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Team #544 Sally Gries and Madison

Photo by Kate Poulin

Team #544: Sally Gries and Madison
From: Cleveland, Ohio
Ages: 76 & 28
Combined Age: 104
Test: Training Level Test 1
Date: February 5, 2022

As I rode my 27-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare, Madison (“Maddie”), down the centerline for our Century Club ride, I could feel the cadence in her trot and broke out into a big smile.  Halt. Salute. Trot.  Away we went, two “experienced” female athletes going through our test.  Maddie was great that day, attentive and fluid in her gaits and transitions.  When we came to our final halt and salute, my smile broadened. It had been one of my life goals to become a Century Club member while riding Madison.  My dream came true that day!

What were the odds that at 76 years of age I would be riding my own beloved Madison, coming 28 years of age, in a recognized show and becoming a member of The Dressage Foundation's Century Club?!

It took a village to get us there.  My journey started with buying Madison in 2005.  She helped me a lot in my development as a dressage rider. I had retired from riding Amateur-Owner Hunters. When it came time for me to move on, I couldn’t sell Maddie, she had a special place in my heart. Fortunately, my full-time trainer Kate Poulin and her mom, Sharon Poulin (my sometimes trainer), came up with a solution.  They arranged a lease with a wonderful trainer in Florida, Lisa Smit.  So, while I was developing my skills and reaching for and achieving my goals of USDF bronze and silver medals on Count Sinclair, Lisa was continuing Madison’s training and development so that her wonderful rider, Liz Kulyassa Cuomo, could reach her goals with Madison.

My plan was to do our Century Club ride in the summer of 2020 when we both reached 100 years of age.  However, COVID put a stop to that.  So, after a two-year delay, there we were, two aging athletes with high spirits, riding down the centerline.  It was an extraordinary feeling.  To top it off, I achieved a personal best score of 76 (at age 76!), won the class, and was the high score adult amateur rider of the show.  Best of all, Kate, Sharon, Lisa, and Liz were there to share in the joy.  Our ride would have never happened without their incredible help over the years.  I am so grateful to them for preparing Madison and me for our once-in-a-lifetime ride.  And, special thanks to my beloved Madison.  Because of this wonderful team, I was able to achieve one of my lifetime goals!

May all dressage riders have dreams and goals, and never give up on the journey to achieve them!

Sharon Poulin, Kate Poulin, Sally Gries, Judge Fran Kehr, Lisa Smit, Liz Kulyassa Cuomo

Photo by Angela Conkel