As we begin 2022, USDF is taking the opportunity to commemorate some members of our dressage community that we have lost during the last year. These people and horses were not only respected and admired in our sport, but also so deeply loved by those who knew them best. We remember each of them, mourn their loss, and celebrate their lasting impact on the sport. USDF can speak for the entire dressage community when we say, “You will all be greatly missed and your legacy is sure to live on!”
USDF Bronze, Silver, and Gold Medalist, and Roemer Foundation/USDF Hall of Fame Inductee Jane Savoie passed away January 4, 2021, near her home in Berlin, Vermont, at the age of 72. Jane was a renowned clinician, having headlined previous USDF Adult Clinic Series, and an international competitor, serving as reserve for the 1992 Bronze Medal Olympic US Dressage Team. She was an accomplished author, publishing six books on sports psychology, dressage, and jumping, and having them translated into eight languages. Jane also served as a coach at both the Atlanta and Sydney Olympic Games. Additionally, she produced two video series, “Train with Jane” and “Happy Horse”, both of which have enjoyed worldwide success. Much of what Jane accomplished outside of the competition ring was driven by her long-time passion for helping adult amateur riders progress in dressage.
John F. Boomer
John F. Boomer, of Lincoln, Nebraska, passed away on Sunday, March 21, 2021, at the age of 92. As the son of USDF’s founding father Lowell Boomer (also founder of The Dressage Foundation), John’s entire life was entwined with the growth of dressage in the United States. He and his wife, Lynn, spent a dozen of their “retirement years” at the helm of The Dressage Foundation, tirelessly working to ensure the success of our sport. Countless USDF members and programs have benefitted from the grants and programs that John helped to establish and grow. It is safe to say that USDF and dressage in the US would not be what it is today without the contributions of John and the entire Boomer family.
On March 23, 2021, noted sire Icodus passed away at age 31 at his home farm of DG Bar Ranch in Hanford, California. The Dutch Warmblood was imported by Christine McCarthy Wemyss as a weanling. He went on to international success in the show ring, with riders including Scott Hassler, Olympian Lendon Gray, and Courtney King-Dye. Among his accomplishments were a win at the Grand Prix at Dressage at Devon in 2006, as well as competing at the 2007 Rolex FEI World Cup Dressage Final and 2008 US Olympic dressage selection trial. He retired to stud in 2009 at age 19. Some of his most successful offspring include Olivier and Opus.
For his fame and conquests in the sport, Breyer released a model horse in Icodus’ likeness in 2009.
Debbie McDonald’s beloved Grand Prix partner and Roemer Foundation/USDF Hall of Fame Inductee Brentina (Brentano II—Lieselotte, Lungau) died in April 2021 at In The Irons Farm in Santa Barbara, California, at the age of 31. Not only was Brentina a USDF Horse of the Year Champion at both Intermediate I and Grand Prix, multiple times, but in 2003, she and Debbie were the first Americans to win the FEI World Cup Dressage Final. She earned double gold at the 1999 Winnipeg Pan-American Games, a team silver and bronze at the 2002 and 2006 FEI World Equestrian Games (as well as individual fourth in 2002), and a team bronze and individual fourth-place finish in the 2004 Athens Olympics. Like Icodus above, Brentina also had a Breyer horse created in her likeness.
Brentina won the audience’s hearts and got them on their feet in the 2005 Las Vegas FEI World Cup Final when she performed her now infamous freestyle. The moment became Debbie’s memory of a lifetime and earned her a third-placed finish. The love for Brentina went far beyond just Debbie and her team, and her loss will be felt for years to come. The dressage world will forever say her name with “Respect”!
Sue Curry Shaffer
Sue Curry Shaffer passed away unexpectedly on April 25, 2021 at the age of 67. Sue wore many hats in the dressage world. In addition to her role as a USEF ‘S’ Dressage Judge and an FEI 3* Para-Dressage Judge, Sue was also a USDF Bronze and Silver Medalist and served on the USDF L Program Committee for many years. Beyond her prolific career as a licensed official, Sue will be remembered as a wonderful, caring individual and horsewoman. For over 20 years, she competed at the FEI levels and has had multiple horses in the top ten nationally. Over the years, Sue’s horses earned fifteen USDF Year-End Awards. Through Sue’s many roles within our sport, her loss, as well as her impact, will not be forgotten.
Anne Barlow Ramsay
As a longtime USDF member, Anne Barlow Ramsay served in many capacities within the organization, including her time on the USDF Historical Committee, serving as a delegate to the Board of Governors, and of course, the success of her horses in the sport. Over the years, Anne’s horses have earned 20 USDF Year-End Awards across almost every level, as well as multiple USDF All-Breeds Awards from the International Sport Horse Registry, KWPN of North America, and Oldenburg Registry of North America. She died on May 7, 2021, at the age of 96.
In addition to her contributions to USDF and her achievements in competition, Anne’s mission has always been to advance equestrian sport in the US. As part of this mission, along with The Dressage Foundation, the Anne L. Barlow Ramsay $25,000 Grant was established. This grant is designed to showcase talented American-bred horses ridden by United States citizens, by providing funds to train and compete in Wellington, Florida or in Europe.
US Equestrian “S” dressage judge Sonja-Marita Vracko passed away on May 18, 2021 at the age of 87. Originally from Germany, Sonja was a well-known jazz singer who performed throughout Europe and North Africa. Along with her husband, Rudolf, who she met while singing in Munich, she immigrated to the US in 1958. The pair settled in Seattle and began building View Ridge Farm. What started as 11 acres of trees was transformed into multiple barns, 2 dressage riding arenas, and pastures, and over the years was home to horses, peacocks, beehives, dogs, cats, turkeys, chickens, orchards, and many flowers.
2012 USDF Volunteer of the Year Trenna Atkins passed away peacefully the night of December 20, 2021, with care for her four-legged family members already arranged.
Trenna was heavily involved in our sport for many years, serving as a USEF ‘S’ and 3* Para Equestrian Judge, and held many roles within the USDF’s committees and the USDF L Education Program. Trenna began her service within USDF by serving on the Competition Management Committee from 1987-1993, the Competitors Council in 1994, the Judges Committee, which she had served on since 1997 until her death, and served as vice chair of the L Program Committee.
Trenna’s contributions to these committees, USDF, and the sport are just a few of the reasons she was recognized as the USDF Volunteer of the Year at the Adequan®/USDF Annual Convention in New Orleans in 2012. Specifically, her contributions to the L Program, as a faculty and committee member, are still felt today with the many presentations she had a hand in developing, and the countless hours she spent reviewing educational materials for the program and revising the program materials through the years.
Please take a moment to join us in remembering these people and horses who dedicated so much of their time and expertise to the sport of dressage. They represent just a few of the losses to the US dressage community during 2021. Let us know who your barn is remembering and commemorating in the comments below.
Sad to hear about Ms.Vracko and Ms. Atkins who I did not know had passed. I remember Ms. Vracko as giving me my highest score in at a recognized show at training level on my horse, Dorado. I didn’t think I deserved it at the time, but a friend at the show said, “Hey, we scrape and squabble for every score we get, so take it!” and I did. I remember Ms. Atkins from her involvement with the L program and her wonderful, informative clinics.