CDS EAST BAY MEMBER PROFILE – Kelly Casey Head Trainer at KC Dressage

Dressage Experience/Current Level/Goals:

I have been riding dressage since I was five.  Over the years I have been very fortunate to ride with some of the best trainers including Imke Schellekens-Bartles, Steffan & Shannon Peters, Kathleen Raine, David Wightman, Axel Steiner, Conrad Schmaucher and John Lassetter.  For the past two years I have been studying the system of a Dutch trainer, Bob Tenwolde, whose training methods come directly from the world-famous Dr. Schulten-Baumer.


Recent Achievements:

I train and show Carla Hayes’ horse, Aristo, and we won the 2012 USDF All-breeds Open 3rd level Horse of the Year,  and the 2012 KWPN Open 3rd Level Horse of the Year with a median score of 76.309.


At what point in your life did you realize you were “A Horse-Crazy-Person?”:

Horses for me horses were love at first sight.  As I child, I was completely obsessed with everything that had to do with horses.  It didn’t matter if I was in the saddle or the barn slave, I was willing and eager to do anything just to be around horses! 


What is the most important lesson your horse has taught you?

Over the years, I have learned that I can only control me and my horse—therefore I must ride my best and expect that my horse performs at his best.  When I achieve this, I am happy regardless of the score.  When I focus on riding and training to my personal standards, I know in time the rest will fall into place!


Why or how did you pick Dressage as your riding sport?

As I child, I learned to ride English.  I liked English riding, but it was clear after only a few jumping lessons that I was not an adrenaline junkie and preferred all 4 feet to stay on the ground.


What is the most important attribute you value in your equine Dressage partner?

Rideability and temperament are extremely important to me.  I want to work with horses that enjoy their job and want to please.  Of course, correct conformation and gaits are also important for a dressage horse to progress through the levels, but I would take an average moving horse with super mind over an above-average mover with an undesirable temperament any day of the week!


What was your most memorable “ah-ha” riding moment or breakthrough?

One of the best things about Dressage is I will have MANY “ah-ha” moments throughout my career, because I stay open-minded in my training and will always be a student.  Here was a special moment of understanding for me in my riding:  The Circle of Energy.  I think about a continuous circle of energy when I ride all of my horses.  This means that first I must activate the hind legs.  When I activate the hind legs, I expect the energy to swing through the horse’s body and up to the bit.  The horse should take the bit and stretch into my hands.  At this point, I can then half halt and recycle the energy back to the hind end of the horse again so he remains in balance.  When I first truly felt this continuous flow of energy under me, it was an “ah-ha” moment because I felt true activity, balance, and harmony.


What do you wish you would have understood earlier in your riding life that you appreciate now?

Patience, patience, and more patience.  Training is a process which takes time—lots of time.  The progression is totally individual to each horse and can’t be rushed because of show schedules, personal goals, or deadlines.  The quality of all training lies in the basic work that should never be sacrificed to perform fancy movements.  I have found short cuts will always come back to haunt you and I understand the importance of allowing the horse to develop at his own pace. 



Who is your favorite clinician/trainer and why?

I have been working exclusively with Bob Tenwolde since 2010.  Bob is a Dutch trainer who spent years in Germany with Dr. Schulten-Baumer learning his unique system.  The system is clear, methodical, and holds the utmost respect for the horse.  I am fortunate to have continuous support from Bob in quarterly clinics as well as weekly lessons where I get instant live feedback from Bob via Skype.  I feel very lucky to have such a compassionate and involved mentor who is willing to share his knowledge and training with me. 


What is the most common correction you hear from your trainer/clinician when you ride?

“DO NOTHING!!!(haha)”…a.k.a. try to ride the horse to a place where he is working totally on his own so that I can relax and allow the horse to move freely and harmoniously under me!


What is the most satisfying teaching moment you have experienced with a student?

I find the greatest satisfaction when my students fully understand, execute, and are excited about their achievement—however big or small it might be.  Nothing makes me happier than a student leaving their lesson with a smile on their face because they “got the feeling.”  That makes my day!


What advice/guidance would you give to a newcomer to the Dressage sport? 

Find a patient trainer and a willing schoolmaster—a good schoolmaster is worth his weight in gold!  Dressage is a lifelong journey and the concepts can be very abstract at times.  Having a partner who knows his job and can help teach makes the journey easier and more enjoyable. 

What other interest, achievement or activity do you have that might surprise your fellow EB CDS Members?

On my days off, I enjoy running and spending time with my 1 year old nephew triplets!

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