Dressage Training in Aiken, SC

Markel Feature

Markel insurance advertisement featuring images of Amy and Deseado

Amy and Deseado were featured in Markel’s spring advertisement.

Poplar Place Fall Dressage

Dear AMY,
We have received a Member’s Confidential Evaluation Form from a Federation member commending you on your officiating at the POPLAR PLACE FALL DRESSAGE SERIES I (337076) competition that took place 9/9/2023 – 9/9/2023.
While we cannot disclose the name of the member or their exact comments, we can share with you the substance of their comments. This member reported that you did an excellent job judging.
USEF would like to thank you for upholding the high standards that we set forth for our officials and for helping to promote the pursuit of excellence in equestrian sport.
Thank you, 
USEF Licensed Officials Department

Dressage by Chance

Dear AMY,
We have received a Member’s Confidential Evaluation Form from a Federation member commending you on your officiating at the DRESSAGE, BY CHANCE? (332576) competition that took place 7/29/2023 – 7/29/2023.

While we cannot disclose the name of the member or their exact comments, we can share with you the substance of their comments.

This member reported that you did a great job judging, your comments were positive and helpful for improving future rides.
Dressage by Chance
USEF Licensed Officials Department

Ask the Judge – Upper Level Novice

Dear Amy, 

I recently imported an FEI dressage horse from Holland. I am planning to compete with him starting at Prix St. Georges this season in Aiken. I have competed at dressage shows in the past but never at this level, or done any upper level tests. I have a few questions I am curious about, and I have asked around but gotten mixed answers. So here you go!

A big concern is that I will not be able to remember these long tests. Is it too embarrassing to have a caller at this level? Are there any restrictions on equipment and attire at these levels? I heard spurs are no longer required? Finally, is the passport my horse traveled with from Europe sufficient for competing? All advice is greatly appreciated.

Upper Level Novice

Dear Upper Level,
How exciting and congratulations on the purchase of your new horse. Rules can be confusing and can often change so it is wise to be current on the latest information. All your questions are interesting and the answers are important to know.

Let’s start with your first question in regards to having your Prix St Georges (PSG) test called for you while you ride; it can be intimidating to memorize such long tests. In the National levels (Training to Fourth level) all riders have the option to have their test movements announced so they can have less worry about forgetting what to do next. Prix St. Georges, however, is a Federation International Equestre (FEI) level test, and the rules for the FEI are different. Although I don’t think it would be embarrassing to have an FEI test read for you, it is illegal at these levels, so you must perform the ride by memory only.

Here are some suggestions to help you gain confidence in memorizing. At home, practice your test with a caller until you can perform it successfully. It can also be helpful to draw the test on paper and go over the movements in your head, or to do your test on foot, or even mounted at the walk – whatever works best for you to find your way. On a good note, I rarely see riders go off-course at the PSG level.  

If you did go off course, you would receive an error. As in the lower-level tests you would be corrected and allowed to continue your ride. What is different, however, is how many errors you are permitted, and how they factor into your score at this level. At the National level, you are allowed two errors but are eliminated if you have a third one. In the FEI tests you would be eliminated if you had a second error. In the National level, an error would subtract two points from your final raw score. For example, if you earned 240 points and had one error, two points would be taken away for a total of 238 points, and your final percentage would be calculated from that number. (So if, for instance, your test had 360 maximum points, your final score would drop from 66.7 to 66.1.) In the FEI, an error is a lot more costly. Here you would have two full points taken off your final percentage score. For example, if you earned 60%, your score would adjust down to 58%. Therefore, knowing your test is imperative!​

When it comes to attire and equipment, there are many significant rules to be aware of. If you are competing in Aiken, although you would be riding FEI-level tests you would be competing under USEF rules, not FEI rules. The FEI rules only apply to official Concours de Dressage International (CDI) competitions. At this time, Aiken does not yet have any CDI dressage competitions, so for now, you would be following the rules for FEI tests at a National show.

