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Dressage in New Brunswick – A review of 2013

The following was written by the DNB president Michelle DeGarie based on the highlight of our rider’s success in 2013, on her sense of where the sport is headed, and the roadblocks that are holdings us back.

The State of Dressage in New Brunswick

Every year, an update is written up to present to both the Dressage New Brunswick (DNB) and New Brunswick Equestrian Association (NBEA) Annual General Meetings, highlighting the success of dressage riders in the province. This year’s update will be slightly different. As DNB president, former NBEA Board Member, competition organizer, stable owner, coach, horse owner and rider, this update will reflect on the state of Dressage in New Brunswick, based on all my different roles in the industry.

Let’s start with the highlights!

A new addition to this season, there were 3 provincially-sanctioned competitions which were planned in conjunction with the NBEA driven Long-Term Equestrian Development (LTED) program. These were held at the Hampton Pony Club, in Hampton, NB, Rohirrim Farm in Fredericton, NB and D&D Stables in Cap- Pele, NB. A new Bronze competition was also held at the newly revamped Foshay South in Hampton, NB. There were 5 gold competitions held within the province, which were hosted at the PLP Show Center in Sussex, and D&D Stables in Cap-Pele. The season finished with the DNB Provincial Championships which were held in conjunction with the Pony Club Dressage Championships. Many riders competed outside of NB in 2013, with phenomenal success. Although the competition numbers at the NB Dressage competitions were down by approximately 10%, the number and diversity of competitions increased, and an increased number of riders competed throughout NS, PEI, north-eastern US, Florida and Western Canada.

Maggie Zinck of Fredericton, NB ventured south of the border to train with Denielle Gallagher-LeGriffon and had the opportunity to compete on the prestigious Florida circuit. She competed on three different horses and routinely achieved scores in the high 60’s and into the 70’s, earning her some JR/YR High Point awards!! Based on these results, she is currently ranked in 15th place nationally for the 2013 USDF JR/YR Final Year-End Awards Standings.

As part of the Team competition, Emily was paired with Haley Wheaton of the US. They finished the competition as the second highest placed team after the 2 days of competition!

Alyssa Gaudet of Moncton, NB recently acquired a new mount Palladio, and this new partnership is getting to know each other at the FEI Junior level. They competed throughout NB for the summer, and travelled across the border in September to compete at the New England Dressage Association (NEDA) Fall Festival in Saugerties, NY. In very large classes, with tough competition, they achieved very good scores and came back to NB with some well-deserved ribbons.

Maggie Love and Allison Steward of Fredericton, NB were fortunate to train with former Frederictonian Beth Sproule-Hansen, who currently operates Bellvale Dressage in Warwick, NY. They trained with Beth for a few weeks prior to competing at the NEDA Fall Festival in Saugerties, NY. Both ladies competed in the large First Level classes and achieved some pretty outstanding results. I ran into Allison a few weeks after this competition, and she was still grinning ear-to-ear from her last ride down centerline! Margaret

Emily Czerwinski of Fredericton, NB participated at the 2013 Children of the America’s Dressage

Invitational held in Concord, Massachusetts. Following successful results at dressage competitions held

in New Brunswick and PEI, she was nominated by Equine Canada / Dressage Canada as the Canadian

entry for this competition. Riders from the US, Barbados, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Ecuador, Jamaica

and Trinidad and Tobago were also in attendance. On the first day of the competition, Emily and Denali

won the FEI Children Preliminary Test with a score of 74%. On the second day of the competition, they

were second in the Freestyle with a score of 73%. They finished the competition as Reserve Champions!

Loughrey of Fredericton, NB also competed at the NEDA Fall Festival with Sir Joseph. She competed at Third Level and achieved scores in the 60’s and earned some well-deserved ribbons.

Erin MacQuarrie of Hampton, NB also attended the NEDA Fall Festival with two horses. She competed Finlay at Training Level and Draxon at Grand Prix. Erin was also busy coaching her many students who accompanied her to the competition.

I should also mention the NB invasion at the PEI dressage shows. Both PEI gold competitions were comprised of a large majority of NB riders and based on an unofficial count, approximately 75% of the riders were NB residents. That’s impressive!

