Biographies of Wolfgang and Suzanne May
Suzanne May, widow of German Bereiter Wolfgang May, has ridden her whole life, but began her fascination with dressage in 1973. That was also the year that Lowell Boomer invited dressage trainers, riders, and judges to Lincoln, Nebraska, to what became the organizational meeting of USDF.
Early that same year she became a working student for trainer Mykola "Nick" Pawlenko in the Chicago area. His daughter, Natalie Pawlenko Lamping, is a USEF "I", FEI "I", FEI "C" Para Equestrian, and FEI Young Horse judge, as well as a trainer and rider who was long-listed on the USET dressage team.
This arrangement continued for almost 13 years. During that time, Suzanne had the opportunity to ride and learn all phases of horsemanship on both warmbloods and thoroughbreds. She also attended the 1976 Olympics in Montreal, during which the U.S. won an unexpected bronze medal in dressage. She remembers being so inspired that she came home from that Olympics and tried zig-zag canter half-passes down the center line and did tempi lead changes around the entire arena! Fortunately, she had access to the horseflesh and the training and experience thru grand prix, to get this done successfully!
This was also the time when Pawlenko bought dozens of thoroughbreds, which were both popular and affordable, off the track. Many of these horses were trained up to FEI levels and several competed and won in Florida and at the USET headquarters in Gladstone, New Jersey, with riders such as Lendon Gray and Michael Poulin.
After an automobile accident in which she broke her back, Suzanne's main focus became dressage theory. This passion led to a deep love and understanding of how it all comes together from starting a young horse through grand prix.
In 1985 she began her relationship with Wolfgang, who became both her husband and trainer. He taught her what lightness, throughness,and self-carriage really mean. They owned their own facility in several locations but also traveled the U.S. and Mexico giving clinics. She and Wolfgang also spent part of every year in Germany.
This happy and productive time continued until Wolfgang's sudden death on Father's Day of 2012. When an opportunity came to move to Covenant Farm in Dubach, Louisiana, and teach, Suzanne grabbed it and has not looked back! She loves what she does and has become a "dressage missionary" who wants everyone she comes in contact with in this sport to have the depth of learning and understanding that she has been so fortunate and privileged to have. Toward that end, she is available for lessons and clinics, both at Covenant Farm and at other locations in the Southeast and Texas.
Wolfgang May served his three-year apprenticeship in Germany at the stable of former German Olympic dressage coach, Walther "Bubi" Gunther. Upon receiving his Bereiter certificate he took his first position as trainer in Rome with a Countess who had mainly combined training horses, although Wolfgang always wanted to specialize in dressage. He remained there until he answered an ad for a dressage trainer and rider needed in the United States. After being tested and hired, he took a required one year of training with the head trainer of the Spanish Riding School of Vienna to familiarize himself with Lippizan horses and their classical training--including airs above the ground.
From 1966-1981 Wolfgang trained and gave exhibitions on the Lippizan stallions of Tempel Farms in Wadsworth, Illinois (just north of Chicago). During that time, he was given the opportunity to work with many world-famous trainers, including Hans Irbinger (the head rider of the Spanish Riding School) and Willi Schultheis (German Olympic dressage coach).
After the passing of Tempel Smith, the founder of Tempel Farms, Wolfgang moved on and started doing some freelance training and lessons. He purchased his own farm near Minneapolis, where he remained for nine years, and trained several horses and riders to FEI levels, both locally and out of state.
He sold his farm and began traveling around the West and Midwest doing clinics on a regular basis in Mexico, Washington, Wyoming, North and South Dakota, Colorado, Nebraska, Texas, North Carolina, and Illinois. These regularly scheduled clinics produced numerous bronze, silver, and gold medalists, and various Regional Champions and Reserve Champions in Regions 4, 5 and 9, from first level through Intermediare 1, as well as in breed divisions. He also helped match his clients with suitable horses from outstanding young prospects to FEI schoolmasters.
Wolfgang also did clinics in San Miguel and Monterrey on a regular basis and coached at the Mexican National Championships in Leon.
He participated in the Andalusian Nationals in Fort Worth, Texas, as trainer and coach, and in a single year won five national championships, one reserve championship, seven top fives, and high-percentage dressage horse in the nation--all with two horses!
Wolfgang passed away suddenly on Father's Day in 2012.