After High School Nancy Later Lavoie worked and trained with Lendon Gray, Belinda Nairn (Wertman), and Jessica Ransehausen. By the age of twenty-four she had competed through the Grand Prix level. From the young rider years through her twenties Nancy taught and managed her parents farm in Rhode Island, also avid horsemen. Through these years Nancy had the opportunity to train with Robert Dover, in addition with continuous training with Lendon Gray. Her enthusiasm for the sport still growing strong, Nancy decided to go back to a learning environment and joined Oded Shimoni. She worked for Oded for eleven years having the good fortune to travel to Germany for training with Conrad Schumacher as well as managing Oded's horses through-out his qualifying and competing in the European and World Championships. During this time Nancy had the opportunity to train some super horses through the levels and recognized by the USET in their developing horse programs. This opened up the doors to ride in training clinics with top trainers such as Kyra Kyrklund, Ulla Salzgeber and Steffen Peters.
She shared, “Going to Germany was a very big turning point for me in my life and in my life with horses. Dressage in Europe is so much a part of their culture. People there view the equestrian sports as we in America view baseball. Competing is a family event and spectators are educated and enthusiastic.
Dressage is special and was something that caught my attention when I was in high school. But, dressage in America was very young then, as it still is. I wish I had gone at a younger age to see what it is like in Europe. I encourage people to go visit and watch the shows, see the stables and if possible train there. I found it incredibly inspiring. There are a couple of very definite differences that helped my perspective.
One program that is accepted, normal, and actually necessary is to be an apprentice. This means that an apprentice can take the time necessary to learn the trade. There are standards and proven systems created about how to become an instructor and trainer. Apprentices have time to learn about all aspects of horse care, management and nutrition as well as riding. They are tested, not by the local public but by the federation. It is not only the information that I think is great, but the fact that young people that choose horses as a way of life are encouraged to learn and not belittled because they are not perfect yet. There are tests based on different aspects of riding. You must take time to develop a seat, learn conformation and the mechanics of the gaits.These subjects are taught and then tested. There is understanding of prerequisites a step by step program. This made a lot of sense to me and helped with my day to day training routine.
The other thing that I think is special is that you need to start at "training level" and then gain points to move up to the next level. This changes the mindset of the junior, young rider and amateur as well as the professional. This changes the entire mentality of the sport. For me, coming home with this perspective made me appreciate my horses and my sport more. Dressage is still developing in the United States, but knowing where it is going and what the possibilities are makes me excited for the future.
There are a lot of awesome people out there in America working toward a better dressage sport. I encourage all young people to go to Europe and experience the knowledge, commitment and enthusiasm they have toward their sport and the horses. Then bring it home and grow it here.