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Team #580 Rita Dunn and D Grande Finale

Team #580: Rita Dunn and D Grande Finale
From: Lenoir City, Tennessee
Ages: 79 & 21
Combined Age: 100
Test: Third Level Test 1
Date: August 20, 2022

When I was five years old, I wrote in my baby book that I wanted to be a horse trainer.  I did not ride consistently until I went to Meredith College and rode in their saddle seat program in lieu of traditional physical education classes. I married an Army Officer in 1966, got my first horse in 1972 at Fort Ord, California, but didn’t start dressage until 1974 at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, on a lovely Quarter Horse I had bought as a field hunter. I got to Second Level with the Quarter Horse and to Prix St. Georges on a big moving Thoroughbred that I trained. 

For 35 years, I had my own lesson program teaching kids on my ponies, taught dressage to private students, and did much teaching with Pony Club as well as being head instructor for Northern Virginia Therapeutic Riding Program. I was a USDF Certified Instructor and a NARHA Certified Advanced Instructor for both physical and cognitive disabilities. Along the way, a divorce intervened but the horse activity continued. In 2001, I retired from all teaching and moved to Tennessee to be near my son’s family, taking one horse and a pony for my grandchildren.

When I was 61, I was ready for one final horse and went searching for a German Riding Pony (GRPs were just being introduced in the US). In 2004, I purchased a just-backed three-year-old Welsh Cob/German Riding Pony gelding bred by Klaus Biesenthal that I named D Grande Finale. It was my plan to have a horse I could do clinics with, but he turned out to be so much more. At each stage of training, he excelled and kept saying, “I can do more!” I earned my USDF bronze, silver, and gold medals, as well as my gold freestyle bar on him. I have also competed with him at Level Five in Working Equitation and have attended Cattle Working Equitation clinics. He excelled at that, too. I have done all the training myself with much lesson help from Elizabeth Lewis Page, Gigi Nutter, and Jim Koford. Without their expert guidance, we wouldn’t have had the journey we had. Special thanks to Susan Hill and Lynn and John Holtman whose help was invaluable over the years. Finale is only 15.2hh but has competed successfully with the big boys. He is my heart horse!