Meet the L Graduate – Anne Zaharias


Anne Zaharias has earned her USDF Bronze and Silver Medals, both earned on self-trained horses. She began her professional equine career in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, where she and her husband operated Sentinel Farm, a 28-stall boarding and training facility for 14 years. For the last 7 years, they have resided in Cleveland, TN where she operates Anne Zaharias Dressage. She works with a vast array of horses from OTTB’s and Arabians to Warmbloods and Quarter Horses and everything in between.

How long have you been involved in the sport?

I have been a student of dressage for over 20 years.

How long have you been a USDF member?

I have been a member of USDF since 2003.

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

I decided to take part in the USDF L Education Program due to some unexpected downtime. At that moment, my mare had sustained an injury in the pasture that required extended stable rest, and I felt the need to do something productive with that extra time. When I looked at what educational opportunities were available, I came across an L Education Program being sponsored by STRIDE in Ocala, FL and felt compelled to get involved.

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

The program took me about one year to complete.

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

While I am open to the prospect of continuing the journey to become a licensed official, I currently am taking time to gain some experience in the judge’s box.

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

As a relatively new graduate, I have only had the opportunity to judge a few schooling shows, but I enjoy the process of helping to guide riders in their training from a judge’s perspective. It is challenging in a different way than as a trainer or coach, but equally rewarding.

What impact did the program have on your dressage knowledge?

The L Education Program was incredibly insightful. It was so educational in many aspects from biomechanics to breaking down the purpose in each level and developing a systematic way to evaluate movements as they relate to that purpose. It really makes you be more constructively critical of your own training and what you are producing i.e. not just being able to execute a movement, but also the thoughtfulness of developing the basics that continue to carry the horse easily through those movements and secure the framework for the next level. The concepts were not necessarily new, just presented in a way that gives you a deeper appreciation and new perspective of how important the basics really are.

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

Basics, basics, basics. And then, more basics. How and why and what to look for biomechanically through the levels.

Pay attention to the purpose of the test. It’s in that little box on the top left of every test and is so often overlooked by riders. If you are having trouble advancing your training, take note of those little boxes and carefully reflect on whether what you are presenting really embodies those qualities throughout the test. The rider should not just be able to ride the movements in prescribed places, but they must have the quality and basics to the degree demanded in that particular level. For example, being able to ride the angle and positioning of a shoulder-in at Second Level, but lacking the proper engagement, suppleness, thoroughness, and self-carriage in the trot to perform it to a degree that is expected and necessary to develop the horse further in its training. The shoulder-in may be recognizable as a shoulder-in, but isn’t really achieving collection, and therefore isn’t really helping the horse prepare for the demands of the work to come.

Judges are not “out to get you”. Aside from the technical knowledge needed to be a judge, it is an art form to quickly and thoughtfully piece together in real-time the primary issue in the current training and then, come up with a comprehensive yet succinct remark to help the rider understand where they need to make changes. They really do want to reward you with nice scores, but they are not helping anyone by being “nice” and giving high marks that are not earned. Rewarding training that is not on the right path leads to further confusion by the rider. Try to take judges’ comments as helpful commentary- a compassionate criticism by a mentor that cares and is designed to help you improve, not as them being overly critical. Keep in mind as competitors, that judges have mere seconds to give clear, concise remarks that they hope to paint a clear picture of what you need to improve on.

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

I have participated in the USDF Instructor/Trainer Workshops and various symposiums/seminars.

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 acted as President of the Upper Peninsula chapter of the GMO Wisconsin Dressage & Combined Training (WDCTA), as well as participating on the WDCTA board for several years.

Tell us about your horse(s).

My current horse is an 11-year-old Hanoverian mare Diamond Caliente by Diamond Hit, bred by Caryn Vesperman. We are currently working Fourth Level and nearing Prix St Georges.

Phone: (906) 864-2790                                                                                          


Want to read more from Anne?  Her story “The Makeover Family,” where she writes about participating in the Retired Racehorse Project Thoroughbred Makeover, is available exclusively on YourDressage!

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