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Dressage at Otomí Horse Show to feature young riders

By Mary Murrell

Competitor clearning jump at 2012 Otomi show

The Dressage at Otomí Horse Show on May 17 and 18 will provide many opportunities to see riders and their horses compete across increasingly difficult levels of tests. They will find out very quickly how the judges have evaluated them. Riders often have been practicing and competing for years, and there will be teenagers, young adults and even retirees participating in shows.

Dressage competition
Sun and Mon, May 17 and 18, 8am-4pm
Otomí Centro Hípico
Close to San Miguel Viejo
12 minutes from the center of San Miguel de Allende

Dressage is considered the highest form of horse training that develops the athletic abilities of the horse and skills of the rider to manage the horse. In formal competitions, the horse and rider must perform “tests” to show their ability to execute a series of required movements. Each movement in the test is assigned a score from zero to ten with zero being “not executed” and a ten being “excellent”. A competitor who receives all scores of six or 60 per cent overall would typically consider moving to the next level of difficulty in dressage. So each test is important, and it is not easy to get a high score.

At the upcoming show, some of the riders will be quite young and still working with teachers to learn the basics of dressage and how to work with a horse. They ride multiple times each week, take lessons and attend clinics with adult dressage riders and trainers. They learn to evaluate their own performance and work to perfect subtle cues to get a live animal weighing 1,000 pounds or more to move when, where and how they want.

So what is the perspective of these young, hardworking riders about their passion for dressage? How do they see the time and energy it takes to achieve both their own physical conditioning and the condition of their horse? What do they think about this equine sport, which is difficult to learn and also challenging to move to the next level of achievement? Fortunately, a number of young dressage riders from San Miguel who are participating in the Dressage at Otomí show shared their views of riding and their dreams for the future.

Ni-Ni Hind is 12 years old and has been riding for 3 ½ years. She started taking lessons after a friend of her mother suggested riding as an activity Ni Ni would probably enjoy. Ni Ni has many athletic interests, including gymnastics, acrobatics, ballet, modern dance and cheerleading. Her mother’s friend suggested she contact Nicole Zijlstra about riding lessons.

Nicole uses her own well-trained ponies and horses for children to take lessons at her teaching and training facility, Riding Club San Miguel ( in Cieneguita. Located close to town, the club is in a beautiful country environment. Ni Ni began to take lessons with Nicole and to make progress in her riding skills.

In May 2013, Ni-Ni competed in a FEM (Federación Ecuestre Mexicana) show in San Miguel in a class for new riders (under 15), where she did very well. Last March she won in her class at another FEM show in Guadalajara. She recalls the Guadalajara show as “nerve wracking for me because there were so many horses and riders. When I won first place, I was excited and surprised, and it made me want to do more shows.”

Ni Ni has her own horse, a mare named Banderilla. One of the important things about riding for her is to have a horse with a nice temperament, good energy and training. Ni Ni pointed out, “Anyone who is considering riding should know three important things: it is great exercise, lots of fun and you get to have an important new friend…your horse.”

Lola Richards is 11 years old and also plans to compete in the Otomí show on her new horse, Prince Caspian. Lola has competed in local schooling shows and is excited about her first FEM show at Otomí.

She is very involved in athletic activities, including acrobatics, riding lessons and trail riding. She has been riding horses since she was six and taking dressage lessons for two years. “At first I took jumping lessons, but I liked dressage better. The movements are so specific, and it is very challenging. I had to really work to do the dressage well,” she explained.

Lola will perform a pas de deux at the Otomí show and will be riding a school horse named Tess she has previously ridden in lessons. She will be accompanied by her fellow rider and good friend, 13-year-old Eliana Hill-Zeesman. Eliana will ride her Arabian mare named Fancy. The pas de deux is a performance for two riders and horses using dressage movements. The horses will move together, mirroring each other and keeping time with the music.

Eliana has studied dressage for three years with Lucinda Johnson and was interested in learning new things. Eliana remembers, “Lucinda suggested we work on something that would be a challenge and another riding goal for me.” Lucinda’s introduction of Lola and Eliana led to their becoming close friends, riding and practicing together on a regular basis.

Lola likes the pas de deux because the patterns are so pretty. “Lucinda designed the turns and curves, and Eliana and I have to keep our horses on the pattern and with their heads in the right position.” Lucinda is the owner of Granja Las Animas (, a horse ranch and riding facility 10 minutes outside of San Miguel in Cieneguita where she also breeds and trains horses.

When asked what they would say to someone who wants to try riding, the young riders all suggested trying it out by taking lessons. Ni Ni said, “I think it is good to take some lessons, and you will know if it’s for you. You can get to know the horse and how to work best with the one you ride. It’s very interesting.” Another young rider commented, “It is hard to know how involved you will become, but the longer you ride, the more you want to learn.”

So what are their goals for the future? Ni Ni wants to become an excellent dressage teacher and also ride in the Olympics. Lola plans to work on moving up the levels of dressage tests and to enter a lot more competitions. Eliana would like to continue her riding and someday have the chance to work with a very young horse and train it from the very beginning.

Don’t miss Ni Ni, Lola and Eliana at the Dressage at Otomí show. The classes for young riders will begin early and the pas de deux will be around noon. The show will be held at the Otomí Centro Hípico, which is located just past the front entrance to the Otomí residential development on the road to San Miguel Viejo. The show starts at 8am and ends at 4pm on May 17 and 18. Admission is free. There is parking available and refreshments for sale.

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