The year 2014 is turning out to be a busy, but successful, year for dressage trainer Lauren Chumley of Frenchtown, New Jersey. She and her team of students have been busy showing their various horses at a host of dressage shows, most notably Dressage at Devon. And now, as Chumley prepares for this week's US Dressage Finals in Lexington, KY, she will get to show off her latest star horse who has already been excelling at top dressage venues since she started him under saddle in June of 2013. His name is Flash Gordan SE (Sir Donnerhall x Bardot SE, by Florencio), a four-year-old KWPN gelding. Owned by Siegi Belz-Fry of Stall Europa in Waterford, VA, Flash Gordon SE, or Flash as he is known around the barn, has only been trained and shown by Chumley, and her dedication to the 17-hand gelding is paying off. In 2013, with less than 90 days under saddle, Flash became the highest-scoring adult dressage horse at Iron Spring Farm's KWPN-NA kuering with a score of 80 and 8s and 9s from the judges on his gaits. His official dressage show career began during the winter of 2013 in Florida, and as the pair racked up various accomplishments in 2014 it wasn't long before he qualified for the Region 8 Championships.
At the Great American Insurance Group/USDF Region 8 Championships, presented by the New England Dressage Association at the NEDA Fall Festival of Dressage in Saugerties, NY, Chumley and the gelding that she says has a wonderful, goofy, and playful personality won the Training Level Open Division with a 75.8% out of 33 horses. Flash also won his First Level class with a 73.9% and an 8.5 score for his gaits.
Next came Dressage at Devon, September 23-28, in Devon, PA. Chumley rode Flash to victory in the Four-Year-Old-Class with a 79.6% and a score of 7.9 for his gaits. "I came into Devon with high hopes as I knew Flash had the quality and the training to do very well and the excellent mind and character to handle the electric environment that is unique to Devon," said Chumley. "Flash did not disappoint and laid out a solid, but brilliant, test. Flash is a special four-year-old, because you can really count on him in the show ring. He will not let you down!"
Chumley called their success at Dressage at Devon the icing on the cake. "Devon is my favorite show, and winning there is always special!" she added. Now the pair is prepping for the tough competition at the US Dressage Finals. While Flash has been for sale, Chumley said she would enjoy riding and showing him until he sold.
"Flash has all the qualities desired in a top level international-caliber dressage horse," said Chumley, who added that the gelding rides very light and has an extremely balanced canter for his size and age. "He has the movement to score well and the presence to be noticed. His excellent character grants him the uncommon ability to handle most any atmosphere... an unusual trait in one so young!"
Also at Dressage at Devon, Chumley placed third in the Fourth Level Test of Choice on a score of 61.625% with Melissa Dowling's 12-year-old 14.1-hand Morgan pony, Avatar's Jazzman (KJB All That Jazz x Avatar's Cassandra, by Funquest Bosquejo), who was bred by Cordia Pearson. "Jazz has been with me for several years," said Chumley. "He came to me as a very green five-year-old stallion. The intention was to see how far he could go in dressage...after we fixed the 'stallion' part! Jazz is now showing FEI Prix St Georges and schooling all of the Grand Prix. The plan is to show him at the Grand Prix level at the end of next year. Jazz also competes successfully at USEA (United States Eventing Association) horse trials at the Novice level. He also hunter paces and will hopefully fox hunt later this fall. Jazz truly exemplifies the Morgan versatility!"
Chumley has several other horses of her own that she is bringing along as well as working with her client's horses to advance them in dressage as far as she can. This includes her Oldenburg gelding, Saracchi, who is showing at Third Level, and her own KWPN gelding, Millenium, who she shows in the small tours. She has recently teamed up with Ambassador Friesians, a small top-quality breeder of Friesian horses located in New Jersey to compete their stallion, Roark. Chumley is now showing Alice Tarjan's Oldenburg, Syclla, in the FEI Young Horse classes.
“I work with all breeds, all sizes, and all ages of horses and riders,” she Chumley, who at 5'5" is able to ride everything from 13-hand ponies to 17-hand Warmbloods. “I do not believe that only one road leads to Rome. I treat every horse as an individual and work to find the most efficient and effective method of communication with that particular horse. A spicy off-the-track Thoroughbred is not going to answer a question in the same way as a Warmblood or a Morgan. I think being an excellent trainer stems from the ability to adapt to the needs of different horses and riders.”
This 30-year-old trainer also brings top-notch instruction to riders in the Loxahatchee, Florida, area from January through March, and to the area of Flemington, New Jersey, the rest of the year. Chumley operates out of White Fences when in Florida for the winter dressage season. While in her home state of New Jersey, she leases Susie and Craig Little’s Lane’s End Farm.
“Lane's End farm is a quiet, private facility located in beautiful Hunterdon County, New Jersey,” described Chumley. “It offers an indoor and outdoor arena, two barns, lots of turnout paddocks, and wooded trails. I am the only trainer at the facility. The atmosphere is quiet and relaxed but very efficient and workmanlike. We offer full and partial training board.”
