USDF Bronze and Silver Medalist Barb Soukup, of Chardon, OH, is a USDF L Graduate with Distinction. She began riding at age 13 with a passion for horses that has stuck with her throughout her life. Now retired, Barb has more time to focus on riding, showing, training, teaching, and judging.
How long have you been involved in the sport?
I have been riding on and off for 53 years. I rode western, hunters, jumpers, and even saddleseat on a variety of breeds. My earliest memories, growing up in New York, involved horses. I cleaned stalls just to be near them. My first horse was an unbroke Quarter Horse, Del’s Flash. I also rode Arabians for the owner of the barn I worked at. Later, as a student at Lake Erie College, I met Laddy Andahazy, who gave me the ride on his own jumper, and I showed hunter/jumper for the years at college. Marriage interrupted my showing and riding while I raised my sons. Once the boys were older, I returned to riding ,but now with an intense desire for dressage. In 1990, I became seriously involved with dressage studying in California, Georgia, and Ohio with Charles De Kunffy, as well as a short time in Germany at an Academy in Warendorf. I earned my USDF Bronze Medal on a Canadian hunter owned by John Strazzanti and my USDF Silver Medal with Latino, owned by Regina Sacha-Ujczo. I continue to attend clinics and ride with Charles, as well as Janet Foy, George Williams, and Hilda Gurney. Until I retired last year, my professional career as a research technician in a manufacturing laboratory prevented me from giving as much time to students as I would have liked. Now, I finally feel that I have the time to concentrate on horses including riding, showing, training, teaching, and judging.
How long have you been a USDF member?
I have been a member since the early 1990s, so about 30 years.
What made you decide to participate in the USDF L Education Program?
As I became known in the area, show organizers started asking me to judge. I felt I owed it to the competitors to educate myself as well as possible. It seemed to me that the best way to give back to the sport I love so much was to gain as much knowledge as possible, in order to impart it to others.
How long did it take to complete the program, start to finish?
I believe our program ran over a 1-year span.
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 will always seek out more education, and I would like to continue to the licensed program. I scribe at recognized shows and review videos as another means of education.
Do you serve as a judge for schooling shows in your capacity as an L Graduate? If so, on average, how many per year?
Yes, I have enjoyed judging schooling shows in Ohio, Michigan, New York, and Pennsylvania, usually averaging about 8 shows a year while I was working full time and taking care of my horses at home.
What impact did the program have on your dressage knowledge?
The program was a huge confidence builder for me. It educated my eye for the horse’s biomechanics, the criterion of the correct execution of the various movements, and the proper terminology to explain to the riders how they might improve their horses’ training. It gave me new insight into the judges’ thought processes and the challenges they face.
Name three things you took away from the program that you think every rider should know?
1) The judge is there for the welfare of the horse and to help guide the training process.
2) The movements are tools to measure the horses’ progress up the training pyramid and to promote its ability to perform well and in good health for a long career.
3) A standardized terminology helps to make the judge’s comments useful to both rider and trainer.
Have you participated in or completed other USDF programs?
I have earned my Diamond USDF University Diploma and have attended annual conventions since the early 90s, especially enjoying the educational lectures. I have audited the USDF L Education Program sessions A, B, and C as a refresher and attend the Adequan®/USDF FEI-Level Trainers’ Conference. I have also participated in USDF Instructor/Trainer Workshops.
Have you served in any other official capacity with USDF?
As past President of Northern Ohio Dressage Association (NODA), I’ve been an official delegate to the annual conventions, have served as a Participating Member Delegate for Region 2, and carried proxy votes for neighboring GMO’s.
Tell us about your horses.
The oldest of four horses is Quatre Bras (Brassy), a 28-year-old Belgian warmblood. He and retired 26-year-old Dolce Mio (Mio), a Dutch warmblood, are Lake Erie College retirees. My current competition horse, Cashiro (Hero), is a 21-year-old Holsteiner. He is schooling Intermediate Level, but I will likely show him Third or Fourth Level because of his age. If he didn’t love his work so much, I would retire him. My youngster, SRC Top Secret (Arthur), is 2-year-old registered half-Arabian/half- Friesian sport horse. He is just at the age for some formal work to begin. Luckily, I am nearing completion of my new barn and arena, just in time for Arthur to start learning why he is here.