Eric’s Training Corner

Eric Dierks

This article won the 2021 GMO Newsletter Award for a general interest article for GMOs with 175-499 members. It originally appeared in the Illinois Dressage & Combined Training Association newsletter, Scribe, May 2021.

The USDF Group Member Organization (GMO) Newsletter Awards are designed to recognize outstanding efforts by GMOs that produce newsletters. Awards in two categories will be presented for exemplary articles. Nominations are due by August 31st. Only an official representative of a GMO may submit the nomination. For a nomination form follow this link.

By Eric Dierks

Are you riding circles endlessly on your horse, hoping to improve? Frustrated at getting inconsistent jumps? Or maybe you’re feeling every day is a beautiful day, as long as you are dressed appropriately.

I was just thinking this morning as I stepped outside into the frigid cold air, and after being spoiled with our premature spring weather, “Boy, this down jacket feels so cozy and I’m glad I have my muck boots on to bring my first training ride in from the muddy paddock.” Having a leftover piece of carrot in my pocket was a bonus, enabling me to share my appreciation of this horse’s servitude. I offered him the carrot before putting on the halter, in trust that he appreciates my presence as well, and we walk side- by-side in our coded conversation in anticipation of a thorough grooming and productive ride.

The alternative scenario would be arriving at the barn one layer shy of comfortably warm, only to leave me grumpy and wondering when summer is coming. Dancing on any high spots in the muck to delay the inevitable soiling of my dry socks, I go to get the first training ride at the opposite corner of the muddy paddock. Arriving at the horse with mud-caked and now soaked socks, my mount is doing casual 10-meter circles around me, with an aloof look signaling I was the one to be receiving the training lesson today. Feeling the pressure of time and the loaded agenda for the day gives an overwhelming feeling of victimhood, though I know deep in my heart that this all could have been avoided if I had listened to my senses versus the tick of the clock or the expectations I put on myself.

Anxiety comes in many forms, but can be either avoided or used if well-prepared. Sometimes we discover the tools to handle unwanted circumstances while in the midst of the struggle, and sometimes they are taught to us through the secondhand experience of a trainer. Even coping with the situation is a monumental step toward self-betterment. Either way, personal development in a positive direction doesn’t happen unless there is a little struggle along the way. Your next step making a change toward improve- ment is what counts. Coping mechanisms, the correct course of action, or knowing where to seek help are all skills developed in time and with experience. If one looks like they are having a good old time, while another is swearing up and down with emotions in the same situation, it’s not because one is luckier or more privileged than the other, but rather how well “dressed” they are in their actions, coping skills or attitude. Opportunities to getting better are always available and will be more evident as soon as the struggle is accepted. It’s a dirty, repetitive cycle, and progress is most times slow, but with persistent grit and chosing the next best move, positive betterment is inevitable.

This month IDCTA is introducing a Horse Show Mentoring Program to help alleviate some of that stress from your first show, or the confusion resulting from forgetting your head at home. We’ve all felt the anxiety of the unknown, but thanks to some selected, experienced horse show attendees, we have your back. Whether you’re unclear about a rule, need to know where to go for the warm up, or just need someone to be there, a mentor can be your personal support crew.

After the second month of Fitness Challenge, I can already feel some changes. Not only am I seeing the physical results of both my flexibility and the horses’ as well as slimming off the winter fat, but the momentum of integrating different exercises in my program has me looking forward to progress. Starting is the hardest part. If you want to know more about the Fitness Challenge, check it out on the website. Do it! You’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish.

More live-stream interviews are coming. Next up: Ralph Hill and Kim Severson. Dates will be announced. What a great way to hear about the trials and tribulations these successful athletes have endured and continue to endure to be the best at their game. There is always a great story behind success, and what makes that story great is the struggle, and how they persisted in taking their next step forward to be in a better place. Sometimes we can relate when hearing their story, and it may make our next positive step a little less daunting. There are many activities we have planned coming up that I hope you all take advantage of. Not only are they educational, fun and social, but you’ll be among peers that either share the same anxieties or have been there and done that, making your experience toward personal development a positive one. Don’t worry if you feel a little ill-prepared or out your league, you’re among friends in the IDCTA, and we’ll make your experience a positive one. May you start your day dressed appropriately.

Eric Dierks started riding following his father’s footsteps in Dressage, then discovered Eventing, graduating as an “A” from the Fox River Valley Pony Club in Barrington, Illinois. After competing in the North American Young Riders Championships,he went on to graduate from Illinois State University with a B.S. in Environmental Health Studies, eventually pursuing horses full-time as both a competitor and instructor. A big advocate for education, Eric has coached the Area IV Young Rider 3-Day Event Team at the North American Young Riders Championships, sat on the Board of Governors for the United States Pony Club, published countless articles on training, and continues to teach at his family’s Stonehedge Farm in Union Grove, Wisconsin. Today Eric continues to educate and compete in the Eventing, Dressage,and Hunter/Jumper arenas.

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