1. How did you get into horses?
Hard to say... I was born in Florence, Italy, and horses were not a part of the environment. As a 5 year old child, I was lifted onto the saddle of a Carabiniere on the Armed Forced Day and I felt incredible. Since then I went riding (well, sort of) in country places and much later joined a place for equestrian tourism, in Maremma. There I learned how to guide and cut cattle (yes, “butteri” are italian cowboys) and to guide people in the hills. Later I joined a proper riding school and did some show jumping. Even later I started doing some dressage, did a few competitions, and then... I started asking myself questions about the marks I got. I joined a course for dressage judges and a whole world was open: I choose almost immediately what to do the foremost of my equestrian life.
2. Have you ever done any dressage yourself?
Yes, a few shows as I mentioned above, and since then I have always practiced home dressage.
3. Tell us about your background and qualifications.
I earned my first dressage qualification during my thirties, then started slowly to grow. Our system requires two years experience before attempting any new level course & exam, so the whole process requires a strict minimum of 10/11 years before attempting the Grand Prix level, which I earned in 2010. I have being training students since for quite a few years and I also own a title of Dressage Instructor in SIEC (Italian Society for Classical Equitation)
4. What are the most common mistakes you notice when judging dressage?
That very much depends on the level. It seems any level has specific problems, but what I see most often is a lack of understanding of the basics and what is actually expected from the horse/rider. That is something that ends often up lacking in high levels.
5. Dressage used to be the equestrian sport reserved for those at the higher levels. Why do you think it has gained so much popularity with riders if all levels over the years?
Well, I would like to say that it is popular in my Country as well. But I am optimistic in the idea of having people interested in how to build a relationship with horses which goes beyond taking risks and using force. Time seems proper for a grown-up dressage, which must first of all cover the old masters, getting rid of some excesses – and join that knowledge with some modern “feeling” and tack allowances, in my opinion.
6. In your opinion, how can dressage improve the horse’s way of going?
A proper dressage? Quite a lot. The same as proper gymnastics and physiotherapy help any of us to feel better, grow better, and ultimately, getting old in a healthy way.
7. How have you and your yard coped with a year of lockdowns? What has been the biggest drawback?
Not much, really. The first lockdown was strict and none of us could reach the stable. So we resorted to each other's help. But horses thrived, actually, and lived that period as a wonderful holiday... the second one instead, we were allowed to go to our horses provided we had with us a document attesting our property of them, and a filled-in authorization form.
8. What online services do you offer?
Most of my students attend regular coaching sessions but I can evaluate videos and follow people at distance using cameras (like Pixio, for example)
9. What would be your favourite school exercise and why?
Again, any level has a different school exercise which I favour: depends on where the “couple” is in training. I feel though that never enough attention is given to the seat and use of the aids, and many students do have to work on the most neglected gait: the walk.
10. Any advice for keeping motivated during lockdown?
Just ride for yourself & your horse. What you are doing is to improve your relationship and to become evermore healthy and beautiful. Shows will come later on, but they are not supposed to be your main goal.
11. What are you most looking forward to at the end of lockdown?
Actually, that has only partially have to do with horses: I look forward to a new equilibrium in health system and economical activities, as the former is overloaded, and the latter much suffering.
12. What has been your career / riding highlight?
I believe my appointment in 2020 as a member of a three judges panel to select our Junior and Young Rider team to sent to Hungary for the European Championships. It was a bunch of a responsibility, but I was glad to take part in ground jury.
13. What do you think are the benefits of competing with an online dressage platform like Dressage @ Home & International?
A lot. First, you can “compete” with people all across the globe, virtually. Second, for those who are quite emotional, it is an easier way to enter this world. Third, this works perfectly during lockdown as it overcomes it, allowing people to “feel in touch”. Fourth, it is surely much more “pocket friendly”, as transportation and standard costs for shows end up in (at least in Italy) something between 100 and 300 euros, so really not for everybody... So, I believe this idea is great, people-friendly, and deserving attention.