For more than 50 years, Janine W. Malone has worked to create a better future for the sport she loves
Reprinted from the November/December 2022 USDF Connection magazine
By Jennifer M. Keeler
“There simply are not many people who have given more to the sport of dressage than her.”
That’s how USDF president George Williams describes his longtime friend and colleague Janine W. Malone, whom he first met more than 30 years ago when he was asked to join what was then known as the American Horse Shows Association (AHSA) Dressage Committee.
“She had such wonderful insights, a wealth of knowledge on many topics, and gave me great advice,” Williams says. “Having sat on many committees with her since then, I am of the opinion that Janine would have been brilliant at anything she put her mind to. We are lucky that one of her primary interests was—and and still is—dressage, and I have the deepest respect and admiration for her.”
Over more than six decades of involvement in equestrian sport, Malone, of Zebulon, North Carolina, has embraced so many roles it’s almost impossible to list them all. To many, she’s the undisputed dressage “rules queen” with an unrivaled store of historical knowledge, attention to detail, and an innate understanding of how seemingly minor rule changes can have a major and sometimes unexpected impact on dressage competitions.
But Malone is so much more. She’s been a driving force behind popular dressage shows such as the CDI Raleigh in North Carolina, an event she organized for almost 20 years, as well as the US Dressage Finals and Dressage at Devon (Pennsylvania). Malone is also a highly respected sport-horse breeder, US Equestrian (USEF) judge, USEF dressage technical delegate, and FEI steward. She’s been a champion and leader for horse sports in scores of volunteer roles, including longtime tenures as USDF Region 1 director and USDF secretary; a USEF Board of Directors member; and a member or chair of a multitude of FEI, USEF, and USDF committees, task forces, and working groups.
In recognition of her tireless efforts and contributions, Malone received the USDF Lifetime Achievement Award in 2014 and in 1998 was the inaugural recipient of the USDF Volunteer of the Year award. USEF recognized her with its Sallie Busch Wheeler Trophy for distinguished service to the equine industry. She has also received the US Hunter Jumper Association President’s Distinguished Achievement Award.
What would motivate someone to dedicate so much of her life to a sport she loves? For Malone, it comes down to two words: Pony Club.
As a girl, Malone and her sister roamed the mountains and valleys of western North Carolina aboard their first ponies, Scamper and Shadow. When they began taking lessons over the summer at a local riding club and Malone wanted to start jumping, her father bought her first “English” saddle: a thick-flapped $50 Argentinian model from a tack shop in Asheville.
“With that saddle, I learned to jump properly, and from there we upgraded to horses and became involved in Pony Club, which is where I first learned about dressage,” Malone says. “You have to remember that the sport of dressage was pretty rudimentary in this country at that time; but interestingly, I remember I took my ‘B’ Pony Club rating under [the late Roemer Foundation/USDF Hall of Fame member and respected dressage judge] General Jonathan Burton. I enjoyed jumping and even won a Maclay class as a teenager, but as time went on I became increasingly involved in dressage. I loved the detail of it and the methodical process of training. I think it fit my mindset and was just more interesting to me.”
Malone became heavily involved in Pony Club, first as a rider and later as a volunteer, trainer, and coach, all the way up to the national level. She says her achievements were secondary to the chief lesson Pony Club imparted: the importance of giving back and volunteering.
She herself got a life-altering leg up from the local equestrian community.
“Back in the 1960s, there were some people in the Asheville area who were very generous in their support of local young equestrians like me,” Malone says. “I was just a poor kid from the mountains, and they may have felt a little sorry for me at Pony Club camps, but it’s because of those opportunities they gave us that I’m where I am today, and I never forgot it. I didn’t grow up with the social advantages that others were lucky to have, but I worked hard. After I got my ‘A’ rating and started teaching, it was important to me to continue to be involved and bring on the next generation and make sure others received opportunities like I did. Volunteerism is a mindset, and even more than that, it became a way of life for me.”
Young Equestrian Professional
After college and marrying her husband, the late John Malone, in 1969, Malone and her family settled on 57 acres in Zebulon that they christened Rosinburg Farm. Malone rode, competed, and also taught local equestrians. She also ventured into sport-horse breeding, focusing on Hanoverians, and showed a few of her talented youngsters. She also started managing local horse shows.
“When you’re young, you have plenty of energy and can do all of these things!” Malone says with a laugh. “Back then, running horse shows wasn’t a business like it often is now. Most shows benefited either the community or a specific charity and were run by a committee with volunteer staff, and they always needed help. It was through running horse shows that I became passionate about rules, because I always wanted to make sure my events were run correctly.”
With dressage still a burgeoning sport in this country, Malone literally had to go the extra mile to pursue her own goals in the saddle. “I would trailer nine hours one way to Atlanta to train with Elizabeth Lewis, who was the very first USDF gold medalist,” she says. “I was willing to work as hard as I needed to learn more, but there just weren’t the opportunities and relatively easy access to good coaching or even competition that we often take for granted today. For instance, if you go to a show today, it’s not uncommon for the small tour to be the largest division. But when I started out, just having an FEI ride at a show was an anomaly. I never even saw a Grand Prix ride until the mid-1970s, and I was fascinated.”
One of Malone’s fondest memories from that era was a trip to the US Equestrian Team headquarters in Gladstone, New Jersey, where Lewis was trying out for the US dressage team for the 1976 Montreal Olympics.
