Dressage Today Podcast: Hosting the World’s Top Dressage Clinicians with the New England Dressage Association

Listen now to Episode 5!

In this episode of the Dressage Today Podcast, Phyllis LeBlanc and Angela Prenosil of the New England Dressage Association joined us for a chat. During this conversation that took place at NEDA’s 2019 Symposium with Dorothee Schneider, we learned more about what it’s like to host large-scale symposia with the world’s best dressage riders and trainers. Hear tales from these longtime NEDA members about welcoming the likes of Ingrid Klimke, Carl Hester and Charlotte Dujardin right into their own backyard! You’ll learn a lot and laugh a little, too.


[00:00:00] Jennifer: [00:00:00] Hello, I’m Jennifer Malachi. One of your hosts of the dressage today podcast. an exciting part of our job at dressage today is getting the opportunity to witness training from some of the world’s top experts. The new England dressage association also known as NEDA is the largest single chapter group member organization of the United States dressage Federation.

Each year. They give us a chance in the fall to witness some of these. Wonderful experts with a mission to promote and support the sport of dressage to the equestrian community. NEDA hosts, an annual symposium. That is always a top educational event of the season. Since 1974, NEDA has welcomed top clinicians from around the world, bringing their teaching philosophies and training techniques to riders and auditors in the Northeast region. And beyond some auditors have come from as far as Ireland to attend a [00:01:00] symposium. Past experts include us Olympian Steffen Peters. Finland’s Kyra Kyrkland, Germany’s Ingrid Klimke and great Britain’s. Carl Hester and Charlotte Dujardan this year. NEDA brings Germany’s two-time Olympian, Dorothy Schneider to the host location of Mount Holyoke college equestrian center in Massachusetts.

We had a chance to sit down with NEDA’s current president, Phyllis LeBlanc and NEDA’s tip of the hat newsletter, editor and education committee member, Angela Prentice Hill to discuss the history of NEDA and the success behind the annual symposium. With more than 20 years of NEDA knowledge between these two women, we get a good look at what it takes to host clinicians of this caliber year after year and hear some of the most memorable moments they’ve experienced.

We hope you enjoy.

Hey there, I’m Jennifer Malachi

Lindsey: [00:01:52] and I’m Lindsay Paulson.

Jennifer: [00:01:53] We’re the hosts of the dressage today podcast, where you can find us talking about anything and everything. Dressage [00:02:00] related.

Lindsey: [00:02:01] Our conversations span the world of dressage from leading riders to local level dressage heroes,

Jennifer: [00:02:07] we’re talking training advice horse care tips and stories to inspire your own dressage journey

Lindsey: [00:02:13] tune in, then tack up.

Jennifer: [00:02:21] This is Jennifer Malachi with dressage today. I’m here with Phyllis LeBlanc, NEDA’s president and Angela Prentice sill who handles NEDA’s newsletter. She’s the newsletter editor, and also sits on the education committee. Ladies, thank you for joining me today. Thought maybe we could get started. Just if you can each tell me a little bit about your background and your equestrian and background and how you got started with NEDA. Phyllis, we’ll start with you.

Phyllis: [00:02:49] Well, thank you for having me. I’ve ridden dressage for close to 40 years now. Wouldn’t you think I’d be a little better at it by now? But I competed my last horse, Kyron through fourth [00:03:00] level, and I got halfway to my silver medal before I retired him six years ago. I took a break, and I rode a lovely, retired dressage horse out on the trails for several years. And I’m excited to have just started to take some dressage lessons again, but I’m a little worried because I’ve never been very good at limiting my immersion once I get started in dressage. So, it’s a scary path professionally I own Harbor suites, which is in new England based. Gift chocolate company.

When I was in grad school, I wrote a business plan and created dark horse chocolate and dark horse chocolates has been a wonderful way to combine my passion for horses with my profession. We’re a nationally recognized brand and it still gives me a thrill. When I see the top riders in the country on our customer list.

