David Ziegler
Articles Written 3
Article Views 14,013

David Ziegler


About David Ziegler

From Calgary Alberta, David started riding in the local pony club with his sisters and instantly became hooked. 2014 NAYRC Individual Gold Medal - Eventing, Silver Medal - Dressage, Dressage At Devon Prix St George Young Rider Champion, Long Listed to the Canadian Eventing and Dressage Teams. Based in Unionville PA.

Eventing Background

USEA Rider Profile Click to view profile
Area 2
Highest Level Competed Intermediate, CCI** Eventing, I1 Dressage
Farm Name Blue Hill Farm, David Ziegler Equestrian
Trainer Missy and Jessica Ransehousen

Latest Articles Written

Visas and Immigration for Canadian Riders

David Ziegler and Peninsula Top Man at Galway Downs in 2011. Photo by Samantha Clark. David Ziegler and Peninsula Top Man at Galway Downs in 2011. Photo by Samantha Clark.

Like many Canadians looking to ride professionally, I was aware of the challenge our Canadian climate plays in limiting our competition season.  So, as many of others have done, I jumped into the murky waters of finding a way to stay in the U.S. full time so as not disrupt my training program.

I’m sure I’m not the first one to joke about taking a weekend in Vegas and getting hitched to the first person I meet, but it seems Green Card marriages aren’t as easy as they used to be.

I have had my share of bad lawyers petitioning for visas, or in some cases, not petitioning when they should have been; until last autumn I had the pleasure of Seema Sonad introducing me to her friend, Renee Hykel Cuddy, of Hykel Law in Philadelphia. With stunning results handling my case, I asked Renee if she could provide her expertise for this article.

While attending law school, Renee Hykel Cuddy ambitiously trained and competed around the globe as an International Olympic athlete for the U.S. Olympic Rowing Team. She competed for the United States for six years and won several international medals.  This intimate knowledge of athletics and how important it is to remain in a full-time training program proved paramount, where other attorneys greatly fell short. The following is a contribution from Ms. Hykel Cuddy regarding different options for coaches and athletes seeking U.S. immigration benefits:

Hello equestrian community and thanks for your ears!

For coaches and athletes who wish to visit, train, compete and/or work in the United States, navigating the U.S. immigration system can be tricky. Here are the most common types of U.S. immigration classifications for persons coming to the U.S. through connections in the equestrian sport.

Temporary Visitors

Many foreign nationals enter the United States as temporary visitors. If you are coming from a country that participates in the visa waiver program (many European countries), you do not need to apply for a visa to visit the United States and you may enter for a period of 90 days simply by showing your passport.

Canadians also do not need a visa to enter the United States. Canadians are unique in that they can enter the country for a period of six months before any issues with U.S. immigration might arise.  All other temporary visitors need to apply for a B visa (B1 – temporary business visitor, and/or B2 – temporary visitor for pleasure). Temporary visitors may not work for U.S. companies or otherwise engage in U.S. employment. Persons who enter on the visa waiver program may NOT apply for an extension to remain longer in the U.S. (unless there is an emergency), but Canadians and persons who enter with a visa may apply for extensions.

Temporary Trainee Visa (H-3)

For up and coming riders or coaches, the H-3 trainee visa may be a viable option. David Ziegler held an H-3 visa at one time. This visa is appropriate for persons coming to the U.S. to participate in a training program that is not available in the home country that will benefit the trainee in a career outside the U.S.

Individuals must be invited by a company or organization to receive training, meaning you must have a U.S. employer sponsor you.  This visa can last up to two years and can be renewed for 18 months. You will be authorized to accept a stipend as part of the training program but cannot engage in any other form of employment.

Internationally Recognized Athlete and support personnel or coaches (P-1)

A P-1 visa is available to foreign national athletes who are internationally recognized and are coming to the United States to participate in events that require athletes of an international calibre. In order to qualify for this visa, the athlete must have an internationally reputation in the sport that can be proved by experts, news media articles and a letter from your national governing body.

P-1 athletes need to be sponsored by a U.S. employer and are only permitted to work for the employer (or agent) as described in the visa petition while in the United States. P-1 athletes may also bring their foreign coaches and support personnel, provided there is a need for their services while in the United States.

With the assistance of my company, Hykel Law, David recently obtained P-1 status after earning international recognition for medaling in two separate disciplines last summer. A P-1 visa may last for five years, but is based on the competition schedule submitted with the visa petition.

