2018 Continuing Education for Instructors Fund Grant Recipient: Megan Chastain (GA)

Dressage has been a life-long pursuit of mine. Even as a young, horse crazy kid, my interest was always in dressage. While other kids were wanting to jump, play games or ride their ponies bareback into the sunset, I was home watching videos of Olympic dressage, scouring books and magazines for information, and practicing on my pony, Patches. 

In this life long pursuit, one of my goals has been to achieve the United States Dressage Federation (USDF) Instructor Certification. When I found out that there would be a certification on the eastern sea board this year, I jumped at the opportunity. The timing was right.

The USDF Instructor Certification consists of workshops, a pre-certification and then finally the actual certification test. My expectation for the whole process was probably a bit over confident and that I’d “have this thing in the bag.” Instead, I’ve found the process refreshingly challenging. The adage of “you don’t know what you don’t know” has felt like the mantra for the process thus far.

Dressage sometimes feels like a solitary pursuit. And one of the best things about the workshops so far has been the camaraderie between participants, exchanging of ideas and the challenge to think deeper and really define what you know. This camaraderie has really filled a void in my dressage pursuit that I didn’t even know existed. In my opinion, dressage almost has a philosophical side to it. And, to really have a philosophical discussion you need others.

Another valuable thing coming from the workshops has been the myriad of exercises that I’ve picked up to use in my daily training. Especially, how creative you can be with the leg-yielding exercises. One such example is the leg-yield to shoulder-fore through the change of direction. For example, if you have a horse that is leaning on the right shoulder/right rein, and wants to rush the change of direction or just cuts the circle short to the right you would proceed as follows: 

In the change of direction from left to right, on a large change of direction, as soon as you begin the change, begin leg-yielding a few steps to the left. After the horse has moved off your leg a few steps obediently, begin a slight shoulder-fore in the new direction.

This exercise is also great with helping to create a little self-carriage in the horse. 

A second leg-yielding exercise I thought was fun was the lengthen trot to leg-yield. For example, tracking right, do a lengthened trot across the diagonal, and at the center line or second quarter line begin doing a leg-yield right (you can really begin the leg-yield anywhere). The big take away with the exercises though, is just to do more of them. It’s easy to find myself mindlessly floating around the arena. Since the workshops I’ve found my rides to be more organized; I now have at least a couple exercises that I’m prepared to do each time I get in the saddle. 

Overall, USDF Instructor Certification has been a fantastic experience. And it definitely wouldn’t have been possible without the generous grant from The Dressage Foundation. I am very grateful. What a fantastic asset The Dressage Foundation is for US dressage. And I look forward to hearing more success stories and experiences from other riders that have benefited from both the Instructor Certification and The Dressage Foundation.