November/December 2019 USDF Connection

Page 1

Renew Your USDF Membership (p. 25)

November/December 2019

Official Publication of the United States Dressage Federation

Saddle Shoppers’ Resource Guide Master Intro Level with Beth Baumert (p. 26) Holiday Gift Picks (p. 56)

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The Official Publication of the United States Dressage Federation EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR Stephan Hienzsch (859) 271-7887 • EDITOR Jennifer O. Bryant (610) 344-0116 •

An official property of the United States Dressage Federation

CONTRIBUTING EDITOR Hilary M. Clayton, BVMS, PhD, MRCVS EDITORIAL ADVISORS Melissa Creswick (CA), Margaret Freeman (NC), Anne Gribbons (FL), Roberta Williams (FL), Terry Wilson (CA) TECHNICAL ADVISORS Janine Malone, Lisa Gorretta, Elisabeth Williams

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

SENIOR PUBLICATIONS COORDINATOR Emily Koenig (859) 271-7883 • GRAPHIC & MULTIMEDIA COORDINATOR Katie Lewis (859) 271-7881 • ADVERTISING SALES REPRESENTATIVE Danielle Titland (720) 300-2266 •

USDF OFFICERS AND EXECUTIVE BOARD PRESIDENT LISA GORRETTA 19 Daisy Lane, Chagrin Falls, OH 44022 (216) 406-5475 • VICE PRESIDENT TERRY WILSON 2535 Fordyce Road, Ojai, CA 93023 (805) 890-7399 • SECRETARY MARGARET FREEMAN 200 Aurora Lane, Tryon, NC 28782 (828) 859-6723 • TREASURER LORRAINE MUSSELMAN 7538 NC 39 Hwy, Zebulon, NC 27497 (919) 218-6802 •

Education “The Scoop on Supplements” SmartPak delves inside the pellets & powders to explain the ingredients that support your horse’s health and performance.

REGIONAL DIRECTORS REGION 1 DC, DE, MD, NC, NJ, PA, VA BETTINA G. LONGAKER 8246 Open Gate Road, Gordonsville, VA 22942 (540) 832-7611 • REGION 2 IL, IN, KY, MI, OH, WV, WI DEBBY SAVAGE 7011 cobblestone Lane, Mentor, OH 44060 (908) 892-5335 • REGION 3 AL, FL, GA, SC, TN SUSAN BENDER 1024 Grand Prix Drive, Beech Island, SC 29842 (803) 295-2525 •


REGION 4 IA, KS, MN, MO, NE, ND, SD ANNE SUSHKO 1942 Clifford Street, Dubuque, IA 52002 (563) 580-0510 •

“Why I Love the US Dressage Finals - Ashley Miller & Hickeys Creek – Region 3”

REGION 5 AZ, CO, E. MT, NM, UT, W. TX, WY HEATHER PETERSEN 22750 County Road 37, Elbert, CO 80106 (303) 648-3164 •

Ashley Miller describes why she loves competing with her off-the-trackThoroughbred, and what’s unique about this breed.

achiEvEmEnt “Ageless Pursuit”

Veterinarian Dawn Metzger of Region 9 earned her USDF Gold Medal at age 67, and shares what she has learned along the way.

community “A Day In the Life of a Dressage Photographer”

Horse show photographer John Borys gives us a peek behind the lens in this fun article that chronicles his typical day.

It’s YourDressage, be a part of it! Visit for all these stories & much more!

REGION 6 AK, ID, W. MT, OR, WA PETER ROTHSCHILD 1120 Arcadia Street NW, Olympia, WA 98502 (206) 200-3522 • REGION 7 CA, HI, NV CAROL TICE 31895 Nicolas Road, Temecula, CA 92591 (714) 514-5606 • REGION 8 CT, MA, ME, NH, NY, RI, VT DEBRA REINHARDT 160 Woods Way Drive, Southbury, CT 06488 (203) 264-2148 • REGION 9 AR, LA, MS, OK, TX SHERRY GUESS 18216 S. 397th East Avenue, Porter, OK 74454(918) 640-1204 •

AT-LARGE DIRECTORS ACTIVITIES COUNCIL SUE MANDAS 9508 Bridlewood Trail, Dayton, OH 45458 (937) 272-9068 • ADMINISTRATIVE COUNCIL KEVIN BRADBURY PO Box 248, Dexter, MI 48130 (734) 426-2111 • TECHNICAL COUNCIL SUE MCKEOWN 6 Whitehaven Lane, Worcester, MA 01609 (508) 459-9209 • USDF Connection is published bimonthly by the United States Dressage Federation, 4051 Iron Works Parkway, Lexington, KY 40511. Phone: 859/971-2277. Fax: 859/971-7722. E-mail:, Web site: USDF members receive USDF Connection as a membership benefit, paid by membership dues. Copyright © 2019 USDF. All rights reserved. USDF reserves the right to refuse any advertising or copy that is deemed unsuitable for USDF and its policies. Excluding advertisements, all photos with mounted riders must have safety head gear or USEF-approved competition hat. USDF assumes no responsibility for the claims made in advertisements. Statements of fact and opinion are those of the experts consulted and authors, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editors or the policy of USDF. The publishers reserve the right to reject any advertising deemed unsuitable for USDF, as well as the right to reject or edit any manuscripts received for publication. USDF assumes no responsibility for unsolicited material. All materials must be accompanied by a self-addressed, stamped envelope. Questions about your subscription or change in address? Contact USDF Membership Department, 859/971-2277, or POSTMASTER: SEND ADDRESS CHANGES TO: USDF, 4051 IRON WORKS PARKWAY, LEXINGTON, KY 40511. Canadian Agreement No. 1741527. Canada return address: Station A, P.O. Box 54, Windsor, Ontario N9A 6J5.

2 November/December 2019 | USDF CONNECTION

USDF Connection

NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2019 Volume 21, Number 4



4 Inside USDF

The View From the West Coast

By Terry Wilson

6 Ringside

Unicorns and Saddles

By Jennifer O. Bryant

Departments 18 GMO

Keeping a Lid on Competition Costs

By Penny Hawes

24 Free Rein


Overcoming Obstacles

By Tillie Jones

26 Clinic


The Saddle Shopper’s Resource Guide

Finding a saddle that works for both you and your horse can be crazy-making. Help ease the process with fitting tips from experts.

By Kim F. Miller


Nailing It! Riding with Success Through the Levels Part 1: Introductory Level

By Beth Baumert

34 Salute

World Class

By Natalie DeFee Mendik

64 My Dressage

Juniors Go 4 Gold in Historic NAYC Win

First-ever dressage team medal for Region 4; Region 1 claims YR gold; Jones, Klepper win double individual YR and Junior medals

Rookie team—with the added pressure of no drop score—pulls out career-best performances for team silver and individual gold and bronze medals at the 2019 Pan American Games

By Kim MacMillan

Those Were the Days

By Alyssa Pilkington


“New Kids” Make Their Mark in Lima


Special Selections

Basics 8 Sponsor Spotlight

Our annual hoiday-gift picks for the dressage enthusiast on your list

9 Collection 60 Rider’s Market 62 USDF Connection Submission Guidelines

On Our Cover

Photo by

62 USDF Office Contact Directory 63 Advertising Index USDF CONNECTION | November/December 2019


Inside USDF The View From the West Coast California living has its challenges, but the perks are many By Terry Wilson, Vice President

Californians face pertains to geography. Many high-profile dressage competitions and other events are held in Illinois, Kentucky, and the East Coast. California participants and their mounts must travel long distances, which is a financial burden and a competitive disadvantage. In striving to support these riders, CDS asks members to donate to its travel-grant fund. The sheer size of our state brings its own advantages and challenges. With a north-south coastline extending about 1,000 miles, CDS has needed to organize activities for smaller groups. Last summer alone, CDS chapters held 137 local clinics and 60 local triple-rated shows. California’s desirable climate— featuring mild winters without lots of snow, and no tornadoes, hurricanes, or huge floods—is a huge plus for residents, who can enjoy riding year-round. But, as in the other Western states, we do suffer from wildfires. And California is an expensive place to live and keep horses, especially the metropolitan areas. This expense can become a major

4 November/December 2019 | USDF CONNECTION

issue for riders who must retire or rehabilitate their mounts. Since its inception, one of the items on the CDS agenda has been affiliation with national organizations, including the USDF. Some CDS members have questioned the advisability of continuing this affiliation due to the expenses involved. As many CDS-inspired activities have been taken over by national organizations, a debate has ensued as to whether CDS should become a political force, fighting to preserve our programs. (Our chapter system is often discussed at USDF conventions, as most chapters are bigger than many GMOs. If each of these chapters was a separate GMO, the West Coast would have a lot of national power.) Instead, CDS has developed new initiatives, such as amateur-rider clinics, junior championships, the Regional Adult Amateur Competition, and the Gem Rider Awards system. Although CDS has always been independent, its leaders have realized that our problems are not unique and that shared experiences and ideas can be helpful. We are open to learning from others as well as to offering opinions that can influence the sport. Noting the number of Californians who serve on various USDF councils and committees, we are proud that many of our leaders are willing to volunteer and share their expertise. Editor’s note: Terry Wilson is a longtime CDS member and a past CDS president.



or dressage enthusiasts, living in the Golden State offers both advantages and disadvantages. In my view, Californians’ greatest dressage asset is the California Dressage Society (CDS). A USDF charter group-member organization (GMO) and the largest of the GMOs, CDS provides tremendous depth of resources to the members of its 31 chapters. Over its 53-year history, CDS has been fortunate to attract creative, innovative members to lead its many programs as well as outstanding trainers and judges. From its founding, education has been the organization’s hallmark: The first CDS-sponsored events were instructors’ symposiums, judges’ forums, and clinics. An Apprentice Judges Program, a Dressage Futurity, and a scholarship program were developed, as well. CDS became a tax-exempt corporation in 1970 and opened its Central Office in 1976. That office, under the direction of manager Paula Langan, produces the monthly Dressage Letters newsletter and a membership roster. Paula also manages the CDS website (, keeps records of the more than 3,000 member competitors, and is always available to answer questions. CDS is one of only a few dressage organizations in this country with its own scholarship fund. The purpose is to provide financial support to individuals or chapters in order to promote education. Through estate bequests and fund-raising activities, the fund now sponsors six educational grants. Arguably the greatest challenge


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Ringside Unicorns and Saddles Of needles in haystacks and finding the right saddle

delve headlong into this vast topic. No, you can’t choose a saddle based on an article, but Kim’s sources— mostly expert saddle fitters—offer advice you can use in winnowing the field and making more informed buying decisions. We in the US are fortunate to have many reputable fitters and many high-quality brands of dressage saddles. If ever you have the opportunity to work with a good fitter—many do travel quite long distances, and several set up shop at dressage competitions, where they can assess and “reflock” your current saddle or help you try new ones—I urge you to take advantage of it. Don’t do what I did years ago, which was to ignore the way my saddle fitted until my horse began objecting. And keep an open mind: Saddles don’t necessarily ride the way they look. When you find the right one, you’ll know. Your horse will seem comfortable and will go freely forward, and you’ll feel

6 November/December 2019 | USDF CONNECTION

unencumbered and able to focus on your riding without fighting the saddle. I liken it to buying a pair of shoes: In good shoes, you should be able to just walk or run without noticing the shoes. If you keep thinking about the shoes, or wonder whether they will feel better when they “break in,” then they’re probably the wrong shoes. Yes, the right saddle is the Holy Grail, but it’s worth the quest, for both you and your horse.

Jennifer O. Bryant, Editor @JenniferOBryant



addle-shopping, in my experience, ranks behind only horseshopping as the most difficult endeavor dressage enthusiasts face (aside from the actual riding, that is). If you’re unlucky enough to live nowhere near a well-stocked tack shop or the service territory of a knowledgeable fitter, you may be forced to strengthen the coffers of UPS and other delivery services as you order, try, and return. Despite having read and studied books, articles, and videos on saddle fitting, I have never mastered the ability to assess fit, meaning that I’ve made several expensive mistakes. With every model promising to be the Holy Grail of comfort, balance, and close contact, it’s nearly impossible to select a saddle based on a photo and a description. Compounding the difficulty in choosing is the fact that innovations in saddle design have led to ever-increasing options. If I were starting from scratch today, frankly I wouldn’t know where to begin. Because I’m pretty sure you’ve felt my pain (need proof? Go to any dressage discussion board and you’ll find more threads on saddle fitting than any other topic), I thought it was time to revisit that evergreen subject. For this issue’s cover story, “The Saddle Shopper’s Resource Guide” (p. 38), I asked freelance writer Kim F. Miller to

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USDF Breeders Championship Series


Collection Bits and Pieces from USDF and the World of Dressage


USEF National Dressage Championships ★ World Young Horse Championships ★ First George Williams Grant Awarded

IN THE FRAME The well-known equine photographer and artist Terri Miller, of San Marcos, California, won the prestigious 2019 Silver Camera Award at the CHIO Aachen, Germany for this photo, “Finding the Light,” which depicts US competitors Anna Buffini and Wilton II at the Adequan® West Coast Dressage Festival.

USDF CONNECTION | November/December 2019


Collection CHAMPIONSHIPS The midsummer US Dressage Festival of Champions has become the US Equestrian Federation’s one-stop shop for national-championship titles. At the 2019 event, held August 20-25, competitors in 14 divisions vied for honors at Lamplight Equestrian Center, Wayne, Illinois.

