Born in Old Town, Maine, Lendon Gray rode her first horse with her mother before she could walk. She grew up riding western, hunt seat, bareback, playing gymkhana games, driving and generally enjoying horses. Pony Club played the central role in her life from age 7, and she competed successfully to the National level, winning Champion and Reserve at both US and Canadian Pony Club Rallies. Receiving her A-rating at 16, Pony Club built a foundation of both solid riding basics and proper horse care that guides Lendon to this day. Through her involvement with Pony Club she became a successful event rider and trained for two years with the Olympic 3-day team.
Despite her many equestrian involvements, Lendon’s academic education was well tended. Graduating valedictorian from Foxhollow School, she studied Greek and Latin at Sweet Briar College while taking summer courses in Archeology at Stanford. Lendon proves that it is not necessary to make a choice between excelling academically and excelling in the saddle.
It was when Lendon started to specialize in Dressage at age 27 that Seldom Seen, the first of her famous Dressage “ponies,” came into her life. At just 14.2 ½ hands Seldom Seen was a national champion at 3rd and 4th level, Prix St. George’s, Intermediare I and II, and Grand Prix. Although Lendon rode warmbloods for her participation on two Olympic teams (1980, 1988), the World Championships, and the World Cup, her ponies held a special place in her heart. They proved to the world that bigger isn’t necessarily better.
From her early years competing in Pony Club to her famous work with Seldom Seen and other ponies, Lendon developed a reputation for “taking unremarkable horses and making them good.” This belief in created talent and the power of dedication has inspired many of Lendon’s activities over the years. Determined to give others the opportunity to learn and improve, she has been extremely involved with organizations such as USET, USEF, USDF, US Pony Club, and the rapidly expanding Dressage4Kids (D4K).
Generous, outspoken, and pragmatic, Lendon has devoted her energies to the improvement of all riders (not just the privileged ones) and all horses (even the littlest ones). With the goal that all youths might learn how to become, not just better riders, but all-around horsemen, Lendon established Lendon’s Youth Dressage Festival (formerly known as the Northeast Junior/Young Rider Championships) in 1999. This show started as an effort to see today’s youth awarded for more than riding trained horses. The competition has three equal parts: a written test on riding theory and stable management; a group equitation class, and a dressage test with levels from Training through FEI Young Rider. There is also a Prix Caprilli (dressage test with jumps), a tack room decorating competition, Dressage Trail class, as well as a wide variety of exhibitions and demonstrations. Judges beg to officiate and volunteers come flocking to the unrecognized event and its unparalleled combination of fun and education.
With the formation of the Youth Dressage Festival (YDF) came the creation of the organization Dressage4Kids. Originally just the name of a website, D4K has blossomed into a full-fledged non-profit, operating the YDF, the Weekend Equestrian Program (a two day educational event open to all ages and levels of experience, from curious parents to experienced professionals), pony-only clinics, and the East Coast Dressage Pony Cup, while transforming the proceeds from these functions into valuable scholarships for aspiring dressage riders.
D4K offers scholarships for every sort of dressage rider. Some prizes are geared towards riders travelling to Europe, others towards the small child with a backyard pony just wanting to be able to afford lessons, and they all speak to Lendon’s dedication to “leveling the playing field” of dressage. With this same goal in mind, D4K events are highly subsidized to make them affordable for even the most limited budgets.
IN THE BUSINESS
Though busy with organizational commitments, Lendon has been a successful professional in the equine world since she was 15. Over the years, she has taught clinics all over the US and Canada, and in Australia, New Zealand, Iceland, and Uruguay, and has a regular group of over 100 students. Lendon’s formidable reputation for her coaching abilities is reflected in her training of many national and regional champion riders, both juniors and adults—including the youngest ever national champion and youngest ever North American Young Rider Gold Medalist. Based out of Sunnyfield Farm in Bedford NY for 18 years, Lendon now teaches at several stables in the area as she continues to travel to clinics around the country.
Lendon has been repeatedly recognized for her performance and service, receiving awards ranging from the 1989 Governor’s Award from Maine Sports Hall of Fame to the title of USPC Legend (2004) and induction into the Sweet Briar College Sports Hall of Fame (2006).
In written form, Lendon has contributed her expertise to a variety of publications, including Chronicle of the Horse, Dressage Today, Horse People, and Equine Journal, and continues to act as an advisor to Dressage Today. She has also written a very popular book that helps make Dressage more accessible and understandable to all riders.