Meet the L Graduate- Halley Bell


Halley Bell, who has earned her USDF Bronze and Silver Medals, as well as her Bronze and Silver Freestyle Bars, established GreyHall Dressage, LLC, in 2017, while working full time as a civilian for the United States Air Force. In summer 2020, she began teaching and training full time. While in the process of relocating her training business to the Charlottesville, VA area, Halley and her husband are in the midst of their farm search. 

How long have you been involved in the sport?

I started riding at six years old, and I was lucky that my first instructor was a dressage rider/trainer. In my early teens, I tried other disciplines, but at age 16 decided to focus on dressage. 

How long have you been a USDF member?

I became a USDF member in 2004 at the age of 17. I competed that year for the first time at Training Level with my first horse, Fionnagan aka “Finn”. As a new-to-the-sport rider and horse combination, those first few tests reflected our green-ness. Everyone starts somewhere! With good instruction, a lot of hard work, patience, and determination, I eventually earned my USDF Bronze Medal, Silver Medal, and Bronze and Silver Freestyle Bars with Finn. 

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

My longtime friend, coach, and mentor, Sue Mandas, a USEF “S” dressage judge, encouraged me to go through the program.     

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

I started Part 1 in November of 2016, and I graduated from the program in August of 2018. I completed both the Part 1 and Part 2 hosted by Glass-ED. There was over a year break between the two parts.  

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, I hope to one day become a licensed official. Right now, I am focused on riding, coaching, and finishing the scores needed to continue.  

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

I enjoy judging at schooling shows, and like that it helps me continue to improve and practice my judging skills. Last year, I judged four schooling shows. This year, so far, I have judged only two shows. Several shows that I was scheduled to judge were canceled due to COVID-19.  

What impact did the program have on your dressage knowledge?

The program has had a huge impact on my riding and ability to coach more effectively. I benefitted in many ways from participating, but the key highlights of the program are that it improved my eye, advanced my dressage vocabulary, and improved my understanding of judges’ comments. It changed the way I ride a test and look at the written test afterward. In my training, I now put even more emphasis on the basics vs. the “tricks.”  

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

1) Read the purpose of every test and read the directives for each movement. There is a lot of good information in both that can help a rider to be successful and/or pick a suitable test.
2) Understand the basics and how important they are to success at every level. A persistent problem or weakness with the basics will impact every movement in a test.
3) Learn what each number score means, such as 7.0 means “Fairly Good”. There is a methodology to good judging. Judging is a hard, fast paced job. It is a very different skill set from riding and requires a lot of multitasking and mental focus. Spend some time scribing. It’s a great way to learn a little more about the judge’s point of view and job.  

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

I have not had the opportunity to complete any other programs yet- the L Education Program was my priority. Next, I would like to pursue USDF Instructor Certification.

Tell us about your horse(s).

I own a five-year-old Dutch Warmblood, Kipling, who I raised from a foal. It has been fun watching him grow up and be a part of his training from the beginning. Also, I am currently competing Woodford, owned by Jeri Tate, who I have been riding/training for the past four years. Woodford and I qualified and competed at the US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan® in 2017 and 2018. We attended the Great American Insurance Group/USDF Region 1 Championships this October, competing in Third Level and Third Level Freestyle. It has been fun bringing him up through the levels. I’m excited about what the future might hold for both partnerships.

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