Finishing a decimal fraction behind Jonathan Wentz at the 2011 USEF National Para Equestrian Dressage Championships for Reserve Champion honors, Dr. Dale Dedrick from Ann Arbor, MI proved a force to be reckoned with at her first national outing. “Now they know who we are,” smiled Dale Dedrick after posting her first of three scores over 70 percent topping the Grade 2 division. You might overlook the slight woman leaning on a cane ringside but her quick good humor hints to the spunky, confidant rider within. She skims over any mention of her disability, preferring to let her flair and chemistry with Bonifatius, her 13- year-old Hanoverian (Brentano II x H. Rhapsodie, from an Ampere line) make a statement. Dedrick trains with Roz Kinstler at Charlemagne Farm in Whitmore Lake, MI. They go back many years as fellow competitors so when Dale was able to start riding again, she asked Roz to coach and train her.
“Erik is an amazing animal and tolerates lots while being a fairly calm guy. Lots of motor which he does not use against you, but makes available if you treat him fairly. Don't get aggressive with him though, as he does have a big temper when riled,” relates Dale. She got him three years ago from Carole Grant who was the agent for an owner in Wisconsin.
“It's easier, she knows how to ride, I don't have to tell her how to do things, like half-halt, we have that language between us,” says Kinstler. Dedrick's horse savvy comes from a long, accomplished and varied equine history from a childhood in the saddle, pony club with fox hunting, showing hunters on the East Coast and driving Saddlebreds.
She graduated from medical school at University of Maryland and had embarked on her career as an orthopedic surgeon at the University of Michigan when she became ill with Lupus, which causes the body to attack its own healthy tissues. For Dale, his resulted in multiple joint deformities, muscle weakness of an inflammatory nature and significant heart disease. She suffered two small strokes and while relearning to walk was struck by a car. She later underwent two open heart surgeries which left her bed-ridden for six months. This forced her retirement from her position as Assistant Professor of Surgery and Internal Medicine at Univ. of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
“I have fairly bad hand deformities with weakness as well (although she doesn't use any adaptive reins). One of my bigger disabilities is my heart which does not generally beat on a productive rhythm. I am 100% dependent on my pacemaker, which is 'not designed for athletics but to keep you alive.' So I must watch my activity and energy levels carefully.”
Dedrick was off horses for several years. She had no strength and still walks with a cane. “Dale never complains,” says Kinstler. “All things doctors told her she would never do, she doing them.” Dale had always shown open amateur but this past April, she attended a clinic at Carlisle Academy in Maine to test the waters of para riding under the eye of FEI O Para judge Hennecke Gerritsen. The trip marked a milestone for Dedrick, answering questions both mentally and physically. “I realized then that I could do this and would be foolish not to try.”
Recipe for Success
“What makes Erik cook are quick, light aids,” notes Kinstler. “What makes him special is he can also go like a plug. You have to set him up but if you ask him, he’s quite willing.” She points out not every horse has the temperament for a para rider. When she first tried him for Dale, he hadn’t been in consistent work but she said she enjoyed him, “he made sense to me.” He's delighted to have the attention.
While Erik arrived with good ground manners, they had to teach him to stand still for mounting and dismounting even if Dale dragged her foot over his back. Although now, Kinstler notes she longer does that. Dedrick rides 4-5 days a week and always comes to observe the days Roz schools Erik but Kinstler stayed off him coming into show. “Dale needed to build riding stamina and he’s very honest.” They carefully structured a warm-up routine for show days with the planned 20-minute rule (trainers can only ride Grade 1 and 2 horses for this set time), putting Dale on 15 minutes out but not wanting her too fatigued, while not letting him down too much. Kinstler admits it was a bit tricky.
Rosiland Kinstler serves as the USDF National Youth Program Chair and Region 2 Young Rider coordinator. She teaches “normal people” but has her third Grand Prix student earn her Gold Medal and is proud that one of those students achieved her goal on an Arabian that came from an auction. She has a lot of amateur students, not all show but all are serious.
She says Dale’s impact in the barn quiets any whiners as Dale does all her own grooming and tacking up. Kinstler also notices she can now walk the length of the barn without using her cane. “It’s a mistake to think Dale is an easygoing competitor. It’s what got her through a medical career, she’s truly determined, as am I!” Kinstler believes you triumph through attitude.
Roz likes being the new kid on the para scene. Sharon Scheideman gave her good direction to set the horse up like the 6-year-old classes. The NEDA/CDI Saugerties show was the first time they would run their para tests in small arena. “I believe Dale can present him as I would present him, just as forward to bring up his quality. While they had big scores all summer, Kinstler was suspect but having the international judges point Dedrick in the 70s across three days made it legit. Either way, ribbons and scores aside, Kinstler remains pleased with their training and riding progress. “They’re good now, they can be better,” warns Kinstler.
Meagan Ferrari-Szarek traveled up to NY from school in NC to groom for Dale. “Being part of this team means a lot, the camaraderie, the fun, the support, goes way beyond the horses.” Working for Kinstler the last several years, Meagan learned how to turn out a horse in top of the line fashion. “I really love grooming and you couldn't work with two better people,” she says. The polished, yet fun chemistry of the trio was obvious from their constant smiles.
“She's good for Dale and Dale is a good role model,” says Kinstler of the relationship. Szarek is applying to vet school and Dedrick frequently calls to check on her progress. “I remember the 50% at the first show, it really made us all laugh because what could you do besides go home and keep working your butt off. We all got a good look at Dale's internal fortitude at the show, how persistent she is regardless of all of the hurdles she's had to overcome. Roz has so much knowledge and experience, combined with everything Dale's done in dressage and her simple, relentless persistence, come what may...is producing a lot of good results. It's very exciting now that we've had such success.”
The Take Away
Szarek says what she treasures about Dale is the entirety of her personality, her joy and happiness in life, the love of what she does, how nonchalant she is about this great success, her humility, her wisdom, her sense of humor, how much she gives of herself to others. Szarek had never been involved with para athletes before this event and says the experience left a lasting impression. “I learned a lot from watching each rider. The athletes were amazing and I'm still humbled by the various efforts they would go through to be able to get on their horse and ride, and ride well. The quality of horse and rider combos was impressive too!
The fact that they are competing at an international level not only says a lot about each athlete as an individual, but a lot too, about the nature and soul of horses.” “Pretty damn good!” called Kinstler to Dedrick as she exited the arena after her individual test. “The longer the ride went, the more you got the trot exactly how you want it. The mediums-the best it's been all week.” “What a cool horse,” Dale answered patting Erik's stout white neck. Roz says the biggest revelation from teaching Dale is “I don't see the handicap.”
She echoed that watching the other para riders at the NEDA Championships. “You might worry but as a trainer, you worry about all your riders. It's a testament to those trainers, I can easily see over time how these riders will continue to improve. It's great to see the ongoing potential.” She was also glad to see the riders taken seriously and the respect shown by the CDI riders in the warm-up areas. Based on results, Dedrick got the call to be on the team for the November Para Equestrian CPEDI3* in Mexico City. Even though competing on an unknown horse is a new concept for her, she's game. “Catch riding at its finest,” says Kinstler. Since Dale has ridden all her life, she says it's no problem. “She's just a kick.”