FEI Dressage Trainer and Performer Yvonne Barteau

Yvonne Barteau is a USDF Bronze, Silver, and Gold Medalist and an FEI trainer for both horse and rider. She has experience training many different breeds and horses to the Grand Prix level. She and her husband Kim comprise KYB Dressage, a dressage training and exhibition operation located at Grand Prix Equestrian farms in Maple Park Illinois.

In 2007, Yvonne's book, Ride the Right Horse, which addresses horse personalities, won the AHP Equine Book of the Year. Her second book on training advice given from the horse's point of view will be published by Trafalgar Books end of this year or early next year. Yvonne has a diverse horse background–– years on the racetrack, a business started with retraining spoiled or difficult problem horses, five years as a performer and trainer at the Arabian Nights Dinner Theater in Orlando Florida and then a career as a dressage trainer and rider.

She has trained riders and horses that have won many National Awards as well as two Young Rider World Cup competitors. KYB exhibitions have been featured at every major equine venue in the U.S., as well as Madison Square Gardens and on The Today Show.

Yvonne Barteau and GP Raymeister as The Lion King

Raina for Equitrekking: How did you become involved with horses?

Yvonne Barteau: From books... I read Walter Farley’s The Black Stallion when I was 12 and then I was hooked. What could be better than a ship wrecked boy and a wild stallion that only he could ride? I wanted to be that boy.

I read everything my local and school library had to offer in the way of horse information or literature and knew with certainty that I too, would be a horse trainer I just did not know when or how to get started as I grew up in the suburbs of Toronto and no one in my family had any interest in horses or catering to a horse crazy teen.

Equitrekking: What inspired your career as a horse trainer?

Yvonne Barteau: The Humber River ran behind our house and one day there were horses across that river. Long story short, I disobeyed a strict rule to never go near that river, made a neck rope out of turquoise yarn and rode an unbroken Appaloosa until I was caught and reprimanded.

I did fall off a few times, but I learned a lot each time I did and I was more convinced than ever I would be a horse trainer of some variety. A few hard earned lessons came my way at a hunter jumper barn, but my next real horse education was seven years on the race tracks in Canada and the U.S. working with Standardbred race horses. That was both my college and my university, and I learned a lot about fitness, lameness, and horse care. I also learned how to break and train a driving horse to race, eventually becoming a trainer in that field myself.

Yvonne and GP Raymeister performing a pirouette

Equitrekking: What is it about dressage that you prefer it to other riding disciplines?

Yvonne Barteau: I can't get good enough at it. There is always more to perfect and learn. Every horse can be helped with correct dressage work and their working life can be so much longer because of the years of gymnastic foundation that are part of the process.

Equitrekking: I saw both your performances at The Fantasia at Equine Affaire in Ohio. You and Kayla Hudi Barteau gave beautifully choreographed and overall amazing performances that evening. Where do you find the inspiration to choreograph these performances with your horses and how do you prepare for such an event?

Yvonne Barteau: The last few years I was at the Arabian Nights Dinner show, where I was the director of entertainment operations and was in charge of music selection and choreography for many of the routines. I liked picking musical themes and then trying to get the horses to tell that small story with their performances, as well as showing relationship and harmony between rider and horse at the same time. Often a piece of music will suggest a routine as it did with both The Lion King and the Alice in Wonderland piece. The costuming was not hard to find thanks to Google and we dressed the horses to match us.

The Lion King is an old standby, so I knew that music and routine well. It was all new for my daughter Kayla (Hudi) though and she only had a week to prepare for both routines! She did an amazing job holding it together with her somewhat nervous mount GP Delano and even managed to have fun in the process.

The Alice routine is new overall and Hudi put the music together for that. I think we will keep it in our exhibition repertoire though, because it did get good reviews. Also my husband Kim did the Friesian stallion Boater at Liberty and that went over really well.

Kayla Hudi Barteau as Alice in Wonderland and GP Delano

Equitrekking: What was your most memorable performance?

Yvonne Barteau: Probably Equitana USA in 1997. I rode a bridleless Grand Prix Arabian stallion named Al Marah Quebec that I had trained myself. We did some work with the bridle, some without and then they turned fifteen horses loose in the ring with us and nine of them were mares.

He worked with them beautifully and then bowed in the middle of the pack. The whole routine was done with a huge desert and full moon backdrop, and I rode in Arabic costuming. The music was haunting and beautiful, and it was a huge hit with the audience. Also, I loved that horse!

Yvonne Barteau (Queen of Hearts) on GP Raymeister, Kayla Hudi Barteau (Alice) on GP Delano,
Amber Gipp (Mad Hatter) on GP Ubillee. All three horses are owned by Ginna Frantz of Grand Prix Equestrian.

Equitrekking: I notice you use Warmbloods. Is there any reason for using this particular breed?

Yvonne Barteau: I compete on many horses, but mainly Warmbloods as they do tend to score higher at the top levels of competition. Some of my favorite horses are Warmbloods and some are not. I love all horses.

Equitrekking: How can someone learn to use the training techniques you have developed for your horses? Do you give clinics or offer training?

Yvonne Barteau: I am a full time trainer, but I mostly train horses that come to our farm. Once in a while I do clinics at the larger venues like Equine Affaire, but we run a 62 stall training operation, a working student and apprentice trainer program, as well as a young rider program. So, I am pretty busy all the time. My new book will offer many training tips and I plan on finishing a DVD training series sometime this next year as well.

Equitrekking: As an accomplished horsewoman, are there any changes you’d like to see regarding performance horses in shows or in the world of dressage?

Yvonne Barteau: People need to have more fun with their show horses and that does not mean to spoil them. Fun days, trail rides, costumed exhibitions-- anything to break up a training and show routine is good for the horse.

Our sport of dressage needs to become more accessible for beginners and also spectators. It is a beautiful sport and most people just do not know enough about it. We do a big Christmas show at our farm every year as a fund raiser for our young riders and it has great costuming, music and even a storyline, like horse theater. Everyone who attends loves it and all of our members at the farm love performing in it as well.

Yvonne Barteau and GP Raymeister doing a piaffe

Equitrekking: Do you have any regrets in your career as a trainer or performer?

Yvonne Barteau: I would like to go back and write apology letters to all of the horses that had to put up with my ineptitude while I learned to become a decent horse trainer. They have been and always will be the real heroes in my story.

Equitrekking: What are some challenges you faced as a trainer?

Yvonne Barteau: Not knowing the proper order in which to fix things. Being overzealous and not waiting one more day to ask for that extra bit out of a horse. Having horses to train that were quite difficult and testy but only because of their past. I did not know their past and so I had to figure things out piece by piece with each of those horses, and I made errors of judgment and action. Untrained horses with no baggage have always been easier to figure out.

Equitrekking: What advice you can give to aspiring performers or dressage riders in general?

Yvonne Barteau: Go for it. Don't give up. See what you want in your mind's eye and make it happen. Don't let anyone tell you what you are capable of.

About the Author: Raina Paucar is an adventure loving equestrian and retired female jockey. She likes to ride and compete in many disciplines, explore new places and read great books when she's not sewing or writing. She currently works with her own off-the-track-Thoroughbred (OTTB). Her career in media focuses on equestrian lifestyle. You can add her to your Google+ circles, subscribe on Facebook and follow on Twitter.