Sometimes a small change is exactly what you need. A fresh set of eyes, a different perspective, That's why it's so important to learn from as many people as you can. In addition to bringing in "big name" clinicians several times a year, my coach Debbie also offers students the opportunity to lesson regularly with her coach. It's a great way for Debbie to confirm that her training programs are on track, and the chance for us to learn something new or - more often than not - learn something old in a new or different way.
I had a lesson with Debbie's coach Jill Stedman last weekend, and it provided exactly the butt kick I needed to shake off the winter blahs. In just 45 minutes Jill helped me unlock a problem I have been struggling to fix, no matter how many times Debbie shows me how. I feel like I'm back on track and excited to get ready for show season.
Debbie and Jill are among those riders, coaches and trainers whom I like to call the "unsung heroes of dressage." There are hundreds of them across Canada from coast to coast. They play a valuable role in our sport, yet unless you live in their local area, you've likely never even heard their names. They are talented teachers and riders, and many show successfully in the FEI levels. Others may not show at all, choosing to focus instead on the coaching and training side of their business.
They suffer through Canadian winters with the rest of us, spending hours in freezing arenas trying to teach the magic of the half halt and the power of the outside rein. They share their knowledge with students of all ages, experience and ability, on horses of every breed and type. And they get the job done.
Don't get me wrong - I am always impressed by the accomplishments of our national team and top international riders. I am in awe of their talent, the work that goes into their success and above all, the jaw-dropping abilities of their horses. But what impresses me even more? A coach who can help a busy adult amateur rider reach his or her goals on an average horse.
The phrase "average horse" is not intended in any way to be a put down. In fact I think 98% of riders should be riding and purchasing average horses. You know the ones I'm talking about - the horses of any breed or any size who have three quality gaits and a superb brain, solid citizens that amateurs can ride and enjoy themselves, without the need for daily pro rides or extensive prep before a show.
The unsung hero coaches have proven their ability to work with amateur clients who juggle work, family and life obligations and don't always have time to ride 4-5 times a week. They take them and their "average" horses - Warmbloods, Thoroughbreds, draft crosses and even a Connemara in one case I know of - up through the levels as far as they want to go, even up to Grand Prix.
While our Olympians and CDI competitors will always be my idols, the dedicated Canadian coaches who keep riders like me motivated and progressing are my heroes.
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.