Touch n GO Farm

Whitesburg Georgia

Chapter 3 PDF Print E-mail

Contentment

New Years Day 1990 proved to be the end of one chapter in my life and the beginning of another. New Years day 1990 I faced a stark reality. I had a sixty-six-stall barn with over fifty boarders to manage and a contentious divorce in the works. To make matters worse the regular barn workers had quit. Fortunately, I had some kind-hearted boarders who pitched in while I hired new labor.

dressage.jpgMost of the year was a blur. I did my best to keep the operation running and, by in large, business was good. What was not as good was the legal battle. By the fall I knew that many unreasonable demands would never be met so I began searching for a facility to lease.

The high points of that miserable year were the competitions where I moved Hot Legs up to Prix St. George and a trip to Europe. Irma Hotz had introduced me to Mary Kay Lebau who was riding an event horse and wanted to ride dressage. During my visit to Holland I did some horse shopping and found what I felt was a suitable horse for her. By the time I had finished a visit in Germany, a horse named Pioneer had been purchased and Mary Kay was a new boarder.

As the year was ending I realized that I was going to leave eight years of blood, sweat and tears behind to start all over again. I signed a lease with Tony and Betty Finelli in Bangor, Pennsylvania for their 24-stall barn and two arenas. New Years Eve was spent moving every possession I owned and five horses to the new barn. When the doors to Touch 'n Go Farm opened every stall was filled with loyal clients who followed me from Bit by Bit. I knew I had made the right decision but it was still heartbreaking to leave the farm I built.

1991-1994

Once the new farm was up and running I tried to resume my competitive career. The approved Dutch stallion Vergilius proved to be a total disappointment as a replacement for Monarch but Hot Legs was making progress and Mary Kay proved to be a wonderful sponsor for Pioneer. I continued to compete at the large shows and CDI's during the Northeast season and train thought the winter. With a heart of gold to match his coat, Hot Legs learned all of the Grand Prix movements but soundness problems limited us to Prix St. George and Intermediare I. With Mary Kay's support I successfully competed Pioneer through Intermediare II until 1992.

anmut3.jpgThe Taibi family approached me about riding their Hanoverian mare Anmut in 1992. She was a 17.1 hand fancy mover that had been schooled to second level. In 1993 I showed her for the entire season and finished with numerous honors at fourth level and Prix St. George. That same year I purchased a Hanoverian gelding named Fahrenheit as a jumper prospect.

By now I had riders that had been students of mine for ten years or more. Many had done well in the hunter/jumper ring and my dressage students were beginning to win USDF rider medals and regional championships. Some went on to become professional riders, stable owners and judges. A real sense of time passing took hold as women who had ridden with me as kids began to bring their own children to me for lessons. Twenty years of riding instruction had not jaded me. I still loved sharing my love of the horse with others and delighted in seeing a student progress.

While many considered me their teacher, I still considered myself a student. Regardless of where I called home, my regular lessons with Irma Hotz continued and I rode with Karl Mikolka at every opportunity. A clearer concept of classical training had formed of the years and I found that I was able to compare and contrast training methods during clinics with other instructors. I attended clinics with Georg Heyser, Rudolf Zielinger and Michael Klimke. Following the USET clinic in Gladstone I rode more frequently with Robert Dover too. While Vergil largely remained at home, I did accept an invitation from George Morris serve as a demonstration rider at his Instructor Forum in 1993. The event was tremendous fun and it reminded Vergil and I both that we were jumpers in the beginning.

My training with Michael Klimke resulted in a friendship that led to another trip to Europe in 1993. I tagged along while Michael went horse shopping for clients. The trip included stops at Georg Heyser's farm and attending shows at Muenster and Rotterdam. Another highlight of the trip was having lunch with the Klimke family. I stared in amazement at their hallway covered in every kind of international riding award possible including six Olympic gold medals.

scottgigiwedding.jpgBack at home, the Finelli's added twelve stalls to the barn and they were filled when they became available. Touch 'n Go was becoming just as successful as Bit by Bit and I felt good knowing I had done it on my own. Hot Legs soundness problems continued but when he felt good I continued to show him in the FEI ring. Wendel was a stubborn youngster and always kept my working students on their toes. Through an interesting sequence events in 1994, I became the owner of a lovely Dutch mare named Hester. She had three tremendous gaits and loads of athletic ability but she also came with some mental problems. Hester became my special project horse.

