From Paris to Pony Club

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Trainer/Rider David Blake
David started riding horses in Paris, France at age four where his mother belonged to a riding club. Members had a fixed time to come each week and drew the name of the horse from a hat. David had sessions with group lessons in a menage followed by trail rides with some x-country type obstacles. They moved to the U.S. when Nancy Blake accepted a visiting professor position at the University of Illinois.

“I had a pony as a child so I was open to buying David his first pony when we came to America and he fell in love with the mare he rode at a Pony Club meeting. He was ten and had a clear rapport with that animal. She would come running to the fence when the school bus turned into our street to welcome him home,” recalls Nancy. “In France, it’s more difficult to afford horses. The job here at Illinois has worked out great for me and David got so involved in Pony Club that it seemed to be the place for us.”

David’s first love was show jumping, which he did until 14 years-old. He competed in the Pony Club National Show Jumping Championships in Lexington, KY. In 1993, he began riding dressage and competed in the Pony Club National Dressage Championships in Lexington, KY as well.

“My mother rode dressage, so I’m sure that’s how I first got interested. Dressage came naturally to me, more so than jumping. I was young when I made the switch. I started teaching clinics while I was in high school, I knew from that point on I wanted to be a professional.”

David obtained his gold medal with “Dante,” a horse his mother purchased at four years-old. “I started training him when I was about 12 and got my gold medal on him when I was 23 years. My lack of knowledge made the journey for both of us so difficult. I’m extremely proud that we reached that level together. The experience taught me so much with regards to the do’s and don’ts of dressage training. Dante is still doing the Grand Prix at 23 years of age with my mother today, in St. Joseph, Illinois... we must have done something right.”

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