Q and A: Interview with Dressage Rider Tyra Vernon
Tyra and Hadrian at the USLA Kyra Kyrklund Master Class. Photo Credit Lusitano World/Rita Vitorino
Tyra Vernon is a the owner and operator of a large training facility in Ocala, Florida called BREC Dressage. Vernon's training program is on the map not only for her great success as a competitor in the show ring but also for the success of her students in the FEI Levels. Tyra states that the majority of her students are mounted on Lusitanos and says about the breed "It's wonderful to have such steady and kind horses for my people to learn on and enjoy!". USLA interviewed Tyra to learn more about her history and her special partnership with Hadrian Interagro..
Where are you from and how did you learn to ride?
I’m originally from northern Wisconsin, right up on the south shore of Lake Superior. I learned to ride from a very small barn owned by Roger Jeagar. His son, Tom, took dressage lessons from Fred Kappler and then transferred his learnings to me eventually. I was very young but wanted to learn as much as I could. I was 5 when I started lessons and then 7 when my Grandpa bought me my first horse for $500.00. Over the next several years I rode that horse in everything I could possibly do: 4-H, local shows, dressage lessons and experimenting on my own.
Photo Credit Q2 Photography
What was your first memory of the Lusitano horse?
My first memory of a Lusitano horse is still very vivid. I was at a dressage show in Apopka, Fl (Orlando)) and I saw this amazing gray horse canter down between the aisles of the barns we were stabled at. I caught sight of his show number and instantly looked up his info on the show brochure. His name was Sargon Interagro ridden by Jennifer Schuck. I was jaw dropped by the way he sat in his gaits and yet had amazing extensions. I was instantly in love with this horse! It was years later that Jennifer Schuck moved down to Ocala, 1.5 miles from my farm, and was interested in buying a GP horse I had. So, she invited Peter Van Borst to come take a look at the horse and that’s when my Lusitano journey really began. Peter told me all about Interagro Lusitanos, which he worked for at the time. Remembering Sargoon I knew this farm had great prospects! Together Peter and I imported 13 Lusitanos in two years. The Lusitano mission was on!
During that time, I imported Hadrian Interagro. I knew he was special, so I kept him for myself. Hadrian is very unique in his expressive gaits and his love for work. He's always been a team player. The combination of his work ethic and athletic ability allowed us to climb up the levels from 1st level to GP in just a few years.
Tyra and Hadrian in competition.
What are the challenges of competing and training the Lusitano? What are the advantages?
As a rider I find the most important is to keep the horses happy and fit enough to do the job you're asking them to do. I do not drill the horses day after day doing the same repetitive work. I like to keep my training sessions interesting by doing some cross training with poles and riding in the field. I encourage the horses to find their own natural balance and allow them to be playful within their gaits. I think that’s the really fun part, seeing what they offer and developing it! I think the over the back connection to the bit can be challenging with the Lusitanos, I know I have struggled with that with Hadrian. It took quite some time for him to be strong enough to stay connected, keep his back up and neck down within transitions. It is still a work in progress! The other challenge is the length of stride in the walk and extended canter. It’s very hard to not lose points in the ring when the walk is not over-tracking and then some tension can bring the walk score down further. They tend to get quick instead of gaining more ground cover. The advantages are the natural collection they can so easily offer, the tendency to stay forward and the fabulous mind! Definitely a horse you can count on to be there for you.
Do you have a favorite memory of riding or competing the Lusitano?
My favorite memory with Hadrian is entering our first CDI together at the World Equestrian Center in Ocala, FL. It is very hard to be competitive against the field of fancy warmbloods but we held our own. My goal is to continue to improve our performance and scores in the international ring and work toward being as close to the top as possible! This breed deserves to be in that kind of spotlight!