Here are the dress rules for riding PSG and above. It is mandatory to wear protective headgear with a secure harness. Although I have rarely seen it, a short riding coat or cutaway, modified tailcoat is permitted. A tailcoat is only allowed in classes above Fourth level. Be sure your jacket is of a single color. It may have subtle pin-striping,checks, or tweeds. Stripes or multi-colors are not permitted. Tasteful and discreet accents, including modest piping and crystals are acceptable. When competing above Fourth level, tall English-style riding boots, including dress or field boots or variations thereof, are required. There are also guidelines now for gloves. At these levels gloves are required – this is a new rule for 2024! The gloves may be white, off white, or the same color as your coat. The rumor you heard about spurs not be required for FEI is true except that at this time it only applies to CDI competitions. At National level shows, spurs are still mandatory in FEI level tests.

There are a few equipment requirements when competing above Fourth level. It is now compulsory to use a well-fitted dressage saddle that is close to your horse with long, near vertical flaps, stirrups, and a girth. As far as bridles go, you may use a snaffle bridle or double bridle in competition as well as in the warmup.

On your scoresheet, you will see a major difference in the collective marks at this level. Previously, you had five collective marks to sum up your test. Now there will be only one final mark. The final collective mark is called General Impressions. This encompasses the harmonious presentation of the rider/horse combination, the rider’s position and seat, and the discreet and effective influence of the aids. This score has a coefficient of two, meaning it is worth double points. It is a reflection of your ride and will be similar to your final percentage.

Finally, let’s discuss the passport. At this time, you will not be required to present or have any passport for your horse when competing at a National level show even if you are competing in an FEI test. This would be different for CDIs where a passport would be required.

I hope I have given you some insight.  The USEF 2024 rulebook is available as a resource, and I always recommend reading it.  If you have questions when you are at the show, the competition’s Technical Delegate (TD), can help you clarify a rule.

Enjoy this new journey, and tests, put on your tailcoat (if you choose), wear a big smile, and dance away.

Ask the Judge – Multiple Judges

Dear Amy,

While I competed recently at a local USDF dressage show, I was very surprised to see my show arena had two judges! I was only showing at the lower levels. I thought only more advanced or special shows had multiple judges. So I was wondering if you could you explain the protocol when there is more than the C judge? How does the scoring work? And is there something the rider should do differently? 

Also, in my next show, the prize list says it will have electronic scoring. I am unclear what that means and how it will affect my ride. Could you please shed some light on this?

Double Puzzled

Dear Double Puzzled,

You were very fortunate to have the opportunity to perform for two judges at a standard recognized show. You are correct in finding this unusual. Although many shows would love to have panel judging (more than one judge per test) this usually not feasible since it would be a major expense, and it is not required in a regular show. Many dressage competitions do require two or more officials, however.

When there is a second judge, they will be required to sit at a middle long-side letter, either B or E (the show will decide which.) The head judge will always officiate from the middle of the short side at C opposite the entrance to the arena. The head judge is in charge of the signal for entry, and for determining errors or causes for elimination. These will, however, be meted out after conferring with the other judge. Both judges are required to score these elements the same.

However, all the other scoring is individual. When tests are complete and ready for pick-up, you will receive a copy of both judges’ tests. The final score and final placing are derived from the average of both scoresheets.

It is a real treat and quite helpful to have feedback from more than one judge for a single ride.

Officials appreciate having the opportunity as well, to see how their scores compare with those of another judge. Two judges can be offered for any level or at any show, even when it is not required. Here are some tips for riding in front of two judges. 

When there is an official on the side, it is appropriate and appreciated to let them know your show number as you ride by before entering the arena in addition to telling your number to the judge at C. (This is especially important if there is electronic scoring.) When you enter the arena, you must salute your judge at C in your entry and exit halt. You do not salute the judges on the side, but it is always acceptable to thank all your judges when the test is complete as you leave the arena.

Each judge scores a ride as though they were the only judge there. They do not have the ability or the opportunity to converse about your ride during your test. You will often find that your judges have written similar comments and given the same scores, which might surprise you. But this is not because they are working together: it is because they have had extensive training to evaluate a ride and are holding you to the same standard. 

