The horse who helped me become an FEI rider.

monarch_1.jpgWhere you grow up creates a regional perspective that never completely leaves you in adulthood. I was raised in the Pocono Mountains of eastern Pennsylvania. My world of horses centered on Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and Virginia. The professionals in the area and the competition circuit in the northeast were my influences. The goal that every dressage rider aspired to was Dressage at Devon. International competition may hold greater challenges but Devon was only two hours away and the best riders in the country made the trip when the show began in 1975. Many years I sat in the stands thinking “someday I will ride under the lights at this show.” A horse named Monarch became my ticket to Devon and much more.

Once I had Bit by Bit Farm full of boarders and running well, I turned my attention to furthering my understanding of dressage. As Mr. Lininger told me “it takes one good horse to make a good rider.” Pardi Chat was my good jumper. Now I needed a schooled dressage horse. I turned to Dr. Larry Baudin.

monarch_2.jpgDr. Baudin was traveling to Europe regularly and assisting riders in finding Dutch sport horses. I was new to the market and had to be cautious with my money. It quickly became apparent that the term “Dutch Trader” was well deserved. My moderate price range would not buy much of a schooled horse. What Dr. Boudin managed to find was a young rider’s horse with a few bad habits.

Monarch was fourteen years old and set in his ways. It was wonderful to ride a horse that knew the movements better than I did and responded to correct aids. What wasn’t so wonderful were the bucking fits across the diagonal and explosions down centerline. My experience with less-than-perfect horses helped me through the rough spots. My training with Karl Mikolka and Irma Hotz was beyond value in correcting Monarchs faults. My horse had the ability to go all the way to Grand Prix but he wasn’t a youngster. Karl and Irma took the time to instill the concepts necessary for me to further Monarch’s training. Four months after Monarch came to America I was riding my first Prix St. Georges tests. The early FEI classes held plenty of surprises but over time Monarch became more reliable.

With considerable help from Irma and Karl, the piaffe and passage were developed and the quality of Monarchs movements improved. My dream of riding at Devon was realized in 1987. That proved only the beginning as I was fortunate enough to compete at Gladstone, Port Jervis, Lexington and more. We took home our share of ribbons at AHSA shows and CDI’s alike.

I won the USDF Gold Medal Rider award in 1988 and was long-listed for the USET in 1989. These successes led to clinics and training with other internationally recognized trainers. Monarch’s ability opened countless doors for me professionally. While riding a wave of success was gratifying, I knew that my eighteen-year-old horses competition days were numbered. All of the riders on the USET long list were invited to a clinic with Robert Dover. After the ride Robert said “he’s getting a little old for national competition, all you need now is a sponsor to buy you another horse!” Little did he know that once I left Gladstone, Monarch would be vetted for sale to one of my students. The proceeds going towards the purchase of another Dutch horse, Vergilius.

monarch_3.jpgThe Spanish Riding School in Vienna has spent over four hundred years perfecting their training methods. Contrary to the training in this country, it is the brand-new students (Eleves) in Vienna that ride the school masters. These fortunate students learn from day one what “correct” feels like. The masterful Berieters and Oberberieters are the ones who bring along the young stallions. Again, so the inexperienced horse learns what is “correct” from the beginning. Riders train the horses who teach the riders.

Monarch was my teacher. Without his knowledge I would not have gained insight into the world of upper level dressage training. For his cooperation I am eternally grateful. I attempted to return the favor in 1996 when the owner of his retirement farm passed away unexpectedly. The owner’s husband had already destroyed his pasture mate and indicated that I needed to find Monarch another home fast. I did just that and he is living a life of leisure with two tremendously devoted ladies in Pennsylvania.