful on them than able-bodied riders would be. “On the flip side, in the mentalhealth world, some programs don’t do any riding at all—just ground work—while others do,” Dudley continues. Mental-health programs “are looking for horses with personalities—either outgoing or a little timid, so people have to connect with them, but still very safe.”


Donated Horse Takes Her Rider to the Top

F

SUSANJSTICKLE.COM

EI Pony division competitor Hannah Irons was ready to move up to Juniors. But like many aspiring riders, purchasing a dream horse of her own was out of reach. Irons’ luck changed in 2017 when Dressage4Kids, Olympian Lendon Gray’s youth-focused organization, offered her the opportunity to lease a talented Oldenburg mare named Scola Bella (Scolari x World Cup I). After viewing a video and talking with Gray and the mare’s trainer in Wellington, Florida, Irons decided to take a chance. She had Scola Bella shipped up to her home in Queenstown, Maryland, sight unseen. “You kind of have to take a leap of faith,” Irons says of the decision, noting that donated horses may come with a bit of extra baggage in the form of soundness or training issues. “But there’s a risk with any horse: They may not work out to be a competition horse, or they may not stay sound. That’s horses.” For Irons, the leap of faith paid off: After two years in the FEI Young Rider division, the 20-year-old rider and the 11-year-old leased mare clinched the Horseware Ireland/USEF Young Rider Dressage National Championship title at the 2020 US Equestrian Dressage Festival of Champions. Irons advises riders paired with donated horses to take their time. “Learn as much about the horse’s history as possible,” she says. “Talk to the

donating a horse,” Gray advises, “do some serious research about where the horse is going and what its longterm prospects are.” Dressage4Kids, for one, touts the fact that donated horses will never be resold. “One of the pluses of donating to us is that you know where the horse is going to be for the rest of his life,” says Gray. “Anyone that leases a horse from us signs a contract that they can take care of the horse forever.” That said, some D4K horses may pass from one child to the next, un-

trainer and take their advice, and get any vet records that you can. Find out what you can from the people who know the horse the best. With a donated horse, you are often handed a bunch of puzzle pieces to figure out and put together. Build a network of people that can help you: trainer, vet, farrier.” By putting those pieces together, Irons and “Bella” have become a team, but “it was a huge learning curve getting to know her,” the rider admits. “Bella had already schooled some of the Grand Prix when I got her, but she needed time off due to an injury, and then we needed to establish the basics together. From there, we worked up to schooling and then showing the FEI Young Riders. It’s my goal to qualify for the European Young Rider tour—hopefully it happens with COVID—before I age out. Next year [2021] will be my last year in Young Riders. And then my goal is to school and show in the Grand Prix and the U25 division.” The young woman feels confident that “Bella will tell me, and I’ll know when we’re ready. You know, the year I got her I could have pushed her to do Juniors, but she wasn’t strong enough and we weren’t ready. One of the takeaways I got from Championships this year was that by taking the time and putting in the training, when you and your horse are a team and ready to show that off in the show ring, it will go well. Whenever you’re moving up to the next level, you

der the guidance of the organization. An Arabian mare that Gray herself had trained to the upper levels was leased first to a Fourth Level rider, then to a child at a slightly lower level, and so on as the horse aged. Eventually the mare was retired with a girl who enjoyed doing in-hand agility training with the horse. “By passing on with our permission, the horse continues to be cared for and part of someone’s life,” Gray says. Says Dudley: “It’s really important to clarify with the nonprofit

LEAP OF FAITH PAYS OFF: With the mare Scola Bella, leased from Dressage4Kids, Hannah Irons won the Horseware Ireland/USEF Young Rider Dressage National Championship at the 2020 USEF Dressage Festival of Champions

have to know that it’s in the best interest of the horse. Push yourself, but don’t get in over your head, especially in a new partnership with a horse. Make sure it’s a positive experience. Just because you get a horse that’s done Prix St. Georges, don’t think you have to start right out at Prix St. Georges.” “She has taught me so much, just to have the opportunity to ride a horse of that quality,” Irons says of her partner. “I would never have been able to afford to buy a horse of that caliber. I am very grateful to her donor, Deb Mullaney, and to Dressage4Kids.”

what the long-term plan for the horse is. Under some contracts, the horse becomes the property of the nonprofit and can be sold, with the proceeds going back to funding the program.” If you’re considering donating and you want to maintain some control over what happens to your horse, Dudley suggests, consider requesting that the donation contract include a clause giving you the option to take the horse back upon its final retirement. Then be prepared to do so when the time arises. [

