Violet Hopkins spent her youth riding on her family's farm in Michigan. Preferring riding to piano practice, she always found a few horses to ride to school, and all her free moments were passed on horseback. With no formal instruction, Hopkins relied on her mounts to teach her the finer points of riding. Read more
At college, Hopkins studied to become a teacher. After graduation, she received her first real riding lessons from an old English master, who taught her to jump. Hopkins saved enough money from her teaching paychecks to purchase her first horse, and then she began teaching riding professionally, initially at a public stable in Gross Pointe, MI. Six years later, she was offered the position of instructor at the Bloomfield (MI) Open Hunt Club, where she remained for eleven years.
Always in search of educational opportunities, Hopkins sent out letters of inquiry to notable dressage trainers. When she learned that Arthur Konyot was coming to the Midwest, she quickly arranged to study with "Pop" for a week. In the mid-1950s, while at the Bloomfield Open Hunt Club, Hopkins met Chuck Grant, who moved from Chicago to manage the facility. Although she never trained formally with Grant, Hopkins profited from their many discussions about dressage. Other mentors included Capt. Vladimir Littauer and Erich Bubble. She studied eventing as well as dressage.
After deciding to pursue solely dressage, Hopkins traded her horse for a Thoroughbred from a nearby farm. For the next fourteen years, she would learn from Dark Warrior, with whom she ascended to the highest level of dressage.
One of Hopkins's goals was to provide educational opportunities for dressage instructors. With that goal in mind, she established her own dressage school in Michigan in 1969. That same year, she helped to found the Midwest Dressage Association-the purpose of which, she once quipped, was to "increase activity and liven up the long cold winters." Hopkins's Tristan Oaks Farm served as the MDA headquarters for several years.
A founding member of the U.S. Dressage Federation, Hopkins is perhaps best known for her USDF Violet Hopkins National Seminars for Dressage Instructors, conducted at Tristan Oaks. The Hopkins seminars are the forerunner of several important USDF programs, most significantly the USDF Regional Workshops, the USDF National Dressage Symposium, and the USDF Instructor Certification Program.
Violet Hopkins helped bring dressage to the Midwest. Her efforts to develop a strong educational base for instructors did much to promote and enhance the sport of dressage.