I sent my 3 year old homebred New Forest Pony/TB filly Wassail to Emily for backing this April thru June, and I am so excited and pleased with the results. Emily is very intuitive and patient and can read a youngsters moods, which isn’t easy with my filly. Emily quickly figured out that Wassail responds to a firm, but fair hand and she worked with her within her parameters at her own pace. I addressed some behavioral issues I was having with my filly when I dropped her off, and Emily and her competent grooms worked with these issues and Wassail came home with these corrected.
Wassail had the best care imaginable, and she was happy and content when I visited her weekly. This time away under Emily’s guidance was the best thing I could have done for Wassail. Emily exposed my filly to so much, including hacking out and riding with company in and out of the indoor. Wassail has matured in a short time beyond my expectations. I’ve continued at home to work with her under saddle, and she has been a star. I feel that our future together is on the best tract because of the positive reinforced training she received with Emily. My plans are to continue with Wassail under Emily’s guidance and instruction.
I was also impressed with the communication I had with Emily throughout the time Wassail was with her. She puts her clients and their horses at the top of her list and any questions I had were answered immediately. I highly recommend Emily Donaldson and her hard working, dedicated, caring team to trust your equine with.
I’ve also been taking my nervous, somewhat neurotic OTTB to Emily for lessons, and in a short time we have made phenomenal improvements.
When I embarked on breeding myself a special baby out of my incredible FEI schoolmistress, I knew I had hurdles! No farm, my first time breeding, only a hopeful plan as to how I would get the eventual youngster started four years down the road. I would make plans, and life being what it is, they would change, morph into something else, or even fall apart.
But I did do a very smart thing. From the moment of Waterford's conception, I surrounded myself with a great team of professionals. Linda Santomenna and her fabulous team at Blue Waters Farm had managed the pregnancy and raising. When my original plan for backing my lovely colt fell through, Linda introduced us to Emily Craig Donaldson.
It is no easy thing to hand your precious, homebred, dream baby to someone you do not know! Even with the incredible recommendation Linda gave Emily! At the time, I was still in Florida for the season. Even when I returned, I still lived several hours away from her.
Emily was great. She kept me in the loop, answered all my "first time mom" questions with ease and cheerful patience. She even waited for my first visit so I could witness Waterford's first backing in person.
I ended up having emergency surgery shortly after that first visit and was denied the pleasure of watching the first few weeks under saddle live. Emily sent videos, photos, and explanations. Her patience and kindness to my horse was evident in every clip and picture.
Emily shipped Waterford to me in Florida this past November. A confident, cheerful, sweet, people loving gelding calmly stepped off that trailer straight into our program without a hitch. He continues to this day, keeping us in awe with his trainability, sensibility, work ethic, and confidence.
There are no words that can express my gratitude and respect for the care and the start Emily gave my beloved Waterford. I highly recommend her to anyone wanting an impeccable start for their youngster.
About one and a half years ago, I was in desperate need of a trainer. The current training with my homebred mare was not going anywhere and riding had more frustrating and self-doubting moments than fun ones. Luckily, my friend Linda Santomenna heard that Emily moved to the area and this was the start of a wonderful journey. Emily is kind, fun, reliable, punctual, and very knowledgeable. She approaches everything with a holistic view and has the best interest for the horse and rider. In the 15 months we have worked together, my mare has improved tremendously. From barely making it around the ring, I now have a horse who is responsive to my aids and much more elastic. Riding is fun again. As a result of all the good training, we went to a couple schooling shows this year and all the hard work paid off. At the last schooling show we scored 71% in both training level tests. We have included Cavalettis and some jumping in our regular lessons. I'm always looking forward to my time with Emily. With every lesson my mare and I are getting better.
A little over a year ago we found Emily on the recommendation from a good friend and knowledgeable horsewoman, who knew Emily was new to the area and had heard good things. We needed help. My daughter Camryn was 14 and her ottb, Petra, was 7. They are an eventing partnership and they were stuck and struggling with their dressage. We weren’t looking for a quick fix, but for a long-term teacher and coach to help this pair strengthen their bond and confidence, and meet their potential. Emily’s keen eye immediately sized up the two and went right to work teaching the pair in all the ways I had hoped. Patience, perseverance, excellent communication and an extraordinary ability to read the horse and rider has resulted one year later in a very happy and solid partnership between Camryn and Petra. Without exaggeration I can attest that every lesson produced a measure of growth for both horse and rider over the last. That is unusual. As the quality of the flatwork improved and the partnership solidified, they were perfectly set up to advance their jumping lessons with another respected professional eventer, and were also able to shine this year in a clinic by international eventing legend, Lucinda Green. With all of the correct work on the flat, Petra’s body condition has morphed into a strong, better balanced and beautifully-muscled, wonderfully-brained athlete.
