I have a solid, sucessful background in HORSEMANSHIP, from starting young horses under saddle to Grand Prix Dressage. Along the way I have had the opportunity to work with many people and many different breeds of horses.
Craig’s Heckert’s specialty is starting young horses to go into Dressage or Jumping (Hunters, Eventing) careers. Craig does not stick a "title" on his type of horsemanship. He feels he is just making use of techniques that have been perfected for thousands of years by the true "masters" of Classic Equitation. He takes the time to develop the horse both mentally and physically so the horse has a confident, calm and willing attitude. To succeed as a Dressage horse or a jumping horse , the horse has to have a trust in his rider and enjoy the work. Yes, it takes longer, but the result is a horse with the ability to compete well into their senior years AND be a fun companion. Craig invests many hours in "long-rein" work with his youngsters so they are comfortable with walk, trot, canter, cavaletti, jumping, stopping and turning before they are ever expected to carry a rider. No "round pennin' and breakin' em in two hours" here!!! As a result of being started properly, Craig's horses are very "rideable" and confident.
Craig has been a horseman his entire life. His family was very active in the AQHA and were the Leading Producers of AQHA Performance Horses in 1984. Craig trained and rode 13 different horses to Register of Merit Awards in Western Pleasure as well as earning 5 Superior Western Pleasure Awards. He qualified for and rode at the AQHA World Show 4 times. His mare, Zippo Pat Seeker won the Minnesota and Iowa Pleasure Futurities and earned 158 Western Pleasure points.
Craig also trained several Reining horses during his western years. While he found Reining interesting it was not what he was looking for. Having worked with Jim Dudley, Doug Milhullund and of course studying the works of the Bob Loomis and Al Dunning, Craig was more interested in finding out just how high of a level he could train a horse to. Craig is confident in saying that Reining is fascinating and requires horsemanship skills, BUT, Dressage and Reining are not the same. It is like comparing apples and oranges. Particularly in the style the Reining horses are trained to be competitive in today's shows with the head carried so low. The principals of Reining are good for Western horses to make a more ridable horse, similarly to the way Dressage makes a more ridable horse, but this in no way makes the two disciplines the same.
In 1993 Craig discovered Dressage and Eventing and felt that Dressage was what he had been looking for. He began working with Patty Larson, who had had a successful career in Eventing including riding her homebred horse "The Magic Man" to Area 9 Intermediate Horse of the Year. Patty started Craig with Eventing, as his two geldings, Joe Cool, a Quarter Horse, and James Blond, a Trakehner, National Show Horse cross were more suitable as Event horses. They did well including Joe Cool earning the Area 9 Reserve Championship at Novice Level in 1994. Both geldings were sold on as competition horses. Joe Cool became a school master and introduced many people to the sport of Eventing. James Blond went on to a successful Jumper career.
In the fall of 1995, Craig began riding the Trakehner Stallion, Meisterwind . In 1996 they had numerous wins at 1st and 2nd level and went on to win the Lowell Boomer Midwest Championships at 2nd Level almost one year to the day from the beginning of their partnership! They again won the Lowell Boomer Midwest Championships at 4th Level in 1998 and the Intermediaire 1 Championships in 2001. In 1999 Meisterwind was the American Trakehner Association Prix St. George Horse of the Year. Craig was awarded the Bronze and Silver Medals from the United States Dressage Federation and Meisterwind has been awarded the USDF Performance Certificate at Prix St. George. Craig and Meisterwind continue their winning ways with Meisterwind being awarded the American Trakehner Assn. Intermediare 1, Horse of the Year for 2004! In 2005 Craig and Meisterwind made the step up to Grand Prix. In 2006 Craig and Meisterwind earned their Grand Prix scores for the US Dressage Federation's GOLD MEDAL. This places Craig into an elite group of people who have earned all three medals on the SAME horse that they have trained! Not suprisingly there are very few people who have done this.
Craig has also had great success with the RPSI Approved, Hanoverian Stallion, LION KING At the age of 3 Lion King was winning under saddle and won the Region 4 Colt / Gelding Grand Champion in the US Dressage Federation Cosequin Dressage Sport Horse Breeders Series. At 4, Lion King earned scores as high as 74+% at First Level and was the overall high score at two out of four shows! At 5, Lion King won many Second Level classes, was undefeated in the FEI Young Horse classes and was the Region 4 US Dressage Federation Breeders Series Stallion (and overall) Champion. Another successful season followed in 2007 with Lion King again the West Central Stallion Champion and scores as high as 68+% at Third Level. 2008 was Lion King's debut at the FEI Levels and at 7 years old he earned his full Stallion Breeding Approval through his performance at Prix St. Georges Dressage. Lion King is one of the youngest stallions to have earned breeding approval through performance. He was also a rarity in that he continued to win "In Hand" Championships while winning under saddle at the FEI Level!
Some of Craig Heckert and his horses career highlights.
USEF = United States Equestrian Federation. USDF = United States Dressage Federation. DSHB = Dressage Sport Horse Breeding.
