Enumclaw’s Blake rides to equestrian gold

Rebecca Blake’s exceptional skills earned her a gold medal. - Photo courtesy Gwen Blake
Rebecca Blake’s exceptional skills earned her a gold medal.
— image credit: Photo courtesy Gwen Blake

Rebecca Blake rode her way to the United States Equestrian Federation National Gold Medal Dressage Equitation title.

To make the event even more impressive, the Enumclaw 13-year-old was riding a borrowed horse, using loaned equipment and listening to an assistant coach she met at the competition.

Blake was among the many riders who traveled from across the country to Lamplight Equestrian Center in Wayne, Ill., to compete for 2009 United States Equestrian Federation Dressage Seat Medal Finals presented by Dressage Today July 17-19.

The purpose of the USEF Dressage Seat Medal Program is to promote and reward excellence in equitation, including correct seat, position and use of aids in the sport of dressage.

Traveling all the way from Region 6 paid off for Blake, as she flew home with the Hart Trophy, a Wintec 500 saddle and a Kieffer snaffle bridle, along with a stash of ribbons, trophies and attire.

In the 13-and-younger division, Blake topped the class of riders with a score of 90.000 percent to take the gold medal, riding a borrowed mount named Socrates.

What made the task even more challenging was the fact that she had to travel and compete pretty much on her own. Although she had a chaperon with her, her family and trainer were obligated to stay home.

Rebecca is the daughter of David and Gwen Blake of Enumclaw. She’s trained by her mom at the family-owned Donida Farm Equestrian Center. Her father manages the facility and keeps it prepared for hosting competitions, while her mother continues to train and instruct in the sport of dressage.

Rebecca not only had just a few days to become acquainted with her borrowed horse, but also had to find a way to be comfortable with her borrowed equipment and an assistant coach as well. Air travel, rental cars, hotel and Chicago taxi drivers were just all part of the learning experience.

In national competition, judges look at the quality of the rider as opposed to the quality of the horse. A unique aspect of the program is that riders can compete on borrowed horses. This encourages greater participation from across the country.

While several riders competed at the finals on horses they own and train themselves, the overwhelming majority of the finalists chose to borrow a mount. In fact, four of the six final medalists were awarded their titles on a horse they had not met until arriving in Illinois.

Gwen Blake said without the support of owners willing to lend horses, many riders would not be able to participate and experience their first of many USEF Championships. Riders in these finals qualified last year by competing in the Dressage Seat Medal Semi-Final classes which took place at each of the 2008 USDF Regional Championships, with the top two competitors in each age division becoming eligible for the finals.

This year’s judging panel of Lois Yukins, Paula Lacy, and Charlotte Trentelman were given the difficult task of testing the riders and their skills, with each age division rising to the occasion and making the judges’ jobs even harder.

Before traveling back to Washington, Blake had an opportunity to visit the Field Museum, Art Institute, John Hancock Building and enjoyed trying a famous Chicago hot dog.

Riding is in the younger Blake’s blood. Her mother Gwen was short listed for the Athens Olympic Games and a medalist herself for representing the United States at the Pan American Games in Havana, Cuba. Gwen said she now enjoys handing over the reins to her daughter.

To comment on this story, view it online at Reach Brenda Sexton at or 360-802-8206.

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