March 2017 USDF Connection

Page 1


MARCH 2017

Official Publication of the United States Dressage Federation

The Craigslist Dressage Horse (p. 26) Meet the USDF’s Oldest Gold Medalist (p. 30) Goal-Setting Strategies for Riders (p. 44)

Joanne Dadd and Pik Andromeda

Lebanon Junction, KY Permit # 559




My Horse

He probably took twice as long as other horses to accomplish each level of training, but it's not just about the sport for me. It's about the journey. I was a little girl when I got Diddy, and he was a baby. We've grown up together. I'll probably never feel this way about another horse. We're so connected. I ride a lot of other horses, and I can't help but compare how they ride to riding Diddy. He's just amazing!

Verdades Aka “Diddy”

Dutch Warmblood Gelding

Laura Graves

Olympic Bronze Medalist, Team Dressage, Platinum Performance® Client since 2015 Laura Graves is a sponsored endorsee and actual client.

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DRESSAGE APRIL 27–30, 2017

WORLD CUP QUALIFIER and EVENING of MUSICAL FREESTYLES Saturday, April 29 • 7pm Official USEF Qualifying Event 2017 Dressage National Championships Including: USEF Grand Prix, Intermediaire I, & Young Adult 'Brentina Cup' National Championships USEF Children, Pony Rider, Junior, and Young Rider National Championships Markel/USEF Young & Developing Horse Dressage National Championships and the North American Junior and Young Rider Championships Entries Open February 23 Entries Close March 31

Photo by Amy McCool

Del Mar Fairgrounds Technical Manager and Information Equestrian Concepts/Regina Antonioli 805.306.1885

u s d f Recognizing quality bloodlines and dressage prospects across the nation. BREEDERS CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES

Showcase your young dressage horse in the Materiale


Don Frederic HVH

2013 AdequanÂŽ/USDF Materiale Horse of the Year Four-and-Five-Year-Old Stallions/Geldings

For information about the series, locations, and dates, visit







One adult amateur’s impulse buy earned her an unforgettable trip to the US Dressage Finals By Jennifer M. Keeler

30 34 40 44 48


The inspiring journey of the oldest USDF gold medalist By Fran Severn-Levy


All about the world’s most famous horse show—and what to know before you go By Birgit Popp


The Midwestern city prepares to host its first-ever FEI World Cup Finals

By Nancy Jaffer


4 INSIDE USDF Dressage Is a Good Bet

6 RINGSIDE The Oasis

By Heather Petersen

By Jennifer O. Bryant

14 THE JUDGE’S BOX Judging Self-Carriage

By Jayne Ayers

20 CLUB CONNECTION GMO Learning at the USDF Convention

By Jennifer O. Bryant

22 ALL-BREEDS CONNECTION Spotlight: Friesian Horse Society 56 THE TAIL END Charlotte and Me

By Diane K. Skvarla


Goal-setting and strategic-planning tips for riders By Jennifer O. Bryant




All about the new USDF National Education Initiative By Victoria Trout

ON OUR COVER Adult amateur Joanne Dadd and Pik Andromeda at the 2016 US Dressage Finals. Story, p. 26. Photo by

Volume 18, Number 9


March 2017


inside usdf


New Las Vegas CDI helps to bring top dressage competition to the West Coast By Heather Petersen, USDF Region 5 Director


he sport of dressage has seen many shifts in our country over the years. Perhaps one of the most dramatic in recent times is the development of the winter equestrian community around Wellington, Florida, and the series of FEI-recognized dressage competitions (CDIs) and nationallevel shows at the Global Dressage Festival there. “Global” has brought lots of unique opportunities to our riders, but it has also perhaps led to a decline in the number of CDIs on the West Coast, as quite a few of the riders from the West now go to Florida for the winter. In an effort to revitalize international competitions on the West Coast and to offer those riders another chance to qualify for the 2017 FEI World Cup Dressage Final, a new CDI made its debut in January. I was the show manager, and it was a unique experience to be a part of this new competition from the ground up. The decision to create the show was made in mid-September 2016, and it was a definite push to get everything put together for a quality competition. A new venue for the sport of dressage was chosen: the South Point Arena and Equestrian Center in Las Vegas. South Point had never been the venue for a stand-alone dressage show. Its more than 1,100 indoor stalls, three indoor competition arenas, and large indoor warm-up were a great opportunity for a CDI in January, when weather is always a major factor for outdoor venues. The South Point Hotel and Casino, which is connected to the equestrian complex, is a destination facility unto itself, with numerous restaurants, a movie theater, bowling alleys, and of course the casino. Ten horses competed in the Grand Prix tour at the January 4-7 show, officially known as the Las Vegas High Roller CDI-W. The show attracted more than 100 horses, of which 27 started in

the CDI. It was a good turnout for a US CDI outside of Wellington—and, according to the FEI, one of the largest CDI debuts outside western Europe. The postholiday timing made some STAR SELFIE: With issues tricky. Legolas at the Las Vegas US Equestrian High Roller CDI-W and the USDF were both closed for the holidays until the day before the horse inspection. This made dealing with memberships, passports, and FEI system entries a bit dicey at times, but staffers from both organizations made themselves available even during the holidays. The FEI itself was closed until after the competition had ended! The new required results formatting, plus the fact that this was several riders’ first CDI, added a bit of fun to the mix, as well. Fortunately, the competition officials were excellent and helped to make the show a success. I’m proud to say that the show was well received across the country, and that enthusiasm for helping the international side of dressage on the West Coast is growing once more. We in the United States face unique challenges when it comes to the sport of dressage. Spreading the international competitions across our huge nation is sometimes very difficult and definitely financially taxing. We need to remember, though, that in order to keep our sport growing and developing, those opportunities need to be offered on both coasts and in the central part of the country in order to reach as many potential competitors, owners, and supporters as we can. s

4 March 2017 • USDF CONNECTION

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Dressage Is a Good Bet




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The Official Publication of the United States Dressage Federation

The Oasis



In that spirit of dressage-as-tonic, I hope that the magazine you’re reading will similarly serve to brighten your day. It’s our annual adultamateur issue, and there’s never any shortage of inspiring stories about adult riders and their dedication to dressage. On page 26 you’ll find the tale of the AA on a tight budget whose horse—an unlikely Craigslist find— took her all the way to the 2016 US Dressage Finals. And on page 30, enjoy the story of the oldest-ever member to receive the USDF gold medal. Want to dream big for a bit? We’ve got that too. The 2017 FEI World Cup Finals come to Omaha later this month, and our preview of the dressage competition starts on page 40. Or if you really want to get away and check one off your bucket list, follow us across the pond for an exclusive inside look at what makes the CHIO Aachen (coming this July) like no other horse show in the world (page 34). I’ve never been to Aachen, and after reading the article I’m even more convinced that I need to go. I’m sure attending will be an incredible experience—but I’m also willing to bet it can’t compare to the thrill of feeling a half-halt come “through” for the first time, or of when I asked Junior for a flying change and got it, calmly and cleanly. Now that’s an achievement the Bryant administration can be proud of!

Jennifer O. Bryant, Editor @JenniferOBryant

6 March 2017 • USDF CONNECTION

Stephan Hienzsch 859/271-7887 •

——— Editorial——— EDITOR

Jennifer O. Bryant 610/344-0116 • CONTRIBUTING EDITOR


Melissa Creswick (CA) Margaret Freeman (NC) Lisa Gorretta (OH) Anne Gribbons (FL) Terry Wilson (CA)


Janine Malone Lisa Gorretta • Elisabeth Williams


Emily Koenig 859/271-7883 •


Karl Lawrence 859/271-7881 •


Danielle Titland 720/300-2266 • USDF Connection is published ten times a year by the United States Dressage Federation, 4051 Iron Works Parkway, Lexington, KY 40511. Phone: 859/9712277. Fax: 859/971-7722. E-mail: usdressage@usdf. org, Web site: USDF members receive USDF Connection as a membership benefit, paid by membership dues. Copyright © 2017 USDF. All rights reserved. Reproduction of articles requires permission from USDF. Other text may be reproduced with credit given to USDF Connection. 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 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.


The barn, that peaceable kingdom—needed now more than ever s I write this, it’s been about a week since the Presidential inauguration, and you know what that means. The vitriol, the polarization, the accusations—the fur is flying. The you-know-what has hit the fan. Like many citizens, I am compelled to read, watch, engage—and then I feel oversaturated, overwhelmed, and a bit ill, as if I’ve had one too many, which I suppose I have, in a sense. As they have many times before, horses and riding serve as a welcome respite from whatever is troubling me. Once a day I log off and turn away from the latest headlines for some needed decompression time in the saddle. Junior, bless his big, goofy heart, is much more concerned about the state of his hay supply than the state of the union. He and I are getting quite a bit of training accomplished this winter in our own oval office—the indoor arena, that is. (He occasionally thinks there must be some “alternative facts” involved when I tell him he’s moving up a level, but mostly he’s on board with the Bryant administration, so long as it doesn’t defund the treat budget.) Everybody at our barn seems to be savoring their unplugging time, now more than ever. I have a pretty good idea as to most people’s political leanings, but when we’re chatting about how our rides went, and asking Did your horse spook in the wind today, too?, and exclaiming Yay! Today I rode a half-halt with just my seat and legs, political opinions don’t matter. We’re all horse lovers, and we’re all dressage enthusiasts, and we’re all grateful to have the opportunity to pursue our shared passion. In short, we all have a lot in common, even if when we get in our cars and go our separate ways we have different jobs, and different lives, and differing opinions on matters both large and small.


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Your Dressage World This Month


Equestrian NGB Unveils New Branding, Ad Campaign


s CEO William J. Moroney promised at the 2016 Adequan®/USDF Annual Convention in December, the organization formerly known as the United States Equestrian Federation has rolled out a new logo, new website, new ad campaign, and even a new name. At its own annual convention in January, the USEF officially announced the launch of its revamped website at ( will get you there, as well). Prominently featured on the site is the organization’s new logo (pictured) and its new name. Dropping the “Federation,” it’s now simply US Equestrian.

IN WITH THE NEW: The old USEF “shield” logo (left) has been replaced by a stylized horse head (right) and the organization’s new name

This is not the first time that the USA’s equestrian national governing body has changed its ID. Founded as the American Horse Shows Association, it became USA Equestrian for a short time after a not-entirely-amicable merger with the United States Equestrian Team, then morphed into the United States Equestrian Federation—whose acronym, USEF, for years created confusion with the one-letter-different USDF. As we reported last month in our coverage of the 2016 USDF convention, along with the image makeover comes a new advertising and PR campaign designed to woo horse-sport enthusiasts who previously saw no reason to join the national equestrian organization. The effort, backed by the slogan “Join in the Joy,” includes a new low-priced “fan” membership category, a new Learning Center on the US Equestrian website containing video lessons and tutorials, and a “Discover the Joy of Horse Sports” ad campaign.

Digital Edition Bonus Content

Watch US Equestrian’s “Join in the Joy” ad.


Emma Smith, Orono, MN


mma Smith is a USDF-certified instructor at Training and First Levels. She currently attends the University of Minnesota. How I got started in dressage: When I was ten, I took a break from an eventing barn to lease a dressage horse. I ended up not wanting to go back! Since then, HIGHER LEARNING: the opporSmith tunities I have had with my trainer, Sarah Travis; great clinicians; and Lendon Gray’s Winter Intensive Training Program have fueled my love for dressage. I wanted to become certified because: I wanted to gain knowledge from the certification workshops in order to reach my goal of working as a professional trainer. Highlight of the Instructor/Trainer Program: The program didn’t just educate participants in how to teach their students; it taught skills in all aspects of horse care and riding. My horses: I recently sold my horse and have been able to lease several amazing horses since then. I am currently searching for my next partner. Training tip: Take advantage of every lecture and reading that is assigned, as they are chosen carefully and are full of important information. Contact me: or (952) 472-7307. —Jamie Humphries

8 March 2017 • USDF CONNECTION





2022: It’s Down to Samorin


lovakia may not be the first nation that springs to mind when one thinks of horse sports. But its city Samorin is currently the last man standing in the bid to host the 2022 FEI World Equestrian Games. Samorin and its competitor, Lexington, KY, in December were named official candidate cities for the 2022 WEG. But on January 13 the Kentucky Horse Park Commission announced that it had voted to withdraw from consideration. KHP Commission chair Tandy Patrick stated in the press release that “We do not think it would be economically feasible for the park to

host the 2022 Games.” The announcement also cited the discovery of “$12 million in deferred maintenance expenses” and “the need for immediate and near-term investments in our facilities,” according to Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet secretary Don Parkinson. The 2022 WEG would be held at the X-Bionic Sphere, Slovakia’s official Olympic training center. Besides a complete equestrian center with multiple outdoor and indoor arenas and permanent stabling, the complex boasts a main sports stadium, a hotel, convention facilities, and many other sports facilities. For a look at the complex, go to


USDF Sport Horse Prospect

Dressage in Prime Time? We’re Speechless !

