What is your committee’s mission?
To promote the pursuit of excellence in dressage instruction and training.
How long have you been the committee chair?
Have been the chair of this program numerous times, probably a total of two decades.
How did you get involved in the Sport of Dressage:
Fell in love with horses the first time I laid eyes on these amazing athletes. Been with horses all my life, in Germany and now in the USA. In Germany one learns first the classical training method, a good seat, good training techniques, then decides which of the equestrian sports one would like to pursue. I did some dressage when young, showed in some competitions, and enjoyed it, but then pursued eventing, as I loved to gallop and loved speed.
I rode baby racehorses as a teenager, breezing them on the track as much as my parents allowed me. Learned how to handle young horses, was thrown onto their backs and then given the good luck sign, I needed it. The same happened in the barns where I rode. Rode more young horses in my life then I can count, but loved their innocence, they did not know wrong from right, and we only do. Went into the Jumper world after, still the speed I loved, but also the control over their bodies. My basic dressage training helped me in that sport. My jumpers did more dressage than many others and it definitely helped me with the training, the control over flying changes, being more supple overall but eventing remained still at that time my love. Enrolled into the Bereiter program at the Landes-reitschule first in Krefeld, then at Wülfrath/Dusseldorf, continued into educational courses to Warendorf.
Was in Australia for a few years, for business college, so I know how to spend money on horses without getting broke. Imported myself to the USA, one of the best decisions I have made in my life but did not know it at that time of course. Looked for a place to ride, as I could not be very long without having a horse in my life. Found a barn with school-horses in Portola Valley, near San Francisco.
Signed myself up for a riding lesson, I was lucky enough to pick the horse I wanted to ride though everyone was worried about me, as it was a horse only the instructor got to ride. It was decked out with tie-down and running martingale but when no one was looking I took all these gadgets off and disappeared into the arena before anyone was able to see it for my “lesson”. A young lady showed up while I was warming up the horse, then disappeared. I was happy to ride so did not pay much attention. Another lady showed up and disappeared as well. After about 40 minutes, I started cooling out the horse. I took care of the horse in the stable and went to the office to pay for the interesting lesson. The answer to my question what I owed was if I would like to come back the next day to train a few more horses. That was my starting point in the USA.
I turned this stable into the first dressage barn in Northern California, still did some eventing but ended up from that point on training more the dressage phase of it, as that was the weaker part of the education in that location.
Several horses later, training, teaching, competing, got to know some good trainers in the area;Hans Moeller, Herman Friedlaender, Liz Searle and many more educated Equestrians. Got to know Hilda Guerney, and Sandy Howard and we competed with and against each other for many years.
I was encouraged to enter the judges world in 1974, though I thought that it was ridiculous me entering this program as I did not feel knowledgeable enough to become a judge. I truly thought that was an assumption I should not have, I was a rider, a trainer, starting to become a teacher but a judge? NO WAY.
I had some good luck with horses, was on the USET Team with several horses, won several AHSA awards, Horse of the Year Awards with several horses, trained a few through Grand Prix and had some success.
I realized through that time of course that dressage was and had become my passion. I also realized that our training/ teaching needed some help for our riders to become more successful in this sport here in the USA.
USA had some great successes in eventing, in hunters, and jumpers but dressage was in the beginning stage of growth in the early 1970’s. The distances made it complicated for riders to get the needed education they wanted, learning as much as they could under these circumstances. They were learning by the seat of their pants so to speak.
I did become a dressage judge, also therefore a member of then known as the AHSA, also a member of the USET as I was riding in some of the USET selection trials. Member of USEF. My interest at that time was more my own riding, the training of horses then slowly also got interested in teaching this sport. Traveled some and met riders, got interested in the teaching aspect of dressage. Heard about Lowell Boomer, who was trying to lay down the foundation of an educational federation, which would help the education to go more nationally.
I was on an airplane and a USDF representative was on the plane with me and we got to talk about what my wish was for the future. I absorbed the question for a moment; I was a nobody in my opinion and was surprised to be asked. I finally said that my wish was to have a more uniform standard for the dressage sport; be able to provide more intense education to dressage instructors/ trainers, as that was where I thought it should start. Education to the ones which already were training and teaching, giving them more tolls, giving them the education they wanted on a more national scale. Having an educational program geared toward professionals, developing and having an educational program and eventually, a certification of trainers and instructors. Sharing knowledge nationwide as Lowell Boomer was establishing USDF with a group of dedicated people, education in mind. There was a need for more nationwide communication, interaction, and cohesiveness. In the early 1970’s it became apparent that it was time to establish a national organization for the sole purpose of furthering dressage in the United States.
I believed that it had to start with the trainers and teachers to develop riders for our dressage sport, my reasoning behind the answer to the USDF representative that a certification program should maybe get started where the main focus would be education of the professionals whose purpose was teaching the dressage sport.
Many years of hard work, many disappointments, struggles within the program, amazing equestrians who dedicated their lives to this sport, coming closer and closer with our partners for the “judges program”.
We are now sharing our goals to make it work for everyone. I am so lucky to say that I have met the most wonderful, amazing people in these now close to five decades of my being involved in these programs, whose only goal is the welfare of our horses and the education of our riders, trainers/teachers and judges. Our USEF and USDF staff, which are now more friends than office staff, we could not do it without them but it also goes the other way around. Hours of dedicated work of so many volunteers, it would not be possible without any of them.
I am not very comfortable talking about myself but it takes a village to make such improvement in this sport.
Thank you for listening, Take what you want from it, discard what you want.