Sometimes there are people who touch your life even though you never had the chance to meet them. For me, walter zettl was one of those people.
walter passed away june 7 at the age of 89. ever since i started with Dressage Today in 2009, i remember his christmastime calls. That wonderful, kind voice on the other end of the line wishing the DT staff a merry christmas and happy new year was always so appreciated. And while i never had the opportunity to meet walter, his dedication to the sport, compassion for the horse and support of Dressage Today as Advisor emeritus through the years have helped the staff shape a magazine that we hope still remains true to his beliefs. So when i sat down to write this month’s column, i knew i had to reach out to former editor, patricia Lasko, who had worked closely with walter during her years with DT. i asked her to share her thoughts on what made him such an important part of the dressage community. This is what she had to say:
“over the years, i have consulted walter many times about dressage training for the magazine’s articles. he was always generous with his expertise about any dressage subject. walter was always about the horse first, and he made us think that way, too. After any collaboration, he would send me a phone message that would always begin, ‘patricia, you are an angelA’ it was always a treat to hear his happy voice and a relief to know he approved of whatever changes were made. ‘we must always do what is best for the horse,’ he would tell me. it was a privilege to know and work with this gentle man.”
Looking back through old issues we can see walter’s many contributions, including several book excerpts as well as features like “Schwung” (oct. 2010) and “The Shoulder-in Entwickeln exercise” (mar. 2001), which can also be found on dressagetoday.com. And in this month’s issue we remember walter with a piece written by his friend and colleague Linda parelli of parelli natural horsemanship. in “walter zettl: The guardian angel of dressage horses” (p. 12) Linda writes, “Sitting next to him while he taught, you’d hear his seat squeak as he rode every movement with his student and his voice and tone fluctuated as he soothed more softness or urged more energy and crispness. his eyes would twinkle as he’d exclaim, ‘now we’re cookingA’” She goes on to say, “he felt a special calling to preserve the art of dressage and he dedicated his life to it. walter zettl was a true horseman.”
walter’s enthusiasm for the sport of dressage and his unwavering support of the horse come through in each and every thing he has written, and we will forever be grateful to have his words be a part of Dressage Today.
until next time,