In addition to the wealth of education and knowledge, as well as a dedication to continuing education (which is SO important for a professional), it is worth mentioning Emily’s “secret weapon” - her FEI schoolmaster, Hootie. Camryn’s skills and learning were accelerated when she was given the opportunity to take lessons on this talented gent. She was able to experience the magic of flying changes and was able to do things with Hootie that gave her inspiration of what “could be” with her own Petra some day. And of course a bond was forged between Camryn and Hootie- another really special experience.
Emily’s ability to “listen to the horse” and pick up on subtleties is a special and much appreciated talent. When we hit a plateau this summer, she knew it wasn’t a training or behavioral issue with Petra. With her typically analytical mind, Emily helped us investigate by refocusing on possible underlying physical causes. Sure enough, radiographs showed a small spinal impingement, but it was enough to affect Petra’s comfort and quality of her work, as well as other unexpected areas of her life (like standing for the farrier). Subsequent treatment, therapy and a training/conditioning program have resulted in an even happier, stronger horse and the ability to advance the training. Horses are a puzzle but Emily’s wealth of experience and knowledge of a horse’s body mechanics and physical and mental well-being has been immensely helpful. By her example, we too are learning how to listen to the horse!
I've been riding a long time. Horses were my passion long before I knew what a passion was. My horse and I both have some old injuries and baggage that can frustrate our pursuit of dressage. Last winter, my horse began to express his frustration in ways that shook my confidence as a rider. I needed help. I'd had a lesson with Emily during the summer and it had been a good experience. I sent her an email, explained the issues, and set a time for a lesson. She had no problem riding my horse through his frustration. Emily has had the patience and insight to help me work through my issues as well as those of my horse--even putting me on the lunge line to determine what body part is the source of the problem. We start each lesson with a discussion of how the week has gone and then she helps me fix the problems. Each lesson we make progress--sometimes in small steps, sometimes in large ones. My body is straighter and stronger, and my horse reacts more positively. We both smile at the end of a ride.
Emily trained my young daughter in dressage when she had developed a fear of jumping due to multiple falls. When my daughter was in distress and unsure of whether she could even sit on her pony, Emily patiently and calmly helped my daughter feel more in control on the ground and then in the saddle. When my daughter then temporarily gave up her pony and riding, but still wanted desperately to be around horses, Emily opened her own barn to her and let her help with horse care. Today, my daughter is confidently back in the hunter world, but she wouldn't have gotten there without Emily helping her through a rough transitional time. Emily's empathy, professional horsemanship skills, and ability to understand my daughter's struggles paved the way for her to overcome her fear and embrace her love of riding through her undeniable love of the horse.
I started training with Emily in June 2012 riding her schoolmaster Hootie. After just a few lessons, I realized how lucky I was to have the opportunity to learn from such a talented rider and trainer. Not only is she a fantastic rider, but she has that rare ability to explain and communicate in words what she feels as a rider. When Emily gives a lesson, her passion for teaching is evident, and she is focused and supportive throughout the lesson. I always feel like she gives me the perfect amount of guidance, but also enough room to try and figure things out for myself. Her encouragement, positive attitude, and genuine interest in my learning helped me to achieve significant progress in my riding.
Emily also has extensive competition experience, and was a great support through my first year competing in dressage. When I got cold feet at my first recognized show at Morven Park in Virginia, she put me back together, told me I could do it, and got me in the show ring. Hootie and I went on to win our First Level Test 2 class later in the day! Emily was an amazing coach through the rest of the show season, and I qualified for the USDF Region 1 Dressage Championships in Lexington, Virginia. With Emily’s support, we put together a solid plan for our warm-ups and tests, and my first dressage championship was a success, where I placed 8th in my First Level Test 3 championship class. In addition to guiding me successfully through my first show season, going to shows with Emily was also great fun!
Emily is also committed to her own development and continues to train with top trainers in the sport. In addition to leaning a lot about dressage training from Emily, I also learned the importance of a varied training schedule that incorporates cross training with jumping and regular hacks out.
I look forward to continuing my dressage journey with Emily, and would recommend her to anyone looking to develop their riding skills, while having a lot of fun as well!
