2003 National Dressage Symposium with Kyra Kyrklund

A Word with Kyra Kyrklund

Asked how the quality of horses and riders in the symposium measured up, Kyrklund said, “The ones riding in the higher classes of course are more experienced but even at the lower levels there is a lot of quality. We don’t want super horses in a symposium because then people in the audience can’t relate. It’s good to have a few problems as well as quality, so people see where you’re heading. However I want the sort of problems I can deal with, more riding issues; stopping and rearing you don’t take away in a day or two. But you want the riders and auditors to see that other people have problems too.”

Kyrklund encouraged riders to observe sessions at other levels than the one they were riding in. “The rider only interested in their own lesson, you never see them at the Olympics,” she pointed out. “It takes a lifetime.”

Throughout the weekend Kyrklund’s comments guided the audience and rider through the levels, offering explanations of what is expected of the horse and rider at each stage of training. “What I tried to do is break things down in smaller pieces so people can analyze their ride more,” she said. “If there are problems, philosophically can you do it easier if you find a way for the horse. Sometimes you feel like a priest; I do think some people find new hope in a lesson.”

She noted that wherever she goes and whoever she teaches, the same problems arise again and again and the same topics are often covered. “You don’t reinvent the wheel,” she said. “Sometimes I find new ways to explain things, to give my philosophy to people. “

Kyrklund rides a selection of horses during the symposium, but says that the ones that she chooses are spontaneous rather than chosen in advance. She admits that she picks horses that she feels she can accomplish something with quickly, because time is limited. Also, she points out, “I’m too old to get on naughty dangerous horses. With my own it’s worth it, but not with other people’s.”

She says, “A horse and rider combination is like a marriage. It goes well with some and not with others. You have to find a partner you can work with. I like hot horses and I try to pick those.”

Kyrklund’s teaching philosophy is firm yet understanding. “You don’t get better if you’re screamed at,” she says. “Sometimes I need to push riders but not terrify horse and rider. They don’t come here deliberately wanting to do something bad.”

Sharing some of her hard-earned experience, Kyrklund said, “When I was younger I wanted so much and kept demanding so much but it takes a long time and many repetitions for something to become automatic. They have to want it as badly as me; it’s hard work and it hurts. I’m patient now because I know I can do it this way.”

by Amber Heintzberger

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