Summer Event showcases mastery in dressage, jumping competitions

Posted: Thursday, July 24, 2003

This past weekend in Kenai the catch phrase of many equine enthusiasts was "Been there, jumped that."

It was all part of The Summer Event a horse show combining both dressage and jumping, put on through the combined efforts of Ridgeway Farms and Peninsula Dressage and Combined Training Association.

More than 20 riders participated in the event and came from as far away as Homer to the south and Chugiak to the north.

"It's a really fun event," said Liz Hoffman, a participant from Chug-iak down with her daughter, who also was competing. "There's not a lot of options for dressage in Alaska, so when there's an event we make the drive. It's fun to do together."

Dressage is the discipline of riding a horse in harmony to develop and enhance the animal's gait.

It tests the willingness of the horse to show obedience to the rider. The horse should be calm, confident and in perfect understanding of the rider.


Reidun Todd from Homer carefully executes each command given by caller Janice Hoberman during her run on the dressage course.

Photo by Joseph Robertia

"It looks easy, but it's not. It's very challenging," said Liz Hoffman. "But it's plain, old, good horsemanship. You learn how to ride accurately, which makes other riding fun."

Janice Todd, a participant from Homer, also attended the event with her daughter.

"When you do dressage, well, it's like driving a Ferrari," Todd said. "The horse goes where you think. With turns they're very responsive. But you have to have good communication skills with your horse to be good."

Good communication skills and a close bond with a horse don't just happen over night. It takes dedication a trait exemplified in abundance by the riders in the event.

"He's really good because he loves horses," said Christian Carrico, supporting his brother Nathan, a participant in the event. "He loves horses. He loves toy horses. He loves anything to do with horses."

Nathan Carrico was the only boy in the event but, according to his family, he doesn't let gender get in his way of performing.


Janelle Moerlein bounds over an obstacle during her run on the jump course.

Photo by Joseph Robertia

"It makes him a little nervous," said his mother, Robin Carrico. "But he's really very comfortable around the other riders because he's taken classes with many of them."

Being a close-knit group is a real plus for the participants, according to rider Kacey Cooper.

"The camaraderie is one of the best things about it," Cooper said. "Everyone watches each other, helps each other and encourages each other. We know we're all still learning and it's fun learning together."

The jumping portion of the event was equally successful to the dressage portion. Adding jumping to a riding program is believed by many to bring out a horse's full potential.

"We spent a lot of time putting this together and we have a lot of themed jumps," said Abby Ala, the owner of Ridgeway Farms and a participant in the event.

Some of the jump themes included colorful flower jumps, hay bales, rubber tire stacks, a mock water hazard and a patriotic jump complete with an American and an Alaska flag on each side.


Some riders believe the horse's eyes are windows to its soul.

Photo by Joseph Robertia

Reidun Todd said that although she enjoys dressage, she's also quite partial to the jumping.

"It's really fun to fly over the jumps," she said.

Participant Karen Berg did well in the jumping portion despite not practicing very often.

"I only jump once a year," she said. "But it's always a blast."

The success of the event was undoubtedly satisfying to Abby Ala and Janice Habermann. The two began planning the show more than a year ago and had hoped to put on an event that was fun and educational for all participants, regardless of age.

"Our goal is to encourage more event riders on the peninsula," Habermann said.

They have been promoting eventing for more than 15 years and Ala provides the facilities, which include a dressage arena, cross country course and two schooling arenas where lessons are taught.

In past years, they have been able to bring trainers and instructors up from the Lower 48. For the past three years the Summer Event judge has been Joanna Herrigstad from Olympia, Wash. She is renowned for her equine knowledge and has more than 50 years experience in riding, training and judging.

Ala said she is ecstatic that equine sports other than rodeo are blossoming on the peninsula. She says the sport has come a long way over the years.

"I've been into horses my whole life and when I was a girl you couldn't even find a trainer or get a lesson on the peninsula," she said.

Now, she said, many kids have the opportunity to learn about horses and can use that knowledge to compete both in Alaska and in the Lower 48.

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