Denny Emerson

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  • 09 Feb, 2011
  • 4 Mins Read


Denny Emerson


“One of the 50 most influential horsemen of the Twentieth Century …” (The Chronicle of the Horse, 2000).

The only rider to have ever won both a gold medal in eventing and a Tevis buckle in endurance.

In 2006, Denny was inducted into the United States Eventing Association (USEA) Hall of Fame. He is also a member of the Dartmouth College Athletic Hall of Fame and of the Vermont Academy Athletic Hall of Fame.

Denny Emerson, eventer, trainer, coach, author, leader, activist, has been a significant, influential force in the equestrian community for a half-century. Beginning with his first competition, the Stoneleigh Prospect Hill School Gymkhana, at the age of 12, Denny has forged a career with horses which culminated in his receiving the both the USEA’s Wofford Cup for lifetime service to eventing, the American Riding Instructor Certification Program (ARICP) Lifetime Achievement Award, induction in 2006 into the USEA Hall of Fame, and included leadership in such organizations as the USEA (twice president), the USET (vice-president of Eventing for seven years), the USEF (on the Executive Committee), and Chairman of the Breeder’s Committee of the AHSA. Now in his 48th consecutive year of competing at the preliminary level or higher, Denny has achieved much success in the sport of eventing. At 20, Denny rode in his first event, a preliminary three day event at GMHA. By 1965, Denny had moved up to intermediate, on Lighting Magic, his first event horse, and in 1971, on Cat, he rode in his first advanced event, at Dunham, Quebec. Denny’s advanced career would last for 29 seasons, during which time he brought 14 horses to that level, an average of about one advanced horse every two seasons.

Denny Emerson

Accomplishments Competing

In 1972, Denny won the USCTA’s “Rider of the Year” award. Two years later, riding Victor Dakin, Denny rode a clean cross country round at the Burghley, England World Championship Three Day Event, to secure a team gold medal for the USET. Victor Dakin proved himself a formidable force when, in another two years, he helped Denny become reserve rider for the USET at the Bromont, Olympics, and a few months after that, he and Denny won the 1976 National Three Day Event held at Radnor.

In 1979, Denny won the US National Three Day Event at Chesterland, this time riding York, who also captured the title of 1979 USEA “Horse of the Year.” Three years later, Denny was the Reserve Champion at the US National Three Day Event, riding Farnley Rob Roy. In 1992, riding the Thoroughbred stallion, Epic Win, Denny won the Bromont CCI**. Then in 1999, at the age of 58, Denny rode
Speed Axcel to a clear round at the Groton House advanced event, his last advanced event.

Denny’s latest mounts for 2009 include Loftus Fox, Union Station, and Cobrador. In addition to his eventing career, Denny has been involved in numerous other horse sports during his 56 years of competing. He rode in his first one hundred mile trail ride at GMHA in 1956. Forty-eight years later, in 2004, Denny won a Tevis Cup buckle in endurance, for completing the 50th Anniversary of the
Western States Trail Ride, the most famous and arduous 100 mile endurance race in the world. Denny has competed at the National Morgan Horse Show, has shown hunters at Ox Ridge, has shown jumpers and dressage horses at dozens of shows, and has ridden in steeplechase races. As an endurance rider, Denny has compiled 2,250 miles in American Endurance Ride Conference races, and was long listed for the 2005 USA East team for the North American Championships.

Accomplishments as Author

Denny has authored bi-monthly articles for the “Between Rounds” feature of The Chronicle of the Horse, since the inception of that forum about fourteen years ago. He has been featured three times on the cover of Practical Horseman magazine in conjunction with feature articles which he authored in 1982, 1991 and 1999.

Denny wrote the forwards to Sally Swift’s huge best selling book Centered Riding, to Priscilla Endicott’s Taking Up the Reins, to Donna Snyder-Smith’s The All Around Horse and Rider, and to the USCTA Book of Eventing. Denny has also contributed chapters and sections to such books as Riding For America, Burghley – The Three Day Event, Lexington, 1978, and Kentucky, Three Day
Event. And Denny’s speaking skills are renowned, at conferences, conventions, symposiums, and lectures throughout the US and Canada. Denny engages his audiences with humor and sensitivity, and just a touch of curmudgeonry.

