David Marcus: Canada’s Newest Asset

Dressage rider David Marcus on becoming Canadian, and his Olympic aspirations.

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By: Karen Robinson |

On December 28, 2011, David Marcus went to the courthouse in Kitchener, ON, to receive his Canadian citizenship, which arrived just in time for him to declare for the Canadian Olympic Team. From there, David drove straight to the airport to fly to Florida to meet up with the equine partners of his Olympic bid, Chevri’s Capital and Don Kontes. It’s been a whirlwind schedule to get his citizenship in time to declare for London, although the road that led to David becoming Canadian is a long one that spans 15 years and thousands of kilometres.

David has been a familiar face in Canadian dressage for so long that people may not even be aware that he isn’t a native-born Canadian. Growing up in Lincoln, Nebraska, David and his younger sister Lauren were introduced to horses through their mother Judy, who rode and encouraged her children to do the same. David quickly developed a passion for dressage; he qualified to compete on the Region 4 Team at his first North American Young Rider Championships at the age of 15. “No one in my town had shown prix St. Georges and I got there on my own, with no one to help me,” says David.

It was during a Cindy Ishoy clinic in Nebraska that David began the journey that would lead to his life in Canada. In 1996, David travelled with his horse to the Ishoys’ farm to train with her for the NAYRC. Cindy accompanied David and his horse, an FEI schoolmaster named Tipton, to Chicago for what became the first of five championships for David. Throughout the remainder of his high school years, David spent summers training with the Ishoys. Tipton’s successor, a mare named Catalina that David bought as a four-year-old, became his second NAYRC horse. David won silver and bronze NAYRC team medals for Region 4, as well as the Captain Andrew B. de Szinay sportsmanship award.

When he graduated from high school, David chose to attend McMaster University in Hamilton, ON, so that he could continue riding with the Ishoys. “I was originally going to have a ‘real’ career,” he says. “I started teaching to pay the bills, and it morphed into what it is today.” David completed a bachelor’s degree in economics, and he remained in Canada.

His first FEI horse outside of the Young Rider division was a charismatic Oldenburg stallion named Wolkensong that David bought as a four-year-old and trained to Intermediaire level. Wolkensong was a successful international competitor before David lost him to colic.

When David first began to earn a living as a trainer, he based his business, David Marcus Dressage, at a leased facility. In 2008, he purchased a 15-acre farm in Campbellville, ON. “After leasing a farm, it seemed like the natural next step,” he says. Perhaps because of his extensive YR experience, David attracted young students who went on to their own young rider successes, including Amy Jager, whom David accompanied to the FEI Young Rider World Cup in Frankfurt in 2009. David’s student Jonah Friedman competed in the junior division at NAJYRC in 2011, and with him in Florida this year are three juniors and one young rider, all of whom are working to qualify for the 2012 NAJYRC. “I enjoy teaching the kids that are really focused,” says David, who is now 31. “Recently I realized one of the kids I am coaching was born the year I did my first Young Rider Championships!”

Like his riding career and his move in Canada, the relationship that David developed with his sponsor Deborah Kinzinger arose out of circumstance. “It’s been a bit organic,” he says. Deborah, who was looking for a schoolmaster for herself, met David when she went to look at a couple of horses he had for sale. David ultimately helped Deborah find Don Kontes in Sweden. “When we brought him home, she just appreciated the fact that I had a connection with him, and she was kind enough to let me keep him.”

David showed Don Kontes in the small tour for two seasons, enjoying considerable success in Canada and the US, including a top-four finish at Devon in 2010. Don Kontes underwent colic surgery in the summer of 2011, so his grand prix debut in early 2012 marked a return to the show ring. David is excited with the horse’s early results. “When we bought Don Kontes, the people who had him had not begun to play with any of the grand prix movements, but he actually has a lot of aptitude for the piaffe and passage.” In his very first CDI in March, the 12-year-old Swedish gelding scored 64.404% and 65.850% in the grand prix and special.

In the fall of 2010, Deborah bought a ten-year-old Danish gelding named Chevri’s Capital. “He had started a little bit of the grand prix and the plan was to finish him to grand prix and sell him,” says David. “But he’s turned into more than we expected, so we decided to keep him until he has reached his potential.” Chevri’s Capital had a strong small tour season in 2011 with many scores in the 70s, and he is already becoming consistent in the grand prix. In his first grand prix he scored over 70%, and at the Florida CDIs he has been in the mid-60s each time out. “Capital has amazing pirouettes and extended trots, and really great passage which receives consistent eights,” says David. He is also developing a six-year-old mare that Deborah bought in 2011 from the same breeders who produced Pop Art. David plans to debut Betrina in the FEI six-year-old division in Canada this year.

There is no doubt in David’s mind that without Deborah he would be nowhere near where he is right now in his career. “How many times in your life do you have two grand prix horses?” he asks. “I can thank her for that opportunity. It’s rare to have someone so generous that way. She truly has my own best interests in mind, as well as wanting to see her horses succeed.”

David has relied on the coaching input of Robert Dover for the past two years, training with him while in Florida and bringing him to Canada for clinics. “I enjoy his training style and how positive he is. He is also sympathetic to the horses, and has helped me develop both horses to the grand prix.” On his decision to become Canadian, David says it was a natural progression, rather than a conscious decision. “I’ve lived my entire adult life in Canada and my sponsor is Canadian. Canada is home to me now.”