Meet the Committee Chair – Holly Hillard, Adult Programs Committee

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What is your committee’s mission?

To encourage, increase, and enrich adult participation in dressage by providing educational opportunities and recognition of achievement. 

How long have you been on this committee?

Since 2007

How long have you been the committee chair?

Since 2012

How did you get involved in the sport of dressage?

Before I had a horse, I watched a clinic and decided then that, if I had a horse, I would ride dressage.  Not long after that, my husband suggested I think about getting a horse so, I did.  The poor guy didn’t know what he was getting into. 

How did you get involved with USDF?

I joined a GMO, but we lived in rural Colorado, and I didn’t feel very connected.  My first real exposure to USDF was as a participant in the Instructor Certification Workshops. That was a huge stretch for me, but I did it for the education.

How did you get involved in the committee?

In 2006, we moved to Florida where I met Sandi Bishop who was the Regional Director at that time.  She later invited me to be the region’s committee representative.

What is your favorite part of being involved with this committee?

Working with others who share my passion for horses, dressage, and education. 

What unique qualifications made you an expert in the committee’s area?

In a previous life, I developed and taught seminars, and did staff training for a veterinary software company. Education has always appealed to me and I really enjoy getting others excited about things I’m passionate about. 

Living in a rural Colorado, it was a struggle to even find another dressage rider let alone instruction and other education.  Internet was so slow it was pretty much worthless except for email.  I’d read everything I could find and then go try it on my horse.  It was a frustratingly slow process with no real way of assessing progress.  Getting away from work and family commitments was difficult. I finally took a weekend to travel to a clinic.  At the end of the clinic, I asked and that instructor agreed to travel to our remote area and I started hosting clinics.  Getting them off the ground was slow at first but eventually we were doing monthly clinics with a waiting list.  Having that life experience and remembering how frustrating it was keeps me committed to helping others in similar situations get a little help.  It may be difficult, but it is possible. 

What has been your committee’s greatest accomplishment, or what do you hope to accomplish during your tenure?

Over the years, we’ve developed some really great educational opportunities and resources.  Currently we’re excited about the GMO Education Initiative and Grant Program and the increased educational opportunities the program helps GMOs offer. 

Developing an interactive National Education Calendar is a project I am particularly interested in seeing through to completion. The first stage launched last fall. The goal is to provide a searchable database of dressage educational opportunities. Ultimately, we want this to be “the site” for organizers to post events and “the resource” for those looking for them. 

Please share a little bit about yourself and your background.

I grew up mostly outside of Philadelphia, PA.  I majored in Animal Science at Penn State.   My wonderfully supportive husband, Steve, and I have been married for 37 years.  We have two children and two grandchildren.

I worked most of my adult life as a Licensed Veterinary Technician.  Steve worked in the hospitality industry so we moved a lot.  We eventually landed in Colorado where I got my first horse and started riding when I was 38 or 39, I think. Dressage quickly became a passion.  One thing led to another and today Steve and I own and operate Harmony Horse Dressage in NW Florida where we board a few horses, and I teach and train lower level dressage.  I also do equine massage and body work which I find very rewarding and really enjoy.  Life is good. 

Do you currently compete in dressage, or have you competed in the past?

I am not currently competing but have in the past and hope to again in the near future. I retired my horse, Frisco, a few years ago and, after a long search, I am about to purchase a new dressage partner.

Please share a favorite dressage-related memory.

I finally got brave enough to actually enter a show.  The weekend was all pretty much of a blur but when I unloaded at home, I hung up three blue ribbons.        

What horse impacted your love for the sport the most?

That’s a difficult choice.  Three horses have shared my dressage journey thus far and all have had a significant and unique impact.  Sueno, my first horse, taught me trust and connection on a level I never imagined.  Gamble, an OTTB with a heart of gold, taught me that patience, consistency, and commitment would pave the way.  And Frisco, the horse that showed me what it felt like when I got it right, and made me keep trying to get it right again.  I’m looking forward to whatever lessons my new horse has to offer. 

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