Saturday, October 25, 2014

Firsts, Dressage Competition

Image courtesy of Julie McKevitt

Firsts by J.Q. Rose

Thank you for joining me today. Have you ever tried to do something new? Do you remember the first time you tried to dive from a diving board? Ran your first race? Made your first breakfast for your mom on Mother's Day? Rode your bike without training wheels? Read your first book chapter book? 

In Girls Succeed! Stories Behind the Careers of Successful Women, there are ladies in the book who have accomplished firsts in their careers.

Olympics gold medalist Angela Ruggiero is the first female to play in a professional men’s ice hockey game and through the years she and her Team USA won first places in national, international cup, and Olympics games.

Horse woman Pati Pierucci received first place in dressage competitions at the Gran Prix level, the elite level of competition.

Cycle racer Mackenzie Woodring won first place in road racing competitions. In 2012 she garnered a gold medal for the 2012 Women’s Pro State Champion at USA Cycling’s Road Race in Michigan. She also won gold medals as the pilot for her blind partner, Karissa Whitsell, in the 2008 Paralympics games in Beijing, China, riding a high tech bicycle for two. They are currently the world record holders for the Paralympics three kilometer pursuit race. And in 2012 she was the Women’s Team USA Paralympics Gold Medal Winner with partner Kara Vatthauer.

Professional clown Brenda Marshall’s career includes firsts. She was the first woman president of the Clowns of America International and the leader of the first People to People International Clown Delegation to China.

Educator Barbara “Chili” Chiles was the first Athletic Director for both boys and girls in Illinois.

I could go on and on with all the things each woman has accomplished in her career, but I believe the path they took to finding success is the most compelling reading. 

I have included an excerpt from (where else?) the first chapter about Pati Pierucci, horse trainer, teacher, and dressage competitor.  It’s also a wink and a nod to the first novel I wrote in seventh grade about a horse. My grandmother took all those hand-written pages and typed them up for me. When I saw the manuscript in that form, I knew I wanted to be a writer.  Well, it’s taken a few years, but I’m living my dream now.


“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams.
Live the life you have imagined.”
--Henry David Thoreau


True Love
For Pati Pierucci, it’s all about the horses.  She says, “They make me smile inside and out.  I love spending time alone with them.”
Pati loves the horses today just as deeply as she did at seven years old.  They are not just a job. They are her pets and friends.  They are her passion.
When the big pearl white stallion, Idilio, gently neighs when Pati walks by his stall, she drops everything to spend time with him.  Idilio is a powerful Pure Spanish Horse. In Spanish the breed is called Pure Raza Espanol or PRE. Pati and Idilio have introduced this breed successfully into competition in the United States.
Growing up on horse farms in Kentucky and New Jersey, Pati was around horses all the time.  At the age of fifteen Pati was caring for and feeding other people’s horses. Later, at Barclay Farms in New Jersey, Pati galloped their race horses every morning.  As head instructor, she gave riding lessons at the farm. Her interest in horses and farm operations led her to major in Equine Studies in Overall Farm Administration and Breeding at Harcum Junior College in New Jersey.  Pati successfully worked at farms in New Jersey and in Virginia. 
She became serious about “dressage” when she rode and trained her mother-in-law’s quarter horse, Sage’s Spy Song. Dressage is a French word that means training.  The rider guides the horse through a series of intricate moves by using the rider's hands, legs, and weight. The horse and rider seem to become one moving from one task to another flawlessly.  There is beauty and grace in the dressage movements performed by the horse and rider.  Many people compare the competition to watching figure skating, ballet, or gymnastics.  Teaching Sage the movements was a challenge because the horse had one leg shorter than the other!
 Pati learned the levels of movement in dressage from talented teachers. She practiced and worked hard to advance her skills for competitions.
She remembers her first performance at the Gran Prix level, one of the highest levels of competition.  She was excited and nervous about the first presentation with her horse.  They would be performing under the lights in front of a crowd of 17,000 people.  She wanted to be sure to warm up just enough so that Idilio would be ready, but not tired.  However, there was a delay.  She tried to stay calm. She didn’t want to get too anxious because her horse would pick up on her nervousness and make the stallion uneasy.  Finally after a twenty minute delay, the pair began the dance. 
Pati concentrated on the dressage movements allowing Idilio to perform flawlessly.  A few minutes into the presentation, she realized she was so nervous that she couldn’t swallow.  Saliva kept building up in her mouth, but she could not swallow!  Pati rode her horse through all of the paces, yet she could not swallow.  She began to think that at the end of the performance she would be drooling.   
After performing for six minutes, she heard the crowd start clapping. The performance was over. Finally she could swallow. Happily her nerves did not upset Idilio. He performed so well they made it to the next round.  She never forgot that bit of panic at her first Gran Prix event.  Now she experiences nerves before a routine, but she calls them good nerves because they keep her sharp and ready to perform.
Pati and her husband, Peter, work together in their own business, Pierucci Dressage, located on a farm in Virginia. Pati focuses on teaching lessons in dressage, coaching and training horses. She is enjoying enormous success showing for client horses as well as with students in dressage competition. She supervises a staff of highly qualified people who help care for the horses.
Pati’s occupation allows her to spend her days with her beloved horses and to have family with her even at work. She can be with their children, Phoebe, Hannah, and Ramey at the farm and include their four dogs and pet mouse, Georgina, in all the activities. 
The day begins early on the farm to turn the horses out of the barn and prepare stalls.  Pati spends the entire morning riding each horse for forty-five minutes teaching the horses the movements required to perform in a dressage competition. 
 As the horse masters each movement Pati teaches another maneuver which becomes more complex than the one before. The rider and horse spend years working together in order to place well in the competitions. Pati and Idilio performed at The Gran Prix and International Levels where only the top horses and riders appear.
The afternoon on the farm is spent on grooming, treatments, and teaching until the horses are fed and tucked back into their stalls at 9:00 pm.  This routine is practiced six days a week by this dedicated horse woman and her staff.
Because Pati worked hard and took on increasing responsibilities for the horses, she is respected within the horse trainers and performance circles. She embraced her passion for the handsome animals and allowed it to take her to new heights in her business. The life long fascination with horses continues for Pati as she develops her business and looks forward to even more fun and enjoyment with the horses.

Attended Harcum Junior College, New Jersey, degree in Farm Administration and Breeding
Head instructor, Barclay Farms, New Jersey
Competed in Dressage Competition at Gran Prix Level for over fifteen years
Head trainer and instructor at Hampton Greens Farm, Michigan and Florida

Young Rider Website
The Foundation for the Pure Spanish Horse for books on horses
Dressage terms and information
 Mary King- Imperial Cavalier – Dressage competition London 2012 Olympics

More about Dressage

The three basic gaits are walk, trot, and canter.
Lateral means to move sideways.
Halfpass is a dressage movement that is a highly trained lateral (meaning going sideways) movement.
Tempi Changes is when the horse is cantering and changes his lead leg.

What firsts have you experienced. Leave a message below. I'd love to hear from you. Thank you!

Girls Succeed! is available at Amazon and all major online booksellers.


  1. You made me think of all my firsts. Thank you.

  2. Hi Jill, I'd love to hear a couple of your firsts since I shared mine! Thanks for stopping in and leaving a comment.