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Two nationally ranked dressage competitors hail from training center

by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Lindsey Parker practices dressage technique with her horse, Questt.Set among the rolling hills between Beef Bend and Roy Rogers roads lies Parker Stables, with 29 horses currently in residence. While the boarding-and-training facility would not be considered a large-scale operation, it has produced two national winners this year.

Owner Cindy Parker’s daughter Lindsey Whitcher on June 10 achieved the highest national ranking possible by earning a gold medal with the U.S. Dressage Federation, which is unheard of for a teenager “and a lifetime achievement for most,” Parker said. “Most trainers don’t have their gold, and Lindsey is only 16 and will be the first junior rider to ride grand prix in the state and at a regional level at the end of summer.”

And 21-year-old Jackie McMaster, who has been training at the stable for a decade, is ranked No. 1 in the U.S. in musical freestyle dressage.

Dressage is one of the Olympic equestrian sports along with eventing and jumping, and although those events have been included in the Olympics since 1912, women were not allowed to compete in dressage until 1952. In dressage, riders use their weight, legs and seat to guide the horse, and by shifting their hips and weight, they dictate the direction and gate they want the horse to follow.

Parker, who grew up in Beaverton, always dreamed of owning a stable, but when she and her husband Duffy Herman first laid eyes on the rural Washington County spread 11 years ago, “it had a falling-down barn and was covered with blackberries,” Parker said.

They fixed up the house on the property and built new stables, corrals and a competitive show barn, turning the overgrown acreage into a first-rate facility.

“As we improved the property, we attracted a higher clientele and acquired a trainer,” Parker said.by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Lindsey Parker practices dressage technique with her horse Questt at Parker Stables.

Both Whitcher, who attended Deer Creek Elementary and Twality Middle School in the Tigard-Tualatin School District and will be a junior at Tualatin High School, and McMaster, who was raised in Sherwood and attended Archer Glen Elementary, Sherwood Middle School and Sherwood High School, grew up riding horses.

McMaster, who will be a senior at Oregon State University working toward a degree in public health, started coming to Parker Stables for riding and training 10 years ago. She boards her horse, 17-year-old Paviano, a Dutch warmblood she has owned for two years, there.

“I want to do occupational therapy,” McMaster said. “I come home on weekends and ride, and I ride all summer.”

Whitcher actually has three horses — McDuff, a 13-year-old Welsh cob; Questt, a 19-year-old Arabian-Swedish warmblood that she rode in her final gold medal grand prix, which is the Olympic level; and Finn, a 4-year-old Dutch warmblood that just started his training within the last year.

“I have watched a lot of girls ride here and grow up and go off to college, and as a mom to Lindsey and a second mom to Jackie, it has been a phenomenal experience seeing the levels they have achieved in dressage,” Parker said. “They have both exhibited determination and hard work.”

And the hard work isn’t over yet: McMaster is raising money to take her horse to nationals in November in Lexington, Ky., which will cost about $20,000 for transportation, stabling, entrance fees and other expenses.

To excel in musical freestyle, McMaster hired a “horse choreographer,” Karen Robinson, as riders can choose their own music and design a routine. Certain movements must be included, but otherwise, riders are free to be innovative.

“There is one person right below me in the national rankings,” McMaster said. “It has been an incredible journey. I got lucky with both parents and horses. You bond with your horse and have a real relationship.

“Dressage is an actual sport. You take a 1,000-pound animal and make it do an amazing routine. You basically have an ongoing conversation with your horse.”by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Questt is harnessed prior to the start of dressage practice.

Whitcher, who also has done musical freestyle on Questt and this year switched to riding McDuff, explained that the scoring system in dressage that leads to a gold medal includes many levels in which riders are awarded accumulative points.

In dressage competitions or tests, riders must memorize the course and required moves, with judges giving scores for each movement, and score sheets are totaled to determine class results. Each rider takes five and a half to six minutes to go through a test, and usually riders take 10 to 15 years to go through all the levels.

Each year’s season runs from April through July in the Northwest, with state and regional competitions held in September. Oregon is in Western Region 6 that also includes Idaho, Montana, northwest Wyoming, Alaska and Washington.

And does Parker have any aspirations of competing in dressage? The stable owner, whose family owns the Oregon La-Z-Boy stores and Parker Furniture (founded by her grandparents), laughed and said, “I ride a cow horse!”by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Lindsey Parker walks her horse, Questt, back to the stables after dressage practice.

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