Touch n GO Farm

Whitesburg Georgia

Lestera PDF Print E-mail

My Energizer Bunny


lestera_1.jpgAll too often, horses move in and out of a professional trainer's life due to the whims of owners. Rarely do people understand the amount of time, energy and emotion required to succeed in the sport of dressage. By investing a lot of heart and soul into training, I also open myself up to the inevitable heartache that follows an owner's decision to sell a horse. It is part of the business but the aspect of training I dislike the most.

Peggy Carspecken was a client fortunate enough to own a jewel of a mare named Virginia Dare. The horse was honest, sweet and looked out for her rider. She was the kind of horse trainers consider priceless. Still, Peggy was interested in a more schooled horse with bigger movement. Even though I dislike "horse-trading" I do keep my eye on the marketplace to find good matched for established clients. In February 2001 I was introduced to a little, Dutch mare named Lestera and realized she could be a good partner for Peggy.

As an enthusiastic student of dressage, Peggy wanted to ride upper-level movements but had no interest in competing the mare herself. We came up with a plan for her to ride three days each week and I would train the rest. As Lestera became confirmed, I would show the mare and Peggy would play an active role as owner.

lestera_2.jpgLestera became "LaLa" around the barn and that summer offered the chance to build a relationship. A solid mover, LaLa felt "locked up" in her body. Suppleness, looseness and flexibility were the focus of my training along with developing her trust in contact. I also wanted to reach my ever-present goal of a horse willingly seeking the hand.

Cavalletti work improved her cadence and as her strength increased I started developing collection. I quickly realized that Lestera's greatest qualities were her work ethic and attitude. She never said "No" when asked for more or when I introduced something new. Every trainer loves a horse with such willingness to please and we formed a special bond in no time.

Peggy and I set our sites on the 2002 competition season but did accept an offer to ride in the USDF Adult Symposium conducted by Walter Zettl in January. That event was our first public outing and we conducted the Third and Fourth level demonstration rides. Mr. Zettl had nothing but praise for Lestera's willingness and attitude. As it happened, that event was filmed and footage of LaLa appears throughout Mr Zettl's video instruction series "A Matter of Trust."

Lestera entered competition at 4th level in March. Over the course of the show season, her scores averaged 65% with a high of 69.5% including a second place finish in a class of 25 at Dressage at Devon. Her FEI debut was equally successful with marks up to 67%. While the judges enjoyed her talent and correctness, I fell for her "Energizer Bunny" attitude. LaLa has the occasional spooky moment at home but she was absolutely reliable in the show ring. Autumn brought the USDF Region 3 Championships to Camden, SC. Lesteraheld her own against a strong filed and placed 4th at Fourth level and took Reserve Champion at Prix. St. George.

lestera_3.jpgIn the spring of 2003, Peggy came to me saying she had to sell Lestera. Our winter training progress was encouraging and I was confident that the mare was well on her way to Grand Prix. The news was depressing but I told Peggy that I would find LaLaa good home. I placed the mare's statistics on the Internet, in print advertisements and posted flyers at shows. To get her in front of potential buyers I competed her at the Rageigh CDI in June. Lestera placed 5th in the Prix St. Georges and 7th at Intermediare I CDI classes. I ignored the Championships since I didn't know the mare's future but we ended the season on a high note; 69.75% at Intermediare I.

In the midst of the marketing campaign one of my students came to me and talked about her training goals. As luck would have it, she was in a position to purchase an upper level horse to learn advanced dressage. Lestera seemed like a perfect fit. Kathy's Norton's career as a professional trainer specializing in starting young horses gave her excellent "horse sense." Once the purchase was complete, she set out to learn proper dressage riding and training methods.

lestera_4.jpgKathy and I logically divided the riding responsibilities so Lestera's training could progress while Kathy could study the basics on a schooled horse. I continued to show LaLa and we qualified for the Regional Championships at Intermediare I. Two riders working the same horse always has an effect on training progress but this little mare was special. Still, I took a realistic view of my chances. The finals were held in Atlanta and drew 400 horses and some good professional trainers. Her championship class was filled with talented horses and riders. In the end, Lestera put in a solid test good enough to earn a 67% and the 2004 Open Championship.

Kathy trained for two more months before heading south for the Florida circuit. After a few shows she earned the scores for the USDF Silver Rider Award medal. It is a testament to Lestera's talent and willing nature that Kathy progressed from a rider having only show at training Level to a successful FEI six months!

I began to ride Lala more in 2005 as Kathy focused on starting a family. Our first outings at Intermediare II yielded acceptable scores ranging from 62% to 66% but there was still plenty of room for improvement. Her one-tempis and piaffe developed faster than the passage and transitions. The regional finals came at a funny point in training and we only managed a 4thplace in the championship class at Intermediare II.  

Things began to improve over the next few months but Kathy completed construction on her new facility and Lala left Touch n GO before the 2006 show season began. Almost six years of training and I wasn't going to ride the little mare with the big heart in her first Grand Prix class. lestera_5.jpg

Kathy was unable to ride for a while so she had a local, semi-professional and former student of mine ride Lala for her. In a matter of weeks the rider earned the scores for her USDF Gold medal. A few months later Kathy switched to another student of mine, Adrienne Rogers, who won her Gold medal riding Lestera in the spring of 2007. She was finally sold to an Adult Amateur in the Carolinas.

My time with Lestera is a shining example of how difficult and rewarding it is to be professional trainer. Her owners were the cause of stress and uncertainty but the mare was absolutely dependable. In and out of the show ring, Lala and I shared some wonderful time together. I consider myself blessed to have been given the opportunity to train such a willing partner. Riders fortunate enough to ride Lestera should feel the same way. 


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