September 2019 - How I Spent My Summer Vacation


California hunter/jumper student summers in France to ride with Alice Debany Clero.

by Elisa Broz

Elisa Broz is making a name for herself on the California circuit, but she jumped on a summer detour to train and compete in France. The accomplished student of Cassie Belmont’s training program in Watsonville was happy to share her unique summer story with California Riding Magazine.

CRM: How did the opportunity come about?
My past two summer adventures were triggered when Bernie Traurig came to do a clinic at our barn in the winter. It was a great clinic and I learned a lot during those two days at Belmont Training Stables in Watsonville, where I ride. At the end of the clinic my mom (Constance Broz, a dressage rider) went up to him and asked if he had any contacts in France. She is French and wanted me to spend more time in her home country without sacrificing my desire to ride as much as possible during my vacation.
Bernie said he had a very close friend in France, she was an American rider who had been living there for over 15 years and her name was Alice Debany Clero. I personally was interested in the idea my mom had proposed because not only do I love France, I also had just started the jumpers and I wanted to explore the difference between the American and the European style of riding.

CRM: How was showing different there?
There are some very marked differences in the shows in France versus the shows in America. To begin with, the French shows I participated in were FEI ranked, which means there are additional requirements for both horses and rider. I had to submit a request to USEF to compete at the FEI level. At the shows we had to jog the horses in front of a vet to check for lameness and stewards would routinely inspect the barns.


A dream come true training and jumping on the beach at Alice Debany’s farm in La Boule, France, with Clooney.

Another surprising difference was to be at a horse show without hunters and equitation, but only jumpers. This meant the venues are smaller with fewer rings. It made the shows a little less hectic. Being on time was very important, all the shows were very punctual. Lastly, it was a different experience for me to show in Europe because we didn’t have grooms. I woke up at 5:30 a.m., cleaned my horses’ stalls, fed them and tacked them up. By the time I had to show there was no time to change breeches. So, working and keeping my white breeches clean was a challenge.

Del Mar Show Park Elisa on Colorado winning the 1.20m Open Classic.

CRM: What is Alice’s facility like?
Alice has a beautiful farm right on the beach in Bretagne in a town called La Baule. It is a beautiful stable surrounded by large green pastures as far as the eye can see. The best part of her barn is that it is right next to the ocean. We would only take a short ride to be right on the beach!! Every time the tide went out we rode on the beach!
The footing was perfect and we didn’t have to do anything, the tide would drag “the ring” for us daily. Once the tide was going out, we set up jumps then grabbed the horses and had the perfect arena to ride in. There’s so much space for galloping.
It has always been a dream of mine to ride on the beach. Being at Alice’s farm may have been one of my favorite parts of the whole trip.

CRM: What were some similarities and differences between Cassie and Alice’s training approaches?
I think that Cassie’s and Alice’s teaching styles are very complementary. Cassie has taught me almost everything I know, from the basics up and she continues to be my trainer for over nine years now. Alice reinforced the practice of a stable leg and body in the jumpers through exercises that she has created. As an American rider, she understands the equation style and believes that a beautiful and correct position is very important.
This is something that Cassie teaches all of her riders from day-one.
Building on my foundation, Alice taught me specific exercises to develop a more effective use of my body and hand to control my horses in the jumper ring. Specifically, I worked on having a slower body before and over the jump. Alice also taught me the importance of shoulder-in and leg yield. She emphasized the importance of how to do these two moves and understand them “intellectually” and on the horse.
One aspect I really enjoyed about Alice’s style is that she would ride a horse to demonstrate what she was teaching. Once I got back home, Cassie continued to help me work with my own horses practicing shoulder-in and leg yield, which I feel are increasingly important as I enter higher level classes.

Representing the USA and placing with Upona, a leased Selle Francais at the Royan horse show, her first FEI show.

CRM: What experiences at home enabled you to take full advantage of this opportunity?
Other than Cassie’s training, there have been a couple other experiences that have allowed me to make the most of my experience in France:
1) The USHJA Gold Star Clinic with Katie Prudent was an opportunity to learn from many different teachers and gave me new tools that I was able to apply during my time with Alice. For example, having to take care of my horses by myself throughout the clinic gave me more confidence when I had to take care of three horses while in France. Also, what was special about being with Alice was that she was training a beautiful young stallion and I could see how some of the clinic teachings (i.e.: what qualities to look for in a horse) were being applied to a green horse.

CRM: How do you think your summer study abroad will impact your horsemanship going forward?
Being in France allowed me to grow in my riding and made me aware of the work needed to become a professional. I got to shadow a Grand Prix rider for a month and learned about the skill, sweat and tears that are needed to reach that level. Although it may sound crazy, waking up early and working hard through the day was something I really enjoyed. Alice has become a role model and many of the people that I met in France have given me a desire to work even harder towards my goal of becoming a GP rider.

Back home and incorporating lessons learned with her trainer Cassie Belmont.

CRM: What stood out about competing at the French shows?
During the two competitions I rode in (Royan and Fontainebleau) this summer, I noticed the majority of the riders took care of their own horses. It created an environment of camaraderie and support that made participating a lot more fun and the rider-horse relationship was felt more deeply. A little mishap happened during my last week of showing, one of our horses, who was bit of an escape artist, got out of his stall to go eat from a neighbor’s stack of hay. It happened a few times but our neighbors caught him without telling us and put him back in his stall. That was one of the experiences that brought me to the realization that everyone there cared about the horses and was very understanding.

CRM: Where are some recent show highlights at home and your main showing goals for the rest of the year?
Currently, I’m doing the 1.20M jumpers on my mare Colorado and the 3’6” equitation on my horse BeforeAnythingElse. Over the past two years there have been a couple of real highlights in my riding. Last year I won the National Children’s Jumpers Championship Classic and was champion of the division. I was also champion in the 14-and-under equitation in Las Vegas. I am qualified for all of the West Coast medal finals and plan to attend most of them this season. I also am currently the Top NorCal and USHJA Modified Junior Jumper rider on my horse Colorado.

CRM: Thank you Elisa!