By: Grant Goetcheus
The University of Findlay offers many club sports for students to participate in during the school year. The Intercollegiate Dressage Association (IDA) Dressage team is arguably the most elegant of club sports. The combination of horse and rider in the ring is something that is enchanting to watch.
Every team needs a coach, and the Dressage Coach is Nicole Thuengen who is originally from Germany. Thuengen is the English Equestrian Director and came to the University in 2014 after being recruited by former Equestrian Director, Jill Paxton.
“She called me up one day, asked me if I’d like to improve the program to give it more international approach and to make the place even better in the way of giving the students the best education they can have. So, that’s what I’m here for,” Thuegen said.
Thuegen has a long history with the sport of dressage, one that has helped the team at UF.
“So, my background, how I started dressage, I had a school master when I was 12 years old. My dad just bought the horse, didn’t know what the horse was doing. He could jump, he could do dressage up to a very high level. So that’s how I started,” she said.
Dressage is a unique discipline in the equestrian world, and many even see it as a dance.
“Dressage is the idea to get the horses, no matter what discipline they go, to give them first of all the proper gymnastics,” stated Thuengen.
Since dressage is a competition, it includes a fair and balanced scoring system. Team President Chloe Johnson explains how the team sport is scored.
“We have a group of four riders. It’s first level rider is upper level, low training, and then intro riders. We all run through a test, which is nationally recognized test through USCF, and we get to draw horses,” Johnson said. “We have 10 minutes on that horse before we get to go into the test. Once you go into the test, you are being judged on every movement that you have. Then, a couple minutes after everyone on your level is done you get the results. So, you get scored, or you get points off of how high your score is.”
Much preparation goes into ensuring the University’s English farm is ready to host a dressage competition.
“Well, so we start as soon as we possibly can. It takes a lot, it takes the entire team. We start on Friday night. Actually, we start earlier in the week so with practice for our show riders and our parade ride so we can show off the horses the day of the show,” explained Johnson. “Then the day of we get there at five, we feed the horses and then we start riding and braiding the horses and then the show starts at eight.”
Dressage is more than just what you see in the arena. The sport goes beyond just that to team members and riders that take part in it every day.
“Now dressage, going further, the discipline of dressage finally is defining the proper aids even more into the fact that the horse gets more and more strong, balance, using muscles properly, and because of that, working more and more on the horse’s condition, the horses are capable of doing movements people, I think, are very happy about,” concluded Thuengen.