Adult Amateur Dressage Rider In Focus - Peggy Christ

Peggy Christ and Tristan. Photo: Melinda Pesci
Peggy Christ and Tristan. Photo: Melinda Pesci

Organizers of the Eastern States Dressage and Combined Training (ESDCTA) 2013 CDI*/*** Memorial Weekend Dressage Show launched an effort in collaboration with Centerline Events CDI Saugerties August 15-18, to expand competitive options for FEI level Adult Amateur riders by encouraging their participation in CDI’s at the 1* level. With the creation of the first CDI 1* Adult Amateur Sweepstakes, the seed has been planted, and there are high hopes for the future development of this program creating opportunities for amateurs whose riding career is their second job. "Fitting in my passion was like having two jobs, except one I really loved and had to pay for, instead of getting paid," said Adult Amateur rider Peggy Christ of Princeton, New Jersey, who competes at the Prix St George, Intermediare Level. Growing up in a suburb of Pittsburgh and later in upstate New York, the self-described "horse-crazy teenager" put her equestrian dreams aside when it was time for college, and did not take up riding agin until she was in her mid-fifties.

Achievement in the upper levels of dressage requires the attainment of a series of progressive objectives. But for some riders the journey between each milestone suggests a truer reflection of success. "I've been extraordinarily lucky, with a limited budget and not much time,” states Christ, matter-of-factly who admits her path was neither neither the fastest nor the most direct, and included its share of setbacks and challenges. But luck is just one of the reasons for her accomplishments. Hard work and a certain mindset also factor into her methods, which, ultimately, contribute to the realization of her goals.

After college, Christ moved to New York City, got married, and focused on her career and marriage. During those years Christ took up other hobbies. As the years passed, Christ divorced, and her career went through some unanticipated changes. When the nature and responsibilities of her job changed affording her a bit more free time, her thoughts returned once more to horses.

Once back in the saddle (and perhaps because of her age), she was determined to make up for lost time. Starting back with hunt seat and equitation, her instructor at the time, Kelly Poff (who also had a passion for dressage) steered Christ towards dressage. Since that introduction to the discipline, she's been hooked. 

As she got more serious about dressage, she made the move to Stephan Cheret's barn, and was learning with leased horses until Cheret found her current mount. Cheret was on a horse-buying trip in Germany, sent a video of the horse, and on that basis Christ made the purchase. She got Tristan as a 9 year old, in 2002.  He's a Dutch Warmblood by Farrington (Nimerdor lines), out of Cindycator, by Vindicator. Training with Cheret, Christ and Tristan were able to learn and move through the levels together, progressing from Second Level to Prix St. Georges in six years. Not many amateur riders are able to accomplish such advancements on the same horse, a fact not lost on Christ.

Working for Rutgers in University Relations in a typical week, she'd drive forty minutes from Princeton to New Brunswick, NJ, work a full day, drive one hour to the barn to ride, then drive forty five minutes to get home, five days per week, and ride a total of six days per week.

In 2012, Christ retired. She still rides six days per week and now has the extra time to ride other people's horses, when available, as well as her own. At the moment she's riding three horses per day. Four years ago, she moved Tristan to Windemere Farm, and for the past three years she's been training with Lauren Chumley. Her short-term goal is to ride better at Intermediaire-1 with Tristan.

The ESDCTA 2013 CDI*/*** Memorial Weekend Dressage Showis one of Christ's favorite shows, for a number of reasons. Showing is one more way of receiving feedback on her progress. She likes the three-day format and plans to compete on Friday and Sunday, giving Tristan a day off in between. She's a big fan of the venue as well. "The Horse Park of New Jersey is absolutely critical to the horse culture in this area...There's nothing like riding an awards ceremony in Ring 1, under the setting sun--it's just gorgeous!"