We also have some “honorary” NB riders who we consider part of the NB Dressage Family. These riders may reside beyond the boundary of our province, but they have been participating, volunteering and supporting the NB Dressage shows for years. We have Abby McLellan from PEI who competed on the Florida circuit this past winter at the FEI Pony level with great success. She also continued this success in Canada by sweeping the FEI Pony divisions in NB and PEI and finishing the season as Canadian Youth National FEI Pony Reserve Champion and Ontario FEI Pony Reserve Champion. There’s also Emma Bush and Valencia, who have been competing at the DNB shows for a few years, and competed in NY. This partnership competed at First Level in some very competitive classes. They also achieved some great scores in the mid 60’s and went back home with some well-deserved ribbons.

Let’s not forget the CIEC’s! At the 2012 Canadian Interprovincial Equestrian Championships (CIECs) in Bromont, Québec, the NB Dressage riders won the team gold, as well as three individual medals. Therefore, we fully supported having a team attend the 2013 CIECs in Calgary, Alberta. Throughout the summer, NB riders attended dressage competitions in an effort to obtain scores to qualify for the NB Team. Two riders qualified and were selected to represent NB in the dressage portion of the competition. Grace Gallow of Fredericton, NB was the junior representative and Lisa Pfister of Rusagonis, NB was the senior representative. I was the Chef d’Equipe for the team. The competition was held at John Anderson’s Rocky Mountain Show Jumping Facility, which is a few kilometers from Spruce Meadows. There were teams and individual riders from New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, BC and Yukon competing in either dressage, show jumping and reining. On the 2nd day of the competition, Lisa achieved a score of 66+%, which earned her an individual 6th place finish. Quite an achievement, when most of the top-placed riders were riding familiar horses! Lisa was also awarded the overall CIEC sportsmanship award, for her outstanding sportsmanlike behavior during the competition.

Now let’s discuss where the sport is headed.

I have been involved with dressage in the province since I was a pre-teen. Although I wasn’t involved with the politics back then, I was introduced to the sport as a competitor through the guidance of my coaches. I started competing at local shows around Fredericton on my pony. Over several years, I eventually moved onto a horse and continued to move up the levels and compete on a larger scale. When I first started in dressage in the early 1990s, there were only 6 juniors competing in NB. They were; Renee DeGarie, Erin MacQuarrie, Erin Shaw, Katie Buckle, Michelle Wells and myself. Some of you may not remember Katie Buckle, Michelle Wells and Erin Shaw, but they (and their families) were heavily involved with the sport, and true role models for others. Erin, Katie and Michelle competed throughout Canada at a national level, and were the first truly successful junior / young riders from this province. Erin MacQuarrie and Renee DeGarie need no introduction. Without Erin, we would have no up and coming riders at the shows, and without Renee, we wouldn’t have these shows. So as you can

see, the first generation of junior dressage riders have blossomed and developed part of the sport you see today.

So let’s look at what I have observed in the past few years. I have seen the number of junior/young riders increase dramatically, which is essential for the sport. I have also witnessed the quality of riding increase. A true testament to the increased quality of riding is the fact that in 2013, there were five junior/young riders competing at various FEI levels. Not one or two… but five! Alyssa Gaudet and Palladio, Lexie LeBlanc and Slip n Slide, and Sydney Sacre and Valhalla all competed at the FEI Junior level. Emily Czerwinski and Denali competed at the FEI Children’s Level and honorary New Brunswicker Abby McLellan competed at the FEI Pony level. This is where we need to continue to grow. These five riders are role models for the next generation. We need to continue to develop this younger generation to become the next group of elite riders. To help with this, DNB has developed the FEI Junior and Young Rider Funding Program specifically to target this audience.

Another observation is the fact that our riders (juniors and adults) are venturing further and further away from NB to compete. These riders started competing in NB, and as the caliber and quality of their riding progressed, they ventured to bigger and bigger competitions. They held their own, made NB proud and truly represented our dressage community. We need to continue to promote our best riders by encouraging them to compete against the best on both sides of the border. Similar to the Junior / Young Rider funding, DNB has developed the “Out of Maritime Funding” and “Elite Funding” Programs which were developed specifically for these groups.

Are the funding programs perfect? Of course not, but they are a step in the right direction. They are the first step towards helping these riders in their quest.