Development Forum


May 13-14, 2017 Isabella Farms, Cypress, TX

With Willy Arts and Michael Bragdell Internationally Respected Experts and Educators from Breeding to FEI Dressage

Photo courtesy of Rebecca Blake, Auburn, WA.

peechless, starring the Oscar-nominated actor Minnie Driver (Good Will Hunting), is a critically acclaimed new ABC TV series about a not financially well-off but loving family whose activities revolve around the needs of its elder son, who has cerebral palsy and does not speak (thus the show’s title). In the January 11 episode, in an effort to persuade an unwilling insurance agent to spring for a better replacement for son JJ’s broken wheelchair, matriarch Maya DiMeo (Driver) stalks the agent to the stable where she boards her horse. Maya pretends to be a fellow rider and appears to be fooling the agent until she’s asked to demonstrate her dressage skills. Maya misinterprets what she’s told—that dressage means “dancing for horses”—with hilarious results.

For more information visit or contact USDF at 859-971-2277 YOUR CONNECTION TO THE




March 2017



Your Dressage World This Month




abine Schut-Kery, of Thousand Oaks, CA, is the 2017 recipient of The Dressage Foundation’s $25,000 Carol Lavell Advanced Dressage Prize. The prize, established by 1992 US Olympic dressage team bronze medalist Lavell, annually supports the efforts of a US rider who aspires to the top levels of high-performance dressage. With the 2006 Hanoverian stallion Sanceo, owned by Alice WombleHeitman and Dr. Mike Heitman, Schut-Kery was a member of the US gold-medal-winning team at the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto. She hopes to qualify with Sanceo to represent the US again at the 2018 FEI World Equestrian Games. According to The Dressage Foundation, Schut-Kery intends to use the grant funds to train intensively with Christine Traurig this spring, followed by eight weeks of training UP THE LADDER: Schut-Kery and her 2015 Pan American Games partner, Sanceo and competing in Europe.


Salden-Kurtz Wins 2016 National Two-Tempi Challenge


ith 80 consecutive two-tempi flying changes aboard Erin Boltik’s (MN) Wranger, Heather Salden-Kurtz claimed the 2016 national Two-Tempi Challenge championship title, sponsored by The Horse of Course. The national reserve champion, with 71 changes, was Kelly PullenCronin on Ronaldo, owned by Barbara Freeman (NH). Champions and reserve champions in each USDF region also were recognized.

The Two-Tempi Challenge is a fund-raiser for The Dressage Foundation, Lincoln, NE. Supporters pledge to make donations to TDF based on the number of two-tempi changes a rider completes. In 2016, 20 riders participated, raising a total of $18,153. The monies support TDF’s grants and programs. Visit or call (402) 434-8585 to learn more about the 2017 Two-Tempi Challenge, sponsored by The Horse of Course.

10 March 2017 • USDF CONNECTION

Nicho Meredith, Announcer


ob title: Show and event announcer, Johnston, SC What I do: I go around the country, I sit, and I announce what goes on at a horse show. Predominantly now it’s dressage. When I came to this country [from my native Great Britain], I started with eventing, dressage, combined driving, and steeplechase races. I know most of the dressage riders, but if I find a name or a town down on the list and I say “Gosh, how am I going to pronounce that?”, I will go around the barns. How I got started: We GOLDEN VOICE: On the job at a used to have a horse trials Florida show on our land. Someone said, “Can you take the microphone?” I was eighteen at the time. They seemed to like it, and I ended up doing quite a few. I was brought over here in 1989 to work with another Englishman, and then I went out on my own in 1991. Best thing about my job: Watching the rides. Worst thing about my job: It’s happened a couple of times: when I don’t get a wake-up call and I’m late. I hate being late. My horses: I’ve ridden all my life. We have twenty-plus horses at home, not all dressage. Tip: If I get your name wrong or the horse’s name wrong, for goodness’ sake don’t wait three years to tell me. —Katherine Walcott


Schut-Kery Receives Advanced Dressage Prize


Your Dressage World This Month


What you need to know this month Scores Never Expire for USDF Rider Awards THAT’S RIGHT! Scores toward USDF rider awards do not expire. So keep up the good work, and after you’ve earned all of the required scores for an award, log into the USDF website and submit the online Rider Performance Awards Application (under the Awards tab).

Great American/USDF Regional Championships Rules Update EFFECTIVE DECEMBER 1, 2016: Horse/rider combinations may enter more than one qualifying test, and qualifying freestyle, at each level per day as Great American Insurance Group/USDF Regional Championships qualifying (US Equestrian DR 127.4). For complete 2017 Great American/ USDF Regional Championships rules, see the USDF website.

Arts and Bragdell to Lead USDF Sport Horse Prospect Development Forum The 2017 USDF Sport Horse Prospect Development Forum will be held at Isabella Farms in Cypress, TX, May 13-14, with presenters Willy Arts and Michael Bragdell. The program, which is open to all, has the goal of developing a consistent training foundation for sport-horse prospects as they progress from in hand to under saddle and eventually to dressage competition. APPLICATIONS FOR DEMONSTRATION RIDERS and horses are being accepted through March 31. Preregister to audit the forum through April 28. Contact the USDF office with any questions.

Continuing Ed Required for L Graduates BECAUSE USDF L GRADUATES judge unrecognized (schooling) dressage shows, it is important that they stay abreast of current judging criteria so that they give proper comments to riders competing at the “grass roots” level. Beginning this year, L graduates and L graduates with distinction are required to complete eight hours of judge-specific continuing education. Only those who meet the continuing-education requirements by April 2018 will be listed on the USDF website. For details, visit usdf. org or send e-mail to

12 March 2017 • USDF CONNECTION

Safe Sport Policy IN 2016, the USDF adopted the US Equestrian Safe Sport Policy, which promotes the safety and welfare of horses and riders. The intent of the USDF Safe Sport Initiative is to provide information, resources, and a protocol so that all members of the equestrian community have awareness, tools, and a support structure to ensure a safe and positive environment in which equestrians can develop their skills. AS PART OF THIS INITIATIVE, in order to be listed as current in their respective programs, USDFcertified instructors and USDF L Education Program graduates will be required to complete a Sport Training Module. For more information, visit or send e-mail to

IN THE NEXT ISSUE • Exclusive report: 2017 Adequan®/USDF FEI-Level Trainers Conference • Best practices for arena maintenance • California Dressage Society celebrates 50th anniversary


Profiles in Protection Tom Meyers and APF Pro are essential members of winning teams at the highest levels London 2012 was memorable for Tom Meyers for two reasons: One, his client Akiko Yamazaki’s horse Ravel and Steffen Peters brought home the highest US dressage score of the Games. Two, noted equine sports therapist Doug Hannum introduced Tom to APF Pro from Auburn Laboratories, Inc. As the go-to guy for equine physiotherapy among high-performance horse owners, trainers and riders, Tom works on some of the brightest equine stars, as well as those horses whose owners simply want nothing but the best for them. Tom’s unique program, developed in the 1990s, combines Respond cold laser treatment and electromagnetic therapy, plus hands-on bodywork based on the late, legendary Jack Meagher’s techniques. Since London 2012, APF Pro has become an essential part of his program, with stellar results. “My program is designed for healthy horses,” Tom explains, “athletic horses that are competing as jumpers, dressage horses, western, and on the race track.” One high-profile example: US dressage supporter Akiko Yamazaki’s current team horses Legolas and Rosamunde, ridden by Steffen Peters, along with her personal dressage horses Donavan and Chopin. ADVANCED PROTECTION FORMULA “Tom does some amazing things for horses,” says Michael Van Noy, DVM, founder of Auburn Laboratories, Inc. “In his hands, the combination of nutritional therapy and physiotherapy helps equine athletes stay well and compete at the highest level of sport.” Tom first used APF Pro on a case close to home – literally. “When I came back from London with some APF Pro, I tried it first on my wife’s laminitic pony. I knew if Doug Hannum said it worked, it worked. That pony responded quickly to APF Pro and eventually became 100% sound. I knew it was due to APF Pro because he wasn’t on anything else.” Tom never looked back, and APF Pro became an essential part of his program. APF, the original formula from Auburn Laboratories, Inc., stands for Advanced Protection Formula, and that’s exactly what it does: University-level research has demonstrated the protective effects of APF on the horse’s immune system. APF Pro is the most advanced natural herbal formula for use in equine athletes. APF Pro combines the proven nutritional technology of the original APF with the muscle-building power of 20-hydroxyecdysone (20E), a safe and natural plant extract found in Rhaponticum carthamoides, along with the gastric health benefit of Aralia mandschurica. 20E is one of the most widely researched nutrients used by top athletes and body builders for its remarkable ability to safely increase lean muscle mass during strength training, with none of the adverse effects of anabolic steroids. Researchers have found Aralia can have important protective benefits against stomach upset caused by stress and non-steroidal anti-inflammatories. APF Pro is unequalled in its protection of the immune system, cellular metabolism, gastric health and muscle development. “Dougie Hannum, who introduced me to APF Pro, has used it in four Olympics,” Tom relates, having been on hand recently at Rio, as well as at previous Games. “With all the modalities we use to support equine athletes, supplements like APF Pro amplify what we do for working horses.”

Tom Meyers has been a part of Akiko Yamazaki's team for 15 years. Here he's with Legolas 92 at the Rio awards ceremony, where Steffen Peters and Legolas, owned by Yamazaki, were on the bronze medal-winning US dressage team.

AMATEURS, PROFESSIONALS, FANS APF Pro has fans among amateurs and professionals alike, but none blurs the pro/am distinction more than Akiko Yamazaki. Although best known as the owner of Steffen Peters’ superstar dressage horses Ravel, Legolas and Rosamunde, Akiko is a dedicated and successful amateur dressage competitor. At her Four Winds Farm in Woodside, Akiko manages her horses with professional skill. It’s no small task to maintain the health and happiness of her personal horses along with the world-wide travel of her international horses, and Tom is there for her whenever needed. “She’s a great overseer of her horses,” Tom remarks. “Supplements, treatments, vets – if they need it, they get it, whether it’s a retired horse or a competition horse. When I introduced APF to Akiko, she was willing to give it a shot. Now all her horses are on APF Pro.” Akiko explains, “In the now close to 15 years that Tom has worked on my horses, there have been many feed and supplements on the market, but Tom is not one to jump on trends. I don't have my horses on too many supplements but I trust in Tom's recommendations because he can, just like us riders, feel what really works first hand. APF Pro is now part of our competition and long term care program.” Tom’s perspective comes from the heart: “To be able to help horses with noninvasive modalities and supplements like APF Pro is a blessing.” His clients’ horses – with names like Ravel and Legolas, among others – surely agree. For more information about APF and Auburn Laboratories, Inc., visit , contact Michael Van Noy at 530-432-8157 or email Article reprinted with permission, California Riding Magazine, December, 2016. THE QUOTED AMATEUR ATHLETE RECEIVED NO COMPENSATION OF ANY KIND.


March 2017


the judge’s box

Judging Self-Carriage

Assessing this important component requires an educated eye and feel for correct basics By Jayne Ayers


ave you ever looked over your dressage test sheet and noticed the judge’s comment that your horse was in need of “better self-carriage”? How about remarks like “heavy on the hand,” “balance should be more uphill,” “leaning,” “needs engagement,” “on forehand,” or a host of others pertaining to a lack of lightness? If you’re receiving these kinds of comments on your tests, then it might be time to explore in detail what the judge is seeing and what you are feeling that could be improved. In this article, I’ll explain what self-carriage is, how it relates to your horse’s balance as he progresses through the levels, and how you can improve it.