As far as electronic scoring goes, this is also a treat for all to experience. Electronic scoring has been around for a long time at larger shows, but has only recently started to become widely used at smaller venues in the United States. What this means is there is no paper test. Your judge will still be dictating to your scribe but instead of writing the marks and the comments by hand, the scribe will be typing on a keyboard. Your judge has previously submitted their signature to the competition, so when your test is completed with final scores and comments, the scribe can simply click “submit” and put in a code that appends a secure signature.

There are many benefits of this system for the rider, the judge, and especially the scribe.

Since all scores are electronic, you can see your score immediately. Comments may be easier to understand since they are typed rather than written in longhand. (No more deciphering handwriting and trying to guess what was written!) Your judge also can clearly see all the test comments and numbers and will know your final percentage before submitting your test. Once the judge clicks “submit” all the scores and comments can no longer be changed.

I hope this gives you insight into what occurs when competing under two judges. I am certain you will enjoy having your ride electronically scored versus on paper, but don’t worry, because you will be able to have a printed copy if you would like one.

Good luck with your riding and showing.

Ask the Judge – Attire Hot Topics

Dear Amy,

I am planning to compete at recognized dressage shows this summer in Aiken. I have a few questions that I hope you can answer for me. 

First, with this heat, I am not planning to wear my show jacket, which I know is legal, assuming that jackets are waived at the show. But is it mandatory to wear a belt? If I do wear a belt, are there color restrictions? Also, the sun bothers my eyes, and I wonder if wearing sunglasses and/or an oversized visor is OK. That white dressage arena footing has a lot of glare!

Next, I know a caller is permitted when riding your test, but do judges frown upon that? Will it affect my score? Lastly, is it true that you can be eliminated after you finish your test? Why would that happen?
Hot Topics

Dear Hot Topics,

You bring up some interesting questions!  

I can understand not wanting to wear a jacket on these hot summer days, and that is perfectly fine as long as jackets are waived at the show in which you are competing. There currently is no ruling on the wearing of a belt. Surprisingly, there isn’t a rule that you have to tuck your shirt in, either. Ultimately, you want your appearance to look neat and professional, however.  If you are comfortable with a belt, you should absolutely wear one, whether you’re wearing your show coat or not. A belt that matches your helmet, coat (if you are wearing one), or saddle pad would look lovely, but there is no ruling on this. I would stay away from too much bling, though – glittery things distract the eye and you want your judge to focus on your ride. But whether you wear a belt or not will not affect whatsoever on your score, so this is completely optional.

As far as sunglasses go, yes they are permitted since there is no rule banning them. If you do wear a pair, please make sure they fit securely and are not falling down over your nose, because this would be distracting for everyone. However, there are some rules about helmet visors. A legal ASTM safety helmet that is securely fitted may have a wide brim as long as the brim is an integral part of the helmet. Unfortunately, you cannot add any visors, sunshields or anything else to your helmet. In fact, any added attachment is illegal and may be a reason to be eliminated.

Regarding having your test read to you as you ride, you are correct that you are allowed a caller for tests fourth level and below. (They are illegal for tests over fourth level.) The use of a reader will have no influence on your judge or on your score. There may be an issue, however, if your reader does any talking other than reading the test as written or makes noises such as clucking as you ride by. This could be considered outside help and possibly be a cause for elimination. Another interesting note: your caller must read you the test as written in English: you are not allowed to use a different language unless you have obtained permission in advance.

Even if you do have a reader, be sure that you are familiar with your test so that the reader is reminding you where to go, not telling you for the first time. Your reader should be knowledgeable about the arena, and especially to know where the letters are. Try to have someone who reads loudly and clearly and is an asset to your ride.

Finally, and unfortunately: it is definitely true that you could be eliminated after the completion of a ride, even if it was a great one. This could happen for a variety of reasons. One possibility could be because of using illegal equipment. For instance, your whip could be too long, or you might forget to take off your horse’s boots or bell boots, which are legal in the warmup, but illegal in the arena. Rider attire can also be an issue, for example not wearing a coat when coats are not waived, having bold patterns on your clothing, not having a collar or sleeves on your shirt. Sometimes, something you innocently put on your horse, like a lucky feather or good luck charm in the mane, or a questionable design or bling on your saddle pad can be an issue. If there is any blood on your horse, whether from spurs, a cut in the mouth or even if your horse kicks himself, this could be a reason for elimination. Any type of outside assistance is not acceptable. 

