Owning a “made” dressage horse has never been in the budget for Lindsey Schulz.
First as a college student, and now as an adult amateur, Schulz’s showing opportunities have been limited to what she could lease, which means she didn’t move up the levels in the traditional fashion.
“I didn’t compete at all growing up,” Schulz said. “I begged my parents to let me, [and] I always asked to go to shows, but they really wanted me to focus on the joy of riding and the fun of being around horses.”
While attending the Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles, Schulz dove deeper into the world of dressage and connected with Jane Arrasmith, who helped her find Luna Blanca, the first of her many leased horses. The Dutch Warmblood mare showed her the ropes of competing at third and fourth level in 2012.
As Schulz continued with her education, first completing a bachelor’s of fine arts from OCAD and then getting her master’s from the California Institute of the Arts, she also kept leasing horses. Each animal taught her a different level of dressage and a different skill.
There was Wishful Thinking, a backward-thinking mare who taught Schulz to sit looser in order to encourage forward momentum while competing at first and second level in 2013. Next Schulz got the opportunity of a lifetime when she leased Laredo 183, a friend’s Grand Prix horse, in 2014.
Schulz rode him for two years, and they won the California Dressage Society Horse of the Year and GAIG/USDF Region 7 championships in the adult amateur Grand Prix classes. Laredo also helped Schulz earn her U.S. Dressage Federation gold medal in 2016, the same year in which she received her bronze medal.
“I was kind of all over the map, competing at the different levels,” Schulz said. “To do third and fourth level, then down to first and second, and up to Grand Prix, it wasn’t a linear progression for me, but I got to experience all of those things instead of just working my way towards the Grand Prix.”
Finally, Schulz saved enough to purchase a young horse she hoped to develop into an upper-level mount. She competed Fibonacci in materiale and training level classes before her plan was derailed in 2018. As he grew, Fibonacci struggled to turn left. Veterinarians discovered enlarged facet joints in his vertebrae, which caused him discomfort in the collected work. Schulz thought he might prefer the jumpers, but then the gelding was diagnosed with wobbler syndrome and retired at 5.
Schulz was at an impasse: She didn’t want to quit, but the income generated by her art and her dog training business didn’t provide her with the means to purchase another horse. Then one of Arrasmith’s clients came up with an answer. Nora Capers wanted to purchase a horse, but in order to do so, she needed someone to part-lease it. After some discussion, they decided whatever horse Capers bought would be one Schulz could ride as well. Arrasmith found Delia 87, a Lipizzaner at the Spanish Riding School in Vienna, Austria, and Schulz jumped straight into Prix St. Georges and Intermediaire I.
They’d only gotten started when Schulz moved seven hours north to Sebastopol, California, in March of 2019.
“I was only [in Los Angeles] for riding,” Schulz explained. “[My boyfriend and I] can practice our art anywhere, and I can have my [dog training] business pretty much anywhere, so we were at a point where we were ready to leave Los Angeles. We looked in multiple places, but we settled on Northern California because my entire family’s up there. Both of us are such family people that it was really important to be close to family.”
Despite the distance, Schulz wanted to continue to ride Delia and train with Arrasmith, who had been her coach for the past nine years. Her goal was to qualify for the GAIG/USDF Region 7 Championships in September.
“Initially, when I was living in LA, [Nora and I] split the week; half the week she would ride, and half the week I would ride,” Schulz said. “When I moved I asked if it would be fine if she could ride the whole month while I’m not there, but when I come to compete if I could have the whole week.
“Usually we spend a couple of days preparing for a local show, then we compete on the weekend, and I head back up north after,” Schulz continued. “It’s hard; it’s not the most ideal situation for being competitive. My passion for riding keeps me going, but it’s been very difficult, both emotionally and psychologically, to have such little riding time.”
Having her own business helped. She leads dog training classes and specializes in dealing with aggressive dogs. Her clients know about her passion for dressage and support her when she takes a week off to ride in Southern California. Schulz, 31, is in the process of expanding her business and hopes to hire more team members to give her more freedom to ride.
But for now this unconventional plan is working. Schulz earned the remaining scores for her USDF silver medal in June, and in September she and Delia topped the GAIG/USDF Region 7 Intermediaire freestyle championship class.
Schulz said the education she’s gained through leasing has been phenomenal. “I had to learn how to ride a hot horse, a horse that could be behind me, a spooky horse, and I got to experience a horse that was super solid,” she said. “The variety was very important for my education, and I got a more diverse understanding of riding from these different horses.”
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