Self-Carriage Defined Even as early as Training Level Test 1, the concepts of engagement of the hindquarters and lightness of the forehand are mentioned in the Impulsion and Submission boxes of the collective marks. The idea behind these concepts is that the horse should never lean on the reins for support; nor should the rider be using strength to hold the horse together. Self-carriage is defined as “the state in which the horse carries itself in balance without taking support or balancing on the rider’s hand.” Or, as I tell my students, the horse should be doing more work than the rider!

LEVEL BALANCE: A horse demonstrating a balance that’s neither uphill nor downhill, appropriate for Training and First Levels

The horse should carry itself in the frame appropriate to its level of training. In the beginning, that is in a level balance—neither “uphill” nor “downhill.” As training progresses and collection develops, the horse takes an increasing amount of weight on the hindquarters and begins to add uphill thrust to the picture. As it moves through the levels from Second onward, the upward component of the impulsion is expected to increase. The added engagement allows the horse to lighten the forehand more and more, so that canter pirouettes and other challenging exercises can be performed correctly.

BALANCE IN LIGHTNESS: In the highest degree of self-carriage and uphill balance, Germany’s Helen Langehanenberg on Damon Hill piaffes at the 2014 FEI World Equestrian Games. The reins are almost loose!

14 March 2017 • USDF CONNECTION

So how does a rider know if the horse has the self-carriage appropriate to the level? If your horse is carrying himself, he should not feel heavy on the reins. Ideally you’ll have a light but consistent feel of his lips in your fingers. The reins should form a straight line to your horse’s mouth, never hanging. But be aware that having the reins too long and the horse trundling along on his forehand might also produce something like this feel, so a few more criteria must be part of your assessment of his degree of selfcarriage. As you ride, ask yourself: Is my horse responsive to small aids? He needs to respond promptly and correctly to adjustments in bend and flexion, changes of tempo, and clear transitions. This is what’s


Is My Horse in Self-Carriage?

referred to as being “on the aids” with willing, alert cooperation. Is he moving with enough energy and in a suitable tempo? Your horse needs to operate with enthusiasm and energy in a consistent and appropriate tempo. Neither strolling nor running provides the basis for taking the weight onto the hindquarters, even to the degree expected at Training Level. Is he elastic and adjustable? The feel in your hands needs to have an element of elasticity to it. The entire picture of horse and rider together should have the harmonious, elastic appearance of operating as one unit. You should be able to lengthen and shorten your horse’s frame at will. For example, at Training Level we test this with the “stretching circle”; at Fourth Level, with the “very collected canter.” Horses not in an appropriate degree of self-carriage for their level have difficulty with both exercises. If all of the things I’ve mentioned are consistently in place in the exercises for the level you are showing, then your horse is probably in good self-carriage. Naturally, as you challenge him with more advanced exercises, it will take a while to find self-carriage again in the new, more uphill balance. Along the way, he may become heavier in the hand, block the thoroughness, or offer a whole host of equine objections to an increase in the work expected. This is natural, but the goal of the training is to rediscover the harmony.

The Judge’s View How does a dressage judge assess selfcarriage? By observing a complex set of details, which vary in accordance with the horse’s conformation and change from level to level. A thorough understanding of what to look at and what to look for can take a long time to develop, with judges improving their eye for it over years of practice. But there are a few guidelines. First, the contact must appear light and elastic, with the rider’s arms and hands following the mechanics of the gait without undue effort. There are many versions of incorrect contact,

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the judge’s box

TIME TO NOMINATE CANDIDATES April 15, 2017 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:

Collected trot/canter

Medium trot/canter

Extended trot/canter

Working trot/canter

• Be a current Participating Member of USDF. Passage


• Have a permanent residence and reside in the region for which they are running to represent. Piaffe

• Agree to serve a one year term, from the time of election in 2017 until the election in 2018. • Attend the 2017 USDF convention.

e-mail all nominations to


DEVELOPMENT OF COLLECTION: Illustrations show the relationship between degrees of collection, the length of the strides, and impulsion in working, collected, medium, and extended paces. Note also how the direction of thrust changes as the horse develops.

and nearly all of them compromise self-carriage. At all levels, the judge wants to see that the topline of the horse’s neck is arched forward and upward, and that the “under neck” muscle is relaxed and not braced. Any time the horse appears ”pulled together” or with the neck too short or braced underneath, there is probably a contact problem. Active resistance, an open mouth, a face behind the vertical, a poll that is not the highest point, or even a rider who appears to be working too hard— all of these are warning signs that there may be a lack of self-carriage.

16 March 2017 • USDF CONNECTION

Next, the direction of the thrust of the whole horse as it moves in trot or canter must be appropriate for the level. At Training and First Levels, the thrust should be straight ahead and not “downhill,” dumping onto the forehand. The direction of thrust becomes slightly uphill at Second Level and becomes progressively more uphill in subsequent levels. Determining the direction of thrust is not always easy because it entails Illustration from Dressage: A Guideline for Riders and Judges by Wolfgang M. Niggli. Reprinted by permission of Trafalgar Square Books,

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the judge’s box

FORWARD REACH WITHOUT ENGAGEMENT: Engagement requires bending of the joints of the grounded hind leg. A “daisy-cutting” hunter like this one may reach well under its body with its hind legs, yet lack engagement.

ing is more subtle, perhaps because the horse is in a more compressed package.

The Icing on the Cake So it seems that perhaps self-carriage, rather than being an element of performance, is really the outcome of correct basics at all levels of training. A horse in self-carriage is what dressage is all about. Nothing warms the heart of an experienced judge more than seeing a horse at any level that performs in harmony with its rider and, as the US Equestrian Rule Book states, “gives the impression of doing, of its own accord, what is required.” s Jayne Ayers is an FEI 4* dressage judge, an FEI and US Equestrian Young Horse judge, and a US Equestrian DSHB and dressage equitation judge. She is a past chair of the US Equestrian Dressage Committee and is a faculty member of the USDF L Education Program. At her Hearthstone Farm in Dousman, WI, she teaches dressage riders at all levels and coaches for competition.


assessing the horse’s balance when in motion. It takes practice. Even a horse with its hocks trailing might be in a level balance, depending on its conformation. A chunky pony with limited gaits might actually be in Training Level self-carriage, even if it does not earn high marks for gaits or impulsion.

Some people are surprised to learn that discerning the degree of uphill balance and self-carriage in a higher-level horse is actually an easier task. Looking for the uphill balance and collection needed for self-carriage at Second Level and beyond requires an understanding of, and an eye for, engagement. Engagement is produced by the bending of the joints of the hind leg that is on the ground. This bending allows for upward thrust as well as forward thrust when the leg is straightened. The hind legs should operate well under the horse’s body, but this alone will not produce uphill balance. Think of a free-moving, “daisy cutter”-type hunter as an example of forward reach without engagement. To complete the picture of what the judge is looking for in assessing selfcarriage, the horse’s back must be observed. The back muscles should appear to contract and relax in the rhythm of the gait while the top of the croup undulates—what is known as the “swinging back.” In higher collection, this swing-

18 March 2017 • USDF CONNECTION

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GMO Learning at the USDF Convention

From committee and roundtable discussions, ideas worth sharing By Jennifer O. Bryant


hen you’re faced with a challenge, commiserating with people who are dealing with the same issue can make you feel less alone. Support groups offer comfort, community, and, often, solutions.

ment and volunteer retention. Moderators are themselves GMO reps, and the meetings are informal sharing and brainstorming sessions. From the standing-room-only meeting spaces at the 2016 Adequan®/USDF Annual Convention in St. Louis, it would appear that peer-to-peer support is a popular and needed thing. Because support groups are all about sharing, here are some of the wise suggestions and clever ideas that came out of the GMO roundtables, and also from the open Group Member Organizations Committee meeting at the St. Louis convention. Make it a party! Competitors love hospitality events at shows, where— psst!—your GMO can also make some money. Use the KISS mantra in coming up with a theme: Keep It Simple, Silly. Or just Keep It Silly. GMOs reported success with everything from hula-hooping contests and a “duck toss” (think goofy carnival game) to contests for the best decorated golf cart or doggie costume.

PEER TO PEER: STRIDE past president Loretta Lucas and longtime NEDA volunteer Karin Swanfeldt moderate a roundtable discussion for small GMOs at the 2016 USDF convention

Now a staple of the USDF convention agenda, the group-member organization (GMO) roundtable sessions serve as annual face-to-face support groups. GMO representatives gather for fast-paced discussions on such “evergreen” topics as member recruit-

Reward volunteers. According to Loretta Lucas, a past president of the Ocala, FL,-based GMO STRIDE, her club awards “STRIDE bucks” vouchers for a half- or full day’s worth of volunteer work. The vouchers can be used toward “anything the club spends money on,” such as clinics, t-shirts, and show entries, Lucas said. Give grants. For some GMOs, finding people to serve on the board of directors is like pulling teeth. The Utah Dressage Society offers an annual $500 Adolphi Educational Grant, named for a longtime UDS board

20 March 2017 • USDF CONNECTION

member. As an incentive to serve, past or present board members receive first consideration. Focus on the fun. Not all GMO activities have to be strictly about education, competition, or awards. The San Antonio, TX,-based Alamo Dressage Association organized a successful “mystery barn tour.” Members boarded chauffeured vans stocked with wine and cheese for a tour of equine-related destinations that were revealed only on arrival. Participants enjoyed behind-the-scenes access to an equine rehabilitation facility, an upscale dressage-training barn, and a breeding farm. Buy your volunteers dinner. One GMO pays for volunteers’ meals at its annual awards banquet as an additional thank-you. Fund-raise creatively. A GMO runs an online auction of donated items the week before its awards banquet, with the items available at the event for pickup. The auction makes money for the GMO, and the club has seen a bump in banquet attendance because some item winners come just to get their goodies. In a twist on the popular GMO gift baskets given as door prizes during the Board of Governors assembly at the USDF convention, one GMO solicits donations of gift baskets from area equestrian facilities and then raffles off the baskets. To encourage barns to donate baskets, the GMO awards cash prizes for “best basket” and other categories. You deserve a medal! In special recognition of outstanding volunteerism, the New England Dressage Association awards custom-designed bronze medals (for 300 hours of service), silver medals (600 hours), and gold medals (1,000 hours), according to NEDA’s Karin Swanfeldt. The medals are pins with attached loops so that they can be strung on chains and worn as necklaces if recipients desire.


club connection

Use the personal touch. Blanket solicitations (“We need volunteers for our show”) are OK, but an individual phone call or e-mail may be more effective. Contact some of your club’s members with a personal request. If a member can’t volunteer for the event in question, note the reason, and then follow up at a later date. The member might even refer you to someone who’d be able to help out—information you wouldn’t have gotten without the one-on-one interaction. Utilize the online GMO networks. There’s a GMO Prezlist discussion board, which is a Yahoo! group for club presidents, GMO Committee members, and USDF Executive Board members. To join, send a request to the group moderator at Similarly, GMO officials can request to join the USDF GMO Officials Facebook group, a closed group for GMO-related discussion and sharing. You’ll need a Facebook account to participate; log in to Facebook, then search for “USDF GMO Officials” and click the “join” button. If your request is approved, you’ll be able to view the page (and write posts and comments), and page activity will appear in your Facebook news feed. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Recognition is volunteers’ only form of payment, so pour it on. “Feed and water” your GMO’s volunteers liberally. Give them special volunteerID swag, such as caps and shirts with your club’s logo, to wear at events (the uniform makes it easier for people to identify the volunteers at a show or other event, too). Place a personal phone call of thanks after an event. Recruit a volunteer coordinator to help keep track of the jobs, bodies, and hours; and get an experienced volunteer to show a newbie the ropes. In short, do all you can to make your precious volunteers feel valued and appreciated, and you’ll increase the odds that they’ll be back again the next time you need them. s

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all-breeds connection

Head-turning black beauties make a splash in the dressage arena


he Friesian horse is well known for its beauty; shining black coat; and luxuriant mane, tail, and feathering. This Dutch breed also has powerful, supple gaits that are filled with suspension. Add the fact that Friesians are beloved for their easygoing temperaments and companionable natures, and they are ideal for the upper levels of dressage.

