Dancing partners: Kathy Kopp and Owen canter, pirouette and piaffe their way to national dressage titles
BY EILEEN PERSIKE
Rhinelander’s Kathy Kopp has been a horse lover her entire life; sneaking off on her sister Jodi Lassig’s horse as a mere three-year-old. Kopp hasn’t slowed down one bit, and today is a national dressage champion, along with her Oldenburg horse, Owen.
“I don’t even know what to say,” Kopp said after the final standings were released. “I think I am still trying to process it.”
Kopp and her husband, Chuck Kopp, have operated Dunroven Farm since 1985. The farm includes indoor and outdoor dressage arenas. Kathy Kopp trains horses and riders, boards horses and the farm also runs a therapeutic riding program. Competition, though, is her passion.
“I’m a goal-setting type person and one of my goals was to compete,” Kopp said. “I think that’s a true test of your riding ability, your training ability, is to just go out there and compete.”
It was recently announced by the United States Dressage Federation that Kopp is ranked first in the Vintage Cup, the Open for International Sporthorse Registry/Oldenburg and the Vintage Cup for International Sporthorse Registry/Oldenburg, at competition level four. The pair is also among the top 20 finishers for the Dressage Horse of the Year.
Dressage: [ druh-sahzh ]
The art or method of training a horse in obedience and precision of movement
The word dressage is French, meaning “training,” and is defined as “the art or method of training a horse in obedience and precision of movement.” Competitive dressage involves nine progressive levels–training level, level one, two, three, and four, prix St. Georges, intermediate I, intermediate II and grand prix, which is the level of competition at the Olympics. Also required is a minimum of eight rides and scores from four different judges.
“As in any sport, there are always your better judges and your more mediocre judges,” Kopp explained. “You try to go to the shows [with judges] that have the same philosophy on training that you do.”
Each level contains multiple tests. Within each test are a number of patterns, or moves that must be followed. Each movement is graded 1-10, with anything higher than a six considered good.
“The scores help you get better,” Kopp said. “That’s what’s really cool about dressage. You can make a grave error but if you correct it immediately, the judges reward your corrections. That’s one thing I really learned this year, is being able to ride a mistake and come back, get my mind and myself back in the game and continue and it’s paid off this year.”
Although often compared to dancing, dressage is also a physically demanding sport.
“It’s a lot like learning to dance with a partner,” Kopp said. “It gets very intricate. You think it and he’s starting to do it already.”
With her partner, Owen, in the prime of his life at age 13, it seems likely there are more accolades in Kathy Kopp’s future