Lynn Palm has been a professional horsewoman for 30 years with two books and 17 videotapes on training the Western and English rider and horse. It’s hard to find an equestrian magazine without a Lynn Palm how-to or training article inside. But this versatile horsewoman didn’t come from a horsey family.
Growing up in Sarasota, Fla., home of the Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey Circus, she lived just down the street from Bobbi Steele, a woman who trained horses and performed in the circus. “I was nuts about horses,” says Palm who rode her bike to the Steele home to watch the riding. Steele had learned from the respected dressage and circus trainer Capt. William Heyer, also living in Sarasota. After retiring, Steele continued to perform exhibitions at some of the biggest horse shows in the country.
Eventually Palm became Steele’s protege. “She never charged me any money for riding lessons,” remembers Palm, “which was a good thing since my parents couldn’t afford it. Bobbi loved all horses, all breeds. She taught me about a horse’s suitability to a certain task and to be open to all breeds and what you can do with them. Bobbi never competed, but she was quite the perfectionist with her exhibitions.”
Palm rode for six years with Steele before she was allowed to go out and compete or do exhibitions. “This was in the late 1960s, and I was very successful competing. I went to the Southeastern regional championships and won at Fourth Level.” But, at the time, dressage was less exciting than other disciplines, so Palm gravitated to the Quarter Horse world. She became a professional in 1970 but always used her dressage training to ride her Quarter Horses.
Eventually, she became an AQHA judge and a member of both the AQHA Show and Contest and Professional Horseman Committees. However, her most memorable moments are the bridleless exhibitions she began to do with her Quarter Horse, Rugged Lark–a two-time AQHA World Superhorse–after he retired from competition. “It was really a very special time in my life because it reminded me of Bobbi,” says Palm, who included two-tempi changes and pirouettes in her routine. “I went to so many wonderful places and got opportunities to be around the best riders in the world, from the World Cup in Tampa to Madison Square Garden in New York City and Washington International Horse Show. At the Olympics in 1996, we did two exhibitions to represent the American Quarter Horse. I did the exhibitions not only for the breed but because I was able to show the qualities I’d learned from my dressage training that put it all together.”
Palm says that she was able to ride bridleless because Steele emphasized the importance of riding with the seat and legs. Also, Rugged Lark was a special individual who loved to perform. “You just know and can feel that in a horse,” says Palm. “He was always that way. He just loved it. So instead of him being worried or insecure of a new surrounding, he’d always trust me because he always loved what he was doing.”
Read more about Lynn Palm, the role of Quarter Horses in dressage and exercises to establish trust in the October 2002 issue of Dressage Today magazine.