Stephanie Likens is a lifelong horse enthusiast who has acquired experiences in a variety of disciplines over the past 30 years. It was no surprise when Stephanie chose to study Animal Science at Michigan State University, focusing on equine courses which led her to participate on the Intercollegiate Horse Judging Team. She later completed her Master’s Degree in Business and Organizational Development. Stephanie is a USDF Bronze Medalist, a USDF ‘L’ Graduate with distinction, a carded Michigan 4-H horse show judge, and has earned numerous National and Regional awards through USDF, USEF, and AHA recognized competitions since 2004.
How long have you been involved in the sport?
I began riding lessons at the age of 4 where I quickly joined 4-H and the United States Pony Club. During my teenage years, I was coached in multiple events while riding on the high school equestrian team and, later, the Michigan State University Equestrian Team. I have been showing at recognized dressage shows since 2008.
How long have you been a USDF member?
I have been a lifetime member of USDF since 2010.
What made you decide to participate in the USDF L Education Program?
The USDF L Education Program was a perfect opportunity to continue learning about horses while improving my knowledge on dressage specific concepts. It allowed me to expand upon my existing judging career and continue to influence the horse show world in a positive and encouraging way.
How long did it take to complete the program, start to finish?
I applied for the program in Winter 2010 and graduated in Fall 2012.
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 always prioritize furthering my education through attending judging conferences, training clinics, and reading articles. Between riding my own horses, judging shows, and working full time in a demanding field, I am kept busy enough that I am not currently pursuing a USEF judging license at this time.
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, and after 15 years of professionally judging horse shows, I can still say that I love what I do! The average number of events vary due to balancing my career, personal show schedule, and continuing education requirements, but I judge as often as I can.
What impact did the program have on your dressage knowledge?
The program made a positive impact on me in many ways, but the most significant elements after graduation were improving my judging eye and gaining a greater understanding of dressage to further my personal training methods.
Name three things you took away from the program that you think every rider should know.
Always follow the training scale.
Every movement in a test is a clean slate.
Judges love to see horses and riders succeed!
Have you participated in or completed other USDF programs? Describe.
I’ve attended many USDF clinics over the years, including Improving the Judge’s Eye, Judging Freestyles, a USDF Lunging Workshop, the USDF Rider Test Clinic, and audited the USDF Instructor/Trainer Program.
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, but it’s a possibility for the future.
Tell us about your horse(s).
I currently own two geldings that I love dearly and regularly compete with in multiple events. Considering my background growing up showing pleasure classes, I own a National Show Horse nicknamed “Arte” who I compete with in hunter pleasure and halter classes. My dressage horse, “Entegrity”, was just a yearling when I bought him, which allowed me to delve into competing in sport horse in hand and dressage suitability events. Together we have progressively trained and shown through Fourth Level, earning scores towards our USDF Silver Medal. Last fall we were named Top Ten in both Third and Fourth Level Dressage at the U.S. Arabian and Half-Arabian Sport Horse National Championships.
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