Elizabeth Simmeth-Ensor &
2011 Equiery Perpetual Dressage Award Winner
by Carly Weilminster
(first appeared in the September 2012 issue of The Equiery)
Time is key when creating a lasting partnership. Dressage rider Elizabeth
Simmeth-Ensor’s patient waiting for just the right partnership
has finally paid off and her journey to greatness has begun. Her relationship
with Baltic Hanoverian gelding Liuteris Star began in 2007 and has been
progressing ever since. But this past year, their partnership has developed
into something she only could have imagined, a move up to Third Level,
a U.S. Dressage Federation Bronze Medal, and countless accolades including
The Equiery Perpetual Dressage Award.
The Journey Begins
Elizabeth Simmeth was the youngest of four children and the only girl.
Her parents decided to give her an activity she could call her own and
enrolled her in weekly riding lessons at an early age. A native of Maryland,
Elizabeth grew up riding at some of the best-known farms in Harford
County. For her 12th birthday, her parents gave her her first pony and
at age 16, Eileen Prichard Brian, a family friend, introduced her to
Pony Club. What she once thought of as a simple hobby became a passion.
Competing professionally in the sport of eventing was her original goal;
however, in 1980 she met Greg Ensor, and they were married seven years
later. They bought some land in Jarrettsville and built a house and
a barn. Together, they decided that a life of traveling and competing
was not conducive to raising a family, so Elizabeth chose to lay her
professional dreams to rest. Her son Corbin was born in September of
1989 and her daughter Laurel followed three years later. Even though
competing professionally was out of the question, she continued with
her riding. Elizabeth would often bring Corbin to the barn with her,
set up his playpen near
the ring, and like many other horse moms, multitasked, riding while
also keeping a close eye on her son.
Committing to Dressage
As time passed, Elizabeth competed and worked with several horses, but
one, Korbin’s Keila, a Percheron/Thoroughbred mare, helped Elizabeth
realize her need to “fine-tune” her dressage skills. Elizabeth
first competed Keila in eventing but an injury prevented the mare from
jumping at that level and she turned to dressage. What was only meant
to be a quick tune-up through a few lessons turned into one of Elizabeth’s
longest-lasting friendships. Margaret Haskins, now Elizabeth’s
trainer, friend and confidant, helped guide her in the transition from
dressage as just the first phase of eventing into preparing for the
classical dressage world.
Elizabeth began competing Keila with Margaret’s guidance up through
First Level. Her scores began to improve. “Earning my USDF Bronze
medal was my goal and I did everything I could to make sure that I would
succeed,” Elizabeth stated. She already had the scores she needed
at First Level from her rides with Keila.
Finding the Partner
Through Keila and Margaret, Elizabeth deepened her appreciation of dressage.
When it came time to purchase a horse who would help her learn the ropes
of the upper levels, Elizabeth had a schoolmaster in mind. But when
she was shown a video by Jim Armstrong of a feisty chestnut gelding
in Virginia, she could not pass up the opportunity to “at least
Lo and behold, Elizabeth fell in love with Luisteris Star (aka Alexi),
who she comically nicknamed “Bubble Boy” due to his lack
of turnout and extreme “dressagesque” upkeep.
Elizabeth went back to try Alexi twice before deciding that he was the
horse for her. He was only four years old and she knew that he was no
schoolmaster, but he clearly had the talent to reach the top if she
could continue to be patient.
With Alexi, Elizabeth set out to earn the final scores she needed for
the USDF Bronze Medal. In order to qualify for this award, one must
receive two scores above 60% at each level in First, Second, and Third
Level classes. Alexi proved to be very spooky in his early years, creating
some difficult challenges for the pair. She jokingly said, “If
a leaf dropped into the ring, before I knew it, we were halfway across
the arena.” But, she adds, he is an overachiever and is willing
to push himself for the results that she asks him for.
After years of some of the toughest and most mentally trying competitions,
she finally earned her last qualifying score in 2011. She recalls, laughing,“I
was the queen of 59%. For some reason I could not get a 60% and I kept
thinking to myself, what is so difficult about getting a 60%?”.
Just to put the cherry on top of a successful season, Elizabeth decided
to travel with her daughter Laurel to San Diego, California to personally
accept the award at the USDF Convention/Symposium.
Elizabeth stated that the most important part of reaching her goal was
the journey she took to get there. The journey for her is always more
important than the final result.
Being awarded with the Equiery Perpetual Dressage Award is something
that Elizabeth will never forget. When she received notice that she
was to be honored at the Potomac Valley Dressage Association banquet,
she called Margaret and said, “I think they have the wrong person!”
Relatively new to PVDA, Elizabeth did not know much about the award’s
qualifications and figured the board had made a mistake. But hard work
pays off and winning the award became the highlight of a wonderful year.
Elizabeth and Alexi ended 2011 ready to move up to Fourth Level, their
2012 season had to be put on hold and Elizabeth’s patience was
tried again. A misstep here, a tight canter transition there, and Elizabeth
knew that something was wrong with her equine partner. After days of
testing, she finally decided to take Alexi to Dr. Kent Allen at Virginia
Equine Imaging. After blocking, MRIs and other diagnostics, they discovered
that Alexi had bursitis in both front feet.
Thankfully, the issue was caught very early and treatment was begun
soon enough that the 2012 season will not be a complete waste. After
weeks of stall rest and limited turnout, Alexi and Elizabeth hope to
pick up their competition journey at the end of this year.
Elizabeth accredited Alexi’s quick recovery to Dr. Kent Allen,
thanking him for the intense and specialized work he did to find the
best treatment for Alexi. She also graciously thanked EMO and Great
American Insurance for giving her peace of mind, not having to worry
about the financial burden of such expensive treatments. She also said
that without the support of Wayne Winsor (Green Glen Equine), Jim Jeswick
(Manor Equine) and her farrier, Steven Wheeler, Alexi’s progress
would not and could not continue at the rate it is today. “They
are the reason he is at the level he is and the reason he will keep
progressing,” Elizabeth said.
The Journey Continues
Dressage is not easy and it can take years and years to perfect a single
moment that in competition is over in mere seconds, yet it is the demand
for detail and poise that drew Elizabeth in and has kept her working
hard to reach her ultimate goal of competing at Fourth Level and Prix
St. Georges. Margaret said about the pair, “The most enjoyable
part of teaching Elizabeth has been watching her grow and mature into
someone who knows more about life because of her riding. That is the
most important thing to me and ultimately the most fulfilling.”
In the end, no matter what competitive level these two aspire to, it
will be the journey they embark upon that will be the one she remembers
for years to come.