Sandra Adair




Sandra Adair was bucked off her first horse at age five. She promptly got back on and has been riding ever since! She rode hunters through her teenage years and bought her first horse shortly after she and her husband moved to New Mexico when was she was twenty-two.

The ad read: “Horse, saddle, bridle and a place to keep him for a year. $75, if you can ride him.” It seems the horse had the nasty habit of rearing until its rider fell off. Sandra went out and got her hands on every article she could find on rearing. One week later, equipped with nothing but sheer determination and a rolled up newspaper, she came to ride the scrawny, shaggy beast and began her career as a horse trainer. Less than a year later, she sold the well-mannered, sleeked out, fat and happy gelding (who, it turned out was a well-bred, registered Appaloosa) for a whopping $7500!

Then there was the 3-year-old gelding who came in with a herd of cattle, his four feet planted in the earth and the whites of his eyes as big as saucers! Two years later, Sandra had transformed him into the Western Region Trail Horse Champion. She sold him to a family from Arizona, and he went on to become both an English and Western Pleasure Champion for the wife and children, and a wild boar hunting mount for dad.

For her next adventure, Sandra bought a lovely mare, and began breeding Appaloosas. She even tried her hand at racing with one of her colts, who went on to be a successful race horse in California. When her neighbor suffered a heart attack, she took over the management of his Arabian breeding farm, getting the foals weaned and ready for sale, and breaking the young horses with her gentle but firm training methods. She developed that stance and tone of voice she still uses to this day that says, “I’m the boss mare, and don’t you forget it!” and elicits a licking of the lips, a lowering of the head and a soft eye from her equine friends (and from an occasional student as well!)

Then came the ‘ride when you can’ years, when Sandra became a mom, went back to college, and discovered her passion in life – teaching! Over ten years she taught everything from fourth grade to advanced number theory and as a college professor, she developed courses called How Children Learn for the Education Department. She went on to develop computer-training classes for IBM and Apple, a job interviewing skills course for Management Recruiters, and a variety of motivational seminars.

In April of 1988, Sandra married her husband Frank and they moved to Houston. One day her mother commented that she couldn’t believe they had lived in Texas for over a year and she still didn’t own a horse! Two weeks later she rectified that situation and soon was back doing hunters. A year later she purchased Wiley, a 16.3 black quarter horse, who would become her riding partner for the next 10 years. After a year of success as an Amateur Owner, Sandra went looking for something new, and discovered the exciting world of eventing. It turned out to be Wiley’s cup of tea! Almost always in the lead after dressage and stadium jumping, you could hear gleeful shouts of “Good Boy!” amid the sound of galloping hooves as they road their cross-country phase to victory. When a bone spur ended Wiley’s eventing career, Sandra turned her attention to moving up the levels of dressage. She and Frank bought Willow Fork Ranch in 1992, put in a full-sized dressage arena, and she began giving riding lessons and boarding horses. As with any new venture, her approach was to immerse herself in everything there was to know, and then turn around and teach what she had learned. She rode in clinics with Richard Howard, German Master Hans Bis, and the Spanish Riding School’s Franz Rochowansky. Being the champion he was, Wiley excelled in dressage and was schooling Prix St. Georges when he retired a few years go at age 18.

When the Howards returned from a prospect buying trip to Germany, and showed Sandra the video of the horses they had seen, Charisma appeared on the screen with her big floaty trot, halted, and looked at the camera with such presence and pizzazz, that it was love at first sight! The 5-year-old 16.3 bay Oldenburg arrived four months later. Sandra remembers that first year. ”I felt like I was learning to ride all over again, but at a much different level. Charisma was so sensitive and athletic (though the word I used at the time was wiggly), and she spooked at her own shadow! She had three big gaits and ‘forward’ was not an issue! It was time to really understand the elements of rhythm and relaxation, balance and throughness.” And as fate would have it, Lyndon Rife moved from Dallas to Houston about that time, and Sandra found herself the trainer that could help her do just that.

Sandra and Charisma took High Point honors at the Freestyle Farms Frostbite Show, their first recognized show, in March 2002, after only 6 months of training with Lyndon. Since then they have won over half the classes they have entered, averaging near 70%. At the 2003 Regionals, they were GAIG Open First Level Reserve Champions, and GAIG and SWDC Musical Freestyle Champions with scores to 72+%. (Click here for more pictures of Regionals). Sandra is looking forward to showing Second Level and Second Level Freestyle in 2004, and starting her “L” Judge Training Program. She also plans to show her 4-year-old Hanoverian gelding, Graf Grace, at Training Level, and perhaps do a little eventing as well!

Sandra will be the first to tell you that she loves to teach, and she loves to teach dressage! Her greatest talent is being able to take an element of riding, study it in depth, master it herself, then take it apart until she finds a way to teach it so it can be clearly understood. A good student to her way of thinking is one with a great attitude, someone willing to experiment and look foolish until they get it right. And Sandra is willing to stay with her students until they do get it, correcting countless times, encouraging endlessly, believing in them even when they think they’ll never get it, and coming up with one analogy after another until she finds the one that works! Then her student smiles, and so does she.



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