When I first met Charlotte Bayley-Schindelholz, I was in Lake Erie College’s equestrian program in northeast Ohio. I had grown up in the Western pleasure world and had ridden some saddleseat and done some jumping, but had always believed that dressage was boring and repetitious up until that point. I will never forget the first time I pulled into Charlotte’s beautiful Maple Star Farm in Chardon, Ohio. The paddocks and barn were meticulously maintained and the stone façade of the barn, with its open doors was a welcoming sight. The horse’s coats were gleaming in the late fall sun. The landscape painted a picture-perfect scene with a backdrop of golden and red leaves on the trees, which were holding on for the last few weeks of warmth and sunshine in northeast Ohio. I was greeted with a hearty “Hello!” as I entered the impeccably kept barn aisle. Charlotte’s warm welcome was a bit unexpected, and this was the first of many moments in which she would help to dispel my preconceived notions of a snooty dressage queen.
Charlotte is a well-known and respected horsewoman in Ohio and throughout the country. Her enthusiasm, experience, keen eye and warm heart are all characteristics that have allowed her to excel within the equine industry for decades. Riders should not expect to experience any stuffiness or debutante airs with Charlotte or within her stables. All of her horses, even her Grand Prix mounts, enjoy regular turnout in beautiful pastures and personalized attention from Charlotte herself.
As a lifelong horse lover, I had never considered dressage as a potential discipline within my riding repertoire. I had always perceived it to be stuffy and reserved only for the elite. As I sat and watched Charlotte ride her magnificent Firecracker, a Grand Prix Thoroughbred, I was wowed by the quietness of the communication between horse and rider and the effortless movements as they danced together in the outdoor ring. I was in awe of the fact that she was riding a Thoroughbred, but somehow made him transform into a graceful showcase of art. It was at that moment that I developed a passion for the art of dressage. I was enthralled when she later told me how she also started in the Western and saddleseat disciplines. It gave me hope that it was not too late for me to also learn about the art of perfection that we call dressage.
What makes Charlotte special is the fact that she can quickly assess a rider’s aptitude and match it with a horse’s talent. This has led her to many successful client-and-horse pairings and relationships. However, what truly sets Charlotte apart is her keen ability to understand what motivates a rider, and she develops them to their full potential through encouragement along with challenging but classical exercises. It’s not uncommon for me to have several “lightbulb” moments in each lesson. She has an uncanny ability to communicate complex ideas to the rider in simple terms at the correct time. Her students never leave a lesson frustrated. She always ensures that a rider achieves success each ride, even if success is as simple as riding a straight line or as complex as tempi changes.
Charlotte may not be aware of the fact that she started me on my journey toward dressage, but I’m so grateful each and every day for her impact on my life. I know that she has catapulted the careers of many other bright, young riders and has helped produce as many as 25 dressage riders who then went on to become professionals themselves. Charlotte is a genuine horsewoman, mentor and friend. She never hesitates to connect you with other professionals within the industry or lend a helping hand; she will always give her honest opinion while delicately addressing more difficult topics, if necessary. She takes the utmost pride in her animals. I often joke that I’d like to come back in my next life as one of Charlotte’s dogs or horses—they are truly cared for and loved.
Charlotte is truly the epitome of humility, skill, grace and stewardship within the dressage world. She lives the life lessons that she teaches and she always emulates joy, humor and a devout dedication to her horses, clients and this sport called dressage.