Person of Extraordinary Ability (O-1)

Foreign national athletes and coaches who have risen to the very top of their field (think top 5%) and experienced sustained international success are eligible to apply for an O-1 work visa. For athletes, you will want to have several international competitions under your belt, and ideally, an international medal. For coaches, you will want to show that your athletes are consistently competing (ideally, they are winning) at international competitions.

The Pan-Am Games, World Championships and Olympic Games are competition results that would support this category. Again, you will need expert letters, international rankings and media articles. You will also need a U.S. employer to sponsor you with the preliminary validity period being three years (extension requests can be submitted).

Permanent Residence in the USA/Green Card

Ultimately, if you plan on living permanently in the U.S., you will want to obtain lawful permanent residence, which results in the issuance of a “green card.” The work visas mentioned above are temporary in nature (“non-immigrant” is the legal term), but green cards are permanent (“immigrant”).

To qualify for a green card, you either need to have a U.S. Employer sponsor you for a job in the United States or in the case of internationally recognized athletes and coaches, you may be able to file on your own (“EB-1”), provided that you plan to continue in your field of expertise and you are amidst a period of sustained, international success. Another avenue to consider is having U.S. citizen or green card family members petition you for a family-based green card (spouse, brother, parents).

Trouble at the U.S. Border

We have all heard the stories of people being turned away at the border, with and without visas. However, many of the problems lie in not following the law. Just because you are granted a visa, doesn’t mean you have a green light to do whatever you want while in the U.S. Each visa has restrictions on what an individual can and cannot do while in the U.S.

While David was in H3 status, he was not permitted to work, however, with the P-1 he is able to work for his U.S. sponsor as described in the petition submitted to USCIS.  It comes down to being properly informed and taking personal responsibility for following the guidelines.

David says he still sweats bullets going through security at airports, but he always passed through quickly because he has all of the required paperwork and has abided by the terms of his visa.

The most common issue I come across with international athletes is that they retire from elite competition and become coaches. If you filed a P-1 athlete visa, you are not permitted to work as a coach. Especially in cases where the status is granted for several years, when Customs and Border Patrol inquire about your status at the border, if you’ve been retired for a year, don’t be surprised if you get turned away and have your visa cancelled.

I hope this article helps demystify visas for Canadian riders, or gives you a place to start when you decide it’s time to look into one. The help of a good attorney is priceless. If you’d like to get in touch with Renee for more advice, you can read more about her and find contact information on her website.

Saddle Fitting for the Event Horse

EN guest writer David Ziegler, who won individual medals in both eventing and dressage at NAJYRC last year and is long listed on this year's Canadian national eventing team, is on a mission to spread the word about proper saddle saddle fit for event horses. Be sure to follow his Facebook page for much more from David.

David Ziegler and Peninsula Top Man at Dressage at Devon 2014. Photo courtesy of Lone Oak Equine Photography. David Ziegler and Peninsula Top Man at Dressage at Devon 2014. Photo courtesy of Lone Oak Equine Photography.

Producing a top event horse is no easy task; there are many factors to a complete program. Like a pair of shoes to a marathon runner, a horse’s saddle is the most important piece of equipment.

I asked Gary Severson, better known as The Saddle Doctor, to help me with this article. He represents no saddle companies and has more than 20 years of experience as an independent saddle fitter. He has consulted the U.S. eventing team for 12 years and the Canadian eventing and dressage teams for five of those years.

Like many of you, I’m sure, I dreaded saddle buying.  The rhetoric from saddle reps can make it nearly impossible to know who to trust when, at the end of the day, the sale is more important.

Many companies have their saddle reps in programs anywhere from four days to three months — how does this qualify them to fit saddles? Vet techs are expected to go to school for two years before they can give IV injections. I believe a similar standard should be expected of saddle fitters.

One of the first decisions one has to make when buying a new saddle is whether to choose wool or foam flocked. There is no one right or wrong answer — the question is whether the saddle fits or not, and both have their benefits and drawbacks.

Wool saddles can offer an advantage to eventers, as our horses’ backs are ever changing as they develop and go through their fitness peaks and lows. With wool, we are able to stuff wool in and pull wool out as needed, but the saddle requires maintenance fittings more frequently to ensure the best fit.

When making adjustments to foam saddles, panels need to be removed, reconfigured and then reattached to properly fit. Foam saddles have found their niche in the hunter/jumper world, where fitness levels stay fairly consistent, and a well-fitting foam saddle will last these riders for several years.