After hosting a combination jumper/dressage clinic with Jack LeGoff in the spring, I decided to hide from an approaching fortieth birthday in Virginia. My longtime friend Janna Dyer had been one of Dr. Klimke's working students in Germany. There she met and married one of Klimke's trainers, a Russian named Marat Bakhramov. Janna and Marat had moved to Middleburg so I called and set up a private clinic. Four students and six horses headed south in early July. The day after my birthday I met a corporate pilot named Scott Nutter. We shared a lunch in town, a long walk by a lake and then he headed back to Atlanta. This was the beginning of a long-distance romance. My boarders and clients let me know that they saw how my spirits had been lifted while dating Scott. It still came a surprise when we decided to have a wedding ceremony the Saturday after Thanksgiving. With over one hundred people in attendance I walked down an aisle of sawdust lined with bales of hay in the indoor arena. As I greeted friends in the reception line the joy I felt was tempered with the sadness that came in knowing I was leaving Pennsylvania. December was spent closing another business and moving a lifetime's worth of riding equipment and personal possessions to Georgia. As for my animals, Scott said we looked like Noah's Ark as we loaded two goats, two cats, two dogs, two stallions, two mares and two colts in the trailer and horse van. New Years Eve 1994 we had another private ceremony at our new farm in Whitesburg.

1995-1997

The move to Georgia was eye opening in many ways. I was born, raised and built a career in Pennsylvania. The reputation I enjoyed in the Northeast did not follow me southward. The English riding disciplines were far more entrenched around my home in Pennsylvania. It was wonderful to see the growing enthusiasm for dressage and hunter/jumpers in Georgia but few riders followed the Northeast competition circuit and had much knowledge of it's history. Basically, I was back to square one and would have to prove myself all over again. Not an easy task with a new husband, a baby soon on the way and an old farm that needed a lot of work.

I began to advertise and give lessons to those that expressed an interest. To maintain a business I traveled to Pennsylvania and New Jersey every two weeks to give clinics to my clients there. After my daughter was born I was glad to have time to spend with her but I constantly worried about developing a customer base in Georgia. While construction continued on the farm, I had to be content riding my two youngsters Wendel and Hester. Eventually, one student would talk to another and I began to build a lesson program.

sierra202.jpgAside from the monumental changes associated with leaving Pennsylvania, I soon realized that I missed the trusted, regular input from Irma Hotz. It wasn't easy to leave the instructor I had taken lessons from for eight years. My old home was in the Pocono Mountains of east Pennsylvania and there were literally dozens of Olympians within a two or three hour drive. Such was not the case in Whitesburg. I realized that, by necessity, I would have to rely on the education I had acquired and do the best I could on my own. Looking back, that had a very positive effect on my training and confidence.

I did attend clinics and symposiums when invited. Instructors such as Charles DeKunffy, Gerhard Politz, Jules Nyssen and Lilo Fore offered an educated eye on the ground and I appreciated their efforts. Still, occasional clinics have never been a replacement for regular instruction. At home alone, I simply held true to the training concepts I had formed over twenty five years of schooling horses.

I did return to the show ring in 1996 with Hester and Wendel at first level. We did well but Wendel proved to be a rambunctious youngster in the warm-up ring. I decided that he could stay home and mature a bit more. Those early shows and clinics introduced me to Bill and Rebecca Kemp. Rebecca had a nice Swedish mare that she had broken but wanted help training. Sierra came to Touch 'n Go as my first client horse in training. By the spring of 1997 Sierra began to win classes at First level.

I would be lying if I said that I didn't miss the big shows, CDI's and FEI competition. It had taken me years to work my way to that level and I enjoyed it while I was there. Nonetheless, when the holidays rolled around I realized that I had a beautiful two-year-old daughter, a devoted husband, a new, lighted outdoor arena and a remodeled barn. Life was good.