Jennifer: [00:03:49] Yeah, that’s really exciting. And your chocolates are fantastic. We’ve all indulged in them and they’re fantastic. How did you get involved with NEDA?

Phyllis: [00:03:59] Well, that’s an [00:04:00] interesting story. I was I was initially a sponsor with my company, dark horse chocolates. And there was a problem with my sponsorship one year and I called the folks at NIDA and I said, this is, this has been challenging. How can we do it better? And they said, well, maybe you’d like to help us with sponsorship. And they reeled me in before I knew it. I was, Oh, Angela was a part of that too. She was one of the people that reeled me in, but I was Then heading sponsorship and next I became VP of services. And for the last three years I’ve been the president of NEDA. So, it’s been a wonderful experience and a great group of folks to work with.

Jennifer: [00:04:44] How many years has that been?

Phyllis: [00:04:46] 15 years now. So, it’s been quite a stretch.

Jennifer: [00:04:50] That’s fantastic. Angela, can you tell us a little bit about your equestrian background and then how you got started with NEDA?

Angela: [00:04:57] Sure, Jennifer my equestrian [00:05:00] background I’ve also been riding for approximately 40 years and I started as soon as I could drive myself to lessons and I’ve never looked back, I’ve owned and leased quite a few horses through the year, years, and finally had. The pleasure to have one from scratch. My latest I got her when she was eight months old, and I’ve enjoyed starting and training her as my all-around good partner. Her name is Dina. She’s a seven-year-old Oldenburg mare and we enjoy dressage training with weekly lessons and monthly clinics. I also do trail riding natural horsemanship with her, and I even took a stab at cow cutting with my dressage horse this summer. So that was kind of fun.

And as far as NEDA, I’ve been a member since around 1990. And I started to get involved with education when NEDA hosted the USDF instructor certification and the workshops, I was the demo rider coordinator. And then eventually I became the education coordinator for NEDA in [00:06:00] 2008.

And I’ve since switched over to the editor of NEDA’s tip of the hat newsletter. And I’ve been doing that since 2015.

Jennifer: [00:06:08] You both have so much background and knowledge with NEDA. It’s a lot of years. That’s fantastic with your youngster. I’m just curious. Did you say this was the first time that you’ve started a baby, and this was your first?

Angela: [00:06:22] Yeah, it’s the first time I’ve had one right from the start. I’ve always had older horses and I always wanted to do, and I said, I better do it now before I get too old. So I figure I’ll be 60 by the time my horse is 10. So I kind of went, yeah. Went from there and it was my last ditch effort to try it. So it’s been going really well. It’s been a really easy horse, so I’ve been happy.

Jennifer: [00:06:43] That’s exciting. That sounds like a lot of fun. So NEDA has been hosting the annual symposium. for I guess, Phyllis, if you want to let me know how many years the symposium, you may have said this, but how many years it’s been going on and there used to be [00:07:00] two symposiums a year. Correct. And now it’s down to just the one. If you could tell us a little bit about that.

Phyllis: [00:07:06] Sure we have records going back. As far as 1974, hosting Colonel director of the national riding school of Stockholm, Sweden, who came out for two weeks at a time. And that lasted for 10 years and the symposium has have evolved since then into. We were doing two a year, as you said in the spring and the fall, and found, just found it challenging to continue to get good clinicians and the attendance at two symposia. So we decided to go down to just one and make it the featured event of the educational year, which is what we’ve been doing for the last several years.

Jennifer: [00:07:52] And Angela you’ve been involved right from the start, correct? With the symposiums?

Angela: [00:07:58] Not exactly. [00:08:00] I’ve been doing them since probably early two thousands. So the last, I don’t know. I did it for about 10 or 15 years was involved in one way or the other. And they just keep getting passed on to the next group of people. But we’ve had a bunch of great people, which I’m sure we can mention later on.

Jennifer: [00:08:19] it’s quite an achievement for an equestrian organization. A GMO to be hosting an event of this caliber for so many years. I mean, that’s really. Pretty impressive. What’s the secret behind NEDA’s success?

