Dequartetto and Shayna at Oakridge.
Shayna Simon has the loftiest of goals as a dressage rider and trainer and she believes that the best place to pursue them is a low-key environment. That's why the up-and-comer chose Oakridge Farm in the rolling hills of the Rancho Santa Fe area's Lake Hodges. The tranquil environment, shady oaks and a menagerie of farm animals create just the right ambiance and opportunities for horses and people to perform at their best.
Owned by active horsewoman Jacqui Grande, Oakridge Farm has every amenity needed for advanced training: two arenas, top quality fiber footing, full mirrors, round pen, turn-outs and grass pastures, plus ample space and shade.
Shayna's horsekeeping priorities include lots of downtime outdoors and in a natural environment. Oakridge's goats and peacocks are part of that, as are turn-outs that her horses spend most of their time in, rather than stalls, and grass paddocks where they enjoy hand grazing time.
Shayna and Harley at MidWinter Dressage. Photo by Terri Miller
"Horses aren't meant to stand in stalls for long periods of time," Shayna asserts. Even fancy dressage horses. "Obviously, you have to introduce any horse to a new environment carefully and tailor it to each horse. But at a certain point, too, you have to accept some risk. I've found, if you introduce pasture time slowly and gradually, my horses have always been OK with it. Horses are a lot happier and more willing to work when they have a more natural lifestyle."
Her own two horses, a Warmblood and a Lusitano, are naturally a little hot in their temperaments and "they've never been more calm since when they settled in here in early July," she reports. Easy access to Rancho Santa Fe's trail network is another Oakridge plus.
The trainer's horse management ideas are part of a horsemanship foundation culled from many years with masters of the art and sport of dressage. Breeding and sales wizard Willy Arts of DG Bar Ranch, with whom Shayna rode for four years, is one of them. So is longtime USET dressage chef Klaus Balkenhol and his daughter Annabel in Germany, where Shayna spent an intense year. She also learned some unforgettable lessons during clinics with British superstar Charlotte Dujardin, the reigning Olympic, World Cup and European Championships queen. Closer to home, sessions with three-time Olympian Guenter Seidel have been so enjoyable and productive that Shayna looks forward to becoming a regular student of his.
The result of all those experiences is a distinct training and teaching style. Shayna is direct in the German instructor style she grew up with and knows that can intimidate some, yet she also has a gift for working with timid amateurs. She recently helped a new client overcome her fears and get on her own horse for the first time in four months. She's tough with students in that she expects their best effort, but never too tough to get on a horse and do the work necessary to improve it for its owner.
Shayna's program is competition oriented, because that's the track she's on, but she's open to riders with non-show goals, too. Her classical dressage training methods work equally well for both. A year spent riding with the Balkenhols took her education to new levels. "I learned so much about how to use the classical approach to properly train a young horse to the FEI levels." Specifically, the German training scale went from a concept she'd read to a manual of exercises to be practiced every day with horses at every level.
She's put that knowledge to use with her own Warmblood, Harley, and her 5-year-old Lusitano Dequartetto. Shayna brought Harley along to finish third nationally in the Fourth Level championships in 2013, several top five placings in Prix St. Georges this year and their longterm target is Grand Prix.
Shayna welcomes dressage prospects of all breeds and admits to a soft spot for Lusitanos. She came to Oakridge after a year with Brookside Equestrian in Orange County's Walnut, which was known for its gorgeous and performance-oriented Lusitanos before closing last month. "They're the sports model of the Iberian breeds," Shayna says.
As she builds her business up, Shayna aspires to a mix of amateur riders and, hopefully, a few sponsored horses. She finds coaching very rewarding and plans on a stable size modest enough to let her pursue her own goal of representing the States in international competition. "I'm going to make that happen one way or another," she states. Shayna welcomes a client interested in owning one of her two current horses, or another horse capable of campaigning at the highest level. Marketing sales horses is another component of her business, and one in which she is very effective thanks to lessons learned from DG Bar's Willy Arts and while at Brookside Equestrian.
For more information, visit www.oakridgefarmrsf.com or call Shayna Simon at 916-342-4442.
Get Smart: Shayna's Faves
Advanced Techniques of Dressage – by the German National Equestrian Federation
Klaus Balkenhol: The Man and His Training Methods – by Britta Schoffmann
"This has pretty much everything in it that I loved learning while I was in Germany."
Tug Of War: Classical Versus "Modern" Dressage – by Dr. Gerd Heuschmann
"The author is a veterinarian and I loved what this book taught me about how the anatomy and conformation of various breeds affect a horse's ability to do dressage, along with their temperament."