I contacted Emily when my filly named Ella turned four and was ready to begin training under saddle. Although I had been riding for years, I lacked the knowledge to school a young horse correctly. Emily accepted the project and drove to my stable four times per week for 8 months to train Ella and me. She was punctual, professional, committed, and consistent. She never canceled; not even when it was eleven degrees outside. Her training style is kind and sympathetic, and she is fantastic at explaining how to correct issues that arise when training a young horse. My experience with Emily as a trainer and coach has been wonderful and I hope to continue training with her for years to come.
After Sebastian, my 5 year old gelding, threw me for the 3rd time, my riding confidence was severely shaken. And I didn’t get right back in the saddle again because my trainer had just gone on maternity leave and I didn’t have the support I felt like I needed to do so. So I tried to “fix” the whole problem by sending him to a training facility for two months. I’d hoped that while there, a better and braver rider than I could get him safely back under saddle, and desensitize his rather skiddish nature.
Enter Emily Donaldson.
Sebastian and I were both scared and reactive, and what I want you to know about Emily is this: from Day 1, just by her presence, calm, and focus, I felt Sebastian calm down, and then I calmed down. Her brand of “magic” includes a steady confidence and competence which helped us learn to trust each other again. And I learned to trust myself. We’re back on track—better than ever, and with Emily’s help I’m continuing to learn how to bring out the best in both of us. We’re training for a Show in the Fall.
Emily’s arena instruction is so accurate that it’s like having her actually ride the horse with me. Her observations and interventions are precise, impeccably timed, simply articulated, and effective. When I do what she says it works. She always ensures that I feel the change in the horse so that I can do it again on my own.
I have taught in the Public education system for over 30 years, so I know that being a Master Teacher involves not only what you know, but how much you care and how you deliver it. Emily delivers it: seamlessly and Masterfully, every time.
Emily took on my two young warmbloods for a six-week training session while I was backpacking in California in 2012. I had followed Emily's riding career for a several years and knew she was developing a young horse as well. I have never boarded or put my horses into "training" before, but felt they were at a very influential time in their training as they were broken but did not have a lot of ring time. Upon a glowing recommendation from a mutual friend and a few lessons with Emily, I left them in her capable hands and disappeared. The horses she returned to me had a sense of purpose in the ring, better muscling and a few things to teach me. It's been a pleasure to bring them along and check in with Emily along the way. With her first hand knowledge of their personalities and way of going, her instruction has been invaluable. Her ability to ride the horse from the ground provides timely feedback that the rider can immediately incorporate, its a fun and positive experience. I am a better rider. As I disappear on another backpacking trip this summer I lament her recent relocation as I most certainly would have arranged another summer camp for them again. If you are fortunate enough to find yourself in the right time and place take advantage of the opportunity to work with Emily, I did.
Emily has been working with me and my horse in weekly lessons for over a year now. She has done wonders with both of us. She does a great job of breaking everything down and explaining the details. She is a trainer who is capable of working with nearly any level of horse or rider. Her teaching style is very positive and encouraging, and she has a quick eye to see subtle changes in rhythm or gait. I receive so many compliments on how well my horse is going since beginning training with her. While most of my time has been in lessons, she also did some training rides with my boy. She exhibits so much patience with him under saddle, and really maximizes his potential.
Kendra Mikoloski, DVM
Under Emily’s instruction I met all of my riding goals, and she took me beyond those goals. Emily listens to her students, has an incredible eye and sees everything the student and the horse does in the lesson. You have her constant attention. I never met a trainer quite as good as Emily. In the lesson she provides succinct, timely instruction, which allows her students to incorporate her instruction as they ride. Not every trainer can give you instruction soon enough so you can put it into action and see a result. You will learn how to feel what your horse is telling you. Emily takes time to know her students and their horse. She wants you to succeed and enjoy the lesson and she takes great pride in her student’s success. To keep herself on top of her game, Emily seeks instruction from the very best, and she brings that level of instruction to your lesson. Not only is she a trainer, but she is also a competitor. A fabulous combination.
Emily is both an incredible rider and an amazing teacher. I have an off-the track thoroughbred that is a challenge both mentally and physically. I am embarrassed to say how long I have had him, but I probably should have gotten rid of him long ago as I wasn't doing much more than walk, trot and small circles of back-wrenching, hand-ripping canter....until Emily came along. Once she started working with us, I quickly started learning how to ride him from my seat and to keep him balanced from the outside. Every time Emily rides him, which is a beautiful thing to watch, he is easier to ride the next time I get on. I am actually beginning to enjoy this horse!
Regina Jakacki, MD