Elli Lindsey told her mother when she was six years old that she wanted to do dressage. The horseman, who is based at Saddlebrook Farm in Thomson, Ga., is living her dream this weekend at the Softwinds Farm Dressage Show at Highfields Event Center, Lindsey and Conner, an American-Warmblood cross, did first level 1 and first level 3 tests on Saturday.

“I started off doing hunter/jumpers when I was seven years old,” said Lindsey, who evented for six years before making the transition to dressage. Lindsey’s trainer is Renee Segree. “It was just sort of the barn I fell into. I started doing hunter/jumper shows, to get into the world of showing, and then we started eventing because that’s what she did. Renee’s great.”

A lot of work goes into making a dressage horse, and there are a number of variables in the equation when the horse and rider form their bond, said Lindsey.

“You definitely have to put your heart and soul into your horse,” said Lindsey. “You try to take them up the levels. It could be a personal horse or a training horse. Dressage is the foundation of everything. So, no matter what discipline you’re involved in, dressage will help you improve your riding.”

The horseman got her first horse when she was seven years old, and had been riding a schooling horse prior to that.

It takes time and effort to produce a good dressage horse, and having the right trainer to assist in the process is critical, said the horseman.

“You can’t do it alone,” said Lindsey. “It takes a whole team. I personally have never trained or ridden a horse at the upper levels, but I can tell you, it takes a lot to get there.”

The dressage tests for eventing and dressage are different, but the judges are looking for the same thing, she said.

“There’s a much higher tolerance for eventing dressage because you’re asking the horse to perform in three different phases,” said Lindsey. “The eventing horses can’t be really great at dressage, have the big muscles and the built top line because thay have to be able to gallop cross country and swing over some huge fences. It’s not as good of a quality as straight dressage, but there’s a reason for it.”

Conner is a 7-year-old, Percheron-Thoroughbred cross, that had previously been in Hawaii, purchased and relocated to Georgia, with the intention of being used as an eventing horse. However, things didn’t work out with his previous owner, and Lindsey began riding Conner.

“He’s actually one of my horses that I’m helping to train,” said Lindsey. “He’s fantastic. I love him to death.”