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2021 George Williams Young Professional Grant Fund Recipient: Laura Ashley Killian

I am eternally grateful for the financial support received from TDF through the George William Young Professionals Fund to further my dressage education under the tutelage of Lilo Fore and Eva Moeller.

The first segment of my education was spent auditing a Lilo Fore clinic hosted by the Kentucky Dressage Association. However, thanks to the generosity of the local community, I was entrusted with not one but two lovely horses to catch ride on the last day of the clinic! This was the perfect opportunity to challenge my skills while replicating the type of scenario I would face when testing for the FEI-level of the USDF Rider/Trainer Certification Program. I was left to my own devices at first to figure out how to improve these two capable new partners, but Lilo also offered guidance along the way to keep both my training methodology and position intact. Her teaching style is encouraging and positive, yet direct and effective. She is a wealth of information, and I was thankful to sponge up every drop of knowledge from her that I could throughout the weekend.

I came home feeling highly motivated to train, riding with more precision, and on an endless quest for knowledge. I was informed that Lilo would be doing another clinic in Tennessee just a few weeks later, so I booked a flight for another weekend of learning. Yet again, thanks to the recommendations from supporters and the kindness of strangers, I was gifted the ride on an incredible Prix St. George horse so I could take a lesson from Lilo. It is always such a treat to be able to sit, watch, listen and learn, but being trusted with someone else’s FEI horse is a true honor. By traveling to a new area, I got to see how her methodology quickly uncovered any gaps in the fundamentals, addressed the root of the issue effectively, and led to marked improvement consistently in a wide variety of horses and riders. All that I garnered from this experience will further deepen my dressage theory so that I can share that knowledge with my students and be a better rider for my horses.

The final segment of this education endeavor involved a three-week trip to Europe to work for Eva Moeller, at Helgstrand Dressage in Germany. Their team graciously allowed me to be a part of their day-to-day operations, where I was able to witness how some of the world’s best young horses were prepared and trained. It was a blessing to sit ringside and watch their highly skilled riders progressively develop the horses through kind, tactful and talented training over the course of my visit.

I was granted the unexpected treat of attending the first in-person Oldenburg Elite Foal Auction since Covid restrictions had lifted in Vechta, Germany. A local friend informed me all about the preparation that the horses go through on-site leading up to the sale day, as well as the procedures of the actual sale, in regard to trial rides, x-rays, commissions, buy-back clauses, and more. It was a very educational process and I got to see some very nice foals and riding horses, for both dressage and jumping.

It just so happened, that the most economical way to fly to Europe was through Portugal and out through Spain. Of course, I had to make the most of this opportunity and my extra time in these countries. What better to do than to visit the famous classical riding schools! A few hours on trains and busses were all it took to set foot into the Escola Portuguesa de Artes Equestre in Lisbon and The Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Arts in Jerez! I was enamored watching the morning schooling session in Lisbon and lucked into catching one of the performances in Jerez. I thoroughly enjoyed studying more about the history, breeding, and training that developed into the sport of dressage that I am so passionate about today.

Once again, I am so grateful to have been awarded this grant and supported through such a diverse and educational experience. I got to experience so many different facets of the industry on so many different levels, with each one having its own eye-opening impact on me as a rider, trainer, and horseman. The memories gained will stay with me forever, but it is the knowledge gained that will be spread for all to grow and learn, for the good of the horse.