caitlyn3As a writer it’s flattering to be asked to write an article or a piece to help promote a horse show, horse event or horse related charity.  It’s especially exciting when the show is located here in the Atlanta area and will attract top riders as it’s the first CDI3* to be held in Georgia.  As much as I would like to say I penned the following piece for the GDCTA newsletter, I instead made the brilliant decision to delegate it to one of my young riders that is also an aspiring writer, Caitlyn Bennett!!!

In addition to being a dedicated eventer Caitlyn has written several pieces for the GDCTA newsletter and is also a talented fiction writer.  She gets inspiration from her adventures with her self started Mustang,  Hocus Pocus, and the rest of the gang of barn rats at North Atlanta Equestrian Center in Cartersville, Georgia.

Much thanks to Caitlyn for helping me meet a deadline and writing an article that is as much fun as she is!!  If any of my other students, or any other readers, young or otherwise would like to submit a horse related writing of any genre to be considered for my blog please feel free to contact me at

Caitlyn and Hocus Pocus will be at the show April 7-10 with many other students from Tango Dressage so come on out and meet us and enjoy some top riding- and some of the other Olympic hopefuls too!!!

Official show information can be reached here!


Caitlyn and Hocus

The Following was written for the GDCTA by Caitlyn Bennett, 13 years old:


Have you ever wondered what it would be like to compete on the same grounds at the same time as Olympic hopefuls? Well, here’s your opportunity. The Greater Atlanta Dressage Southern (GADS) horse show is held the same weekend as the prestigious CDI3*, the last qualifier for the 2016 Summer Olympics.


The CDI3* will take place April 7-10 at the Georgia International Horse Park in Conyers, with the GADS show starting on the 8th and ending the 10th. GADS provides a great opportunity for riders of all levels to be able compete, watch Olympic hopefuls, and meet the “best of the best,” who will possibly represent our country in Rio this summer.


Having the CDI3* at the park that Atlanta built for the 1996 Olympics and being where those athletes competed is special in itself, but it is a really big deal because this is the first time the event will be held in Georgia. Even better, they chose GDCTA to host it!


Why is it so important that you go? By participating in GADS I and II ( both USDF recognized dressage shows) and by being a spectator or competitor for the CDI3*, you are part of history in the making when GDCTA brings CDI3* to the Peach State.


The CDI3* is free to watch. The GADS shows will open on February 15, 2016 with a closing date of March 16th. Slots will fill up fast, so what are you waiting for?  Join all of your GDCTA a friends and get yourself and your mount registered for GADS I and II and come watch and/or compete in the CDI3* and show your love for U.S. Dressage in Georgia.


Besides, who wouldn’t want to take advantage of putting on your best show clothes and posing next to your horse as you prepare to participate in GADS I and II, and then posting something like this to your social media channel of choice: “We’ve made it to the Olympic qualifiers in Atlanta.  Wish you were here!”

The Passing of a King

November 28, 2014

Tears flow as I write a tribute that I know can never measure up to the great horse King owned by my dear friend Kim Abernathy. King passed away last week at the age of 25.

I’ve started and then erased this post many times now as the words I put down just feel flat compared to the respect I sincerely have for a horse that has touched and changed the lives of so many people.

I’ll try instead with an open letter to King.himself.

Dear King,

I hope wherever you are you are as happy as you have made so many people while you were here with us. Kim’s facebook page is full of posts with pictures of you from people that have loved you and learned from you for so many years. You were a loyal friend to Kim and helped her become the amazing teacher she is today. You gave Lauren your all and gave her the foundation to be the beautiful rider and trainer that she has become. As you grew older you patiently and lovingly helped countless kids learn not only to ride but how to love and respect animals in a way that people can’t teach them. Please know that you were truly a King among horses and everyone that had the pleasure to have known you is richer for it. Rest peacefully my friend.

