We Are All Ambassadors - By Claudia Nissley

Claudia Nissley & Cinnamon at the 2016 CLD IceBreaker Schooling Show  (photo by Judy Nordstrom)

We are a very fortunate group indeed – having access to or owning beautiful horses that are measured by levels of competence as reflections in training. Dressage is not a simple sport to understand, to excel in, or to achieve the highest levels. It takes years of training, practice and expert help from trainers and coaches. The athleticism and accomplishments are not easily understood by the general public.
Why should we care and why am I writing this opinion piece? Because it matters. It matters from the larger view that goes beyond any of us and our horses. Who knows where the future pools of talent lie for the continuation of our sport – for the Olympics, for Young Riders, for Regional and National competitions, for international competition? If we are not ambassadors for our sport, then who should be? When we enter recognized shows, we enter a public forum. Whether we want to be or not, whether we like it or not, we become ambassadors for our sport.
The general public is not well informed about our sport. Most people I meet have never heard of it. People I meet on my travels throughout the U.S. ask me what I do with my horse, and I answer “dressage”. The response is, “Oh, like Mitt Romney’s wife!” I have actually quit using the “d” word because of the general public’s reaction. It is perceived as an “elite sport” and/or a “sport for elitists.”
It is not a team sport and nothing we do as riders engages us as a team. It is somewhat of a solitary endeavor; beyond your coach/ trainer and horse, there is no need to interact with anyone. Schooling in your home barn does not require any outreach or friendly engagement. Time spent in the barn and practice is all about you and your horse. However, when we enlist in shows, everything becomes a public statistic – who was your horse’s father, what is the age of your horse, scores you receive are posted on the internet, and so on. We are a public representation of the sport of dressage. While I realize there is a certain level of performance angst or stress at shows, there is also a lot of down time between the scheduled rides.

What responsibility does each of us have to be kind to someone who may be at their first show, or a rider doing his first test ever, or an interested person who wants to learn more? The least expensive thing we can do in this sport is smile or answer a simple question. As ambassadors, we ought to encourage people to become interested and support our sport at local, national and international levels. Many of the riders representing the U.S. are dependent on grants, family support, crowd-sourcing, fund raising and other means to reach the highest levels and go to the Olympics or Pan American Games. Why not generate interest through outreach at shows with a friendly smile or kind word? You may inspire the future of the sport.

Thank You

The whole Reader staff, small though we are, would like to thank CLD member and co-awards chair Lisa Lehr for nominating our work to be recognized by USDF. We’ve long believed that the Reader is award worthy but couldn’t find it within ourselves to submit our own work to be recognized. Thanks to Lisa we’re being nominated for the following GMO Awards: Best First Person Experience Article and Best General Interest Article.

The intrepid Lisa Lehr also nominated CLD for Best Website Award. Speaking for the small but mighty website staff, I know it is greatly appreciated.

Thanks Lisa.

Kim Jones, Editor

Editor's Note - Show Season

As the show season kicks off, let’s all remember to be good competitors. A year ago in the Reader we had a discussion about good sportsmanship. The discussion ended with the realization that we all have a different perspective. No one sees the same things you see. No one interprets what they see the same way you do.

Remembering that we all see things differently is the first step toward peace in any situation. Remembering that we're all doing the best we can is the next step. Understanding begins from these places. Success is measured differently by different people. For some, merely coming down center line represents a huge success over what they and their horse were capable of previously. If we can accept that, we can truly be supportive of our fellow club members and competitors. We are, after all, really only competing against ourselves and the job we’ve done previously. If we can improve the level of sportsmanship in our club, spectators and new competitors will see a positive environment that they want to be a part of. In turn, our club may see a rise in membership which is how we flourish.

Enjoy the 2015 season, good luck to all.

Kim Jones, Editor


I am a fan of Canadian astronaut, Col. Chris Hadfield.  I highly recommend his book, An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth.  His thoughts on the transition from hot shot jet pilot to the lowest plebe in the astronaut program could well be applied to dressage:

"It's not enough to shelve your own competitive streak.  You have to try, consciously, to help others succeed.  Some people feel this is like shooting themselves in the foot--why aid someone else in creating a competitive advantage?  I don't look at it that way.  Helping someone else look good doesn't make me look worse.  In fact, it often improves my own performance, particularly in stressful situations.”

Submitted by Alice E Martin

Thank you

A thank you for CLD's hosting of Western Dressage at the 2014 IceBreaker schooling show.

Thank you so much for having the western dressage classes. I have been waiting a long time for this to happen. You were [all so] friendly and kind to us. Again thank you so much...

Val Waggoner