Why would you be allowed to start and complete your test if there is something about your horse, equipment or presentation that calls for your elimination? There are several possible reasons. First, the problem might be recognized by your judge during your ride, in which case he or she has the option to stop your test and excuse you immediately. Or, he or she may stop you and give you the option to complete the ride, but not have the score count. Or the judge might not recognize the problem until the end of the ride, or might contact the technical delegate to look into any issue, and tell you the bad news after your ride is finished. Another possibility occurs when the ring steward performs a tack inspection after you ride. 

I hope this does not happen: No judge wants to eliminate you! It is always advisable to read the dressage section in the USEF Rulebook as well as the handbook offered from USDF and USEF called the Visual Guide to Attire and Equipment. This is very informative: It even has colored pictures of everything that is allowed and not allowed.

I hope this helps you to be confident and comfortable in you presentation, while staying as cool as possible, keeping the sun out of your eyes, and remaining in compliance with all the clothing and equipment regulations. Feel free to have a reader, and always stay updated on the rules.  

Enjoy your shows and good luck!

Ask the Judge – Grand Prix Ambitions

Dear Amy,

I am getting ready to move my horse up to the Prix St. Georges level. This winter, I had a chance to watch FEI tests in Florida and I saw there were several versions of the Prix St. Georges (PSG) test being ridden there. Are these classes available at all shows? What is the difference between the tests?

Grand Prix Ambitions 

Dear Ambitions,

Congratulations on advancing to the PSG level. Prix St. Georges is the first of the FEI levels offered at any competition. What a good observation about the different PSG tests being competed in Florida. There are three options of tests at this level, but some of them come with eligibility restrictions and requirements. The tests you would have likely seen are the FEI Prix St Georges, the USEF Developing Horse Prix St. Georges, and the FEI Young Riders Team Test. Let’s look at these three versions.

The FEI Prix St. Georges test is open to all riders. The only requirement is the age of the horse, which is counted from January 1 of the year he was born, to January 1 of the current competition year.  To be eligible to compete, the horse must be at least 7 years old, and there is no maximum age. This test comprises 26 scoring boxes, with only one final collective mark. Seven of these movements have a coefficient of two (worth double points): trot half passes, collected and extended walk, canter pirouettes, and the final collective. The FEI PSG test only requires one judge at C at a national show, but there can be two judges. The average riding time for this test is 5 minutes and 50 seconds. This test is offered at all national shows and you can also enter it as an FEI test-of-choice class.

The USEF Developing Horse Prix St Georges is another variant at this level. This test is open to all riders. The only requirement is that the horse must be between 7 and 9 years old. The test comprises 28 scoring boxes, with two final collective marks: the “Implementation of General Principles” and “Harmony of Presentation.”  There are six scoring boxes that have coefficients of two; trot half passes, extended and collected walk, and canter pirouettes. 

If your horse is eligible, you can enter this test at a national show where it is offered. If the test isn’t offered on the class list, you might be allowed to enter it in the USEF Test of Choice class. There is both a “practice” and a “final” option for this test. The practice test requires one judge at C, but two judges are possible. The final must have two judges. These divisions are designed to recognize developing athletes and equine talent. The average ride time for this test is 6 minutes 30 seconds. The USEF also offers a Developing test for the Intermediaire and Grand Prix, since these levels are also a part of the USEF Dressage Development program.

The FEI Young Riders Team Test is yet another variant of Prix St. Georges. This test division is only available to young riders. Riders must be between 16 and 21. The horse must also be at least 7 years old and there is no maximum age. 

The FEI Young Riders Team test is the exact same test as the FEI PSG test.  Young riders can also compete in the FEI Preliminary and FEI Individual tests. These tests have similar movements as those on the PSG test. They include between 24 and 27 scoring boxes. There are coefficients of two on the trot half passes, collected and extended walk, and canter pirouettes. There is only one final collective mark and the average time ranges from 4 minutes 45 seconds to 5 minutes 50 seconds. Young Rider classes may be offered at national shows and you can also enter them in an FEI test of choice class. It is possible to have one judge at C, but if you are going for a qualifying score, two judges are required. Whenever there are two or more judges, the average of both tests will be your final score and placing. 

