The Dressage Foundation Chooses Four Young Riders for Olympic Dream European Tour

Mary Bahniuk Lauritsen (Photo by Power Photography).
Mary Bahniuk Lauritsen (Photo by Power Photography).

Lincoln, NE – Four advanced young riders have been selected for the 2011 Olympic Dream Program that annually sends young riders to Europe for an intensive 10-day dressage experience. The program is administered and funded annually by The Dressage Foundation (TDF). On May 2, an independent Selection Committee, after reviewing dozens of applications, chose Mary Bahniuk Lauritsen (MA), Jhesika Wells (WA), Kathryn Butt (SC) and Laura DeCesari (AZ) to make the 10th annual TDF trip to Europe. The committee chose Melissa Reese (NJ) and Ari Lopez (CA) as the first and second alternates, respectively; however, the original winners have all committed to go. The Selection Committee based their decision on candidates’ essays, competition scores, recommendations, DVDs of their riding and signs of commitment to the sport of dressage.

Jenny Johnson, administrative director of TDF, said, "The Board of Directors and staff of The Dressage Foundation congratulates the four candidates chosen for this year's Olympic Dream Program! We received a record number of high quality applications, so the Selection Committee had quite a task."

The program, conceived by Olympic medalist and TDF Board Member Michael Poulin (FL), will be led this year by Simone Ahern (CO) and Elizabeth Caron (CT). Beth Baumert (CT) is serving as administrator as she has since the program's inception. Poulin believes TDF’s Olympic Dream program helps American young riders reach their potential. He aims to fuel “the power of the dream” for young people, and help them “develop a sense of proportion, a sense of themselves and of being proud of who they are and what they’re doing.”

Jhesika Wills. (Photo by Carolynn Bunch).
Jhesika Wills. (Photo by Carolynn Bunch).

On June 28, the group will travel to Frankfurt, Germany. The tentative plan, subject to the schedules of German trainers, is to visit former U.S. team coach, Klaus Balkenhol, Spanish team coach, Jean Bemelmanns and German Olympians, Ingrid Klimke and Hubertus Schmidt. The group also hopes to visit Schafhof, the home of former German Olympian, Ann-Kathrin Linsenhoff, and her trainer/husband Klaus Martin Rath, along with his son, Matthias Rath who was on the 2010 World Equestrian Games team for Germany. Matthias is the current rider for the great horse, Totilas. The group will return to their home towns on July 8. While traveling, the young riders will record their observations in daily journals and chronicle the events with photos and video to share with their home dressage organizations.

Laura DeCesari (Photo by Lisa Crabtree).
Laura DeCesari (Photo by Lisa Crabtree).

Primary chaperone, Simone Ahern, was born in Germany where she achieved her Bereiter certification before moving to the United States eighteen years ago. She is a USDF Certified Instructor through Fourth Level and an "L" graduate, passing with distinction. Simone has trained horses and riders through the FEI levels and received her gold medal on her self-trained horse, Ravenelli. For the past thirteen years, she has owned Sun Prairie Stables, a dressage training and teaching center east of Colorado Springs. Secondary chaperone, Elizabeth Caron, is a young professional based at her family farm, Carbery Fields, in Lebanon, CT. Liz trained with Sarah Geikie for 10 years and went on to train with Beth and Jennifer Baumert. With their help, she trained her horse Lentisco through the levels and won multiple regional championships . "Lenny" is now a green Grand Prix horse. Liz is working toward USDF Instructor Certification.

“This annual trip is made possible by very generous donors,” said Jenny Johnson. “We’re very grateful to those who support this program.” Further information on the Advanced Young Rider Olympic Dream Program will be kept current on the TDF website: www.dressagefoundation.org.

The Dressage Foundation is a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization whose mission is “To cultivate and provide financial support for the advancement of Dressage.” For more information contact Jenny Johnson, The Dressage Foundation, 1314 “O” Street, Suite 305, Lincoln, NE 68508. Telephone: 402-434-8585 Fax: 402-436-3053. Email: jenny@dressagefoundation.org.




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