June 2017 - Hilda Gurney Clinic

The 2017 Linda O’ Carroll Memorial Adult Amateur Clinic Series concludes with June 9-11 session in Sacramento area.

photos by Nancy Albright

In 1997, the California Dressage Society started a series of clinics to honor Linda O’Carroll, who donated an endowment to fund Adult Amateurs’ education. For two decades, amateur dressage riders who normally would not have an opportunity to train with top professionals in their sport, receive the chance to learn from the best due to the generosity of Mrs. O’Carroll. Each CDS Chapter sponsors at least one qualified rider annually.


CDS Southern Region Adult Amateur Clinic at W Farms with Owners David & Alisa Wilson

Brenna Girard & Jazzistico VDL

This year, a total of 36 riders will participate in the series at three regional clinics; the Southern Region at W Farms (owned by David and Alisa Wilson) in Chino Hills, the Central Region at Golden Hills Farms (owned by Kent Gilmore) in Paso Robles, and the upcoming Northern Region at Pacific Equestrian Center (owned by Mari and Ron Naten) in Wilton. Additional sponsors include Templeton Farms and Five Star Sporthorses.


Linda O’Carroll rode in one of the early CDS Amateur Clinics as the representative of the Foothills Chapter. She loved the experience, commenting often on the wonderfully helpful lessons and the wealth of knowledge she picked up from watching all of the other lessons.

Thomas Billingslea & Lucky Me

As has often been pointed out, the base of that pyramid which represents the discipline of dressage is filled with the Adult Amateurs who juggle work, family, finances, health and any number of other impediments to participate. Mrs. O’Carroll was such an individual; her choices were always for the good of the horse and for the benefit of the sport.

For 2017, the featured clinician has been Hilda Gurney, an Olympian and a key founding member of the California Dressage Society back in 1968. “Finding the right clinician is challenging. Hilda is the perfect fit for CDS’s strict criteria since she is an outstanding communicator, able to inter-relate her vast knowledge of judging, competing, breeding, equine sales, business and management. You name it, she has done it and to the highest degree of excellence! Her supreme ability to connect with the amateurs is what makes these so special,” says Nicole Bhathal, CDS Southern Regional Director and this year’s chair of the clinic series.

Valerie Goodman & Bryan

During CDS’s first year, Hilda worked to create interest and encourage new memberships. In 1975 Hilda and her Thoroughbred Keen won the Silver Individual and Team Gold Medals at the Pan American Games. Their 1976 Olympic effort in Canada earned the U.S. the Team Bronze.

Hilda has won the CDS Futurity and CDS Championship Horse of the Year at all levels, many times. In addition to serious competition, Hilda has enjoyed riding Pas de Deux and Quadrilles, both in shows and in special exhibitions.

Sara Devine-Stiglich & Pernod

For the most part, she has been self-taught, with hard work being the basis of her achievements. However, Hilda has taken every opportunity to study with the many top trainers who have come to California over the years, among them Bengt Ljungquist and Reiner Klimke. She also worked with USET coaches and was the recipient of a USET grant to train in Germany.

Graduating from the first judges program in 1972, Hilda is now an “S” judge, sought after throughout the country for her knowledge. She has also been an L program instructor and has served on the AHSA’s test writing committee.

Being a popular riding teacher, Hilda works with students at her farm Keenridge and in clinics. She helps many dressage enthusiasts through her presentations at symposiums and workshops.

Laurel Kerner & Soren

With Hilda’s long list of accomplishments, naturally the participants felt a bit of nerves before their rides. The evening before the lessons, riders sat together after dinner and shared their own backgrounds and discussed their riding goals. With a down-to-earth style, Hilda asked engaging questions and developed a one-on-one relationship with each and every student. She insisted on private lessons too, even though it would demand more from her. “She was able to zero in on what each horse and rider needed right away with proper exercises that specifically addressed the issues. She got everyone to go beyond their comfort zone and accomplish higher level skills creating more confidence. From the start of their first lessons, to the end of their second, there was improvement,” said Ellen Corob, CDS Vice President and Central Region’s clinic organizer.

Valerie Goodman, chair of the Palos Verdes chapter, who was one of the amateur riders participating in the Southern clinic said, “My Cob has a tendency to over flex and ‘hover’ at the trot, as well as ‘ball up’ at the canter. Hilda immediately schooled me through exercises which allowed me to achieve the correct longitudinal flexion and establish an active, even tempo in both gaits. From there we focused on my aides to create a better supple lateral bend while maintaining impulsion. Gaining insight and the right feel is invaluable. A big thank you to Hilda and to CDS for an unforgettable weekend.”

Suzi Lanini & Justin

Victoria Castle & Salient with Hilda Gurney

The series will conclude in the North at Pacific Equestrian Center in Wilton, CA June 9-11. CDS welcomes auditors free of charge. For more information contact Mari Naten This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or 916-687-8035.


CDS Central Region Adult Amateur Clinic at Golden Hills Farm