As you can see there can be many versions of the PSG test, although not all horses and riders will be eligible. The most common test you will see is the FEI Prix St. Georges test. You can enter this class as an open, junior/young rider, or amateur rider. Many times, if the class is large enough, prize-giving and placing will be divided by these groups. 

 So put on your tailcoat and a big smile and enjoy the first step of your journey in the FEI levels.

Ask the Judge – Ready for 2023

Dear Amy,

I am planning to compete with my horse at Training Level Test Three and First Level Test One this season. I noticed that there have been some changes in the new 2023 versions of these tests and I am hoping you can answer some questions about them.

First, I am curious why the trot serpentine in Training Three was replaced with a “loop”? I am also wondering what is the correct way to ride this movement. Another question: how do you know which posting diagonal to be on? Can you be penalized, or get an error, if you are not on the correct one? What about when you are trotting across the diagonal? Are there any other changes for these two tests that I should know about? I would appreciate your guidance.

Ready for 2023

Dear Ready,
You have some very good questions and I would be happy to share information about these tests. First, let’s look at the new patterns in the 2023 Training Level Test Three. Test Three has many changes and improvements, and it is clearer than the 2019 version that it replaces. It is also a shorter test, although the recommended ride time is the same 5 minutes, and 30 seconds, it has two fewer scoring boxes, 13 as opposed to 15.

Let’s begin with the purpose of the test. You can find this stated on the top left-hand corner of your test sheet and it is always important to keep it in mind. The purpose of the 2023 test is “To confirm that the horse demonstrates correct basics, by showing suppleness both laterally and longitudinally, moving freely forward in a clear rhythm with a steady tempo, and readily accepting contact with the bit. Correct geometry and lines of travel should be shown.” This test introduces two new movements: a shallow trot loop and a canter-to-trot transition on the diagonal. There are new directives for the free walk, which now includes the word “overtrack.” In other words, your horse’s hind hooves step should clearly be stepping over the print made by his front hooves. This is true for any test where the free walk is asked for, but this is a clearer description than we have had.

To answer your question regarding replacing the trot serpentine with the trot shallow loop, I understand this was done for several reasons. Prior to the 2019 test, Training Three also required a trot shallow loop. It was replaced in 2019 by the three-loop serpentine in an attempt to help riders because there was often confusion over the correct geometry for the shallow loop, as well as how to execute a correct bend throughout the pattern. Unfortunately, riders were still having difficulties with the bend and geometry in the three-loop serpentine. I also understand it was too tricky to fit in all three loops when the test was ridden in the small arena (20 meters by 40 meters) as opposed to the full-sized arena (20 meters by 60 meters.) So here we are back to the shallow loop, redesigned to be clearer and simpler to ride correctly. This movement directs you to leave the track slightly after the first long side letter, trot to X, then return to the track slightly before the last letter on the long side. It is performed in both directions and has a coefficient of two, meaning that the score is counted twice each time.

What is important in the shallow loop is to show clear changes of bend on a curved line. For example, if tracking left, slightly after H, you begin a single loop through X, developing your horse’s bend to the right as you leave the track. Maintain the right bend until you return to the track slightly before K, at which point you change your bend back to the left. At Training Level you may do the trot work either in rising or sitting.

If you choose to post, what diagonal is required? You might be surprised to learn that there is not a required posting diagonal for judging purposes. Your judge will not be focusing on this aspect of your ride, and there would not be any deduction and for sure not an error if you were not on a specific diagonal. In fact, the posting diagonal would never warrant an error: The only time you could receive an error for your rising trot is if the test clearly requires you to be sitting and you are not. What is most important is for your horse to stay in balance. Many riders choose to change their diagonal with the changes of bend as you technically will be changing direction through the loop. When it comes to changing the rein across the diagonal in the rising trot, your main concern should not be which diagonal you’re on, or when or where you change it. This is totally optional: Change at the start of the line, at X, or at the end of the line. This movement is not part of the current Training Three test but it is asked for in both directions in First Level Test One in conjunction with a trot lengthening. Reminder: you are on the correct diagonal when you rise and fall with your horse’s outside front leg.