Waterman’s Hanoverian stallion, Sole Mio (by Stanford), on an overall score of 9.05. Ad Astra Collective’s KWPN gelding, Jagger (by Apache), ridden by Rebecca Rigdon, Cardiffby-the-Sea, California, was the reserve champion on 8.35. Markel/USEF Six-Year-Old: Last

YOUNG HORSE CHAMPION: SenSation HW, ridden by Michael Bragdell, won the Markel/USEF Six-Year-Old championship at the 2019 US Dressage Festival of Champions

Markel/USEF Four-Year-Old: Sonnenberg Farm LLC’s KWPN gelding Sonnenberg’s Kain (by El Capone) earned an overall score of 8.38 to win the title with rider Michele Bondy, Wilsonville, Oregon. The reserve champion was Summersby II, an Oldenburg mare by Sezuan, owned and ridden by Alice Tarjan, Oldwick, New Jersey (8.18). Markel/USEF Five-Year-Old: Just back from the Longines FEI WBFSH Dressage World Breeding Championship for Young Horses in Holland (page 13), Emily Miles, Paola, Kansas, trotted off with the title riding Leslie

year’s Five-Year-Old champion, Carol McPhee’s Westfalen gelding SenSation HW (by Sunday), repeated his winning ways with rider Michael Bragdell, Colora, Maryland (8.69). The reserve champion was Fairouz, an Oldenburg mare by Franziskus, owned and ridden by Alice Tarjan (8.38). Markel/USEF Developing Horse Dressage Prix St. Georges: Kathy Priest, Versailles, Kentucky, rode her Oldenburg mare, Damon’s Fantasy (by Damon Hill), to the Developing PSG title on an overall score of 72.598%. Emily Miles was the reserve champion with Java Dulce,

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an eight-year-old Danish Warmblood gelding (by Jazz) owned by Leslie Waterman (72.020). Markel/USEF Developing Horse Dressage Grand Prix: Nick Wagman, San Diego, California, topped the division with Ferano, a nine-year-old KWPN gelding owned by Elizabeth Keadle (71.833%). In reserve were Alice Tarjan and her 10-year-old Hanoverian mare, Candescent (69.723). Markel/USEF Intermediaire I Dressage: They had to sit out the 2019 Pan American Games because of a minor injury, but Endel Ots and Lucky Strike came roaring back at Lamplight. Ots, of Wellington, Florida, and the nine-year-old Hanoverian gelding (by Lord Laurie) owned by Max Ots took the I-I title on an overall score of 74.255%. La Fariah, a 10-year-old Rhinelander mare co-owned by David Blake and rider Rebecca Rigdon, was the reserve champion on 71.476. USEF Grand Prix Dressage: Nick Wagman led a second victory lap with Don John, an 11-year-old KWPN gelding owned by Beverly Gepfer (73.287%). In reserve were Anna Marek, Williston, Florida, and Dee Clair, an 11-year-old KWPN mare owned by Diane Morrison (69.294). USEF Children Dressage: Lexie Kment, Palmyra, Nebraska, rode Manatee, a 16-year-old Thoroughbred gelding owned by Jami Kment, to the title on an overall score of 69.591%. Carmen Stephens, Saratoga, California, claimed the reserve championship on her 19-year-old KWPN Welsh Pony gelding, Woldhoeve’s Silco (68.524). USEF Pony Rider Dressage: Lucienne Bacon, Atherton, California, on her Weser-Ems pony mare, Bonnaroo, won the championship on an overall score of 68.031%. Reserve champion (67.627) was Miki Yang, Los Altos


Top Horses Vie for National Titles at Lamplight

BEHIND THE SCENES Charles Ancona, Equestrian-Apparel Designer Job title: Owner, Charles Ancona, New York City ( equestrian), Official Tailcoat Supplier of US Equestrian


GRATITUDE: Young Adult “Brentina Cup” reserve champion Anna Buffini thanks Wilton II for a job well done

Hills, California, on Garden’s Sam, a 12-year-old New Forest Pony gelding owned by Four Winds Farm. USEF Junior Dressage: On an overall score of 71.004%, Jori Dupell, Wilsonville, Oregon, won the title riding her 10-year-old Oldenburg gelding, Fiderprinz 2. The reserve championship went to Mackenzie Peer, Overland Park, Kansas, riding Quantum MRF, a 10-year-old Hanoverian gelding owned by Nicole Helland (69.627). USEF Young Rider Dressage: Aboard her 18-year-old Hanoverian gelding, Perfect Step, Kayla Kadlubek, of Fairfax Station, Virginia, won the YR national title with an overall score of 71.422%. The reserve champion was Quinn Iverson, Wellington, Florida, on Billie Davidson’s 13-year-old KWPN gelding, Black Diamond CL (69.314). USEF Young Adult “Brentina Cup” Dressage: Claire Manhard, San Diego, California, rode her 16-year-old KWPN mare, Wilfonia, to claim the “Brentina Cup” on an overall score of 68.236%. Fellow San Diegan Anna Buffini was the reserve champion aboard Wilton II (68.189). USEF Dressage Seat Medal Final 13 and Under: The 2017 and 2018 reserve champion, Kasey Denny,

of Hutto, Texas, won the championship title the third time around. She earned a score of 89.0% aboard Feyock, a 22-year-old Westfalen gelding owned by Amy Denny. The 2019 reserve champion was Abigail Taft, Traverse City, Michigan, on Whisper, a seven-year-old American Warmblood mare owned by Janine Fierberg (87.0). USEF Dressage Seat Medal Final 14-18: This year’s Junior champions, Mackenzie Peer and Quantum MRF, won again in dressage-seat equitation with a score of 90.0%. The reserve champion was Erin Nichols, Yorba Linda, California, on Jagger DG, a five-year-old KWPN gelding owned by DG Bar Ranch (88.0). Lamplight Equestrian Center will host the 2020 and 2021 editions of the US Dressage Festival of Champions, US Equestrian announced in July.

Online Extra Watch on-demand video of 2019 US Dressage Festival of Champions competition on the USEF Network.

EQUESTRIAN STYLIST: Designer Ancona with his US Equestrian team dressage tailcoat

What I do: It’s my company, so I’m the designer; I’m in charge of the manufacturing—kind of in charge of everything, with other people assisting me. I do travel a great deal to be at horse shows, where I can get in front of people and explain the product and then fit them. How I got started: I’ve been doing stretch fabric [designs for fashion and sportswear] for over 30 years. It’s a short season for skiing. So I would go to spring horse shows, taking some of the ski items. I eventually added one show jacket, and that’s when [the equestrian side of the business] blew up. Best thing about my job: I get to travel. I get to be different places. I get to talk to lots of people. Worst thing about my job: Probably the same as the best part: all that travel. My horse: My New York styling is a lot of black and white. So I bought a black-and-white horse specifically to do fashion shows and events. I named him Haute Couture, because he’s used for fashion. Tip: Really look at the way the shoulders fit. It’s hard to build a good look off of a weak shoulder. —Katherine Walcott

USDF CONNECTION | November/December 2019


Collection FINANCIAL AID TDF Awards Grants to Young Dressage Pro, Instructors, Breeders

INAUGURAL RECIPIENT: George Williams Young Professional Grant recipient Heather Salden-Kurtz

The fund, established last year in honor of immediate past USDF

president George Williams, provides financial support to instructors and trainers aged 25-35 who have a strong desire to participate in continuing-education opportunities. Salden-Kurtz is a USDF-certified instructor through First Level and a USDF bronze, silver, and gold medalist. She will use the $4,000 grant to participate in Part 2 of the USDF L Education Program and to train for a week with Emily Miles in Kansas. Kelsey Dunlap of North Carolina and Erin Miles of Michigan each have been awarded a $1,500 grant from TDF’s Maryal and Charlie Barnett Continuing Education for Dressage Instructors Fund to attend the USDF’s Instructor/Trainer Program. Dunlap plans to use the grant to attend a testing session in Omaha, Nebraska, in October. Miles will attend instructor workshops hosted by the Midwest Dressage Association in early 2020. TDF’s US Breeder Excellence Fund assists sport-horse breeders in pursuing educational opportunities that will advance their


careers, promote sound breeding practices, and further enhance the quality of US-bred dressage horses. The 2019 grant recipient is Kendra Hansis of Runningwater Warmbloods, Frenchtown, New Jersey. Hansis was awarded $2,400 to attend the Oldenburg Winter Meeting Breeder’s Course in Vechta, Germany, December 4-7. To learn more about these and other TDF funds, or to make a donation, visit dressagefoundation. org or call (402) 434-8585.

SPORT PONIES Pony Cup: Not Just for Ponies Any More Judging by the continued growth of the National Dressage Pony Cup and Small Horse Championship Show, interest in small and smallish mounts for dressage is flourishing. A record 250 entries representing 35 breeds of ponies and small horses converged on Lamplight Equestrian Center, Wayne, Illinois, to contest 51 championship divisions in the twelfth edition of the event, held July 19-21. According to organizers, the championships drew competitors from as far away as Texas and Canada.

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The National Dressage Pony Cup and Small Horse Championship Show offers competition for open, adultamateur, juniors, and young riders at levels from Introductory to Grand Prix, plus freestyle and FEI Pony. View complete results and learn more at DressagePonyCup. com.

SMALL IS BEAUTIFUL: Small Horse Second Level Open champion Icon and Wren Burnley


Heather Salden-Kurtz, of Chanhassen, Minnesota, will receive the inaugural George Williams Young Professional Grant from The Dressage Foundation (TDF), Lincoln, Nebraska, TDF announced in July.

YOUNG HORSES Double Shot for Miles at World Young Horse Championships The world’s premier equine dressage prodigies vie for prestigious titles at the annual Longines FEI World Breeding Federation for Sport Horses (WBFSH) Dressage World Breeding Championship for Young Horses. Top five-, six-, and seven-year-old horses contested the FEI Young Horse tests, with some of tomorrow’s Grand Prix stars likely among their ranks.

SHOW OF TALENT: Miles and the five-year-old Hanoverian stallion Daily Show


TOP US FINISHER: Sole Mio, ridden by Emily Miles

The USA sent two horses to compete at the 2019 event, held August 1-4 in Ermelo, Netherlands. Both were five-year-olds, and both are owned by Leslie Waterman and ridden by Emily Miles, of Paola, Kansas: the Rheinlander stallion Sole Mio (Stanford 9 x Hardenberg Donnerschwee) and the Hanoverian stallion Daily Show (Danciano x Stockholm). Neither horse qualified for the Five-Year-Old Final, but in the Small Final Sole Mio placed eleventh on an overall score of 8.00, while Daily Show finished 24th (7.62) out of a field of 30. “The day before competition starts, there is a one-hour ring-familiarization session for the 45 participating five-year-olds,” Miles told USDF Connection. “Riding my two boys in this chaotic mix of absolutely brilliant horses and riders was the most awe-inspiring moment that still gives me goosebumps just thinking about it. A huge thank you to everyone that made this possible, especially the owner, Leslie Waterman.” The top Five-Year-Old was the KWPN stallion Jovian (Apache x Tango), ridden by Andreas Helgstrand of Denmark to an overall score of 9.66. The Six-Year-Old champion was the Oldenburg stallion Zucchero OLD

(Zonik N.O.P. x Prince Thatch XX), ridden by Frederic Wandres of Germany (9.66). Helgstrand Dressage’s Hanoverian stallion d’Avie (Don Juan de Hus x Londonderry), ridden by Severo Jurado Lopez of Spain, won the Seven-Year-Old championship on an overall score of 85.107%.

SIX-YEAR-OLD CHAMPION: The Oldenburg stallion Zucchero OLD, ridden by Frederic Wandres of Germany

USDF CONNECTION | November/December 2019


Collection USDF BULLETINS 2020 Membership Renewal It’s time to renew for 2020! Renew your USDF participating or business membership by December 31 to receive the 2019 yearbook issue of USDF Connection.

Note to 2019 Awards Recipients Awards not picked up at the 2019 Salute Gala & Annual Awards Banquet will be mailed to recipients at the end of December. Please contact USDF if you have not received your award by January 30, 2020.

MEET THE INSTRUCTOR Jean Thornton, DeLeon Springs, Florida Jean Thornton is a USDF bronze, silver, and gold medalist; a USEF-licensed ‘r’ dressage judge; and an avid competitor and trainer in dressage, eventing, and combined driving. She has operated her 30-acre facility in DeLeon Springs, Florida, for over 20 years. She is a USDF-certified instructor through Second Level.

US Dressage Finals Competitors, We Want to Hear from You! Immediately following the US Dressage Finals competition, you will be e-mailed an electronic evaluation form. We ask that you complete this survey to provide feedback. Help us continue to make the US Dressage Finals great. We look forward to hearing from you. Best of luck!

I wanted to become certified because: I have a passion for developing the body, mind, and spirit of the horses I am privileged to work with through the methodical practice of arena gymnastics to the highest possible standards and level. My horses: For three decades I have been a warmblood sport-horse breeder. I am currently focused on developing my four-in-hand team of palomino warmbloods. Training tip: Be a confident leader. If you’re going to work hard at something, work hard to develop your horse correctly. Contact me: or (386) 985-2103. —Alexandria Belton

14 November/December 2019 | USDF CONNECTION



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WARNINGS: Do not use in horses intended for human consumption. HUMAN WARNINGS: Not for human use. Keep this and all drugs out of the reach of children. Consult a physician in case of accidental human exposure. PRECAUTIONS: As a class, bisphosphonates may be associated with gastrointestinal and renal toxicity. Sensitivity to drug associated adverse reactions varies with the individual patient. Renal and gastrointestinal adverse reactions may be associated with plasma concentrations of the drug. Bisphosphonates are excreted by the kidney; therefore, conditions causing renal impairment may increase plasma bisphosphonate concentrations resulting in an increased risk for adverse reactions. Concurrent administration of other potentially nephrotoxic drugs should be approached with caution and renal function should be monitored. Use of bisphosphonates in patients with conditions or diseases affecting renal function is not recommended. Administration of bisphosphonates has been associated with abdominal pain (colic), discomfort, and agitation in horses. Clinical signs usually occur shortly after drug administration and may be associated with alterations in intestinal motility. In horses treated with OSPHOS these clinical signs usually began within 2 hours of treatment. Horses should be monitored for at least 2 hours following administration of OSPHOS. Bisphosphonates affect plasma concentrations of some minerals and electrolytes such as calcium, magnesium and potassium, immediately post-treatment, with effects lasting up to several hours. Caution should be used when administering bisphosphonates to horses with conditions affecting mineral or electrolyte homeostasis (e.g. hyperkalemic periodic paralysis, hypocalcemia, etc.). The safe use of OSPHOS has not been evaluated in horses less than 4 years of age. The effect of bisphosphonates on the skeleton of growing horses has not been studied; however, bisphosphonates inhibit osteoclast activity which impacts bone turnover and may affect bone growth. Bisphosphonates should not be used in pregnant or lactating mares, or mares intended for breeding. The safe use of OSPHOS has not been evaluated in breeding horses or pregnant or lactating mares. Bisphosphonates are incorporated into the bone matrix, from where they are gradually released over periods of months to years. The extent of bisphosphonate incorporation into adult bone, and hence, the amount available for release back into the systemic circulation, is directly related to the total dose and duration of bisphosphonate use. Bisphosphonates have been shown to cause fetal developmental abnormalities in laboratory animals. The uptake of bisphosphonates into fetal bone may be greater than into maternal bone creating a possible risk for skeletal or other abnormalities in the fetus. Many drugs, including bisphosphonates, may be excreted in milk and may be absorbed by nursing animals. Increased bone fragility has been observed in animals treated with bisphosphonates at high doses or for long periods of time. Bisphosphonates inhibit bone resorption and decrease bone turnover which may lead to an inability to repair micro damage within the bone. In humans, atypical femur fractures have been reported in patients on long term bisphosphonate therapy; however, a causal relationship has not been established. ADVERSE REACTIONS: The most common adverse reactions reported in the field study were clinical signs of discomfort or nervousness, colic and/or pawing. Other signs reported were lip licking, yawning, head shaking, injection site swelling, and hives/pruritus.

