Stacie Berends

• 2000 National Champion, Western Pleasure JOTR 13 and Under
• 2000 National Ch.Western Pleasure JOTR 13& under


The show seasons of 1998 and 1999 were two years that I will never forget. In 1998, I rode my Arabian mare, CR Diamond Sahara, to two National Championship titles at the Youth National championship show in Oklahoma City: Western Pleasure JOTR and JTR for riders 13 and under. People wonder how anything could be better than that feeling of being called from the lineup to receive those beautiful roses and gorgeous trophies, not once, but twice. I will never forget the thrill of that week.

In 1999, I had the opportunity to ride at Mr. Ray LaCroix’ Accel Horsemanship Seminar, held at Leesa Massman’s riding stable in Mason, Michigan. I was the youngest rider scheduled for this clinic, and neither Leesa, Mr.LaCroix, my parents, or myself were sure I was ready for this level of training. In addition to working one-on-one with Mr LaCroix and Sahara at the clinic, I watched the other nine participants work with their horses; and participated in lots of question and answer sessions. After four days of seminars and intense training with Mr. LaCroix, I left the clinic with so much more knowledge about how Sahara and I could work together as a winning team.

Mr. LaCroix offered another ‘mini’ clinic for those Level One participants that wanted to gain more insight into his training methods, and I was so fortunate to be able to attend this seminar, and complete Accel Level Two.

Earlier, I stated that others couldn’t understand how anything could give a better feeling than those two national championship titles we had earned in 1998. Well, now I know an even better feeling. This may not make a lot of sense to some people, but in 1999, CR Diamond Sahara and Stacie Berends were named Reserve National Champion in Western Pleasure JOTR,13 and Under, but Sahara and I went to Oklahoma City without a professional trainer. All week long, Sahara and I used the techniques that Mr. LaCroix had taught us. We worked, alone, and we rewarded each other. We turned in a beautiful ride that I was so proud of. This time, I feel that we had earned this Reserve National Championship because we had learned to work together. I will never say that those first two wins weren’t very special, but this last season of learning how to get the very best from my mare myself gives me the freedom to go on to even greater accomplishments in horsemanship. This new knowledge gave me the key to understand the fundamentals of riding, and how to build upon our strengths and work on our weak points.

Thank you, Mr. LaCroix for your patience, advice and willingness to share your experience and knowledge with us, and to my equitation coach Leesa for setting up these clinics.

Stacie Berends


Jackie Venier

• 2000 Youth National Top 10, UPHA 14-17
• Michigan All Arab Reserve Champion, AOTR HA/AA Country Pleasure
• AHAM Amateur Two Show- UPHA Challenge Cup Winner; Champion, Saddle Seat Equitation; Champion, HA/AA Country Pleasure JOTR 17 and under
• WHAHA Fall Classic-Champion, Showmanship at Halter; Res. Champion, Saddle Seat Equitation; First, Open Country Pleasure cla
• Top Ten UPHA Saddle Seat Equitation, 14-17


Going into the first Accel clinic, Leesa Massman ( my instructor and host of the clinic) and I had certain concerns about using my horse in the clinic, and at shows this year. We worried that this thirteen-year-old, arthritic Open English veteran might not hold up even for Country Pleasure. I also worried that I would never be able to get good results because I was doing all the training on my horse myself, and I am an amateur rider and only fifteen.

By the end of the clinic this was no longer a concern. First, Ray was able to pick up on the “bridle” lameness of my horse, Prompt. This is a type of mechanical gait problem caused by him being “crooked” in the bridle. As he leans on the bridle, one side is heavier than the other, which led me to pull more on that side. That “pull” can cause the horse to feel that he is trapped, or has no place to go. As a result, either the front leg on that side or the diagonal hind leg is not used as much as the other, which makes the horse limp. Ray taught me how to avoid this by getting him to work straight in the bridle through the proper use of my legs. Now, Prompt never looks lame at a show.

Through the clinic I gained the knowledge that I needed to not only ride better myself but also “tools” I needed to solve certain problems– how to long-line, and bit a horse. Since the clinic our placings have been very consistently in the tri-colors. We have won championships or reserves at all the shows we have attended since.

I’m really happy that I was able to attend Accel.

Jackie Venier, Michigan

If younger siblings had to stay home with a flu, asthma, or other ailment, frequently older siblings missed school, too, in order https://www.majesticpapers.com/ to watch them while the parents worked