Honors and Awards

In 1991, Denny was presented the Lifetime Master Instructor Award by the American Riding Instructor Certification Program. In 1998, the inaugural Ayers-Hammett Award by the American Medical Equestrian Association was awarded Denny “in recognition of his outstanding contributions to promote safer horsemanship.” Denny again received an inaugural award as recipient in 1999 of the “Equestrian Land Conservation Resource Leadership Award.” His passion for and conservancy is demonstrated by his service as trustee and President of the Green Mountain Horse Association in Vermont, as trustee of the Carolina Horse Park in North Carolina,, and as trustee of the Equestrian Land Conservation Resource.

Denny is a 1963 graduate of Dartmouth College, and he and May have two sons, Rett and Jamie. In 1984, Denny was inducted into “Wearers of the Green”, the Dartmouth College Athletic Hall of Fame.

Follow Denny Emerson on Facebook: Tamarack Hill Farm


Denny’s Video Topics:

10 week

Horse Fitness – Developing a Base of Endurance

As a Tevis Cup buckle winner in endurance, Denny Emerson is uniquely qualified to set forth a fitness plan for your horse. Additionally, decades of experience as an eventing World Champion give him just a little credibility on the subject as well! The key is to begin with LONG SLOW MILES (LSM) to develop a base of physical fitness that will ensure a sound, solid and sustainable athletic progression for you and your horse.

Running Time: 10 minutes and 48 seconds

10 week

Rider Fitness – Exercises While Mounted Part B

In riding there is no escaping this compulsory ability… you will often be called upon to sit the gaits, be it at the trot and certainly at the canter. Denny Emerson joins us with the second part of his Rider Fitness series, explaining and demonstrating strategies to achieve an independent seat. The goal is to develop the strength in your core so you can harmoniously synchronize your seat with the moving back of the horse. This takes practice and fortitude but results in the mastering of a skill required of all good riders – a good seat.

Running Time: 9 minutes and 4 seconds

Watch the first part of this series: Rider Fitness – Exercises While Mounted Part A


10 week

Rider Fitness – Exercises While Mounted Part A

Join Denny Emerson in this two part series addressing the rider’s fitness. There are no short cuts … you must RIDE to get in shape to RIDE! But Denny will guide you and he will make it possible for you to achieve your fitness goals. Step one is to become a half seat hero. Make this your default position, relying on your core, abs, quads and calves to keep yourself in balance. In this position you are sparing your horse’s back. With Denny’s strategies, time and perseverance, you will be amazed at your progress and your horse will thank you.

Running Time: 7 minutes and 1 second

Watch the next video in this series: Rider Fitness – Exercises While Mounted Part B

10 week

Could the OTTB Be the Right Horse for You?

Denny Emerson takes a look at a sampling of “off the track Thoroughbreds,” or OTTBs, that have found second careers as sport horses and have proven to be wonderful partners for their new owners. Given that there are great deal of these former race horses to be found and available at great prices, Denny examines the pros and cons when considering an off the track thoroughbred purchase.

Running Time: 10 minutes and 35 seconds

Watch the first part of this series: Finding the Horse That is Right for You

10 week

Finding the Horse That Is Right for You

Denny Emerson outlines a sensible strategy to evaluate the suitability between horse and rider. By analyzing the variables such as the rider’s level and goals along with the horse’s soundness, temperament and athleticism, Denny presents the formula for a good match.

Running Time: 23 minutes and 54 seconds

10 week

The Independent Seat

Denny Emerson discusses the importance of a seat that can absorb the concussion of the horse’s gaits, where the core of the rider’s body becomes one with the horse. With his demonstration riders, he illustrates how a rider can become a better shock absorbing machine with exercises to develop an independent seat.

Running Time: 22 minutes and 7 seconds

Picking up the right lead on your horse
10 week

The Right Canter

In this topic Denny shows us the importance of establishing the “Right” canter. He demonstrates how getting to the right take off point with the proper speed, balance and impulsion, while staying out of the horse’s way, allows the horse to jump his best.

Running Time: 22 minutes and 22 seconds

10 week

Denny Emerson Interview

Get to know US Eventing Association Hall of Fame inductee, Denny Emerson, from his introduction to the sport to his biggest influences. In this interview Denny gives us a synopsis of his amazing career that has spanned over half a century. You will see why he was named “One of the 50 most influential horsemen of the Twentieth Century…” by The Chronicle of the Horse in 2000.


10 week

Jumping With The Motion Versus Jumping Ahead Of The Motion

In this topic Denny thoroughly examines a very common riding fault know as “jumping ahead of the horse.” He explains the reasons why so many riders do this and provides strategies and methods to eliminate this tendency.

Running Time: 21 minutes and 56 seconds