“Elizabeth needed a groom, so I loaded up my own horse and went with her to Gladstone for a few weeks for training with [then-US dressage team coach the late] Col. Bengt Ljungquist,” Malone recalls. “I wasn’t paid; I just wanted to observe and learn, and we all stayed in the dorms there. That’s where I met [future 1976 US Olympic dressage team bronze medalist] Hilda Gurney, who drove herself all the way across the country from California with two horses, one of which was [her Olympic mount] Keen. I even got a couple of lessons while I was there with both Hilda and Col. Ljungquist, both of whom were incredibly generous, and it was an unforgettable experience.”
Raising the Competition Bar
Another pivotal trip with Lewis that year would also leave a lasting impression.
“The first CDI I ever attended was in York, Pennsylvania, in 1976, and we also went to Devon. They were two of the first CDIs in the country, and I was intrigued,” Malone says. “I was already running some horse shows by that time, and I decided that I wanted to hold a CDI closer to home in Raleigh.”
The CDI Raleigh became a fixture on the Eastern dressage circuit for years.
“We didn’t have the fanciest facility there at the state fairgrounds,” Malone says, “but it ended up being very popular because people could count on it to be well run. We offered quite a bit of prize money for the time, and it turned into both a national and World Cup qualifier. I managed it for almost 20 years, but it took so many hours to run because things weren’t done as efficiently as now: For so many years we didn’t have computer software, so everything was done by hand. But that also is how I got connected and became friends with [the late] Patsy Albers when she was my show secretary, and in turn I became her assistant for Devon.”
As Malone’s volunteer roles grew, she decided to hang up her own tack.
“I always knew I wanted to be involved in equestrian sport at the top level. I knew where my talents were, and they weren’t necessarily in the saddle,” she laughs. “After I had my two children, my riding slowed down and finally stopped. Time constraints just made it too hard to keep up to the standard I expected of myself.”
Malone threw herself further into her work as a competition official. She was part of the very first “r” dressage judges’ training program in 1975, run by the AHSA (now US Equestrian, or USEF). USEF “R” judges’ licenses in both dressage and dressage sport-horse breeding followed, as did licenses as a USEF dressage technical delegate and an FEI steward.
Involvement in sport governance was her next foray, as Malone began serving on numerous USDF committees. When the late US dressage judge Edgar Hotz asked her to join the AHSA Dressage Committee, she immediately began working on rules, an area that would become her passion.
“I have 25 years of rules archived on my computer, and of course I have many more than that because we weren’t doing things on the computer before the 1990s,” Malone chuckles.
Bettering the Sport
From freestyles to Regional Championships, competition management to continuing education, over the last 40-plus years Malone has served on local, regional, and national committees addressing almost every aspect of dressage.
“The sport is so much more detailed now, and I’m so pleased to see how the number of opportunities and programs available has grown throughout the years,” Malone says. “Young-horse programs, dressage equitation, so many championship programs—none of these existed just 20 years ago.”
One of those opportunities is not only the legacy project Malone is most proud of, but also one of the toughest battles she’s waged: the US Dressage Finals.
“I can’t even remember the years and years that I spent advocating for a USDF national championship, which is now known as the US Dressage Finals,” Malone says. “So many people said it couldn’t or shouldn’t be done, but from the very beginning I believed in the concept and felt that I just had to convince enough people.
“Through all the years, all the meetings, all the feasibility studies, I never lost faith,” she continues. “Other breeds and disciplines had big national-championship events and made them work, so I knew that it could be successful for dressage, as well; we just needed to wait for the right time. So when it finally happened in 2013, even though it was a whole new world and a big learning curve for everyone, it was such a success right out of the gate. Of course I was incredibly proud to be a part of it as chair of the original organizing committee, and then to manage it for several years. Now I think it’s proven itself to be incredibly successful and has quickly become a flagship event for USDF.”
Not Done Yet
Even as she turns 75 this year, Malone shows little sign of slowing down. She continues to run several local dressage shows under the banner of her show-management company, Rosinburg Events. She still travels to officiate and to teach dressage lessons, manages her farm, and spends time with family, including sons Sam and Ben and her beloved Jack Russell terrier, Zeb. And she’s as busy as ever with high-profile volunteer commitments: chairing the USEF Competition Management Committee, the USEF Dressage Rules Working Group, and the USDF Regional Championships Committee; and serving on the USEF Legislative and Hearing Committees, the USDF Sport Horse Committee, the USDF Rules Advisory Working Group, and several ad hoc committees.
“I have loved working with so many incredible people through the years on various committees, because even when we disagree, we’re all working to improve the sport,” Malone says. “I have always firmly believed that equestrian sport has to be inclusive, not exclusive.”
She hearkens back to that time when someone helped her get one step closer to her own equestrian dreams.
“You never know: When you give a kid a chance to go out and win a little walk-trot blue ribbon, that may not seem like a big deal at the time but actually serves as a pivotal moment for that child, who goes on to be tomorrow’s Olympic champion or the next leader in the sport. You never know when one small moment can change someone’s life—and I know, because I was that kid. If it wasn’t for some very generous people who recognized how hard I was willing to work to succeed, I wouldn’t be here today.”
A lifelong equestrian and fan of horse sport, Jennifer M. Keeler is a freelance writer and the owner of Yellow Horse Marketing in Lexington, Kentucky.