DISTINCTIVE: The Friesian mare Clair NAF and owner/rider Dr. Tamera Mayo

The Friesian’s body has an “uphill” slope. With this uphill build, the distribution of weight is brought more onto the hindquarters in motion, enabling the horse to carry more with its hindquarters. A relatively long foreleg is important, as is the stance of the foreleg. A long, angled shoulder

provides the horse with the ability to extend its foreleg far out to the front. Friesians bond emotionally with their humans, forming a willing partnership. Their amicable character is the key that makes them suitable as a competition mount for youth, amateurs, and professionals alike. Friesian Horse Society-registered Friesians you might know: The stallion Jorrit PM, who retired in 2001, was the first Friesian stallion to compete at Grand Prix-level dressage. He was the USDF Prix St. Georges Horse of the Year in 2000, and in 2001 he was ranked sixth at Grand Prix Freestyle. Of the currently active FHSregistered mounts, the purebred Clair NAF (pictured) “is a generous and intelligent mare, giving 110 percent to everything she does,” says Oklahoma-based owner/rider Tamera Mayo, DVM. And the partbred August Rush was ranked at First and Second Levels in 2016 in both Adequan®/USDF Horse of the Year and All-Breeds standings, with owner/rider Morgan-Bailey Horan of Alabama. “He never says no, and I feel there are no limits to what he can do,” says Horan. “With him as my partner, I feel totally confident that he and I will continue to move up the levels.” The Friesian Horse Society: Established in 1992, the FHS is unique in North America in that it provides Universal Equine Life Number (UELN) registration for Friesian and part-bred Friesian horses with traceable lineage verified through DNA testing. The FHS is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to promote and preserve the beautiful Friesian horse through education and strict

22 March 2017 • USDF CONNECTION

registration standards as originated in the Netherlands. All-Breeds awards offered: Top five placings, all performance and dressage sport-horse breeding (DSHB) categories. How to participate: Horse owners need to be members of the FHS in good standing. Horses must be registered with the FHS or another UELN-recognized registry. Learn more: s

For the Breeds, by the Breeds


ach month, “All-Breeds Connection” spotlights a USDF All-Breeds awards program participating organization and the breed it represents. Information and photos that appear in this column are furnished by the breed registries. USDF does not endorse or promote any breed or registry over another. The All-Breeds program is designed to recognize the accomplishments of specific breeds in dressage. All participating organizations offer “open” yearend awards from Training Level through Grand Prix, and some offer awards in additional categories, such as adult amateur, junior/young rider, and dressage sport-horse breeding. Registry representatives are usually on hand to help bestow awards at the banquet held during each year’s USDF convention. All-Breeds award eligibility requirements include memberships and horse registrations with both USDF and the participating organization. For details and a list of current participating organizations, visit For more information about All-Breeds awards program participation, send e-mail to


Spotlight: Friesian Horse Society

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Free to Good Home One adult amateur’s impulse buy—an unlikely dressage prospect off Craigslist—earned her an unforgettable trip to the US Dressage Finals

THE LITTLE ENGINE THAT COULD: Joanne Dadd and her Craigslist find, the half-Arabian mare Pik Andromeda, at the 2016 US Dressage Finals

26 March 2017 • USDF CONNECTION




s she made her way along a series of unmarked rural roads, Joanne Dadd wasn’t entirely sure whether she was on her way to look at a sale horse or being lured into the lair of a serial killer. Little did she know that the forlorn horse she found standing in a muddy round pen that cold winter’s day in 2014 would carry her to the US Dressage Finals less than three years later. As an amateur rider with a growing interest in dressage, Dadd, 40, of Bedminster, NJ, was on the hunt for a new mount but didn’t have much of a budget. “I searched everywhere. All of my friends said that I wasn’t ever going to find what I was looking for, and I was beginning to think they were right,” Dadd recalls. “Then someone suggested I look on Craigslist. I was like, ‘Seriously?’ But anything was worth a try.” Dadd began scouring the popular online classified-ad site. Eventually she saw an ad for what appeared to be a lovely mare, but the price—just $3,000—seemed too good to be true. “Even so, the ad seemed legit and it was only an hour away, so I said, ‘What the heck?’ I called the number and it sounded OK, but of course everything seems that way until you actually show up and the horse is three-legged and snorting fire out of its nose,” she says wryly. The man on the phone gave her directions to a farm in rural north Jersey. After “Go to this unmarked road, which then turned onto a dirt road, and go past the cemetery on the right, I’m thinking that I was quite possibly going to the home of a serial killer,” Dadd says. “So I told all my friends where I was going, and that if they didn’t hear from me in half an hour, to call the police!” Dadd was greeted not by a shady character but by a chestnut mare standing ankle-deep in mud in a tiny round pen. “The woman actually selling the horse loved the mare,” Dadd recalls, “but was financially strapped and wanted to switch to reining. The mare had been used as a trail horse and wasn’t suited to the owner’s new choice of discipline. She had basics, but she was difficult, and it turned out she hadn’t been ridden at all for a few months. “The mare and I stood in the mud and looked at one another, and we both seemed very skeptical,” Dadd continues. “But she let me get on her, and we walked and trotted around the pen a little bit, and she tolerated me. She seemed smart, and from the little I could tell, she was a decent mover. Plus she was a good age—seven at the time—and seemed sound, and even had legitimate papers as a registered half-Arabian. I really can’t explain it because I didn’t even vet her, which is crazy because I’m usually very responsible about these

things. But I just paid cash and took her. Sometimes you have to take a chance, and I just had a feeling that she was a diamond in the rough.”

A Life Organized Around Horses The impulse buy was quite out of character for the usually methodical Dadd, who has relied on careful planning to be able to have horses in her life. The quintessential horse-crazy girl, Dadd grew up hanging out at the neighborhood barn in New Jersey, waiting for any opportunity to ride. “I always knew I was a horse person, but my parents thought that horses were a bit of a frivolous expense. They wouldn’t buy me my own horse, thinking that it was a phase I’d grow out of, but I never did; it only got worse,” she says. “So I became a ‘barn rat,’ working my way toward getting that one lesson a week, mucking stalls and cleaning tack and getting on the crazy horses that no one else wanted to ride.” College studies and graduate school in the pursuit of a degree in music took Dadd away from horses for a time, but it was impossible for her to stay out of the saddle forever. She finally purchased her first horse after graduation, and even though she had evented as a youth, she found herself increasingly drawn to dressage. “Over time,” Dadd says, “I found that I just preferred to not jump. I was never very brave about it and was always a little bit afraid of making a mistake coming to the fences. I have some of that perfectionist in me that meshes well with dressage, and I love how I can feel how a horse’s body and communication changes through the dressage work, making our connection closer. But many of my friends still say that I’m more like an eventer at heart in that I love to go out of the ring and am not afraid to go for a big gallop!” Dadd’s current job as a speech-language pathologist who specializes in geriatrics helps to fund her equestrian activities—but not entirely. To keep costs down, she and a friend lease a local barn and have a co-op arrangement for care, taking turns doing farm chores. “I love our setup because in my career you work with your brain all day, but then the physical labor at the barn is the perfect complement,” Dadd says. “So after feeding horses in the morning, going to work, and then back to the barn before finally going home to bed, I feel fulfilled—physically, mentally, and emotionally. I never have trouble sleeping because I’m exhausted! “Some people don’t understand how I do it all or why I do this instead of so many other activities, but that’s a sacrifice I willingly and knowingly make. I don’t do a lot of USDF CONNECTION

March 2017


things that people my age do. I don’t eat out, I don’t drink, I don’t splurge on vacations, simply because I’d much rather be at the barn and saving my money for horsey things. I’m a pretty frugal person. At the end of the day I’m doing exactly what I want to do with my life, and money-wise it’s the only way that this horse habit is feasible for me. I can only afford a limited number of lessons, and I squeeze every last drop of information out of them. If I had to pay full board somewhere, I wouldn’t be able to go to shows at all, so I do what I have to in order to do what I love.”

Sweet Potato Things got off to a rocky start between Dadd and her new horse, Pik Andromeda. Their first year together, the mare tested her owner’s patience, trotting around “like a giraffe” or spooking wildly at anything and everything. Eventually, the hours spent hacking outside the arena began to pay off. “All of a sudden, we started to click,” says Dadd. “Neither of us likes just going ’round and ’round the ring, and I think our going out all the time helped get her spookiness under control. It was as if she finally started looking at me as something more than just the human who provided food, and it just got better and better from there.” Which is not to say there weren’t bumps along the way. “At our first show [in 2016], she spooked and leapt out of the arena. It was even more mortifying because she tripped over the board as she went, and I thought we were going to fall, so I yelled ‘Shit!’ as we’re flying through the air. We safely land and I look around, and everyone’s laughing. So then on top of it all, I burst into tears. I was so horrified! “The lovely judge let us come back in and finish, and thankfully for the next test we went in and she was fine,” Dadd continues. “It’s a little bit of a roller coaster like this with her. Since I’m never quite sure what I’m going to get, she’s taught me to ride a lazy horse, a hot horse, and a spooky horse all in one package.” There were enough moments of brilliance and good scores that Dadd and her mare (nicknamed “the Potato” for reasons Dadd can’t entirely explain; “it just stuck,” she says) found themselves en route to the Great American/USDF Region 8 Championships in Saugerties, NY, last September. They finished third in the First Level Adult Amateur Championship and sixth at Training Level AA—well enough to secure an invitation to the US Dressage Finals.

Lessons from Lexington “To be honest, the Finals were never on my mind, even though I had declared just because everyone else I knew

28 March 2017 • USDF CONNECTION

did,” says Dadd. “So then when I get the invitation, at first I’m thinking there’s no way because it’s too expensive. But people kept telling me how amazing it was and that I had to do it because it was so inspiring. It’s a goal that I never thought we’d make, so it was one of those seize-the-day, now-or-never moments. You can’t put a price on that kind of experience.” So horse and owner embarked on their longest trip yet, the 12-hour journey to Lexington, KY. “Just the drive down was an adventure with Potato,” Dadd says. “Within the first two hours, she’d broken her halter. During the next few hours, she tore out part of her tail. She wasn’t very happy and I was feeling guilty, asking myself if I was doing the right thing in pursuing this. Was I being selfish at her expense? But then I realized that this was a good experience for both of us, and now I consider it a defining moment in our partnership.” “Even though of course it’s a little intimidating to arrive at the Finals, everyone was so incredibly nice. The atmosphere was welcoming, and the staff and volunteers were just amazing. And to see all these people there who had worked so hard to make it, and so many incredible horses… I realized that everyone has a story, whether they’re lucky enough to have an expensive imported warmblood in full training with an Olympian, or they’re people just like me, and this is just a small but very special part of their lives.” Although Dadd didn’t leave the Kentucky Horse Park with a blue ribbon (but “We put in respectable tests and didn’t embarrass ourselves”), she went home with a new perspective on her riding and on life. “I work with the elderly every day and am reminded that we can’t pass up the special opportunities that life presents us with. So that’s why I went to Kentucky. This was a dream, and I didn’t have to win to feel like this was a remarkable experience. I’m very proud of how far we’ve come on a horse that no one would give the time of day.” “When I receive judges’ comments saying ‘lovely partnership,’ to me that is better than a 10,” Dadd says. “It just makes it even more special that we made it to a national championship from circumstances that were so unlikely. I enjoyed my dressage rides in Kentucky, but I also love riding in the dark at home in 30 degrees, and I would still love my Potato even if we only ever hacked down the road.” s

Jennifer M. Keeler, of Paris, KY, is a freelance writer and marketer who has served as the press officer for the US Dressage Finals since its inception. Her website is

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END OF THE ROAD: Final salute by Rita Dunn and her sport pony D Grande Finale, clinching the USDF gold medal

It’s Never Too Late The inspiring journey of the oldest USDF gold medalist

ita Dunn, of Knoxville, TN, made history when she accepted her gold medal at the 2016 USDF convention in St. Louis in December. At 73, she’s the oldest recipient of the Federation’s highest rider achievement award. The gold medal was the culmination of a 12-year quest for Dunn and her Welsh Cob/German Riding Pony gelding, D Grande Finale. Along the way, she’s survived breast cancer and underwent knee surgery. “Finale” fractured a splint bone and was diagnosed with Cushing’s disease. On top of that, Dunn hates showing and fights show nerves at every competition. With all of that, many riders would have hung up their tack and retreated to the sidelines. But Dunn says the lure of dressage inspired her and kept her going. “It’s fascinating, learning the movements and feeling something done really well. To feel a perfect pirouette or changes—it’s just cool,” she says.

