From the YourDressage Archives: D4K: I Salute You!


It’s Throwback Thursday!  Enjoy this article from the YourDressage Archives, which was originally published in the July 2018 issue of the flipbook version of YourDressage – the precursor to today’s current website!

By Tessa Holloran

My name is Tessa Holloran and, although I am only thirteen years old, I have spent more than half my life involved with Dressage4Kids (D4K). If you don’t know, D4K was started by two-time Olympian Lendon Gray with a mission “to encourage riders under 21 to become true horsemen; to offer scholarships; to develop good sportsmanship; to support programs for adults who in turn educate youth; and to have fun.”

D4K is helping to develop riders. I think, in many ways, it is responsible for the future of dressage, just as it is responsible for me. Here is a little bit of how I’ve spent my years as part of D4K programs, and my personal tribute
to this fantastic organization.

It all started with the Weekend Educational Program (WEP)…

When I was about six years old, I went to my first D4K Weekend Educational event, in Connecticut. This is an indoor weekend of classroom teaching, and roundtable discussions for trainers and parents. This was my
introduction to Dressage4Kids. Susan Sieber runs this every year and made sure I was set up in the “little kids program”. Every year, I went to all the keynote speakers and my sister and I picked out the classes we wanted to do, while my mom went off on her own. The huge horse skeleton was always fun to look at. As I got older, I started to see just how special the keynote speakers were! It was about way more than dressage- it was about care, grooming, trailering, floating teeth, fixing tricky hooves, and lots of inspiration.

Then we headed to Lendon’s Youth Dressage Festival (YDF)…

It was actually at WEP that we learned about the Festival, during one of the sessions. This is the flagship event of Dressage4Kids that started in 1999. The festival is a giant show (one year, there was more than 300 riders!), with three-phases of competition: a written test, an individual dressage test, and a group equitation ride. In 2013, when I was nine, we went for our first time at HITS, in Saugerties, NY.

At the 2017 Youth Dressage Festival

It was the furthest we had traveled to a show, the furthest my mom had ever driven the trailer, and the first time we did overnight stabling. Miss K and I placed third, and got a bronze medal for our division, and they always have an awards ceremony which is fun to be part of. When we went back the next year, I stepped out of the arena and finished last in my division. It was a tough lesson that I will ever forget. I still remember Lendon making a joke at the dinner about those who thought it was a jumping competition. In 2015, I had moved up to my mare, Beau, and we were the Overall Champion of the show, it was one of the most memorable times of my life. As the winner, I was invited to that fall’s Central Park Horseshow, where I attended a meet and greet with Charlotte Dujardin, and had a front row seat to her masters class. Last year, Beau and I were Champion for the FEI Childrens Division and earned bronze in my Second Level Division. While it can seem overwhelming at first, everyone is so nice. This will be our sixth trip, and now we try to help the newer people figure everything out and feel less nervous.

Next up was TEAM- Training, Education and Mentoring…

I’m also a TEAM member, and clinic regularly with Lendon throughout the northeast. I’ve gone to Rhode Island, Maine, and New Hampshire, but Lendon travels nationwide to offer these clinics. They are now adding more guest instructors, in order to offer more dates. The TEAM schedule has lectures, lessons, quizzes, and sometimes fitness. You also have to braid and wrap until you pass! At every clinic, you revisit your long- and shortterm goals, and spend hours auditing the other lessons.

And then there was the Winter Intensive Training (WIT) Program…

2018 WIT lesson with Tigger and Lendon Gray

I attended the WIT Program in 2017 and 2018. Everyone calls us “WITees” because it’s easier. This is an unbelievable program, sponsored by Kim van Kampen, at Hampton Green Farm, in Wellington, FL. It requires a lot of hard work and gives attendees amazing opportunities to meet the very top names in dressage, audit fantastic trainers, and even watch international Olympians at the Global Dressage Festival. It involves fitness, self-care for your horse, lessons five days a week, lectures, field trips, written tests, and volunteering. I made a lot of wonderful friends during WIT, and we spent about twelve hours a day together. We get to know each other really well! Lendon has everyone interview someone during the program and, thanks to D4K, I got to meet with Laura Graves and Alison Brock! The experience is unlike anything out there.

My first Courtney King-Dye Horsemanship Clinic…

I had a great experience at the 2017 Courtney King-Dye clinic, held at Hassler Dressage, in Maryland. There were so many familiar faces, and I couldn’t have asked for a better group of girls to spend my week with.

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Tessa with Alison Brock at Courtney King-Dye Clinic

I chose to clinic with Alison Brock and Scott Hassler, and they were amazing. That week consisted of some of the best lessons I have ever had, and I still use the exercises in my rides today. In addition to lessons, we audited the other rides, attended lectures, and had field trips. We also bunk together, with the other riders, and have a big sleepover, which was really fun.

And there are Scholarships…

D4K also offers scholarships, and I have been fortunate to receive two awards to further my training. The first award was used toward a week of Junior Dressage Camp with Nancy Later. The second award was used toward the Courtney King-Dye Horsemanship Clinic. D4K is very generous and does not make it super complicated to apply.

The D4K Way…

One of the reasons D4K is so successful is because people give back. Lendon teaches everyone how important it is to use what you know, and what you have been given, to help others. So many people, who have gone through the program long before me, are always returning to help the next generation. And others give because they believe in the program. In that spirit, over the years, my family and I have organized fundraisers toward
the scholarship fund. I hope the total will soon get close to $3,000. I plan to stay involved with D4K until I age out, and then I hope to have time to go back and volunteer.

Thank you…

Tessa and Beau

I feel very grateful to be part of Dressage4Kids. If some of my story sounds like a fairytale, it’s because sometimes it feels like it! I have now met, audited, and learned from (even ridden with a few) fourteen Olympians from the US team and other countries, Lendon coached me when I showed at Global and Nationals, and I spent two winters at Hampton Green Farm. I never dreamed I would have so many special experiences, but it was all possible because of D4K, and the dedication of Lendon Gray, so many volunteers, and very generous sponsors.

Thank you D4K, Lendon, and all the volunteers who make it all work, event after event, year after year. Congratulations on your 20th Anniversary D4K, I salute you!

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