Dressage Training Principles of Legacy Farms Brings Recurring Top Scores at the Highest Levels

Written by Betsy LaBelle - In Dressage Directory - Saturday, December 13, 2014

Lars Petersen and Melissa Taylor run Legacy Farms to top finishes Photo: Betsy LaBelle

Using a daily routine at their world renowned dressage training organization Legacy Farms, husband and wife team Lars Petersen and Melissa Taylor repeatedly show the sport at its most elite level. Based in Loxahatchee, Florida just 15 minutes northwest of Wellington, Legacy Farms is nestled in the gated dressage area developed in the 1970s called White Fences.

With four top grooms and a professional rider, 30 horses in training or sales, along with 25 students’ horses stabled in or around the farm, Petersen and Taylor run a tight ship. Under their management, grooms and riders wearing Legacy Farms team jackets maneuver around the inner courtyard of the stables with tack and horses for turnout, all with the same purpose and goal of operating at peak levels and enjoying their work.

In 2013, after many years together both professionally and personally, Lars and Melissa sprung a surprise marriage ceremony on everyone while vacationing with friends in Colorado during the 2013 Christmas holiday. The joint respect and love between them have always been highly apparent. They prove that together they are better; not only in their careers, but in life. The couple’s excitement continues to grow daily at Lars having only one more year to wait before becoming a US citizen.

Petersen, born in Denmark, grew up with a strong work ethic foundation. As a rider for the Blue Hors Stud, one of Europe's leading stallion stations, he maintained enough focus to train horses to win the Danish National Championship five times. Lars Petersen and Mariett in the Grand Prix at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival Photo: Betsy LaBelle

He represented his country at the Atlanta Olympics, in three World Equestrian Games and at two World Cups. And, for the last eleven years, he has continued to build his business in the United States. Last year, he returned to Denmark for the first time since moving to the US to compete in the Danish Championships and other top European shows to rank 18th on the FEI World Ranking List for Dressage Riders in 2013 and currently 28thin the world.

Taylor, a Grand Prix rider, has a string of horses and riders she coaches. Several times since 2005, Taylor has qualified for the USEF Dressage Festival of Champions. Constantly on the move, she oversees the stables’ full-time staff, keeps the business books, and helps to work on the scheduling, the care of the facility and a whole lot more. Also taking on the task of making sure that Lars keeps to his schedule, she admitted, “I wear many hats. Sometimes I get to be the good guy, and I definitely have to be the bad guy with both our clients and our staff.  It’s a part of being in this business.”

Melissa and her 20-year-old Grand Prix horse Schumacker Solyst (Shumy) have been competing in the USEF Festival of Champions for several years. Melissa is happy to pass along what she has learned to her staff riders, “Shumy is like putting on an old shoe. Melissa Taylor riding her Schumacher Solyst at Legacy Farms Photo: Betsy LaBelle

It just fits. We have been together for years. I can get on him and I know exactly what he’s going to do.”

Petersen and Taylor start their day by awakening each morning at 4:00 a.m. “Lars loves to ride,” Melissa explained, “and I do all the office work, responding to all the emails. I get the house and everything in order before riding my first horse at 6:45. Then, I ride 3 to 4 horses before I begin teaching my half-dozen or so students.”

Embodying an amazing work ethic and handling quite a daily operation, Lars rides seven to nine horses in the morning even before teaching up to as many as eight full-hour riding lessons throughout the day. Lars knows what he needs to do with each horse and lets the team know what they need to do in the way of care (icing as many as 3x a day, massage blanket, hand-walking, etc.).

A Legacy Farms staff rider eagerly shared, “That’s what I love about Lars. He very much understands the horse as an athlete, definitely more than anybody I’ve ever worked for. He has a really good, sound foundation of horsemanship. He loves his horses. He knows how to get them to want to do the work for him. He doesn’t force it out of them. They are really willing.”

All horses are taken out of their stalls three times a day. Some of them get hand-walked, hacked on a trail or worked in-hand. The trainers make sure that each horse’s needs are addressed in any given day. Taylor explained, “All horses have their own program assigned to them. Including all their maintenance and therapeutic needs, magnetic blankets, lasering, icing, massaging and grooming, the team makes sure all horses are treated like the top athletes that they are.”

She added, “Without a good team of grooms and riders, we wouldn’t get anywhere. We would have too much work to do ourselves to accomplish anything. Lars Petersen and Mariett at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival Photo: Betsy LaBelle

It takes a bit of responsibility, and it can get intense at times, but it’s absolutely worth it.” Explaining further, “Our grooms have to be on it. They cannot be behind. It has to run like clockwork. They might get yelled at here and there, but they quickly learn and know they are not being criticized. It’s the same with the riders. Lars will be in the middle of a lesson and a rider may go by on one of our horses and Lars might give them a stern correction. It’s a chance for them to learn and it comes from a place of caring. Most often, he will explain more to the staff rider at the end of the lesson he’s teaching.”

Lars’ riding Marcia Pepper’s horse Mariett brought top riding results in 2014. Despite the horse overcoming a serious hoof injury sustained in her stall several years back, the horse and rider took second place at the Danish National Championships, the Grand Championship at the Hamburg Derby and accomplished becoming the leading money winner at the 2014 Adequan Global Dressage Festival.Lars Petersen and Mariett at the jog in Wellington, Florida Photo: Betsy LaBelle

 Competing for Denmark at the World Equestrian Games until his US citizenship comes through, Lars is looking forward to ride for America.

Melissa Taylor said, “When Lars goes to Europe, I do all the behind the scenes tasks; it’s all about organizing the trip, the shipping, organizing where the location of the shows may be, the stabling, the housing and on and on. Traveling to Europe does put a lot of pressure on the business because when Lars is gone, more of the riding, training and clients go onto my shoulders; its fine, but just more pressure. To be honest, I am super proud of all he accomplishes!”

Legacy Farms has several horses for sale.

Please contact Melissa Taylor at melissa.taylor@hotmail.com.


Lars Petersen and Mariett win for Denmark at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival in Preparation for Europe Photo: Betsy LaBelle

Team Legacy cheering at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival Photo: Betsy LaBelle