The Dressage Foundation Announces Recipients Of Para-Equestrian Dressage Fund Grants

Photo courtesy of The Foundation for the Pure Spanish Horse.

Edited Press Release

January 5, 2023 – The Dressage Foundation (TDF) is proud to announce the recipients of four $1,000 grants from its Para-Equestrian Dressage Fund. This Fund was established in 2018 to provide financial support for para riders to attend educational events that will further their training and goals. Additional funds were donated in 2020 to provide grants specifically for Visually Impaired/Blind Riders. 

Recipients of the Para-Equestrian Dressage Fund:

Shirley Johnson (CA): Shirley is a Grade I Para-Equestrian and is a member of the California Dressage Society and the Sonoma County Horse Council. She has ridden since she was a young child, but an accident in her early 20s left her paralyzed. She used riding as part of her physical therapy and eventually started to show para dressage. She has now been showing for 13 years. Shirley plans to use the grant funding to clinic with Paige Gentry and Jordan Rohanna, as well as take extra lessons with her current trainer, Margaret Winterkorn. 

Shirley said, “I appreciate the support of TDF very much! To have a wonderful organization like this see something special in me is so empowering! I will be honing my skills as an equestrian and dressage athlete. I can’t wait to show our community the good things the funds have done for para dressage training.”

Adalie Tuman (VA): Adalie is 17 years old and a member of the Virginia Dressage Association. She has been riding dressage for six years at Wheatland Farm (a US Equestrian Para-Equestrian Dressage Center of Excellence). She is a Grade III Para-Equestrian and recently purchased her own horse. She will use this grant funding to train with Lisa Hellmer in Florida before she makes her CPEDI debut at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival.

Adalie said, “I am grateful to TDF for choosing me to be a recipient of this grant. I will be able to attend my first CPEDI this year and receive training from Lisa Hellmer. I am really looking forward to getting to know Lisa and benefiting from her expertise.  It is exciting to see the opportunities this grant will open for me.”

Recipients of the Para-Equestrian Dressage Fund for VI/Blind Riders:

Deborah McAlexander (TX): Deborah was recently added as a USEF Emerging Athlete within their Para-Equestrian Dressage pathway. She has experience riding Saddlebreds and was introduced to para dressage through the Paralympics. Deborah works at the North Texas Equestrian Center, a USEF Para-Equestrian Dressage Center of Excellence, where she helps manage the lesson program. She currently trains with Kai Handt. She plans to use her grant funding to take additional lessons with her horse, Cornet Noir at the North Texas Equestrian Center. 

Deborah said, “At the age of 24, I became totally blind in my left eye, and the eyesight in my right eye was reduced to center tunnel vision. My diagnosis is Retinitis Pigmentosa. I am the first United States equestrian with visual impairment to have received confirmed classification for competition from the International Blind Sports Federation. This grant will help me and my horse continue training toward our long-term goal of qualifying to represent the United States in international competition. In a world blinded by negativity, we are shining lights of hope that nothing, absolutely nothing, is impossible when one rides by faith, not by sight. Thank you again for honoring me with this prestigious grant award.”

Marcia Springston (WV): Marcia has been riding dressage for over 50 years and is a member of the Virginia Dressage Association. She is also an active member of the newly formed Blind Equestrian Community group. She will use her grant funding to spend a week of training with Michelle LaBarre in New York. Marcia is in her 70s but hopes to ride and train well into her 80s. 

Marcia said, “I am thrilled to have received a Para-Equestrian Dressage Fund Grant for blind and visually impaired riders! With this grant, I will be able to afford to travel to New York to train with Michelle LaBarre, an exceptional trainer. She is visually impaired, as well, and has recently acquired the DAMA (Dressage Arena Marker Announcer) system, which is a special orientation device for blind riders. I will have the amazing opportunity to train with the DAMA system. Also, I am confident that Michelle can take me to the next level of my dressage riding. Thank you for this opportunity!”

Applications for the Para-Equestrian Dressage Fund are due to The Dressage Foundation by November 1st of each year. For more information, please contact Sara Weiss, TDF’s Director of Grants and Programs, at (402) 434-8585 or visit

To support the Para-Equestrian Dressage Fund, contact Jenny Johnson, TDF’s Executive Director, at (402) 434-8585 or Secure online donations can also be made at

The Dressage Foundation

The Dressage Foundation is a 501(c)(3), non-profit, tax-exempt, donor-driven organization that is dedicated to educating, supporting, and advancing the sport of dressage. The organization solicits contributions, appropriately allocates the donations, and awards grants to dressage riders, judges, instructors, breeders, high-performance teams, nonprofit equestrian organizations, and more. For more information, please visit