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The Army Way Like many little girls, Dunn was horse-crazy, although horses were not part of her life. She begged for riding lessons, but her mother did not like that idea. She took piano lessons instead. When she was five years old, she wrote “I want to be a horse trainer when I grow up” in her baby book, although she had never touched a horse. “Aside from some pony rides, I didn’t sit on a horse until I was in college. I was eighteen or nineteen before I cantered.” After college, Dunn married C. Hilton Dunn, a career Army officer. The couple’s first assignment was to Germany. She hadn’t discovered dressage yet, and with two young children and the demands of a military wife overseas, she didn’t ride. Dunn sighs when she thinks about the opportunities for German dressage training that she missed. Returning stateside to Fort Ord, CA, Dunn bought a




good-natured Appaloosa. “He had poor conformation, but it got my foot in the door of riding,” she says. A transfer to Fort Leavenworth, KS, in 1975 meant a new mount and access to good instruction. “There was a riding program where people donated their time to give lessons,” Dunn recalls of her time at Ft. Leavenworth. “One of them was a ladies’ dressage class taught by Sharon Wass de Czege,” the wife of Brigadier General Huba Wass de Czege, himself a noted horseman. “I was riding a Quarter Horse with a lot of Thoroughbred in him. I was using him for foxhunting, but he had a real ‘try anything’ attitude. I took the [dressage] class and found it fascinating: How do I do this? How can I learn it? I didn’t think about competition then; it was just for fun.” Dunn’s dressage progress halted again when her husband got assigned to the US Military Academy at West Point, NY. The remote location meant “no one was willing to drive an hour over the mountains to give a one-hour lesson.” Fortunately, the family’s next move, to Fairfax, VA, made up for that. “It’s God’s gift to horses. Everything is there,” Dunn says, including access to high-quality dressage training. For the next 15 years, she trailered her horse to the Charlottesville, VA, area to every week to ride with Elizabeth Lewis. For the first time, she rode an FEI-level horse, one of Lewis’ schoolmasters, as well as her own horses.

The Grand Finale The Dunns’ final move, in 2001, was to the Knoxville, TN, area. Shortly thereafter, Dunn began looking for a mount with the potential to carry her to the upper levels of dressage. At a 2004 visit to sport-horse breeder Klaus Biesenthal’s Bell Oaks Farm in Illinois, she noticed a green three-year-old. “I liked his presence. He had a good behind and lots of try,” says Dunn, who ultimately passed over the unstarted youngster for another horse. When Dunn and the other horse didn’t click as partners, she took a chance and had Biesenthal ship the three-year-old to Tennessee. That was Finale. “By that point,” Dunn says, “I had gathered enough knowledge to do my own training. He was only a threeyear-old, and I decided to wait until he was four to start working on Intro and Training. He had two trots. I called them the ‘pony trot’ and the ‘big boy’ trot. Initially, it was a problem, but it worked out.” Dunn began working with trainers Gigi Nutter and James Koford. At a clinic in 2005, Nutter asked Dunn about her goals: “She said she wanted her gold medal. I knew she could do it, and told her I’d do whatever I could to help her.”

Koford traveled monthly from his then home base in Lexington, KY, to work with Dunn. “I worked three days a month with her,” he says. “She puts the time in and does not cut corners. I’d come back and she’d done her homework. She knew where they were [in their training] and where to go next.” Operation Gold Medal seemed to be progressing according to plan until later in 2005, when Dunn was diagnosed with breast cancer. During her treatment—surgery and radiation, but no chemotherapy—her new horse, and the prospect of riding again, kept her motivated. “Having a horse you are excited about is huge. It was probably six weeks or two months before I could get on at all. And the training was light. Radiation zaps your energy. It was a full year before my energy returned. That was tough because he was a young horse and I was excited to ride and continue.” In 2010, Dunn found herself out of the saddle again for knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus. “That was more painful than the breast surgery and treatment,” she recalls of the procedure, whose rehab kept her grounded for several more months. Around the same time, Finale began showing signs of lameness. Initially, veterinarians thought he had injured a hind suspensory ligament, although MRIs were clean. The correct diagnosis finally came in 2012: Cushing’s disease, an endocrine disorder. While it’s an unhappy development, Dunn says, compared to suspensory injuries or some other problems, “It’s kind of a relief. It means constant blood work and expensive medications, but it is manageable.” The last setback on the road to gold occurred when Finale fractured his right front splint bone in April 2015. “I watched it happen,” Dunn says ruefully. “He was playing in the pasture. He spun around and whacked himself, a huge spin and kick. That set us back five months.” Throughout the setbacks, Dunn and Finale competed when they could and moved up through the levels. That achievement in itself is remarkable considering the fact that Dunn suffers from severe show nerves. The jitters would get so bad that Dunn tended to forget her tests in the ring. “She appears calm, cool, and collected, but I had to call every test for her from First to Fourth Level,” says friend and fellow rider Susan Hill. “After that, [competitors] must ride the test from memory. Even with me reading, she would sometimes be so concentrated on the move and what she was doing that she would zone out and not hear me and go off course.” Finale, fortunately, doesn’t feel the pressure, says Dunn: “He says, ‘Come on, let’s do it.’ He’s a very consistent horse. USDF CONNECTION

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and family were there. But the bad thing was that I knew who was watching,” Dunn says. During that ride with everyone watching, for the first time ever in their career, Finale disobeyed. As Hill tells it, “At the extended canter, he got to the end of the arena and he bucked. He’d never done that in the show ring. Right after that is the zigzag, which is a move Rita struggles with, so we were all holding our breath. But it was the best zigzag she’d ever done. It was perfect. She actually got a better score for the test on the second day, even with the buck. She just went for broke and really rode it.”

With a Little Help from Her Friends

THE BIG MOMENT: Receiving her USDF gold medal from USDF president George Williams

He’s the same at the shows and at home. He doesn’t get rattled.” In 2015 and 2016, Dunn doubled down on her training for Grand Prix. She spent several weeks in intensive training with Lewis. Nutter helped her to polish Finale’s piaffe and passage. “Rita is very exacting. She was not going to compete until they had it down perfectly,” Nutter says. It took only two shows and two rides for Dunn to earn the Grand Prix scores she needed for her gold medal. The first one came in June 2016 at a show in Franklin, TN. The second show was a month later in River Glen, TN, not far from Dunn’s home. She earned the final needed score on the first day of the show, but friends and family were coming on the second day, so she rode again. “On the one hand, it was really cool that all of my friends

Hill, Nutter, and other supporters helped to raise funds so that Dunn could make the trip to St. Louis, MO, to receive her gold medal in person at the 2016 USDF Salute Gala and Annual Awards Banquet. One might think that this shownerves sufferer would have gladly put her competition days behind her after that, but in fact she’s already set a new show goal. “I’m working on my freestyle,” Dunn says. “I already have the music. It’s a Southern gospel song by Ivan Parker called ‘Miracle River.’ It has lyrics, and I want an instrumental version. It fits [Finale’s] rhythm perfectly.” The decision does not surprise those who know Dunn. “I’m impressed by her enthusiasm and eagerness to take on challenges,” says Nutter. “She is always searching for knowledge.” Koford concurs. “She’s an example that tenacity and hard work can achieve goals. They work together on the complexity that dressage requires. It’s fun to watch them. It is really so gratifying to help her achieve her goals.” s Fran Severn-Levy is a freelance writer who focuses on travel and horses. She lives in Maryland with her husband, three dogs, and her Holsteiner gelding, Chance Encounter, who is teaching her First Level dressage.

! e t a D e h t e Sav

November 29-December 2 • Lexington, KY 32 March 2017 • USDF CONNECTION


2017 Adequan®/USDF Annual Convention

Mark Your Calendars...


USDF Dressage in the Bluegrass Nov. 9-12, 2017 • Kentucky Horse Park Compete in a national championship that showcases competitors in adult amateur and open divisions, at Training Level through Grand Prix.

For more information visit


Exclusive Travel Feature

A Trip to Aachen All about the world’s most famous horse show—and what to know before you go BY BIRGIT POPP

ICONIC: The CHIO Aachen is a dream destination for many equestrian enthusiasts and a treasured experience for competitors

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f all the world’s famous horse shows, the one on many dressage enthusiasts’ “bucket lists” is the CHIO (Concours Hippique International Officiel) Aachen in Germany. The legendary show—the 2017 edition will be held July 14-23—encompasses the annual World Equestrian Festival, with Nations Cup competition in dressage, jumping, eventing, four-in-hand driving, and vaulting. The 2015 show served as the European Championships for reining and the above disciplines except for eventing, and the 2006 event was expanded as the eight-discipline FEI World Equestrian Games (WEG). A victory at Aachen is one of the crowning achievements of any competitor’s career. Add a huge trade fair, and Aachen is many equestrian enthusiasts’ dream trip. As the late former US Equestrian Team jumping coach, trainer, and course designer Bertalan de Nemethy put it: “You have the impression, if you meet a citizen of Aachen, that everyone just lives for the horse show. It starts with the customs officer and ends with the hairdresser. You have to go to Aachen if you ride, and you have to go to Aachen as many times as possible if you want to continue to ride.” Have you dreamed of going to Aachen but aren’t quite sure how to go about it? Read on for our insider’s guide to planning your trip, plus a look at the show’s traditions and the historic German city itself.


Aachen Today Aachen’s 30-acre show grounds, the famous Aachen Soers in the outskirts of the German city, have staged more international equestrian championships than any other site in the world. The Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) regularly names Aachen the best outdoor venue for jumping, dressage, and four-in-hand driving. And when Aachen hosted the 2006 WEG, it was to date the only time the FEI awarded its quadrennial world championships to an existing show organization. The CHIO regularly attracts more than 300,000 spectators and is watched by millions more via TV or Internet. Among the VIPs in the audience are royals, politicians, business leaders, and show-business celebrities. As it has since 2007, the 2017 CHIO will kick off with vaulting competition. Following an opening ceremony will be jumping and driving. Dressage will be held July 19-23, with eventing concluding the show. This year, spectators will have two opportunities to watch the Pferd und Sinfonie (Horse and Symphony) gala entertainment, with live music by the Aachen Symphony Orchestra and displays with horses and some of the top riders in the Deutsche Bank USDF CONNECTION

March 2017


Dressage Stadium, July 14 and 15. The stadium, whose seating was expanded in 2014, now holds 6,300 spectators— less than a sixth of the capacity of the main stadium, site of jumping and some of the eventing and driving competition. When they are not watching competition, visitors can enjoy browsing the dozens of trade-fair vendors and dining on the show grounds.

Memorable Moments The CHIO Aachen has seen many emotional moments— world-class exhibitions, farewell ceremonies for famous horses, and of course thrilling victories.

SHOPPERS’ DELIGHT: Equestrian items and much more are offered at the CHIO Aachen Village trade fair

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The Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Spanish Riding School of Vienna have both performed at Aachen, the latter of which made its first appearance in 1929. The legendary German dressage rider, trainer, and author Harry Boldt took his last lap of honor there, as did his countryman Hans Günter Winkler, the most decorated jumper rider in that sport’s history. “The crowning conclusion was for me the ending of my career at the 1986 World Championships at Aachen in front of 50,000 spectators,” Winkler said. Famous horses have exited the spotlight in ceremonies at Aachen, including Ludger Beerbaum’s 1996 Atlanta Olympic team gold medal-winning partner, Ratina Z. Many riders agree that a win at Aachen is like no other. In 2009, the USA’s Steffen Peters achieved a victory that was all the more emotional because Germany is his native country. Aboard the KWPN gelding Ravel, Peters swept all three CDIO classes (Grand Prix, GP Special, and GP Freestyle) to become that year’s Aachen Dressage Champion. In so doing, he defeated the reigning world champion, the Netherlands’ Anky van Grunsven on Salinero. “It has always been my great dream to compete one day at Aachen,” said Peters, who first rode there in 1998 aboard Grandeur. “That I would in 2009 achieve victory in all three CDIO classes and win the title of the Aachen Dressage Champion, I would not have dreamed about representing the United States for the first time at Aachen in 1998. To compete at Aachen is always something very special, not only for me but for every rider.”


