HPN interviews David Schmutz, a USDF ‘S’ Dressage and FEI 4* Para Dressage Judge. As the former owner and manager of “The Paddock Riding Club“, David gives his thoughts on the sport he has dedicated his adult life to.
1. Where were you born and raised?
Despite a couple of years on the East Coast, I’m an LA Native.
2. When did you start riding?
I started late, by equestrian standards, at 23 years old. An opportunity came up while I was in graduate school, studying for my MBA. I was fortunate enough to meet and be offered the challenge of learning to ride horses under the guidance of a very prominent elderly attorney. He had three horses and needed some help getting his horses worked. He allowed me to join him at 6 am, where we worked the horses on the trails of Griffith Park in Los Angeles. After graduating, I purchased my own horse, a thoroughbred, where I focused on jumping and trail work. Dressage work was included, but only as a means to helping my jumping. That all changed in 1984, when the Olympics came to Los Angeles. After watching Olympic level Dressage, my focus changed permanently.
3. Did you have a riding mentor?
Gerard Kirsch, who was a French Professeur d’ecurier at the Cadre Noir, focused my development in riding. It was this philosophy and approach which allowed me to become a dressage judge.
4. What were you doing before you became a judge?
While owning and managing The Paddock Riding Club in Los Angeles, I graduated the USDF ‘L’ Program with distinction and received my USEF Dressage ‘r’ certification. I was also competing.
5. How did you first become a dressage and Para judge?
While working on my promotion to become a USEF ‘R’ Dressage judge, USEF offered a clinic locally on judging Para Equestrian riders. Thanks to International judges Inger Bryant and Anita Owen, it was possible to obtain my IPEC (International Para Equestrian Committee) approval. Once FEI began approving international organizations for this type of competition, I received my 3* approval as an FEI Para Dressage judge. I currently have my 4* certification.
Waregem 2018 with Anne d'Ieteren
Dave with his horse Ricon
7. If you could judge any show in the world, which show would that be?
The Para Olympics.
8. What are some of the biggest challenges dressage judges have?
Convincing riders that judges are really ‘on their side’ and interested in encouraging competitors to ride as well as they can. We really hate to give bad scores, but marks must match the quality of the movements with meaningful comments.
9. If a young person wanted to get into horses professionally, what would you advise them to do?
Ride any horse that you can. Each horse will teach us something new, and add to the rider repertoire of experience. The more we learn for each horse, the more correctly and sympathetically we can ride and communicate with them.
10. In your experience, what do you feel is the number 1 challenge for amateur riders?
Acquiring correct education and schooling. If you can find the right trainer, it will make a world of difference. Work with incorrect basics will create bad habits which must be corrected. Read and learn as much as possible on correct basics. Do not be afraid to question training that makes you horse tense and unhappy. It is the only way horses can tell us when the work is incorrect or harmful.
11. Do you have any suggestions for HPN readers, about how they can learn more about dressage?
Enjoy your relationship with your horse. Be attuned to them and know when things are not right. Lameness has many warning signs if we stop to watch and listen. The price in time and money is great when we are not attentive.
12. Are there any activities, shows or organizations that you are presently supporting?
Horses and Humans Research Foundation. This excellent group funds rigorous scientific research into the ways our equine partners help with physically and psychologically impaired individuals. You can read more about it here: https://www.horsesandhumans.org/
13. What is your website?
14. How can riders and show managers get in contact with you?
They can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
About the Author:
Debbie Kurth is an Adult Amateur dressage rider in the Los Angeles area, where she balances her career as a former Walt Disney Imagineer, CEO of Multimedia Designs, writer and the creator of “The Horse Professionals Network“.