USDF CONNECTION | January/February 2021

51


Financial Donations Help Equine Donations

I

f you’ve donated a horse to a college or other nonprofit organization, consider making an additional financial contribution toward his care and upkeep if you’re able to do so, program representatives say. “When someone donates a horse to a nonprofit, and the nonprofit gives the horse a great home for a long time, the donor should consider making a yearly donation towards the horse’s upkeep,” says Lee Dudley, executive director of the Colorado-based therapeutic-riding organization Equine Partnership Program. Sums don’t have to be huge: “Even $500 covers vaccinations and dental work.” Dudley believes that chipping in is “the right thing to do. Caring for a herd of aged horses can be a financial strain on nonprofits.” Recognizing the financial challenges of providing lifelong care to aging equines, some supporters have come up with unique ways of helping out. At Emory & Henry College in Virginia, one donor created a fund for horses that can’t be rehomed or sent back to their original owners after they’ve been retired from the college’s equestrian program, according to equestrian-center director Lisa Moosmueller-Terry.

The Fine Print Now let’s take a closer look at the tax implications of donating a horse, as well as at that important donation contract. The prospect of receiving an income-tax deduction for making a charitable donation of a horse to a nonprofit organization is one of its appeals. But who decides how much your horse is worth? “You need an appraisal of the horse; you can’t just arbitrarily state the horse’s value,” says USDF bronze medalist Steven Tarshis, who specializes in equine law at his EquiLaw LLC practice in Pittstown, New Jersey. “As we know, what a horse is worth is what someone is willing to pay for it,” Tarshis says. “A professional appraiser can take all aspects into consideration to assign a market value to the horse.” He recommends getting assessments from three impartial trainers in the horse’s discipline (read: the donor is not a client) who actively buy and sell horses. “With the written opinion of three qualified trainers, you can feel reasonably safe of the amount you are claiming for your deduction.”

Research potential beneficiaries carefully. Moosmueller-Terry suggests finding out how horses in the program are housed and cared for, and what their typical workload entails. Ask for references from previous donors. If you wish to place any stipulations or restrictions on what the beneficiary can and cannot do with the horse, be sure to include them in the donation agreement. “If you have concerns, you should absolutely include restrictions in the documents,” says Tarshis. Examples range from often the horse may be ridden to a requirement that you be kept informed of any changes in the horse’s situation, such as a new location. “Also include if there comes a time the charity decides it can no longer keep the horse, the donor should be notified and be given the opportunity to take the horse back.”

Easing the Transition Before you put your horse on a trailer, make sure that you understand the donation contract and that you’ve assembled a fair and legitimate appraisal of his value. Then help smooth his move to his new

52 January/February 2021 | USDF CONNECTION

home by gathering his veterinary and farriery records to pass along, and by making notes about important information you want his new caretakers to know—feed regimen, known allergies, tack and blanket types and sizes (if you’re not donating them with him), any behavioral quirks, and the like. “We are advocates for the horse, so any information you can pass on, the better,” Moosmueller-Terry says. In Moosmueller-Terry’s experience, donors vary in terms of how much contact they maintain with the horse after it’s gone to its new home. Some visit regularly; others check in from time to time; still others largely stay out of the picture. While staying in touch isn’t required, Tarshis recommends it. “Be very careful who you are donating the horse to,” he advises. “Stay involved. The organization that receives the horse should know you are watching. Insist on updates and visit. The horses are members of our family.” “We have some owners who are incredibly active with the horse— coming to visit, watching the horse compete,” says Gray, “and we have others who don’t, although a lot of owners do stay in touch with the rider who’s leasing. That aspect is not regulated by our contract.” With careful consideration from all sides, donating a horse may secure a good lifestyle for the horse, provide a solution for the horse owner, and benefit the greater equestrian and dressage community.

Natalie DeFee Mendik, MA, is an award-winning journalist specializing in equine media. Visit her online at MendikMedia.com.


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THE RIGHT START: Faculty member Willy Arts works with a horse and rider at the 2020 USDF Sport Horse Prospect Development Forum in Florida

The Equine Pipeline

From education to competition, the USDF and the USEF offer a progression for success

oth USDF and US Equestrian (USEF) have a common goal: the success of American-bred dressage horses. For several years, the USDF Sport Horse Committee has worked closely with the USEF Dressage Sport Committee to develop, promote, and expand a “pipeline” of educational and competition opportunities for US-bred dressage sport horses. These programs are designed to promote the breeding of quality dressage horses in this country that can achieve success in the sport. The USDF programs—for horses from current-year foals through green four-year-olds—feeds into the USEF Dressage Young Horse Emerging Program, which is for four- through seven-year-olds. This collaboration of effort between the two organizations is designed to ensure that US-bred dressage horses have opportunities for exposure to good educational and training programs, as well as to competition of a high standard. Our collective goal is that quality dressage sport horses are US-bred, US-trained, and US-ridden to a level of excellence, both nationally and internationally. In this article, we’ll give an overview of the various components of each organization’s young-horse pipeline.