Chumley’s teaching stretches the gambit—from basic riding lessons to dressage training at the FEI levels. Riders of all levels and ages ride under Chumley’s tutelage, especially amateurs and juniors. This year she trained several of her amateur clients for the FEI levels and worked with one junior rider who was a prospect for the Adequan FEI North American Junior and Young Rider Championships.
Chumley also offers fun and informative clinics, where students work hard to learn new concepts or ways of thinking about a riding issue. While Lauren Chumley Dressage is mostly a training and competition barn, her sales service is also a successful aspect of her business. Chumley helps clients sell between eight to 10 horses each year, and she said she enjoys the challenge of matching up riders with the right horses.
Chumley’s dedication to dressage and to horses of all breeds and types is evident to those who know her. She is extremely hard-working, honest, and driven to succeed with her business. “I believe success in this business comes from many factors, not the least of which is complete and total dedication bordering on obsession,” said Chumley. “I am very hands-on with my business. I will never ask anyone to do anything that I have not done myself.”
Hard work and dedication is nothing new to Chumley, who started riding at age 12 in Virginia where she would visit during summers and ride with her grandmother at the Quantico Marine Corps Base. She eventually began riding lessons in her hometown of West Chester, OH. She then met and leased her first equine competition partner, a Hanoverian mare named Kismet. "I began my showing career in dressage at 14 with her at the introductory levels, and we finished many, many years later by earning my first score for my USDF Gold Medal at Intermediare 1," said Chumley. "She is 24 years old today and still going strong. She is currently leased to one of my students and had a Top Ten finish this year at the regional championships at Third Level in the Junior division."
Chumley went to work for Sorum Fjord Farm, a Norwegian Fjord breeding farm owned by the late-Neil Sorum and Ruth Sorum of Lebanon, OH. She trained and showed their horses at breed shows and in open dressage and eventing shows, even after she moved on to her next job. In 2007, she showed the Sorum's 13.2-hand Norwegian Fjord mare, SNF Maarta, in the American Eventing Championships, and the pair became national champions while beating out 75 others. Now Chumley owns SNF Maarta.
She then became a working student for Rebecca Knollman of Knollman Dressage in Lebanon, OH, for four years before she moved into the position of assistant trainer for Silke Rembacz in 2007. The year 2011 was when she struck out on her own. “I began my own business to give myself the opportunity to expand outside the boundaries of a working student or assistant trainer position,” she added. “I wanted a little more freedom to take different opportunities as they came along.”
Chumley describes her training style as a conglomeration of the methods that her mentors have taught to her. These mentors include Knollman, Rembacz, and as of late, Michael Barisone of Long Valley, NJ. She speaks affectionately about the help that Barisone has given her. “Michael is more than just a coach at shows,” she said. “He has been a true mentor to me and has provided valuable advice for every aspect of my life...whether I want to hear it or not!”
Throughout the years, Chumley has won multiple USDF year-end and All-Breed Awards. "I have trained or ridden just about every breed of horse you can think of!" said Chumley. "I completed my USDF Gold medal in 2013, earning my two Grand Prix scores on a 14.1-hand Welsh Pony and Morgan cross named Nyewyn that I had trained from Third Level to Grand Prix with extensive help on the ground from Silke Rembacz and Michael Barisone."
She also showed at the 2011 Markel/USEF Young Horse Dressage Championships with Alice Tarjan's black Hanoverian stallion, Somer Hit (Sandro Hit x Rhussia, by Rotspon). Somer Hit was bred by Mo Swanson's Rolling Stone Farm. The pair captured the Five-Year-Old division and qualified for the FEI World Breeding Championships for Young Dressage Horses in Verden, Germany, although they did not show there. "I'm very lucky to have been partnered with some exceptional horses," she said.
In addition to working with Barisone, Chumley regularly takes lessons with Andrea Leatherman, and she calls Leatherman’s lessons in jumping “invaluable.” And while lessons in jumping sound a bit odd for a dressage instructor and trainer, it makes perfect sense for somebody who calls eventing her favorite hobby. Chumley is currently competing two of her dressage horses in the lower levels of eventing and also has a lot of eventing students. “I enjoy the thrill and the challenge of the sport. I appreciate how eventing demands excellence in versatility and all-around athleticism of horse and rider. There's a very different thrill one gets from running cross country that I just haven't found in perfecting my extended trot! I do believe the two sports compliment each other and create a very well-rounded athlete.”
Chumley has had the support of her first client Melissa Dowling since 2002. In addition, various companies have sponsored Chumley. These include: EquiLaw, LLC; Kerrits equestrian apparel; Enjoy Yums all-natural horse treats, and Skylands Saddlery.
Chumley's goals for the future include learning all she can about training at all levels, especially Grand Prix, and expanding her business to offer quality FEI dressage show horses for her clients to learn from and show. She would also love to represent Team USA and own her own facility where she can start horses and train them through the levels to Grand Prix.
For those who want to work with an experienced dressage instructor, Chumley has openings on her show team for new riders. "We are always looking to add new clients to our show team," added Chumley. "I would love to have more juniors in the program. I think dressage on the whole could use more junior riders!"