Don Barnes

(1941 - 2022)

Inducted in 2023

Nominated by: Cathy Gordon , David Rosensweig

Don Barnes

Don Barnes was a prominent figure in the Canadian dressage community. He passed away Oct. 19, 2022 after suffering a lengthy battle with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis. He was a rider, judge, volunteer, show organizer and educator. In fact, it seems there is nothing that he hadn’t done for the sport. He was involved in dressage in Canada since the beginning. In the 1970s, Don rode and gave lessons at Concordia Stables in the Hamilton area. According to former students, his favourite exercise was organizing quadrilles, which often ended in chaos, and no doubt a lot of laughter. While at Concordia, Don travelled to Germany to buy a horse, whom he aptly named Next Exit, because it seemed that the sales barn was always the “next exit” off the Autobahn. Unfortunately,“Tex” never made it to the higher levels of dressage due to navicular.

He turned to judging, working his way through the levels to EC senior dressage judge by the 1990s. Don travelled throughout Canada and the US, while holding down a full-time position at Mohawk College as an ESL (English as Second Language) teacher and department head. Don retired from Mohawk in the early 2000s, but he never retired from judging or volunteering.

Don was president of CADORA Inc (CAnadian Dressage Owners & Riders Association: the national body, which at one time oversaw all dressage competitions in Canada) from the mid 1990s until 2020. He was the editor of the CADORA Omnibus, the test booklet distributed annually to members, containing the most recent USDF/EC dressage tests. He founded and organized CADORA’s annual “Build a Better Dressage Horse” Symposia with FEI 5* Dressage judge Stephen Clarke (UK), which continue to run in two parts of the country over two weekends in September/October every year.

As president of CADORA Ontario, a position he held at the same time as the president of CADORA Inc, Don organized the Silver Dressage Championships each year, as well as the Annual General Meeting and Awards Banquet, which recognized the winners with fabulous prizes—picked out and paid for by Don personally, who never sought reimbursement. In the 1990s, when the internet was just a toddler, Don held in-person show organizer meetings to compile a list of shows for the following season, ensuring there were no or very few show conflicts.

As one of the founders and long-time area representative of Glanbrook CADORA (a local group), Don  organized “Educate your eye” judging clinics, and in the early days, trips to the Montreal and Los Angeles Olympics to watch the dressage competitions.

Don was committed to the grass roots. When Dressage/Equine Canada prohibited the use of the USDF tests at schooling competitions due to copyright restrictions, Don wrote and published CADORA tests, which were—and still are—free of charge for competition organizers and riders to use, ensuring the continuation of schooling competitions. These tests have also been widely used for online schooling competitions since the pandemic began.

The Ontario Equestrian Federation (now Ontario Equestrian) twice recognized Don’s dedication and contribution to dressage in Ontario. In 2005, Don received the “People Make a Difference Award” for his “selfless and passionate commitment” to dressage, and again in 2011, as the recipient of the Yvonne Collard Award which recognized his lifetime contribution to the sport.1

Don’s parting message after stepping down as President of CADORA ON: “For me, it has been both a pleasure and an honour to serve as your President for so many years and to provide me with the chance to meet so many of you in various parts of the province. It's been quite a ride...but's time to head back to the barn.

1. Contributed by Angela Booth Malleau