As with all drugs, side effects may occur. In field studies, the most common side effects reported were signs of discomfort or nervousness, colic, and/or pawing. OSPHOS should not be used in pregnant or lactating mares, or mares intended for breeding. Use of OSPHOS in patients with conditions affecting renal function or mineral or electrolyte homeostasis is not recommended. Refer to the prescribing information for complete details or visit or call 866.933.2472.

CAUTION: Federal law restricts this drug to use by or on the order of licensed veterinarian. * Freedom of Information Summary, Original New Animal Drug Application, NADA 141-427, for OSPHOS. April 28, 2014. Dechra Veterinary Products US and the Dechra D logo are registered trademarks of Dechra Pharmaceuticals PLC. © 2016 Dechra Ltd.

Distributed by: Dechra Veterinary Products 7015 College Boulevard, Suite 525 Overland Park, KS 66211 866-933-2472 © 2016 Dechra Ltd. OSPHOS is a registered trademark of Dechra Ltd. All rights reserved. NADA 141-427, Approved by FDA

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GMO Keeping a Lid on Competition Costs Part 2: Volunteers, the role of schooling shows, and the need for sponsorship


n part 1 of this series (September/October), we covered some of the costs that USDF groupmember organizations (GMOs) incur in putting on a USEF-license/ USDF-recognized dressage competition. We discussed facility-rental costs (and how some GMOs have negotiated for a better rate), the budgeting process, and how some clubs have handled situations beyond their control, such as hurricanes and sale of the show grounds. In this second and final installment of our look at GMO show fi-

nized”—will the new USDF Regional Schooling Show Awards Program impact smaller recognized shows? • Using sponsorships to help defray costs. So grab your show committee and a calculator, and let’s get started.

Volunteers: Priceless Assets

(Who Sometimes Come at a Price) One of the keys to hosting a successful dressage competition is amassing the (wo)man power required. Most

LABOR FORCE: Without volunteers like this ring steward, dressage-competition costs would be higher than they are already

nances, we’ll cover a few more areas that GMOs need to budget for: • Volunteer acquisition and retention • Keeping competitors’ costs down • Schooling shows versus “recog-

shows employ some paid staffers— managers, secretaries, chief scorers, and the like—but when you’re trying to keep costs down, you want to fill as many positions as possible with volunteers.

18 November/December 2019 | USDF CONNECTION

Recruiting volunteers, which can be a lengthy and often frustrating process, is a perennial challenge for GMOs. While a one-day show may be able to get by with a handful of volunteers, a multi-day, multi-ring competition adds a whole new layer of personnel required. When not enough people volunteer to cover the necessary positions—a quandary GMOs are facing more frequently today—some clubs are forced to “hire” volunteers by offering stipends, per diem, or a flat rate per day. As any GMO that’s done this can attest, the costs of compensating scribes, stewards, scorers, and others add up quickly. Many GMOs are trying to fight the trend by offering carrots (and, to an extent, sticks) as incentives to volunteer. The primary method is to tie the club’s year-end awards to volunteer hours: In order to be eligible, a member must volunteer a certain number of hours. Simple, right? Not necessarily. Here’s how some GMOs do it. The Ohio Dressage Society offers its volunteers $3 in “ODS bucks” for every hour they volunteer. “ODS bucks can be redeemed to pay for any of our club activities—clinics, shows, and year-end awards,” says GMO board member Kathy Rizzoni. “This is a pretty popular program, although most people only redeem bucks to pay for our awards banquet. A few people who volunteer a lot pay for clinics or shows with their bucks.” If an ODS member has more money than time, there’s an option for them, too. “We require four volunteer hours to participate in year-end awards, but members can buy out of that requirement for $20—and many do,” says Rizzoni.


By Penny Hawes

“We have a pretty high level of volunteerism at shows for jobs like ring steward, scribe, runner, et cetera., but practically nobody outside of the board helps with ring setup and tear-down.” The “buyout” money collected helps to cover the costs of paying workers to do the jobs ODS volunteers don’t want. Some GMOs have found that certain venue locations allow for more traditional volunteer perks, while others require more incentive. “We usually do not have a horrible time finding volunteers in Charleston, but in Aiken it is a huge problem,” says South Carolina Dressage and Combined Training Association (SCDCTA) president Marcy Hippey. Hippey, who is the volunteer coordinator for the GMO’s Charlestonarea recognized shows, says she’s able to attract enough people by offering a free SCDCTA membership in exchange for one day of volunteering. A person who volunteers for the entire weekend—or a total of 16 hours per year—also receives a complimentary SCDCTA horse registration. Those are on top of the typical volunteer perks: “We feed them at the shows, invite them to our competitors’ party, and give them quality SCDCTA swag. We constantly take care of them and check on them during the shows, and offer breaks as needed,” Hippey says. In 2020, SCDCTA will begin requiring members to volunteer for eight hours per year in order to be eligible for year-end awards, Hippey says. The GMO’s junior members already have a similar requirement “because they are eligible for a free clinic each year that is very nice, and I feel that as much support as they have from us, they can give something back as well.” That leaves arena setup and tear-down as the only “dirty jobs” for which SCDCTA pays workers, according to Hippey. “We still have board members volunteer to help with this, but we typically hire one USDF CONNECTION | November/December 2019


GMO to two laborers for $100 per day to help with the dirty work.” Numerous other GMOs have created perks programs to lure volunteers. In addition to volunteer requirements for year-end awards, the Virginia Dressage Association (VADA) created a Volunteer Incentive Program (VIP), a three-tier system of awards for levels from 12 to 50 hours. VADA has an online “VIP Logoshop” set up with MKR Designs, which supplies personalized clothing, bags, grooming aprons, and other items. VADA officials report that volunteers like being able to choose their rewards in what’s proven to be a popular program. In some lucky GMOs, members who generally “lurk” show up when it’s time to volunteer. The Eastern New York Dressage and Combined Training Association has always had great volunteers, ENYDCTA president Krystal Wilt says. “Members take great pride in volunteering and hosting the show. Many members are only seen at the

REWARDS, YOUR WAY: The Virginia Dressage Association’s successful incentive program enables volunteers to earn personalized awards of their choice

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show. There’s a social component, and members enjoy participating.”

Keeping Competitors’ Costs in Check With costs rising and “free” time dwindling, it can be a challenge to keep show costs low enough for competitors to participate, but high enough to keep the show’s financials out of the red. “We price our shows similarly to other shows in Ohio, Kentucky, and Michigan,” says the ODS’s Rizzoni, “and hope for the best. We could not charge competitors what the actual costs are, or no one would come to our shows. There are too many other options within a three-hour drive.” The SCDCTA uses a similar approach. “We charge our competitors fair-market value of what other competitions in South Carolina or the surrounding states charge,” says Hippey. “We offset some costs by bringing in sponsorship monies.”

She adds: “We are discussing a price increase for 2020 because the USDF and USEF fees to us are increasing and becoming a dig into our profits.”

Priced Out? Mention competition to a group of dressage riders and you’re bound to hear complaints that recognized shows are becoming too expensive for the average enthusiast to attend. There’s general agreement that costs are rising, but whether that’s affecting exhibitor turnout appears to vary from area to area. Rizzoni says that “our numbers so far this year are well below last year’s attendance numbers” at ODS shows, with drops of an estimated 15 to 20 percent—but adds that the club experienced similar declines at both a recognized competition and an unrecognized (schooling) show. Puzzled, Rizzoni notes that “our costs to the competitor are the same as last year.”

The squeeze has been on for some time, and it’s getting worse, Hippey believes. Showing “is becoming so expensive, and all of the new rules and requirements and fees are making recognized competition less achievable for your more average competitor,” she says. “It is a shame, and some intervention with USDF and USEF [US Equestrian] is needed.” The SCDCTA has seen its show entries drop over the past two years, Hippey says. “I think some of it has to do with the rise in costs, and some of it has to do with competition from shows in Aiken. We have lost about 20 Aiken entries because there are now so many recognized shows in Aiken. We also have another unique problem here, and that is the growth in Charleston and the rise in tourism. The hotel rates have as much as tripled, and our show is on an island right before the entrance of Kiawah Island. It is very pricey. We have worked out

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discounted rates with the hotel, which helps, and we are also able to offer inexpensive campsites and camper hookups at the show grounds.” To further help competitors, the SCDCTA hopes to negotiate discounted Airbnb rates for its 2020 shows, she adds. Cost increases aren’t deterring everyone, however, and some GMOs have actually seen entry upticks. “I am sure some of the competitors feel that all the added costs that USEF and USDF create are the tipping point to competing,” says California Dressage Society Central Office manager Paula Langan, “though in 2018 and so far for 2019, there seem to be more entries than the previous year.”

The Schooling-Show Effect With the rising costs of producing recognized shows and the advent of the USDF Regional Schooling Show Awards Program (which rolls out December 1), GMOs are waiting and watching to see if the smaller recognized shows will take a big hit. Says Rizzoni: “I think it’s pos-

sible the schooling-show awards will ultimately affect attendance at recognized shows. There will always be a core of competitors trying to qualify for Regionals [Great American/USDF Regional Championships], earn USDF awards, or obtain year-end rankings, and I do think doing well at a recognized show is a big goal for many competitors. Our schooling shows are much less expensive to attend than our recognized shows because of the difference in the cost of the venues as well as all the required memberships, but our schooling-show attendance numbers are down, too.” “We have no idea what this is going to do to us or how it will affect us in the future,” Hippey says of the SCDCTA. “We are going to organize our own schooling-show championship this year and start our own series next year so that we can at least start another source of show revenues.”

Other People’s Money: Finding Sponsorship No article on covering the costs of shows would be complete without

22 November/December 2019 | USDF CONNECTION

Learn, Ask, Share We hope you’ve found this series a good starting place in your mission to help your GMO produce quality shows without breaking the budget. Continue your quest—and share your club’s own tips and success stories—using these resources. • USDF Show Biz. This handbook for competition managers, secretaries, and organizers contains a wealth of valuable information. Available in print or as a Kindle


IT MAKES THE WORLD GO AROUND: Sponsors gain valuable exposure in exchange for aiding a competition’s bottom line

a section on Other People’s Money (OPM). Whether it’s donated product to use as gifts or prizes, or cash raised through program-ad sales and show and class sponsorships, OPM can fill in a lot of holes in a GMO’s competition budget. The ODS, for one, “aggressively pursue[s] sponsors, which allows us to invest in some things like a competitor party and competitor breakfast, many high-point awards, water and Gatorade at the warm-up rings on really hot days, and so on,” Rizzoni says. It’s a strategic move, she says, taken “in the hopes of differentiating ourselves from other shows and attracting more competitors.” Sponsorship money is what keeps the ODS show wheels turning, Rizzoni says. Without it, the club would lose money on its May show and turn only a small profit on its August show—not enough to keep the competitions going, she says. When it comes to sponsorship, dressage may not always be able to land the super-lucrative deals that jumping and some other horse sports attract, but every little bit helps. The GMO representatives we interviewed encourage other clubs to think outside the box when searching for sponsors, noting that exploring outside the equine world can bring surprising results. VADA, for one, added a great breakfast option for volunteers at one of its shows when Chobani yogurt became a sponsor and sent cases of various flavors.

edition ( • USDF GMO Officials Facebook group. Eligible GMO representatives may apply to join this closed Facebook group, which is a great place to post questions, answers, and other forms of much-appreciated moral support to fellow GMO officials. Log in to and search “USDF GMO Officials” to find the group-page link. • Adequan®/USDF Annual Convention. The ability to network in person with GMO representatives, USDF regional directors, and others from around the country is a key reason to attend the convention, as are the always-popular GMO roundtable discussions ( This year’s event will be held December 4-7 in Savannah, Georgia. • Housed on the USDF website are many GMO-focused educational resources as well as GMO lists, key contacts, and much more. • Learn more about the “licensed” aspects of recognized dressage competitions at the US Equestrian website. • Year-round networking. Your USDF regional director stands ready to help your GMO, so feel free to call on this resource. And don’t hesitate to call on other show managers for advice. If your GMO is facing a dilemma, chances are another club has tackled that issue, too. Working together and sharing ideas may be the best way to keep your GMO’s dressage shows in the black (or at least breaking even). If you hit on a formula for success, please share!

Penny Hawes is a freelance writer and longtime GMO member and volunteer from Virginia.

