Impacting Dressage & The World of EAAT

My involvement in EAAT, equine assisted activities and therapies, has led me down a path far more exciting and daunting than I would ever have imagined. It is through my teaching experience as a therapeutic riding instructor that the way was paved for me to become an instructor-in-training in the Ecole de Legerete. My participation in this school of classical dressage is nothing short of an ongoing miracle, a miracle that I would like to share with you. It is my hope that you will support my cause and partner with me.  Much of the journey has been having the guts to chase down a dream and having the faith to walk through the doors that God opens. I have a favorite quote that I remind myself of often.

"˜The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low and achieving our mark.'


The Ecole de Legerete or School of Lightness is an international equestrian program designed to train riding instructors in the art of French classical dressage. The school was founded in 2004 by Philippe Karl, a well known French classical dressage master. The course consists of ten, four day clinics held over a period of three years during which time I am educated in dressage, jumping, work in-hand, theory, and pedagogy. There are five levels that can be attained, and at the end of the three year teacher's course, I will take an exam for the level that I hope to be certified in. My goal at this point is to be certified in level two or possibly three. The exam will include a presentation of my work with my horse, a presentation of a regular student of mine, an oral presentation, and a lesson to an unknown horse and rider. If my demonstration of skill meets the requirements for the level, then I will be certified to teach as an instructor of the Ecole de Legerete.

When I applied to the Ecole de Legerete, I had the necessary resources to complete the training. My plan was to use my horse (pictured above), and a friend was going to let me use her truck and trailer for hauling to the clinics in PA and back again. I planned to learn how to drive it and gain the necessary experience before the start of the course. I thought I was set to go, but it turns out I was wrong. In December of 2012, just two months after being accepted into the school, my horse was diagnosed with significant meniscal damage, and his career in dressage was over. OUCH!

To complicate matters, I had to sign a contract committing me to three years of participation. Reality sunk in as I realized that I had no horse, and the contract's due date was only a month away - January 11th.

It was an emotionally turbulent time as I actively searched for a horse that I could use. I needed to find one that was sound, safe, and had the basics of walk, trot, and canter under saddle. In addition, I needed sole use of the horse for three years in exchange for the training that it would receive. A friend stepped forward and offered me one of her horses to use, and other friends agreed to give me a stall. With these pieces in place, I felt that I could sign the contract.

A lot happened between January 11th and my first clinic in April. The boarding situation did not come to fruition as planned, and the logistics of my situation made it clear that the original plan was not going to work. I found myself with no realistic way to train the horse that I had been offered. Consequently, plans fell through again. With the April clinic fast approaching, I needed to find another horse and a new boarding situation. Around this time, I also lost the contact for the use of the truck and trailer. To say that I was emotionally stressed is an understatement. I was standing between the reality of pursuing and living my dream and not having any practical way to pursue it. Many people offered their support, resources, and help, and I prayerfully considered my options.

I looked at, rode, and considered a good handful of horses, not all of them safe animals to be on. I also brainstormed individuals that could come with me and help me trailer to the clinics. I was blessed to have a friend who let me take her pony to the April clinic, and she did the trailering too. And so it was that I made it to the first clinic.

It's funny how one thing leads to another. After returning from the clinic, one of the other participants in the course, having learned of my need, offered one of her mares for me to use. This horse is my current partner (pictured below).  My transportation need was also solved with the discovery of a wonderful company who provided transport for the next two clinics. I am blessed with a unique boarding situation where I not only board my current partner but have the ability to train a couple of other horses in case my first one falls ill. My family has helped me fund the start up costs of participating in this course, and the lastest blessing is that a friend has stepped up to provide trailering for the 2014 clinics. It is because of all the tremendous support from others that I have been able to complete my first year and continue on.

With all the ups and downs associated with the first year, my financial needs rose exponentially, and I am faced with yet another challenge. I still have two more years to go, and it is a costly endeavor to participate in the Ecole de Legerete. To raise funds, I am launching a personal campaign, applying for grants, and looking for sponsors. This is in addition to my work as a therapeutic riding instructor and the building of my business, Dare to Dream Dressage.

I am drawn to the beauty, grace, and power that is harmoniously expressed between a horse and rider properly educated in dressage. I derive immense satisfaction from teaching others because I get to share that which I am so passionate about and watch other people grow in their skills. I desire to master the art of French classical dressage and pour that knowledge back into the horses and riders that I meet everyday. That is what makes all of this worth it. It is the ability to make a positive impact in the lives of others. I have seen the difference that horses can make time and again in the therapeutic riding arena where, to date, I have spent the majority of my time teaching. I have been privileged to see individuals who were unsuccessful in making friends in their community make their first friends in the barn. I have seen young children who are developmentally delayed or whose doctors said that they would never walk learn to stand upon the back of a moving horse and feel what it is like to walk. That's cool. That is lasting and life changing. Horses become a medium for pouring into the lives of others and making a positive difference in a person's life. Dressage has the ability to aid in that work. Horses that move with a high degree of relaxation, straightness, suppleness, and balance provide more meaningful and quality sessions to the participant. I would like to use my dressage skills to train therapy horses that will improve the quality of equine assisted activities and therapies for individuals with disabilities. I also strive to teach and advance a method of training that is biomechanically correct, marked with integrity, and considerate to equine and human alike. By utilizing classical instruction that is kind and effective and by harnessing a passion for pouring into the lives of others, I believe the best can be brought out of every horse and human.

I'd like to invite you to come alongside and partner with me. Acquiring the finances to finish the course is my biggest hurtle right now. Would you consider making a financial donation? Please also help me spread the word by sharing this campaign on social media pages, sites, and emails. In addition to financial support, I also covet your prayers. This journey has been a walk of faith. Much of the time, I have been unsure of how all the needs would be met, but God has been faithful.  He has opened up doors and provided through the many people that have stepped up to help.  Please pray for resources, strength, and perseverance.

If you'd like to follow my journey and stay connected with me, I chronicle my story on a public Facebook page, Training in French Classical Dressage. Please 'Like' the page and stay updated.

I also publish a free quarterly newsletter, and you can sign up for it at this link.

With My Sincerest Thanks,


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Missy Hughes 
St. Charles, IL
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