It’s all about timing when trying to catch up with horse trainer Andre Dignelli.
We were lucky enough to grab a few minutes with the acclaimed horseman just before he jetted off to Holland, Belgium and Germany – just a bit of business during the downtime between competitions.

With three months of work complete on the winter circuit in Wellington, Fla., Dignelli and the rest of the team at Heritage Farm in Katonah are looking to the spring shows this month at Old Salem Farm in North Salem. Having sold a number of horses down in Florida, they’re ready to replenish the stock.

“It’s a good time to regroup, find some horses,” he says. “It’s a buying trip.”

And it’s a good time to take stock in another sense and look back at a 2011 competitive season that surpassed all expectations.

The Chronicle of the Horse, a trade publication, presented Dignelli and Heritage Farm its Show Hunter Horsemen of the Year award, in recognition, he says, of the “series of championships that we won.”

Such an honor speaks to the depth of the program at Heritage. It wasn’t one rider who simply had a good year. The award speaks to consistent results over a full season. Riders Samantha Schaefer, Madison Goetzmann and Lillie Keenan were among the students earning honors in various categories, from show jumping to hunter-derby equitation, from junior hunter to hunter-seat equitation – and beyond.

“It was just an amazing kind of run,” Dignelli says, and a great honor for him and brother Michael, whose teamwork is at the heart of Heritage.

These days, Andre says he is concentrating on the training, as he has a herniated disk.

“I’ve curtailed the showing.”

Having won the United States Equestrian Team competition in 1985, Dignelli went on to a riding career that found him ranked third in the nation and 26th in the world. He was part of the team that won a bronze medal at the Pan Am Games as well.

For all his personal laurels, though, Dignelli keeps the focus on Heritage.

“I think last year was a big year for us,” he says. “I think everyone appreciated it and was kind of humbled.”

But the Heritage team is ready to jump right back into the mix.

“(For the) people that come and ride with us, it’s all about competition.”

And is there a chance for a repeat of the “banner year,” as Dignelli calls 2011?

“I think that everybody would like to.”

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