Hilda Gurney-USA, FEI Judge

n a rapidly changing horse world, she was an exception. As a matter of fact, Hilda served as a pioneer in dressage. She studied with Colonel Bengt Ljunquist, the Dressage Hall of Fame horseman, who turned Potomac, Maryland into a ‘mecca’ for dressage students.
In 1976, along with Dorothy Morkis and Edith Master, Hilda made Olympic history at Montreal when the US team earned its first dressage medal since 1948. She followed that up with individual and team gold at the 1979 Pan Am Games. Hilda’s horse was the incomparable Keen.

At the Olympics the US earned team bronze after a 22 year absence from the podium. Hilda was part of that team.
"I’m doing really well with Luminence," admits Hilda. "He’s by my stallion Leonidas, and I bred his mother and his grandmother. I don’t buy horses. I ride for customers and I ride the horses we breed. I enjoy it all."

Anyone who knows Hilda knows that she loves her horses. She has ‘given’ away horses, rather than sell them. She’s meticulous in her standards and tends to be bluntly honest, but her students come back for more. She is full of unstinting praise for successful riders, such as Debbie McDonald who rides Brentina, 2005 USEF Farnam/Platform Horse of the Year.

Riders who dream piaffe and passage, tempi changes, and canter pirouettes would do well to start at the bottom and build their skill level on a firm foundation.

"It doesn’t really matter how you ride as long as you have a feel for horses – that’s important," says Hilda. "You can’t predict who’s going to get to Grand Prix. That’s luck – having the right horse at the right time. If it happens, it happens. You never know until you’re there, and you have to be there for a while to see if the horse can handle it.

"My goal is to train a horse," she adds. "The odds of a horse making it to Grand Prix are slim. The form of the horse itself has a lot to do with it. People don’t realize that it’s a lot to ask of the horse. They have to be very generous with their nature. They have to want to piaffe. I teach to help people to ride better and to train their horses more effectively. My students enjoy the journey, working their way up through the levels and learning. You work toward perfection."

Hilda should know. Lauren Gianinni