Julianne Moore and Janet Hill are two lucky Adult Amateurs who won the chance to audit the Lisa Wilcox symposium held in April 2006. Both submitted winning essays to the Great Lakes Area Show Series-Educational Dressage, Inc. (Glass-Ed) Group Member Organization (GMO). The essay question was, "How might attendance at the Symposium help you attain your dressage goals?"
Julianne Moore, a retired schoolteacher with a 5-year-old, 16.2 hand Paint gelding named Copper took an unusual approach to the question. Here is her winning essay:
Hi, my name is Copper. I am so excited to have an opportunity to earn an auditor admission to the Lisa Wilcox clinic for my owner/rider. As a horse that is a member of Glass-Ed along with my rider I know how important it is for my rider to ride correctly, using her seat. It is a good thing my rider has chosen to ride me using dressage principles in my training. Thankfully, dressage has a good sequential development so that we can progress properly.
My rider is a good person, and she tries hard, but like all riders she needs to learn how to sit properly on my back and use her seat to communicate with me. I try to listen well and respond to her cues the best I can, but I'm afraid she needs help. When I read about this contest and that that the clinic could help my rider use her seat better I said to myself, "Copper, you need to get your rider this clinic." So, I decided to enter this contest for her. I'm sure our riding partnership will grow much faster if she can learn how to use her seat correctly.
Some of my goals for her:
1. Developing an independent seat--how complete!
2. Knowing when to use a driving seat--wouldn't that be sweet!
3. Using the seat to help me leg yield--very neat!
4. Lengthening my stride using her seat (not the crop, yuck)--can't be beat!
5. Helping me understand transitions through her seat--wow, what a feat!
6. Using her seat to request tempo--that I'd meet!
If she could succeed at these it would, for me, be better than a treat!
When these goals are met I'm sure I will be able to respond in a happy, obedient and willing way. Then the two of us can be in harmony with lightness and east. Lisa Wilcox may just be the one to open the stall door to my rider's mind. She may be able to help my rider understand and attain the skills needed to achieve a better seat. At last my rider will be able to communicate with me so that we can truly be partners--horse and rider together as one!
Translated and written by Julianne Johnson.
Below is Janet Hill's winning entry. She is a church musician who owns a Paint/Appaloosa/Percheron cross.
Imagine a puzzle--not one of those great expansive landscape puzzles or a shades-of-gray-and-white snow storm puzzle with five hundred tiny interlocking pieces which all look the same, but rather a close-up of a rider on a horse. One piece includes the hands, another the shoulders and head, another a leg, another the horse's head and poll, shoulders and withers--you get the idea. I have the puzzle pieces on a table, placing a few pieces each time I pass by until I get all the pieces together in one harmonious picture. The starting point was a pile of pieces. Fortunately, some of the pieces fit together fairly easily, and the picture began to emerge, encouraging me to keep on. Some of the pieces, however, have been more difficult to place and have required ongoing effort.
Learning to ride in the dressage discipline is like working a puzzle. Sometimes I wish it were more like getting my camera out and taking a picture! The day to day building of a working relationship with my horse and with my own body is like passing by the puzzle table, looking to fit another piece in, one which I couldn't see yesterday. One of those pieces--the one of my seat, saddle and horse's back--has resisted easy placing. I turn the piece this way and that; I turn it, I curse it, I keep returning to it. Some days I think I have found its place only to find it out of place with the next day's piece. At this rate, it may be one of the last pieces to fit in!
If learning to ride well is like working a puzzle, setting the goal is, perhaps, more like getting the camera out and taking a picture. The picture of what it will look like when it is all together is what keeps me on track. The Lisa Wilcox symposium-style clinic on "The Correct Use of the Seat Through the Levels" is an opportunity for a real life picture, a kind of goal update. It will be especially helpful because it will center on one of the more difficult puzzle pieces--the "seat" puzzle piece--as well as how that piece fits into the whole picture of a harmonious working relationship between horse and rider at different levels.
I have found auditing clinics, seeing the same issue addressed by several riders at different levels, to be particularly helpful in addressing the issue myself, maybe even more helpful than riding in the clinic would be!