Spotlight – Wildfire Farm & Mary Flood

“Dressage is a French word that means training,” explained Mary Flood, new 2021 Northern Virginia Working Equitation (NOVAWE) Business Member and owner/trainer at Wildfire Farm in Lovettsville, VA where she has been teaching and training all types of riders, including both dressage enthusiasts and serious dressage competitors, for over 40 years. Working Equitation (WE) sparked her interest when many of her students also began participating in NOVAWE.

“I’ve always used cones and poles in lessons for basic suppling, balance, adjustability, and rideability,” said Mary who is also interested in learning the finer details of the WE sport, rules, obstacles, and applications for navigating them. She continued, “Obstacle work, such as that employed in Working Equitation, is a great measure of success. Obstacles demand that the rider needs to be a leader instead of a passenger. It requires a higher level of communication skills and provides immediate goal recognition.”

Furthermore, Mary believes WE is a “great blend, employing obstacles in training keeps horses mentally interested,” Mary stated. “They learn problem solving skills and improve their balance, coordination, and harmony with their rider.”

The importance of quality dressage work for WE riders is significant for scoring well in the dressage trial, one of three trials at a WE show. The others are obstacle trials: “Ease of Handling”, where each obstacle receives a 0-10 score, similar to the scoring of a dressage movement, and “Speed” where the obstacle course is repeated but, in this trial, the fastest time with the fewest errors wins. The Speed Trial is not all about galloping fast; strategic lines and control need to be maintained for success.

NOVAWE recommends members work on dressage, not just the WE test but components of the tests. For those who want to show, scoring well in the Dressage trial is valuable to your overall placing.  Mary uses exercises to improve connection and harmony in addition to providing strategies to ride tests effectively. Regardless of whether you want to show, “dressage practice provides balance and responsiveness,” said Mary, which she explained are qualities needed to navigate obstacles successfully.

Wildfire Farm and Mary Flood’s interest in helping NOVAWE riders is a fabulous opportunity for the membership, whether new, novice or advanced. Mary is a U.S. Dressage (USDF) Certified Instructor and USDF Bronze, Silver, and Gold Medalist with numerous Horse of the Year Awards. She won the Grand Prix at Devon and was long listed for the Olympic Team in the 90s. Despite her impressive credentials, Mary is easy to work with and adept at breaking down the complicated and sophisticated principals for novice level consumption. She will get to the root cause of issues and provide exercises (homework) to assist riders help their horses find balance and progress as well as have fun at the same time.

And so, Mary, the constant student, is embracing Working Equitation.

NOVAWE plans to schedule a clinic and/or fix-a-test with Mary this season, but don’t wait for us, you can take lessons directly by emailing her at [email protected]. She offers both a full-size regulation outdoor dressage arena and a fabulous indoor (a bit larger than a small dressage arena) with excellent dust-free footing perfect for WE movements and tests. Also, she will offer NOVAWE members a $25 discount on their first lesson this winter/spring through April.

Mary holds a Master’s Degree in Physical Education with studies in Kinesiology and Physiology, all knowledge she brings to her riding students. After completing graduate school, and before teaching and training horses full-time, Mary was a high school Physical Education instructor at West Springfield in Fairfax, VA (circa 1985). There she was renowned as a coach in many sports and was awarded “Coach of the Year” honors.

At another school she was honored with a “Teacher of the Year” award. In addition, she participated in the World Championships on a women’s softball league.

Mary also coached her son, Scott, a member of Dominion Valley Pony Club, to win the National Pony Club Eventing Championships in Lexington, KY. Scott was one of the founding members of the US. Games Team. “The kids did so well because I was able to give them thorough flat work training. Horses navigating games obstacles especially need balance and responsiveness. They are true athletes,” said Mary.

Accomplished “dressage trainer” just scratches the surface; it seems there is little Mary has not done. She was a private pilot and has been in every state in the United States and in many countries around the world, Kenya, Africa being her favorite. She is a master gardener and has a fabulous garden behind her lovely log home, complete with ponds she put in herself. She has a number of rare ducks, a variety of chickens, lots of wildlife and enjoys her engaging cats.

There is not much Mary hasn’t done or can’t do, and her teaching style is friendly and inspiring. Happily, NOVAWE welcomes Wildfire Farm and Mary Flood to our NOVAWE herd, and we look forward to leveraging her skills and knowledge.