The new 6.1 Million Dollar Equestrian Center in Southern Michigan offers the first USDF dressage show, September 8-9, 2012
When Melissa Ashcraft, who travelled the world for five years with the “World Famous Lipizzaner Stallion show, returned to her childhood home in Michigan to build her career as a trainer and instructor, her warmth and compassion as an instructor as well as her multi disciplined talents quickly built a clientele. Among the many children she instructed was a young girl Sophia Schults, whose natural ability and affinity for all things equine became apparent to her instructor and a special bond was formed. Ashcraft was frustrated with the lack of quality facilities to work with in her region near St. Joseph, Michigan, and was beginning to look elsewhere for a better opportunity. Sophia’s Dad, Ron Schults a successful developer whose company Edgewater Resources revitalized the harbor and community on the Michigan lakefront region took action, and told Ashcraft to design her dream barn and he would build it. In less than a year it was done, and now celebrating their first year in operation Concord Ridge Equestrian Center will be offering their USDF first recognized Dressage competition Dressage at Concord Ridge - September 8 and 9, under the guidance of dressage trainer and Concord Ridge partner, Stacy Gormley Posthumus, and show organizer, Kevin Bradbury.
Taking all the things she loved about the facilities she had ridden and trained in during her travels with the "World Famous Lipizzans, Ashcraft set to work. “I got almost everything I asked for,” smiled the 32 year old trainer who is well versed in not only Prix St. George level of dressage but English Pleasure, Jumping, Western, Colt Starting, Natural Horsemanship, and showmanship. With a forty stall barn full of quality Friesians, Spanish horses, warmbloods, Western reining, ponies, driving stock, and a few rescues as well the programs all operate in harmony and with ease in a well organized yet relaxed and friendly atmosphere.
My assistant April Therrien and I visited Concord Ridge in between two Dressage shows we were covering during our springtime tour. Just one hour east of Chicago, it was an easy drive from Wisconsin and then back to Illinois, and we were so comfortable and welcomed, we stayed for four days and three nights, in the cozy bunkhouse located off of the upstairs lounge which overlooks the massive indoor arena on one side, and the stalls and aisle ways on the other. Each morning we woke to fresh coffee and the comfort of their lounge complete with full kitchen, fireplace and flat screen TV, Ron Schults added “so that dad’s bringing their children for lessons can watch the game in comfort.” I would sit at the table on the balcony overlooking the stables as the horses munched their morning breakfast. There was even a luxurious cat condo for the barn cats built around the feed schedule.
Stacy Gormley Posthumus who once worked for me back when I was just starting DressageDaily is now an established dressage trainer whose own farm and dressage operation, Perfoma Dressage, is located an hour away in Lowell, Michigan. She comes each Thursday for a full lesson schedule, fine tuning Melissa’s dressage training and working with the young protégés in the barn, including Sophia Schults.
Ample space for boarders and lesson clients all provided each customer with their own private walk in closet for their tack and supplies, and no detail was left out, including mail slots, a comfortable office and complete line of Concord Ridge shirts and hats.
Amenities and service were all part of the vision, and from the time we arrived we were greeted with hugs, not handshakes, and special “surprises” done just for us. During our visit we saw several young wide-eyed girls coming for their first lessons on horseback. With a full staff of instructors and safe and sound lesson horses we personally witnessed the onset of horse fever. Knowing that I was a driving enthusiast, the Concord Ridge driving trainer Warren Backus came by and took us on a tour of the property which is about to expand into another 135 acres.
A well-known region for Michigan Wineries acres of vineyards border the property, and they were also cutting the fields with their own hay of orchard grass and timothy. Then Warren switched sides with me and I took the powerful pair Friesian pair into my hands and drove them myself for the next hour. The Friesians were so sensitive to the slightest half halts, came back, then extended all the while in a synchronized gait which when collected felt like a passage in my hands.
But that was only the beginning. We each had a reining lesson on Bubba, and for April who rides western and dressage, there was a grin from ear to ear, as she negotiated her first flying change, and actually ended the session doing a pattern on the pushbutton quarter horse paint. After Bubba was put away, the show began as Sophia and Melissa brought out a mini stallion , Gabe, and Melissa’s famed Friesian stallion, Prodigy of Majestic Friesians as they did their “tricks” smiling, rearing, Laying down and playing dead, and standing with all four feet on a pedestal.
The region of St Joseph has a lot to offer competitors and visitors who come to participate and audit the full schedule of clinics, camps and activities at Concord Ridge Equestrian Center. With ample hotels, shopping and restaurants, the charming downtown district has a very European feel. The tourist friendly region also has wineries, marinas, and the silky white sandy beaches of Lake Michigan.
We are definitely planning on being there for Concord Ridge’s first dressage show in September and urge dressage competitors to consider the trip from Kentucky, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin, all an easy trip and worth the effort. Make sure to plan to stay for a few extra days if you can to explore all this region and Concord Ridge has to offer.
Follow Concord Ridge on Facebook to keep up with all the activities they have coming up.