As we approach the year’s end, it serves us all well to reflect on and remember the high points of the 2004 dressage season.
There was a time not long ago in this country that wonderful dressage trainers and riders were scarce, and our national dressage team proved no threat to anyone. With another shining bronze team medal from the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, the world is now on notice that our dressage riders will not be overlooked. We Americans can be very proud.
Could we dressage enthusiasts have enjoyed a richer year? Well, it would have been a treat to see Debbie McDonald and her brilliant mare, Brentina, bring home the first American individual bronze medal since Hiram Tuttle and his mount, Olympic, at the 1932 Los Angeles Olympic Games. Debbie and Brentina were wonderful to watch, and their performance in Athens was solid, but they were narrowly defeated for an individual medal.
What we all need to remember is that it wasn’t long ago when it would have been unthinkable that an American could possibly come so close to capturing an individual dressage medal. The fact that we have now taken home five dressage Olympic medals over the past 30 years indicates our base is strong and growing, and our upper levels are extraordinary.
When Debbie and Brentina were declared the 2003 FEI Dressage World Cup Finals champions, America showed we could stand on top of the international dressage podium.
From the breakthrough bronze-medal team at the 1976 Montreal Olympics by the trio of Hilda Gurney, Dorothy Morkis and Edith Master, to the next wave of stars starting in 1992 at the Barcelona Olympic Games, our riders and trainers worked hard to move up and stay with the best equestrians in the world.
Since 1992, our team has brought home the team bronze medal every four years, plus the World Championship silver in 2002 and the bronze in 1994.
I feel a need to give thanks to so many of the world-class riders and trainers whom we are lucky enough to have in our country. They are the reason that we are now a force on the world’s dressage stage.
To start, I must acknowledge the dedication and immense talent of many of our former Olympic and World Championship riders. The Olympic squad this year of Robert Dover, Lisa Wilcox, Guenter Seidel and Debbie McDonald is just the tip of the iceberg of the depth of American dressage brilliance.
Such people as Jessica Ransehousen, Anne Gribbons, Lendon Gray, Betsy Steiner, Charlotte Bredahl-Baker, Leslie Morse, Carol Lavell, Sue Blinks, Kathleen Raine, Marie Meyers, Cheri Reiber, George Williams, Jane Savoie, Arlene “Tuny” Page, Christine Traurig, Michael Barisone, Tami Crawford, Michelle Gibson, Shelly Francis, Linda Zang, Michael Poulin, Kathleen Connelly, Leslie Webb, Steffen Peters and many others too numerous to name have all brought their unique view of dressage to the outstanding melting pot we call America.
Each of these trainers is capable of making a Grand Prix horse from the ground up, and their students will carry on that legacy. The future of our sport is in their capable hands.
Those who bemoan the lack of dressage talent in America need to be wary of their words. We’re standing on the brink of a new world dressage order, and our riders, trainers and their students are not to be denied.
As the happy, proud and loving owners of several of Guenter Seidel’s mounts, my husband, Dick, and I have an interesting look behind the scenes everyday of one talented rider’s dedication. I know I’m not alone in concluding that the U.S. dressage future will beam brightly for years to come, growing from the bottom to the top with the help of our American trainers.