Well that may have been the best day ever! I spent the entire day at the Caledon Equestrian Park, taking advantage of the Equestrian Canada dressage symposium in the morning, and hanging out behind the scenes in the afternoon as riders prepared for the Carl Hester clinic. I want to tell you ALL about it but hardly know where to begin. Perhaps this text I sent to a friend sums it up:
Just got home. Exhausted and my back is killing me but had an amazing day! Got to hang out with people I haven't seen in more than 20 years. Finally met and had lunch with (para dressage rider) Robyn Andrews and her mom. Spent time with Jane and Susan Fraser, who were my first dressage coaches. Watched lots of AMAZING riders and horses and chatted with Carl Hester. I can pretty much die happy now. :-)
The EC symposium was well thought out, well-run and a tangible benefit to riders of all levels who pay the dressage levy fee with their competition entries. It really deserves its own blog post and hopefully I'll have time to do one later this week, but in the meantime a couple of highlights.
The opening session saw Christilot Boylen (standing in for Belinda Trussell), Lorraine MacDonald and Cara Whitham going through the training scale and evaluating selected movements from Second and Fourth Level tests with the help of some very brave demo riders.
The second morning session was hosted by two-time Olympian Jacqueline Brooks and her freestyle designer, Tamara Williamson of Kurboom. Tamara is the creator of some of Jacquie's most memorable performances including the opera freestyle, the Hallelujah freestyle and the stunning new Sound of Silence routine which she debuted this fall. The pair shared their process for finding the right movement for each gait and modifying it to perfect the rhythm. I will post video of the ground-breaking Sound of Silence freestyle as soon as I have time to upload it. I don't believe a Grand Prix freestyle has ever been performed in competition before to a single song.
It was a treat as always to see Jacqueline riding Goose, and to witness up close just how much he loves his job. As soon as the music came on his whole demeanour changed and he was eager to perform for us.
In the afternoon, all the riders selected for the Carl Hester clinic had the opportunity to introduce themselves and their horses to Carl, and acclimatize their horses to the big ring while he observed. It was impressive how calmly the horses handled the unusual setting, even the young ones. One 4-year-old was a little overwhelmed but managed to relax by the end of her session.
Anyone going to this clinic is in for a big treat - not only for the rare opportunity to see Carl teach in person, but because the horses and riders really showcase the depth of talent in Canada we have at all levels, from 4-year-olds to Grand Prix veterans.
The day concluded with an informal meet and greet / cocktail reception for Carl and the riders. Everyone keeps asking me, "What is Carl really like?" From my observations this afternoon and a brief chat with him at the reception, I'd say he's exactly what we've seen in interviews and on TV: warm, personable, funny, and very down to earth.
The biggest - and possibly best - news of the day came at the reception, where Equestrian Management Group head Craig Collins announced that EMG would be running dressage shows at Caledon Equestrian Park next summer, with plans for one of them to be a 3* CDI. This is a welcome relief to GTA dressage riders and fills the void left when Cornerstone announced 2017 would be their last year running shows at the venue.
I could go on and on (and on and on) but a picture is worth a thousand words, right? Enjoy this mini gallery from today's events, and check back tomorrow for a full report on day 1 of the clinic.
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.