Much love- Suzanne


Promise this is the last previous dressage blog I will run- please feel free to comment on any of the posts! that’s my favorite part- generally the comments are better than my posts!

Tango Dressage Blog

Reading the responses and postings from adult amateur riders compels me to address a common misunderstanding between instructor and instructee.  In a fellow blogger’s comment section I referenced the different psyches involved with teaching teenagers and teaching adults. (see comments)  This generated some discussion on why adults may have specific concerns.  Alas,  I too am an adult and have indeed suffered injuries from riding.  I however, seem to believe more in some adults than they believe in themselves.  This is usually illustrated when we first meet and are setting long-term goals.  Almost invariably if I ask a teenager what they would like to accomplish they say “I want to ride in the Olympics.”  Lofty goals indeed.  We then discuss what kind of dedication is involved in reaching that kind of commitment.  When I ask an adult with seemingly the same ambition and enthusiasm the identical question I usually get a somewhat…

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Sweep your Cares Away….

August 18, 2014

this was one of my more popular posts- still seems to apply!

Tango Dressage Blog

The trends in horse care have changed considerably over the past few decades. For many, a shift has been made from the backyard barn to the bigger boarding facilities. With economic dips forcing job constraints on precious horsey time, more people are inclined to pay a facility to give their horse the day-to-day care they once provided themselves.

On a daily basis I am fortunate enough to travel to many such facilities. Enough praise cannot be heaped on the generous souls who commit their life to caring for horses. It is a twenty-four hour a day job and is often underappreciated.

When I hear a fussy boarder complain about trivial matters I ask them the amount of board they pay per month. I then divide that number by thirty, and figure a per day price for their horse board. In our area it usually runs fifteen to twenty dollars per…

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This is an old one I posted years ago but I believe it still holds true- Feel free to comment on blog- I can take it!

Tango Dressage Blog

Almost everyone in the dressage community can tell you the bloodlines of the horses winning in topsport dressage.  Breeding  programs in the United States have become increasingly popular and successful.  Almost every page in dressage magazines boasts advertisements of well-bred, super athletic, descendents of top scoring dressage horses.   If the price is right it is even possible to purchase a clone of one of these world-renowned athletes.  With the availability of these super athletes burgeoning every year there are only two questions left to answer.  Can I afford him?  Can I ride him?

While it is true that to place successfully in dressage, a warmblood of quality breeding is the most obvious choice; however, to show successfully or to ride successfully, a top-bred warmblood is not the only option.  In fact, depending on the experience and athleticism of the rider, a big, fancy moving horse can be intimidating and frustrating.  This is fantastic for the professional that…

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Oh, Atlanta….

August 17, 2014

“Oh, Atlanta, I hear you callin’
I’m comin’ back to you one fine day…..”    Ralph Micks




Click to check out local magazine Atlanta Horse Connections



In 1995 I traveled to Atlanta to audit a Charles DeKunffy clinic hosted in Alpharetta, Georgia.  As I wound my way around the charming towns of Roswell, Milton and Alpharetta I knew that I had found the place I wanted to live.  Within a year my horse Sy and I moved from South Carolina and found ourselves living in the place I consider “home”.

Home has always been an elusive concept for me as I was raised in the Air Force and lived in three different countries and four different states before I graduated high school.  I loved every one of these places and the horses, barns and friends that I met along the way.  From riding gymkhana and jumping ponies with Andrea in England to beginning dressage and show jumping with the German kids at the stately riding center in Zweibrucken, Germany, Europe began my love for all things horsey.

Lucky enough to land at Sand and Spur Riding Club on Eglin Air Force Base in Fort Walton Beach, Florida I met an amazing family of people that shaped my life.  The friends I met there are second to none.  I consider the times at workday, riding in the bay, and club horse shows some of the best times I will ever have.  Unfortunately due to the nature of the military the people that aligned in that magical period of time have since scattered across the globe.

