Over the past three years as Assistant Trainer to Heather Blitz I have had some great experiences. One really stands out for me: the opportunity to teach Angela Peavy as she represented the US at the 2014 WEG in Normandy, France competing in Para Dressage. Teaching Annie has immensely broadened my teaching abilities. Annie was born partially paralyzed due to a blood clot at birth. This disability proves very challenging when riding dressage but Annie has taken the challenges, and there are many, head on! When training Annie I have to take her left side into consideration. For example, Annie uses a loop on her left rein to more easily hold the rein; her reaction time with the left rein is a little slower, and she has less control of her left leg than her right leg. This can make some of the lateral work difficult and perplexing for Annie but like I said, she takes it head on, and is willing to work through it!
Instead of directly addressing her left arm and left leg as I might do with an able bodied rider, I focus much more on her core strength and balance (being a student of Heather Blitz and Mary Wanless myself, I focus on the core A LOT!!). Annie is a great example to us all of how unimportant our reins are, and how important our core strength is!!
With all my students, and particularly Annie, I try to have them match a word to a feeling. For example, most of my students are adult amateurs who are very successful in their various fields of business. They often compare the confidence and strength it takes to ride to that of being in a court room arguing a case or being on stage delivering a speech to a crowd of thousands. So, "put on your business suit" is something we often talk about! You can imagine the various words a teenager can come up with to describe her riding!! My students often tell me this simple use of words has made many concepts much easier to grasp as well as giving them the confidence to trust their own feelings. Teaching Annie is inspiring to say the least! She is always ready to dare her disability to stand in her way!
About Katie Robicheaux:
Katie Robicheaux is a USDF Bronze, Silver, and Gold Medalist. She and her husband Vincent Bailleul run their dressage and jumper training business, L'Acadiane Equine, at the beautiful Cutler Farm in Medfield Ma. Katie trains regularly under her mentors Mary Wanless and Heather Blitz and is committed to continually furthering her education as a rider and a trainer. She enjoys teaching riders of all levels and specializes in building rider confidence and helping to “demystify” the building blocks of proper dressage riding and training. Katie is currently competing her 11 year old gelding, Avignon, on the CDI small tour circuit in Florida and New England.