Santos and Me

...Adventures in learning to ride a dressage "schoolmaster"!


I am Santos, a 1980 model Hessen (19 yrs old), 17'2 hands high, and have competed through Prix St. George. I came from a region in Germany where they drink lots of beer and have a good sense of humor. I'm black and I'm beautiful! I'm part Eddy Murphy, part Johnny Cochran and a little Dennis Rodman. That means that I think I'm funny and I'm a terrible showoff, and sometimes I just go too far! They have labeled me as a schoolmaster, but I will be sure to teach Cortney a lot of those lessons termed out of "school"! She'll have to get through my bag of tricks before she ever gets to do any ABC's of dressage. HAHA, just try to find my buttons, and I rewire them regularly!!!! I'm Cortney, a true dressage amateur, fitting in riding around my marriage and my job as an Engineer for Virginia Tech's Communications Network Services. I grew up doing hunters and Pony Club (through my HA) on a variety of leased and owned horses. I have good basics but want a deeper understanding of dressage and a chance to ride and learn on a horse that is capable of being round, through, and forward. I applied for, and was granted, a Virginia Dressage Associaton (VADA) scholarship at First Level in 1998 and at Third Level in 1999 to help offset my education on Santos. And what an education it has been!!


  • How I came to dressage
  • My trainer Frances Yeardley
  • Logistics
  • VADA Scholarship

Journal Part 1 - October 1997 to June 1998
  • October, 1997: First Lesson - bucking, twisting, evading
  • Winter: Basics - moving forward
  • Spring, 1998: Focus on position - sitting back and staying straight
  • May: Preparation for Shows - leg yields and transitions
  • May 23: SWVADA Recognized Show - Training & First levels
  • Late May/Early June: Schooling Second level - shoulder-in and roundness
  • June 20-21: VADA/NOVA Show - First & Second levels

Journal Part 2 - June to August 1998
  • June 23: Travers, sitting trot issues
  • June 28: Turning, straightness, bending
  • July 1: Turn on the haunches
  • July 2 : Simple changes till we're blue in the face
  • July 10-12: Dressage at Lexington - First & Second levels
  • July 16: Lessons in the double bridle
  • July 17: Beginning Half-pass
  • July 25-26: Morven Park Dressage - Second & Third levels
  • July 31: Lessons with Jiri "George" Zitek
  • August 6: More Half-pass

Journal Part 3 - August to September 1998
  • August 15-16: Dressage at Foxcroft - Second & Third levels
  • August 20: Still more half-pass
  • Early September: Frustrations
  • Mid September: A new appreciation for shoulder-in and other breakthroughs
  • September 19-20: Morven Park Dressage - Third level

Journal Part 4 - September to October 1998
  • September 21: An unexpected break in training
  • October 11: An Audience
  • October 13: WOW! Extended trot and halfpass are coming!
  • October 22-25: BLM Championship Show - Third level, last show of the season
  • Prologue and Thank Yous!!

Journal Part 5 - March to July 1999
  • March 1999: Back for more!
  • May 29: SWVADA Spring Show- First Show of the Season
  • July 17-18: Dressage at Lexington
  • Late July: Fine tuning
  • July 31-Aug 1: Morven Park
  • August: Tempi changes and pirouettes

Journal Part 6 - August to September 1999
  • August 21-22: Foxcroft - First Fourth Level Tests!!
  • Early September: The final push
  • September 25-26: VADA/NOVA - Last show with Santos
  • Final Goodbyes

Go to the journal....


How I came to dressage

Though I have a varied riding background, dressage has been my singular interest for the past three years. I began riding hunt seat as a child, taking lessons and leasing horses until I finally got my own horse at age 14. My focus turned to combined training when I joined Brush Run Pony Club (Pennsylvania). I am a graduate H-A, Life Member, and volunteer with the United States Pony Club and its local clubs. I took a brief hiatus from competitive riding during college, then picked it back up again during graduate school when I met my current equine partner, Excalibur. He is a 19-year old bay Thoroughbred, a grandson of Citation, and an ex-working hunter. I've leased him from his owner for the past 3-1/2 years and together we have worked very hard to transform ourselves into a respectable dressage team at First Level. You can see pictures of Excalibur on my homepage.


My trainer Frances Yeardley

France Yeardley is an FEI competitor, L judge, trainer, and instructor from our area. One day I was complaining to her that Excalibur and I had hit a wall with his arthritis. I was eager to learn more but not ready to invest in a new horse. She invited me to try her ex-Prix St. George horse, Santos, so I could feel what a free, swinging gait was like. She warned me that he was a bit of a mischievious clown and had frustrated more than a few people. Undeterred, I packed up my stuff one day in the fall of 1997 and drove the 85 miles from Blacksburg to Lexington to give it a try and despite Santos's best efforts to the contrary, I keep coming back!



When people hear that I make the 90 minute drive each way to ride with Frances three times a week, they think I'm crazy. One of the reasons it has worked so well is because planning is greatly simplified by ready access to email and the Internet. We exhange quick notes almost daily to schedule lessons, coordinate horse show trips, sum up lessons learned, and discuss questions. She supplements lessons with clips from online forums and sends video stills of me to illustrate problems. During the drive to and from, I learn or review dressage tests, mentally rehearse movements, and think about what I've learned or questions I might have. The time is not wasted at all.


VADA Scholarship

I am a proud recipient of the VADA First Level Scholarship in 1998 and VADA Third Level Scholarship in 1999. Selections were made in part on our volunteer activites in support of our chapter and the USDF. I have been a member of SWVADA/VADA (Southwest Virginia Dressage Association) for the past four years, elected to the Board of Directors, editor of the Salute, our monthly newsletter, creator of the SWVADA Web site, and all-around clinic, event, and show volunteer. In return for this scholarhip, I have volunteered to document my adventures on this Web page. I owe a big thank-you to Frances, who had the difficult task of translating for Santos!


Thank you to my husband Robert, Frances Yeardley,
Santos, and VADA for this wonderful opportunity!

Copyright 1998 Cortney Martin and Frances Yeardley
Graphics by Frances Yeardley

[ Santos and Me ] [ Journal Part 1 ] [ Journal Part 2 ] [ Journal Part 3 ]
[ Journal Part 4 ] [ Journal Part 5 ] [ Journal Part 6 ]