Tressa Boulden-Linsley: In Tribute to Melissa Simms 11-19-52 – 2-14-18

Tressa Boulden-Linsley: In Tribute to Melissa Simms 11-19-52 – 2-14-18

(© Tressa Boulden-Linsley 2018. After meeting Melissa Simms in 1996, a pure form of classical dressage resonated with Tressa Boulden and especially her horses. From that time Melissa became Tressa’s mentor and a continual source of inspiration. At the point of Melissa’s recent passing, Tressa had studied with her over the course of more than 20 years. Here is Tressa’s tribute to her late teacher. Photographs Courtesy of Melissa Simms and Tressa Boulden-Linsley.)

On February 14, 2018 the equestrian world lost another “Keeper of the Grail” of classical horsemanship, Melissa Laura Simms. Heiress of Riding Master Herr Egon von Neindorff, Director of Training of his Reitinstitut for over 24 years, and English translator of his German book “The Art Of Classical Horsemanship”, Melissa passed away in Carlsbad, California after battling cancer for a good portion of a year.

Melissa Simms, the daughter of a Marine Corps officer, traveled extensively with her family. The military family life and the fact that her father was a Marine Officer made it possible for Melissa to consistently have access to excellent riding facilities. As an example, in Japan where Melissa’s family was stationed for four years, her first riding instructor at the age of eight also taught the children of the Emperor. When her family was stationed in the United States, she had opportunities to also learn about multiple riding disciplines. Her many experiences included hunter-equitation lessons with George Morris, western equitation lessons and also gymkhana riding classes in which she won awards including a silver buckle for first place at a Camp Pendleton rodeo.

When Melissa was 14 years old, she worked with a western trainer who had read all of the books of Alois Podhajsky. He had her read them, and from that point on a fire had been lit in her soul…she would be a dressage rider someday. Melissa soon contacted the USDF asking for a list of all the best dressage schools in Europe. When Melissa mentioned in these letters that she was 14, some schools did not bother to write back and others told her to contact them when she was older. Not discouraged, Melissa was determined that she would eventually go to one of these schools.

Even as Melissa studied gemology with the goal of becoming a registered jeweler, she continued her riding practice with Klaus Albin, a German riding instructor in Seattle, Washington who had served his apprenticeship under Felix Burkner and Otto Lörke in Germany. Klaus had been stationed at Potsdam Cavalry School along with Egon von Neindorff. Klaus recognized Melissa to be very talented and decided to make a call to Egon von Neindorff about this student who “he thought could be useful for him in Karlsruhe.” With his recommendation, Melissa Simms found her way to the Egon von Neindorff Reitinstitut, planning to stay only three months.

Melissa Simms schooling the Andalusian stallion Aguacate in passage under the eye of Herr Egon von Neindorff. (Photo credit A. Bronkhorst.)

An American girl in the land of the best dressage in the world, who knew no German, and no one at the institute spoke English, Melissa started as a mere working student. Happy to catch a group riding lesson at the tail end of a long day’s work, Melissa lived in a room above the stables accessed only by a ladder and she shared a shower with a goat. Despite the challenges, Melissa stayed at the Reitinstitut for many years to come because she was learning so much. She became one of the most integral parts of Herr Egon von Neindorff’s Reitinstitut and a prime example of a classical rider.

Melissa riding Polido, a Lusitano stallion, in piaffe.

Herr Egon von Neindorff wrote of Melissa…“Melissa Simms, who was referred to me by her German riding instructor in America, arrived at my institute as a working student in February 1982. She worked in the stable to acquire experience and received daily riding instruction. I immediately noticed her diligence, interest and understanding of horses and for the naturally oriented schooling represented in my institute. Therefore I was able to conduct intensive daily riding lessons with her on well-trained horses. She advanced very quickly.”

“Over time I trusted her judgment and gave her my horses to school, which she accomplished with feeling, knowledge and patience. At the same time she became integrated into my performances of classical horsemanship that I conducted twice a year from 1954 onward. Over the years she developed into a most important and dependable assistant for me and for the successful completion of the festival evenings. Today, she possesses the aptitude, professional qualifications and ability to school horses of all different breeds to Grand Prix Niveau and has developed a particularly fine feeling for work “in hand” and for the airs above the ground.  Because of this and the twenty years that she has been a major support to me personally and to my riding institute, I believe that she has understood, can interpret and write about my life’s work.”

~ Riding Master Egon von Neindorff, March 20, 2002

Lipizzan stallion Neapal performing courbette in hand, handler Melissa Simms. (Photo credit J. C. Beck.)

Herr Egon von Neindorff passed in 2004 and Melissa became the official heir to his equestrian legacy. Melissa assembled his unfinished manuscript that became the ”Die reine Lehre der Klasschen Reitkunst” published in Germany in 2004. She began the process of translating the book from German to the English version “The Art of Classical Horsemanship” and it was published in English in 2009. Melissa was really the only person who could have made this a personal interpretation, translating his book with such accuracy, for she understood his body of work in a way no one else could due to her close relationship of 24 years with Egon von Neindorff.

