Meet the L Graduate – Heather Dostal

(Todd Dostal photo)

Heather Reynolds Dostal has been riding since the age of 5, eventing through her youth switching to dressage later in life. Her practice as a rider, instructor, and L Graduate has led her to become a leader in the United States Pony Club and youth dressage. Heather’s students are active participants in Dressage4Kids, Lendon Gray’s TEAM program, the USPC championships, and the Youth Dressage Festival each year.  Her dedication to young riders and ponies sets her apart and has enabled her to support students at different levels and in different disciplines. Heather runs a busy USPC riding center in a traditional riding school setting enabling young and the young at heart to have equines both large and small in their lives.  Her belief that education should be accessible is the foundation of her business.  Heather is an active USDF competitor. She enjoys all aspects of riding and training. 

How long have you been involved in the sport? 

I have been riding since age 5 and have 34 years of riding experience. I was an eventer in my youth and changed my personal and professional goals to the discipline of dressage about 10 years ago. 

How long have you been a USDF member? 

I have been a USDF member for 13 years. 

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

I love education and always seek to learn more to improve my practice. The program came highly recommended as a way to further my education in the industry.  Judging for me is a way for me to help support riders in a whole different capacity. It challenges me in a way that is personally rewarding.

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

It took 2 years 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? 

Yes, I would love to become a USEF licensed official in both eventing and dressage. 

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 dressage schooling shows and some Intercollegiate Dressage Association shows. My schedule only allows about 3-5 per year. 

What impact did the program have on your dressage knowledge?

I look at my riders in a much different way when teaching thanks to the program. I feel the program helped my ability to better prepare my students for the show ring. The program started my thirst for more knowledge on biomechanics. The concept of biomechanics was new to me and is something that I want to continue to learn about and incorporate further into my practice as a rider, instructor, and judge. 

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

“Walk like a jungle cat.” My most favorite Lois Yukins quote. It is such a great visual. 

If they come down the centerline, and you really want to jump up and down because it’s that good, give them the 9.

Always remember the essence of the movement! 

Remember to pick your words wisely. This is so important. The message you send home must be clear to the rider. We want the rider to want to return and try again. Our words should be helpful but not teaching. 

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

Not at this time, but I hope to participate in the USDF Instructor/Trainer Program at some point during my career. 

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. 

No, not for USDF. I am currently heavily involved in the US Pony Clubs (USPC) on a national and regional level. I am the USPC national riding center Committee Chair, and the riding center and club coordinator for the central New England Regional Pony Club.  I have worked with NEDA to run a number of L Education Programs over the years. 

Tell us about your horse(s). 

I am blessed with two amazing horses right now. I own a lovely 7-year-old Connemara Pony mare, RMF Finnoula, that just started competing this year. I have only had her since the spring 2020. She came to me as a training horse, and in a sense, picked me as her rider. Finny is a blast to train each day and ride. I am a pony person, so she is truly a good fit for all that I love about being an equestrian. She has a huge personality and is all mare most days, which is something I appreciate.  Finny tries so hard and can handle just about any situation.  My other horse is a Lusitano gelding, Imbativel Aguilar, who just turned 8 years old. I bought him a couple of years ago as a FEI prospect. He is sensitive, sweet, cuddly, and a severe overachiever. Training him is different for me as he is my first of this breed, but he is teaching me so much everyday as we progress up the levels.  I also own 10 school ponies for my riding school that are saintly and amazing in every way. 

Phone: (413) 427-2026


Related Links:

L Education Program information

5 Reasons to Audit a USDF L Education Program Part 1

Dressage4Kids Team Building

New England Dressage Association (NEDA)

USDF Education Programs and Events


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