Meet the L Graduate – Michelle Anderson

Michelle Anderson (YourHorses.Photography)

I am one of many horse crazy little girls who never outgrew the crazy! Blame my maternal grandmother who was an active competitor in her teens and got me started at an early age “posting” the trot while straddling my imaginary horse (aka her piano bench). I have competed since childhood in hunter/jumpers, three-day eventing, the Appaloosa breed circuit, and now dressage.

How long have you been involved in the sport?

My childhood hunter/jumper trainers focused on a sound dressage foundation, but I did not compete in dressage shows until the late 70s/early 80s.

How long have you been a USDF member?

On and off since the early 80s.

What made you decide to participate in the USDF L Education Program?

My trainer at that time, USEF “R” Licensed Dressage judge Gwen Ka’awaloa, persuaded me to apply after I scribed for her through her USEF Dressage “r” testing.

How long did it take to complete the program, start to finish?

I completed my minimum scribing requirements prior to the initial classroom session, so about 18 months.

Do you plan to further your dressage education and to continue to apply what you learned in the program to become a licensed official?

Yes. My current horse is 15 so my plan now is to take him as far as we can go and gain as many qualifying scores towards future judging programs as possible before he retires.

Do you serve as a judge for schooling shows in your capacity as an L Graduate? If so, on average, how many per year?

In Colorado, prior to my move to Virginia, I judged 10-15 schooling shows each year. The pandemic and my move have obviously disrupted that! I hope that next year I can show and increase my contacts within the Virginia dressage community so I may be invited to judge here as well. (I’ve just received my first VA invite to judge!)

What impact did the program have on your dressage knowledge?

Gwen and I always tell people that I took the program so I would stop arguing with her during my lessons, and that’s not entirely a joke! I’m much more willing to make changes to my riding and training rather than make excuses for why I cannot. There are no magic bullets or quick fixes in this sport, at least none that will stand the test of time as you move up the levels. Foundation is everything. Without it, you’re building a house of cards.

Name three things you took away from the program that you think every rider should know.

A test is a collection of separately judged movements. Don’t let a mistake or problem continue from one movement to the next. Just move on and make that next movement the best you’ve ever ridden!

Riding an accurate test can gain points. Make that 20m/15m/10m circle the correct size and shape. Know where your letters and quarter lines are located. Those ½ points for accuracy can add up.

Ride a test you are capable of performing WELL. READ the test directives and ensure you can meet those definitions. A stellar lower level test is a joy for both you and the person judging.

Have you participated in or completed other USDF programs? Describe.

I have scribed for L, “r”, and “R” testings and earned my USDF Bronze Medal in 2019.

Have you served in any other official capacity with USDF (council/committee member, council/committee chair, PM/GM delegate, board member/Regional Director, etc.)? Please describe.

Not for USDF directly, but I have served as Secretary of the High Plains Chapter of Rocky Mountain Dressage Society, both President and Treasurer of the Pikes Peak Chapter of RMDS, and as education chair for RMDS.

Tell us about your horse(s).

My current horse is a 2006 PRE gelding named Acero. I’ve owned him for nine years. Our early years together were very rocky as I had developed some poor riding habits (balancing on my hands and his mouth) which he resented. I lost count of how many times he stood up! Over time and with trainer help, we now have a wonderful relationship and I earned my USDF Bronze Medal on him last year. We are now working on filling in holes in his basics (seeking the bit and moving over his back) so we can move successfully up the levels. This effort has been temporarily sidelined while I recover from a non-horse related fractured fibula, but Acero is continuing his work with my current trainer Josie Howard.

Phone: (303) 775-9912                                                     Email:

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