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Our Students

Testimonials and Success Stories
Kate Baldino

Last September, I was named to the United States Young Rider Team that competed in the 2015 World Endurance Championships in Santo Domingo, Chile. For Young Riders, the FEI race distance of choice is 75 miles. My personal coach, the Endurance Chef d’Equipe, and the USEF Programs Director all agreed that I would be a much better rider for my horse if I learned how to properly balance and engage my horse’s body to optimize efficiency over the distance of a race. Which is how and why I met Danielle. In November, I started taking dressage lessons with her and Joliet. Danielle has focused on teaching me elements of dressage that I can utilize as tools in endurance races.

On February 6th, I completed my first endurance race since I began training with Danielle and found that the tools we have been working on in the ring transfer out onto the trail. I found that it was easier to keep Beau, a 6 year old off the track Arabian gelding, from inverting at a trot. Because of the duration of a competition, inversion can cause back soreness that can then result in elimination from competition. Danielle has also taught me a few “tricks” to help keep horses from spooking out from under me. I frequently compete inexperienced horses who specialize in craftiness as much as they specialize in endurance. Knowing that asking for a shoulder-in when I feel a horse start to tense up to redirect energy can prevent spooking has been a valuable tool because as much as I love baby horses, I don’t love baby horses flying sideways because a leaf moved. Often, spooking is a product of boredom, so asking a horse to engage their entire body or step underneath himself can prevent this.


Along with being a better rider for my horse, Danielle’s instruction has made me a better rider for myself. I have always been a tense rider and Danielle has focused on teaching me how to relax my body so I am a more efficient rider as well as more effective. After the race on February 6th, I was far less sore than I normally am because I was not holding tension through my upper body like I used to in order to maintain control, instead I was relaxing my arms and shoulders while using my seat and abs to half halt when necessary. Overall, I would consider cross-training across disciplines to be very impactful and I can’t wait to see how my riding has changed for the better with more time in the dressage arena!

- Kate Baldino


Kate Baldino Update!

On May 7 th , I competed in the Biltmore Challenge 55 mile horse race on an ex-dressage horse named Wiinds of Change. The first time I tried to ride him a few years ago, note the word “tried”, I was on his back for all of 4 minutes before he decided he wanted me off of him, and quickly. He has all the dressage “buttons” and I had no clue at the time that by pinching him with my knees and not giving through my hands and seat that I had completely overwhelmed and confused him. From that experience, I thought that dressage horses were hard to ride because they were so particular about the rider. As it turns out, in some ways, dressage horses are not in fact hard to ride, because as Danielle says, “Unless you want to change something, just be quiet”.


On race day, I did just that. I was quiet unless I needed to change things, and he and I had an amazing day competing on some of the toughest trails in the Southeast. He is everything an endurance horse should be: happy, energetic, brave, and tough. Through what I have learned with Danielle, I was able to be the rider he could understand and wanted to work with. I now appreciate his sensitivity that once scared me. It is way more pleasant to just engage your abs for a stride before heading down a hill than having an argument about collecting a bit! When I talked to the Chef d’equip for the Endurance portion of the US Equestrian Team after the race, he said that even in just watching me ride in and out of the vetting area, it was clear that I was more confident, balanced, and rode with a much quieter seat.

Dressage has made me a better endurance rider not only technically, but also mentally because I now know that everything sits on a spectrum and small adjustments are all that are required to get where you want yourself and the horse to be on that spectrum.

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