The current First Level Test One is similar to the 2019 test. In the past, this test introduced 10-meter half circles in the trot and 15-meter circles in the canter, as well as trot and canter lengthenings. In the new test, the canter lengthening has been removed, giving the canter tour more ease and allowing the horse to develop more strength and balance before lengthenings are introduced at this gait. This test still has an average ride time of 5 minutes and 30 seconds, but there are only 15 scoring boxes compared to the 17 boxes in the past. First Level Test One also has some changes in the verbiage of the purpose. It now states the horse should be on the bit, whereas before it stated that the horse was to maintain “a more consistent contact with the bit.”

I hope this has given you more insight into these two tests including how to ride the loop and what to do about posting diagonals. Please note that I am not discounting the importance of the posting diagonal. In these movements, you should be most concerned about quality, balance, and geometry, all of which can be easier to achieve if you are on the correct diagonal. As you prepare for your first show in 2023, remember to read the purpose of your test and make sure you can achieve it: this will be the expectation of your judge.

Happy riding and showing.

Stable View interviews Amy

Amy and Deseado, photo by Meghan Benge

The following appeared in Stable View’s email newsletter, “The Stable ‘View'”:

Amy McElroy has been a great friend and supporter of Stable View and is a familiar face with her students at our Dressage shows. Therefore, we asked her to share a bit more about herself for those riding enthusiasts who are new to town! Amy is a USDF Bronze, Silver, and Gold medalist who coaches students of all levels here in Aiken as well as across the country, and she has worked with several horse and rider teams competitively through the Grand Prix. She especially enjoys helping riders achieve their goals, and being a part of the journey that accompanies their education. In addition to the teaching that she loves, Amy is a USEF Dressage ‘S’ judge who shares her knowledge while officiating, as well as her passion for the sport in her popular “Ask the Judge” column in the Aiken Horse publication.

How long have you lived in Aiken? How has it changed?

I have lived in this wonderful town for nearly thirty-nine years! I moved to Aiken in 1983, but I moved to South Carolina in 1981. After graduating college I took an equestrian position for the former Reflections Stables in Columbia, South Carolina. After three years I decided I wanted to change my direction to enhance my riding career as well as become more involved with dressage. A working student position was the way to learn. Back in those days, you didn’t just go over to Europe to train. I contacted my friend—the late and great Bari Von Buedingen—for advice. Luckily she was looking for a working student at her Graf Bae Farm, a top-notch Hanoverian dressage and breeding farm in Aiken, where the newly hired Swedish dressage rider Hokan Thorn was based. I did an interview and was hired. My experience was priceless and lasted for seven amazing years.

I could write an entire article on how Aiken has changed since I moved here. I think in the past it was more of a winter colony for equestrians. eventing and dressage were limited in this area. Aiken did host two dressage shows held at a lovely facility called Ramblewood. We even had Hilda Gurney judge there one year. Unfortunately, this property is now a housing development. I think the only event at that time was Hopeland Farms run by Robert Dennison. Lellie Ward of Paradise who had just returned from England, and Johanna Glass of Sporting Days Farm were some of my first equestrian colleagues in the area. The town, stores, restaurants, homes, farms, and horse shows have all developed more than one could have ever imagined.

What would you like to see happen in terms of this area’s future equestrian development?

I think Aiken’s equestrian development has amazingly transformed thus far, especially with the influx of eventers (Aiken is nearly the eventing capital of the U.S. in the season). We are lucky to have so many professionals and Olympians who train and call Aiken their home, even if only three or four months of the year. Dressage is becoming more and more popular with many moving here not just for the winter, but year-round. As far as dressage, it would be incredible to see Aiken host a CDI dressage show (maybe even at Stable View?).

We hear many riders are opting to spend time in Ocala over Aiken during the winter season. Why do you think this is?