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USDF CONNECTION | November/December 2019


Free Rein Overcoming Obstacles Our new youth columnist has learned a thing or two about dealing with disappointment

“Comfort and prosperity have never enriched the world as much as adversity has.” —Billy Graham


ittle did I know when I began competing in dressage at the age of eight that the most valuable things I’d learn would have far more to do with becoming a stronger and better person than with becoming a better rider. Because equestrian competition, unlike other athletic endeavors, involves another species with its own mind and fragilities, our sport is unique in its capacity to exalt the humble and humble the exalted. And for that, I’m grateful. My name is Tillie Jones. I am 18, have just started college, and have been riding dressage for 11 years. I’ve experienced the highest highs and the lowest lows as a competitive young rider, and I’ve learned along the way that the way we deal with challenges determines our success, not just in the competition ring but outside it. Through the lowest points in my riding career, I’ve learned the value of putting the past behind me, of working hard without any guarantee of immediate results, and of always, always focusing on what I have, not what I don’t. Three and a half years ago, on the eve of a competition season that I expected was going to be a breakout year for me, I suddenly I lost my horse, Mo, to colic. As a 15-year-old girl who had never experienced significant loss, I was devastated. Not only had I lost my dearest companion, but I had worked so hard to get that far. I felt cheated by the reality that my goal of competing and

winning at the FEI North American Youth Championships (NAYC) that year had vanished. Though I was still grieving what I had lost, my parents reminded me of the importance of not quitting. They gave me the opportunity to start over with a new horse, Apachi. The following winter, with no guarantee that I’d ever be able to return to the same level of success, I worked harder than ever. I went to the barn almost every day, many times when it was incredibly cold, while many of my competitors and most of the people at my barn were enjoying Florida. The following year, I won the Junior Freestyle gold medal at NAYC. The lessons I learned from that experience have helped me deal with every setback I’ve experienced since then. Everyone in their competition career has had an important test or ride that went badly, and has had to deal not only with the disappointment of failure but also with the challenge of not allowing that poor performance to affect the next one. Two years ago, at the US Dressage Festival of Champions—a multi-day competition to which an invitation alone requires huge amounts of work, time, and competition success—I was second to last on the first day of competition. I felt humiliated, embarrassed, and defeated. But as I stewed, I was reminded that it was a pretty incredible thing for a girl from Nebraska to be invited to this competition, and that I was still ranked eleventh in the US in my division. I was at a beautiful facility, spending time with some of the best riders and horses in the country, and had a horse I loved

24 November/December 2019 | USDF CONNECTION

and the chance to keep competing. My focus changed from all that was wrong to everything that was right. I had a chance to prove I belonged and I had nothing to lose, so the next day I gave it my all—and placed first in the Junior division. As fate would have it, the exact same thing happened the following year: I finished second to last on the first day of competition. Using the lessons I’d learned the previous year, I refused to allow one bad ride to turn into two and had one of my best tests of the year, finishing near the top of the competition. In 2018, I qualified for NAYC in the Young Rider division. The first day, riding on the Region 4/7 team, we earned the silver medal. That feeling of exhilaration was shortlived: The next day, while I was warming up for the individual competition, Apachi was not himself. The veterinarians confirmed that my horse had contracted cellulitis as a result of the wet conditions at the show. We had to withdraw moments before the announcer was to call us into the ring. Once again, the temptation was to feel sorry for myself and to dwell on not being able to finish the competition. But the experience of losing Mo quickly reminded me to focus on what I still had, and to appreciate that I’d been able to help my team earn a medal. I chose to feel grateful that Apachi would recover quickly and for having a chance to support and encourage my teammates, and to enjoy just being at the event. So I watched every ride, celebrated other competitors’ successes, and vowed to always remember the maxim I adopted after Mo’s death: Every ride


By Tillie Jones

is a good ride—even if it is a bad ride—because it’s still a ride. This year, I had a terrific season in Florida, even though it was the first time Apachi and I had competed in Florida and in CDIs. We excelled in the Young Rider division, qualified for NAYC and the Festival of Champions, and returned home to Nebraska with the goal of finishing the year on top. A month after returning home, Apachi suffered an injury that will require a long and indefinite period of rehabilitation. Having experienced so many heartbreaking setbacks, I allowed myself to grieve for a few days, then began the long and tedious process of rehabilitating my boy. For the

Meet the Columnist

first three weeks I drove 30 minutes one way, twice a day, to hand-walk Apachi and ice his leg. As I write this it has been two months since we started the process, and I still don’t know what the final outcome will be. What I do know is that there is only one way to handle this latest bit of adversity: do everything I can to control what I can control. Get up every day, do the right thing, and work as hard as I can, even though there is no guarantee that things will work out the way I want them to. Be grateful for what I have—I’ve been blessed to be able to do what I love, and to still be able to sit in the saddle on the animal that I love. I’m confident that no matter how this latest setback turns out, I’ll be a stronger and better person for it.


illie Jones, USDF Connection’s new youth columnist, lives in Lincoln, Nebraska, and is an 18-year-old freshman at Nebraska Wesleyan University. She is a USDF silver medalist and a 2017 FEI North American Youth Championships dressage gold medalist. Her goal for 2020 is to apply for US Equestrian’s European Young Rider Tour. Professionally, she aspires to become an equestrian sport psychologist.

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STRONGER TOGETHER: Jones and her horse, Apachi



USDF CONNECTION | November/December 2019










Nailing It! Riding with Success Through the Levels K




Based on USDF’s On the Levels videos, our new training series debuts. Part 1: Introductory Level. By Beth Baumert

Know and Understand the Purpose The purpose of every USDF and US Equestrian level in dressage is printed on the front of the test

ENTER AT A, THE SMART WAY: 2019 Youth Dressage Festival competitor Xavier Cummings on Nachu Peakin sets up a good entry center line by turning in front of (not behind) the “A” letter marker. It doesn’t matter which direction you come from, so go whichever way is easier for your horse.

work for all the training to come. Knowing that the foundation laid at Intro Level will be reflected in the future work, no one takes the lower levels lightly, and judges are impressed by a well-executed Introductory Level test. That said, these tests are inviting and fun to ride. They’re designed to help you develop your horse correctly and as easily as possible. Let’s make your test great! Here’s exactly what to work on.

sheets. Please read and understand the purpose before you show! After all, you would never go into a math test saying, “I need to know math.” Instead, you’d prepare by studying exactly what you need to know— the material in Chapter 12 of your Algebra II book. Be specific about what you want to achieve with your horse, too. Here are the important points taken from the purpose of USDF Introductory Level (see sidebar be-

26 November/December 2019 | USDF CONNECTION

low): a steady tempo, elastic contact, steady hands, a balanced seat, correct geometry, and correct bend. You can do that. Let’s look at each point in detail.

Forward in a Steady Tempo Rhythm, as you may know, refers to the footfall of each gait: the fourbeat walk, the two-beat trot, and the three-beat canter with its moment of suspension. Tempo refers to the speed of the rhythm. If it’s too fast, your horse will be inclined to be tense. If it’s too slow, he’ll be disconnected. “Forward” isn’t fast. You want to find the tempo in which your horse is “working,” but with a moment of relaxation within each stride—like pumping iron. This tempo must be steady, not getting slower or faster whenever your horse feels like it or when he loses his balance. You, the rider, are in charge of the tempo. When it’s steady, it’s predictable, and you know how much we all like that!

The Purpose of Introductory Level


o introduce the rider and/ or horse to the sport of dressage. To show understanding of riding the horse forward with a steady tempo into an elastic contact with independent, steady hands and a correct balanced seat. To show proper geometry of figures in the arena with correct bend (corners and circles).



y some measures, the easiest dressage tests are at USDF Introductory Level and the hardest are at FEI Grand Prix—but the easiest tests are the most important because they lay the ground

A Steady, Elastic Contact For the contact to be steady, your hands need to follow your horse’s mouth. In walk and in canter, the horse uses his head and neck in a forward-downward way in every stride. Your elbows and shoulders need to be supple enough to allow your hands to follow that forwardand-back movement. Practice this for the rest of your life! In trot, the horse’s head and neck are relatively still in relation to the rest of his body. If you have trouble following your horse’s mouth, put a grab strap on the front of your saddle and hold on. The Finnish Olympian Kyra Kyrklund has students hold the excess of the stirrup leather with the outside hand. Even though these artificial means of steadying your hands prevent you from following in walk and in canter, an unfollowing hand is better than one that is disruptive. Don’t beat yourself up

about your unsteady hands; just work on it until you figure it out. (Hint: It depends largely on improving your seat, which we’ll discuss in a minute.)

Your horse’s reaction to your leg aid should be to reach for the bit.

goes undetected. Not only is a soft hand an inviting one, but it also allows you to close your fingers in a half-halt. If your fist is already tight, you’re riding a perpetual “whoa”—so half-halts don’t work. If the rider has a soft, steady hand, the elastic contact is created when the horse reaches for the bit in response to the seat and leg aids—primarily the leg aid. In other words: Your horse’s reaction to your leg aid should be to reach for the bit. Keep that in mind, and teach him that.

A Correct, Balanced Seat An elastic contact requires that your horse “draw” on the rein: He must reach and seek the steady contact. But he can’t reach for and accept an unsteady contact, and he won’t want to stretch into an unyielding hand. Be sure that your fists are soft. Instructors can’t always see a tight fist, so the problem often

When you sit in the saddle, the “floor” of your seat is the triangular surface within your two seat bones and your pubic bone. If you can feel those three bones, you’re balanced in the right place. The flexibility of your pelvis allows your balanced seat to follow the horse in the same way that your hands follow his mouth.

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Figure 2. 20-meter circles. Note the circle points for correctly ridden 20-meter circles beginning at A and at E or B

Work on it in walk, trot, and canter. It takes enormous concentration in the beginning. Lunge lessons help if you have the opportunity.

Bend and Geometry Correct bend in figures and corners is a big deal.

Online Extra Watch Introductory Level riders demonstrate the halt through the walk in this clip from the USDF’s 2019 On the Levels video series.

The judge wants to see whether your horse is able to bend left and right with equal ease and suppleness. At Intro Level, you’ll show this basic skill by riding 20-meter circles and the corners of the arena. Practice those circles and understand the geometry (see Figure 1 at left) so that you can execute a correctly placed figure of the proper diameter and shape. Some circles are ridden beginning at A or C on the short side of the arena, and others begin at E or B on the long sides. In your arena at home, place cones at the circle points if you need visual aids. Correct circles and corners require bend. How much? Exactly the same as the arc of the circle or corner. Bend begins with flexion at the poll. Your horse needs to be able to flex in the direction of travel, either left or right. Then use your inside

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leg to develop the contact with the outside rein. When your horse has 20-meter bend in his body and you ride him on that 20-meter circle accurately, then every step is the same! Consistency makes your riding look and feel easy. Great riders work tirelessly on 20-meter circles—even with advanced horses—until the connection is perfect and every step is the same. Then they are able to do the same on 15-meter circles. Then 10-meter circles and 8-meter voltes. Then, eventually, pirouettes. It’s all the same principle, and the foundation for these advanced skills happens at Intro Level. A corner is simply a quarter of a circle, but of course there’s nothing simple about that. It’s hard to do a quarter of a circle anywhere, let alone in a place where it’s hard for the horse to balance on his own four feet—especially considering horses’ well-known propensity for cutting


CAREFUL CORNER: A corner is a quarter of a circle, as Youth Dressage Festival competitor Scarlett Farmer demonstrates aboard Fernhill Casper

the corners. So start in walk and try the exercise in the “Perfect Corners” sidebar on page 30 to learn how to ride great corners.

More Geometry Riding accurate figures with bend is incredibly important, not only for your score but for the correct training of your horse. Be committed to your line! Your aids keep your horse on the figure, and being persistent about that line is what puts your horse “on the aids!” In addition to bent lines, you need to negotiate straight lines in every dressage test. The center lines in the Intro Level tests are exactly the same center lines as at Grand Prix. There will be two in every test for the rest of your life. Practice them. That’s what we mean by laying a foundation. As you practice entering at A, you’ll realize that your horse finds center lines easier when entering from either the right or the left. When you show, go

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Perfect Corners

ust as there are circle points on a circle, corner points based on a desired corner depth will help you ride corners accurately. Try this exercise: Place two cones near one corner of your dressage arena, each cone positioned along the rail and six meters from the corner, as shown by the cones numbered 1 and 2 in Figure 2. Use the cones to help you ride the perfect 12-meter corner with 12-meter bend. As you approach the first corner, flex your horse to the inside.




1m 2 4


Figure 2. Corner exercise. Cones 1 and 2 are positioned 6 meters from the corner; riding a corner from one to the other will produce a corner arc like that of a 12-meter circle. For a shallower corner with less bend, position cones 7 meters from the corner (cones 3 and 4) for a 14-meter corner arc.

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3 1m M 1


You’ll notice that you need to combine inside bending aids with outside turning aids. The outside turning aids are also the aids that connect and eventually collect your horse. With practice, you’ll discover the combination of aids you need to bend through an accurate circle. Was the 12-meter corner too difficult? If so, make the corner more shallow. Place cones seven meters from the corner (cones 3 and 4 in the diagram); then ride a 14-meter corner by riding the bent line between those two cones. In your dressage test, you want the judge to be able to tell whether you are riding part of a 20-meter circle or a corner—even if it’s a 14-meter corner. A proper corner arc is decidedly different from the 20-meter circle line.

SHAPING THE HORSE: Your inside and outside aids work together to shape your horse in the desired amount of bend


• At the walk, use your inside leg to help him take contact with the outside rein. • Halt before the corner at the first cone. • Retain his flexion and shape in 12-meter bend. Point his nose toward the second cone. • Walk through the corner on a bent line that leads to the #2 cone. • The corner is complete when your horse’s hindquarters are on the track—not when his shoulders are on the track.

the easy way. No one cares which direction you come from. Don’t go around the letter A as you enter. If you’re tracking right, A should be on your left as you enter and directly behind you as you continue down the center line. If you’re supposed to track right at C after your entry halt and salute, almost all riders swing wide—they “fall” left before turning right. You wouldn’t do that in a car, so don’t do it on your horse. Stay committed to your line!

places in which the test helps you develop your horse correctly. As you’re trotting down the center line in preparation for the halt at X, you should make one transition to walk and a second transition to halt. This will help you retain your horse’s throughness. If you try to go directly to halt from trot (as one of the riders in the USDF On the Levels videos does), it will increase your chances of encountering a problem (the demonstration rider’s horse

Encouraging Throughness The Intro Level tests are intended to be “inviting,” meaning that they encourage the rider to develop the horse correctly and easily. The figures and movements are designed to help you make your horse relaxed, supple, straight, and “through.” They encourage your horse to accept the contact. Here are a few examples of how the design of the tests helps you. The requirement to “halt through the walk” is one of those


stepped out in the halt). Transitions that skip a gait (like trot-halt-trot) require confirmed thoroughness and a small degree of collection that Introductory Level horses normally don’t have. At Intro Level, make your transitions in and out of the halt as smooth, straight, and relaxed as possible by incorporating a few walk steps. The transitions in and out of canter (in Intro Test C) are performed on a 20-meter circle, which


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USDF CONNECTION | November/December 2019


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helps you retain your horse’s suppleness. Transitions done on a straight line encourage the horse to stiffen and straighten in a bad way. On a circle, the horse stays straight in a good way; that is, he remains aligned and bent. Bend encourages relaxation, suppleness, and correct use of the back. Intro Level tests are all ridden in rising trot, which is designed to help your horse develop a swinging back and a relaxed rhythm. If you understand the reason that you’re rising instead of sitting, your chances of getting that happy result increase. Be academic about your riding and you’ll find that the 2019 USDF Introductory Level tests will help you train your horse easily and correctly. Then you’ll be able to repeat the same positive process at Training Level, which will be the subject of the next installment in this series.