South Carolina and Longcreek Equestrian Center introduced me to Scott Peterson who unknowingly converted me to a dressage only rider.  It is here that I found my path to my career in horses.  I met Sabrena (of Better So Dressage Blog) a friend that encourages me when I’m down and shares my passion for dressage. I wouldn’t trade any of these places or experiences for anything in the world.  They are what made me the trainer I am today.  But it is in Georgia that I will always feel most at home.

For fear of excluding any one of the hundreds of friends, trainers and students I have known in Atlanta I won’t name any names but Atlanta is the place I will return to when my duties in South Carolina are complete.  In addition to the huge community of riders, Atlanta has hundreds of amazing barns to meet the needs of all. Most of all it is the supportive nature of the people I have met there that keeps drawing me back.  Atlanta has seen the best of me and the worst of me, I have made lifelong friends and I have made some big mistakes but somehow that all becomes part of the fold and the focus on horses keeps bringing us back together.

I wish I had the words to better express how I feel but I guess I can’t top the great Ray Charles….

Georgia, Georgia
The whole day through
(The whole day through)
Just an old sweet song
Keeps Georgia on my mind
(Georgia on my mind)

I said a Georgia, Georgia
A song of you
Comes as sweet and clear
As moonlight through the pines

Other arms reach out to me
Other eyes smile tenderly
Still in the peaceful dreams I see
The road leads back to you

I said, Georgia, oh Georgia
No peace I find
Just an old sweet song
Keeps Georgia on my mind

Other arms reach out to me
Other eyes smile tenderly
Still in peaceful dreams I see
The road leads back to you

Oh Georgia, Georgia
No peace, no peace I find
Just an old, sweet song
Keeps Georgia on my mind
(Georgia on my mind)

I said, just an old sweet song
Keeps Georgia on my mind – Ray Charles


Doesn’t Matter

August 9, 2014

Me and Jim Dorsett after my fall

Me and Jim Dorsett after my fall

Admittedly it took me smashing both my legs and spending a year in a wheelchair before I felt empathy for fearful riders.  Although I knew all the catch phrases to try and teach someone that was afraid,- “he’s not going to do anything”, “nothing’s going to happen”, “doesn’t matter”, I really didn’t understand that it was a physical problem to be frightened, not a mental one.

It’s easy to stand on the ground when someone is fearful and logically explain why they have nothing to fear, or even what to do if they experience loss of control.  These are things most people can understand and conceptualize, however; when a person has been hurt, or just has a fear of being hurt no logical understanding overrides the blast of adrenaline that shoots through their body causing a cold sweat to break out on their forehead.

If you are trying to teach, or help someone that has this fear, understand that they want to get through it or they wouldn’t be there.  If possible get on the horse first and show them how quietly he goes around the arena without spooking or falling.  Sometimes it’s helpful when the rider is on the horse to get them talking about something else in their life, maybe their family or their job, to distract them from the situation for a minute.  This will keep them from over analyzing their ride.  Put a grab strap on the saddle or a stirrup leather around the horse’s neck for them to grab if they feel the need to.  If they become overwhelmed with fear and feel like they must get off the horse try to be supportive and understanding, even if you have never felt this way yourself.  Everything doesn’t have to be conquered in one day.

If you are a rider that has experienced a bad fall or is fearful for some other reason, realize you are not alone.  Many people feel fear and express it as anger or frustration.  Don’t be embarrassed to talk to your trainer about your fears.  This will save a lot of time and confusion if the fear is getting in the way of training.  Never feel “less than” because you are afraid.  Eventually most everyone gets to experience this most unpleasant of feelings.

It took a long time after I began riding again to feel confident enough to train a horse again as opposed to just sitting there fear struck.  Fear can be overcome but it never goes away completely once it  becomes a part of your psyche.  If you have a bad day just spend the time on the ground with your horse and don’t let one uncomfortable feeling keep you from what you love. Get back in the saddle tomorrow, it will be a better day.  I promise.