Jacksonville-area equestrians passionate about their sport

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – One of the sports you’ll spot portion watching the Tokyo games is the equestrian Olympic athletics of dressage.

It became an Olympic athletics successful the 1912 games successful Stockholm, erstwhile lone subject officers were eligible.

In 1953, the rules evolved to let some civilian men and women to ride, making it the lone Olympic athletics successful which some sexes vie against each other.

That’s 1 of the reasons it continues to turn successful involvement astir the world.

It’s been astir for centuries successful Europe but lone started becoming fashionable connected this broadside of the pond, among riders successful the U.S. successful the 1970s.

Back then, I was 1 of those horse-crazed young girls, taking jumping lessons and learning to compete, but I was intrigued watching my trainer and her equine and their endowment unneurotic astatine the elegant, controlled subject of dressage.

It looked similar they were dancing.

Through the years, I’ve discovered that it tin instrumentality years to advancement successful the satellite of dressage, nary substance what level of rider you are. But if you’re persistent, it tin wage off.


Decades aft I archetypal sat successful a saddle, I’m inactive riding, astir each day. I’m inactive trying to amended and moving done the Florida vigor and humidity to bash it. And arsenic the years spell on, I’m uncovering that clip successful the saddle gives maine endurance, flexibility and adjacent helps support my caput sharp.

Fellow equestrian Marge Savage agrees, saying “I had an wounded oregon a genu repaired this past twelvemonth and it was mentally hard to beryllium retired of the saddle.”

Savage besides rides with dressage trainer Suzanne Graham, who’s been helping maine fig retired this exhausting but addictive athletics done the years.

As Graham demonstrated, the upper-level movements of dressage seen successful the Grand Prix contention astatine the Olympic Games, Savage acts arsenic her “eyes connected the ground,” helping constituent retired if Femi, Graham’s horse, is so executing the movements Graham is asking her to perform.

She explains that dressage riders are competing astatine the highest level of the sport, with patterns oregon “tests” that see movements similar the piaffe.


“The piaffe is an on-the-spot trot, arsenic she is demonstrating,” Graham said.

And the passage, different precise hard question for the horse, successful which the equine and rider look to beryllium dilatory floating forward, effortlessly.

Then there’s the pirouette, which Savage describes arsenic the eventual illustration of “collection” successful a horse.

“The equine is sitting. It has to beryllium successful position, and each of a sudden, it needs to leap guardant and sideways, 1 ft aft different successful a reasonably tiny circumference,” Graham said.

Graham points out, each of these upper-level movements, coming done years of subject and persistence.

“I had to enactment brainsick hard. I wasn’t fixed immoderate horses,” Graham said. “I had to commencement from the babies, and Femi was 5 erstwhile we got her and took her each the mode to the Grand Prix. That’s conscionable brainsick rewarding.”

Graham is an accomplished United States Dressage Federation golden medal winner, meaning she’s performed each the levels of the athletics successfully successful her career, including performing her horses astatine the nationalist level.


She pointed out, it’s enactment that pays off, and galore horses tin beryllium suited for the athletics with the close guidance and training.

“You don’t person to person the fancy horse. If the equine has the heart, is simply a large thing, similar successful immoderate athletics with horses. If they person the heart, they’ll bash it for you and that’s what’s truthful cool,” she said. “It’s truthful rewarding erstwhile you really person that a-ha moment, and you’re like, wow! I conscionable taught ‘em thing else!”

Another constituent successful the athletics of dressage includes music.

Lynnette Wadsworth lone started riding successful her 40s.

Now the erstwhile creation teacher has turned a hobby into a concern called Goldbar Freestyles, creating philharmonic freestyles for dressage riders and their horses.

“I assistance them prime euphony that’s due for their horse, and makes them look similar they’re dancing,” she said.

Her splashy achromatic and achromatic equine Dandy was an accumulation equine successful Spain wherever helium played the bull and the trainer was a matador.


Wadsworth says she had to take bullfighting-themed euphony for his dance.

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