I actually have not heard that riders were opting for Ocala. I do know back in the 80s Ocala was where all the eventers went. As far as dressage, I still think many are coming to Aiken. Ultimately, Wellington, Florida is still the mecca for dressage during the season. The new and amazing World Equestrian Center facility in Ocala is attracting many dressage riders for showing. Ocala is a quaint horsey town similar to Aiken in many ways.

Is there anything you would like to share about your own business?​

I am a dressage trainer, coach, and a USEF ‘S’ dressage judge. My business is based out of Fair Lane Farm, owned and operated by Holly Spencer, aka The Saddle Doctor. I have happily been at the farm for almost twenty-five years. I currently own with my mom my wonderful horse Deseado, whom I am hoping to compete in the FEI classes this fall. I really would like to do a bit more showing and especially a few more Grand Prix tests. I am often asked, “Do you still ride?” and that answer is yes, yes, yes. I ride usually two to three horses every day, although sometimes more when I am in town. I also teach a lot of dressage lessons every day. I have a great group of riders known as The McElroy Group. I am very lucky to have such dedicated and talented horses and riders. When I am not at the farm, I do get to travel all over the country to judge. This year I am scheduled to officiate at thirty dressage shows including two championships.

Where do you turn for feedback or advice?

There are so many people I can thank that I turn to for advice. My number one would be my amazing husband of thirty-one years. Although he is not really involved with the horses, he can be objective and supportive with any concerns that arise while operating your own business. Others I often look to for horse advice are Holly Spencer, (farm owner, student, gold medalist, and friend), and my dear friend and an exceptional equestrian, Simon Eades. For vetting questions, I refer to my vet Dr. Mitch Byrd. He is always available to answer any questions day or night, and always willing to explain and go beyond whenever needed. As for judging, again there are so many, but my main mentor is the one and only Natalie Lamping.

Any book or YouTube channel or other sources you’d recommend to our readers?

I am an avid book collector but mostly I have a large dressage collection. The most important read for any competitor is your current USEF rulebook. I also enjoy Natalie Lamping’s Facebook group called Lamp Post. I enjoy listening to Amelia Newcomb, I would recommend her to all riders at any stage in one’s dressage. As far as magazines, I subscribe to the Chronicle of the Horse. When surfing the web, I do spend time on the USEF and USDF pages where you can find many great articles and videos.

You recently received a nice surprise from USEF, please share its significance!

I recently received a congratulatory letter and pin for twenty years of being a USEF dressage judge. After passing the USDF ‘L’ program with distinction, I applied for and earned my USEF ‘r’, my USEF ‘R’, and finally my USEF ‘S’ with a designation in Freestyle, Young Horse, and Dressage Equitation. I am hoping to be able to judge another twenty years! FYI, my mentor Natalie Lamping recently received her fifty-year pin.

What can Aiken do to promote Dressage?

I believe Aiken is very much promoting dressage already. We have many rated dressage shows and wonderful facilities, especially with Stable View. Aiken is a destination for many who compete. Those who are lucky enough to live in Aiken never need to travel far in order to experience opportunities to come down the centerline. We have an array of trainers wintering here, as well as living here full time. There are dressage clinics offered all year long. I think Aiken is becoming a dressage mecca.

We’d love to know some of your favorite spots around town!

Aiken has a very unique downtown with several nice restaurants. I am kind of a homebody though. My days are long when I am in town, and I do eat out a lot due to my traveling. However, my favorite place to hang out is my home with the best chef whom I am lucky to call my husband. We do enjoy sitting on our porch and eating outside or snuggling on the couch watching a movie. If I had to pick a favorite spot though, I would say it is the Willcox. The hotel and restaurant hold a very special place in my heart, as this is where we had our wedding reception. My parents rented out the Wilcox in 1991 for my reception, a sit-down dinner for 100 and all of the rooms for our guests, and of course the honeymoon suite. Another Aiken treasure is the Green Boundary Club (although I am not a member). It is always a great treat to be invited by some of our friends. Another favorite is Solo Vino Wine Parlor or The Stables restaurant at Rose Hill.

You have been a great advisor to Stable View. Any additional advice?!

I have enjoyed and have felt honored to be an advisor to Stable View. The facility grows and amazes me each time I visit. I look forward to seeing what big plans are to come!