Name: MaryJo Hoepner
Horse/breed: Made In The Shade, age 15, gelding, “OPEC Warmblood” (aka 1/2 Arabian/1/2 Percheron)
Describe your horse’s personality: Shade is the “energizer bunny.” Always wanting and willing to do anything you ask. Very Alpha. I can trust him with my life. If I cannot make a decision, he can and will.
First involvement with horses: I grew up on a dairy/beef/grain farm and wanted to ride VERY much. Kept climbing on the calves in order to ride. Kept getting unloaded. My parents finally got me a pony when I was about 5. Then Dad bought a horse. And then another...
What do you most enjoy about dressage? I love the delicate, intricate, balanced mental and physical interaction with the horses. There is always room to improve. To communicate better. To ride better.
What have you learned at Westmanton Stables? A huge amount. I learned I was not as great a rider as I thought I was (even after a lifetime of riding and competing in just about every discipline known to mankind). I learn something new every day. I develop physically and mentally every day. Grant, Sharon, and Nicole all have such a wealth of knowledge and experience to bring to the table every time I take a lesson.
Anything else interesting we should know about you? I am just another amateur rider that works full time and does all this for the sheer joy of it.
Proudest achievement: Getting my Bronze and Silver medals on Shade. We have been together since he was 4 and had been ridden 20 times. We have accomplished this all as a team.
Name: Wendy Fryke Horse Katanga
Breed: Thoroughbred/Percheron, 10-year-old mare
Horse’s personality: “Tanga” is a very good girl. She's also a very BIG girl! She always tries really hard, and is forgiving of mistakes. She can be a little lazy and is used to getting away with that. But what pretty girl isn't used to getting her own way?
First involvement with horses: I pleaded as a young girl to ride. But I was born with slight Cerebral Palsy in the 60's, so my riding was unimaginable to my parents. My mom did give me a couple of trail rides as a kid. I was a mom myself when I finally made my way to horses, after a trail ride on a Colorado vacation! Within years I was living here, had my own horse, and was riding in hunter/jumpers. I was 31 or 32 when I started my riding education.
Most enjoyable aspect of dressage: I really enjoy methodically training in dressage. Tanga is not a typical dressage horse, and I am not a typical rider. But by following the training pyramid, we can both improve, both become more supple and both learn to express beauty through union. While she probably will not see international competition, Katanga has allowed me to learn and become stronger. In doing so, she has become better herself. Dressage is very much like yoga that way. It is the practice of both that hold the most benefit. Showing – and winning – are just icing on a broad base of work.
Why Westmanton? When I even began to think about competing on an international level with the USA Para Equestrian Team, a wise woman gave me some great advice. She told me to ride and train with the BEST. So I came to Westmanton. Everyone, from Grant and Sharon and Nicole to the working students and the barn staff, always strives to be at the top of their game. I had to get over the intimidation factor. Once I did that, I saw that every one of them works very hard on basics everyday.
I believe that Sharon being asked to coach the Para team is testament to a core truth at Westmanton. Correct riding is always rewarded. Had I never studied under Sharon, I would have never known that “there are NO free steps in dressage!" Nicole has taught me to BELIEVE it is possible...and Grant always reminds me to think before I ride. All great insights.
Anything else? Never be defined. By your horse. Or your limitations. Instead be recognized for your hard work, willingness to learn and love of sport! It is a privilege to ride. So ride with joy.
Greatest riding achievement: Riding before international judges and earning qualifying scores for the World Equestrian Games 2010.
To be in training for the games is an honor. To make it there will be a dream come true. Wish me luck! I'll handle the hard work!
Name: Paula Carter
Horse/breed: Easter Phantom (Easter), Swedish Warmblood gelding, 16.3 hh, age 16.
Describe your horse’s personality: Very sweet and kind, Easter is a schoolmaster in every way. He's very calm, and loves to work. He's patient as I progress in my riding. He recently discovered that peppermints are great! He's also very demonstrative when I groom him, stretching and making faces. He's a pleasure to be around.
First involvement with horses: I used to sneak down to a horse farm down the road from where I grew up, to feed the horses carrots and apples. I first took lessons as a young teenager, riding my bike about 8 miles to the barn. I only had the chance to ride consistently about 10 years ago.
What do you most enjoy about dressage? I love that the journey never ends. There is so much to learn, and refine, and develop in a partnership with each horse. I enjoy watching training and other lessons as much as I enjoy riding my own horse.
What have you learned at Westmanton Stables? Just about everything I know about dressage, training and horse care! Sharon, Grant and Nicole are so generous in sharing their experience and knowledge. I trust their collective judgment without any hesitation. I spend part of the year in Florida, and know that I don't have to worry about my horse's care and well-being while I'm away.
Anything else interesting we should know about you? I'm a retired marine mammal trainer, so I really enjoy watching horses being schooled. I try to pick out just what the rider is asking the horse to do. Training is training, no matter the species, but each animal is an individual.
Proudest achievement: I'll be entering my very first shows with my own horse this year. While Easter is an FEI level horse, we'll be starting at the beginning, at Training Level.
Name: Loren Kristick
Horse/breed: Piritta (Zoie), 10 years old, Trakehner mare.
Describe your horse’s personality: Zoie is blind in her left eye, so I would have to say her overall character is amazing. She is always quiet, and never spooky. She loves working, which is a major bonus, and she rarely refuses to perform.
First involvement with horses: When I was eight years old, my trainer suffered a brain shear from a riding accident. I took care of her dressage school horses, and after a couple of months, I was hooked!
What do you most enjoy about dressage? I love the connection with the horses. It's hard to achieve a bond this tight with most people, and the fact that I can share it with a horse is incredible. I love competing in general, so my greatest achievement is just Zoie’s and my advancement through the levels each year.
What have you learned at Westmanton Stables? As a working student, I can tack up a horse in less than 10 minutes if needed! I think that working at Westmanton has really bettered me in every aspect of riding, be it the care of the horses or the actual training of the horse. I'm happy that I have such wonderful instructors, and really, mentors. Grant, Sharon and Nicole have made me the equestrian that I am today.
Anything else interesting we should know about you? Mount Holyoke College, class of 2010!