Specializing in teaching dressage, and known for providing understandable explanations on both biomechanics and the specific application and timing of the aids, Valerie’s students learn to communicate with their equine friends effectively -- making for happy horses and happy riders.
In 2000, Valerie became a recognized SCDCTA judge, and quickly became popular in the area for her fairness, kindness, honesty, and when appropriate, her sense of humor. In addition to judging dressage classes, she also tapped into her multi-discipline background to judge local hunter shows and “open” shows. Valerie quickly discovered her true equestrian passion is judging! Always wanting to increase her own knowledge and education, she set her sights on the challenging and intense USDF “L” program.
After the required hours of observing and scribing, along with the intense 3-day examination, Valerie passed the USDF "L" program "with distinction" in 2008 ("with distinction" means a score high enough to go on to the USEF program, and only a small percentage of those who take the L exam receive this rating). Valerie immediately began working on earning the scores required to apply for the USEF “r” program, and in 2011 Valerie was accepted into the USEF “r” program. In 2014, she completed all the rigorous apprenticing necessary to complete the program, in addition to taking another intense 3-day exam in Lexington, Virginia.
During the judge-licensing programs, Valerie has had the great honor of working one-on-one with many well-respected national and international judges, including Lilo Fore, Axel Steiner, Natalie Lamping, William Solyntjes, and Thom Poulin. The generosity these professionals have shown by sharing their knowledge and expertise cannot be overstated.
I want to tell you how much I enjoyed our lessons this winter. You helped me a lot and have a great knack for communicating with your clients. You are also a very fair and encouraging judge.
winter resident from Virginia
On winning an association year end award:
"It's because you are so awesome and have such a huge passion for what you do. Thanks for being my trainer!"
Routinely scheduled locations
include but are not limited to:
Aiken, Windsor, Columbia,
Gilbert, Lexington, Blythewood, Summerville,
Ridgeville, & Charleston
Always open to new areas,
either on a regular basis or for clinics.
Contact Valerie to set up a lesson either at your farm
or the nearest facility!
First learned to ride at a gaited barn in Anniston, Alabama (Tennessee Walkers and Saddlebreds). We also had “grade” horses there, where we trail rode, swam across ponds, and did gymkhana-style events.
After moving to Aiken, South Carolina in 1984, I first learned about non-gaited, non-Western riding (for fellow Aikenites, I hold the proud distinction of being Hopeland Farms’ very first horse boarder, as they were then a working cattle and crop farm with a daughter who loved horses- Cathy Anne Coward). In high school, I worked off my lessons with Joan Nimau.
Attended the College of Charleston and competed on the College equestrian team (1988-1992). During those years, we qualified for Nationals every year and once earned the Reserve National Championship. Individually I earned a 4th place national ranking in my division. I became interested in eventing and dressage while still in college.
Moved back to Aiken to work with prominent local event trainers in 1993-1994, and was accepted as a working student at FareWell Farm in Blythewood, SC for 1994-1995 (the host of the Eastern Preliminary Debroke Championships). I rode in clinics with Jim Graham, Lucinda Green, Denny Emerson, and Cindy Sydnor. I credit my beloved mare Carpe Diem with our many wins at Novice level throughout the Southeast. I never felt safe on cross-country on any other horse, so naturally gravitated towards dressage.
Scott and Katie Peterson kindly welcomed me to their lovely OneWood Farm, also in Blythewood (host to the '96 Olympic gold medal-winning Dutch team, and now the home of the USC equestrian team). It was here that I became hooked on “straight” dressage.
Started my teaching career at Mable John’s Hickory Top Farm in Eastover, SC, and ran the summer riding program at Camp Rockbrook in Brevard, NC for a summer.
Moved to the Atlanta, GA area and jumped at the opportunity to work for Greg and Cindy Thaxton at High Point Farm in Athens (host to the U.S. Olympic team in ’96). During this time, I competed at training through second levels on the USDF circuit and at Regional Championships. After two years in Georgia, the unexpected death of a family member prompted our move back to Aiken to be closer to my mom.
Kathy and Ivan Lewis, owners of the gorgeous Black Forest Equestrian Center (www.blackforestfarm.com) were kind enough to offer me a job teaching riding there, where I worked with the STAR handicapped riding program and taught the Aiken Prep School program, in addition to private lessons. I loved working there, but another unexpected death, this time of my first husband Fletcher, prompted the financial decision to move my horses and my lesson program home. Thus, Jasmine Farm was born. At one point I had over 20 horses teaching lessons and in training/for sale, including starting extremely high quality Welsh hunter ponies for Jon and Sara McCormick’s Orchard Hill Farm.
