In recognition of her contributions to dressage as a competitor, breeder, trainer, instructor, and judge for over 25 years, Lilo Fore was inducted into the Roemer Foundation/USDF Hall of Fame in 2017, by then-USDF President George Williams. Her induction took place at the 2017 Adequan®/USDF Annual Awards Banquet and Salute Gala, with George giving the following speech.
I was not quite certain on how to introduce our next honoree. Then it occurred to me. I should really start with the words of another American Great, who is in the Hall of Fame. Hilda Gurney wrote: “I met [Lilo] in the late seventies and was honored to have her ride in the clinics that I was conducting at Stanford University. Already a skilled and passionate rider, Lilo trained her thoroughbred gelding, Dionysus, to the Grand Prix level. Both Lilo and I had young stallions that we stood for breeding at that time when warmbloods were new to America and frozen semen had not yet been developed. Lilo, with her excellent eye and tremendous depth of knowledge, continued to advance in the national and international judging world becoming an outstanding ambassador for both Dressage and the United States of America.”
I’m not sure if Hilda knew that Lilo had purchased Dionysus for the huge amount of 1$ not long after she had immigrated in 1971. He was a broken down three-year-old American Thoroughbred. Connie Davenport thinks there probably was another reason he was only a $1. No matter, she said: “He had, however, met his match. There were so few FEI horses in California, that every time one of them stepped into a show arena, we all stopped to watch. Dionysus was very special and maybe would not have been if Lilo had not come along. She had fancier horses later on, but Dionysus showed us all that she could train in the most positive sense of the word.” With Lilo, Dionysus went on to become the national “Horse of the Year” at every level. A champion at Prix St Georges, Lilo and he were also selected for the USET long list in 1976.
Connie remembers those early days in 1972 at Springdown Farm in Portola Valley. “At the time, Springdown had school horses – a really nice group, all named after desserts like Chocolate Mousse. The barn owner and the manager were fans of the ‘new’ discipline of dressage, so even the school horses had a smattering of training. One day, while I was tacking up, one of the other boarders asked me if I had heard what happened the night before. Apparently, a ‘young’ woman had called and asked to take a lesson. When she showed up, according to most versions of the story, she looked the horses over and said…‘I’ll take that one’. She then mounted up, went to the arena and proceeded to put him through his paces. The poor horse was undoubtedly in a state of shock as this was not the usual timid, bumbling beginner. The instructor was in an even greater state of shock. She quickly realized that there was not much that she could offer in the way of instruction. That ‘young’ woman was Lilo.”
Lilo became part of the fledgling Northern California dressage scene, developing a riding and training business. After she moved to Stanford, she became the “go to person” for dressage. On one occasion, when Connie Davenport complimented a friend on a very nice test, s]he was told that her friend’s horse, “along with just about every other competitor’s from that barn, was ridden by Lilo the week before the show.” Then, somewhat jokingly, the friend told her that she just sat there and tried not to mess it up. Her friend described the experience as being handed a really different, and better, horse after Lilo had ridden and taught them.
Dionysus was the beginning of many great horses and accomplishments for Lilo in the United States. Her next horse, a Hanoverian named General, won Prix St. Georges Horse of the Year, USDF, AHSA (now USEF), and CDS Intermediare I Horse of the Year as well as placing fourth at the 1984 USET selection trials in Los Angeles.
Lilo grew up in Düsseldorf, Germany and remembers seeing her first horse at the age of four saying, “…from that time on I knew that four legs, a mane and a tail would be my life.” Although her father tried to talk her out of a life of horses, through the German Government Riding School in Warrendorf, Lilo received her bronze, silver, and gold riding medals as well as her instructor’s license.
In 1973, Lilo was asked if she would be interested in judging. She said “no”. She didn’t think she would be good enough. She had already ridden through FEI but, at that moment, to Lilo, a judge was a god. She didn’t believe she should sit in a box and tell people how they should ride. However, her colleagues pushed her to go through the judges program with the California Dressage Society. It was a long journey to get to the 5* position, a very prestigious position that Lilo is proud to have achieved. She said: “I hope I’ve been able to prove to my colleagues and to show managements that it was deserved.”
Lilo continues to base her training and breeding center, Sporthorse America, in Santa Rosa, California. She has developed numerous horses and riders who have qualified for international competitions and championships. Her breeding operations have earned her several awards in the United States and Canada, offering as many as 6 stallions at stud at her farm. As a trainer and clinician Lilo has also written countless articles on dressage and continues to teach clinics worldwide.
Lilo has been judging international competitions since 1990. Though she has retired from international competition just this year, she held an FEI “I” Judge status as a 3* PARA Judge and 5* Dressage and Young Horse Judge. Lilo is also a Registered Dressage Sport Horse Breeding Judge and Senior Judge for Dressage and Young Horse. Her judging assignments have included CDI’s up to 5* level and CDI-W shows. She has been a member of the ground jury for numerous USET selection trials and for the Pan American Games, World Cup Finals, World Young Horse Championships, and the World Equestrian Games.
Lilo’s dedication to the USDF has been instrumental in the development and promotion of dressage. She was one of the founding members of the USDF Instructor/Trainer Program and is currently the Co-Chair. She remains active as an examiner and teacher for the program. She was instrumental in the creation of the Instructor Certification program. She has been a member of numerous committees for both USDF and US Equestrian. She is a member of the recently formed US Equestrian Dressage Sport Committee. She has served as a clinician for multiple USDF clinics, including the 2017 Adequan®/USDF FEI-Level Trainers Conference. Her commitment to USDF and the sport of dressage is seen in every facet of her career with horses.
In closing, I would like to read an Email which Stephen Clarke, the FEI Judge General sent me:
Regarding Lilo –
“I consider it a huge honour to have been able to think of myself as one of Lilo’s close friends for almost half a century now (well 45 years anyway!).
I first met Lilo at her barn in the mid 70s when I was lucky enough to spend a day watching her training her horses and teaching clients… That day had an impact on me which was life changing and inspiring beyond belief.
To watch Lilo’s effective yet soft sympathetic riding, with her perfect seat and elastic forward feeling contact was inspiration enough!
But then to listen to her teaching was mind blowing!
The pearls of wisdom I picked up that day have stayed with me for a lifetime and hugely influenced my own riding and teaching.
Little did either of [us] know back then that our camaraderie would develop even more some years later as judges at FEI Competitions and Major Championships where Lilo could always be relied upon to ‘tell the truth’ while remaining sympathetic, and to use the scale of marks realistically and with great courage!
Lilo has done more to help and improve the image of our sport worldwide than can be imagined, and must be regarded as one of USA’s greatest ambassadors!
By the way, Lilo also does a mean ‘Cher’ impression when called upon to sing ‘I got you Babe’ at various karaoke venues, with of course me at her side as ‘Sonny’! (Please contact our agent for future bookings ☺)
I cannot think of a more deserving person than Lilo to be awarded this great honour of being included in the USDF Hall of Fame.
Enjoy your evening my friend!
Love as always