Lendon Gray at North American Junior/Young Rider Championships

11 years ago StraightArrow Comments Off on Lendon Gray at North American Junior/Young Rider Championships
Former pony rider Isabelle Liebler, winner of this year's Young Rider Individual test on Watson 108. © 2011 Ilse Schwarz/dressage-news.com

First of all let me clean up a mistake I apparently made yesterday. When I spoke to the TD I understood that the rider with bling on her helmet was told she was not allowed to wear it and, therefore, would have to wear her top hat. I guess I misunderstood. Apparently she was not told she HAD to wear her top hat, but that wearing so much bling wasn’t a good idea. Today this rider rode with a helmet with a bit less blingy bling.

Noticed. When I first started coaching at NAJYRC there were so many top international riders here coaching. Now there are fewer, but I think that just shows that we have a much broader base of instructors capable of bringing riders to this level. That’s good news.

Years ago when I was riding for multiple owners I made a point of speaking to announcers and journalists to name the owner of the horses. Owners were truly invisible for years. Now it is normal to have the owner’s name announced and written in articles. So now I would like to see trainers mentioned, especially at a competition like this. Most of these riders would not be here without someone(s) who has been leading, shoving, placating, energizing, and even teaching them on a regular basis.

Another word about the trainers…. I doubt that many are getting their usual daily income to come and help their riders. It is truly a labor of love and I hope their riders show appreciation (mine do ).

Also noticed

The professionalism of these youth–that’s a good and a bad thing. I remember in years past, this experience was so different and there were serious discipline problems with drinking, carousing, etc. There were wild water fights, mudslides, one-up-manship, wild parties. Also then the different disciplines interacted more. These days many of these riders actually are professionals, have traveled a lot to compete, have ridden in multiple CDI’s. I do hope they are also having fun.

Of Concern?

Do we coaches really stop to analyze and maybe even discuss with a sports psychologist the very best way to help our riders in the final 30–45 minutes before they go into the arena? Some say very little, a reminder here, an encouragement there, maybe a little threat. Others talk non-stop. Some even sound like they are giving a riding lesson. As a rider I wanted the ground person to correct careless errors like haunches leading, tell me when my horse looked tense or lacking engagement, remind me to follow with my obnoxious left arm, and help me know how long until I went into the arena. If I hadn’t learned “it” by this point, it wasn’t going to come to me at this point. I know I used to be the “almost-a-lesson” coach. Now with my regular students I hardly say anything. If I have prepared my rider the best I can at home, my job is probably more psychologist than teacher. Get the horse and rider in the arena in the best possible frame of mind, both knowing this is something they can do, or this is something they know how to make the best of–one of my students these last two days all of a sudden was riding a horse we hadn’t seen in a year–20 minutes before going into the arena he reverted to last year’s problems, after showing in four CDIs in Florida and two shows at home this year without an inkling of the “old” problem. How quickly can the rider find her way back to the old way of showing him and how can I help. Coaching is as challenging as riding when it comes to finding not only the correct pieces to the puzzle but the ability to put the pieces together to quickly make a beautiful picture.

On my soapbox

Last night I read on www.eurodressage.com an article about the first day of the European Pony Championships. It led me to wonder once again why in America we have almost no interest in having our children ride ponies. Every one of the FEI pony level riders comes from families who don’t do competitive dressage. Every one of my parents who do dressage have their kids doing the hunter pony “thing.” The few American former FEI pony riders: Jocelyn Wiese (National Brentina Cup Champion), Megan Davis (National Young Rider Champion), and Nicole delGiorno, Rachel Chowanec, Ciara Cummisky, Isabelle Leibler, and Rebecca Cohen are all competing this weekend at the North Americans. I think that is all of them except for the riders competing FEI pony now. Every one has become a successful FEI competitor. Does FEI Pony need any more of a recommendation? Isabelle quit riding ponies last year and went directly to Young Riders and today at her first NAYRC she won the Individual Test. If you haven’t looked at the FEI pony tests, you would be amazed at how well these riders must ride to be successful; probably more than anything they teach riders the importance of the half halt, a concept we haven’t seen enough this week.

This year is the first ever FEI Pony National Championships. Five riders sent in letters of intent, two qualified. The article I read last night tells about teams from not only the power houses of Germany, Holland, etc, but also Poland, Czech Republic, Finland, Hungary, Ireland, Luxembourg, and Norway. Yet the United States of America cannot produce more than five riders who can even try to ride the tests Why?

So I will leave you to ponder that for a day. Tomorrow (Friday) is a day off and then Saturday the top 15 in each division ride their freestyles.