Aussie Dressage Rider Ilse Schwarz Newest GPA Poster Star

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Ilse Schwarz (right) with Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum and Steffen Peters. © 2009 Ken Braddick/
Ilse Schwarz (right) with Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum and Steffen Peters. © 2009 Ken Braddick/

AACHEN, Germany, July 2–Ilse Schwarz, an Australian dressage trainer and rider based in the United States, is the newest poster star in the worldwide promotion and advertising campaign by the leading safety horse riding helmet provider, GPA.

Ilse Schwarz was selected as the dressage competitor to feature in the campaign that features Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum, multiple World Cup champion in jumping, France’s Virginie Atger in endurance, Nicholas Touzaint for eventing and David Cottin in Thoroughbred racing.

The new campaign was launched with a giant poster in the GPA Riders’ Lounge at the World Equestrian Festival at the CHIO Aachen, the world’s premier horse show, and in advertisements in selected magazines.

Ilse, 40, is from Armidale, Australia, but moved to the United States 12 years ago when she married an American living in Wellington, Florida, a major center for Olympic level dressage and jumping.

In 2008, she qualified for the finals of the U.S. six-year-old championships with Sauvignon, a Sandro Hit mare, and finished sixth in Lexington, Kentucky, in winds of 60 miles an hour (95 kph).

“I would not have thought of riding in the wind with the debris that was flying around without wearing my GPA helmet,” Ilse said. “My coach, Steffen Peters, had flown from California to help his wife, Shannon, who was also wearing a GPA helmet because of the severe conditions, the tail end of a hurricane that had swept up the East Coast of the United States.”

Like many dressage riders who do not wear safety helmets because they do not anticipate the kinds of accidents that occur in jumping or eventing, Ilse was not wearing a safety helmet in 2007 when she was hacking one of her horses on the road just a few hundred yards (meters) from her stables in Wellington.

“My horse simply slipped on the road from under me,” she recalls. “No spooking, no tension, just feet sliding out from under her”

“I fell hard and fractured my neck.

“My husband was in Rome reporting for his magazine on the U.S. team at the Super League.

“He showed up the next day with a GPA safety helmet in his hand and instructions never to hack out again or train without wearing it. He said he loved me too much to lose me to an accident that could be avoided.

“He told me that he had been at the GPA trade stand at Rome talking with Michel Finquel, the founder of GPA, when I called to tell him of the accident. He said that Mr.Finquel had asked for my hat size, found a helmet that would fit correctly, pushed it into his hands with the advice, ‘Make sure she always wears it when she is not wearing her top hat. No charge!’

“Since then, I always wear my GPA helmet.

“I typically ride 12 to 15 horses a day from aging Grand Prix schoolmasters to feisty youngsters, in melting hot conditions in subtropical South Florida.

“I enjoy the security that comes from a safety helmet designed with input from  the best riders in the world but also created to be lightweight and comfortable in the most stressful weather.

“It’s such an incredible honor to be on the same GPA team with Steffen and Meredith, the top riders in the world in dressage and jumping. They’re THE World Cup champions.

“But most of all I love riding, I love my horses and I love my husband and my Old English sheep dog, Matilda, who watches over me every day with amazing patience.

“They are all depending on me to be around for the long term”

“I wear my GPA helmet because I want to be a part of all their lives and for them to be a part of mine.”