When Canadian dressage superstar Ashely Holzer announced last year that after living in the United States for more than two decades she had been granted US citizenship, the internet started buzzing with questions. What did that mean for Canadian dressage? Would Ashley still compete under the maple leaf or would she now ride for the Stars & Stripes?
Those questions have now been answered with Ashley's recent announcement that she would indeed be competing as an American from now on. In an interview with Horse Canada she expressed excitement at this new chapter in her life, but also noted the decision wasn't easy.
“It was a difficult decision, as I grew up in Canada and have been extremely proud to represent Canada for many years,” she said, “but I have lived in the States for almost 25 years and it is now truly my home. My husband and children are American and I became a citizen last year. The owners of the horses I presently ride really want them to represent the US, which I totally understand.”
While the loss of such a talented competitor is a blow to our national team it is not a loss to Canadian dressage as a whole. Hopefully the many Canadian athletes who ride and train with Ashley will continue to do so, and will continue to benefit from her expertise.
UPDATE APRIL 4
In brighter news for Canadian dressage fans disappointed by Ashley's decision, rising star Brittany Fraser-Beaulieu - originally from Nova Scotia but living in the US for the past several years - announced this week she will be moving back to Canada permanently and will be based in the Ottawa / Montreal area. The barn where I ride is hosting a clinic with Brittany in May and I'm really looking forward to it!
Did you ever have one of those days (or weeks, or months) where you just can't get something right? Your coach gives you the correction and yet the more you do what she tells you, the worse things get?
Here's a tip from me: if doing what your coach tells you makes the problem worse, consider checking whether what she means is actually what you think she means.
Long story short, I could have saved myself and Gus (and Debbie too!) a lot of aggravation if I realized that while circling to the right her instructions to lead with my right shoulder actually meant "keep your right shoulder ahead (i.e. leading) of your left shoulder," and not "put your right shoulder back." Doh! Hopefully realizing this will now prevent the sideways movement I get lately with every 15 metre circle attempt. I hope so anyway, since canter half pass is not required at First Level!
Body awareness and position is a big struggle for me, as it is for a lot of rusty stirrup riders. We've been working a lot on the lunge line for the past couple of weeks, riding without using my hands in order to help improve my balance, build core strength, and develop a more independent seat. And it's working (or at least it was until today's brain fart). I'm definitely feeling more secure in my position and more confident in the saddle, which translates to a happier horse who is much steadier in the contact.
Perhaps not surprisingly, mounted exercises to improve balance and strength is the topic of my next training article in Horse Sport magazine. Debbie provided the expert advice and my friend Holly kindly served as both guinea pig and model, performing the exercises on Gus and her own horse so I could photograph them. Keep an eye out in the upcoming issue and let me know what you think.
It seems the old adage is true; the more things change, the more they stay the same - at least as far as Equestrian Canada is concerned, anyway.
Every day my news feed is filled with complaints from members, athletes and insiders. Board members are resigning like rats fleeing a sinking ship; an online group has been established and has hired legal counsel to try and oust the current CEO, and EC sends out regular reminders telling us that everything is hunky dory and threatening to pull the licences of anyone who publicly paints the organization in bad light. The National Post even covered what it described as the sport's "dirty laundry." When's the last time you saw equestrian sport mentioned in one of our national newspapers?
Honestly, I have no idea what's going on and whether the current administration is doing a good job or not. Certainly a lot of people with far more knowledge than I don't think so. My only involvement with the association of late is the annual purchase of a Bronze sport licence so I can compete in local one-day Cadora shows.
Once upon a time, however, I was a board member at what was then the Canadian Equestrian Federation. Back then (in the dark ages of the early 1990s) each provincial association president had a seat on the board, giving each province direct input in the decision-making process.
A lot of what has happened in the past few years seems eerily similar. In those days, we saw the ouster of then Executive Director Basil Collett. There were enough complaints about internal staff - not athletes - making decisions on behalf of entire disciplines that groups such as Jump Canada and Dressage Canada were formed. The organization's name was changed from the Canadian Equestrian Federation to Equine Canada; at the time we felt it was more inclusive and recognized that we represent all aspects of equine involvement from recreational riders to horse welfare and not just equestrian sport.
The wheel has come full circle and now Equine is gone and Equestrian is back in their name. Expert groups like Jump Canada are apparently losing much of their powers as discipline related decisions get handed back to EC staffers. Did any of the changes, both then and now, make the organization any stronger or benefit the equestrian community? I wish I knew.
About the author
I'm a middle-aged, overweight, rusty re-rider who refuses to let any of that get in the way of my passion for dressage.