Angela: [00:08:37] I’ll take this one. I think incredibly dedicated volunteers and board members who every year go above and beyond in making our educational events top notch, also changing with the times and the demands of the equestrian community and our members. We’re dedicated to bringing in clinicians that haven’t been available to our area. And we encourage the other region eight GMOs to host events on a [00:09:00] smaller scale to, to fill the gaps in throughout the years. We do that with our partners in education program.

Jennifer: [00:09:07] Phyllis, did you want to add anything to that?

Phyllis: [00:09:09] No, no. Angela did it. Yeah. Angela has a long history with education and has done a brilliant job. So I don’t think there’s anything that I can add to her experience.

Jennifer: [00:09:20] That’s excellent. The, some of the more notable, memorable clinicians and experts that NEDA has hosted over the years, can you tell us, can you both share with us a little bit about that?

Angela: [00:09:30] There’s a whole bunch and I’ve, I’m sure I’ve forgotten some, but just off the top of my head Ingrid Klimke, Klaus Balkenhol came with Dr. Kyra Kyrkland. It took us forever to get Kara, I think seven years we tried. And so we finally got her and we were so excited. Carl Hester he was another one that we wanted even before he was like, Do you know, a household name. That worked out great. Charlotte Dujardan. Last year. We’ve had Steffen Peters with Janet Foy we’ve also had him again with his wife, [00:10:00] Shannon, which was a really, really fun mix. Ula Salzgeber, Anky van Grunsven, Debbie McDonald. Ashley Holzer came with Stephen Clark, Hubertus Schmidt and Robert Dover. Just to mention a few,

Jennifer: [00:10:14] that’s an incredible list. And you have attended. All of these, you’re shaking your head. Yes. And that is just the knowledge that you have gained from all of those. This is just I’m sure. Pretty fantastic. What would you say, and maybe this just goes hand in hand with how you folks have organized your symposiums with the incredible volunteers, but how do you get such accomplished experts here year after year? That’s that in itself I imagine is quite a task.

Phyllis: [00:10:42] It is very challenging, but I think it’s a lot, like a lot of things in business. There’s a network in the equestrian industry, just like every other industry, whether it’s judges, trainers, vendors, or students word travels. And if you treat people well and fairly, [00:11:00] they tell others in their network.

So in addition, NEDA has always strived, not. To bring in just the biggest names, but trainers who are classical and correct in their training in order to provide the very best in education for our membership in the dressage community. So I think it’s a lot of the network and the people spreading the word that this is a good organization to work with.

Jennifer: [00:11:25] I think that, in anything we do is so important when we have something that, people are recognized as being top-notch and also correct, in this sport that’s so important. And that’s why dressage today has always enjoyed being aligned with you folks because it’s, that’s how we feel as well.

So this weekend, you have Dorothy Schneider the German Olympian, who, and this is her first time teaching in the States. Correct. Yeah. How did that come about and how excited are you both for that?

Phyllis: [00:11:56] We are absolutely thrilled to have Dorothy here. She [00:12:00] has a long history of making her own champion horses. So has the ability to share her training expertise with our members at every level of riding. She also operates a huge breeding establishment. So there’s a real depth of knowledge of her dressage background and training that she can share with everyone. And she’s been nipping at the heels of Isabel Werth for quite some time. And Isabelle has long been regarded as the top rider in the world. And just this summer, Dorothy claimed the gold medal at the German championships. Triumphing over Isabelle. And their rivalry is really becoming legendary in the sport as evidenced by their showstopping grand Prix freestyle. That was at the recent CDI five-star in Aachen where Werth edged out Dorothy, by just 2%. And they both scored over 80%. [00:13:00] And I just learned at lunch that this is only one of two symposium clinics that. Dorothy is doing this year. The other one is in France. So we’re very fortunate to have her. She has such a heavy competition schedule that she really doesn’t have time to do a lot of these. So it’s truly an honor to have her with us.