Meet the Expert

eth Baumert is a USDFcertified instructor through Fourth Level, a USDF L program graduate with distinction, and the author of When Two Spines Align: Dressage Dynamics. She currently serves as president of The Dressage Foundation. For many years she owned and operated Cloverlea Dressage in Columbia, Connecticut, and served as the technical editor of Dressage Today magazine. She divides her time between Connecticut and Florida.


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Dreaming about more dressage education? Thanks to generous donors, financial support is available for: Adult Amateurs Youth Instructors Trainers Judges FEI Riders Breeders Show Management Technical Delegates USDF GMOs Nonprofit Groups And More!

Photo by Beth Baumert

Visit for grant information and to make a donation to help the sport you love!

Salute World Class As a rider, trainer, judge, and official, Linda Zang has forever expanded what’s possible in dressage By Natalie DeFee Mendik exposure offered to North American competitors, in 1997 she organized the North American Dressage Championships in Upper Marlboro, Maryland. Today she’s expanded her horse-world involvement to include Thoroughbred racing, carrying on the legacy of her late husband, the racehorse breeder and trainer Jim Lewis, who died in 2012.

A Life in the Saddle Born into a foxhunting family on the Davidsonville, Maryland, farm

A DRESSAGE LEGACY: Zang with her eight-year-old gelding, Brady (by Quaterback)

Along the way, Zang has also enjoyed shaking things up a bit. An avant-garde pas de deux with a barefoot, bare-chested ballet dancer set to Survivor’s rock hit “Eye of the Tiger” at the Washington (DC) International Horse Show in the early 1980s helped elevate the profile of dressage freestyle. Not content with the amount of international

where she still lives today, the young Zang showed her pony locally before moving into horses and later joining the United States Pony Club. “Pony Club was a big boost for me,” she says. “There were so many people willing to help me with my riding and were very encouraging.” The aspiring event rider earned her “A” Pony Club rating and racked

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up wins at national rallies in the US and Canada. She then got the opportunity to train in Ireland, but a concussion sustained while jumping there caused her to rethink her equestrian goals. She decided to finish out the three-month stint, which brought the first of many dressagerelated opportunities to come: lessons in long-lining with the master E. Schmit-Jensen outside Dublin. “It was a lightbulb moment,” Zang told the Florida-based TownCrier newspaper in 2015. “I knew I could still be great one day, but in the new discipline of dressage.” Before returning home, Zang traveled to Denmark to visit a friend of her mother’s. On a side trip to Sweden to look at horses, Zang made an unplanned purchase: a two-year-old bay gelding named Fellow Traveller. While in Sweden, she was also invited to come to Strömsholm, the Swedish cavalry school, to ride. Back in the USA, Zang spent a year working for the Speaker of the House for the state of Maryland. With the money she’d saved she returned to Sweden, where she would spend four years at Strömsholm, studying with several masters there.

Heady Days On her return to the US in 1972, Zang resumed her involvement with Pony Club. She started as a district commissioner and subsequently moved up to regional supervisor, chair of the USPC’s Dressage Committee, and national examiner. “I did every possible thing to support the organization,” says Zang. Two years later, Zang’s dressage career began in earnest. Family members helped her to build an in-



very opportunity I had, I took, which is probably why I ended up being so successful,” says Linda Zang. The lifelong horsewoman, 72, who was inducted into the Roemer Foundation/USDF Hall of Fame in 2009, followed those opportunities to their zenith: international dressage competitive success. Judging at Olympic Games. And influential roles both as a dressage official and as a standard-bearer of dressage educational excellence.

PAS DE WOW: Zang’s famous “Eye of the Tiger” freestyle turned new fans on to dressage in the 1980s

door arena at their Idlewilde Farm, and Zang launched a large boarding and training business. Idlewilde soon became a hub for dressage training in the US, with top riders making the pilgrimage from around the country to study under the late Col. Bengt Ljungquist of Sweden (also a future Roemer Foundation/ USDF Hall of Fame inductee), who coached the US dressage team from 1974 to 1978, including to its historic 1976 Olympic team bronze medal. Such luminaries as Hilda Gurney, Robert Dover, Lilo Fore, Anne Gribbons, and Kay Meredith trained at Idlewilde. Among those notable students, of course, was Zang herself. With the talented Fellow Traveller, she represented the USA at the 1978 World Championships, was a member of the gold-medal-winning 1979 Pan American Games dressage team, and competed at the 1980 Alternate Olympics in Goodwood, England.


Transitions Zang’s illustrious dressage career came to a crossroads in 1994, when doctors advised her to stop riding. “After all I had done over the years, my body started to fall apart and I began to have pain in my back and shoulders,” she says. “That was a turning point for me.” Words of support in charting her course came from her friend and colleague the noted dressage judge

BOUND FOR GREATNESS: Zang and her most notable mount, Fellow Traveller

Col. Donald Thackeray, when Zang visited him toward the end of his life in 1995. “He was the person who was the most influential in encouraging me to go the way that I did,” Zang recalls. “When I asked him what was the best thing I could do for dressage in the US, he advised me to be involved in the international aspect of dressage, bringing the FEI [Fédération Equestre Internationale] and what it stands for closer to people in the US, [so they could] better understand the connection and importance of international competition.” Taking Thackeray’s advice, Zang turned her focus to judging. She became an FEI “O” (now 5*) dressage judge, officiating at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games and at numerous other major championships including FEI World Equestrian Games, FEI World Cup Dressage Finals, and FEI European Dressage Championships. She was a member of the FEI Dressage Committee and of the International Judges Club (now the International Dressage Officials Club). Add in her other roles and Zang’s accomplishments are almost too long to list. Among them: FEI dressage technical delegate; host

of international judges’ forums; competition organizer; US eventing team coach; USDF Region 1 representative (now regional director); member of the US Equestrian Federation’s Board of Directors and other USEF committees. In recognition of her contributions to equestrian sport, besides her USDF Hall of Fame induction Zang was awarded the USEF Pegasus Medal of Honor in 2012.

Raising Standards “While at a meeting at Aachen [Germany], riders and trainers were really pushing for a manual [for FEI dressage judges]; there had never been anything written on how to improve the judging,” Zang recalls. “I leaned over and said quietly to Mariette Withages, chairman of the FEI Dressage Committee at the time, ‘Just say we are starting and I’ll start it.’” Zang embarked on her biggest project yet: the FEI Dressage Handbook: Guidelines for Judging, which rolled out in 2007. “I walked around, talking to people, making corrections, and adding to the manual. It took about five years to write, together with a small group from around the world. We went through 25 drafts. I still have all of them.”

USDF CONNECTION | November/December 2019



THE JUDGE: Zang (right) judging Totilas and Edward Gal at the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Kentucky

PASSING IT ON: Teaching fellow dressage pro Nuno Santos at Idlewilde

Naturally, when in 2011 the FEI created the six-member Judges’ Supervisory Panel in an effort to ensure fair, equitable, and transparent judging in dressage, Zang was among the international judges and trainers selected. “We attend the Olympic Games, World Equestrian Games, and Dressage World Cup [Final] to oversee the judging,” Zang says of the JSP. “We watch the live performance while also having the ability to immediately play back a [videotaped] movement, as well as to see scores in real time from each judge for each movement. We monitor and watch for any big differences between scores; if there is a twoor-more-point difference between judges, we evaluate. If there is a technical mistake [such as an error of count in a flying-change series], we can make the decision to change the score. This is only if a judge missed the technical [error] and has nothing to do with the opinion of a performance. We do this before the scores go up, so everything is quite fast. Immediately after the class, we

meet with all of the judges, discuss, and do a playback, spending about two hours afterward going over everything with the judges. This isn’t fault-finding, but an educational discussion to improve judging and raise the level of judging all over the world.” Zang points with pride to the elevation of excellence in dressage, both in execution and in judging. “Every year, you see an improvement,” she says. “From the dressage I started with in the 1960s, the standard has gotten better and better. If you look at the old masters, like from the first Olympic Games, sometimes the horses don’t even look on the bit. This was nothing wrong; that was the best at that time.” Top training and riding, combined with breeders’ success in producing increasingly talented horses, means that “we are no longer judging for fives, sixes, and sevens in international competition, but eights, nines, and tens,” Zang says. “We do see tens—absolutely fabulous horses and fabulous performances.”

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For Zang’s part in advancing our sport, we owe her this grateful salute.

IN THE NEXT ISSUE • 2020 sport-horse stallion and breeding guide • Made in America: US-bred horses are coming out on top • USDF GMO Education Initiative explained • Master Training Level with trainer/author Beth Baumert


Natalie DeFee Mendik is an awardwinning journalist specializing in equine media. Visit her online at

The Equestrian World Returns to Las Vegas APRIL 15 - 19, 2020


All-session tickets on sale now!

The Saddle Shopper

Finding a saddle that works for both you and your horse can be c


38 November/December 2019 | USDF CONNECTION

r’s Resource Guide

crazy-making. Help ease the process with fitting tips from experts.



USDF CONNECTION | November/December 2019



f you’re not a little confused, you’re not thinking clearly.” When it comes to the topic of saddle fitting, this tongue-in-cheek adage gets it about right. The unique details of each dressage horse’s and rider’s conformation, abilities, and goals—combined with an ever-expanding field of saddlery options—can make the shopping process both intimidating and frustrating. If the very thought of trying to find the right saddle is overwhelming, or if you and your horse have suffered from past poor buying decisions, this article is for you. With help from saddle-fitting experts, we’ll review the key points and arm you with information and questions to ask, to help you sort through the marketing hype and find a saddle that you and your horse can both enjoy.

Saddle Fitting: Part of a Dressage Horse’s Management Regimen Proper saddle fit coexists with regular veterinary and farrier care, good nutrition, and careful training as a cornerstone of your horse’s welfare. Saddle fit should always be considered in cases of lameness, body soreness, resistant behavior, or poor performance. When a saddle fits correctly, it distributes the rider’s weight evenly over the horse’s rib cage and surrounding muscles without putting painful pressure on the spine. A well-fitted saddle allows the horse’s shoulders and spine free range of motion for optimal freedom of movement. Buying a dressage saddle is not a “one and done” affair. Any saddle requires regular maintenance to ensure continued correct fit as the horse’s musculature and topline develop and change. Riders’ bodies change over time, as well. After the often-substantial investment to buy the saddle, the cost of ongoing saddle-fit evaluations can be a hard pill to swallow, acknowledges Mike Scott, a Master Saddlers Association-certified independent saddle fitter and a human and equine massage therapist based in Camden, South Carolina. “One of the analogies I use,” says Scott, “is asking people how often they get their horse’s feet trimmed or shod a year. A saddle fitting once a year should not be that big of a deal. If you are sold a saddle and told it’s good to go for life, that’s kind of bull. Horses change. We change.” Beyond these basic points of consensus, the process of achieving proper saddle fit gets complicated. First, the saddle needs to fit both horse and rider.

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Its construction and design must be suitable for the intended discipline and the rider’s abilities. Then the saddle must continue to meet these criteria as horse and rider change over time. Correct dressage training develops the horse’s musculature. Conversely, muscles atrophy when they’re not used—meaning that a horse starting back to work after a lengthy layup may need a refitting followed by periodic adjustments as he regains fitness. Riders’ bodies may not change as much as horses’, but their skills do. Dressage novices may benefit from a saddle that’s designed to “lock” them into a secure, stable position. A more advanced rider may wish to “graduate” to a model that allows more freedom of movement in the hips and legs. And whatever the rider’s skill level, the saddle needs to allow for a centered, balanced, correct position.

Traditional, or the Latest and Greatest? Years ago, shopping for a dressage saddle was arguably easier because there were fewer choices, and most models on the market were fairly simple in design: framed on wooden spring trees, with panels “flocked” (stuffed) with wool, and designed with fairly shallow seats and modest knee rolls concealed beneath the flaps. Modern materials and methods have led to an explosion of options, including trees made of carbon fiber and graphite, user-adjustable tree widths, a cantilevered tree, a tree that flexes at various points, and several “treeless” models that lack the traditional framework completely, to name a few. A saddle’s panels—the undersides that contact the horse—today may be filled with wool, foam, or even air; or they may be absent altogether and replaced with an entirely different cushioning system. And that’s just what’s under the hood, so to speak. On the outside, riders can now choose among flap lengths and positions; thigh-block lengths, thicknesses, and angles; monoflap styles with the blocks on the outside; and even flaps that can be removed altogether for schooling and then reattached for competition. Some well-known dressage trainers, especially if they’re of a certain age, still prefer the tried and true over the trends. At the 2018 Adequan® USDF/FEILevel Trainers Conference in California, the German master Johann Hinnemann said that his favorite saddle remains a Passier “invented just after the first World

War.” Younger riders in his yard love their modern dressage saddles, he acknowledged—but he added that, of 15 saddles tested by a visiting fitter using all the modern metrics, his old Passier “was the best and there was nothing wrong with it.” Hinnemann wondered aloud: “Is it possible to buy a normal saddle any more?”

shoulder and the tree points on each side. These can typically be seen in a “point pocket” below and toward the front of the stirrup bar. It’s harder to see on a monoflap design, which requires finger feel for a hard structure in the same area.

Proper Fit: Always in Fashion


Whether you opt for a traditional style of dressage saddle—yes, they do still exist—or a stark departure, the principles of fitting remain the same. Fitting a saddle is a complex process, and so most dressage experts agree that a reputable professional fitter is the best choice to undertake this task. A thorough fitting usually entails nine or more points of evaluation, plus a dynamic study of the saddle in motion on the horse, with the rider. As a starting point for riders and horse owners, Scott recommends the following basic five-point unmounted fit check. For best results, stand your horse squarely on a level surface for these tests. 1. Response: Assess your horse’s behavior when the saddle is placed on his back, even before securing the girth. Any sign of dislike is a red flag.

SPRING TREE: Top view of the traditional wood-and-steel spring tree

2. Placement: The saddle tree’s points should snug just behind the caudal aspect of the scapulae (shoulder blades). Running a hand between the horse and front edge of the saddle should reveal space between the

SADDLE UNDERSIDE: The panels (shaded) distribute the rider’s weight over the horse’s back. The space in between, known as the gullet or channel, must allow sufficient room for spinal clearance.

