By Sandra Dalman as told to Catie Staszak
Sound Bites by CSM features guest commentary from prominent industry figures, who share their personal experiences and insight on how the current global climate has caused them to shift their plans and mindsets. Sandra Dalman checks in following a return to competition in Traverse City—her second major "return" of the year.
Dalman suffered two concussions in the spring of 2019, which kept her out of the saddle for several months. Fighting her way back to the show ring, she has returned to international competition with breakout star Carlimbo Z, a horse that Dalman has been developing for the past two years. In “Teddy’s” FEI Grand Prix debut in June—and Dalman’s first FEI Grand Prix in more than a year—the pair kept all of the jumps up, crossing the timers with just a pair of time faults. They’ve gone on to prove their consistency, with big goals ahead, while Dalman continues to run and grow her Dalman Show Jumping business alongside her husband Javan’s Dalman Jump Co., announced this summer as the Official Jump Company of US Equestrian.
Sandra Dalman and Carlimbo Z. Photo by Andrew Ryback Photography
When horse shows first began cancelling, I was in a different situation than most. I had been out of competition for almost a year and had just begun showing again halfway through the winter season. For me, there was no question that I was going to go to a horse show when they returned, it was just a matter of where and how!
The horses came out in Traverse City jumping and going amazing. We had given the horses a break and then started training at home [while horse shows were on pause] and really honed our skills. When it was time to get ready to show again, we were fortunate that we could take our Dalman Jump Co. show jumps and set them up and have show courses to practice over. We had professional designers [like Guilherme Jorge and Nick Granat] send us show course maps . That really got us practiced up and ready to go, and the results were proof of that.
As far as safety goes, I felt safer at the horse show than anywhere else. The horse show staff is checking temperatures as you go in, and everyone is diligent about wearing a mask. On top of that, we’re outside, and people stay pretty socially distant. You’re naturally closer with your own team, but there’s not a lot of huge, open intermingling.
Returning to Strength
Getting back to full strength was really hard; I’m not going to lie. I had two concussions. Everybody tells you, when you get one, the only thing you can’t do is get another one. My first concussion was a much more significant hit—it was more severe—but the second one made my symptoms intolerable.
It took me a while to get back. I didn’t ride for three months. Even getting on a horse that I had owned for five years, my body was scared. That’s not me. It was a daily process, a struggle, a cycle of getting on a horse, going home, puking, and having migraines. I started showing again eight months after the second concussion. Even then, I hadn’t done full courses, even in practice. The doctors told me it would take me a full year to feel 100 percent, and they were right.
I pointed to that first two-star at Traverse City in June. I hadn’t jumped that big since my injuries. I thought to myself, Will I get jumped off? To complete that first Welcome Stake there was huge for me. It signified that I had finally made my full recovery. The hard work was worth it. It was really hard to get back to this level; it takes more than just riding horses. It took working out, eating well, living a healthy lifestyle every day, sticking with it and not giving up.
Developing a Star
Teddy jumps every class better than the last. It’s very exciting. Hopefully, I get to hold onto him for a little bit. I bought him as a 7-year-old with hopes he’d be as good as he is. I hope to keep producing him and moving him up the levels.
When I sold and leased some of my older grand prix mares and was ready to reinvest, I started asking everyone I knew what they had for sale. I ran into Beth and Adolpho Franco in Wellington, and they told me about a 7-year-old that they had. I wasn’t really in the market for a horse that young, but they were persistent. I tried Teddy and bought him one hour later. When I rode him, I immediately knew he was the right horse.
He just reminded me of a horse I had named Tango. He was pretty well known. George Morris found him in Argentina, and Chris Kappler showed him, and he had top results at Aachen, Devon and [others]. I had him later in his career, and he was my type of ride. He was sensitive and very bloody—a bit of a runaway—and he loved to jump. When you got him to the jumps, he just fired. When I tried Teddy, he had no ride-ability, but he just kept leaving the jumps up, and you could feel the scope. He was brave, had a great canter, and loved to jump. For me, the horse has to enjoy what he or she is doing if I’m going to invest. He checked all the boxes.
Training, teaching, and sales have become the key focuses of Dalman Show Jumping. I love developing young horses or working with a horse that could benefit from a different approach. I enjoy bringing horses and riders along; it’s fun to watch them learn new things, see lightbulbs go on, and help them earn ribbons they’ve never gotten before. It’s exciting and rewarding. I would love to get some more horses for the top sport, whether it’s bringing along another 7-year-old or getting more horses to join my string to compete at the FEI level. That’s something I’m focusing on and working hard for.
I’ve always believed that mastering fundamentals equals success. Dalman Show Jumping offers a boutique atmosphere with one-on-one training that goes beyond instruction in the saddle. We create individualized programs for riders and their horses, with horsemanship and care a big part of those programs.
I love meeting and working with new people, so I have fun with sales and discovering new talented horses. I’m constantly watching videos and watching horses in the show ring, and I have a photographic memory, so I remember every horse that I watch and every statistic that I read. That knowledge helps me match riders with horses and know very early on what’s going to work and what’s not. I’m also highly competitive, even when it comes to making a deal. When I can no longer show jump, finding horses, producing them, putting together deals, making those matches, and selling horses will keep my passion alive. For me, it’s almost as fun as jumping a grand prix.
During my time away from the show ring and my journey back to it, I had a lot of time to think and realize how much I love what I do and why I started on this career path in the first place. I started with a very grassroots program in Indiana, and the goal has always been to ride and train at the highest level. I enjoy my business, the people and the horses, and that’s what I dedicate my life to.
I promised myself in “Phase Two” of my career, I would give my goals my full devotion as long as I was healthy enough to do so. You have to live every day like it may be your last, and I’m not going to have any regrets. It’s an exciting time, and I look forward to all the horses and people I still have to meet and work worth. I am so thankful for my team and support!
My training program is very calculated and planned-out, with no detail overlooked. I treat every horse like it’s my own and always look out for the horse and rider’s best interests. We work toward goals, while still enjoying the ride along the way. We are passionate and enjoy every day that we get to ride and train these beautiful animals. It’s an exciting time to be a part of Dalman Show Jumping in this next phase!