1998 to 2002

The spring of 1998 burst into bloom and rejuvenated my outlook on the horse business. As my daughter grew older, attending competitions became easier and with success in the show ring came phone calls for lessons. Demand grew and the natural inclination was to expand our ten-stall barn and bring in boarders. Instead, Scott and I made a conscious decision to keep the farm private and limit boarding to horses in training. I was skeptical but soon riders were trailering in from Alabama, Macon, Atlanta and Columbus for lessons. For me, a list of active students and owners asking to bring horses for training has always been the definition of a successful business.

image001.jpgDiane and Alan Thomas own the beautiful Merichase Farm in Moreland Georgia. The occasional lessons I taught at their farm became a standing weekly clinic. The riders in Diane's barn were hard working and dedicated. It was gratifying to watch their steady progress.

Still, a week never went by that I didn't miss Irma Hotz. Those lessons were the foundation upon which I built many training methods. I always thrived on regular instruction from a trainer I trusted. Then, seemingly by accident, I rediscovered Karl Mikolka. He had left Tempel Farms and was traveling the country conducting clinics. I arranged a clinic at Merichase in March of 1998 and enjoyed seeing a new group of riders awed by his mastery of dressage. My new students began to understand the origins of my approach to training.

image002.jpgThe old feeling of satisfaction with my students also returned. My " Southern" riders began earning their USDF Bronze and Silver Rider Medals. Many qualified for and succeeded at the Regional Dressage Championships. Since I didn't show jumpers in the south, I became known almost exclusively for dressage instruction. That is until some local event riders learned of my past experience and began taking combined dressage/jumping lessons. Now I have a wonderful group of eventers who understand that this " dressage rider" can also teach them elegance over fences. Many of them enjoyed competitive success.

In order to become part of the local dressage community I began to support the educational opportunities in the area. The USDF Instructor Certification program gave me a chance to work as a demonstration rider as well as participate as a student. Riding with Gerhard Politz, Lilo Fore and Felicitus von Neumann Cosel gave me insight into the program and educated eyes on the ground. Late in the year I was asked to join the Georgia Dressage and Combined Training Association's Board of Directors. I accepted and spent the next three years working with GDCTA.

Wendel continued to train at home but I competed Rebecca Kemp's mare Sierra at Second and Third level. We took Reserve Champion at Second level Open at the 1998 Regional Championships and she earned her Second and Third level USDF Performance Certificates along with Swedish breed awards. When the competition season ended, Rebecca decided to take Sierra home for spring breeding. She enjoys crossing her mares with performance stallions and I wished her well in the endeavor.

While the rest of the East Coast eagerly follows the Florida circuit, I have always enjoyed time at home quietly training my horses over the winter. In an effort to build his confidence, I took Wendel to the Georgia Horse Fair in January of 1999 and spent two days helping him confront his fears. The crowd was appreciative and enjoyed the dressage demonstration. The event gave GDCTA some statewide exposure and I followed up with demonstration rides at the GDCTA/USDF Adult Camp and a symposium with Jane Savoie in Macon.

image003.jpgA few months later, Julie Ballard-Haralson asked me to train a Dutch mare named Katinka. She was gifted with fluid movement but a mind that led to her being nicknamed "Crazy Horse." With Wendel schooling FEI and Katinka's natural talent, I made the most out of a clinic with Hans Heinrich Meyer zu Strohen by riding both horses as well as Sierra. Karl Mikolka returned for another clinic and, much to my surprise, agreed to conduct a symposium in 2000 for GDCTA. I also renewed my acquaintance with my first dressage instructor, Gunnar Ostergaard when he came to Atlanta for a short clinic.

The 1999 show season focused on Wendel and his re-entering competition. He had matured but was still unpredictable as we tested the waters at Fourth level. By late summer he debuted at Prix St. Georges and managed to qualify at both levels for the USDF Region 3 Championships. The finals were held in Atlanta and my nervous gelding won the Fourth Level Open Championship. Equally satisfying was my student's success at the show. Several placed in the ribbons and two riders earned their USDF Bronze Rider medals by years and. Another highlight was one of my dearest "Northern rider" students, Nicole Zaccheo, participated in the USDF Region 1 NAYR Championships.

