An Unconventional Rise To Grand Prix!

Rider Profile: Chrissa Frith-Hoffmann

Chrissa and Barbara Silverman 1997
Chrissa and Barbara Silverman 1997

Farm or Business Name: CFH Dressage
Discipline: Dressage
Home Base: Two Bridges Equestrian, Vero Beach, Florida.

Born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky, Chrissa grew up as an event rider, riding all different types of horses. Her first influential horse was a full bred Appaloosa named Fantasia who had great suspension for the dressage ring and was an incredible jumper. Chrissa competed with Fantasia through the preliminary level. This horse was the first one to truly show Chrissa the ropes of eventing and was later sold in order to purchase Chrissa’s first upper level event prospect, Riley.

Chrissa came into the world of dressage, quite literally by accident, shortly after buying Riley, her Argentine Thoroughbred. Riley, sustained a bad injury during a trailering accident and was permanently sidelined from jumping. Chrissa, then twenty years old, took Riley to Barbara Silverman to explore the sport of dressage. After only one lesson with Barbara, Chrissa was hooked! She continued to train with Barbara for the next seven years, focusing her education towards learning the art of dressage.

“Dressage is a form of riding that takes so much skill and it’s the highest form of training. I wanted to master it because I wasn’t initially good at it. Once I started training with Barbara I didn’t look back. It’s addictive in that sense. I suffer from perfectionism!”

As Chrissa continued her tutelage under Barbara, she also became engulfed in the business aspect of horsemanship. With Barbara, Chrissa traveled throughout Europe from Sweden to Denmark, searching for top dressage prospects. Barbara imported a wide range of horses from Europe including four-year-olds to Grand Prix schoolmasters. This was a fantastic opportunity for Chrissa to develop her riding while she learned to ride a great variety of horses. These lessons taught her to become a problem solver.

Tragically, Barbara passed away in 2000 and passed her torch to Chrissa. Chrissa promised Barbara that she would continue on with her client-base and highly successful business. Chrissa did her best to fill the large shoes that her friend and mentor, Barbara, had left behind. When Barbara’s farm sold, Chrissa moved her business to Full Circle Dressage in Pendleton, Kentucky, and many of her existing clients from Barbara’s followed. Judy Gassmann, owner of Full Circle Dressage, was a Morgan and Saddlebred enthusiast. Judy’s interest in these two breeds would influence the next unusual turn in Chrissa’s dressage career.

The Remarkable Harry Callahan
The Remarkable Harry Callahan

Enter Harry Callahan

Harry Callahan, a Saddlebred who was bred locally by Joan Laurey, was purchased by Linda Cawthon as a 3 year old and sent to Chrissa to start formal training at age 5. When Chrissa realized that she had the opportunity to produce a green Saddlebred into a dressage competitor, she quickly stepped up to the challenge!

Harry surprised many, including Chrissa, and advancing rapidly in his training due to his fantastic mind. “A horse has got to want the job and you must have three decent gates, but most importantly he must be willing to learn. I had to learn the artistic, creative side of training Harry. I had to teach him how to passage to gain cadence to his Trot, because by nature he was very flat. But he was so easy to train, and in turn, he taught me so much.”

Harry and Chrissa were quickly competing and winning at third level. At six years old he was winning 3rd level at the regional level and at 10 years old he started showing Grand Prix. Prior to Harry, showing a Saddlebred at the Grand Prix level of international competition was simply unheard of! Needless to say, Chrissa was in the spotlight and would stay there.

Most Memorable Career Moment

Chrissa’s most memorable career moment was when Harry, the Saddlebred gelding, pinned in the top six at the Jim Brandon show grounds against the big Warmbloods. Although this was the first time a Saddlebred had gone down center line at such a prestigious show, Chrissa attributed his success to his trainability, willing attitude and uncommon intelligence. “It was so easy for him,” stated Chrissa. “We could train the brilliance in him. He was an oddity and a rarity and we went to Jim Brandon in 2011 to compete against other top horses, we scored a 65.5 and he was 6th out of 25 in the Grand Prix!” Chrissa’s overwhelming pride in her horse is still so evident today.

“So correct, so willing, you made it look easy.” These were comments from the Grand Prix Judge, Charlotte Bredhal, regarding Chrissa’s and Harry’s 2011 Grand Prix test.

That single show with Harry stood out as a testament to Chrissa that in the sport of dressage it is possible to make it to the top with the right horse, lots of determination and unwavering commitment to training.

Chrissa’s Next Grand Prix Hopeful
Faustas, Chrissa’s Next Grand Prix Hopeful

Chrissa’s Top Influencers in the Sport

Chrissa began working with top German trainer, Alex Gerding, in 2009. A very classical trainer, Alex helped Chrissa put together her Grand Prix. He helped Chrissa with all of her horses and she attributes a great amount of her success to his lasting influence.

She later began training with Robert Dover and spent a winter with him while still working out of Full Circle Dressage. “He is by far the biggest cheerleader on sidelines that you can have,” exclaims Chrissa. “His training is intense, but he has an amazing eye to polish the picture between horse and rider.”

For the past year and a half, Chrissa has been training with USET team rider, Catherine Haddad-Staller.

“What I love about Catherine is that she’s absolutely made every horse that she’s had, and so have I. I absolutely respect that,” according to Chrissa.

Current Competition Achievements

Faustus, a truly incredible horse, is owned by Chrissa in partnership with Johan Ifverson. Faustus was sent to Chrissa as a seven-year-old to work on lead changes, and at that point in his training his future was bleak. After seven months of diligent retraining, he turned the corner and is now in the running to be Chrissa’s next international star! Last year they earned 8’s on their changes, proving that finding the right training methods for each individual horse can have a remarkable result.

Scrabble & Chrissa at Global, Wellington
Scrabble & Chrissa at Global, Wellington

On February 8, 2015 Chrissa and Faustus went on to win the Prix St Georges USEF Developing Qualifying Class with a 68.3% at the Global Dressage Festival at Wellington. “It was a fairytale story and he was going to be a throw-away. Now we’re schooling the Grand Prix and he’s ten this year!” Chrissa exclaims.

Scrabble, a nine-year-old red Hanoverian gelding, was purchased by Chrissa from Johan Ifverson five years ago. She competed the International small tour this season at the Winter Equestrian Festival at Palm Beach. This was Scrabble’s first time competing in the international arena and Chrissa is very pleased with his progress. She even won the Everglades Dressage Rider Achievement Award for her training with Scrabble.

Chrissa now holds her USDF Bronze, Silver and Gold medals; She has built a thriving training & sales business at her farm in Vero Beach and takes pride in the fact that she trained several horses from green to Grand Prix.

Why Wellington

Chrissa has a busy roster of horses in training! She is showing Prix St. Georges with 70%+ scores and schooling Grand Prix aboard Scrabble and she continues showing Faustus in the USEF Development Program.

To date, she has trained seven horses to the Grand Prix level, along with taking sixteen other horses to the FEI levels.

Chrissa and her husband recently moved from Ocala to Vero Beach. From their farm she operates CFH Dressage, which is within easy reach of the Wellington equestrian community. Chrissa’s business is thriving and she is busy teaching, training, giving clinics, and showing on the small and big tour in Wellington.

Chrissa is a fantastic example of why top class professionals, and amateur equestrians alike, choose to compete on the Wellington circuit. The region offers countless top equestrian events to both spectate and participate in, is home to the ever-growing Adequan Global Dressage Festival.

Learn more about Chrissa on her website at CHF Dressage or like her page on Facebook.

Home of CFH Dressage
Home of CFH Dressage