Three for Three: Three Riders – Three Perspectives USDF Region 3 Junior/Young Rider Clinic

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Group photo taken at USDF Junior/Young Rider Clinic with George Williams. (Photo by Meg McGuire Photography)

Region 3 recently hosted a USDF Junior/YoungRider (Jr/YR) Clinic with George Williams. The goal of the USDF Jr/YR Clinic Series is to promote hardworking, talented youth riders who want to rise to the top of the discipline to compete at FEI levels. Here are the takeaways from three of the riders who participated.

Alice Burley

Being my first Jr/YR clinic with US Dressage Youth Coach, George Williams, I was very excited and maybe just a little nervous, but it turns out he is a really nice guy. It was such a great opportunity and honor being selected to ride with some of the best juniors and young riders in such a competitive region. Luckily, I already knew many of the other riders from Dressage4 Kids and traveling to Lamplight for the Festival of Champions. It feels like we have something very special right now in our Region 3 Juniors, having had so many representing the region at Festival of Champions. Four of the twelve FEI Children’s National Championship riders, and three of four Dressage Seat Equitation Region 3 representatives were all from Georgia. Best of all, we are friends and cheer each other on.

Alice Burley (photo by Meg McGuire)

Riding with George Williams was an amazing experience and I learned so much in each of my lessons. He pushes each rider and horse combination to improve – all while remaining extremely positive and encouraging. My horse, Joshua, is a 17-year old Friesian that has been trained through Second Level, but we hope to train him to do more. We mainly worked on some lateral movements, leg yields, and canter work. Everything we worked on got better by the end, and he also taught me how to work through some of our most problematic areas.

At lunch each day, George talked to us about riding technique and using the training pyramid as a guide to our maturity as riders. He brought so much wisdom and experience to the conversation that it makes everything more meaningful. I have had to memorize the training pyramid before, but he was able to bring it to life. He also talked about the rider’s aids, and different training strategies to get a horse off your leg.

Although we had to be careful because of COVID-19, each of the riders observed each other’s lessons with their masks on. I learned just as much from watching the other riders as I did from my own lessons, proving yet again that there is always something to learn even if you are not the one riding. It was fascinating to watch every rider improve and come out looking better than they had in the beginning, in just 45 minutes.

The clinic took place at Top Hat Dressage, owned by Christi Meyers. It is one of the most beautiful barns I have ever seen! Liz Malloy, Region 3 Youth Coordinator, worked so hard to organize the event, and she really helped make it special. Meg McGuire took beautiful pictures of the clinic, as well as the best pictures Joshua and I have ever had taken. I really appreciate all the people who helped make this happen because I had so much fun, and it was such a great learning experience. Joshua and I will take all the lessons we learned and put them to great use!

Caroline McQueen

The USDF Region 3 Jr/YR Clinic was my first time riding in a clinic and I was lucky enough to do it with girls from my region that I usually only see at competitions and when we are showing against one another. The clinic offered a place where we could all be around one another in an educational, friendly, and relaxed way.

Caroline McQueen (Meg McGuire photo)

This was my first time riding in a George Williams clinic. The first day focused on getting my horse, Mandolin RH, off of her forehand and on to her hind end. This helped me get her more in front of my leg, which allowed me more freedom in my movements, like the half pass and the shoulder in. At shows, my horse is more dependent on me for energy and impulsion, and going over lateral exercises with Mr. Williams helped her have more self-carriage and also helped me understand how I can feel better prepared in the show ring.

The second day, we went over the Fourth Level and Prix St. Georges movements. I have been working on these movements at home with my trainer, Karen Lipp, to prepare for showing at these levels next year. Mr. Williams provided many useful tools for how to better manage my horse.

Currently, I have been showing the Junior Tests, with the hope of possibly competing in the 2021 North American Youth Championships (NAYC). I really enjoyed meeting Mr. Williams and receiving such great instruction from such a knowledgeable coach.

Maribeth Hebert

I was one of nine riders selected to ride with George Williams in the USDF Region 3 Jr/YR clinic. George Williams is the US Dressage Youth Coach. I had originally applied to ride in the clinic back in March, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it had to be canceled. I was very excited when the clinic was rescheduled to October. I took my mare, Honour, with whom I had shown FEI juniors this season and have been starting to work towards Fourth Level and Prix St Georges. George was very insightful and really helped me get one step closer to my goal of getting my USDF Silver Medal! On Saturday, we worked on Honour’s suppleness throughout her body, as well as our trot and canter half-pass, with George suggesting lots of helpful exercises to keep her supple throughout. One of my favorite exercises he gave was doing travers, renvers, and shoulder-in on the same long side, then going into a half-pass. He told me that it is not about how long we are in each movement, but that the movement is done correctly. He also said that the quicker and easier you can switch between each movement, the more supple she is. This movement really improved her half pass. 

On Sunday, we worked on tempis and pirouettes. He had us warm up with the travers, renvers, shoulder-in, then into the half pass movement. We then moved into the tempi’s. Honour has a really straightforward, easy change which makes her tempis a little too easy. She and I have a tendency to rush in our 4s and end up with four 4s and one 3. He really helped me set them up correctly and slow her stride down to count correctly. By the end, we got a line of 4’s. After he helped us with our tempis, he gave us two exercises to work on pirouettes. This clinic was the first time I had ever schooled pirouettes on her, and I am so pleased with the outcome. The first exercise he gave was for the quarter pirouette.  He called it the “diamond exercise,” and you start at B or E, head toward D or G, do a working quarter pirouette turn, then you head to the Either B or E depending on where you started, and do a normal turn there, and then head to D or G ( again depending on where you started) and do another working quarter pirouette. The other exercise was for half pirouettes. You would make an oval shape by doing a half ten-meter circle at P to V, then another half ten-meter circle at V and head back to P in a collected canter. You then can start to slowly add a working half pirouette turn until you can take out the half ten-meter circle and just do a half pirouette. 

Every exercise he gave me was so helpful and made so much sense for the movement we were working on, or what we were trying to improve. Not only did I learn a lot in both of my lessons, I learned a lot auditing the other riders. I am so thankful to the owner of Top Hat Dressage for hosting and USDF for organizing and running a clinic amidst a pandemic. Also huge thanks to Liz Molloy for being the best Region 3 coordinator, and all the sponsors who make these clinics possible.

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