Reinholds, Pennsylvania - “As a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization, we are able to accept horse donations which we then match to a home with one of our riders,” said U.S. Olympic Dressage veteran Lendon Gray, founder of youth-driven Dressage4Kids (D4K) and Winter Intensive Training Program (WITP). A recent horse-and-rider match made between Dressage4Kids rider Alexa Derr and Versace N., the 13-year-old, 16.3-hand, bay Prix St Georges Dutch Warmblood gelding (Sandro Hit x Harina) donated to Dressage4Kids by Bethany Peslar of Everglades Dressage, turned out to be a perfect fit.
“Versace N. is such a great horse. Now it's his time to make dreams come true for a young rider. He and Alexa are a great match, and I'm happy that Everglades Dressage could give back to our dressage community while paying it forward to the next generation,” said Bethany Peslar. “This could be an Under 25 Grand Prix horse for her,” said Gray, who has watched Derr on her former Young Rider horse, Just Livingston, grow as an equestrian over the three years that she has been riding in Gray's programs.
“When Bethany offered Versace N., the timing was amazing. Alexa had been riding through the D4K, WITP, and Emerging Dressage Rider programs on a very nice Young Rider/Intermediate horse— whose lease was up almost the same day that Bethany contacted us.”
“My stomach dropped when I received a text from Lendon to call her as soon as possible,” the Florida Young Rider Division Youth Champion Derr said. “The text came a few days after I was told the Young Rider horse I was leasing had a buyer, so I was sad and in limbo about my future. I am still in awe that Lendon and Dressage4Kids thought of me to be the rider of such a well-bred horse.”
The two have been getting to know one another since January. “Versace is the highest quality horse I have ever had the opportunity to ride. I was attracted to his sweet personality and expressiveness under saddle. His playfulness and curiosity are really beginning to show as he begins to trust me. He's already found my weakness, which is his puppy dog eyes and gentle demeanor. It gets him cookies every time!” Derr, of Reinholds, Pennsylvania, laughs.
“I will forever be grateful to the Peslars and Everglades Dressage for donating Versace to Dressage4Kids. Their timing was impeccable. I was just starting my search for a potential FEI partner,” said Derr, who represented the 2014 NAJYRC Region 1 Young Rider team in Kentucky and competed at the USEF Festival of Champions and Region 1 Finals. “D4K has opened doors to train with Olympians at the Courtney King Dye Horse Mastership Clinic, be a member of the Emerging Dressage Athlete Program, and compete at Lendon's Youth Dressage Festival— all of which have shaped the horsewoman I am today.”
Gray added, “I know Alexa will take good care of him and get the instruction they'll need to build a great partnership. They’re working well together. She's an excellent rider who will take the time to get to know him— she's more interested in the partnership than the show ring. The rest will be up to them.”
“I am continually humbled by the generosity and support of the horse community. It is so important that we stay connected and empower each other to move forward. When someone like the Peslars donates to Dressage4Kids, who then pairs a horse with someone like me, it gives talented, dedicated riders a chance to apply all they have learned and dreamt about. I want to show my gratitude through more than a thank-you or how we perform in the ring. So once my college semester is over, I plan to host a fundraiser for Dressage4Kids. I want my opportunity to lead to opportunities for other riders,” states Derr.
Everglades Dressage, title sponsor of the first CDI ever held in Florida - the Palm Beach Dressage Derby CDI-W - is owned and operated by Bethany Peslar. For Peslar, supporting her sport is a way of life: In addition to sponsoring the Derby, Everglades Dressage has been supporting competitors at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival by presenting Everglades Dressage Rider Achievement Awards throughout the show series to salute those who demonstrate excellence in the show ring, improvements in their riding, or strong efforts and dedication to working well with their horses.
“Partnership is elemental to dressage. I'm so proud Everglades Dressage could play a part in bringing Versace and Alexa together as a perfect fit,” Peslar said.
To learn more about Everglades Dressage and Grand Prix rider and trainer Bethany Peslar, visit www.evergladesdressage.com.