3. Bearing surface: The panels that distribute the rider’s weight over the horse’s back should do so as widely and evenly as possible. A panel that rises off the horse’s back toward the cantle is a sign of incorrect fit. Likewise, gaps in contact between the shoulder panel and the rest of the panel are generally not ideal. 4. Balance: Pressing lightly on the pommel and cantle, alternating between the two, should not cause the saddle to rock front to back excessively or to slip or twist to either side. 5. Size: The tree should not extend beyond the end of the horse’s thoracic spine, which is marked by the last rib. This is the beginning point for the lumbar spine, which is not equipped to support a rider’s weight. Some saddle designs have “upswept” panel ends, which may extend slightly past this point, but they should not bear weight. The channel created by the tree and the panels (also known as the gullet) should allow ample clearance for the horse’s withers and spine, even when the rider’s weight is in the saddle and the horse lifts and rounds his back as in collection. [ Saddle illustrations from The Horse’s Pain-Free Back and Saddle-Fit Book by Joyce Harman, DVM, MRCVS, reprinted by permission of Trafalgar Square Books (horseandriderbooks. com). This title is available only as an eBook; find it at your favorite online eBookseller.

USDF CONNECTION | November/December 2019


After being ridden for some time in an ill-fitting saddle, a horse may develop white hairs or rub spots on his back. But things should never get to that point because horses express discomfort clearly through resistance, according to Scott. Reactions to palpation or grooming, and flinching or worse when being saddled and girthed, are obvious signs of discomfort that may be saddle-related. If your horse moves freely forward at liberty but not under saddle, that’s another telltale sign. Shortened strides and a hollow back may indicate attempts to evade saddle-related pain. The horse’s respiration is another important indicator, and one that rarely gets its due in discussions of saddle fit, according to Scott, who points out that horses use almost all of their back muscles in the process of inhaling and exhaling. Rapid breathing and an anxious demeanor may indicate pain from a too-wide channel, a too-narrow tree, or a toolong panel, he says. “Think of those Grand Prix dressage horses or really powerful jumpers: If they can’t breathe efficiently, they are done,” he says. “Any horse is

EXPERT EYE: A good saddle fitter is an asset to your horse’s welfare and your riding

not going to reach its potential if it can’t breathe easily.”

Fitting the Rider It’s just as important for the rider to have a saddle that is comfortable and that facilitates—not hinders— the ability to sit correctly and to communicate effectively with the horse. If you have difficulty connecting with your horse through your seat, you may be sitting in the wrong saddle. “If you lose your seat through transitional work, either the saddle balance or the fit for you is off,” says Graham Newell, of Escondido, California, a Master Saddle Fitter certified by the Society of Master Saddlers in England. “You can have a saddle that was custom-made for you and that you’ve ridden in for three or four years, but if your riding ability has changed a lot you might need something different. “You might have started in a saddle that’s very restricted—that does a lot of the work for you,” Newell continues. “The cantle behind your bum and the roll in front of your leg sit you more upright. That’s good

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in the beginning; but as your core and riding ability develop, so does your ability to sit without that support. Then you need to move more, especially through the hips, and that saddle can prevent that.” Sometimes the solution is relatively simple—a fitting adjustment or a change to the thigh blocks, for instance. Other times, the best and most cost-effective option is a different saddle. “When your skills develop in a way that the saddle is no longer effective, you may be forced into a new-saddle route,” Newell says. “The cost of changing half the saddle often makes that route a better option.”

Finding a Fitter The ideal saddle fitter for our sport has detailed and objective expertise on the construction and adjustment of many saddle brands and designs, an understanding of the demands of dressage, and solid knowledge of equine anatomy and the physical characteristics of different breeds. Training and certification by a reputable saddle-fit organization are typically good indicators, especially


SADDLE, TOP VIEW: Illustration depicts a traditional English saddle with a padded flap covering the knee roll. Many modern dressage saddles are of the monoflap design, with a larger thigh block on the outside of the single flap and no sweat flap beneath for closer contact.


Saddles and Rider Position: Thoughts on Thigh Angle when the training involves work with multiple saddle types and manufacturers. There’s an important distinction between “saddle maker” and “saddle fitter.” Some qualified fitters also sell saddles, representing one or more manufacturers—meaning that if you’re in the market to buy, you’ll likely be shown only models by those makers. But even manufacturers’ reps may perform fit evaluations and adjustments for brands they don’t sell: As Newell puts it, “I work on any brand of saddle because, when I see so many people out there struggling, I can’t walk away.” Young event rider Benjamin Heckman learned the hard way that not all saddle sellers are equally qualified as fitters. After switching from the hunter/jumper discipline late last year, the 17-year-old Californian purchased his first dressage saddle for his new horse, Roger. At their first dressage schooling show this past January, the judge described Roger as “moving a bit like a typewriter,” Heckman recounts. “The judge said my horse was stiff in his front legs and not able to extend well.” Heckman and his mother had purchased the saddle through a self-described fitter who said that it would be just fine for Roger, a Thoroughbred/warmblood cross with “decently high withers and a fairly muscular build,” his owner says. Heckman didn’t suspect a saddle-fit problem as he pondered the judge’s comments; “I just thought it meant that I was restricting Roger and holding him back.” But shortly after the show, Heckman took his horse for an evaluation at the Equitopia Center, an equine wellness and education program in northern California. A fitter there immediately identified the saddle as being


rom her perspective as a physical therapist, California-based USDF gold medalist and biomechanics expert Anne Howard, MPT, sees what she calls a common misconception among dressage riders: that in the saddle the thighs should be vertical. “A lot of saddles with a very vertical thigh block demand that [position],” Howard says, “and it puts the center of the seat so far forward that there’s not much of a hip angle. I have a problem with the biomechanics of that for the rider’s health, and I don’t think it allows for a fluid, flowing hip.” Particularly for tall, long-legged riders like herself, Howard also recommends choosing a seat size that’s large enough to allow the thighs enough room to come forward, along with a forward-set flap that accommodates a greater hip angle without the knees’ extending over the front edges of the flaps.

GOOD ANGLE: Some dressage riders mistakenly believe their thighs should be vertical in the saddle, but this close-up of British star Charlotte Dujardin proves otherwise

USDF CONNECTION | November/December 2019



our years ago, professional equine photographer and adult-amateur dressage rider Stacy Lynne Wendkos, of Malvern, Pennsylvania, bought a new saddle for her then five-year-old KWPN mare, the aptly named Fotogenic (by Contango). She knew that “Mitzi” would broaden through the shoulder region with training and maturation, so she prioritized an adjustable head plate in her saddle search and chose a custom-made model for her mare. Today, that saddle is for sale after a series of what Wendkos calls fruitless attempts to make the purchase work as advertised. The saddle worked well for a while, but 18 months ago the wide-shouldered, broad-backed, prominent-withered Mitzi began “chomping on the bit,” Wendkos says. “Her tail was loose, her ears were happy; she just started gnashing and banging her teeth.” The mare’s teeth and back were checked and pronounced OK; meanwhile, twice-yearly fit checkups from the saddle manufacturer’s rep had not suggested the saddle as the issue. Wendkos consulted several other saddle fitters, some of whom were either influenced by a sale prospect or “just didn’t know anything,” she says. Finally, a Master Saddle Fitter pinpointed the cause of Mitzi’s resistance: The saddle’s tree, too narrow for the mare, was pinching her withers. Unfortunately, Wendkos learned, widAT EASE: Wendkos and her KWPN mare, Fotogenic ening the saddle’s head plate would eliminate the necessary wither clearance. Her trainer lent her a 30-year-old saddle as a stopgap measure, and Mitzi’s mouth quieted immediately. The only hitch was that in that saddle Wendkos “could not sit the trot, which makes it hard when you’re getting ready for Fourth Level competition.” Luckily, the loaner saddle’s fitter was able to adjust the flocking so that Wendkos could sit comfortably. Wendkos calls the process of finding the right saddle “mostly trial and error,” expressing relief that she finally found a knowledgeable pro to help guide her. “Even though I know how to do research, and with as much as I knew about the subject,” she says, “finding someone to help is a good thing. My trainer recommended the guy who made my current saddle, and he—and the saddle— have been everything she said they would be.”

44 November/December 2019 | USDF CONNECTION

too narrow for Roger’s shoulders, thus restricting his movement. After reflocking the panels and widening the adjustable tree proved only partially successful, Heckman wound up trying around 20 saddles before he found one that fit Roger. With the new saddle, “I could definitely feel the amount he was able to move more freely and that he was more comfortable in his back, lifting his back up more,” Heckman says of his horse. Unfortunately, the saddle wasn’t quite right for the rider: “I felt it was pushing my feet out in front and causing my upper body to lean back a bit.” After Roger’s veterinarian confirmed that it would be OK for Heckman to try using a sheepskin half-pad with shims, the rider felt an “incredible” difference, he says. “I felt it immediately during my first lesson. [Roger] was moving way better, and my position felt much better, and I had a better connection with his mouth.” The sensitive Roger has taught his owner the importance of paying attention to the smallest details, Heckman says: “I’ve learned that you really have to be in tune with how your horse is feeling.” Be in tune—and ask a lot of questions in your search for a good saddle fitter, Scott advises. Query other dressage riders and trainers about their experiences, both good and bad; then talk to recommended fitters. After confirming that the person’s training and experience encompass various brands, breeds, and the dressage discipline (and, ideally, “benchwork” involving saddle construction), ensure that he or she plans to watch you ride as part of the evaluation process (watching the horse go is “extremely important,” he says). Previously possible only


One Rider’s Saddle-Fit Ordeal

during an on-site visit to the horse’s stable, this part of the saddle-fitting process can now be conducted via video-conferencing technology if needed—although many experts still believe that an in-person evaluation is best. Scott, who through his Saddle Guy LLC business offers a sixmonth certification program in saddle fitting and flocking, says he’s pleased at the growing number of educational programs for saddle fitters. The Master Saddlers Association (through which Scott earned his own accreditation), the Society of Master Saddlers, and Saddlefit 4 Life are among the organizations that offer quality training programs, he says.

Don’t DIY Scott urges horse owners without proper training not to make saddlefitting decisions or tree-width adjustments themselves. He doesn’t mind when a rider tries a simple modification, such as a saddle pad with shims, but says “I still kind of cringe” at the idea of riders changing their own gullet plates or tackling other major alterations. “What if the screws are not tightened up, or things get bunched up?” he says. “Have a professional do it!” Anne Howard, MPT, a Watsonville, California-based equine and human biomechanics expert, human physical therapist, and USDF gold medalist, concurs. “I’m capable of making [saddle] adjustments, but 98 percent of the time I wait until one of fitters we work with is here or can work with us over Skype,” Howard says. “It’s important enough to have a professional do it.” As she points out: “I don’t do my own farrier work, either.”

As a second-generation, lifelong horsewoman, Howard has witnessed the dramatic evolution of saddles. “When I was first getting started, we had the Stübben for jumping and the Passier for dressage,” she recalls. Today, the choices within any given equestrian discipline are nearly endless—something Howard applauds. “I think there are a lot of innovative ideas, whether it’s different levels of tree stiffness or movement in different parts of the tree, plus flocking options,” she says. “There are good options for a variety of horses out there.” The open-minded Howard has embraced some unconventional designs. She rides her Grand Prix dressage horse, Rondo, in a saddle that is not only flapless but that also eschews traditional panels in favor of shock-absorbing rubber disks that can be positioned to suit the horse’s conformation. Howard inherited the hardto-fit horse from her mother, the late international dressage trainer, competitor, and judge Alexsandra Howard. “Rondo was impossible to fit well with a traditional flocked saddle,” Howard says. “He has an ‘S’ curve through his spine, a short back, and big shoulders. I admire what these saddles do for the horse.”

If at First You Don’t Succeed… You may hate shopping for jeans and swimsuits, but the fashion industry has yet to come up with a foolproof virtual alternative to the process of trying on clothes. Likewise, finding the right saddle for you and your horse also involves

a certain amount of trial and error, experts say. “You just have to keep working at it,” Howard says of the saddle quest. But when you finally find that unicorn of a saddle, you may agree that the time and trouble were well worth it. One of Newell’s clients, exhausted from the training struggles with her Thoroughbred, put the horse up for sale—but took him off the market after the right saddle made him “a completely different horse,” he says.

Kim F. Miller is the editor of California Riding Magazine and a freelance writer and photographer. She lives in southern California and can be reached at



USDF CONNECTION | November/December 2019


Juniors Go 4 Gold in Historic NAYC Win First-ever dressage team medal for Region 4; Region 1 claims YR gold; Jones, Klepper win double individual YR and Junior medals PHOTOGRAPHS BY MEG-MCGUIRE.COM

HISTORIC MOMENT: The Junior team’s 2019 win was the first gold medal for a Region 4 NAYC dressage team. Team chef d’équipe David Wightman (front) stands with Hannah Thiher, Maggie Elsbernd, Averi Allen, and Nicolas Beck.

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t was a championships marked by a series of firsts for the USDF Region 4 Junior dressage team at the 2019 Adequan® FEI North American Youth Championships (NAYC), presented by Gotham North. Team members Averi Allen, 15, of Pleasant Hill, Missouri, on Superman; Nicolas Beck, 15, of Chanhassen, Minnesota, on Campari; Maggie Elsbernd, 16, of Excelsior, Minnesota, on Zeestar Texel; and Hannah Thiher, 17, of Maple Grove, Minnesota, on Delfiano were all NAYC first-timers. Their rookie status proved to be a nonissue, with the Juniors achieving another milestone: the first NAYC gold medal for a Region 4 dressage team. Thiher and Delfiano were actually the reserve pair, called up after Mackenzie Peer on Quantum MRF became unable to compete just days before the start of competition. The Region 4 Junior team’s success is even more remarkable considering that Thiher suffered a traumatic brain injury in an ummounted accident in 2017, and not only was relatively inexperienced at this level of dressage competition but still deals with the aftereffects of the concussion. The 2019 NAYC dressage and jumping competitions, held July 30-August 4, returned to their 2018 location, Old Salem Farm, North Salem, New York. The NAYC, the only Fédération Équestre Internationale (FEI) championship held annually in North America, is the premier competition for North American youth in dressage, with FEI Juniors and FEI Young Riders vying for team medals, individual medals, and freestyle individual medals. The USDF salutes the riders, ages 14 to 21, who represented the United States in the USDF North American Youth Dressage Championships at the 2019 NAYC: Region 1 Juniors: Allison Nemeth and Dafoe, Abby Fodor/Ritter Benno, Emma Teff/Ugo JV, Lunalee Barboza/Pop Starr Region 1 Young Riders: Hannah Irons/Scola Bella, Kayla Kadlubek/Perfect Step, Megan Peterson/Amoretto, Anna Weniger/Claudius Region 2 Juniors: Annelise Klepper/Happy Texas Moonlight, Missy McGinn/Felissirana, Katie Teehan/ Zinca, Maggie Tifft/E-Ros Region 2 Young Riders: Callie Jones/Don Philippo, Kaylee Christensen/Chateau 28 Region 3 Juniors: Isabella Braden/Dali de la Ferme Rose, Camille Molten/Heros, Nicolas Bryan/Rugby S, Kaylyn Minnis/Far Niente Region 3 Young Riders: Nicole Scarpino/Lambada 224, Marline Syribeys/Hollywood, Alessandra Ferrucci/ Sagacious HF, Melanie Doughty/Fascinata

YOUNG RIDER TEAM GOLD MEDALISTS: Region 1’s Hannah Irons, Megan Peterson, Kayla Kadlubek, and Anna Weniger with chef d’équipe Debbie DelGiorno

Region 4 Juniors: Mackenzie Peer/Quantum MRF*, Nicolas Beck/Campari, Averi Allen/Superman, Maggie Elsbernd/Zeestar Texel * Peer and Quantum MRF were unable to compete. The reserve pair, Hannah Thiher on Delfiano, took their place.