54 January/February 2021 | USDF CONNECTION

USDF Programs USDF’s sport-horse programs focus on dressage sporthorse prospects (defined as current-year foals up through their fourth year) and on breeding stock. USDF Breeders Championship Series. This series of competitions, which culminate in Series Finals around the country, was developed to provide opportunities for sporthorse breeders to showcase their youngsters and expose them to a competition environment even before they are under saddle. In addition to in-hand competition opportunities, dressage sport-horse breeding (DSHB) shows also offer Materiale (under saddle) classes for three-, four-, and five-year-olds. These classes offer a low-stress way for youngsters to enter the ring without the added pressure of having to perform a dressage test. In a Materiale class, the horse’s three gaits and general impression (ridability, development for its age, and other criteria) are evaluated. Because the entrants compete in the ring together at the same time, the experience is less daunting for the young and green horse. USDF Sport Horse Prospect Development Forum. This newer addition to USDF’s sport-horse offerings was created

NATALIE DIBERARDINIS

B

BY CHRISTINE TRAURIG AND KRISTI WYSOCKI


as an opportunity for owners and riders of green three- and four-year-olds to train directly with highly respected dressage trainers with extensive expertise in starting young dressage horses. The forum’s faculty members—currently, Scott Hassler, Michael Bragdell, Willy Arts, and Craig Stanley—help participants to create a foundation focused on the pyramid of dressage training. In the past, the forum, which is open to auditors, has been held once a year in different areas of the country. As the forum has developed, faculty members and members of the USDF Sport Horse Committee have discussed ways to improve and advance this program in order for more people to be able to benefit. With the onset of COVID-19 pandemic conditions, these additional opportunities are a higher priority to implement in the near future.

USEF Programs As horses advance in their age and training, they may be able to progress into the next phase of the pipeline: the USEF Dressage Young Horse Emerging Program. The term Young Horse is used to define horses from the age of four through seven for competition purposes, both nationally and internationally. Three-year-olds are not considered part of this program due to their immaturity and degree of training. USEF provides both educational and competition opportunities as part of its Young Horse program. It’s worth noting that, because of the rigorous standards for this division, horses in this program are fairly advanced for their age in terms of their development and training. Young Horse division competition is quite challenging, and it is designed for talented horses with advanced performance markers related to their development. The USEF holds Young Horse training and evaluations sessions throughout the country, led by USEF national dressage young-horse coach Christine Traurig. In addition, Willy Arts has recently been added to the USEF Young Horse coaches’ network. The goal of these sessions is to reach more horses and riders throughout the country, and to identify horses that may have the potential to contribute to medalpodium positions for the US in the next quadrennial.

Pathways for All For the horse that might not be the next “NFL league player,” educational opportunities still abound. The USDF Sport Horse Prospect Development Forum many times has included four- and even five-year-olds that are less mature and greener in their training. It is important for trainers and breeders to understand that USDF Materiale

F

How to Enter the Pipeline

or information about the USDF Sport Horse Prospect Development Forum and USDF’s other sport-horse educational programs, go to usdf.org/education/otherprograms/sport-horse-seminars/index.asp. USDF Breeders Championship Series program rules and other information, including links to the current USDF Materiale and other sport-horse tests, are housed under usdf.org/competitions/competitions-championships/sporthorse/index.asp. US Equestrian (USEF) maintains several avenues for entry into its Dressage Young Horse Emerging Program, including applying for acceptance into a USEF Young Horse training and observation session, competing in designated observation events, performance at USEF national Young Horse championships or Young Horse CDIs, and qualifying for the FEI WBFSH Dressage World Breeding Championships for Young Horses. Find the program summary and selection criteria at usef.org/compete/disciplines/dressage/ emerging-program/young-horse-emerging-program.

classes are a great opportunity for all three-, four-, and five-year-olds, whereas the Young Horse classes (USEF Four-Year-Old and FEI Five-, Six-, and Seven-Year-Old) are designed for the equine dressage prodigy with relatively advanced training. Too often, horses are entered in Young Horse classes when they might not be ready from a developmental, training, or quality-of-gaits perspective. The USDF Materiale division is a super alternative, as the classes do not include any movements (judges of fourand five-year-olds may request trot and canter lengthenings), so the degree of difficulty is much lower.

