Follow or contact Karen: Dancing Horse Farm Eventing
I have struggled with this introduction because I have so much admiration for Karen. She is highly respected and valued in the local community. If you talk to her for more than a minute, you can tell that she is a deep well of knowledge. She is often seen volunteering – scribing and judging, teaching and more. She is a model for horse care and training. Watching her train and teach you can tell that she practices patience and humility, but also has the reassuring confidence of years of study and knowledge. Her Eventing 101 retreat (that gave attendees a basic knowledge of and how to get started in eventing) that she hosted years ago is remembered fondly by the “old guard”. She paints these amazing Pennsylvania Dutch Hex barn signs. Lets start with them because I find them so interesting:
Can you tell us about the barn signs you make?
“The region of NY where I grew up has pockets of Amish settlements and I’d always admired their barn “hex signs” in the countryside. They are a version of the Pennsylvania Dutch folk art, “fraktur.” I didn’t know of anyone who painted hexes in this area. (“Barn quilts” are a different and much newer artform, not getting their start until the early 2000s whereas Pennsylvania Dutch hexes have been around the US for over 100 years.) So, I decided to paint one myself. I painted that first hex about 10 years ago and have painted several as gifts, commissions, and for fundraisers. I like the geometric designs the best…there’s something therapeutic about designing and laying those out. There actually can be quite a bit of math involved, which makes it odd that I like it…I’ve got English degrees!”
Karen started in hunters at age 9 in Western New York. She moved to Eatonton on her 13th birthday and started riding with Nancy Buchen in Monticello. Nancy introduced her to dressage and eventing, and to quote Karen “I’ve never looked back”. Talk about dedication! She’s a fixture of the local community as she has been an active member of the local horse community for almost 40 years.
“I think the two things I like most about the horse community here are sort of at opposite ends of the spectrum. First, I like so much the long-term friendships I’ve built with the rest of the area’s “old guard.” But, I also love the transient nature of a good percentage of the local equestrians due to the University. There’s always a new crop coming through to get to know and ride and compete with. My husband and I have had a lot of “adopted” children over the years in the form of working college students. My husband actually gave one away at her wedding and we now have “grandchildren” all over the country!”
- What is something you learned about recently (horse related) that you found interesting? “I went to a working equitation clinic a few weeks ago and it was a real wakeup call. I took my green horse and realized I need to be much more deliberate in his training and widen the scope of what that training includes. It’s so hard when you ride/train for eventing since your goal is for your horse and you to master three different disciplines…it’s everything most of us can do to find the time to work on it all. But, I realized the skill sets needed for working equitation really test your horse’s basic obedience at another level. I think adding some similar exercises to my day-to-day work with him will do us nothing but good.”
- You’ve been eventing horses for a long time and successfully too! Do you mind sharing some trainers that you have ridden with that you learned a lot from or maybe that taught you a particularly valuable lesson? “I’ve learned something from everyone I’ve ever ridden with. (Maybe with a few that includes learning what good training isn’t.) Overall, though, I’ve been very lucky and my only real complaint is that I don’t always have the resources and time to ride with trainers as often as I’d like. Oconee’s own Karla Knisely is an outstanding dressage trainer and I have had the pleasure of working with her over the last few years. I rode over fences with Julie Zapapas in Aiken a good bit until she recently sold her farm and left the area. I’m just now getting to the point that jump lessons will be worthwhile with my greenie, but there seem to be quite a few great trainers nearby that will be able to help us.”
- Can you share the story of a trophy that you are particularly proud of with us? “It’s silly, because it wasn’t anything spectacular to an outsider. In 2015 my horse Way Jose and I went double-clear (even though we ended up only placing sixth) in the Training division at a USEA event in Tryon. It was particularly meaningful to me, however, since I’d been struggling almost continually for the two years before with an autoimmune condition. There were definitely days where it was all I could do to throw a flake of hay over a fence, let alone get a ride in. But, I was able to get back to it, due in no small part to my amazing equine partner. He was simply the best horse I could have asked for while I was going through that and I will be grateful forever.”
- If your horse could speak, what would be the first thing you ask them? “I don’t think I’d ask, I think I’d tell him…that he doesn’t have to lose his mind when he’s at a show and out of sight of his buddy. Seriously, separation anxiety is for me the biggest impediment to horse training… and it kind of hurts my feelings that he doesn’t get that upset when I leave!”
If you could train with any person (dead or alive), who would it be?
“Dressage…probably Reiner Klimke. Over fences there are too many to mention… I’ve read some Jimmy Wofford writing; I have to believe his clinics would be a good time!“
What is your favorite horse book or movie?
“I cannot read horse books or watch horse movies because most of them have sad elements…you would not believe how much I’ve NOT read or seen. I just can’t do it…Black Beauty, nope, War Horse…nope. No one warned me about Dances With Wolves and I was a wreck for weeks! I do like The Man from Snowy River…so beautifully filmed and no central animals get injured or die! Oh, and what eventer doesn’t love Sylvester? Running prelim at your first event? Goals!”
What is on your bucket list?
“A few years ago I got to ride several times while in Ireland, including a gallop on the beach. I think that with a horse of my own would be pretty cool. Oh, and finishing a prelim with my current horse, but at my age, maybe finishing a novice on my current horse is more realistic!“
Follow Karen’s journey with her newest project and OTTB, Luther, at The Luther Log. We hope you enjoyed learning about this local community member! If you have an idea of a local horse community member that we should feature, please send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. We also have opportunities to sponsor AAHC if you want to support what we are doing.
by Amanda McCoy
Learning to scribe is a great way to learn more about showing AND volunteer within the community.
Georgia Dressage and Combined Training Association (GDCTA) is hosting a Kudzu Clinic on April 24th where you can practice riding a dressage test and/or learn how to scribe. Visit our calendar to get the details.