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2018 Continuing Education Grant Recipient: Carol Cunefare (CO)

If you are on the fence about attending the USDF Instructor/Trainer Workshops, I highly recommend it! It is, without a doubt, a time and financial commitment, and I could not have done it without the support from TDF. This grant made it possible for me to be able to take time away from teaching and training while traveling from Colorado to Central Arizona Riding Academy where the three workshops were hosted by Dorie Vlatten Schmitz. We had fabulous horses and students to work with during all three workshops, which were held a month apart.

I live in the southwest corner of Colorado, and it is not a hot spot for dressage. I travel quite a distance for shows and clinics. I knew going into this Certification that it would be a huge commitment, but I loved every minute. The Pyramid of Training is emphasized throughout, regardless of the horse or rider’s level of training, and is incorporated into each schooling session. The same format was used each day; we had a lecture each morning then moved out to the arena for the hands-on portion. In all three workshops we had to be able to observe, analyze, plan, and implement the assessment cycle. We had to present our assessment to the group after having approximately ten minutes with the horse or rider/combo and explain what exercises we felt would be beneficial. Then we had 15-20 minutes to ride/teach and implement our plan, and 10 minutes to recap at the end and state what worked and perhaps did not work and why. Using correct terminology was the most challenging, but I expanded my vocabulary after each Workshop. I truly enjoyed this, and it has improved the way I speak and explain things to my students.

The Riding Workshop was first, led by Sarah Martin. She focused on the what, why and how of being able to identify the root issue by identifying the symptoms first. I found the riding portion easy, even though I was the first rider to go on the first day. There was continuous open discussion between the instructor and those auditing, and the other participants, so it felt very instructional and was a fabulous learning experience.

The Teaching Workshop was second, led by Sarah Geikie. Teaching in front of so many people who were critiquing me was a tad uncomfortable. I always say that we do not learn and grow if we are always in our comfort zone, so this was a fantastic exercise!! At home, I use a communication system, so I am not used to projecting my voice and especially not in front of so many people. Again, despite this, it was such a great learning experience and it made me more confident.

The Lunging Workshop was last, which was led by Bill McMullin. I was fortunate to grow-up on the lunge line, receiving lunge lessons on a regular basis. I will admit going into this Workshop, I did not think there was much more to learn about lunging. I was very mistaken and came away from this weekend with a new appreciation for proper lunging techniques, leading to a huge difference in my horses and students alike.

My clients have been ecstatic about this endeavor and so appreciative of the knowledge that I have brought home. It has given me clarity and drive to demand correctness, and not to pass over the basics to advance. I am looking forward to our “Mock” testing in October and the final testing in November 2018. This experience has made me appreciate what the USDF stands for and the principles they promote. Anyone can call themselves a “trainer” these days, but when someone dedicates their time to complete the comprehensive programs offered through the USDF, the reward is felt by many. Trainers will have a feeling of accomplishment and pride in continuing the legacy that the USDF has fought to establish, ensuring that riders will learn and implement a correct and solid foundation to build upon. I remind my students that it is not the destination that matters, but our journey there.