Thallia Blight | Secretary

Thallia Blight has loved horses ever since she could say “pony.” At age five, an aunt’s Christmas gift of “The Story of Doctor Doolittle” started her interest in the relationship between people and animals and it has been a source of curiosity and joy for her ever since.

Ms. Blight brings a very unique skill set to the WDAA: she worked for seven years on a grant-funded health advocacy project that nurtured community coalitions throughout the state, providing educational materials, hands-on assistance, and grants for public awareness projects. She currently works for the Ohio State University as an internship coordinator. Thallia has served as a board member, officer and spokesperson for several advocacy organizations. She is an active volunteer with her local USDF gmo; and has served as a scorer, scribe, and steward at their shows for many years.

Having enjoyed photography from her high school years, Thallia was an active volunteer videographer and cable access television producer in the mid 1990’s. She collaborated with people from different organizations to create educational programs. Now that she has new equipment and lots of material, she is slowly getting started on creating educational videos about western dressage.

Thallia’s first formal riding lessons were in saddleseat equitation as a pre-teen horsecrazy girl. She moved on to western pleasure thanks the generosity of a family friend who also taught her the basics of showmanship. It wasn’t until she was in college that she discovered dressage. After riding in the Equine Affaire “Ride with the Best” clinics in 2013 taught by Cliff Swanson, Thallia helped organize a WDAA Train the Trainer event in Ohio that same year. She has been an active spokesperson for Western Dressage, giving presentations to college clubs, 4-H advisor workshops, and equestrian organizations. She has also coordinated presentations about the sport at the Equine Affaire in Columbus, Ohio for the past three years. Since 2012 Thallia has been blessed to be the human partner of Finest Five, a talented Paint mare whom she leases from her instructor. Thallia and “Five” have competed at three WDAA World Shows, and have won two WDAA World Championships at Basic Level.

In 2018, Thallia and Finest Five will venture into the Ranch Horse show pen, hopefully to introduce a whole new group of horsemen and horsewomen to the sport she loves. They will still be competing at Level One as well, even after celebrating the mare’s twenty-eighth birthday!

Magic Has No Score

By Thallia Blight

You might not know from looking at her, but Finest Five turned 26 years old in April (2016). She still has a lovely head, a nice topline, wellmuscled hindquarters, and a bright sorrel overo coat that gleams like burnished copper in the summer sun. You also might not realize her true age when she is out in the paddock. From the moment she is turned loose, she thinks and acts like a three-year old: galloping around, bucking and charging the other horses, head and tail held high, with a few nice little rollbacks for good measure.

My introduction to classical dressage happened when I was a freshman in college. There was a recognized USDF show at the local fairgrounds and the first performance I witnessed was a Grand Prix

musical pas de deux. The only word I could find to describe the imperceptible communication between horse and rider was Magic and I have been seeking that Magic ever since.

I am a passionate advocate for Western Dressage because “WD” has been the best thing to happen to me in a very long time. My attempts at competing in classical dressage were mediocre at best. A western saddle made all the difference; with a more secure seat, excellent instruction, and this delightful equine partner, I have become a competent horsewoman. Magical moments are more often within reach, and I have accomplished more than I ever thought possible. Thanks to Finest Five, I have two WDAA World Champion jackets in my closet. In a way I’ve come full circle, as one of them is for Musical Freestyle.

Like many other middle-aged horsewomen, I have had my share of heartaches. WD came along just as my mother’s battle with Alzheimer’s disease was intensifying into the final stage. My schooling sessions with Five were a refuge from the feelings of anxiety and defeat that I often experienced as my mother’s caregiver. Simple things like a lovely lead change, or a balanced turn on the haunches, were small successes to be savored.

People were surprised to see me competing at a local schooling show last summer, two days after my mother’s passing. I was amongst friends, enjoying the sunshine, focused on trying to capture a fleeting moment of Magic with Finest Five. We were so attuned to each other, this mare and I, that our transitions required only tiny cues of my breath, seat and hands. Our leg yield to the right was a bit sticky, but when we reached the letter M, I exhaled and Five gave the smoothest lope transition we have even had in the showring. The judge rewarded us with an Eight, but I’d call it Magic.

At this stage in her life, Five is the equivalent of a 72-year-woman. She has been on and off the show circuit since she was a yearling, but she still has a zeal for competition. Hot temperatures and a lack of sleep may take their toll on her energy level but she won’t let it show and is as keen as ever to “show the youngsters how it’s done.”

Here, now, her needs as an “elderly gal” are a concern for me. As her human partner I am the one who must say “Whoa, Five” and let her know she does not have to work so hard to please me. That being said, playtime is an important part of her life, and I cannot imagine keeping her shut up in her stall just to prevent a little more “wear-and-tear.”

So after putting on Five’s fly mask and giving her a generous spritz of fly spray, I walk her out to the paddock so she can enjoy some time outdoors. With her usual enthusiasm she pushes past me toward the gate. Once inside, I unclip the lead, and click my tongue a few times. Off she goes, showing me her best lengthened lope. Is it a seven? An eight? No, it’s Magic.

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