AADA Interviews Lisa K Schmidt
Interview and written by Mary Moon
Lisa K. Schmidt founded Adult Amateur Dressage Access in 2018 to support Adult Amateur dressage riders with information, recognition for their achievements, and an online community. Lisa spoke with AADA about her transition from an Adult Amateur to a professional trainer and USEF-licensed dressage judge. She also shared her thoughts about balancing her personal life with her commitments to dressage, advice about choosing a trainer, and her choices for guests and menu at a dinner party to dream about!
AADA: What were you doing before you became a horse trainer and dressage judge?
In college, I was an International Business Marketing Major. From there, I took a job in Manhattan at the American Society of Composers Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) as a Membership Representative. ASCAP protects the musical copyrights of writers and composers by monitoring public performances of their music. That job was part sales and part marketing of ASCAP to potential clients and to the entire music industry.
AADA: What were some key steps in your path from marketing to training and judging?
After leaving ASCAP, I started my own music management company where I guided careers of touring and recording artists. Throughout this time in the music industry, I rode my own horses in dressage as an amateur up to Grand Prix.
I started taking lessons with a very prominent, Olympic dressage medalist who based herself in Riverdale, NY. After a few months, she asked me to join her team and teach and ride at her facility. At that time, the music business was changing and I felt it was time to reinvent myself. I then became a pro and focused on teaching riders and training horses.
An odd twist of fate brought me to my career as a dressage judge. There was a last minute opening in the USDF L Education Program in New Jersey. I completed the L Program and passed the final exam with distinction. This gave me the preparation and credentials to officiate at unrecognized schooling shows, and enter the USEF ‘r’ Judge Training Program. I also took the USDF Instructor Trainer certification workshops. I needed to make a decision which path to pursue.
One of my best friends also passed the ‘L’ exam, and we made a pact to go through as far as we could through each USEF judging level (‘r’, ‘R’, and ‘S’). The race was on to see who would get to their S license first! Within months of each other, we both got our licenses.
Currently, I hold an ‘S’ license, which is the highest designation for dressage judges in the United States, and I judge tests from Intro Level through Grand Prix at USEF-recognized national dressage shows across the US. I decided, however, to go further and join the L Program faculty to teach upcoming judges. I applied, apprenticed, and became a faculty member in 2018; I am proud of this very distinguished accomplishment!
One of my goals was to judge the US National Dressage Finals, which I will do this later year. I hope also to be asked to judge the US Young Horse Championships soon. As a trainer and teacher, I plan to coach my first student to achieve her USDF Gold Medal this year. I have taught this young woman since she was 10 years old. Achieving her Gold Medal will be a big celebration for both of us! As a rider, I plan to continue showing my own horse, Qrown Prince. I started training Prince when he was only 3 years old, and now he is schooling Grand Prix. But the decision is his as to when he feels confident enough to compete at the Grand Prix level.
AADA: How did you balance your personal life with your careers?
I am so lucky to have married the man with whom I have spent the last 30+ years of my life. He has been very tolerant of my horse life from our very first date. When my teaching and especially my judging keep me away from home, he copes with two rambunctious dachshunds, and we always have lots to talk about when I am home. I am a gourmet cook, so I unwind by cooking and enjoying a delicious meal with my husband. I don’t know how I balance everything! If I thought about it I probably couldn’t do it. I also have a very elderly but stubbornly vibrant Mother. Her health has many ups and downs at age 98 years, and this is my biggest juggling act.
AADA: What are some of your likes and dislikes about your present career as a judge and trainer?
I love to judge. I love to watch how horses move and how wonderful riders communicate with these graceful, intuitive animals.However, I dislike seeing abuse in the show ring. Often riders don’t seem to know that seesawing the bit on the horse’s mouth or their banging leg or bouncing seat is abusive to their horse. I often wonder why trainers allow this behavior in public, never mind at home.I also dislike sleeping on the floor of an airport because a flight was canceled or delayed when I travel to judge.I love to teach. I love to help riders find “aha” moments. But in teaching, I can feel frustrated when I tell a student about the same aid or concept in every lesson for months, and that student argues with me and says that he or she is “trying.” Trying, to me, means not accomplishing…anything.
AADA: Do you have a favorite dressage test to ride? To judge?
LISA: My favorite test to judge is the Grand Prix. I don’t have a favorite test to ride. It really depends on the horse.
AADA: As a judge, do you have a favorite collective mark? A favorite comment?
My favorite collective mark(s) are the rider scores. Just because someone has a beautiful position doesn’t mean they are effective and vice a versa. I don’t have a favorite comment. I try to mix them up and be creative.
AADA: If you could judge at any show, anywhere in the world, what would be your #1 choice?
Well, even though, I don’t have my FEI license, I can dream about judging the World Young Horse Championships.
AADA: If you could ride any horse (alive or deceased), who would you choose?
One of my favorite horses competing right now is Isabelle Werth’s Weihegold. I wouldn’t mind a sit on her, but I do judge some horses around the country that I think to myself, “Hmmm that horse would be fun to ride.”
AADA: How did you come up with the idea and concept for AADA?
When I was on the USDF Executive Board from 2010 to 2016, the Board often heard complaints from Adult Amateurs that they were never given enough attention or credit. USDF tries to be all things to all aspects of the dressage world, and that is a big world to cover. So, I thought that when I stepped down from the Board, I would try to help out the AA’s by supplying information, highlighting their achievements, and providing a community online and on social media.
AADA: Do you have any suggestions for AADA members about how they can learn more about dressage? Develop their riding and horse care skills?
I recommend to AA’s that they do their research when looking for a trainer. Learn about their students who have had success at the level where you want to also achieve success. Some riders with many wins and accolades in the show ring can’t teach well, while there are some great teachers who are not great riders. Go to clinics as an auditor before taking a lesson with that trainer. Ask yourself, does this clinician teach with a clear manner of instruction that resonates with you? Sometimes, having a certain reputation does not mean that a clinician is good match for you.
When you find a trainer who you click with, stick with them for at least a year. Don’t bounce around from one trainer to another because you and your horse may get confused. If a trainer’s program doesn’t work for you, do more research before moving on to a different trainer. And please, be honest with your trainer when things are not working out. Most of all, thank your trainer after every lesson if you think he/she is helping you progress even an inch. Dressage is a difficult sport.
AADA: If you could have dinner with any three people (alive or deceased), who would they be and what would be on the menu?
What a dinner party I could have! I think Carl Hester would be a lot of fun and have great stories. If Mick Jagger is recovered from his heart surgery, I think he and Carl would hit it off well as fellow Brits. Mick has been known to sit on a horse once in a while. After reading Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography, I truly learned how articulate he is, but he is shy. So, I would have to invite him, his wife Patty and his jumper daughter, Jessica, and it would be a blast talking about music and horses!
I would cook a baked marinated garlic cilantro chicken breast with a peach lime chutney, basil pine nut mashed potatoes, and an arugula, cucumber, and blueberry salad with a tahini dressing. For dessert, I would serve a scoop of lemon sorbet topped with a slice of peach drizzled with a teaspoon of Grand Marnier.
Mary Moon is an Adult Amateur dressage rider in the Philadelphia area where she balances her career as a scientist, writer, and editor with volunteering as a dressage scribe and training her horse, Junior. She completed Part 1 of the L Education Program and is working to obtain scores at Second and Third Levels in order to qualify to take Part 2 of the L Program. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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