By Lauren R. Giannini
By the time she was 4 years old, Sandra Dalman was just as horse-crazy as her mother and two sisters. In light of the cost of boarding four equines, her father decided he’d save money by buying a farm. Sandra started competing at A shows and followed the usual path through Pony, Children and Junior Hunters, along with Medal, Maclay and USET equitation, until she was 14 and acquired her first jumper. Four years later, she rode in her first national Grand Prix.
“There was no looking back,” said Sandra. “I always loved to race our ponies and jump them as big as they could, so it was no surprise that jumpers were a natural fit for me. I started my own horse business in my early 20s. Selling comes very naturally to me and I learned how to sell and how to run a business from my family. I figured out how to combine what I know with what I’m passionate about.”
Today, Sandra’s a USHJA certified trainer and Grand Prix jumper rider, based at Southview, Inc. about 10 minutes from Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington. Every year, she migrates to Wellington for the Winter Equestrian Festival.
Sandra has been married for nine years to Javan Dalman, a match made in horse heaven. “We met in high school, but we never dated until after we graduated from college,” said Javan. “On our second date, we scratched dinner and the movies to clean out her tack room and drag the ring in the moonlight. Two months later, I asked her to marry me.”
Javan loves to ride and compete, but his focus and role in the business have changed. “My priority is Sandra and our horses competing at the highest level possible,” he said. “I manage ring schedules, logistics, clients, sales, shipping and help with the care of the horses. I also have a jump business and a hay business, so I stay really busy. I do miss riding and I’d love to get back in the saddle at some point. The last time I really rode, I was a stunt man for the Harry & Snowman movie.”
Growing up, Sandra did a lot of riding on her own, getting her training mostly on weekends at shows. “I had one trainer early on who said they call it a horse show for a reason, and made us polish and clean everything,” recalled Sandra. “To this day, I want everything perfectly clean and turned out. I’m a little OCD about that, but I believe the horse, rider and barn should always look their best!”
Sandra credits George Morris with having the greatest impact and influence on her own teaching and riding. “George put a system to everything I did and gave me an articulate way of expressing instructions,” she said. “Riding with George gives you a never-ending source of exercises to practice. I use them for my riding and with my students. My favorite lesson from George is: practice your guts. He was the first teacher in my experience to bring that to the table. It means practicing being brave in difficult situations, whether you’re facing a really challenging course or an intimidating situation with a horse or in everyday life.”
Sandra’s short-term goals include qualifying A-Frieda-O for Saturday night Grand Prix at WEF and continuing to import and develop horses. In terms of the long run, she said, “I want to produce top-level horses and riders, and one day I’d love to represent Team USA.”