Story and Photographs by Sue Weakley
Twenty up-and-coming young dressage riders earned their place in the sun to soak up a wealth of knowledge at the 2022 Robert Dover Horsemastership Clinic Week (RDHCW), held January 6-9 at the Adequan® Global Dressage Festival showgrounds in Wellington, Florida.
Participants from Washington state to Maine and Minnesota to Georgia arrived in south Florida to ride in a series of one-on-one lessons from top trainers including George Williams, Sabine Schut-Kery, Jan Ebeling, Olivia LaGoy-Weltz, Guenter Seidel, and Charlotte Bredahl. The unique event also includes unmounted learning about horse care and competition from experts including including Olympian and former US national dressage technical advisor Robert Dover. To close out the week, the participants rode dressage tests in front of US FEI 5* judge Gary Rockwell, who provided immediate feedback.
RDHCW invitations went to winners of the 2021 USEF Dressage Seat Medal Finals, the top six overall winners from the 2021 Adequan®/USEF Junior Dressage National Championship and the Horseware Ireland/USEF Young Rider Dressage National Championship, and the champion and reserve champion from the 2021 USEF Children Dressage and Pony Rider Dressage National Championships. The remaining clinic spaces were open to wild-card applicants.
Along with fellow Olympian and Dressage4Kids founder Lendon Gray, Robert Dover created the RDHCW to identify and develop the next generation of US dressage team talent.
“I felt that there was a missing link, and I had wanted to create a program for our youth,” Dover explained. With praise for Gray’s Dressage4Kids program, which he sees as a “grass roots” effort to promote dressage, he sought to also “identify up-and-coming dressage riders who could emerge into the next dressage stars.”
Dover and Gray have stepped back from the nuts-and-bolts of hosting the event, which is now under the auspices of US Equestrian (USEF), but they remain vital to its success.
“What’s lovely is Lendon is still here being super-impactful with the whole thing,” Dover said. “And now I just step a little bit further away but watch it happen. And it makes me really proud to watch it.”
Ride along with these participants as we share highlights and educational takeaways from the 2022 event:
Kasey Denny, Williston, Florida
Maren Elise Fouché-Hanson, Colfax, Georgia
* Kat Fuqua, Atlanta, Georgia
Tessa Geven, Cataula, Georgia
Daphne Glenn, Gig Harbor, Washington
* McKayla Hohmann, Georgetown, Massachusetts
Tillie Jones, Lincoln, Nebraska
* Lexie Kment, Palmyra, Nebraska
* Kylee Kment, Palmyra, Nebraska
Olivia Martz, Gig Harbor, Washington
* Julia McDonald, Byron Center, Michigan
* Allison Nemeth, Flemington, New Jersey
Genevieve Oliver, Coatesville, Pennsylvania
* Devon Pomeroy, Wind Gap, Pennsylvania
* Suzannah Rogers, Nesmith, South Carolina
Trinity Schatzel, Eagle, Idaho
* Bianca Schmidt, Excelsior, Minnesota
Leah Tenney, Yarmouth, Maine
Virginia Woodcock, Atlanta, Georgia
Miki Yang, Los Altos Hills, California.
* Denotes a member of the Discover Dressage USEF/USDF Emerging Athlete Program
Write It Down to Make It Stick
Sabine Schut-Kery advised Bianca Schmidt to think about her dressage test, analyze what she has to do before riding each movement, and write those steps down in preparation for competition.
“It’s not just what to do or what the movement is, but what you have to do to help you or this particular horse,” Schut-Kery said, citing an example from Schmidt’s ride aboard CK Sir Shimmi. “If I was riding him, I would know, ooh, in those two small half-circles, he gets a little tight in the neck, right? Because he’s not as supple yet, so he gets a little too tight. So three steps before, I would start giving him a little signal and touch him with my outer leg and prepare for that turn. And then you turn again, and with that turn you have to make it onto the center line. So you really have to look and hit the center line from your outside leg.”
Schut-Kery also told Lexie Kment aboard Montagny Von Der Heide to write it down as she coached the 2021 FEI North American Youth Championships Junior team, individual, and freestyle gold medalist in half-pass.
“In terms of the test,” said Schut-Kery, “the half-pass starts in your half-circle. Your previous movement is always going to tell a story to prepare for your next movement. Sometimes it helps if you write that down so that you remember that. It’s little things you discover. I can show you my journals from lessons I have taken over the years. You write that down, and it becomes a habit.”
Count on It
Ebeling worked on exercises with Kylee Kment, Lexie Kment’s sister and fellow 2021 NAYC medalist, to improve the timing of tempi changes aboard Fernando V.
First, Ebeling advised, ride medium canter for four strides and then collected canter for four strides. No change of lead; just count the strides.
“Do fourstrides forward and four strides ‘back’ so it resembles four-tempis,” Ebeling said. “That’s the stuff the jumpers do all day long when they count the distances. Same idea.” Then he had Kment ride three strides forward and three strides collected, followed by two strides forward and two strides “back.”
Ebeling explained the timing for the change aid using the example of four-tempis: “It’s one, two, three, and ask when you say the ‘f’ for the four. Your leg has to have moved and be ready in place to push it. To dissect that, your leg is moving as the horse is doing the previous jump and he is flying in the air. That’s when your leg moves. As he lands on his first beat of the three-beats, your leg should be in place, and that’s when the cue comes.”
Video Replays Available
Want to see what you missed? The mounted sessions with Williams and Schut-Kery, as well as the final rides on Sunday, are available for on-demand replay to US Equestrian subscribing and competing members at www.usef.org/network/coverage/2022robertdover.