Woodbury, Conn. – Delaware resident Martina Poblotzki, along with her daughter Julia, traveled five hours for an equestrian educational opportunity. And no, they didn't travel south toward Florida, but rather north to Connecticut. The incentive for the trip was an opportunity to attend the Eighth Annual Weekend Equestrian Educational Weekend, held January 30-31. The annual event was another great idea of Olympian Lendon Gray, who initially started it as a winter-time opportunity for riders in the Northeast to gather for a weekend of educational seminars and social interaction. What it's become is a huge event that this year, attracted more than 300 equestrians who gathered at Noonewaug Regional School. And if you ask Poblotzki if it was worth the drive, she'll tell you "yes" with excited enthusiasm.
"It's been wonderful. I am totally excited. It has been such a wonderful opportunity to learn about so many things and it's really affordable," said Poblotzki. She spotted a news blurb on the event in a newsletter. Her daughter, who is 11, is in Pony Club and the weekend event seemed like a great opportunity to learn some basics and interact with other young riders. Julia said she learned to braid and she attended sessions on senior horses. "My horse is 32 so I thought it would be useful," she said.
What her mother discovered is that the weekend also provided great educational opportunities for her. A native of Germany, Poblotzki is a trainer and rider and said there were many educational programs of value to professionals. The mix of fun with education certainly attracted loads of young riders, but there were just as many adults – of all ages.
"It's been amazing. This is the biggest year ever," said Fern Feldman, one of the many important volunteer organizers who helped make it all happen. "Our sponsors have been amazing. The quality of people we've had as speakers is amazing and the staff has been super. And, we have quite a mix of children, Pony Clubbers and adults from a mix of disciplines."
Gray said attracting riders of all ages and disciplines was very much her goal and many lectures were standing-room only. "We put in programs for people of all ages and who ride horses of all breeds and in all disciplines. The idea is to encourage a dialogue," she said. There were serious educational lectures for adults and fun and games for the very little. There were also sessions aimed at parents of young riders who themselves "don't really have a clue about horses," Gray said.
The success of the Northeast educational weekend has certainly attracted the attention of riders in other regions of the U.S. Gray admits that she's been approached about doing something similar in other regions. "This concept should be done all over the country," she said. But volunteers are the key to success. "We have a fabulous committee that works on this," Gray said.
If you're looking to start something similar in your region of the country, you can learn more about the Northeast's educational weekend program at www.dressage4kids.com.