With the decision to become a dressage rider made, Christy Lynn Hart went looking for an instructor. But as she was horseless at the time, she needed an instructor with lesson horses. There were only two dressage instructors in her area and only one had lesson horses, which made her decision very easy. "I went to my first dressage lesson and I was hooked." Fate led her to the right trainer, she says. "My first dressage trainer was Frank Daigle and he helped me overcome much insecurity that I had as a rider." Eventually, Christy became a working student for Daigle, cleaning stalls in exchange for lessons. But there was actually so much more to the job and it became a tremendous learning experience.
"My experiences at Frank's barn taught me so much about stable management, driving a tractor, hooking up a horse trailer, and riding. I had the opportunity to see Frank not long before he died in a farming accident this summer. He watched me ride my horse that I trained to Fourth Level and said, 'When you first came to me, you were a scared little girl, and now look at you. You're all grown up and you are a rider.' It meant so much," Christy said.
Along with Daigle, Christy worked with several other trainers in her area to expand her knowledge, while she learned much, she felt something was still missing. She eventually got her own dressage horses and was boarding with a friend. Together, the two of them came up with the idea of hosting a clinic with FEI rider James Koford.
"We had seen him ride and we were drawn to his enthusiastic and positive approach to teaching. So, with little more than a phone call, we had set up a clinic with him," Christy said. From that point on, she began working with Koford as often as possible. "We would travel to his barn in Southern Pines (North Carolina) and stay 3-4 days at a time for lessons. It was awesome because Jim really allowed us to be a part of his daily routine. He let us warm-up horses for him, and I sat on an upper-level horse for the first time at Jim's barn. He was so important to the start of my career with the horse that I would eventually ride to Fourth Level. If he hadn't taken the time to help me, I could have never made it out of Training Level with that horse."