What is your committee’s mission?
To develop educational opportunities and international competition experiences for riders, ages 14-21, who ride at the FEI sanctioned Junior and Young Rider levels.
How long have you been on this committee?
I don’t recall exactly. About 30 years.
How long have you been the committee chair?
How did you get involved in the sport of dressage?
Through my husband, George Williams.
How did you get involved with USDF?
FEI judge Marianne Ludwig suggested we become involved with USDF because we ran horse shows and judges forums at Tempel Farms.
How did you get involved in the committee?
I worked for Tempel Farms which was a host site for the North American Youth Championships (NAYC). The Committee was in its infancy and was comprised of many of the legends of US dressage – Fiona Baan, Jack Fritz, Jack Burton, Jessica Ransenhousen and Col. Thackeray, to name a few.
What is your favorite part of being involved with this committee?
Being a part of this committee is quite rewarding. It is a great committee with dedicated people wanting to help our youth strive for an FEI pathway.
What unique qualifications made you an expert in the committee’s area?
I have worn many hats. I was part of the NAYC starting in 1985. I was an FEI Chief Steward and a USEF TD. I also managed Dressage at Tempel Farms and the AHSA Central States Championships. I have coached several riders to the NAYC and also am a parent of a child who has ridden at the NAYRC.
What has been your committee’s greatest accomplishment, or what do you hope to accomplish during your tenure?
Over the course of the 30 years, this Committee has developed a viable program with an excellent set of criteria that allows for a level playing field for both horse and rider.
Please share a little bit about yourself and your background.
I have been around a long time. I started riding when I was 10 years old as a hunter/jumper/foxhunter. When I went to school in Vienna, Austria, I saw the Spanish Riding School and was smitten. I returned to the US but continued jumping – as high and as fast as I could. While working as an Editorial/Production Manager at a publishing house in Chicago, I met my husband, who was at Tempel Farms riding Lipizzans. You could say, I was smitten again, and I traded in my jumping saddle for a dressage saddle. I never looked back. I ended up working at Tempel Farms as their PR and Development Director. During those years, we hosted Judges Forums, USET High Performance Clinics, the Central States Championships, the NAYC and of course, the Tempel Lipizzan Performances. We performed at Madison Square Gardens, the Mozart Music Festival, Grant Park Symphony, and many other amazing places and for amazing people like Reiner Klimke and Erich Kunzel (Conductor of the Cincinnati Pops and National Symphony Orchestra). It was like living in Camelot. Nearly 20 years later, we moved to Gypsy Woods Farm in Ohio, and we catapulted to the international arena with Rocher. That was a wild and exhilarating ride, not just for George but for our little family. Currently, all three of us – George, myself, and our daughter Noel – teach and train. It is our way of life.
Do you currently compete in dressage, or have you competed in the past?
I have my USDF Gold, Silver and Bronze Medals. I had to ‘sit’ out this last year because of knee surgery, but hope to go down the centerline again soon.
Please share a favorite dressage-related memory.
I am fortunate that I have so many wonderful memories, I could write a book. One of the most profound memories I have was at the 2001 Munich Indoor CDI. The European Competitions are such total entertainment. The announcers/sound techs set each rider’s test to music which incorporates the gaits of the test. So, when you are in the trot, it is trot music and if it is passage, it is passage music and so on. They are quite clever about it all. George and Rocher had already competed at the Oldenburg CDI in early November and were second to Lisa Wilcox on Relevant. Nobody knew who he was or who the floppy eared black mare was. They used James Bond for the background music since they didn’t know who the mysterious man was. It seemed appropriate. When we got to Munich, there was already a ‘buzz’ about Rocher. Who was this guy? And who was this incredible horse?
It was just barely 3 months after the attack on the Twin Towers. I think we were the only Americans at the show. Noel was 13 years old at the time and was with us as we did not want our family to be separated if war broke out. Standing on the ground floor of the “Olympiahalle” was awe inspiring as it was where the 1972 Summer Olympics were held and, sadly, the infamous massacre of the Israeli athletes. The indoor stadium seats over 15,000 people. Looking up, the venue is overwhelming as it seems to go up and up and up. George and Rocher came down the centerline for the Grand Prix and they were announced as “crossing the ocean from the USA”. Then, they played “ Hooked on Classics” American patriotic music which somehow matched the footfalls of the mare. People started to stand up, many of whom were in tears and they remained standing until the ride ended. Their silent tribute was deafening. I shall never forget it.
What horse impacted your love for the sport the most?
I am fortunate to have many wonderful horses in my life. The one that got me through the toughest challenges I have faced was a huge grey Dutch Warmblood named “Drakensberg”. It means, “Dragon’s Mountain”, and he was my rock.
Roberta has been heavily involved in the USDF Youth Programs since their inception and has helped see them grown and evolve into what they are today. She is also a member of the Youth Programs Committee, Regional Championship Committee, and Historical Recognition Committee.