Lendon Gray

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Lendon Gray first gained fame for her ability to compete at Grand Prix on horses others never imagined could make Grand Prix, let alone succeed at the national and international levels. Her belief that any horse, regardless of size or breed, can benefit from and succeed in dressage has guided her career. This two-time Olympian took pony-size horses to national championships and when she hung up her competitive spurs, she turned her energy toward promoting the dressage education of all breeds of horses and of all riders, regardless of financial ability.

And now, as she steps aside from managing her boarding/training business, Lendon is set to devote an even greater part of her life toward providing educational opportunities for all horses and riders. "I'm putting myself in a position to focus more on educational programs. I feel there is a void and I want to fill it because I have the time. I don't have a family and I'm not a rider anymore," she said.

This doesn't mean, however, that Lendon will give up teaching. She will continue to give lessons at Sunnyfield Farm, but without the day-to-day responsibility of managing a facility, Lendon has freed herself to do more clinics and to focus more on her responsibilities as the president of The Dressage Foundation, a position she takes very seriously.

"I'm putting more energy into The Dressage Foundation and raising more money will be a part of that. I'd like to move forward by first bolstering the programs we have and by acquiring funding for additional programs," she said. One thing she'd like to create is a fund in honor of Migi Serrell that would provide educational grants to volunteers. Lendon calls volunteers "the unsung heroes of our sport." She's also hoping to develop more equitation clinics.

"Equitation is a personal focus of mine," Lendon said. And indeed, it is. Her Dressage4Kids organization has been a resounding success and it was created by Lendon with the purpose of rewarding young riders for their horsemanship and riding skill rather than for their financial ability to buy the best dressage horse. "My focus on equitation education would include not just more clinics for riders, but also for judges so they have a better understanding of equitation and how to judge it."

Key to any successful education program, however, is finding good teachers. Hence, Lendon is also now very focused on developing programs for instructors. "We need more programs that help people learn how to teach rather than what to teach. Anyone can claim to be a teacher but not have any training in actually how to teach. But how can we blame them? How does one learn more about it? I'm one of them. I had to learn how to teach through trial and error. The information for teachers isn't out there. So, I'd like to develop programs that educate people on how to teach and not just in dressage, but all disciplines."

Lendon admits these are not the best of economic times for seeking to raise funds and launch new programs, but she has a strategy for success that has worked well for her in the past - start small with a test program and build from there. "I believe in doing things in a small way and seeing if it will or will not work. If it works at a regional level, then I take it out. If you start locally or regionally, you can create a successful model that other organizations around the country can follow," she said.

Dressage4Kids is the perfect example of something that started small and grew and Lendon credits the success of that venture with giving her the vehicle from which to launch more projects and ideas. And now, as president of The Dressage Foundation, she sees even more opportunities for developing educational opportunities. One down side of giving up my own business is that I won't be in quite the same position to help individual riders. I've been fortunate to be able to bring along some nice riders and provide them with opportunities. It might not be as easy to do that anymore, but the trade off is that I am devoting more time to helping a greater number of riders."