Olympic medalist and new U.S. Dressage Development Coach tells us about her passion for mentoring, volunteering with children, and ballroom dancing.
Charlotte Bredahl is a woman of many talents. Some are obvious: she’s a stellar horsewoman. Some might surprise you … more on that later.
But the talent closest to her heart these days is rare indeed — perhaps even rarer than the riding skills that helped the dressage team win Olympic Bronze. Or even her abilities as a trainer — she personally brought both her Olympic mounts up through the levels from training level to Grand Prix.
What is this skill? It’s mentorship…the talent that develops new talent.
Charlotte was born and raised in Denmark. Since uprooting her life in Denmark to move to California in 1980, Charlotte has become the resident queen of mentorship in the U.S. dressage community. In 2014 she was appointed U.S. Assistant Youth Coach for Dressage, jumping at the chance to help as many young riders as she could.
Four years later, Charlotte is excited to don a new hat in the equestrian world — the U.S. Dressage Development Coach. She’ll oversee the 20 riders currently participating in the Development Program, watching their lessons and providing input — usually, she says, from a judge’s point of view. That’s something she’s particularly good at since she herself is an international judge and has judged competitions around the world.
As for what motivates Charlotte … it’s a pure love of mentorship. It’s why she’s dedicated herself to perfecting the art of coaching. But it’s also a love that runs through every aspect of her life, professional but also personal. She and husband Joel Baker raised two foster kids — and despite all the hard work and dedication Charlotte has put towards her equestrian career, she’s quick to note that raising her kids was, “for sure, the most challenging and difficult thing I have ever done.”
She’s also mentored many children, sharing her love of horses with them. “It has been very rewarding to see how the horses can change lives,” she told us. “Nothing [is] more rewarding than to know you have made a difference in someone’s life.”
And no one who has seen her in action can doubt that she is making a huge difference in the lives and careers of the riders she’s coaching: the future of the U.S. Dressage Team.
What exactly does mentoring the best young dressage riders in the U.S. entail? “Each athlete’s situation is different,” explains Charlotte. For example, a rider’s trainer might not always be available to go to every show — or a rider might not have a consistent trainer — and that’s where she steps in to provide coaching and support. “We set goals for every athlete,” she says. In addition, she conducts training and evaluation sessions across the country. And she can tell you already …
The future looks very good for American dressage. “We have a lot of very talented athletes who will do whatever it takes to become successful,” shares Charlotte. “It has been very exciting to see so many of them really committing themselves to the sport.”
But she’ll be the first to tell you that the future of the sport is not just in her very capable hands, or even those of her students … it’s also in yours.
“The biggest challenge is how to afford it all,” Charlotte explains. “For the athletes, it is always a balance between making money and spending money on a horse, training, and competitions.” To the outside world, she says, it might appear that many of the U.S. equestrian athletes have sponsors behind them — however, she says, “it is the furthest thing from the truth.”
That’s why the support of the USET Foundation, and donors like you, is so essential: “I am so grateful for all the work the USET Foundation does to help fund our programs. There is no possible way we could have the success we have had without this funding.”
In particular, “The opportunity to compete in Europe is important as it allows us to compete against other top athletes,” she explains. Without the help of the Foundation, it simply would not be possible for many American athletes to showcase their skills on the international stage.
These days, Charlotte calls the beautiful Santa Ynez Valley home. When Charlotte isn’t on the road, she enjoys hobbies like tennis and ballroom dancing. “I started ballroom dancing when Saturday Night Fever came out,” she says. “I absolutely love disco music and love to dance the hustle.” She recently started lessons at a studio in Wellington and discovered her instructor loves The Bee Gees. “That” she says, “was perfect.”