Outreach Efforts The sheer size of the US creates hurdles regarding access to dressage training and competition. The COVID-19 pandemic has created even bigger complications in this area. Innovative methods to reach horse-and-rider combinations throughout the country are being developed. The USDF Sport Horse Committee and the USEF Dressage Sport Committee, along with the faculty and coaches for these programs, regard these challenges as an opportunity. Even when the current pandemic is behind us, we feel that these new ideas will make both programs even better.

Christine Traurig is a 2000 US Olympic Games dressage team bronze medalist and the current US Equestrian national dressage young-horse coach. Kristi Wysocki co-chairs the USDF Sport Horse Committee and is a dressage and a DSHB judge. She was named the 2019 USDF Volunteer of the Year. USDF CONNECTION | January/February 2021

55


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59


My Dressage Serendipity In the wake of grief and a pandemic, fortuitous circumstances bring a long-standing goal to fruition By Anne Sushko

DREAM COME TRUE: The writer beams during her Century Club ride aboard the Morgan stallion Montana Jubilee

of sparkling wine, and a big cake. I asked our daughter, show manager and USDF Region 5 director Heather Petersen, what was going on. She replied that one of the competitors was doing her Century Club ride. I had no idea what that was, and I resolved to find out. Established in 1996, the Century Club encourages and rewards senior

riders as they continue their dressage journey. The pair performs a test of any level at a schooling or recognized show, scored by a judge or professional, in either traditional or Western dressage. Two goals came out of my research: to provide ongoing financial support to TDF for this program, and to someday complete my own Century Club ride. The first goal was easy to accomplish. The second— well, that took a little more time. Although Greg, a non-rider, often described dressage as being as exciting as watching mud dry, he encouraged me in my goal. Even after he became ill, and throughout his extensive hospitalizations and chemotherapy, he would periodically say, “You’re getting grumpy. Go home and see your horse.” During one of our last conversations, he reminded me that the Century Club ride was a goal that I needed to accomplish. He said that we had watched our first Century Club ride together, and that he would be with me in spirit when I finally did mine. In 2019, I mentioned my Century Club goal to my good friends the Morgan sport-horse breeders Debra and Doug M’Gonigle. Deb immediately replied, “Montana will be 30 in 2020!”, referring to their Morgan stallion, Montana Jubilee, who was retired from FEI-level competition at 25 and who is now a treasured schoolmaster. How fitting it would be, I thought, to do my ride with Montana! The M’Gonigles and Montana were competitors at one of my first shows as a USEF dressage technical delegate. Their farm in Illinois is only a three-hour drive from my home in Iowa, and I had

60 January/February 2021 | USDF CONNECTION

plenty of free time because most of my TD and show-secretary gigs in 2020 had been cancelled on account of COVID. I had been cleared to return to riding after hip-replacement surgery, and I turned 70—so Montana’s age plus mine equaled 100! As bonus motivation, I discovered that there had never been a Century Club rider from Iowa. It was clear: Now was the time to get acquainted with a Morgan stallion and to realize my goal. Montana Jubilee is patient, kind, and tolerant—a perfect partner. With his help, my dream became a reality on August 8, 2020. Although Deb and Doug were the only ones physically in attendance, I knew I was surrounded by the love and support of many. Greg was there in spirit. The Century Club ribbon and plaque will be proudly displayed in my home office. Today, I have a new goal: to do a Century Club ride on my own treasured horse, Sir Ishmael, as soon as he is old enough. If if we both stay healthy and if the mounting block is tall enough, in 11 years you will see “Critter” and me making another dream a reality. Ride on! Set those goals and follow your dreams, no matter your age.

Anne Sushko, of Dubuque, Iowa, is USDF’s Region 4 director and a retired schoolteacher. She is an FEI dressage steward and a USEF “r” dressage technical delegate. She and Montana Jubilee are The Dressage Foundation’s Century Club team #441. Learn more about the Century Club at DressageFoundation.org.

COURTESY OF ANNE SUSHKO

I

n 2020, I finally achieved a goal that kept resurfacing during my dressage career: I completed my Century Club ride. I had never heard of The Dressage Foundation’s (TDF) Century Club— membership to which is awarded to horse-and-rider pairs who complete a dressage test at the combined age of 100 or more—when, some years ago, my late husband, Greg, and I were working in the office of a Rocky Mountain Dressage Society show in Colorado. A large and excited group passed by, laden with flowers, bottles


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