CELEBRATING THE HORSE: Playful equine sculpture graces the Aachen show grounds

HISTORIC VICTORY: In 2009, the USA’s Steffen Peters on Ravel won all three Grand Prix-level classes to take the Aachen Dressage Championship title


Steeped in Tradition: Aachen’s History The history of the Aachen-Laurensberg Racing Club goes back more than 100 years. It was founded in 1889 by land and factory owners, farmers, animal dealers, and riding instructors for the purpose of entertaining Aachen citizens with horse races. The equestrian tradition at Aachen goes back much further. Aachen was the town of the emperor Charlemagne (768-814), who regularly held mounted games at his residence; and it remained the capital of the Holy Roman Empire until the middle of the 16th century. A total of 37 German emperors were crowned at Aachen through the centuries. A visit to the old center of the town with its historic city hall, the cathedral, and the treasury (sign up for a guided city tour in English at the Aachen touristoffice booth at the horse show) should be part of any trip to Aachen. In 1923, the club moved to today’s show grounds in the vast Aachen Soers. The following year, organizers added a riding and driving horse show to the scheduled racing days, and the show grew quickly, becoming an international horse show in 1927 with eight nations participating. Inter-

ANCIENT TREASURE: The cathedral of Charlemagne is a core part of the famed Aachen Cathedral, northern Europe’s oldest, which was consecrated in 805 and in 1978 became the first German monument named a UNESCO World Heritage Site

national-level dressage competition was added to the show schedule in 1928, and in 1929 Aachen hosted its first jumping Nations Cup and was designated a CHIO. World War II disrupted the history of the Aachen shows, but in 1946 the horses were back in action on a national scale. By 1947 the first post-war international horse show took place, with 440 horses. Among the six participating nations that year were former wartime enemies of Germany including Great Britain, the USA, and the Netherlands. (In 2016, the CHIO drew a total of 29 nations, 403 human athletes, and 540 horses.) The list of horses and riders who have competed at Aachen reads like a Who’s Who in equestrian sport. In jumping, the team of Katie Monahan Prudent/Amadia, Katharine Burdsall/The Natural, Michael Matz/Chef, and Conrad Homfeld/Abdullah won the 1986 World Championships. The team of Margie Engle/Hidden Creek’s Quervo Gold, Laura Kraut/Miss Independent, McLain Ward/Sapphire, and Beezie Madden/Authentic won team silver at the 2006 WEG in Aachen, and Madden also won individual silver. The US jumping team has won a total of five Aachen Nations Cup titles to date. [ USDF CONNECTION

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EUROPEAN CHARM: Al fresco dining in historic and picturesque1 downtown USDF-Connection-Mar2017-PartIofIII-20170130OL.pdf 1/30/17 Aachen 1:25:06

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MAJOR DRAW: The jumping Nations Cup and the Grand Prix of Aachen are two of the CHIO Aachen’s most prestigious competitions

From 1927 until 1962, Aachen hosted an FEI Grand Prix dressage competition, with the USA’s Patricia Galvin on Rath Patrick winning in 1960. (The Roemer Foundation/USDF Hall of Fame member Jessica Ransehousen, who competed alongside Galvin at the 1960 and 1964 Olympics, was named leading foreign lady rider at the 1959 Aachen show.) German master Harry Boldt won in 1959, and the legendary Swiss pair of Christine Stückelberger and the Holsteiner Granat held the title from 1974 to 1977. In 1966 the inaugural dressage World Championships were held in Bern, Switzerland, with Germany’s Josef Neckermann and Mariano triumphing ahead of Harry Boldt on Remus and Reiner Klimke on Dux. The first team competition featured a victorious West Germany ahead of Switzerland and the Soviet Union. In 1970 the dressage World Championships came to Aachen, with the Russians dominating. The Soviet Union took team gold, while West Germany (Neckermann, Boldt, and individual silver medalist Liselott Linsenhoff on Piaff ) won team silver and East Germany took team bronze. The USA figured in the dressage standings again in 2006, when at the WEG in Aachen the team of Steffen Peters/Floriano, Debbie McDonald/Brentina, Guenter Seidel/Aragon, and Leslie Morse/Tip Top won the bronze medal behind Germany and the Netherlands. Individually, Peters placed fourth in the GP Special (won by Germany’s Isabell Werth aboard Satchmo) and sixth in the GP Freestyle (won by Dutch rider Anky van Grunsven and Salinero). Seidel was fourteenth in the Special and thirteenth in the Freestyle.

Plan Your Trip When this issue went to press, tickets for the 2017 CHIO Aachen were still available for all days, as were limited tickets to the Pferd und Sinfonie performances. To purchase tickets, visit the CHIO Aachen website (English-language version) at; send e-mail to; or call +49 241 917 1111 (English-speaking staffers are available). Ticket prices begin at €6. If money is no object, the show offers a limited number of VIP event packages that include a table for six in the stands of the Deutsche Bank Dressage Stadium and access to the Champions’ Circle restaurant. Learn more at The Aachen Tourist Service e.V. (link on en/tickets-2/visitors/) offers accommodations information and online booking. Directions and parking information are on the same webpage. There is much more information on the CHIO Aachen website, including links to social media and to download the official CHIO Aachen app. If you go, don’t miss the spectacular Abschied der Nationen (Farewell of Nations) at the conclusion of competition. Competitors return to the main stadium for a goodbye parade while the spectators wave white handkerchiefs. This tradition began in 1953 and remains a cherished part of the Aachen experience. s Birgit Popp is an equestrian journalist based in Germany. Her work has appeared in more than 60 media outlets in 17 countries. USDF CONNECTION

March 2017


WORLD CLASS: Omaha’s CenturyLink Center, site of the 2017 FEI World Cup Finals, during the Finals test event, the 2016 International Omaha

Omaha Welcomes the World The Midwestern city prepares to host its first-ever FEI World Cup Finals

t won’t be business as usual for the FEI Dressage World Cup Final when the 2017 edition is staged in Omaha, NE, beginning later this month. As usual, 18 of the best horse/rider combinations from around the world will be wowing fans with their freestyles; but a judging innovation, along with the three E’s— exposure of the sport, education, and entertainment—will play important roles for both dressage and jumping, whose annual Longines World Cup Final also will be held during the March 29-April 2 event. The organizer’s goal is to broaden the base of equestrianism in the Midwest region and beyond, with the growth of dressage a focal point. It is the discipline’s first World Cup Final east of the Rockies. Unlike the jumping Finals, which have been held as stand-alone competitions in Baltimore and Florida as well

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as in California and Las Vegas, previous World Cup Dressage Finals in the US have been presented only in Burbank, CA, in 1995 as a stand-alone and in Las Vegas in 2005, 2007, 2009, and 2015 in conjunction with jumping. So Omaha is terra incognita, not only for Europeans but also for the many Americans who haven’t spent much time in the Midwest. Dressage is strong on the US coasts but less so in the middle of the country, a situation that enthusiasts hope will improve after the Finals come to town. Lisa Roskens, chair of the Omaha Equestrian Foundation, the organization that is putting on the Finals, views the competition as having “the potential to be a catalyst for the sport in our area. We have a very strong grass-roots base of horsemen, but because the big competitions are so far away, we tend to get stuck in a bit of a rut. “It is difficult to imagine yourself doing something no-




body around you does and you never get to see,” Roskens continues. “By bringing the best in the world to town, we will shine a light on what is possible. With educational programs and robust plans for life after 2017, we very much want to light a spark in people to do more and create opportunities for growth beyond just what we at the Omaha Equestrian Foundation can do.”

A Win-Win Location


The many assets of the CenturyLink Center, in the heart of downtown Omaha, were a big selling point in the Fédération Equestre Internationale’s (FEI) awarding the 2017 Finals to the city. It’s not only state of the art; it’s also large enough to house the competition arena (with room for horses to go around the outside before starting their tests), the warm-up ring, vendors, educational exhibits, restaurants, and a VIP area. The CenturyLink’s spaciousness contrasts with the most recent US Finals venue, the University of Nevada’s Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, where the arena floor barely accommodated a dressage arena, and stabling and warm-up were in separate, temporary tents that proved problematic when a dust storm swept through the city. (Vegas earned the nod for the 2020 joint FEI World Cup Finals. However, they will be held not at Thomas & Mack but at the MGM Grand hotel/casino/arena complex, where horses will be stabled in a parking area adjacent to the building.) Show organizer Thomas Baur of Germany, the 2017 Finals’ dressage director, first heard about Omaha as a potential venue when he was a member of the FEI Dressage Committee, and recalls being impressed. “I saw the presentation, and I was really amazed,” he says. US dressage Olympian Debbie McDonald, one of only two Americans to have won a World Cup Dressage Final, calls the CenturyLink Center “amazing.” Like Roskens, she believes that the Omaha location will pay dividends for equestrian sport. “Any time you take [the Final] across our large country and put it somewhere else, that’s another group of people we keep bringing into the sport,” McDonald says. Baur, who is also the director of the Adequan® Global Dressage Festival in Wellington, FL, comments: “I think it is only the start for Omaha to be on the equestrian map.”

Highlights and Innovations Organizers of the 2017 Finals are planning several extras that should make a trip to Omaha both educational and fun. On the education front, Germany’s Isabell Werth—

UNDER ONE ROOF: The CenturyLink Center is large enough to house not only the show arena but the warm-up, the trade fair, and more

who has won more Olympic gold medals than any other equestrian in history—will give a “through the levels” presentation on the dressage training scale, using a variety of horses and riders. Other presenters will include Australian response-training expert Tristan Tucker and America’s own Lynn Palm, known for her exceptional Quarter Horses, who will focus on Western dressage. A dressage showcase will feature freestyles to live music by such well-known riders as Canadian Olympian Jacquie Brooks and US FEI-level competitor Barbara “Bebe” Davis. Audiences can enjoy a para-equestrian dressage quadrille. Entertainment will include the Omaha-based Chip Davis and his Grammy-award-winning ensemble Mannheim Steamroller, the opening act for Saturday night. Dressage enthusiasts are eager to see in action the new FEI freestyle-judging system, which was used last year at the World Cup Final test event in Omaha. This year’s Final will be the first time it is used in a championship. Baur explains: “It is a sophisticated judging system, where riders have to bring in their ‘floor plan’ [choreogra-

Did You Know?


he USDF and the 2017 FEI World Cup Finals have something in common: a Nebraska connection. When the USDF was founded in 1973, dressage enthusiast and founding member Lowell Boomer offered the fledgling organization office space in his Boomer’s Printing Company in Lincoln. The USDF was headquartered in Lincoln until June 2002. And today, for the first time, another Nebraska city prepares to host the world’s best dressage and jumping competitors.


March 2017


phy] and it will be converted into a computer program, and the judges will judge according to the floor plan of the rider.” The program “automatically adds on a degree of difficulty; that is no longer a subjective mark,” Baur adds. “I think it [makes it] much easier for judges to judge a freestyle, and it is getting more objective.” The advance “floor plan” submission makes things easier for the judges, who previously had to watch each freestyle without knowing what was supposed to come next. Giving some leeway to the riders, the system allows a “joker line” so that a competitor can repeat an element if the first attempt doesn’t go as planned. (For more on the new freestyle-judging system, see “The Judge’s Box: Dressage Freestyles Move into the Future,” July/August 2016.)

Who’s Coming to Omaha? At press time, it was possible only to guess which dressage riders and horses will be participating in the 2017 Finals— with a few exceptions. The Netherlands’ Hans Peter Minderhoud, the 2016 titleist on Glock’s Flirt, gets an automatic invitation, with the caveat that he compete in two qualifiers. Another exception involves representatives of the FEI’s World Cup Dressage eTRAK Extra

Read an article in USDF Connection about the 2015 World Cup Dressage Final in Las Vegas.

