Thursday, February 27, 2014

Keystone Dressage

From Alliston, Ontario, Canada, welcome Marley Filiptseva, the proprietor of Keystone Dressage

Marley is an expert in equine care, classical and modern dressage training, and the development of exceptional, competitive dressage horses and riders. With over 20 years in the equestrian world Marley opened the doors of KeyStone in January of 2011 to offer top level coaching and training.

KeyStone is a boutique dressage stable focused on the advancement of classical dressage training in Canada. After committing over twenty years to training and development, Marley is looking forward to debuting KeyStone as a leader in FEI dressage competition....

How long have you been riding?
I officially started riding in May of 1990, soon to be 25 years ago. I was extremely fortunate to be born on a small hobby farm. We had two dutch warmbloods and a cute paint pony.  I was first brought to barn at just 3 days old, the horses needed to be fed so my mother took me with her. I suppose that would be my first encounter with horses.

Describe Key Stone and your role there, and your horses...
At this time KeyStone is more of a hope then a place. I am very much still in the building stage. Three years ago I bought the farm that will become KeyStone in the future. When I came to view the farm I knew this was the place. The barn was (and still is) functional at best. The property had certain basics…but the feel was there. We now have finalized plans and will make significant progress towards building a world class training facility on a small scale. I believe that Canada has the potential to meet the world leaders in talent and sophistication, but we cannot pretend that we can meet them in terms of scale-yet. I want KeyStone to represent that transition in Canada as we debut a few world class stallions and a small team of world class performance horses. A tall order, but that is my hope.

To bring all this forward I am all thing- coach, trainer, groom, farm hand, business manager and planner. I am wonderfully supported by my husband and I have built a fabulous client base. So while I do everything, I do not do it alone.

My horses are a particular point of pride for me. I have two mares, Hathaway and Havana. I purchased Hathaway as a 6 month old- I was blown away by her incredible movement and athleticism. Her confidence infectious and I could see a personality which I hope will be able to withstand the psychological rigors a grand prix horse must endure. She is by Harvard, a stallion famous for his own talent and ability to better himself through his foals.

Havana, is a diamond in the rough. She is not of incredible breeding and was not raised in a manner common to top level sport horses. She came to me as a training project of one of my clients. She was a tall, awkward three year old who showed little talent for anything. But over her first year of training and after her winter break she came into herself and in the spring of 2012 I knew she was my horse.

Recently I purchased a 2013 Don Frederico x Eherntusch colt as my first stallion prospect. He shows the sweet confident personality I enjoy. His movement and confirmation are on trend with the modern developments in Dressage sport horses. I am anxiously anticipating the next few years as he matures.

As I am still building my team I look everyday at the horse market- who is breeding to who, which lines are leading market values, which lines are leading in competition, how breeding is evolving to produce the next generation. It’s all very exciting and as always I have a keen eye on several pairings in 2014 with high hopes for a Furstenball x Rubenstein foal due in the spring along with a 2 year old Quaterback x Rubinstein filly, but as always I won’t know until I meet them!

What is the best age to begin coaching?
That is a difficult question to answer. All disciplines from natural horsemanship to Dressage to Endurance require mastership.  Not only must a coach know how it feels to work through development and gaps in training- for both horse and rider- he or she must know intuitively how to explain the solution and guide the rider to bring the horse through the problem. The rider must have confidence in the coach and for this reason age has its benefits. I had been riding and training for over 20 years before I found myself faced with the challenge of teaching another horse and rider. When you have matured to a stage where the development of your students into their own best selves becomes your goal, and you no longer see their success as something about you, then you are ready to teach. Humility is essential to.

Your horses are beautiful. How do you match horse and rider?
Thank you! I always say (with a bit of a laugh) dressage is a bit like a beauty pageant, intelligence and talent are essential…but it all starts with a pretty face.

When I pair horses and riders I don’t always look for the most amazing athlete with the brightest competitive future. I know my students and I endeavor to understand not only their goals but which personality elements will connect best horse and rider. They have to feel affection for their horse, along with a training comradery and a match of skill, but mostly they need a horse who excites them- which is completely individual.

For me I know I like a sensitive but sensible horse, one with a strong aptitude for dressage- of course. Beautiful, but rideable movement and a natural tendency towards lightness are all things I very much appreciate.  Finally, a horse that wants to be better and wants to be better with me, I like that for myself.

As a trainer, what method do you implement?  
I believe strongly in the classical styles of dressage. Follow the training scale, spend the time, develop slowly and develop the faith that through dedicated clear aids you will find a method of communication with your horse. I agree with many of the contemporary leaders in this sport that the equine athlete has changed, but only to be more suited to their athletic pursuits. Dressage is an ancient sport, there is a certain arrogance I cannot accept that we know better than those who have come almost 2000 years before us.  Take the time, follow the training scale, understand the levels of competition as a reflection of the training scale and give your horse time to advance.

What is your favorite dressage event?
It is almost impossible to pick just one, but the very top must be the Olympics. The combination of representing your country, being on the world stage alongside the best in sport- what could be better? There is also just nothing like carrying the title of Olympian to solidify your level of accomplishment in the sport.

Where/when is your next event?
Right now there is nothing on the horizon. This will be Hathaway’s first year to compete. With young horses its all about exposure. In the next two years will be aiming to qualify for Dressage at Devon and participate in the winter circuit in Wellington FL. The goal is to qualify for the 2019 Pan Ams and then the 2020 Olympics.

What has been the biggest challenge you've faced in your career?
Resources- simple as that. There is no doubt this sport requires an exceptional amounts of time and financial resources. I have had to make my own way so far which has required that I go seek an extensive education and a “day job” which affords the financial stability to keep my pursuits alive. A detailed plan is in place to make evolve KeyStone into a fully supportive business so I can leave the work which gives the financial support but steals from the time needed to accelerate in my dressage career. Cautious planning, contingency planning, and relentless persistence (along with an ability to function on little sleep!) have been essential.

What does horsemanship mean to you?
I believe horses do as much for if not more for us then we can ever do for them. We must respect that it is always the rider’s decision to pursue athletic endeavors and individual care needed to keep them happy in their work.  We need to understand that horse’s social behaviors are based on a hierarchy and we need to insert ourselves in that system as a leader. Riders who do not set themselves as a leader risk damaging the horse’s confidence and loosing the horse’s respect for you. I have not been drawn towards natural horsemanship or the Parelli method. I keep my requests simple and consistent so that I can interact with my horse with kindness, but as a leader.

Connect with Marley....

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