Lendon Gray: A Lifetime Devoted to Dressage

Thursday, February 5, 2009

That Lendon Gray has been so successful in developing new programs is itself amazing, but she has done all this while also serving on numerous committees and while working with a number of organizations - all with the aim of promoting dressage in the U.S. She has been on the USET F Advisory Board; is on the USEF Dressage Committee, the Strategic Planning Committee and the Youth Sports Committee. With the USDF, Lendon had been a member of the Test Writing Committee and is on the Youth Council, where she was previously chair. She is also on the USDF Regional Championships Committee, the Planning Committee, is chair of the Instructor Trainer Council and chair of the FEI Instructor Certification Committee. She is a USDF Instructor Certification Examiner. She is a member of the Advisory Board of the U.S. Pony Club. And more recently she took on the big role of president of The Dressage Foundation.

How does Lendon do it all? She gives much credit to her many volunteers and students who help carry the workload.

"I am blessed to have a truly amazing group of volunteers who are still willing to open an email from me and then they happily and energetically help me with the next project I have come up with. I get most of the attention, but in no way could I pull off all the projects alone. I have fabulous helpers who work so hard behind the scenes," Lendon said.

What she doesn't say that her volunteers would is that this support team exists because Lendon has earned their respect and support. Lendon, they know, is truly dedicated to promoting young riders and to promoting horsemanship. She is certainly not in it for the money.

To oversee any profits from the Youth Dressage Festival, Lendon created the Not-for-Profit, Dressage4Kids, Inc. and uses the organization's funds to provide educational scholarships and opportunities to young riders. A number of scholarship winners have used their winnings to travel abroad and work with top European trainers. Other uses of the profits have included a winter weekend program of lectures, an annual FEI Pony Clinic with top trainers such as German Pony Chef d'Equipe Cornelia Enders and Debbie McDonald, weekly summer clinics for youth and a good number of free clinics for youth with such trainers as Michael Poulin, Susan Dutta, Ashley Holzer and Cesar Parra. Young riders interested in keeping tabs on available opportunities can check out the organization's web site at www.dressage4kids.com.

The causes promoted by Lendon are so highly regarded that she is able to acquire amazing awards from sponsors for youngsters who participate in her events, such as the Youth Dressage Festival. Examples of donated awards include saddles, training opportunities with U.S. and European instructors and trainers and even trips to major events, such as the annual dressage show in Aachen, Germany.

In addition to promoting all of her causes, Lendon is still active as a teacher and that's a role she's hoping to expand now that she no longer must devote time to running her boarding/training facility. "Competition is a means to and end," she said. "I used to compete to prove my horses' schooling was on the right track, but then as a professional there was so much pressure to compete with certain absolute goals and that took the fun out of it. After so many years of competing very heavily, the enjoyment was gone. Now I enjoy helping young riders develop their talents and grow," Lendon said.

Evidence of her success as a teacher is the fact that many of her current and previous students have developed quite a name for themselves and have launched successful careers as trainers and competitive riders. Among these are Courtney King, Liz Austin, Liz Hendrix, Chris Hickey, Jessica Rizzi, Brandi Rivera and Alison End.

Lendon's first highly successful student was Gwyneth McPherson, who was the youngest rider to win a national Championship (age 12) and the youngest North American Young Rider Champion (age 16). As with many of her students, Gwyneth grew up and gave back, not only as instructors and trainers, but she also has been the chef d'equipe for the Region 8 teams at the NAJYRC.

Despite all the years of hard work she has devoted to dressage, Lendon has never lost her enthusiasm and passion for promoting dressage as the way to improve both riders and horses. To this end, she devotes endless hours each day of her life.

Although she is a member of that club of international-caliber dressage riders, Lendon has never forgotten that the support base of the sport is the adult amateur and the sport's future is with the young riders. It is because of this belief that Lendon has sought to ensure that dressage touches the lives of more and more Americans.