Almost 20 Years ago, there were consistent Clinicians in my area to receive amazing instruction from. Many of these clinicians were Olympic medalists. Although I never had the funds to ride, the barns and clinicians allowed auditors for a very affordable price. There was so much information that you always showed up with a notebook to take notes. I still remember each clinician and the way they instructed.
German Olympic gold medalist Ulla Salzgeber was so intriguing, she seemed so tough but would not allow wrong communication from the rider’s aids. I was mesmerized with the way she could help the rider work through a movement correctly. The rider must have the feeling, image and idea in mind of what he or she wants to accomplish or it cannot be communicated to the horse effectively. Theory is so important in Dressage.
Dressage Olympian, Hilda Gurney was so calm in her explanations, very down to earth instruction. I was so focused on the beauty she was creating between horse and rider that I can’t quite remember anything else.
Olympic Dressage rider Christine Traurig was one of my favorites to audit, it was an invitation only, so the setting was very intimate. Although many of the riders would get a strict correction of the upper level movement they were practicing. This “ constructive criticism” was how they were going to learn to be a better rider for their horse and for competition.
I was super excited when Steffen Peters came to Colorado, “Look at everything as a training opportunity.” This replayed in my mind when a young horse was unsure of the sunlight shadows on the arena floor. It was a moment of " opportunity" as Steffen’s voice played in my head. The horse was nervous and really showing some steps of active energy. I allowed the horse the opportunity to feel impulsion for future training movements that require both impulsion and suspension. Reprimanding him for his reactions would have been a missed opportunity.
We can only do the best we can with the circumstances we are given. I feel very fortunate to have learned from instructors in my area that weren’t afraid to correct me or let me know what needed work before I could move on. I see quite a few riders that only want to hear instructors and clinicians tell them “ great, that’s super nice “ Everyone loves a compliment but you have to also show up with a teachable attitude and a desire for knowledge. An honest instructor or clinician will let you know you are not ready to be training that movement, or sadly, they will allow you to feel glorified at the expense of the horse’s well being. Shortcuts in Dressage creates a false feeling of correctness, never allowing the rider to learn from truly gymnasticizing the horse with each level of training. Help your instructor, clinician, and especially your horse by having a teachable attitude. Dressage Training is not only meant for creating a functional athlete, but an ideal partnership as well.