California Riding Magazine • December, 2012

Dianne Grod
Popular veteran brings her many talents back to California.

Dianne Grod is such a familiar part of the California equestrian scene that some might not have realized that she was actually living in Tucson, AZ for the last six years. She's recently returned to the Golden State, living in Oceanside, and continuing her busy life as a judge, appraiser, expert witness and coach.

Since leaving her six-year post as hunter/jumper trainer at the renowned Al-Marah Arabians in Tucson, Dianne has time to coach a few riders and give occasional clinics. Several former students, many of them now professionals themselves, were first in line to book her time. She's also working regularly with Katherine Madruga, who campaigns the beautiful horses bred by Robin and Gerald Parsky's Buena Vista Farms.

Dianne's resume is well known. A top trainer in California for nearly 50 years, she has a long history in the Grand Prix jumping ring. The California Professional Horsemen's Association named her its Horsewoman of the Year in 1996, the Desert Hunter/Jumper and Dressage Assn. named her Equestrian of the Year in 2002 and the Virginia Horse Shows Assn. added Dianne to its Hall of Fame in 2011. The Godfather was one of the many equine stars she developed and campaigned.

A Maryland native, Dianne grew up riding half-Arabians and Thoroughbred crosses and her talents were evident early on. She moved to California in 1965 and, under the Continental Farms banner, became well known and respected on both coasts. She represented the States in international competition at various points in her career, and was a dominant player in the Open and Grand Prix jumping classes up until her retirement from competition in 2001. From 1985 to 1996, Dianne regularly competed in team penning events and she is also famous for jumping over a car during the opening ceremonies for the National Finals Rodeo in 1997. 

While she has not ruled out a return to riding, Dianne says the bulk of her non-judging and coaching time is spent working as an equine appraiser and in the often-related role of an expert witness. Both are interesting ways to put her many years of experience to good use.
Equine appraisals are an increasingly in-demand service in a variety of situations, not all of which are well known. Sales, divorces and insurance procedures are some of the circumstances that require or benefit from an appraiser. In addition, "a lot of people don't realize that if you are going to donate a horse valued at $5,000 or more you need an appraisal," Dianne explains. "The IRS has a form, #8283 for non-cash charitable donations, that's required if you want to claim it on your taxes."

Appraisals are also smart to get when increasing the amount of insurance carried on a developing horse, she adds.

Dianne has a broad horsemanship knowledge, but she doesn't claim to know everything. As an appraiser, her specialties are any horses within the hunter/jumper sphere, Arabians and Quarter Horse hunters and team penners. Having great contacts throughout the industry is one of Dianne's biggest assets in helping to substantiate a horse's value. The ability to call many long-time friends and associates and having a reputation that inspires returned phone calls from others enhances Dianne's contribution to any circumstances that warrant an appraisal.

Continuing Education

Serving as an equine witness is something that appraisers like Dianne are trained for as part of their certification and she enjoys it. "It brings out the Dick Tracy in me!" laughs the vivacious almost-68-year-old. "I get to do a little investigating and it provides me a nice income." Although she is not a fan of people who are super litigious, Dianne likes the challenges the legal side of the horse world presents. In past cases, she's unearthed show records that have little bearing on reality, histories that exposed habitual lawsuit filers and helped to reconstruct accidents involving horses.

A desire to give back to an industry that's been great to her inspired Dianne to get her judge's certification several years ago. That led to a lifelong pursuit of continuing education which set her up nicely to support herself in her post-riding days. It's a path she recommends highly to young professionals. "I don't know many people in the horse world that can afford to retire when they are not riding anymore," she observes. "Most of us still have to make a living."

Which is not to say Dianne is done riding. "I do miss it!" she acknowledges. Meantime, she gets her fix working with others in clinics and coaching sessions. She prides herself on helping riders get the most out of their horses and emphasizes an effective riding position. "Depending on the level of rider I'm working with, I don't dwell so much on the absolute correctness of the position, so long as it's a working position that allows the horse to compete at the highest level at which he's capable."

As a clinician, she welcomes jumping riders of all levels. Having jumped the highest heights herself, she speaks from experience. A frequent poster on the fun Facebook page, "Equestrians Back In The Day," Dianne has been a star from the early days of the West Coast Grand Prix scene in the early 70s. She recalls that courses were not as technical as they are today, but they were huge: easily hitting the 1.6 meter mark in the Open division.

For more information, call Dianne Grod at
951-212-4141 or reach her by e-mail at