MICHIGAN CITY — The ninth annual Reins of Life Dressage Schooling Show Series last month proved to be a success, despite less than ideal weather for the Olympic-style event.

“Come to witness an Olympic discipline in your own backyard, where horse (or mule) and human perform together as gracefully as dance partners,” information promoting the event said.

The shows are designed to “bring awareness to abilities of persons with special needs and gives our riders a platform to showcase their skills – results of their hard work and incredible determination,” said Reins executive director Dorota Janik.

“We use discipline of dressage to help our riders with space awareness, geometry, pattern recognition, sequencing, confidence, self-esteem and much more. It is a great way to promote the mission of Reins and to give people an outlet to support it. It very often results with new volunteers or new participants of our programs.”

More than 200 people were in attendance at the event, conducted at the non-profit dedicated to therapeutic horseback riding lessons.

Registered for the show were 56 individual rider-horse pairs, including able body riders, guests, and one Reins volunteer. Nine Reins of Life riders and two students from Renew Therapeutic Riding Center in Holland, Michigan, participated in the dressage show, para-equestrian classes, and competitions against able-body riders. In addition, there were 10 vaulters. The approximate age range was 5 to 65.

During Sunday’s lunch break, The Interactive Vaulting Team demonstrated a unique program they helped choreograph to showcase their abilities and determination to break barriers.

The idea for the show originated with Elizabeth Grainger of Grainger Dressage, president of the Michiana Dressage Club at the time.

Janik said since Reins of Life is in the horse business, the organization has a unique opportunity to present these shows, which are different from other events, as a way to provide support and many other benefits.

The participants came from an estimated 100-mile radius, including Elkhart, Hobart, Valparaiso and Holland.

“Despite the gloomy outlook with the weather, the show was a great success. The rain held off for the majority of the day,” Janik said.

“Our riders felt empowered and so happy. Parents couldn’t hide the emotions. And I am just so proud of team Reins. We were complimented on how the show’s atmosphere and friendliness fosters new dressage enthusiasts, young and old, and helps them with entering the show circles.

“We always have high-ranked judges for our schooling show, which gives riders a great way to gain feedback before they venture to the recognized shows. Every year it is also like a family reunion with the dressage community.”

Sue Gust of Michigan City has been volunteering at Reins for a month. Curious about the dressage show on Sunday, she attended with her husband, Robert Gust.

“I’ve never heard of it before and decided to come and see it,” she said. “I have a love for horses. This is how I get my ‘fix’.”

At Reins of Life she sometimes fulfills the role of “sidewalker,” and also helps groom, saddle and clean up after horses.

“I do whatever needs to be done. I love it,” she said.

Marilee Heintzberger of Bristol was attending with her 17-year-old daughter, Eve, who was showing her horses, Sadat and Sammy, for the fourth year.

“This was the first dressage show my daughter ever showed at and she was hooked,” said Heintzberger.

She found out about the show from her friend, Terry Stutz, of Cassopolis, Michigan.

“We use it as a schooling event and to support the organization,” Stutz said. “It’s a wonderful organization. They have this every year and we love it.”

Janik said that each year at the last show a special Reins of Life Dressage Show Series award is presented to the highest scoring person in all four shows. The winner receives a framed limited Giclee print by a local artist.

The show is judged by U.S. Dressage Federation professionals and sanctioned by the Michiana Dressage Club.


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