Canadian Contingent Finds Success at Dressage at Waterloo Spring Classic

Thursday, June 18, 2009

A group of Canadian riders hailing from Windsor, Ontario had a victorious weekend at the Dressage at Waterloo Spring Classic in Grass Lake, Michigan. The group of eight riders took home five reserve champion ribbons, one champion ribbon and a USDF/Dover Adult Amateur Medal in levels ranging from Green as Grass to Prix St. Georges. Although it is in a foreign country, Dressage at Waterloo provides these border city riders with the “big show” atmosphere without the gas mileage it would take for the four hour trek to Toronto, the closest venue for a show comparable to Waterloo.

These Canadians not only enjoy the show for its geographical convenience, but also because of the efficiency of the show and the positive atmosphere it provides the exhibitors. “It is a very horse-friendly show,” said Jacklyn Courtney Brooks, coach to many of the Canadian competitors who competed. “I would feel very comfortable taking a young horse or a green rider there for their first show.”

Some notable results from the Canadian crew included: Alessia D’Agostini and her 5 year old Thoroughbred gelding Aftershock (Concerto), who earned Reserve Champion in the Green as Grass division; Sarah Pfaff and her 6 year old Dutch Warmblood gelding Winchester (Gribaldi x Pirona), who made their showing debut at Training Level and gained Junior Reserve Champion; Jill Pfaff and her 14 year old Selle Francais mare Diva (Evensong), who were the show’s Adult Amateur Second Level Champion and took home the USDF/Dover Adult Amateur Medal; Alexandra Devin and her 15 year old Oldenburg gelding Pilote (Plasir D’Amour), who made their Third Level debut at the show and earned Adult Amateur Reserve Champion; Pam Sweetman and her 15 year old Hanoverian gelding Loyal, who acquired Adult Amateur Fourth Level Reserve Champion; and Andrea Bingham and her 7 year old Dutch Warmblood gelding Voldemort (Rasputin x Rowena), whose Prix St. Georges premiere earned them reserve champion.

Marilyn Fahringer-Being “Part of the Solution”

The Canadians were not only finding success in the show ring this weekend; the show office was also achieving great things thanks, in part, to one diligent Canadian. Marilyn Fahringer of Essex, Ontario contributed to yet another successful Waterloo show as its sole score tabulator and one of many helping hands.

Fahringer is no stranger to helping at horse shows; her volunteering experience started nearly 15 years ago when she started bringing her daughter, Holly, to dressage shows in the States. With a lack of technology and a shortage of volunteers, Fahringer was frustrated with how long it took to get test scores. After coming home many times complaining about the lack of efficiency of the shows, Fahringer’s husband, John said, “Don’t be part of the problem, be part of the solution.”

Fahringer and her daughter took these words to heart and made it a common practice to introduce themselves at the show office and offer their services whenever Holly was not riding. “Whatever needed to be done is what we did,” recalled Fahringer.

Although her daughter does not show anymore, Fahringer continues to be a supportive force at many shows across the United States, including Horse Shows by the Bay in Traverse City, Michigan, Dressage at Devon, and the Challenge of the Americas in Wellington. She also received the Volunteer of the Year Award from Detroit Dressage in 2004. Even if she is not slotted to work at a show, Fahringer’s helpful spirit can not be kept at bay. Fahringer said, “Whenever I go to a show, I go to the show office and let them know that I am available.”

Fahringer especially enjoys working at the Waterloo shows and credits their success to the show manager, Kevin Bradbury, and the grounds people at Waterloo Hunt Club. “Kevin absolutely bends over backwards to make the shows exhibitor-friendly,” she said.

It is safe to say that when Fahringer’s husband offered his advice almost 15 years ago, he did not expect his wife to take it quite so passionately. “I enjoy helping people,” she said. I’ve gotten to meet some interesting people and see interesting horses. I really enjoy doing it.” Fahringer’s hard work was certainly noticed at the Waterloo Spring Classic, and the dressage community is lucky to have someone this dedicated to being part of the solution.

Jacklyn Courtney Brooks- Taking the Positive Approach

Jacklyn Courtney Brooks, not to be confused with Canadian Olympic dressage rider Jacqueline Brooks, coached many of the victorious Canadian riders at the Waterloo Spring Classic. Brooks is a three-time North American Young Rider medalist, has been long and short-listed for the Canadian Dressage Team and has trained with big names like Christilot Boylen, Eva Maria Pracht, Udo Lange, and Ashley Holzer. Although modest in reference to her role in her students’ success, Brooks seemed to be a critical part of the driving force behind the Canadian contingent’s winning weekend.

Brooks has been a full-time freelance dressage trainer for 14 years and does full training, private lessons, and clinics all over Ontario. The Paris, Ontario native has a very positive training style, and believes that training with kindness garners the best results. Brooks says her goal as a trainer is to “influence people to be empathetic towards their horse. If you have a sense of empathy as a rider your horse will perform all the better for you.”

Brooks has been working with the Windsor riders for three years, traveling approximately once a month to administer clinics in the area. Andrea Bingham, one of Brooks’ Windsor students says of her coach, “She is a true advocate for every horse and strives to educate her students to respect and be humble for the gifts they receive from their horses.”

When asked what contributed to the success of so many of her students at the Waterloo show, Brooks credits the supportive and encouraging atmosphere that the Canadian group created. “Positivity breeds positivity,” Brooks said. “It takes a lot of individual willpower and focus to do this sport, but it’s also about the support of the people around you.”

Although she remains reserved when talking about her contribution to her students’ success, it seems as though Brooks’ positive attitude in general and positive teaching method specifically proved to be a winning strategy in Waterloo.

First Time’s a Charm for Andrea Bingham and Voldemort

Andrea Bingham of Harrow, Ontario says her 7 year old Dutch Warmblood gelding Voldemort (Rasputin x Rowena), has always been a quick learner. After purchasing the un-backed gelding from Aaross Farm in March 2006, Bingham said, “My plan was to be on by May, but I was on in 10 days and his training has followed that pattern.” Voldemort’s laidback attitude paired with Bingham’s classical training approach earned them Reserve Champion in their debut at Prix St. Georges at the Dressage at Waterloo Spring Classic with her highest score of the weekend being 64.47%.

Throughout Voldemort’s training, Bingham has followed the Young Horse Development test schedule and has never pushed him in his training. “Anything I ask him to do, he tries his best,” she said fondly of her 17.1 hand gelding. Jacklyn Courtney Brooks, who has been Bingham’s coach throughout her time with Voldemort, said of the pair, “Andrea is very in tune with her horse. The welfare of her horse is always a priority and he has a lot of confidence in her.”

Completing her first Prix St. Georges test with Voldemort was a very bittersweet moment for Bingham, whose son passed away at the beginning of this year. When talking about her test, Bingham said, “I had tears of joy at the completion - and tears of sadness, that my mom and son were not here to share the moment with me.” Despite her loss, Bingham takes solace in the support of her husband, Bob and her daughter, Kristen.

As for the future, Bingham would like to eventually compete with Voldemort at Grand Prix and is setting her sights on qualifying for the Canadian Pam American Dressage team. Whatever the future may bring for this pair, it is clear that theirs is a thriving partnership.

Alexandra Devin-Bio

Alexandra Devin began loving and riding dressage at age 11 after figuring out that she feared and hated jumping. She has competed up to Third Level with her Oldenburg gelding, Pilote. She graduated in 2007 with a degree in Communication Studies from the University of Windsor and will be going back to the U of W in September to complete her Master’s degree. Her writing has been featured in Horse Sport and She currently resides in Belle River, Ontario