Unsung Heroes – Tammy and Tom Lisi

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Tom and Tammy

An “unsung hero” is defined as someone whose contributions are unacknowledged or little-known. In this series, we will feature and recognize some of these heroes from throughout the dressage community. To nominate your own Unsung Hero, visit the USDF website.

Unsung Heroes: Tammy and Tom Lisi  

Nominated by: Donna Hammond  

Describe in detail what contributions to the sport or the dressage community makes this duo Unsung Heroes.

The Eastern Iowa Dressage and Eventing Association (EIDEA) is proud to nominate a power couple, Tammy and Tom Lisi, as Unsung Heroes. The first thing you need to know is that they are members of not just EIDEA, but also the Iowa Dressage and Combined Training GMO several hours to the west of us. They contribute measurably to both GMOs and have been particularly instrumental in promoting dressage in both GMOs.  

Tammy has been very much involved in the show series that IDCTA has run for several years and in formulating a means to track and oversee volunteer hours in that organization. Several years ago, she recognized that there were no venues for dressage schooling shows in Eastern Iowa or Western Illinois where some of our members reside. To meet this need, Tammy and Tom opened up their farm and introduced a series of three schooling shows with the third show serving as the championship. Within days, she had filled all the times and had a waiting list of people wanting to ride. People have learned not to dawdle when the announcement comes out! What did this effort entail? It meant turning two pastures into trailer parking for each weekend to accommodate all the riders. It meant repurposing a corn silo into a food hall of sorts. It meant revamping another area to make a shaded gazebo for outdoor dining. It meant finding sponsors, volunteers, and swag. It meant Tom spending an entire morning directing trailer parking (a skill that he has honed helping direct over 125 trailers park at the USEA-recognized event at Catalpa Corner Horse Park every year) and lunch spent dragging the arena.  

Having put this series on for several years, she then decided to up the ante and sponsor a Level 1 competition for the express purpose of giving local riders the opportunity to gain experience in showing at a recognized event in their own backyard and at minimal cost. The angst was considerable for many members (is this dressage legal? What do I wear? What can I wear?), but the event was a huge success and we were all looking forward to the next show.  

And then the derecho hit Iowa the week before the scheduled show. It decimated their farm. Their farmhouse, which was original to the property, was declared uninhabitable. The dairy barn/stable had only the first floor left after the winds subsided. The adjacent barn and coverall arena were left with no roof and mangled trusses. The arena was just gone – no judge’s box, no footing, no poles or letters. Fortunately, no horses were injured. But, even more fortunately? Tom had paid their expanded insurance policy not an hour before the derecho hit.

Reeling from this destruction, yet recognizing the importance of the recognized show to the dressage community, Tammy and Tom managed to reschedule and run the recognized show at another facility just a month later.   Finally, remembering the limitations that prevented Tammy from pursuing her horse interests as a young person, Tammy and Tom have been exceedingly generous in making their horses available to junior riders in the area so that they can achieve their goals. They have also made their facility available to others, such as EIDEA’s recent Ride-A-Test, Taste-a-Cheese event. All this has been entirely of their own volition. We are without a doubt a stronger dressage community for their involvement and generosity of time, money, and effort.

What motivates them to make these contributions?

“Underneath all the years and stories to tell about our experiences in the dressage community of Eastern Iowa, it all comes down to one simple thing that motivates me to keep on putting myself out there as a show organizer and volunteer,” Tammy says. “Underneath it all, I still love horses.”  

How long have you known them and how did you become aware of their efforts?

I have known the nominees since 2003. Having turned 50, I felt I was finally in a position to own my own horse and Tammyconnected me with a chestnut mare in need of a new home. We have been friends ever since. Over the years, I have watched her property transform from a dairy barn reconfigured to house a few horses with a pasture and no arena, to a venue with a full size outdoor arena, multiple pastures, and a barn with indoor arena.  

How long have they been involved in your group or the dressage community?

Tammy and Tom Lisi have been involved in the Eastern Iowa Dressage community since 2000, when they moved their horses onto the farm in Anamosa, IA.

How would your group/events be impacted should they were unable to play their role?

There are no other facilities in the area capable of, or interested in undertaking, a show series, schooling or otherwise. EIDEA’s mission is one of education rather than putting on shows. Our monthly meetings are typically attended by just a core group of members. It is the Tamarack Stables schooling series that provides the critical social interactions that strengthen our friendships and sense of community.

Please provide any additional information you would like for us to know.

“I have desired to be involved with horses my whole life,” Tammy explains. “In my younger years, horses were something out of reach due to financial restrictions. I begged, borrowed, and rode whatever was offered during those years. Eventually I did exactly what my father suggested. I went to college, got a good paying job, and bought my own horse, Cody. Cody and I learned the basics of dressage together. He is now living out his retirement at our farm, with occasional small riders going for a turn around the pasture.”

Provide a brief biographical description.

Tammy and Tom Lisi own a small riding facility near Anamosa, IA called Tamarack Stables (www.tamarackstablesiowa.com). Tamarack is known for a beginner-friendly atmosphere and schooling series. Tammy is an avid dressage rider and promoter of the sport, and her current horse is the Spanish Mustang mare Bonita. Tom rides competitive endurance with his AQHA horse Blue Imprint. Together, they own six horses, two of which are currently on loan to young riders (Talamah Bound is a Connemara Half Bred, and Ideekay the wonder pony). In 2020, Tammy was a regional PM Delegate for USDF. She has also served in board positions for the GMO Iowa Dressage and Combined Training. Currently she is a member of both Iowa GMO Clubs and promotes membership in both by holding GMO recognized schooling events at other local venues due to Tamarack being devastated by the derecho. The Lisi’s plan to rebuild and bring the show series home again someday.

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