2023 - Training and riding the IBOP Champion, Champion Mare and Reserve Overall Champion (to her own foal) Friesian, Yfke at the first ever Friesian Keuring in South Dakota! Yfke is proudly owned by Paula and Tim Pederson, Black Hills Friesians, Rapid City, SD. And mostly staying home working on selling Rivervale Farm so we can relocate south to EVENTING Country!
2022 - RF Arkenstone has another good season with good placings at Training Level and a successful move up to Modified Level. A nice 2nd place finish at The Event at Archer! And of course starting youngsters under saddle and selling them on to happy new owners.
2021 - Much success with RF Arkenstone, eventing at Training Level and earning the National ACAAP Award for the #1 "Eventing" Appaloosa in the USA! Many horses started and sold on to happy buyers!
2020- Thankfully recovered from injury and back to competing RF Arkenstone in Eventing as well a preparing and selling young horses on to their new homes.
2019 - Competing RF Arkenstone with the intention to move up to Training Level. Unfortunately a mishap with a youngster resulted in a broken hip, surgery and a few months of "down time".
2018- Eventing with RF Arkenstone, a gelding I plan to hang onto as long as possible and get as far up the levels as I'm comfortable with. And of course raising, starting and selling young horses.
2017- Craig was able to hang onto RF Let's Dance long enough to compete at the Powder Basin Horse Trials and The Event At Archer. "Max" then went to his happy new owners in Aiken, SC.
2016- Craig kept selling the horses before he could get them to a Horse Trial. That is a good thing! That, coupled with the fact that there are few shows within a reasonable distance, AND the farming, tends to keep us closer to home.
2015 - Craig rode RF Mo' Money to good placings at Powder Basin, Colorado Horse Park, and Otter Creek Horse Trials.
2014 - Craig spent the Spring getting to know his new stallion, Asher, and going to a couple of competitions. Asher won all his classes at a local all breed show. He then competed at the Powder Basin Horse Trials and was second by .5, after winning his Dressage classes prior to the HT.
2013 - RF Mark The Spot wins the Open Novice at the Powder Basin Horse Trials. His full brothe, RF Mo'Money was third in the Open Beginner Novice.
2011- Craig has wins at 4th Level with Red Rubin and Prix St. George with Lion King. Craig rides his homebred RF Lionetta to win the Powder Basin Horse Trials Beginner Novice Division her first trip off the farm. They also bring home several blues from the Central States Fair Hunter Jumper Show and complete their first Open Novice Horse Trial.
2010 - Craig, riding Dick and Eileen Tenney's Hanoverian gelding, Red Rubin wins the Reserve Championship Third Level Musical Freestyle at the USDF Region 5 Championships. In addition, Lion King continues to win at 4th Level and PSG. Plus three of Craig's young horses and Lion King all qualify for the USDF Breeders Championship Series. (Unfortunately the show was canceled so no Championships and not enough scores for the USDF year end awards).
2009 - Three Rivervale Farm young horses qualify for and attend the USDF Dressage Sport Horse Series West Central Finals. All three win their respective Championships! Lion King competes and wins at 4th Level and PSG Dressage. Craig rides his geldings RF Mark The Spot and RF Maravedi to wins over fences at the Central States Fair Hunter Jumper Show.
2008 - Lion King earns his Stud Book 1 (Fully Approved) Status through Performance at Prix St. George level Dressage. Rivervale Farm's RF Lunar Tanz is the co-highest scoring colt in North America.
2007 – Craig was ranked #11, Dressage Breeding, Breeder of the Year, US Equestrian Federation and US Dressage Federation. Multiple USDF/DSHB Show Champions. Lion King was the USDF/DSHB West Central Stallion Champion, ranked #5 Nationally, Mature Stallions and the DDE 3rd Level Champion, 69%+.
2006 – Craig earned his USDF Gold Medal riding Meisterwind. Many wins at Grand Prix. Lion King was Undefeated in FEI Young Horse Competitions and was the USDF/Dressage Sport Horse Breeding West Central Stallion Champion and DDE Second Level Champion.
2004 Meisterwind was the American Trakehner Association Horse of the Year at Intermediare 1 and earned his USDF Performance Certificate for 10 scores above 60%. Lion King was the USDF/DSHB West Central Colt/Gelding Champion.
2001 Meisterwind was the Midwest Regional Intermediare 1 Champion.
1999 Meisterwind was the American Trakehner Association Horse of the Year - Prix St. George and USDF Performance Certificate for 10 scores above 60%.
1998 – Craig earned the United States Dressage Federation Bronze and Silver Medals and Meisterwind was the Midwest Regional 4th Level Champion.
1996 - Meisterwind was the Midwest Regional 2nd Level Champion and the USDF Reserve Champion.
1994 - Mountain States Eventing Assn. Novice Level Reserve Champion - Joe Cool
1984 - Heckert Farm - AQHA Leading Producer of Performance Horses. Craig’s horses also earned 13 AQHA Western Pleasure ROMs, 5 AQHA Western Pleasure Superiors and qualified and competed at the AQHA World Show 4 times.