Rocky Mountain Dressage Society Hosts Championship Shows |

Rocky Mountain Dressage Society Hosts Championship Shows

Story Robyn Scherer, M.Agr.
Kiowa, Colo.

Dressage is the highest form of equine sport: It requires the ultimate in physical and mental control for both horse and rider, plus a devotion to a partnership that can last for years. Years of training, practice, heartbreak and joy are the hallmark of the sport of dressage.

The Rocky Mountain Dressage Society recently hosted three championship shows: the 2013 Great American Insurance Group/USDF Region 5 and Rocky Mountain Dressage Society Championships and Open Show, the 2013 Great American, USDF Breeders’ Championships – Rocky Mountain Series Open Qualifying and Finals, and the 2013 Rocky Mountain Dressage Society Sport Horse Breeders’ Championship. The events were held Sept. 18-22 at the Colorado Horse Park in Parker, Colo. The show had been held for more than 30 years.

The show had 270 horses that competed with riders from all over the Rocky Mountain area. “It went really well. We are really happy with how the show went,” said Heather Peterson, show secretary and the secretary for the Rocky Mountain Dressage Society.

She continued, “It is the largest show in our area each year, and we always have a large turnout. The Colorado Horse Park. lends itself to the atmosphere we are looking for. We feed everyone dinner each night, and our sponsors and our volunteers have us take care of competitors. We had 188 volunteers this year.”

In order to compete in the show, riders had to qualify by competing in at least two different shows under two different judges and scoring a minimum ranging from 60-68 percent in those respective shows.

“It is the end of the season for us, and this show is the culmination of the year,” she said.

According to the USDF spectators guide, “Dressage principles are a logical, step-by-step progression from simple to increasingly complex movements. More and more is asked of the horse as it becomes mentally and physically ready to respond to these demands.”

It continued, “The graceful movements performed in competition may look effortless but are the result of years of training. The rider’s aids (weight, leg and hand cues) should be imperceptible. A squeeze of the calf, a closing of the fingers, a shifting of the rider’s weight in the saddle should be all that is necessary to tell the horse what to do.”

Riders are judged on each maneuver during their performance, and then on the performance as a whole. “Each movement has a score, and there are individual pieces. Then at the end of the test they do look at the gait and impulsion, as well as the desire to do work. They also judge on submission, which is how well the rider and horse work together, as well as their harmony,” Peterson said.

The guide really sums up how dressage works. “Dressage requires the horse and rider to combine the strength and agility of gymnastics with the elegance and beauty of ballet. The result is truly the best blend of sport and art,” it said.

Riders compete in several different levels, ranging from training to Grand Prix, which is the Olympic level. “The movements get harder and the requirements get harder as you move up,” said Peterson.

She continued, “You are always striving to meet goals of the various movements and get better.”

In addition to competitions, riders also had the opportunity to attend educational seminars throughout the show. This year’s seminars included teaching workshops, lungeing workshops, a Foxvillage workshop, a show management workshop, a riding workshop and a trainer workshop.

“The educational seminars are really important for us. Anything that is raised from the show goes towards education. We have had sessions that cover topics with veterinarians on lameness, saddle fitters, a fashion show, in which latest designs are showcased and boot fitting. We have also had a reproductive specialist that talked about embryo transfer in sport horses,” Peterson stated.

One unique part about dressage is that it is not limited to only one or two breeds of horses, even though warmbloods are used most often. In fact, nearly every breed can compete. “We had more than 60 different horse breeds compete at the show this year, ranging from quarter horse to Fresians, and Arabians to Morgans. It’s a great show for all different breeds and anyone who wants to compete.

The theme of the show was “How Dressage and Horses Have Shaped My Life.”

This theme showcases how the positive aspects of horse ownership, the responsibility of caring for a horse, and the discipline of dressage have contributed to the growth and maturity of young riders, particularly young women.

Junior Rider and USDF Region 5 Team Member Devon Wycoff will represent RMDS as spokesperson for all of the young riders.

Wycoff, who is 19, said this in her essay, ““I pride myself on being reliable, responsible and a very disciplined worker. All the qualities I am most proud of I learned on a horse’s back or by growing up in barn. As I found, animals don’t give a hoot if you had a late night and would like to sleep in, they need to be fed and taken care of, thus strengthening my work ethic and responsibility as a kid. Horses require patience and determination in order to grow as a harmonious pair, thus teaching me to enjoy the journey and not expect immediate gratification. Both success and disappointment in the show ring lit a burning passion, ambition and drive for success within me, this same fire burns bright in every other facet of my life.”

This year’s USDF Region five Championships included top competitors from Arizona, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming. Finalists with qualifying scores will compete in the USDF Nationals in November at the Kentucky Horse Park.

The Rocky Mountain Dressage Society was founded in 1971 for the promotion and education of dressage in the Rocky Mountain region (primarily Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming). The organization is actively involved in introducing young riders to the sport, supporting their education and growth through scholarships, summer camps, and riding clinics.

The Society has 900 members and chapters in three states. It was founded when the United States Dressage Federation was founded, and serves as a resource for dressage riders in the Rocky Mountain region.

“Thank you to the Colorado Horse Park, the show management, volunteers, sponsors, and riders for making this a successful Championship show!” said Gwen Ka’awaloa, President, Rocky Mountain Dressage Society. ❖

To learn more about the Rocky Mountain Dressage Society, please visit