Alejandro Salazar is a USDF Certified Instructor through Fourth Level. He has been a full-time professional horse trainer in California for the last 20 years, coaching and competing in both hunter/jumpers and dressage. Alejandro has earned his USDF Bronze, Silver, and Gold medals. He is also a USHJA Certified Trainer. Alejandro recently relocated to Florida and is excited for the new adventure.
How I got started in Dressage: I was born and raised in Costa Rica where I learned how to ride. Although my focus was in the jumper ring, my training included dressage from an early age. I had the opportunity to compete internationally in Central America and Mexico as a junior rider before moving to the United States in 1989. My heightened enthusiasm for dressage came while pursuing my Master’s degree at Purdue University in Indiana. I was a working student at Forrest Hill Farm, a large breeding and dressage training facility, where I was inspired to pursue dressage to a higher level. After moving back to California, I met Rachel Saavedra (a Grand Prix rider and trainer, and USDF Faculty member) who became a close friend and my mentor. Rachel has been instrumental in my development as an FEI rider, earning my USDF medals, as well as my USDF Certifications.
I wanted to get certified because: Education is the key to improvement. The certification process was very attractive to me for several reasons – both the workshops as well as the exams were opportunities to learn and corroborate with other dressage riders and trainers; I believe there are huge benefits to a more standardized foundation of teaching and riding principles to be used by all of us in the sport. The recognition of achievement that comes from earning the different certification levels legitimizes my commitment to be the best trainer and rider I can be.
What surprised me the most about the certification process: The certification process was challenging but engaging; it helped to clarify concepts and I learned the correct nomenclature to talk about concepts using the right terminology. The best surprise about the process was the camaraderie between those participating together and the instructors and examiners as well, which has continued to this day.
My horses: I have had the opportunity to ride some difficult horses and some amazing horses over my 20 years as a professional, including my own as well as some owned by fantastic clients. I currently own a 9-year-old Dutch gelding named Georg Gamay (aka Jorge). He has been challenging to train but is an amazingly talented horse, and we are learning together as we navigate through the levels, hopefully up to the Grand Prix.
Tip: My approach to training is based on classical methods. My primary focus always revolves around the development and improvement of the quality of the gaits, and I find relaxation to be a key element necessary for the horse to learn each lesson. My riding tip is – when things are not working, check the basics, work to reduce tension, and remember that training is explaining to the horse what we want from them.