Photo: Erpelding Photography
Susann Regalmuto has made education a priority throughout her 30-ish years as a dressage trainer and instructor. It's her passion and has proved to be a big boon for the horses and riders in her Regal Equestrian dressage business at Middle Ranch in Lakeview Terrace.
This past June, the Germany-born and raised Susann added USDF Instructor's Certification, 4th level, credentials to her resume, becoming one of 14 professionals in Region 7 certified at the program's highest level. Passing the rigorous exam "is a culmination of six years of training, traveling between California and Georgia, teaching and riding workshops and USDF Trainers symposiums," she explains.
"It's more bang for your buck," says Susann of the certification's value from her clients' perspective. Danelle Davenport is one of several students to concur. She's appreciated Susann's help with two very different horses: a spooky Hannoverian mare, and currently, a sensitive Thoroughbred that is often over anxious to please.
"The primary reason I ride with Susann is that she places the emphasis on the German training scale and is really aware of the needs of each horse within that scale and according to where they are in their mental and physical development," Danelle explains.
Susann's skills and expertise helped Danelle positively shape the mare's energy. With the Thoroughbred, Susann is helping her patiently develop the proper frame without letting his desire to please and athletic abilities put him into a "fake frame" or do more than is appropriate for his physical development.
Both of Danelle's horses, as well as their stablemates at Regal Equestrian, "are happy at the end of the day. I would say they are all very happy in their work and that is quite an accomplishment."
The horses' happiness in their work may reflect Susann's happiness in her work. "I know a great horsewoman when I see one," wrote two-time Olympian and WEG bronze medalist Kathleen Raine in a recommendation to the USDF on Susann's behalf.
"Susann is a great horsewoman. She has continually brought genuine joy as well as a classically trained approach to her work," Kathleen said. "With her deep bench of skill sets, deep knowledge of dressage and warm demeanor, she has added a lot to the local dressage community and is an absolute pleasure to deal with."
Having grown up in Germany, where Susann received her "reiterabzeichens" certification, and where trainers must be licensed in their profession, Susann has always viewed ongoing training as essential to her craft. In the States, of course, trainers require no such certification or licenses to serve the public. In addition, there's room for confusion when impressive distinctions, like USDF bronze, silver and gold medals, reflect show ring accomplishments that may or may not translate to teaching and training abilities.
She's happy to see that the USDF Instructors' certification is growing in popularity, but notes that it is still not well understood by many. "It's not an easy program," she acknowledges. At its heart, it's all about "looking out for the welfare of the horse," Susann says. Broken down by levels, the program addresses "how to use each level of training for the right purpose: to gymnasticize the horse for the work at that level."
To achieve USDF certification, prospects must "demonstrate that they have the knowledge and the skill to teach classical dressage," the trainer explains. The process includes three intensive workshops on lunging, riding and teaching, a mock exam and then the final. The teaching final entails instructing one group and two private lessons. One of the privates is with an unfamiliar horse/rider pair. The examiners want to see, within 45 minutes, the candidate take a strange rider through a warm-up and lesson plan in which the horse and rider's improvement is evident at the end. The candidate and the student discuss goals at the lesson's start. One of the candidate's many tests is to assess whether those goals are suitable and, if necessary, revise the plan.
"The USDF wants instructors who do not simply produce riders with winning scores, but also those who can think about training and feel the results and effect on the horse," she summarizes. The importance of the training scale for horses working at any level is the USDF program's major emphasis.
This past April, USDF began offering an Instructors Certification as a two-parter for the FEI level. Naturally, Susann is thrilled about that and intends to sign up. But first, she plans to enroll in the USDF's Learner "L" judging program to add that perspective to her ever-growing knowledge base. In the meantime, she looks forward to putting her knowledge to use for her client's benefit.
All Breeds & Experience Welcome
Any horse can benefit from proper dressage training, Susann asserts. She has earned a terrific reputation for training and competing traditional Warmblood breeds and has a long history of taking Baroque breeds to success in both breed and Open dressage shows.
Regal Equestrian's show schedule is designed around clients' and horses' needs and preferences and all levels of riders, with or without competitive ambitions, are welcome.
"What impresses me most about Susann is her ability to communicate with horses in such a calm and quiet manner," notes Karen Center, a USDF bronze medalist and chair of the Temecula CDS chapter. "She is a beautiful rider and always gets the most out of the horses she rides with such finesse. Her instruction to her students is easy to understand and done with much patience."
For more information, visit www.susannregalmuto.com or call Susann at 951-515-7133.