42 March 2017 • USDF CONNECTION


EVEN MORE FREESTYLES: Riders including Jacquie Brooks (pictured on D Niro) will perform to live music in the dressage showcase

Central European League, which wrapped up in November. First in those rankings was Russia’s Inessa Merkulova on the charismatic Mister X. Merkulova is currently sixth in the FEI’s World Dressage Rankings, and her freestyles are real crowd-pleasers. The other league representative who qualified was Hanna Karasiova of Belarus with Arlekino, 75th in the world. Judy Reynolds of Ireland, who won the dressage World Cup qualifier at Dressage at Devon (PA) last October with Vancouver K, led the Western European League at the beginning of the year, one point ahead of Australia’s Europebased Kristy Oatley (Du Soleil), 49th in the world rankings. But it doesn’t take a crystal ball to know that Germans will figure prominently in the Omaha lineup, which will include nine representatives of the Western European League. Isabell Werth held the number-one and number-eight spots on the world list as of December 31, with Weiheigold OLD (her 2016 Rio Olympics partner) and Emilio 107, respectively. In January, Werth was fifth in the league rankings. British Olympian Carl Hester, who masterminded the magical career of Valegro, won the Olympia (London) World Cup qualifier on Nip Tuck in December. Hester was tied for sixth in the Western European standings with Spain’s exciting Severo Jesus Jurado Lopez, who drew plaudits for his performance with Lorenzo at the Rio Games. North America gets only two representatives. Odds are they will be Laura Graves and Verdades, fourth in the world rankings—though Graves hadn’t started the World Cup Final qualifying process in 2016—and Steffen Peters, winner of the 2009 World Cup Final with Ravel, who is trying to qualify with his newest international mount, Rosamunde. He and the mare won the first World Cup qualifier of 2017 in Las Vegas, earning a score of 78.425 percent in the Grand Prix Freestyle. Peters was ranked 24th in the world on Rosamunde in January prior to Vegas, and ninth in the world on Legolas, his 2016 Olympic mount. Legolas is now being competed by Peters’ assistant, Dawn White-O’Connor. The pair made their debut in Las Vegas, where they finished second to Peters and Rosamunde with a GP Freestyle score of 75.275 percent. The other US rider in the world’s top 25 as 2017 got under way was 2016 Olympian Kasey Perry-Glass on Goerklintgaard’s Dublet (number 22), but she did not compete in Las Vegas. Although years ago the World Cup Final host nation got extra competitors, that is no longer the case. It appears the only chance the US will have to field a third rider is if a qualified rider drops out, and the American is high enough on the world ranking list (and has competed in the requisite two

INVITED: The 2016 winner, Hans Peter Minderhoud (NED) on Glock’s Flirt, gets an automatic ticket to Omaha provided he competes in two qualifiers

qualifiers) to take that person’s place. It could happen, if the only riders ahead of that US candidate on the world ranking list already are qualified, or choose not to participate. s Freelance photojournalist Nancy Jaffer has covered 21 World Cup Finals (counting jumping as well as dressage), and she’s looking forward to the Omaha event. Her record also includes nine Olympic Games and every World Equestrian Games. Her work appears in print and online in Europe and North America, covering a variety of disciplines. Her website is

Omaha, Here We Come


et ticket information, event schedules, results, and more at the 2017 FEI World Cup Finals’ website, USDF Connection will be on the scene to cover this historic event. Check the USDF website (usdf. org) for blog and social-media links.

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March 2017


From Dressage Dream to Reality WISHING: To make your dressage dream come true, set a goal

Goal-setting and strategic-planning tips for riders

t’s unlikely that you’re a dressage enthusiast without dreams. Most of us dressage riders aren’t content to “just” ride for pleasure, with no thought of improvement. Chances are you have aspirations you’d like to fulfill, even if they don’t involve competition. Dreams, as you may have heard, are little more than wishful thinking unless they’re paired with action plans. Action plans are road maps that help turn dreams into goals— but even so, many people resist the goal-setting process, according to performance and life coach Jennifer Verharen. Verharen, of Vashon, WA, is a professional dressage rider and trainer who became a corporate business, health, and leadership coach. She pivoted her career once more to start her own performance- and life-coaching business focusing on equestrians, Cadence Coaching (cadence-coach. com). At the 2016 Adequan®/USDF Annual Convention in St. Louis, Verharen gave USDF members a primer on set-

44 March 2017 • USDF CONNECTION

ting goals and making strategic plans to help achieve their dressage dreams.

Your Goal: Set a Goal There are many good reasons to set goals, Verharen said. You probably already know many of them: to stretch yourself. To expose yourself to new experiences. To make the most of your own gifts and talents. To live a life free of regrets. To maximize all those endeavors in which you’ve invested time, energy, and resources. Undertaking the goal-setting process actually makes you more likely to reach a goal, Verharen said. She cited a study by the American Society for Training and Development, which found that “the percentage [of probability that the goal will be achieved] goes up if you plan how to do it, commit, and hold yourself accountable to someone else.”




Unfortunately, when it comes to goal-setting, people tend not to take the experts’ advice. Why not, when clearly it’s good for us and presumably will make us happier in the end? Despite the evidence, some people think goal-setting is “a waste of time,” Verharen said. For others, it’s a fear of failure—a bit of “if I don’t try, then I can’t fail.” Some people struggle to overcome inertia: The status quo may not be your heart’s desire, but at least it’s comfortable. According to Verharen, the goal-setting process goes like this:

Vision  Goal  Strategies  Action plan

Step 1: Write a goal statement. (Yes, it has to be in writing.) In one to four sentences write a concise statement summarizing “your most important current goal for the next year,” Verharen instructed. Be specific, and don’t use a past or current state as a point of reference (“ride better” is too vague, as is “improve my sitting trot” or “lose weight”). Include your intention—the reason you want to reach this goal. Be sure your goal has a measurable result—a quantifiable benchmark that will signal its attainment. “Phrase your goal in the past tense, as if you’ve already achieved it,” Verharen advised. “If you use the future tense, it keeps your goal in the future.” Example: To demonstrate that I’ve gained skills in the basics of dressage, I have qualified for the 2017 Regional Championships at First Level. Now it’s your turn. Write your goal statement here:

________________________________________________ Step 2: Develop strategies for achieving your goal. As Verharen explained, “Strategic planning is the systematic process of envisioning your desired future and laying out steps to achieve it. It looks at the big picture and lays out the desired steps first.” She continued: “A goal is different from your strategy to achieve that goal. Strategy is how you get there. You can try different strategies toward achieving a goal.” For the above sample goal of qualifying for Regionals, strategies might include any number of paths: anything from competition plans and taking more lessons to finding

a new instructor or even getting a different horse. Strategies for achieving my goal:

________________________________________________ ________________________________________________ ________________________________________________ ________________________________________________ Step 3: Develop an action plan. An action plan, said Verharen, is not a to-do list. “Action items clearly move you toward your goal,” she said. Make a list of steps you intend to achieve, and assign each step a deadline date. When you complete a step, check it off the list. In the example of the rider who wants to qualify for Regionals, action-plan steps might include competing in designated shows, joining the necessary organizations, and participating in a fix-a-test clinic, for instance. My action plan:



Overcoming Challenges With volunteers from the USDF convention audience, Verharen did some mini-coaching sessions to show how the goal-setting process works. It didn’t take long before audience members were demonstrating a common problem: putting up roadblocks to progress in the form of perceived obstacles to achieving their goals. One rider said she wants to become nationally or even internationally competitive—but, when quizzed by Verharen about possible avenues (apprentice with a well-known trainer? move somewhere with greater access to training and competition?) dug in, saying she didn’t want to leave her area. “That’s the problem when we hit a roadblock: We want change, but we don’t want to change,” Verharen responded. USDF CONNECTION

March 2017


Phrase your goal in the past tense, as if you’ve already achieved it. If you use the future tense, it keeps your goal in the future. —Jennifer Verharen Resistance to change can take the form of procrastination, Verharen said. “The procrastinator’s myth is ‘I work better under pressure.’ Be proactive. Action precedes inspiration. Fear means go. [Ask yourself:] What action can I take, even I don’t feel like it?”

Stay the Course

“If you see limitations at every turn, some big things may need to change.” Ask yourself: “When circumstances get in your way, what needs to change?” Verharen said she works to help her clients to develop a “growth mindset” instead of a “fixed mindset,” defined as “believe you can change your situation versus believing that you can’t change anything.” Verharen discussed the phenomenon of self-sabotage, which she said happens when “fear kicks in. “Accomplishing a goal represents change. There is fear of something that might happen” (horse sports, as we all know, contain an element of physical risk), but “also there is fear of becoming more truly yourself and inhabiting a larger space.” Referring to the latter scenario, she said: “That kind of fear means go; interpret it as a green light instead of a red light.” When she works with a client who’s struggling to break through a psychological barrier, she says, “I let the person experience the fear, then connect with them on the other side.”


Podcast Alert Listen to Jen Verharen at the USDF convention in Episode 149 at

46 March 2017 • USDF CONNECTION

Recommended Reading


or motivation and guidance in breaking the resistance between what she calls “the life we live and the unlived life within us,” equestrian performance and life coach Jennifer Verharen likes Steven Pressfield’s book The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles (Black Irish Entertainment, 2012).


ENCOURAGING: Equestrian life coach Jennifer Verharen

Like many worthwhile endeavors, the goal-setting process can be a rewarding one, Verharen said. “People feel empowered when they begin the process of setting and achieving goals.” She encouraged riders to seek support from others on their journeys. “We need to be interdependent to achieve goals.” Above all, Verharen said, achieving a goal takes persistence—an acceptance that progress is not always linear, coupled with what she called a “constant willingness to get back on track.” “Creativity plus commitment,” she said, “equals resilience.” s

USDF National Education Initiative ...making education more accessible

Through support from the national organization and over 100 GMOs nationwide, this new program is designed to create more personalized and affordable educational opportunities starting at the grassroots level. Supported event formats: • Riding clinics/symposiums • Ride-a-tests • Adult camps • Unmounted education events For more information on the USDF National Education Initiative visit


LEARNING FROM THE GROUND UP: Riding clinics are just one option for GMO-offered education via the new USDF National Education Initiative

New Program, New Focus All about the new USDF National Education Initiative

hen dressage was in its infancy in the US, there were only small pockets of civilian enthusiasts. In 1952, after women were permitted for the first time to compete in dressage at the Olympic Games, the sport began to grow in popularity. Dressage supporters across the country founded clubs to help build the sport on a more local level. Then, in 1973, the USDF was founded and the scope of dressage was elevated to a national scale. The number of education programs within USDF and its affiliated clubs, called group-member organizations (GMOs), continues to grow every year. Technology makes information instantly accessible that once could be gleaned only through printed materials or hands-on learning, although online learning can’t substitute entirely for handson education.

48 March 2017 • USDF CONNECTION

Far from the days when only “pockets” of dressage activity existed in the US, the sport has grown tremendously across all 50 states—a positive development, for sure, but one that makes it difficult for some riders to stay connected to quality, accessible hands-on educational resources. To meet the hands-on educational needs of this more economically and geographically diverse membership, the USDF was faced with the question: What program could we create to reach more members that would be convenient and adaptable as well as cost-effective? The answer is that no single program we can implement can fulfill all of those criteria for every member; that process is going to take time and possibly multiple programs. But as an important first step, the recently announced USDF National Education Initiative and accompanying USDF National Education Initiative Grant have been designed to help meet the needs of the 21st-century dressage rider.




The Program Explained The USDF National Education Initiative is designed to support GMOs and their chapters in creating and maintaining affordable riding and educational opportunities for adults. The program is flexible, giving each GMO the ability to tailor an educational event to meet its members’ needs. GMOs and GMO chapters can apply to host an event under one of four initial categories: • Riding clinics/symposiums • Ride-a-tests • Camps • Unmounted events. If your GMO has never hosted an event, the USDF will help guide your leadership through the process: developing sample budgets, establishing possible schedules, and connecting your organization with instructors. All programs will be promoted via USDF’s eNews, through social media, and in USDF Connection.

New Funding GMOs and GMO chapters hosting approved events will be eligible to apply for USDF National Education Initiative Grants. This new grant program will offer funding opportunities—27 in the first fiscal year—to help GMOs and GMO chapters get their new education programs off the ground. An event for which financial need is demonstrated may be eligible for a grant of up to $1,000. Half of the monies will be made available prior to the event, helping to cover startup costs, if requested. Available grants will be split among multiple application deadlines each year, with regional and geographical representation considered. The initial application deadline is May 1, 2017, for programs to be held after September 1.