From 1999 until 2011, I worked with a wide variety of breeds in order to sell them to their appropriate niche: drafts, warmbloods, Quarter horses, OTTB’s, and too many crosses to mention. I learned what made a top hunter, a top hilltopper or first flight field hunter, and a great beginner’s horse. The horse sales paid the bills, but my personal riding passion remained steadfast in the dressage arena. I competed a variety of horses of dubious breeding in nationally-recognized competitions. I remarried and moved to a larger location, where we also hosted schooling shows. I began to travel internationally to seek out sales prospects, and my own competition skills moved onward from third level to Intermediare. I achieved the Bronze and Silver USDF medals.
I earned the USDF “L” with distinction and was accepted into the USEF “r” program. I have ridden with many top clinicians, including Bo Jena, Axel Steiner, Henk van Bergen, Gunner Ostergaard, Janet Foy, and JJ Tate, as well as auditing many others whenever possible. I won the GDCTA scholarship to go to Spain and train on Andalusians for ten days at Epona, culminating in lessons with Olympian Rafael Soto. Amy McElroy has always been a huge part of my exposure dressage. More recently, Jennifer Baumert has become a huge influence on me, and a big help with both my own riding and with investment horses.
We downsized to a small, personal farm close to my husband’s work and family, which enables me to now travel to pursue my true loves: coaching riders and judging competitions.
Over the years I have won several South Carolina and Georgia year-end award championship and reserve championship titles, competed and placed in the Regional championships, and earned national USEF Silver Stirrup and USDF All-Breed awards, on multiple horses- some of whom had never done dressage before I purchased them, while others were lovely imports from Holland. I invite you to do your own “background check” on me at www.centerlinescores.com; simply type in any rider’s name and their entire competitive history is there! Please feel free to contact me with any questions you may have about how I can help you and your horse.
"Love you Val! We all could not have accomplished any of this without your help and knowledge and always your belief in us. We can do anything because we know you believe we can!"
"Everyone that is a part of "Team Jasmine" owes so much to our Wonderful Mentor, Trainer, Coach, Advisor, and most of all "FRIEND" Valerie Swygert, who truly makes the sport of Dressage fun. You should and deserve to be so proud of yourself and your students. The proof is always in the pudding."
Thanks for being my teacher, consultant, crazy horse catcher, advisor, horsemanship leader, and best trainer in the world!
You opened worlds to us we'd never have experienced and made him a legend in the eyes of his admirers who never knew any other dressage horse. He definitely has a fan club here (:
"You have a gift for teaching, and it is obvious you love what you do and you really care about your horses. Anyone who knows you, knows what great care you take of your animals and how honest and up front you are."
S judge comment after he judged me ride a Prix St. Georges test, as repeated to me by the scribe:
“At the end, he asked if I knew you and I said yes. He then said you were a very nice, quiet rider and you were too humble, and he enjoyed the harmony between you and Ali.”
When it comes to purchasing a horse, Valerie's focus has always been matching the rider’s and horse’s temperaments and abilities.
She can find what you are looking for, either here in the United States or through trusted contacts in Europe. Valerie guarantees brutally honest representation -- buyers are always aware who is being paid a commission and how much. Buyers will hear the good AND the bad about any sales horse.
With more than 125 horses sold, Valerie has the experience and ability to help make sure your next purchase is a positive one. She prides herself in not wasting the buyer’s or the seller’s time by showing horses to buyers that do not fulfill the buyer’s wishes and needs.
Valerie regularly travels throughout the Southeast to teach at various barns, and she is available for trailer-in lessons at her own farm. Call to find out about Ride-A-Test clinics and traditional dressage clinics.
Specializing in teaching dressage and known for providing understandable explanations for the precise mechanics and timing of the aids, Valerie’s students learn to ride consistently and fairly -- making happy horses and happy riders! Her students seldom earn
lower than a “7” on the rider position/effect of the aids score when they compete, a fact which makes Valerie particulary proud.
Most people did not start riding in order to be formal dressage stars, in order to spend obscene amounts of money on the fanciest horse and win ribbons; they wanted to enjoy the human/equine bond, appreciate nature, and have fun. You CAN employ correct, competitive dressage training while rekindling that initial love of playing with your horse.