This past year, the NBEA with the help of DNB, launched a program to help promote grass-roots development of dressage riders. This program, on paper, would help get new riders on the right-track with dressage. Its intention was to reach non-competing riders interested in trying dressage, introduce them to purposeful planning and instruction from a certified coach, and bring them into their first sanctioned dressage competition. Unfortunately, this program did not connect with its intended target audience. Of the riders that came forward to participate, nearly all of them had previous EC dressage show experience – decades-worth, in some cases. Rather than guiding new dressage competitors into the ring, the program supported active and committed riders. If the LTED program is in place for 2014, a serious look at its framework and promotion will need to take place.

Now let’s discuss what is holding us back.

As mentioned previously, I wear many different hats in this sport and the industry. I have been on many boards and committees, and have been unfortunately involved in the background politics as well.

When supporters of our sport gather and discuss the reasons for a downward shift in the number of competitors, clinics, and other learning opportunities, the issue of cost always tops the list. But showing horses and attending clinics has always been a pricy business. With the increasing cost of travel, clinician fees, veterinary care and let’s not forget the sanctioning and competition costs, the expense of this sport increases every year. The most serious concern that we face today, is the knowledge that there is money out there (nationally and provincially), earmarked for grassroots development as well as elite athlete support, but it’s not reaching our riders.

Nationally, Dressage Canada has pulled back its levy funding, making it less accessible to regular riders. As each competitor is aware, a $7 levy fee is charge for each horse and rider at each sanctioned

competition in NB. Historically, DNB would submit an application to Dressage Canada for a test-riding clinic, and 70% of the levies collected within the province, was returned. This was a great program, as we would have first-timers, pony clubbers, and young horses attend the test-riding clinic prior to the Gold competitions at the PLP Show Center. This year, however, the DC levy program aimed to spend some of those dollars in a few “have not” provinces by offering support for hosting test ride clinics, which is similar to what we were doing previously. However, the program criteria were so restrictive and unsuitable, though, that accessing that funding was simply not feasible. Therefore, until the DC Levy Program is revamped, this source of funding will no longer be accessible.

Provincially, funding for equestrian sport overall was increased due, in part, to the success of the New Brunswick CIEC team’s results in 2012. One would expect the amount of funding tagged for dressage to be proportional to the strength and activity of the sport in the province. There is a perception among dressage riders that there is a discrepancy between what is funded in our sport versus funding for disciplines with fewer numbers, fewer activities, and fewer high performance athletes. To the average member, the NBEA’s funding programs are mysterious and difficult to navigate.

It was disappointing to have requests for funding for our riders at the CIECs deferred. While it appears there may be some funding to come for our CIEC athletes, it was a disheartening process to select and send representatives of New Brunswick to a nationally recognized interprovincial competition without financial support from the NBEA up front. This spring and summer, DNB made several attempts to discuss potential CIEC funding with the NBEA for the declared riders. Our attempts to obtain a financial commitment from this organization were unsuccessful. As DNB president and current NBEA member, I even requested to see the current financial status of the organization, which have remained unanswered. It’s truly a shame that the riders who competed at the 2013 CIEC received the majority of their funding through DNB, the dressage community, local stables and up to this date, not one dollar of financial commitment from our provincial organization, the NBEA. I feel that the NBEA and its Board of Directors need to be more transparent with its financial itemization and funding decisions.

At the local level, we know that there is work to be done to motivate more dressage riders into the clinic arena and show ring. There are riders out there in regular training with coaches who would make excellent competitors, but for some reason, they are not making the transition from their home stables to the competition arena. The NBEA has made funding available to coaches who are bringing riders to any sanctioned competition for the first time, yet few coaches are availing themselves of the opportunity. Additionally, the LTED was designed to promote the grass-roots riders, however based on the pilot project, the program did not reach its target audience. Bronze shows, schooling shows, skill development and test ride clinics – these have all been offered in recent years, and still we need to continue to promote the sport to ensure new riders become involved.

Dressage in NB is like no other group. We are close, helpful, and most importantly, we treat each other like a big family. I’ve seen some amazing acts of kindness over the years and met some exceptional individuals along the way. This is what makes this journey worth it. We have a strong core of dedicated and exceptional volunteers, but if we want to continue to move forward, we need to come together, dig deeper, and find new ingenious ways to reward our current riders while enticing novice riders to join us in the larger dressage community. So, let’s not let the roadblocks ahead keep us from achieving the success we know we can achieve. As Mike Gallagher noted several times in the past few years, “What are you feeding those dressage riders in NB?”, now it’s time to show them!