One of the most common fit issues Gary said he has noticed has been overflocking on the left side, the mounting side. Horses are then at a disadvantage and are unable to develop equal muscle tone from side to side.

It’s important to remember that proper saddle fit is not just for the elite-level horses. If a saddle “rocks,” it usually pinches in the area of the back between the stirrup bars of the saddle.

County Saddlery did a test some years ago and determined that, on average, a rider landed on the other side of a fence in the stirrups with a force of approximately 150 pounds for every foot of fence jumped.

In other words, a 4-foot fence would equal about 650 pounds. If the saddle is rocking and pinching, a high jump is very painful to the horse. A green horse will soon learn it best not to jump the fence if he can get away with it!

A saddle that pinches will cause a horse to move forward with a high head, short-strided in front, hollowed back and strung out at the hindquarters — not a recipe for a top level trip around a course.

Now, this doesn’t mean every horse on earth needs a custom saddle. One can deftly use a type of corrective pad to properly fit a previously ill-fitting saddle.

Properly shimmed, the horse would be protected, but, as Gary has explained to me, he does not believe an Advanced level eventer or a Grand Prix jumper should use this type of padding for safety reasons.

Thick pads can cause saddles to slip over high jumps, particularly when serious turns need to be made upon landing. The saddle also needs to be fit well so that the horse can adequately use its back as nature intended while moving forward — without the saddle getting in the way.

It seems like the saddles sold are the ones with the best marketing campaigns. Let’s change the focus from which saddle just came out with all the bells and whistles and start talking about the fit of the saddle on our horses.

The Benefits of Cross Training

EN is proud to welcome a new group of guest bloggers, kicking off with David Ziegler, who has made a name for himself competing at the upper levels of both eventing and dressage. He's brought his unique experiences here to EN, and we'd like to thank David for taking the time to write a column for us.

David Ziegler and Critical Decision at NAJYRC. Photo by Samantha Clark for PRO. David Ziegler and Critical Decision at NAJYRC. Photo by Samantha Clark for PRO.

I was very excited when Eventing Nation asked me to guest blog. Having evented (in my humble opinion) one of the greatest event horses, Critical Decision or “BG”, and having trained my own horse, Peninsula Top Man or “Topper”, from 1st level to FEI, I think I have a unique perspective.

In November this year, my search for a new young horse took me across the street to Bruce Davidson’s Chesterland Farm to look at his young stock. After being boosted up onto one of his 3-year-olds, I immediately took contact on the reins, expecting submission from a horse that had spent the greater portion of his life out in pastures.

The horse, obviously, had no idea what I wanted. Bruce set up a small oxer and told me to jump it, my inner DQ started coming out. I was not comfortable with the limited control I could expect from a 3 year old, my reins got shorter and shorter as I approached the fence, praying for a distance.

We got to the fence and the horse jumped over it with ease, with a laugh, Bruce said to me, “You’ve never ridden a green horse have you?” Until then, the youngest I had ridden had been 5 year olds.

Priding myself on taking every learning opportunity I can, I had asked Bruce if I’d be able to pick his brain on developing young horses from the 2-year-old to 5-year-old stage I had been missing. We discussed the “over dressage-ing” of young horses.

Dressage demands constant submission and obedience. The horse must wait for the rider’s aid and not take over, in pure dressage this is necessary, but in eventing we need to analyze how this training translates to Cross Country.

Galloping at speed, over natural terrain jumping through technical questions, nothing can be expected to go perfectly; it is not show hunters, so we must rely on natural instinct. When we take young horses through their development stage, practicing countless circles and transitions on laser leveled footing, how can we count on our horse to make the split second analysis and decisions we need to stay safe on cross country, when such instincts have been ridden out of them?

In the early years we need to canter the horse across a field, pop it over logs, cross streams, and give it the necessary life experiences it needs for long term success — not just for event horses, but dressage horses as well. We would want our children to play in dirt, so should our horses.

I’ve seen it many times in the dressage world: horses without the mental capacity to hack or have turnout, who, with all the natural ability they may possess, ultimately break because their body hasn’t had the necessary bumps and bruises along the way to toughen them up.

I am thankful to be in a training program that recognizes the benefit of cross training. I still jump, gallop, and trot hills with my dressage horse. I think deep down, we can all agree, this view…

Topper out for a gallop, December 2014.

Topper out for a gallop, December 2014.

…beats this view any day.