I celebrated my wedding anniversary on New Years Eve watching the ball descend in Times Square as everyone on the planet anxiously waited for "Y2K." When it was apparent that all was well with the world, I went to sleep without any notion of the exciting year ahead.

image004.jpgWinter training went better than expected with Wendel while Katinka and I had a major breakthrough. I looked forward to the spring show season but my husband and I had volunteered to organize "Southeast Dressage Symposium 2000" for the GDCTA. Since joining the Board of Directors in 1998, I tried to help the association develop educational programs that were well attended and profitable. After weeks of planning, the lights came up in Henderson's Arena and over 200 participants enjoyed two days with dressage Master Karl Mikolka. As soon as that ended, the show season began.

Katinka and I had formed a bond and she was becoming a remarkable horse. We scored in the 70's at Second level in our first competition and started a run that resulted in thirteen straight wins and a median score of 71.75%. Wendel came out strong at Prix St. Georges and Intermediare I. I was having fun at every show and I think the horses knew it.

image005.jpgThe spring brought clinics in Alabama and a rider demonstration at the MGSHA dressage symposium with Kathy Connelly. In a wonderful Mother's Day twist of fate, not only did I get breakfast in bed from my daughter but a yearling colt named Legacy In Gold arrived from Texas. Legacy is the son of my FEI stallion Hot Legs and sentimental link to that big-hearted, Palomino, Thoroughbred.

I used the competition break to work on flying changes with Katinka and Piaffe and Passage with Wendel. When the show season resumed, both horses were stronger and more relaxed within their competitive levels. Karl Mikolka returned to Merichase in September and I left for Pennsylvania a few days after the clinic.

image006.gif2000 marked my return to Dressage at Devon after a seven year absence. I spent two days at Bill and Belinda Wertman's farm letting Wendel relax after the long trip. While there, I took a couple of lessons with Uwe Steiner and enjoyed watching him work with Belinda. Devon hadn't changed a bit since my last show there in 1993. Wendel held his own with the higher caliber of horses and earned 10th place in the Prix St. Georges CDI class and 9th place in the AHSA class. It felt good to gallop around the Dixon oval again.

The 2000 USDF Region 3 Championships were held in Florida so Wendel, Katinka, a few students and my family headed to Gainesville in October with high hopes. Looking back on that show I realize how special the weekend proved to be. Students of mine ranged from young riders to adult amateurs. Most were in the ribbons and some won their class. Wendel and Katinka exceeded all expectations. Wendel won both the Prix St. Georges and Intermediare I Open championships and Katinka won the Second level Open class.

image007.jpgThe warm sense of satisfaction was tempered with disbelief that Katinka had made such a wonderful turnaround and my insecure gelding continued to progress beyond his god-given abilities. Several students earned USDF All-breeds awards and a few placed in Horse of the Year divisions. One student earned a USDF silver medal. Wendel Placed 20th in the Intermediare I Horse of the Year standings while Katinka earned 4th place in the Second Level HOY and a KWPN "Sport" predicate.

During the holidays I thanked my maker for such a wonderful year. The barn was occupied by a new palomino colt, talented Dutch mare and (dare I think it?) my next Grand Prix horse. I actually began to feel like I was back in the dressage world again. Good horses and dedicated students are the richest reward for a professional trainer.

The Georgia Horse Council asked for another dressage demonstration at the state Horse Fair and I was happy to oblige. Julie Ballard-Haralson enjoyed Katinka's success as an owner but she had another Dutch mare named Jezebel whom she competed herself. Jezebel was as complicated as Katinka, just in different ways. With sadness I agreed to switch horses so Julie could enjoy Katinka's fluid movement while I set out to train Jezebel as an upper level horse. image008.jpg

I made several trips to Alabama to give clinics with my growing client base in the northern part of the state. The two hour drives to the clinic sites helped me appreciate the distance my students traveled to take lessons. Their dedication reminded me of my own two or three hour trips to train with Col. Kitts, Jessica Ransehausen or Frank Chapot twenty-five years before. Old students brought me back to Pennsylvania for clinics at Jane Lucrezi's new barn.