New Focus USDF National Education Initiative Grants will be awarded based not only on demonstrated need, but also on events’

alignment with the focus of the USDF National Education Initiative. As its name reflects, this new program reflects USDF’s commitment to fostering improved communication with GMOs and GMO chapters, and in turn expecting those entities to create more opportunities for their members. The core goal of the initiative is to encourage GMOs and GMO chapters to create new educational opportunities, focusing first on involving those who have had less access to opportunities in their area. The types of programs offered might be quite different depending on the size of the GMO and its locale, but all programs should focus on affordability and accessibility. Put another way, the National Education Initiative is an attempt at building a ground-up approach rather than a trickle-down effect. Some USDF regions already enjoy many opportunities for dressage education; but on account of time and resource constraints, some USDF members even in opportunity-rich areas feel as though the same few people tend to reap the most benefit. It is the USDF’s hope that new events will focus on those who are always waiting in the wings and put their education center stage. Whether the event is big or small, a focus on community and inclusion should be the top priority.

Take Part We encourage you, as a USDF member, to contact your local GMO or GMO chapter to help to develop an event for this fall and beyond. Perhaps you know a facility that would be willing to donate the use of its arena for a day. Maybe you are a USDF-certified instructor who wants to reach out to new riders in the area. You might be that member who has never gotten a chance to participate in your GMO’s activities. We hope that this initiative will bring together the dressage community on a local level to help build a solid foundation whereby more members feel valued and included. s

Victoria Trout is a USDF senior education coordinator.

Got GMO? Podcast Alert



nvolvement with your local dressage community can be a fun and rewarding experience. If you don’t already belong to a USDF group-member organization (GMO), consider joining today. Find the list of GMOs in your area on the USDF website (usdf. org) under Membership / Group Member.

For more on the USDF Education Initiative, listen to episode 148 at


March 2017


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The 2017 USDF Online Stallion Guide is now LIVE! This annual online stallion guide is released by the United States Dressage Federation for the dressage community. The guide is available both through the USDF website and the USDF app. Featured article this year is, “The Hottest Bloodlines in Rio” which looks at what sport-horse pedigrees were represented in the 2016 Olympics.

2017 USDF Online Stallion Guide

We continue our look at breeding statistics from USDF’s major championships, adding Great American/USDF Regional Championshps. Once again we have the “Index of Progeny for Advertised Stallions,” which includes progeny that have ranked 1-100 in Adequan®/USDF Year-End Awards. It also includes horses that have placed in US Dressage Finals, Great American/USDF Regional Championships, and Great American/USDF Breeders Championships from 2009-2016. This guide contains interactive links to give you all the information you need to make a favorable breeding decision. Whether interested in breeding, or looking for a breeder with offspring already on the ground, this is a great way to learn more about dressage breeders throughout North America.

The Hottest Bloodlines in Rio

Trending Stallions in the Sport Horse Arena: USDFBC Statistics

Pursit of Excellence: Regional Championship Statistics

Finals by the Numbers: US Dressage Finals Statistics




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USDF CALENDAR To make sure we provide our members with the most up-todate deadlines and events, the USDF Calendar has moved online.

Visit for • • • • • •

USEF licensed/USDF recognized competitions Breeders’ Championships Regional Championships USDF sponsored events USDF University accredited programs All the important deadlines and dates you might need

54 March 2017 • USDF CONNECTION


MARCH 2010

Official Publication of the United States Dressage Federation


NEW TRAINING SERIES: What Other Disciplines Can Teach Dressage Riders Basics of Freestyle Creation


For specific staff contacts visit the USDF Web site.

Make the connection


Phone: (859) 971-2277, Fax: (859) 971-7722, E-mail: Accounting......................................................................(859) 271-7891....................................... Address and E-mail Updates............................................(859) Adult Clinics....................................................................(859) 271-7882....................................... Adult Education Programs ..............................................(859) 271-7882......................................... Adult Team Competitions.................................................(859) 271-7876...................... All-Breeds Awards ...........................................................(859) Applications Submitted at Competitions...........................(859) Demographics and Statistics............................................(859) 271-7083................................................. Donations........................................................................(859) Dover Medal Program......................................................(859) 971-7361...................................... eTRAK..............................................................................(859) Group Membership..........................................................(859) 971-7048................................................. Hall of Fame and Lifetime Achievement Awards...............(859) 271-7882........................................ Horse Performance Certificates.........................................(859) Horse Registration............................................................(859) Horse/Rider Score Reports. .............................................(859) Human Resources/Career Opportunities............................(859) 271-7885..................................................... Instructor Certification.....................................................(859) Insurance Certificates for Competitions............................(859) 271-7886........................................... Junior/Young Rider Clinics................................................(859) L Education and Continuing Education.............................(859) 971-7039.......................................... Mailing Lists.....................................................................(859) NAJYRC Criteria and Procedures.......................................(859) 971-7360............................................... Nominations – Delegates, Regional Directors....................(859) 271-7897..................................... Participating and Business Memberships...........................(859) 271-7871..................................... Podcasts..........................................................................(859) 971-7039............................................ Prize List Questions..........................................................(859) Regional Championships Program....................................(859) Rider Awards...................................................................(859) 971-7361...................................... Score Corrections.............................................................(859) Secretary/Manager Services .............................................(859) Show Results...................................................................(859) Sponsorship Opportunities...............................................(859) 271-7887...................................... Sport Horse Information..................................................(859) 271-7877........................................ Store Merchandise...........................................................(859) 971-7828..................................... University Accreditation and Credit Check.........................(859) 271-7876.......................................... Year-end Awards..............................................................(859) 971-7361............................................. Young Rider Graduate Program........................................(859) Youth Programs...............................................................(859) Youth Team Competitions................................................(859)

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Connection wants YOU to be a contributor. Here’s how.

air Your Views USDF Connection welcomes letters to the editor. Please send your digital submission by e-mail to jbryant@usdf. org. Please include your hometown, state, and daytime telephone number. We’ll publish letters as space allows; all submissions are subject to editing. Unsigned letters will not be considered, although writers may request that their names be withheld. All letters become the property of USDF.

ask a Question Do you have a dressage- or USDFrelated question? Send it to “FAQ” and you may get an expert response in a future issue of USDF Connection. Send your question, along with your full name, hometown, state, and daytime telephone number to Include “FAQ” in the subject line of your message.

Share Your Story... …or your views on a topic pertaining to dressage or USDF in “The Tail End,” USDF Connection’s member-written “back page.” Share your dressage discoveries, “aha” moments, challenges, and oberservations. Short “guest editorial” essays are also considered. All “Tail End” columns are the opinions of the writers and not necessarily those of the editors or USDF. Submissions accepted by e-mail only. Send submissions, along with your full name, hometown, state and daytime telephone number to, subject line should read “The Tail End.” Please be prepared to supply a clear color digital photograph of yourself if your piece is accepted. Simultaneous submissions will not be accepted.

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Advice, Guidance, & Insight




March 2017


the tail end

Charlotte and Me A tale of two British dressage journeys By Diane K. Skvarla


harlotte Dujardin and I have something in common. No, not gold medals or world records. But when Charlotte was 16 years old, she became a working student for the British FEI-level rider and judge Judy Harvey. Charlotte wanted to learn dressage, and she trained with Judy for three years before going to Carl Hester’s yard and eventually making history with Valegro.

There was another, deeper reason for me to make the trip: I wanted to find out how good a rider I could be. As a young teenager, I had a serious illness and was unable to ride. My parents sold my pony, and I did not ride for many years. Now, I was healthy and fit and excited to return for a new adventure. I moved into a large red-brick house on the farm where Judy was based, in the idyllic rural countryside of Buckinghamshire. After sitting in an office for years, I was ill-prepared for the physical labor of an equestrian career. Three of us cared for the horses, and we typically worked 10-hour days, five and a half days a week. The days were long and hard, but I loved every minute of it. Judy gave her working students lessons as well as opportunities to ride, show, and learn. She gave me lunge lessons LONG TIME COMING: Unable to ride as a child, the writer finally for weeks until earned her USDF silver medal aboard her horse, Prism I developed an independent seat. Long before that, when Charlotte It was with Judy that I finally underwas just a little girl, I too went stood the concept of the horse working to Judy’s barn to learn dressage. over his back into a soft connection, Although I am American, I grew up in learned how to develop a young dresEngland. At the age of 32, I decided to sage horse, and was taught how to ride leave my career in the museum field correct half-passes and flying changes. in Washington, DC, and return to Judy insisted that horses be England to work with horses. allowed to be horses. We hacked them

56 March 2017 • USDF CONNECTION

once a week. At first, riding Judy’s Grand Prix horse in the wide-open fields was intimidating, but it was lovely to be out in the countryside. We rode for hours and mostly saw cows, sheep, and little else. Along with hacking, we also jumped. Initially, there was no indoor arena, and we rode in all weather. At one point, I counted 30 consecutive days of rain. Judy’s working students got to watch her lessons with top European trainers. She invited us to her famous dinners where Stephen Clarke, a young Carl Hester, Richard Davison, and other British dressage VIPs would eat, drink, and discuss the sport. Those evenings inspired me and complemented hours of book learning and lessons. For a year, I was immersed in the dressage world, conquered my childhood demons, and achieved my goal. I passed my British Horse Society examinations and returned to America to begin a new career with horses—which I soon discovered was not for me after all. To my surprise, I found that I missed the academic challenges of my previous career. In the end, I returned to museum work, but I continued riding dressage as an amateur. I bought a three-yearold horse, Prism, and we worked up the levels together. I had him for more than 20 years—I lost him to complications from colic just before Christmas of last year—and he was my partner when I earned my USDF silver medal. Charlotte and I both started our dressage journey at the same place— but I would never be Charlotte. I did not have the talent, temperament, fortitude, or whatever combination of qualities makes a champion. Still, I wouldn’t trade the experiences, learning, or friends from my time in England for anything. s Diane Skvarla is curator emeritus of the United States Senate, having directed the museum and preservation programs at the US Capitol for 20 years. She is a lifelong dressage enthusiast.

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Congratulations to the 2016 Two-Tempi Challenge Winners! National Champion: Heather Salden Kurtz and Wranger, owned by Erin Boltik 80 Two-Tempis National Reserve Champion: Kelly Pullen Cronin and Ronaldo, owned by Barbara Freeman 71 Two-Tempis

USDF Region 1 Leaders Stacy Pattison: 51 Two-Tempis Ellie Rawle: 16 Two-Tempis USDF Region 2 Leader Jim Koford: 39 Two-Tempis USDF Region 3 Leaders Kaitlyn Blythe: 43 Two-Tempis Shannon Dueck: 39 Two-Tempis

USDF Region 4 Leaders Heather Salden Kurtz: 80 Two-Tempis Leah Nelson: 24 Two-Tempis

USDF Region 8 Leaders Kelly Pullen Cronin: 71 Two-Tempis Allison Kavey: 45 Two-Tempis

USDF Region 6 Leaders Leslie Chapman: 63 Two-Tempis Vanessa Becker: 25 Two-Tempis

USDF Region 9 Leaders Jenna Stern Arnold: 47 Two-Tempis Jenna Stern Arnold: 29 Two-Tempis

Thank you to all donors who made pledges for the riders. A total of $18,153 was raised to support TDF’s grants and programs! Top Donor Groups Heather Salden Kurtz: $6,690 Todd and Allyson Aldrich (Highest Overall Donor), Jennifer Andis, Kristi Bloom, Erin Boltik, Deborah Davenport, Deb DeFore, Caroline Gautier, July Hugen, Anne Johnson, Alice Leighton, Ann McMillan, Sarah Nelson, Amy, John, and Lisa Peichel, Yvonne Ross, Holly Savage, Danielle Schenk, Katie Scott, Kathryn Sutton James Koford: $5,457 Debbie Banas, Jennifer Baumert, Linda Deyo, Ellin Dixon Miller, Maryanna Haymon, Betsy Juliano, Reese Koffler Stanfield, Adrienne Lyle, Lilla Mason, Caroline McConnell, Mary McConnell, Debbie McDonald, Anne Migliozzi, David and Diane Octaviano, Bob and Diane Perry, Robin Simpson, Elizabeth Smith, Emily Smith, Zacharie and Louis Vinios (Highest Donor in Group)

TDF’s Two-Tempi Challenge is sponsored by The Horse of Course, Inc. Who will win the 2017 Two-Tempi Challenge? To participate or organize a Challenge, visit us online at for more information. 1314 ‘O’ Street Suite 305 Lincoln, NE 68508 402-434-8585


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