More Than Just horse Sense

Coatesville Woman Graduates With Distinction

by Charlee Beasor

Life in Hendricks County Magazine, June 2010


It’s safe to say Coralie Hughes loves horses.

She also has a very extensive knowledge of horse physiology and anatomy, and knows pretty much everything else there is to know about horses.

But it wasn’t without a lot of hard work and study that she learned all of these things. Aside from being a rider, Hughes recently went through and graduated with distinction from a program that has earned her the title National Level Dressage Judge.

Dressage is a type of riding, and the word is derived from a French term, meaning “training.” There are competitions ranging from amateur to Olympic, Sometimes dressage is referred to as “horse ballet,” as the purpose of it is to develop a horse’s natural athletic ability and willingness to perform, which maximizes the potential as a riding horse.

She completed the “L” Education Program, which offers a comprehensive curriculum that was created to teach participants and auditors to evaluate dressage peformance through the second level.

“It’s the basic training for all judging, I came out of the ‘L’ program,” Hughes said. “I passed with distinction, and more than half of the class didn’t pass at all. There were only two of us to pass with distinction.”

The “S” level is the level of top national judges. Those with “S” level distinction were the ones to teach the classes that Hughes took.

“Dressage is a highly analytical sport,” she said. “There are four levels, and all of these levels have three to four tests.” Hughes was in the program for two years “We had homework all the time,” she said. “They were three-day weekend workshops. It gets into the biomechanics of a horse, the muscles, and how they work. It takes lots of time to understand it all, (When judging) you have to determine did (the horses) do the movement and how well they did it,”

The closest classes were in Minnesota, so Hughes has traveled there for classes and workshops over the past two years.

“I have two Master’s degrees and this is the toughest thing I’ve ever done,” she said. “There is so much pressure on you in the class.” While judging dressage, judges do not look down to score the rider and the horse. They speak to a scribe, who is responsible for recording the judges marks and scores. As a student, she would judge and speak to her scribe with a national level judge looking over her shoulder.

“But the final exam was horrible,” Hughes said. “It was one night, 150 multiple choice questions about rules and biomechanics.

They were all hard. It was very tricky and exhausting, The next two days there were three senior nationaljudges there. We had to judge orally where everybody could hear us. We were all nervous wrecks.”

Since Hughes had to travel to Minnesota for the classes, she paid about $3,500 to complete the program, including lodging and travel expenses.

She said the judging is subjective, and speed is a large factor in that. “You can have easily in six minutes, the horse does 27 different maneuvers,” she said. “You have to learn a whole language.”

Hughes and her family own Serenity Farms in Coatesville, where they have 80 acres that house 19 horses and a donkey, aptly named Don Quixote, “The donkey provides comic relief,” she said. “He’s very funny,”

They also have a large outdoor dressage arena/ as well as an indoor space for riding. They’ve lived on Serenity Farms since 2000, when they moved here from Greencastle. In her professional life, Hughes works at Eli Lilly in Indianapolis.

She said she began working with horses at a very early age, “Since I was 2,” she said. “I discovered dressage, unfortunately, late. I have a bronze medal … but I’m starting all over again with my horses. It’ll be a long time before I can go to the (next) program,” Recently, one of her horses was injured, which is why she has had to start over.

“It sets everything back,” Hughes said. “It’s heartbreaking and frustrating. You get so close to them. That’s what I love about equestrian sports, When you do it well, the partnership (with the horse) is indescribable. Horses are wonderful companion animals. They’re every bit the companion animal a dog is, It’s a very close attachment. They want to do (the movements) because they want to work with you.”