Carolyn West: Doing what she knows best

Published 2:58 pm Friday, July 31, 2009

Carolyn West was born and raised in Orange, New Jersey. Her family moved to Chester Springs, Penn., where she and her twin sister grew up with horses and joined pony club. West received an A rating with the Pickering Pony Club and foxhunted with the Pickering Hunt.

Needing a horse for the pony club rallies, West went to the Downingtown Inn, owned by Mickey Rooney. The inn rented string horses. She and her sister put a broom across two buckets and decided to see if any of the horses could jump it. Clod was the winner that jumped the broom. After a small purchase price of $800, he came home with West to a new career.

Clod was a draft cross and beauty was not his forte, but he proved to be a star. West and Clod swam daily in a nearby pond to condition him. That summer, West took him to the regionals and qualified him for the championships in Omaha, Nebraska. Clod went on to be a competitive member of the winning gold medal team.

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The next chapter of opportunity for West came with an invitation to go to Guadalajara, Mexico, where she rode and trained with Conchita Cintron, a lady bullfighter. Cintron took West under her wings of classical dressage and trained her with Andalusian and Lusitano horses that performed to the FEI classical levels of the Grand Prix movements. Cintron used the classical high school movements of dressage to perform her bullfighting feats.

While there, West trained an Arabian mare, Diedad. This is where the real adventures for West began to unfold. To get to the dressage show arenas, West had to make a pilgrimage by trail riding for about two hours. West would stop at an old adobe farm house to have breakfast and refresh her mare with water and hay. The old farm house was hooked up to a generator, which was an ancient tractor, and that was connected to the kitchen stove where bacon, eggs, and pancakes were cooked and served to fortify her for the rest of the journey to the show ring.

West qualified her mare for the championships to go to Mexico City, where she competed Diadad at the fourth level. To accomplish this West and Diedad boarded a train for Mexico City and. They placed third out of five entries at the show.

It was after this victory with her mare that West went to California to study competitive dressage riding and training with Hilda Gurney. West competed at the FEI levels on an Andalusian stallion, Admirado and she took him successfully to the Grand Prix level. They placed fifth at the Olympic tryouts in Watsonville.

According to West, the trainers and people who have influenced her the most are Hilda Gurney and Conrad Schumacher. They both espouse the philosophy of training that is the kindest for a horse in which the horse&squo;s gifts and talents are encouraged and valued without the demands of training that would hinder the horse from doing a good job.

West says she is grateful for all the hundreds of horses she has ridden and competed and for all they have taught her ‐ she says they have been her best teachers in dressage. West is also grateful for Sally Frick and the Motlow Equestrian Center where she rides and trains and teaches.

West is currently enrolled in the judge&squo;s program and her goal is to become a licensed dressage judge within a year of testing and training in this program. She loves doing what she knows best with teaching and training, she says, and her students attest to the joy of learning and being with her in dressage.

Other accomplishments that West is proud of are the two young riders that she trained and taught for the California Young Riders Team, Alisha Hodge and Nick Wagna. They both earned gold medals. Alisha Hodge also won the individual silver medal.

West says she loves and values her family ‐ Ben and Bailey and the lovely Tryon cottage she is renovating. Her hot spots are Lowe&squo;s and Home Depot, which she and boyfriend Larry visit frequently for home improvement supplies for her 100-year-old Tryon cottage. The master bedroom and bath and the kitchen are their latest projects of love and hard work. West loves gardening and has extensive plants, flowers, shrubs, herbs.

She also shares her space with two dogs, Lola and Bree, who accompany her everywhere.

After the Tryon cottage has its finishing touches completed, perhaps a horse will come into West&squo;s life again.