Region 4 Young Riders: Bianca Schmidt/Lou Heart, Jenna Upchurch/Venivici, Annika Tedlund/ Eclipse BR Region 6 Juniors: Jori Dupell/Fiderprinz 2 Region 6 Young Riders: Cameron Wyman/Thys, Lindsey Savoy/Diva Region 7 Juniors: Dennesy Rogers/Chanel Region 7 Young Riders: Sophia Ekstrand/Concetta, Katherine Mathews/Soliére Region 8 Juniors: Mary Goodrich/Bambolero, Tessa Holloran/Cramique Kerguelen, Rose Keller/Dievittorio O, Anna Kjems/Zaino Region 8 Young Riders: Siena Harris-Gissler/ Electra DDJ, Eliza Windsor/Largo 224, Alison Redston/ Twelfth Night, Leah Tenney/Adel K Region 9 Juniors: Emma Claire Stephens/De Nouvelle Vie, Skye Simpson/Dazzle, Gage Miles/Castillier, Sydney Lipar/Herzkonig. In the press release announcing the teams, USDF FEI Junior/Young Rider Committee chair Roberta Williams commended the behind-the-scenes volunteers who make the dressage NAYC teams possible. “Without the tireless efforts of the USDF regional coordinators, chefs d’équipe, and volunteers, this event would not be as special as it is. Hats off to them and a heartfelt thank-you,” Williams said. [ USDF CONNECTION | November/December 2019


YR DOUBLE GOLD: Kentuckian Callie Jones, 21, on her 11-year-old Hanoverian gelding, Don Philippo (Dancier x Warkant), topped the YR Individual and Freestyle medal podiums


Young Rider Team

Gold: Region 1 Kayla Kadlubek/Perfect Step ..................................72.647 Megan Peterson/Amoretto....................................... 67.882 Hannah Irons/Scola Bella........................................65.177 Anna Weniger/Claudius...........................................62.029 TEAM TOTAL........................................................ 205.706 Silver: Ontario/Quebec Vanessa Creech-Terauds/Fleur de Lis L.................72.588 Sophie Dean-Potter/Ribot........................................69.147 Julie Barrett/Rosamunde.........................................63.941 Jade Morrisette/Auratos...........................................63.353 TEAM TOTAL........................................................ 205.676 Bronze: Region 3 Marline Syribeys/Hollywood...................................68.735 Alessandra Ferrucci/Sagacious HF.........................68.559 Melanie Doughty/Fascinata..................................... 67.794 Nicole Scarpino/Lambada.......................................65.941 TEAM TOTAL........................................................ 205.088

Young Rider Individual

Gold Callie Jones/Don Philippo (Region 2)................... 72.647 Silver Vanessa Creech-Terauds/Fleur de Lis L (Ontario/Quebec)......................................................71.029 Bronze Kayla Kadlubek/Perfect Step (Region 1)............... 70.353

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JUNIOR DOUBLE GOLD: Annelise Klepper of Ohio, the youngest junior dressage competitor at the 2019 NAYC, won Junior Individual and Freestyle gold medals aboard the 12-year-old Oldenburg gelding Happy Texas Moonlight (Happy Diamond x Top of Class)

Young Rider Freestyle

Gold Callie Jones/Don Philippo (Region 2)....................74.710 Silver Kayla Kadlubek/Perfect Step (Region 1)............... 73.505 Bronze Vanessa Creech-Terauds/Fleur de Lis L (Ontario/Quebec)............................................................73.490

Junior Team

Gold: Region 4 Nicholas Beck/Campari............................................70.273 Hannah Thiher/Delfiano..........................................66.727 Averi Allen/Superman..............................................66.182 Maggie Elsbernd/Zeestar Texel...............................65.303 TEAM TOTAL ....................................................... 203.182 Silver: Region 2 Annelise Klepper/Happy Texas Moonlight............70.636 Missy McGinn/Felissirana........................................ 67.212 Katie Teehan/Zinca...................................................64.788 Maggie Tifft/E-Ros....................................................63.030 TEAM TOTAL ....................................................... 202.636 Bronze: Region 9 Emma Claire Stephens/De Nouvelle Vie................66.758 Gage Miles/Castillier.................................................66.515 Skye Simpson/Dazzle................................................66.364 Sydney Lipar/Sandroletto........................................64.667 TEAM TOTAL.........................................................199.637

Junior Individual

Gold Annelise Klepper/Happy Texas Moonlight (Region 2)................................................................... 71.441 Silver Dennesy Rogers/Chanel (Region 7)........................70.206 Bronze Isabelle Braden/Dali de la Ferme Rose (Region 3)... 70.147

Junior Freestyle

Gold Annelise Klepper/Happy Texas Moonlight (Region 2)...................................................................73.250

SPORTSMANSHIP: Mexican rider Carlos Maldonado receives the Captain Andrew B. de Szinay Memorial Sportsman Trophy, presented by US Equestrian, for his display of team spirit, integrity, and positive attitude at the 2019 NAYC

YR EXCELLENCE: Last year’s recipient, Region 2’s Callie Jones, again won the Fiona Baan “Pursuit of Excellence” Memorial Trophy, named for the late US Equestrian dressage team leader, as the overall highest-scoring dressage young rider. Presenting were USDF executive director Stephan Hienzsch and USDF FEI Jr/YR Committee chair Roberta Williams.

Silver Jori Dupell/Fiderprinz (Region 6).......................... 71.625 Bronze Dennesy Rogers/Chanel (Region 7)........................ 71.250

Special Awards Six awards presented at the 2019 Adequan® FEI North American Youth Championships (NAYC) recognize special excellence. See our photo gallery below. Congratulations to our talented youth!

EQUINE EXCELLENCE: Region 8 YR Eliza Windsor accepts the HorsePower Trophy from former USDF president and current US Equestrian national dressage youth coach George Williams for her NAYC mount, Largo 224, a 20-year-old Oldenburg gelding owned by Maria Spak

VOLUNTEERISM: Dee Steb receives the Howard B. Simpson High Five Trophy, presented by US Equestrian to the NAYC volunteer who best exemplifies the dedication and commitment of Simpson, a longtime NAYC director

OUTSTANDING CHEF: Region 7 chef d’équipe Alison Burt-Jacobs (center) receives the Albers Award—named in memory of longtime Region 1 chef Patsy Albers—from USDF executive director Stephan Hienzsch and US Equestrian dressage youth coach George Williams

SHE’S GOT STYLE: Region 1 junior competitor Abby Fodor (right) received the Dressage Style Award—recognizing style and class both in and out of the saddle—from NAYC dressage foreign technical delegate Maja Stukelj

USDF CONNECTION | November/December 2019


“NEW KIDS” Make Their Mark in Lima

Rookie team—with the added pressure of no drop score—pulls out career-best performances for team silver and individual gold and bronze medals at the 2019 Pan American Games BY KIM MACMILLAN PHOTOGRAPHS BY KIM AND ALLEN MACMILLAN AND SARAH E. MILLER/MACMILLAN PHOTOGRAPHY

ON THE WORLD STAGE: 2019 US Pan American Games dressage team silver medalists Nora Batchelder, Sarah Lockman, and Jennifer Baumert

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uch like the early explorers of South America centuries ago, the 2019 US Pan American Games dressage team arrived in Peru with a mission of bringing home precious metal. Riders Nora Batchelder on Faro SQ, Jennifer Baumert on Handsome, and Sarah Lockman on First Apple did just that, bringing home a trio of medals: team silver and individual gold and bronze, plus an individual fifthplace finish. It was a notable accomplishment for the rookie team, all riding in their first major international championships—made even more so when fourth team member Endel Ots and Lucky Strike were forced to withdraw after “Lucky” was injured in transit, meaning that Team USA lost the luxury of having a drop score. You know the results and you’ve seen the photos by now, but there’s much more to this success story that you couldn’t see, with no TV or streaming coverage. So here is an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at American dressage’s “new kids” and their most excellent Pan Am Games adventure.

Why “New Blood” ? “The strategy behind this particular team is that, hopefully, these combinations become future stars in upcoming team events,” US national dressage technical advisor and chef d’equipe Debbie McDonald said before the Games. “We are looking to increase our depth, and these four athletes have shown to be very consistent.” The four riders and horses had been selected in late June and then met in Florida for a week of training and team bonding in mid-July before departing for Lima, with the Pan Am Games opening ceremony set for July 26. At their training camp, the team members meshed well, schooling was on track, and tack trunks and suitcases were packed—including with handcrafted redwhite-and-blue rhinestone stock pins for the lady riders and a matching lapel pin for Ots, courtesy of Lockman’s mother, Francie. But en route from Wellington to Miami to catch the horses’ Lima-bound flight, a latch on the van’s stall-door latch malfunctioned, causing Lucky to scramble. The nine-year-old Hanoverian gelding (Lord Laurie x His Highness 2), owned by Ots’s father, Max Ots, sustained several cuts that required stitches. To ensure his mount’s welfare, Endel Ots withdrew from the competition. (The

IT TAKES A VILLAGE: Sponsor Betsy Juliano (owner of Baumert’s mount, Handsome) and US national dressage technical advisor Debbie McDonald in Lima. In the background is USDF president Lisa Gorretta, who worked as an FEI steward at the Pan Ams.

SPORTSMANSHIP: Even though he couldn’t compete in the Pan Ams, Endel Ots (facing camera) traveled to Lima to cheer on his teammates

USDF CONNECTION | November/December 2019


THEIR NAMES IN LIGHTS: Nora Batchelder had so much fun riding Faro SQF in the Pan Ams that she wished she could do it again

decision proved a wise one: Lucky rebounded to win the Intermediaire I title at the 2019 US Dressage Festival of Champions; see page 10.) With the accident occurring so late in the process, there was no time to summon team alternates Nick Wagman, San Diego, California, and Beverly Gepfer’s 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding, Don John (Johnson x Goodtimes). But the lack of a drop score “doesn’t change a thing for us,” an undeterred McDonald said at the US team introductory press conference in Lima. “We’re here to do a job, and I feel very confident with my girls here that they are going to get it done.”

Meet the Team Nora Batchelder, 35, grew up in Piermont, New Hampshire, a small town she described as having “more cows than people.” She currently resides in the Ocala suburb of Williston, Florida, where she is one of the resident trainers at River House Hanoverians, owned and operated by her parents, Jeanie Hahn and Verne Batchelder, who are themselves Grand Prix-level dressage riders. Batchelder evented a variety of ponies and horses as a child, but by age 18 she decided to focus on dres-

sage. She explained: “I was already in love with training dressage horses— the beauty of being in harmony with such large creatures, and the bonds you create with them when you spend hours and hours learning to speak the same language…. I double-majored in chemistry and art in college, and dressage is also a special mix of scientific precision and artistry. It’s just a good fit for me!” Batchelder’s Pan Am Games partner, the 11-year-old Hanoverian gelding Faro SQ (Fidertanz 2 x Rotspon), was the only American-bred dressage horse on the US team. Batchelder, who co-owns the horse with her cousin Andrea Whitcomb, has been riding “Faro” for nearly three years, although she’s known of him since he was foaled: Her parents had sold his dam, SPS Rose, to Faro’s breeder, Jill Peterson from StarQuarry Hanoverians. “Faro is a total ham,” Batchelder said of her horse. “He is very sweet and personable. He loves to please and will try his heart out for me. He is normally very confident, but he doesn’t love thunderstorms and he has a serious donkey phobia.” Jennifer Baumert, 48, also comes from an equestrian family. She grew up on her family’s Cloverlea Farm in Columbia, Connecticut; mother Beth Baumert is a USDF-certified instructor/trainer and president and CEO of The Dressage Foundation. Jennifer Baumert, who like her mother is a USDF-certified instructor/trainer, left Connecticut 15 years ago. She spent time in the Carolinas before moving to Havensafe Farm in northern Ohio, owned by the wellknown dressage sponsor Betsy Juliano, four years ago. Today she splits her time between Chagrin Falls, Ohio, and Wellington, Florida. Baumert and her husband of 18 years, David Serino, have a nine-year-old son. An avid eventer as a youth, Baumert switched “temporarily” to

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HANDSOME IS AS HANDSOME DOES: Trotting to medals with Jennifer Baumert

dressage in her teens when one of her mounts wasn’t up to jumping at the preliminary level and she couldn’t bear to sell him. “From there on out, I pretty much stole all my mother’s rides,” she recalled, “and became a dressage rider without really consciously making that decision.” The 14-year-old Hanoverian gelding Handsome (Hochadel x Weltmeyer), owned by Betsy Juliano LLC, came into Baumert’s life when she began exercising him for Juliano three years ago. Handsome is Juliano’s personal mount, but her career often takes her away from the farm, Baumert explained, and so Baumert found herself riding the horse increasingly frequently. Eventually Juliano formally turned over the ride to Baumert so that the pair could pursue high-performance aspirations. “I think Handsome is special in every way possible!” Baumert said. “Clearly he is a beautiful horse with three fantastic gaits. He never says no. If I do my job, he goes a step further and says, ‘What can I do for you today?’” Sarah Lockman, 30, of Wildomar, California, is the head trainer for businessman Gerry Ibanez’s Summit Farm in Murrieta, California. She grew up in the small northern Nevada town of Gardnerville and was riding

After Apple was imported, Lockman traveled to Florida and continued her training with Hassler while the stallion was in quarantine. “The first time I sat on Apple, after just two rounds around the arena, I was crying,” Lockman said. “He was just the best horse I’ve ever sat on, and it was such chemistry.” Of her partner, she said: “He is a total quiet gentleman. You would never know he was a stallion. He’s super consistent, and he never says no.” GOING FOR GOLD: The USA’s Sarah Lockman and First Apple were unbeatable in Lima

before she could walk. A “B” Pony Clubber, she evented through intermediate level. “When I was 16,” Lockman recalled, “I got a job offer and moved to southern California, and worked for a big training and sales barn for seven years. That’s where I focused completely on dressage for the first time. I started my own dressage-training business in 2012.” Lockman met Ibanez when he asked her to give him riding lessons after he purchased a Friesian dressage horse. After she found her future Pan Am Games mount, First Apple, in the Netherlands in late 2018, she called Ibanez to see if he would consider investing in a syndicate to purchase the now nine-year-old KWPN stallion (Vivaldi x T.C.N. Partout). Ibanez responded by purchasing the horse outright, and Lockman has been training out of Summit Farm since 2018. “Apple’s” previous trainer, Patrick van der Meer, had ridden the stallion to a fourth-place finish at the 2017 FEI WBFSH Dressage World Breeding Championships for Young Horses, and in Small Tour competition in 2018. At the suggestion of Lockman’s coach, Scott Hassler, she spent a month in the Netherlands riding Apple under van der Meer’s tutelage.

