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2019 Karen Skvarla Fund Grant Recipient: Erica Furkis (MI)

With thanks to The Dressage Foundation, I was able to participate in a Patrick Tigchelaar clinic with both of my horses, Diva and Believe. Patrick moved to the US from the Netherlands and is a Grand Prix Rider and trainer who has career wins at the small tour and was on the 2014 Dutch Nations Cup Team in Wellington. I have previously ridden with Patrick; however, this was going to be the first time he would see these two horses. Believe is a 10-year-old Irish Sport Horse, who started life an an eventer and is now making a switch over to dressage. Diva is a 15-year-old Oldenburg, who is schooling the Prix St. Georges.

With the help from the grant, I was able to take two lessons on each horse over two days. Both lessons focused on the same concepts, but at different levels for the training of the horse. The first part of each lesson, Patrick had me step up my expectations of my horse’s responsiveness to my aids to get a more honest answer from each horse. We had each horse going better from the leg to hand connection, which then transferred to a more solid connection to my seat, using transitions within and between the gaits on a 20 meter circle.

As the sharpness to the aids increased, we added some steps of leg yield from the inside leg and then some steps of shoulder-in. With my greener horse, Believe, we rewarded her effort to the aids when she stepped towards leg yield thoughts or shoulder-in thoughts by then going straight ahead. In this work with Diva, who has confirmed lateral work, we stayed in leg yield or shoulder-in until she accepted the aids and was answering my expectations. Patrick continued to remind me to keep my expectations high and to not settle for partial answers from my horses.

On the second day of the clinic, we were able to build on the previous day of work with the start of the same exercises. Believe improved on the second day with her acceptance of the aids, so that we were able to start some of the work in canter, where she started to show her natural ability to sit and collect, which was exciting! In the second day with Diva, we were able to school her flying changes (after starting with the day one exercises) by using 10 meter voltes along the rail, then turning straight across the arena, with a flying change at the centerline, to another 10 meter volte on the other lead on the rail. This exercise keep Diva thinking about her next move, rather than worrying about the flying change.

Overall, the clinic was a great mid-summer boost for both my horses! Thanks again to The Dressage Foundation for making opportunities like this possible!