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2019 Van Cise Recipient: Eleanor Millerschin

My trainer and I trailered out Thursday morning around 8 and arrived at the farm around 10:15 a.m. for the clinic with Jacquie Brooks.   My ride time was at 2:30 so my mare had some time to settle in before we rode.  My horse hasn’t had many long trailer rides, only many short ones, so I was interested to see how she would handle everything.  I wanted to use this opportunity not only to improve my riding, but to see how my horse reacts when trailering to venues that are far way, so I know how she may be when we travel long distances to shows.  In her typical fashion, she was fantastic.

In our first ride on Thursday we worked on half-halts and collection, exactly what I felt I needed the most help with, and developed it into the beginnings of half-steps. Jacquie used a lot of analogies and examples for riding and positioning of both horse and rider, many of which greatly helped with my visualization.  A few of the ones that I found most helpful were:

·       Imagine your horse holding a beach ball under water with her neck and chest.

·       Focus on getting the spot of the back behind the saddle loose and swinging.

·       Slow the front legs and control where they land while asking the hind legs to catch up to the front ones.

During the clinic, I was able to watch Jacquie teach other riders, including one riding Prix. St. Georges. It was inspiring and helpful to watch all of the pieces coming together for the upper level postures and movements. Watching the other riders also really made me realize the importance of recognizing and praising the good moments and efforts from the horses and not over-schooling.

On Friday, We worked through many of the same things as we did on Thursday, but focused more on dialing in the canter collection without tension, encouraging uphill balance, and more activity and reach in the hind end without running, getting off balance, or trying to run through the rein contact.  I was very pleased to see the progress and understanding demonstrated by my mare.

Although my mare is very level-headed, she tends to get strong and a bit more nervous away from our home farm, so it was wonderful to see her maintain focus even when someone was outside of the window with a circle saw during this ride.

Overall, I gained a lot of interesting tools and information from Jacquie. My horse and I have a long way to go, but attending this clinic was very helpful in understanding the developmental feel and little steps needed to lead into the big changes we’re looking for. Thank you to The Dressage Foundation and the donors to the Carolyn Van Cise Memorial Grant for giving me the opportunity to learn and be inspired by these fabulous riders and teachers.