Jennifer: [00:13:22] That’s really exciting for her to take the time to come here, like you said, and just to have two in a year’s time, and we’re honored as well to be here and be able to experience this. This is really exciting. And you may have touched upon this a little bit, but just stepping back what has changed from the first symposium that was hosted by NEDA to today? What are some of the biggest changes?

Phyllis: [00:13:46] The biggest change that we’ve seen is access to education. Dressage has grown so much in popularity since the early days of NEDA, and it’s now much more common for trainers in the US to bring over [00:14:00] respected clinicians from Europe and they’re giving more people access to education at a more local level.

Technology has also had a huge impact on. Education and now people can sit at home and watch training online as you well know. I think they’re very different experiences, but if you’re not able to attend a symposium like this, it’s a wonderful opportunity to be able to get education in your own time at your own pace. So it’s been a real evolution in the training world in dressage.

Jennifer: [00:14:38] Just wrapping things up. There have to be some really wonderful stories over all of these years with these wonderful people that you have hosted and had the, a wonderful experience to watch them. Can you both share some of your favorite memories or some funny times that have happened in the past?

Phyllis: [00:14:58] I’ll take this [00:15:00] first because Angela has the best stories. But we had a great time when Ingrid and or visiting from Germany, and they spent a couple of extra days touring the area and they actually came to visit my chocolate factory and they had envisioned Germany excels in manufacturing.

And I think they were thinking they were going to visit, the Mercedes-Benz factory or something. And here where this little brick building with people hand-making chocolate and they just loved it. They had such a good time and we sent an awful lot of chocolate back to Germany. So it was really fun.

Angela: [00:15:39] I also have a story about Ingrid Klimke and Dr. Ina Gosmeier shopping in North Hampton, which is a local town near where we are today. We had so much fun blingy ended up going home with a nice pair of blingy jeans. And we had so many laughs I have to say she was my personal favorite clinician for many reasons.

She just gave her [00:16:00] all to the riders and the auditors and was so enthusiastic and everything from her come straight from her heart with integrity. You can just see it. And it’s really no wonder she’s been. Extremely successful in both eventing and at the Olympic level. Another good one is when Anky van Grunsven was here in 2004. We had planned to launch Anky’s new equestrian clothing line. And we had models all lined up and a fashion show planned for the weekend, but US customs wouldn’t let her boxes of clothes through. So they were stuck in Boston and we were all panicking and she was having a fit. We were all like, what are we going to do?

And someone on the crew. And I wish I could remember who that person was, had a connection to Ann Romney who was at the time, the governor of Massachusetts. Mitt Romney’s lovely wife and she’s a follow dressage enthusiast. So she was called and we explained our situation and low him lo and behold, the clothes were released from costumes and the show went on. It [00:17:00] was really cool.

Jennifer: [00:17:02] Wow. That’s an incredible story. It’s good. It’s good to know people in high places, dressage people and politicians sometimes, Thank you both so much for taking the time to sit with us today and for, letting us be a part of this this weekend, which is going to be phenomenal.

And any of the symposiums we’ve attended have been great. So we’re looking forward to this weekend as well.

Phyllis: [00:17:24] Thank you so much for joining us. We really appreciate all your support. You’re an important part of the dressage community, and it’s great that we can have you here with us.

Angela: [00:17:33] Thank you very much.

Jennifer: [00:17:37] If you want to learn more tips for auditing clinics or read more articles from NEDA symposia in the past, please visit dressage You can also watch the videos from NEDA symposium with Dorothy at dressage today’s on demand video subscription site dressage today.

Thanks for [00:18:00] listening to the dressage today podcast, you can learn more from dressage today and read in-depth training or you can visit our new on-demand video site dressage today. and for daily dressage training tips and advice. Give us a follow on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest happy riding

the dressage today. Podcast is a production of the equine podcast network. An entity of active interests media and the equine network.






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