Pan Am Games Dressage: A Unique Scoring System Dressage competition at a Pan American Games is not like that at other international championships. The Pan Ams—the quadrennial international sporting championships for North, Central, and South America and the surrounding islands—are operated under the auspices of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Pan American Sports Organization (PASO). However, Pan Am Games dressage is quite different from Olympic Games dressage. Our sport is not yet as popular in or familiar to many Latin American countries, and so for the Pan Ams participating nations are allowed to send some or all horse-rider combinations from a level lower than those competing in Olympic Games. As recently as 2011, Pan Am Games dressage competition was at Prix St. Georges/ Intermediate I level only. In 2015, citing an increase in proficiency by more countries, the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) changed its Pan Am dressage rules to allow nations to field teams of all Prix St. Georges/ Intermediate I contestants (what the FEI calls Small Tour) or a mixed team comprising both Small Tour and Big

INDIVIDUAL SILVER: Tina Irwin of Canada riding Laurencio

Tour (Intermediate II/Grand Prix) competitors. One important reason to send Big Tour pairs is Olympic qualification. The Pan Ams are a qualifying competition for the following year’s Olympic Games—but Small Tour-only teams aren’t eligible to earn qualification. But because the US dressage team had already qualified for Tokyo 2020 at last year’s FEI World Equestrian Games in North Carolina by virtue of its silver-medal finish, team selectors had the option of sending all Small Tour pairs to gain valuable international experience. That brings us to the issue of scoring, and here’s where the Pan Ams get really complex. As a way to level the playing field, in Lima Big Tour competitors received a 1.5% scoring bonus (e.g., a Grand Prix score of 60% would be boosted to 61.5% for the purposes of calculating team results). However, if a Big Tour rider’s score was the team’s lowest, then that test would become the team’s drop score (assuming a team of four; three-rider teams, like the US team, had no drop score) and the bonus points would also be forfeited. The team with highest combined total points from both days of competition (Prix St. Georges or Grand Prix on day 1; Intermediate I or GP Special on day 2) wins the gold medal. [

USDF CONNECTION | November/December 2019


Scenes from Lima


he 2019 Pan American Games were the largest sporting event ever hosted by Peru. Lima, Peru’s capital city, is the country’s largest and boasts stunning views of the Pacific Ocean, historic architecture, and thriving cultural and educational institutions. Enjoy these images of some of Lima’s and Peru’s treasures.

The individual placings in the team competition served as qualifiers for the individual medal competition. In Lima, of the 38 starters (30 Small Tour and eight Big Tour), the top 18 combinations (14 Small Tour and four Big Tour) moved on to the freestyle individual final. The bonus-point system for Big Tour combinations did not apply to individual qualification or medals.

Behind the Medals

DRAMATIC COASTLINE: Surfers and hang gliders in the Pacific off the coast of Lima

HISTORIC LIMA: Changing of the guard in the city center

COLORFUL TRADITION: Peruvian women sell alpaca woolens

WORLD WONDER: View of the 15th-century Inca citadel Machu Picchu in Peru, a UNESCO World Heritage Site

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The 2019 Pan American Games dressage competition was held at the Army Equitation School (Equestrian Club La Militar) in the La Molina district of Lima. The first horse inspection was held on July 26, followed by arena familiarization July 27, the team competition July 27-28, a second horse inspection July 30, and the freestyle competition for individual medals July 31. The competition was by no means a cakewalk: The Americans and Canadians were neck and neck each day for the gold and silver team medals. Canada fielded two Small Tour pairs (Lindsay Kellock on Floratina and Tina Irwin on Laurencio) and two FEI Big Tour pairs (Naïma Moreira-Laliberté on Statesman and Jill Irving on Degas 12). By the end of day one, the US held a slight advantage (+0.146) over the Canadians. At stake for the USA was a point of national pride: the desire to continue its string of Pan Am dressage team gold-medal wins, unbroken since 1999. For Canada the goal was twofold: to win its first dressage team gold since 1991, and—perhaps more important—to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. In the end, Team Canada edged out Team USA for gold by 2.32

points, assisted in part by the 1.5% boost in the score of Big Tour rider Moreira-Laliberté. The Brazilian and Mexican teams similarly fought for the team bronze medal and a qualification spot for Tokyo; Brazil prevailed by 5.058 points. The individual medal race was equally competitive between the US and Canada. The top three individuals in Lima, all Small Tour pairs, were Lockman/First Apple (gold), Irwin/Laurencio (silver), and Baumert/Handsome (bronze). Before competition began, McDonald noted that “in order to secure a top team finish, our development-level athletes will need to work to achieve personal bests under pressure in their first major Games and in a team environment.” The US riders delivered: Lockman, who placed first in every class, earned three FEI-competition personal bests (76.088% at Prix St. Georges, 75.912% at Intermediate I, 78.980% in the I-I Freestyle). Baumert and Handsome’s bronzemedal-winning freestyle score of 75.755% was second only to a slightly higher freestyle score the pair earned in a CDI-3* in Florida in February. And Batchelder’s freestyle score of 73.630%, which placed her fifth individually, was her personal best with Faro. Her first team experience made a deep impression on Lockman. “It was a special feeling walking around in Team USA gear and feeling the ‘country pride,’ she said afterward. “I will never forget standing on that podium and watching the flag go up and hearing the national anthem. As dressage riders we rarely get to ride on any kind of team, so it was also a fun, new experience to have other team members cheer you on and feel like your ride mattered for the team results.” “I have always dreamed of be-

INDIVIDUAL MEDALISTS: Tina Irwin (silver), Sarah Lockman (gold), and Jennifer Baumert (bronze)

ing on a US team,” said Baumert, “and the experience exceeded my expectations. It was such an honor to represent the USA.” “As soon as it was over, I wished I could do it all over again!” said Batchelder. “I am deeply inspired to make this opportunity happen again…. It really was a dream come true!”

Next Stop: Tokyo

By the time you read this, the Tokyo Games will be only eight months away. With the Olympics set for the height of the city’s summer heat and humidity—the dressage competition is scheduled for July 24-29—most of the equestrian events, including dressage, will be held in the evenings, as they were in similarly tropical Hong Kong in 2008. Competition will commence at 5:00 or 5:30 p.m. and will run until about 10:00 p.m. local time (Tokyo is 13 hours ahead of the eastern US). The FEI already has in place guidelines for competition management to follow under these weather conditions. For more information about the Tokyo Olympics (and the Paralympics, which kick off in late August), visit Fresh off a visit to Tokyo in August for the Olympic dressage test event, McDonald said that “as with any Games, there will be challenges,” but that organizers “are doing a great job on what we were able to see. The heat and humidity is going to be tough.” Including such front-runners as Laura Graves on Verdades and Kasey Perry-Glass on Goerklintgaards Dublet, “we have a lot of athletes who will be in the running for the three-man team and one travelingreserve position,” McDonald said. “We will be working closely with all combinations to prepare them for these challenges. We will be going over individual performance plans so we can send the strongest team possible to Tokyo.”

Photographer and journalist Kim MacMillan and her husband, photographer Allen MacMillan, own and operate Loon Creek Enterprises, an 84-acre equine breeding facility and grain farm in northeastern Indiana.

USDF CONNECTION | November/December 2019


Special Selections Our annual holiday-gift picks for the dressage enthusiast on your list

The Year in Smiles Misfit Designs’ Jody Lynne Werner has packaged some of her best-loved exclusive-to-USDF Connection “The Near Side” cartoons into a wall calendar. Give a dressage enthusiast the Best of Dressage Humor 12-month calendar and you’re sure to brighten their entire year. Can’t get enough of Werner’s funny takes on dressage and horse life? Her Cafepress store also offers the now-famous Guide to Dressage Scribe Emojis—which blew up the Internet when USDF Connection published them in 2017—as posters, note cards, and greeting cards.

56 November/December 2019 | USDF CONNECTION

Lather, Rinse, Ride Lots of folks make nice soaps. But do they get you, and your equestrian highs and woes? HeelsDown Media does. Its HeelsDown web shop now offers HeelsDown soaps, billed as “natural soaps for dirty equestrians.” The soaps are vegan, cruelty-free, and handmade with essential oils. Buy one or all for the long-suffering rider in your life: Stressed Out Ammy (with lavender), Upper Level Goals (lemongrass), Barn Drama Detox (Dead Sea mud), and more.

Wrap Yourself in Dressage Massachusetts-based artist Frederique Poulain sells her hand-painted equestrian-themed ceramics, home décor items, and more through her Frederique Studio. New this holiday season is the Dressage Motif Scarf (jumping and foxhunting scenes are also available). The Modal fabric is breathable, silky-smooth, pill-resistant, and washable. With generous dimensions of 72" x 18", the scarf can be worn any number of ways.

USDF CONNECTION | November/December 2019


Keep Your Favorite Rider Warm This Winter On those bitter winter days, it can be challenging to stay warm at the barn, or anywhere else outside. After all, what clothing can you layer over riding apparel that you can actually get into and out of without hassle? Redingote Equestrian’s technical equestrian winter coverall may be the solution. It’s waterproof, breathable, and insulated, with lots of pockets and thigh-high leg zippers so you can get in and out of the jumpsuit even with boots on. Clever rider-friendly details include a pocket with a wipeable liner for storing horse treats, a crop pocket on one leg, and a D-ring on one hip for attaching spurs or other items.

Comfort and Equestrian Style Ellany Equestrian transforms the time-tested horse-blanket surcingle clasp into the closure for its comfortable elastic belts (shown: brown with rose gold). Or choose belts with the popular snaffle-bit closures in silver, gold, or rosegold tones. One size fits most, and the belts are machine-washable.

58 November/December 2019 | USDF CONNECTION

Your Horse, Immortalized Beautifully Tempi Design Studio designs and produces a vast array of jewelry, not just equestrian-themed—from earrings and necklaces to belt buckles and stock pins, in various metals. Any piece would make a lovely gift, but if you’re looking for something truly unique, owner/designer (and longtime equestrian and metallurgist) Eileen Johnson specializes in custom work, such as creating a piece based on a photo of a beloved horse. In the example shown, Johnson first created a wax model from a photo, then cast the horse’s likeness in bronze to create a custom belt buckle.

A Gift for Your Horse Your horse has worked hard for you all year. Thank him with a gift he can enjoy for a long time: the new Dressager equine massage roller by Epona. The hand-held massager’s two rollers help to loosen tight muscles to promote relaxation and flexibility. Aaahh!

USDF CONNECTION | November/December 2019


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USDF CONNECTION | November/December 2019


My Dressage Those Were the Days An adult rider fondly recalls her carefree childhood horse-show days By Alyssa Pilkington After spending several years learning about dressage, I began going to recognized shows with my young Dutch gelding, the new guy I loved so much. My parents would wake me up early on show days, with one 3:30 a.m. alarm presaging my very first cup of coffee. Now that I’m an adult, showing is still fun, but it’s a lot more stressful. These days, my biggest obstacle to competing is finding someone to hang out with my squad of raptors, er, daughters for the weekend. It’s a pretty tall order, keeping three girls aged three to eight relatively content

more gold than the Lanisters, strolling about in their fancy saddles and bridles. Meanwhile, I ride in an old saddle that I’ve had for 20 years. It is faded and out of style, but it works. So who cares? And if they do, honestly, let them think their thoughts; my mind is busy with other nonsense: How much time do I have to put my makeup on in the morning? Is there an air-conditioned place to do so? Overall, horse shows as an adult are quite the paradox. I have so much more to care about, like my family. Showing is still important, but does it actually matter? At the end of the day, are people going to sit around talking about that terrible test you rode? Probably not—unless, that is, you did something particularly memorable, such as jumping out of the arena, which has happened to me before. There is one dramatic difference between showing as a kid and showing as an adult. Today, horse shows wear me out. By the time midmorning rolls around, I’m ready to go home and take a nap. As a kid, I literally slept in a horse stall one night. Those were the days!

A DIFFERENT KIND OF HORSE-SHOW MOM: The writer and her Dutch Warmblood gelding, Borg

wore the same thing—which, to my mind, meant that they couldn’t be judged on their clothes and sparkles. Later, when I started dressage lessons, I was so stoked about being alone in the show arena. I couldn’t get lost amongst the crowd; the judge could see all that I had to offer!

and fed adequate snacks. The next thing on my mind is my training and my horse. Am I up to par for the desired level? Do I bounce too much in the sitting trot? Why can’t I half-pass the way I want to? Then there is the tack issue. I see a lot of people who seem to have

64 November/December 2019 | USDF CONNECTION

Born and raised in Port Huron, Michigan, Alyssa Pilkington got hooked on dressage when at age 13 she saw Lipizzan stallions in performance. She currently rides her Dutch Warmblood gelding, Borg, at Third Level, and is a stay-at-home mom of three young daughters.



n my early teens, after riding for about a year, I took my Appaloosa to my first horse show. It was a local schooling show, with both Western and English classes and lots of showmanship. I remember feeling frantic and wishing so hard for a ribbon, any ribbon! For the most part, even though I lacked the fancy Western show attire, showing was super fun—lots of friends, food, and beautiful horses. Soon I began admiring the hunter-seat riders, whose clothes looked so polished and professional. Best of all, everyone pretty much

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