Wellington, FL - January 3, 2015 – Robert Dover kicked off the first day of his Fourth Annual Robert Dover Horsemastership Clinic, sponsored in part by Dressage4Kids, with a history lesson, a review of the some dressage basics, and words of wisdom for the participants and auditors. After quizzing the audience on the beginnings of dressage, and a synopsis of the aids for basics like impulsion and bending the horse, he admonished the participants to ride from half-halt to half-halt. “The half-halt is not a means to an end,” he said. “The half-halt is the end itself. If we can do the perfect half-halt, then anything is possible." From there, the riders mounted up to each have a private lesson from either Dover, George Williams or Charlotte Bredahl-Baker. The 16 invited riders who hail from across the U.S. did not disappoint and silent auditors as well as the eight participating auditors were treated to a variety of horse and rider combinations tackling different skills while taking Dover’s words to heart.
Bebe Davis, 17, is a veteran of the clinics and rode with Dover today. The 2014 U.S. Festival of Champions Individual Junior Champion and and Overall Reserve FEI Junior Champion worked on her piaffe/passage transitions. “Robert just taught me the little tricks to make it better,” Davis said. “He told me that when you are in a piaffe you should tilt your pelvis a little bit more forward and when you are going into the passage, you should lean a little bit more back.”
Davis was pleased with the outcome and said it was one of her best piaffe to passage transitions to date. As a clinic alumna, she is a fan of the annual event.
“It's an amazing opportunity to get to know other young riders who have the same interests as you and compete against you,” she said. “You see everyone at the show but you never get the chance to talk to them because everyone is so busy. This gives us an opportunity to talk and bond.”
The other invited riders for the clinic are Kerrigan Gluch, Rachel Chowanec, Bronwyn Cordiak, Allie Cyprus, Mallory Kent, Hannah MacCabe, Claire McNulty, Molly Paris, Cassie Schmidt, Rosie Simoes, Regan Walsh, Kallie Beckers, Mattie Zepernick, Ashleigh Conroy-Zugel, and Ayden Uhlir. The participating auditors are Julia Barton, Hanna Benne, Jennifer Foulon, Eliza Gardner, Madison Lacy, Alexa Perkins and Emma Szegvari.
Not only were the riders treated to lessons from some of the top trainers in the country, they also participated in a 7 a.m. fitness session with Mikerlange Barthelemy, a life coaching session from Dr. Laura King, and a bit fitting seminar from Beth Haist, the owner of The Horse of Course. Throughout the week, participants and auditors will learn about saddle fitting, hear from a veterinarian about general horse care and get basic media training. They will also take lessons from more top trainers including Adrienne Lyle, Debbie McDonald and Laura Graves in addition to Dover, Williams and Bredahl-Baker.
Williams and Brendahl-Baker are the recently named U.S. Dressage Youth Coach and Assistant Dressage Youth Coach. Williams said that their position as the youth coaches is to support programs like the Horsemastership Clinic.
“We are obviously looking for talented young riders and young people in the sport by inviting them to come to this kind of thing,” Williams said. “We want to see them reach their full potential and, at the same time, we are trying to generate more interest in youth in dressage.”
Brendahl-Baker said that the clinic also gives riders who were not invited to participate something to strive for while still providing the opportunity for anyone to audit.
The clinic is sponsored in part by Dressage4Kids (D4K), a non-profit organization providing educational and competitive opportunities for youth riders and the adults who support them. Former Olympic athlete Lendon Gray is the force behind D4K.
“We are so lucky to be able to put together three rings under one roof and to be able to come in and move from ring to ring and listen to some of the top instructors in the country teaching,” Gray said. She added that she was grateful to Kim Boyer and Hampton Green Farm for sponsoring the arena space for the clinic as well as being major sponsors of D4K.
Dover is proud of the clinic and what it means to the dressage program for young riders. “The youth program in America is one the single biggest game changers that we have,” he said. “There is no chance for sustainable excellence without youth programs. What we will see with Lendon’s Dressage4Kids and now with George and Charlotte leading the Federations program, is the finest youth programs that any country could have.
My goal was to build a machine. A machine has to start with the youngest kids on ponies and then go through the Developing Horse, the Young Riders and Juniors, the Brentina Cup and Under 25, and small tour up to international Grand Prix. Then I can say ‘Thank you very much’ and step away.”
He said he still has some challenging goals to tackle including better funding for his dressage machine. ”We are looking at new sponsors, both individual and corporate, who have a passion for the sport and, in this case, for kids,” he said. “We are hoping that we can produce more funding so that, someday, I no longer have to create fundraisers to make up the difference.”
To check out the clinic schedule for the rest of the Robert Dover Horsemastership Clinic, go to http://www.dressage4kids.org/robert-dover-horsemastership-clinic. Auditors are welcome to attend and a daily $25 donation to Dressage4Kids is encouraged.
To learn more about Dressage4Kids, log onto www.dressage4kids.org.