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2020 Carol Lavell Advanced Dressage Prize Recipient: Kelly Coyne and Brilliance

My training experience with Brilliance began on January 3rd after our safe arrival at the beautiful farm of Helle and Kim Andreasen in Deer Run, Loxahatchee, Florida. Once we settled in, we got to work with Michael Poulin straight away.

"Brilliance after a winning ride at White Fences. 68.9% Intermediate 2!"

Living in Virginia Beach for the last five years has made clinics with Michael possible about every six weeks. This season in Florida allowed me to have daily supervision with him, which is exactly what we needed! Going into this training experience, my horse, Brilliance, and I have been struggling with consistency in the Intermediare II test. What we needed out of our training program was everyday guidance, so that mistakes that I made in her training were addressed immediately, and not repeated. There were many times during this season that I was struggling with a movement, and Michael was able to ride her. He was able to ride her more through, increase her understanding and confidence in what we were asking, and show me what I needed to be doing. I could feel the changes immediately! I could watch what he did, and then try to mimic the corrections he was giving to maintain the feelings. This was paramount to our success, and a necessity that I just wouldn’t have had the chance to have if not for The Dressage Foundation and the Carol Lavell Prize! Our confidence in the Intermediate II test improved dramatically.  We had hoped to perform our first Grand Prix at Adequan Global Dressage Festival Week 9 as the culmination of our training and learning! However, a slight lameness derailed our plans at the last moment, and we, unfortunately, needed to scratch the test.

Our first big achievement from our season in Florida is the development of Brilliance’s piaffe and passage, and mostly the transitions in and out. Brilliance was having a hard time maintaining balance coming back to piaffe because she has a lot of suspension in her passage. She is also a little claustrophobic, so historically we could score a nine for her piaffe, or a four! Michael had me do many transitions in and out, piaffe-passage without a lot of impulsion. Just a few steps of piaffe, then out. Repeating this gave her confidence, to where we were eventually able to add more steps to the piaffe, without tension creeping in and losing balance.

The second big takeaway from our season was developing more straightness in our tempi changes. Historically, the changes have been consistently ground covering, with the correct count, yet still scored only a 6.5 because our left flying change is perfectly straight, and to the right is always crooked! Michael addressed this from the get-go, and changed our warm-up routine, adding more counter canter, traverse to the left, and leg yielding to the right. This helped tremendously to develop her body more evenly, and so did the fact that he rode her many times! Usually, I’d be totally thrilled having nine successful two tempi, or 15 one tempi changes. Why not celebrate, right? Wrong! If the first change isn’t straight, don’t continue the diagonal! Make a circle, go to leg yielding, and address the fact that she grabbed the left rein and swung her haunches to the right. Fix the problem, then do another change. Another tool Michael had me do daily was always schooling the changes on the diagonal. Michael often had us school on the quarter line, and on the circle. This improved my timing and half halts in the changes, and also took some tension out of the tempi changes when we went ahead and performed them on the diagonal.

I have always called Brilliance my Mighty Mare. I bred her, with the help of Mike and his wife Sharon. I would not have her without their generosity, and I wouldn’t be the rider I am today without the entire Poulin family and the knowledge they have shared with me. Brilliance always gives me her all, and I am so grateful to have the partnership of a lifetime with her. I am forever indebted to The Dressage Foundation and Carol Lavell for the opportunity to have this immersive experience and extended time learning from my greatest teacher, coach, and mentor, Michael Poulin.