As the weather grew warmer I hosted another clinic with Karl Mikolka where he could see the progress with Wendel and Katinka. As always, his clinic left me with plenty of homework to improve both horses. I also rode with Michael Poulin for the first time on many years. His educated eye as a competitor encouraged me to keep moving Wendel towards Grand Prix.

image009.jpgAs the show season approached I was honored to serve as the dressage "Test Ride" at the Foxhall Cup CCI*** event. Wendel was a trooper and put in a solid test. By 2001 I had several event riders who came to me for flat work, jumping or both. They all got a huge kick out of seeing their trainer perform the opening ride at a three-day event. I got a kick out of being judged by a trainer I had ridden with, Jack LeGoff.

Wendel came out at Intermediare II and debuted at Grand Prix in March. He still lacked confidence in the piaffe and passage but he scored in the low to mid sixties and I knew there was room for improvement. Jezebel proved to be an opinionated mare but we formed a relationship and our scores moved up at each show.

A new horse moved in to Touch 'n GO when Peggy Carspecken purchased an imported, Dutch mare named Lestera. Peggy had a great little Connemara/Percheron cross named Virginia but she wanted a horse with more movement. We agreed to train the horse together so Peggy could learn while Lestera advanced in training. Lestera became Lala around the barn and was soon part of the family.

Nine months of hard work came to fruition when we opened the Touch 'n GO Farm web site on September 8th. It only took a day or two before the e-mail started flooding in with kind words and compliments. A few days later much of the communication came to an abrupt halt.

image010.jpgI was riding when my husband came and told me about the events unfolding on the morning of September 11th. That national tragedy happened on a Tuesday and I found myself at a horse show three days later surrounded by family, friends, competitors and more American flags than I had seen in a long time. I ached for the people who lost their lives and was concerned about more terrorist attacks but everyone's resolve seemed to harden against letting fear stop us from going on with our lives. The show went on and I qualified Jezebel for the finals at Fourth level.

The USDF Regional Championships were held in Atlanta and a large group of students accompanied Wendel, Jezebel and I to the show. The Touch 'n GO Farm banner was covered with ribbons by the end of the competition and I was surrounded by happy students. Wendel put in a solid effort and won the Intermediare II championship. Unfortunately, he decided to shy at everything in the indoor arena during the Grand Prix final and we placed fourth. Jezebel did a fine job in the Third Level Open test and earned Reserve Champion for the effort. Surprisingly, she also placed third in the Fourth Level Open class with only two shows at that level prior to the finals. Julie Ballard-Haralson did well on Katinka and was thrilled with all of her Dutch mares. Jezebel's success in competition qualified her for a "Star" predicate with the KWPN.

image011.gifThe competition year concluded with several of my students earning their USDF Bronze Rider medal and Diane Thomas winning her Silver. She and Hannah had certainly come a long way from the strong-willed lady on the plump, temperamental mare I started working with six years prior. Along with her Star predicate, Jezebel placed in the KWPN All-Breed awards at Third Level Open. In the American Hanoverian Society All-Breed awards, Wendel won the Intermediare II division and placed second to Debbie McDonald and Brentina at Grand Prix. He also placed in the USDF Horse of the Year awards at Intermediare II with a median score of 65.366%. Wendel's ten scores above 60% resulted in a Performance Certificate at Intermediare II.

image012.jpgIn December, I served as a demonstration rider in a dressage symposium featuring Walter Zettl. His book was part of my library but I had never watched Walter ride or teach. Wendel was the Grand Prix Demonstration horse while Lestera represented Fourth Level and Prix St. Georges. Mr. Zettl was exceptionally complementary of my riding as well as that of my students. Much to my surprise, the event was filmed and much of the footage used in his first "A Matter of Trust" video.

