Bismarck, N.D., is certainly not dressage central, and for the Stanley family, almost any dressage activity requires many hours on the road.
Mimi Stanley must travel 800 miles one way to train with Conrad Schumacher in Illinois, and her other trainer, Amy Larson, only makes it to North Dakota three or four times a year.
North Dakota boasts one rated dressage show every year, and the Stanleys travel anywhere from 300 to 1,500 miles for shows and clinics the rest of the year.
However, the Stanleys aren’t planning on relocating any time soon. They’ve owned their 80-acre farm for more than 30 years and raise their own irrigated alfalfa and hay, as well as Dorset sheep and Nubian goats.
“It’s a family business,” said Karla. “My husband, Curt, and son, Ross, 16, do a lot of the behind-the-scenes work.”
Prairie Rose Farm offers boarding, training, lessons and clinics. “We usually have eight to 10 horses in training, depending on the time of year, and I give a lot of lessons,” said Karla. “We do a little bit of everything but focus mainly on dressage.”
Temperatures vary drastically, often falling below zero in the winter and above 100 in the summer. “We have five long months of cold weather, and our summer season is relatively short,” said Karla.
Mimi has adapted her training to work with the climate. She often trains by long lining instead of riding in the bitter cold, and she uses the deep snow to work on her horses’ piaffe and passage or lateral movements.
“You don’t have to feel held up by your situation,” said Mimi. “We live in North Dakota with 45 inches of snow on the ground and more on the way, but it’s what we have and we deal. You can make things happen without having perfect circumstances.”