Gaining Hands On Experience: Day Three of Robert Dover Horsemastership Clinic

© Sarah Harper : Julia Barton and BonnarooJulia Lee Barton and Bonnaroo

Wellington, Fla. – Dec. 30, 2016 – Day 3 of the Robert Dover Horsemastership Week was a day off for the horses, but certainly not for the riders. We had a full day of lectures and a field trip, learning about a wide variety of topics from knowledgeable professionals. One great aspect about Dressage4Kids programs is that they emphasize learning off the horse almost as much as they do on the horse.

After our early morning fitness, we started with a lecture with Jane Savoie, a famous author and previous international dressage competitor. Jane gave us as inspiring talk about the power of positive self-talk, visualization and determination. She shared her own story of unlikely success and talked about how positive self-talk and determination helped her through many different tough situations. Jane is an inspiring individual and a great example for youth riders today.

Next, we had a lecture with FEI vet Dr. Rick Mitchell, who went in depth on Pre-Purchase exams. Pre-purchase exam results are arguably one of the most important things to consider when buying a high performance sport horse. I thought it was particularly interesting that Dr. Mitchell said that one of the most influential parts of the exams for him is when he watches the horse stand in his stall and observes his natural behavior. Not only can you learn about undisclosed stable vices this way, but you can also uncover neurological symptoms.

Our last lecture of the morning was by Charlie Tota on bridle fit and his Total Comfort noseband. This noseband is designed to relieve all pressure on the TMJ joint, facial nerves, and poll by cutting back the cavesson piece and anchoring it farther back, eliminating forward poll pressure. The system is still new but has been incredibly popular in its first two years on the market. Charlie did a great job of explaining the anatomical science behind why he developed this noseband.

After lunch we got the opportunity to tour Allison Brock’s training facility, owned by Fritz and Claudine Kundrun. Allison introduced us to all the horses (including Rosie himself!) and shared with us her journey to the Olympic podium. Her facilities are beautiful and very well managed. Allison was honest with us about the difficulties she faced to get to where she is now. She expressed lots of gratitude to everyone who made her success possible, from her trainers as a young rider and young professional to her sponsors, team mates, grooms and horses. We were all very grateful to her for sharing her wisdom with us.

Our last lecture of the day was with master saddler, Kate Ballard. Kate used demo horses to show us different saddles on different types of horses, giving us a true hands-on learning experience. Kate is a saddle fitter and saddle maker, so she had endless knowledge to share with us. Saddles are one of the most important pieces of equipment we have, and are also one of the most personal and exact, so it is imperative that we understand them so we don’t unintentionally impair our horse’s performance.

Tomorrow the horses go back to work with a new trainer, hopefully feeling fresh and energized after their break. I am excited to get a chance to work with Debbie McDonald. Michael Barisone and Robert Dover are also teaching as well.

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