image013.jpgThe organizers of the Alabama Horse Fair called and explained that they had heard of my dressage demonstrations and asked if I would participate in their event. I accepted and marked my calendar in January. Two weeks before the event an organizer called with my scheduling information. My usual 45-minute demonstration had turned into several hours of lessons, a one-hour lecture, a one-hour demonstration and a musical performance in the "Saturday Night Extravaganza!" I swallowed hard and told the lady that I would do my best even though I didn't have a musical kur prepared. Long story short, I loaded Wendel up two weeks later and headed to Montgomery. He was petrified of the chaotic activity and scared, as always, of every wagon, flag and strangely-gaited horse. I thought the Saturday night performance would surely be my last. When the lights went down and the music started, Wendel summoned all the courage he possessed and we brought the house down. I have never been as proud of him as I was that night.

image014.gifAs the weather grew warmer I decided that it was time to start my Blonde Boy, Legacy. He remained a colt but had better manners than most. Kathy Frazier had attended the Karl Mikolka Symposium in 2000 and liked what she saw. When she came for dressage lessons, I discovered that she was a professional trainer that specialized in starting youngsters and a practitioner of Buck Branamann's methods. Kathy and I reached an agreement and soon we were exchanging concepts as she worked Legacy on the ground and I explained where this type of work would lead in dressage training. Being a bit skeptical of the motivations of some "Natural Horsemanship" trainers, it was nice to see a horseman at work. Little did I know that Kathy and I would develop a stronger relationship in the months and years ahead.

image015.jpgClinics in Georgia, Alabama and Pennsylvania kept me on the road while I still had to organize the events I sponsored with Karl Mikolka at home. In April he came for a five-day clinic that allowed me to offer a few lessons to outside riders. The auditing response was great and the riders all felt like they had taken a graduate course in dressage in one week. Over the years Karl had built another fan base in Georgia. I enjoyed our work together in the ring and treasured the conversations about training and world affairs over dinner. He is immensely knowledgeable yet vastly underappreciated in this country.

Competitions were focused on confirming Wendel at Grand Prix and building a partnership with Lestera. Lala and I started at Fourth level and quickly moved to Prix St. Georges when she demonstrated her rock-solid attitude in the show ring. I have ridden very few horses as reliable as Lala in competition and her work ethic at home was fantastic. I felt very fortunate to have two competitive FEI horses to ride and train.

image016.jpgIn the early part of the season I was visited by an event trainer who wanted to further develop his dressage skills. Imtiaz Anees had competed for India in the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney. He relocated to Georgia and worked out of Haralson Farm in Newnan. One of Imti's concerns was the recent addition of the flying change in the Advanced test. The goal for his competition horse Spring Invader (Kevin) was the 2002 World Equestrian Games in Jerez, Spain. Imti is a working professional who made time to drive to different locations and take three lessons each week. With that kind of dedication he was bound to succeed with Kevin. In September Imti and Kevin went down centerline representing India at the WEG. I smiled when I heard that Kevin got two clean changes.

While Imti was in Spain, I headed to Pennsylvania for Dressage at Devon. Wendel entered in the Grand Prix and Special and Lestera in the 4th Level and Prix St. George classes. Peggy Carspecken and Diane Thomas flew up from Georgia and a long-lost friend and rider, Lisa Hornsby-Daws, flew in from her new home in Texas. Nicole Zaccheo, one of my favorite students and accomplished rider, offered to groom for me. The show was "typical Devon" and friends made it all the more fun. Walter Zettl came to the show to promote his new training video and took the time to coach me in the warm-up ring. That warmed my heart.

image017.jpgLestera went well in her Fourth Level test and took Second place in a class of 25. The Prix St. George test was not as brilliant and she finished in the middle of the pack. Wendel was as ready as he would ever be and I looked forward to the Grand Prix. As fate would have it, I had a classic "I wish I could turn back time" moment.

A few minutes before ride time, I went through my ritual of drinking a bit of water while Nicole wiped my boots and Wendel's legs. Betsy Rebar Sell left the ring and I took a quick lap around the arena before the bell rang. I made the turn down centerline feeling good about Wendel and the test. I struck off after the halt only to hear the bell ring again. It's hard to go off course on centerline but I walked towards the judge at "C" who informed me that I still had a whip in my hand. My heart sank. Brian O'Conner made the best of the situation over the PA and I raised the whip like a torch as I left the arena. Needless to say, tears followed the anger and I kicked myself all night. In dozens of CDI competitions and Championship classes I had never forgotten to drop my whip. Fellow competitors all shared their "whip moment" for the rest of the show. The elimination in the Grand Prix meant I couldn't ride the Special. Wendel's trip was a waste of time.

image018.jpgIt was small consolation but the judges got together and agreed to let me perform a "Test Ride" as the beginning of the Grand Prix Special on Sunday. I accepted the offer and did my best to show the crowd what Wendel could do. It was with mixed emotions that I saw the scores and realized that we would have placed sixth if the ride had counted.