Since the passing of Egon von Neindorff and the two publications of his book Melissa lived between Germany and U.S.A.  She gave clinics, wrote articles and dedicated her life to promote the awareness of classical riding as taught by Herr von Neindorff. This she passed down to her students and anyone who wished to listen.

In this quadrille, the other riders look to Melissa, their lead rider, to keep their alignment.

Although it is difficult to do her wisdom and extraordinary talents as a teacher and trainer of classical horsemanship justice, Melissa’s memory will live on through her dedicated students, as a voice on the wind.

Tressa riding with her mentor Melissa Simms, both riding Lusitanos. One of Melissa’s training techniques was to ride behind her students. (Photo credit Lia Segerblom.)

As she would say “Let us keep counting the piaffe steps and not lose sight of the future.” Melissa embodied the pure art of classical horsemanship with an Old World grace that for the most part can now only be read about.  Her students of many years hope to bring this knowledge forward into the future, for the sake of the horse, in memory of their beloved riding teacher…

Melissa Laura Simms, November 19, 1952 – February 14, 2018

Tressa training shoulder-in on Lipizzan stallion Maestoso II Daniela riding a demonstration lesson at a Melissa Simms’ clinic. 

For more information about author Tressa Boulden-Linsley, see




  1. Carole
    February 22, 2018 / 2:59 PM

    A lovely article about a lovely lady. Another link to Egon von Neindorff broken.

    • Tresss
      February 26, 2018 / 4:22 PM

      Thank You Lynne,
      I invision this as well, they found heaven through the horse here on Earth.. Now they are Heaven.

    • Tresss
      February 26, 2018 / 4:25 PM

      Thank you Carole..
      Yes a monumental link to EvN…

  2. Holly
    February 22, 2018 / 3:15 PM

    A true inspiration to any of us Americans striving to learn correct and humane classical dressage techniques.

  3. Lynne Sprinsky Echols
    February 22, 2018 / 6:14 PM

    I had the privilege to have a few lessons with Melissa while spending three months at the Reitinstitut Egon von Neindorff early in 2003. At that time Herr vN taught group lessons in which I rode, but my first few longe lessons were with Melissa. It was clear to me at the time what a large influence she played at the school. I have read the master’s book that she translated. It is inevitable and yet lamentable that she who was one of vN’s most accomplished students, should now be gone. My prayer is that both Herr vN and Melissa are now riding their beloved horses in heaven, where every movement will be sheer perfection.

  4. February 22, 2018 / 7:54 PM

    Melissa was the Champion of Herr Neindorff’s legacy and carried this duty out magnificently. I find myself wondering what will become of the truly Classical Method as less and less of the great masters’ lineages are among us. Neindorff taught the art with no shortcuts or compromises. His dedication to dressage was palpable and Melissa honored his way without exception.

    • Tresss
      February 23, 2018 / 8:12 AM

      Thank you Sherry, I should like to meet you some day.

  5. Janet Snazuk
    February 22, 2018 / 10:34 PM

    A perfectly beautiful tribute to a perfectly beautiful woman. Thank you Tressa. Well done, I know your heart must be breaking, broken, gone. Please know you are doing her legacy justice.

    • Tresss
      February 26, 2018 / 4:17 PM

      Thank you Janet!

  6. February 24, 2018 / 1:16 PM


    What a lovely tribute to Melissa, as only you could write it. She was an exceptional horsewoman and person. I have fondly cherished her friendship since we were 12 years old, having ridden with her from age 12-18, at the El Toro Stables in Orange County, under the tutilage of the late Burt Phillips. We learned so much there and I know from our numerous discussions, this experience did open a huge desire in Melissa for more and deeper knowlege, which she later found with Neinfdorff. I have many wonderful memories of that beginning, with horses and true horsemanship. With her passing, there is a cavernous loss to all her friends and students that knew and loved her. Her beautiful abilities with and in the world of classical dressage will, thankfully, be carried on by her dedicated students and riders, like you! Ride on! Thank you!

    • Tresss
      February 26, 2018 / 1:32 PM

      Thank you Lia!

  7. Kay Kamish
    February 25, 2018 / 7:23 PM

    Beautifully written, Tressa. You captured her Life in a wonderful way. I started riding with Melissa in 1991, both when she was here in the US, and on a few occasions at the Reitinstitute in Karlsruhe. I had always been pulled by the ideals of Classical Dressage, and to see it brought to life by Melissa and the horses of the school was a dream come true. I had never seen anyone ride like her before, and never since. It is the ideal I will always strive for. I never got enough of her training, and I am so very sad she is gone. All those of us who knew her can do is honor her legacy, and that of Herr von Neindorff, by trying our best to remember the principles they taught, and to always show respect for the horses we ride. God Bless you, Melissa, for the contribution you made to the Equestrian world.

    • Tresss
      February 26, 2018 / 1:34 PM

      Thank you Kay, We were blessed to have her as our teacher, for sure!

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