By Taryn Young
As an adult amateur in the Dressage world, taking part in a clinic can spur countless emotions. Initially, I’m elated that my horse and I have been accepted. Minutes later, I’m intimidated beyond belief. As a clinic approaches, I fret about our weaknesses, how we’ll appear in front of the many auditors, and stress if we’re ready to present ourselves in front of such notable trainers and judges but — I’m here to share that clinics are SO worth it.
I am lucky to board at Equestrian Events, a large Chicagoland stable that recruits top dressage clinicians to share weekends full of wisdom with us. This past year, our stable has welcomed Jan Ebeling, Shelly Francis, and judge Tom Poulin – all of which I benefitted from immensely.
Rayne, my 7-year-old Holsteiner gelding, and I recently took part in the “Ride-A-Test” clinic with Judge Natalie Lamping. A “Ride-A-Test” clinic is designed to help riders learn how to improve their scores in a dressage test while competing…. and Natalie knows her stuff.
Natalie Lamping is an FEI 4*S Judge. She has judged most major Olympic, World Cup, and Pan American Games selection trials, and has officiated around the world. She has been an FEI judge for over 35 years and comes from a family of trainers that have competed at the highest levels of the sport. This clinic was one of my favorites since I have ridden in front of her at shows many times. For each rider and horse duo, she pointed out highlights, weak spots, and exercises to improve scores on test movements and gaits.
I purchased Rayne in 2016 when he was 4 years old. His sire is GP Raymeister who is the most winning horse in USDF history. With big shoes to fill, we’ve been competing up the levels with FEI goals in site. Rayne is an easy going gelding that lacks work ethic and sharpness. I knew that Natalie would address this issue first and foremost during our ride. Rayne and I schooled Third Level, Test 3 in the clinic. We’ve been mildly successful in Third Level over the past year with lots of room to improve, so time spent learning from a judge was enormously helpful.
Key takeaways from Judge Natalie Lamping during my session:
- Ride letter to letter in a test – do not lose energy
- Use correct geometry – never ride shallow circles
- The less you use your hands, the better the hind legs will work
- When you use an outside aid, you must have an inside supporting leg
- Never throw away the outside rein
- Make your horse ‘malleable’ – and supple until he achieves it
From my experience, every clinic is vastly different. Teaching styles, coaching strategies, personalities, and exercises vary by clinician and this is why I find them so beneficial. Clinics, whether riding or auditing, bring new tools and knowledge to each horse and rider. They improve our riding skills, suppress our nerves when riding in front of others, and help us progress within the sport.
Signing up for a clinic can be scary but I assure you that it will only benefit you and your horse’s abilities. Always do your research, identify your goals, arrive with an open mind, and show up in style. You and your horse are a team – so sign up and learn from a horse person you admire!
About the Writer: Taryn Young is an advertising executive by day and an avid equestrian by nights and weekends. She is the founder of the equestrian lifestyle account – @WarmbloodsandWine – and resides in St. Charles, IL. She’s a USDF Bronze Medalist who competes in recognized dressage shows regularly and enjoys family, fitness, and her corgi. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or @WarmbloodsandWine on Instagram.