For me, the fall shows were preparation for the Regional Championships and an opportunity to solidify the bond with my "Energizer Bunny" Lala. The more I rode the mare, the better I liked her. We had difference of opinion at home but when we went down centerline Lala put on her game face and gave me her all.

Wendel had come farther than I ever imagined but he was still prone to spooking in the show ring. I adored my big, lovable Hanoverian who did tricks in the barn. Still, I was realistic about his chances at Grand Prix.

The 2002 Regional Championships were held in Camden South Carolina and that meant a new venue for my horses. Scott walked both horses around the show grounds until he wore a track in the grass. Lala did her usual "whirling dervish" routine for a while and then settled in for a long weekend. Wendel's eyes stayed wide and fearful no matter how much cajoling we tried.

image019.jpgLestera put in solid tests, as always, and placed 4th in the fourth Level Open championship and took Reserve Champion at Prix St. Georges. She may not be the flashiest horse in the show ring but I wouldn't trade her competitive spirit for anything.

I rode Wendel in an open show Grand Prix Special class as a warm up for the championship class. He was tense and nervous throughout the test and I feared the worst for the next day. As I groomed him on Sunday I kept mentally running over his possible weaknesses and how I would react to each. Scott and Cassidy were helping as I got his saddle. I still don't know what happened but some yelled "loose horse!" It was Wendel. He was prancing around the show grounds puffed up like a stallion. Struggling to keep calm, I went one direction while Scott went another to corral him. Luckily, there wasn't an easy way for him to leave the area so he eventually headed for the stalls next to ours for a visit. His strongest urge finally took over as he blundered into someone's tack stall for treats. I got a lead rope around his neck and took him back to the stall.

Well, that's one way to get warmed up. A few minutes later we headed for the real warm-up ring with hearts still pounding. Down centerline Wendel still let his nerves get the best of him but the test was pretty clean. When the results were announced, I realized that we had won the Grand Prix class and our fifth consecutive USDF Region 3 Championship. The five-hour trip home offered time to reflect on Wendel's accomplishments. They far exceeded my expectations. Cathy Cotrill wrote a nice piece for the Chronicle entitled, "Nutter captures Fahrenheit then Grand Prix Title." She did a fine job of relating the experience in a few paragraphs.

The 2002 competition year resulted in a USDF Performance Certificate at Grand Prix and Third place in the AHS All-Breed awards for Wendel and a Fourth Level Performance certificate for Lestera. My students had a great year including one silver medalist, six ribbon winners in the Regional Championships and two who earned USDF Horse of the Year awards.

image020.jpgA year that provided a great deal of smiles and laughter, unfortunately, ended on a sad note. My long-time friend and trusted companion Georgie Girl started exhibiting signs of a neurological problem and the symptoms worsened quickly. Vet calls, treatments and tears became a weekly affair. In late November the decision was made to have her humanely euthanized. The beautiful, thoroughbred mare had helped me build a career and did everything requested of her for over 25 years. Looking at the rectangular area bare of grass in the pasture, I realized that the last link to the beginnings of my riding career had died.

Regional and national success of horses and students from 2000 to 2002 solidified my credibility with the "Southern" riding community. There were many differences in my private farm compared to the large equestrian center in Pennsylvania but sheer lesson volume was no longer a concern. Since moving to Georgia in 1994 the focus of my business was building a small group of enthusiastic riders who shared my dedication to dressage. Those students came to realize that adherence to classical training principles and hard work would yield results in the show ring. Happy students and happy horses lead to a happy trainer. The manageable size of my farm allowed me to enjoy being a Mother and Wife.

 
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