Aviva is a little unusual in the horse world as she started riding in her 30s, not as a child. After a bad fall over a cross country fence, she decided to focus exclusively on dressage. Aviva earned her Bronze Medal and has her Fourth Level scores towards her Silver and is a graduate with distinction of the L Education Program. Aviva owns and operates Horsepen Hill Farm in Bowie, MD and is a popular instructor, clinician, and schooling show judge.
How long have you been involved in the sport?
I started riding in 1989 with my focus shifting exclusively to dressage in 1993.
How long have you been a USDF member?
I joined USDF in 1994.
What made you decide to participate in the USDF L Education Program?
I was always last at every schooling show! I wanted to figure out what I was doing wrong. The L Education Program helped me understand that a nice horse doesn’t always win the test, but correct training, riding, and accuracy were the keys. I was lucky that my trainers and friends who were judges encouraged me to pursue the program. At the time that I went through the L Education Program, I was the only person in my groups who had never judged at all and was not an instructor. It was intimidating, exhilarating, educational, and the best thing I ever did!
How long did it take to complete the program, start to finish?
I was fortunate to be able to finish the entire program in approximately 2 years by participating in 2 separate programs- one through ESDCTA and the other in Illinois/Wisconsin run privately.
Do you plan to further your dressage education and to continue to apply what you learned in the program to become a licensed official?
I continue to educate myself through continuing education opportunities both live and online and spend time with respected judges scribing and sitting. I also continue to ride and take lessons and teach which helps me put what I learn into a real setting.
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 judge as much as I can both live and online/virtually. I average approximately 25 live schooling shows per year, 9 virtual shows, and multiple fix-a-test clinics
What impact did the program have on your dressage knowledge?
Going through the L Education Program was one of the best things I did for myself as a rider and trainer. I learned about the importance of accuracy- not for its own sake but because it demonstrates preparation and helps the horse understand balance and attentiveness to the aids. I learned that dressage truly does improve every horse and that an average moving horse ridden correctly, through and balanced and softly on the aids, can perform more beautifully than an international quality horse ridden poorly. I learned that we all struggle every day to be better and do better- that none of us ride poorly because we want to, but because we either do not know that we are wrong or are doing the best we can in the moment. I learned humility and kindness.
Name three things you took away from the program that you think every rider should know.
Judges were all riders/competitors and most of us want to give good scores- we are rooting for your success!
Accuracy matters at all levels.
This really is supposed to be fun so, if it isn’t, take a step back and see what you can do to make your eyes sparkle again and to reignite that passion that first brought you to the sport. It is truly about the journey and the relationship with the horse, not about the ribbons.
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.
I served on the Board of Directors multiple times over the years for my main GMO, Potomac Valley Dressage Association was responsible for contracting judges for both licensed and schooling shows for many years.
Tell us about your horse(s).
My current riding horse is Pantaleone FLF (Leo) who is a nine-year-old Oldenburg gelding by the late Pablito out of a Westphalian mare bred by Julianne Whittenberg of Flying Lion Farm in Florida. He was started by Phoebe DeVoe-Moore (“r”) from whom I purchased him as a four-year-old. He is elegant, opinionated, quirky, and sweet! We are currently schooling Third/Fourth Level after several setbacks due to my health.
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