Lexington, KY. - Top dressage athletes have had a productive start to the 2016 competition season in part due to USEF Dressage Training Sessions. Robert Dover, the U.S. Dressage Technical Advisor/Chef d'Equipe, worked with combinations that were invited to participate in the USEF Dressage Observation & Strategic Winter/Spring Training Sessions, while USEF Developing Dressage Coach Debbie McDonald instructed combinations selected to take part in the USEF Developing Dressage Training Sessions.
Dover held training sessions with elite athletes and horses from early February to mid-April at facilities in San Diego, CA., Thousand Oaks, CA., and Wellington, FL. He worked with athletes and their trainers to provide training and strategic guidance for athletes to aid in achieving their international potential and success. Dover worked with athletes, horses, and their personal trainers in riding sessions, often working on specific test movements, and developed future plans for each combination to follow in order to progress.
"All the training sessions, without exception, went well this season. I'm extremely grateful for, not only the attendance of the riders, their owners, and their trainers, but also for the staff of the USEF for really being there to help to make sure that the sessions went really smoothly," Dover said. "The outcome has been that we are seeing a much greater depth in world-class combinations coming along better, not only prepared and ready for this year for Rio, but also for the upcoming years going toward the World Equestrian Games and even into the next Olympic Games cycle."
Laura Graves (Geneva, FL.) and her own Verdades, 2015 The Dutta Corp./USEF Grand Prix Dressage National Champions, worked with Dover in the Wellington, FL. training sessions at Havensafe Farm South. Graves was thankful to participate and enjoys the various individual insights that come together at the training sessions. The year is off to an excellent start for Graves and Verdades with Team and Individual Gold medals at CDIO3* Wellington and several CDI wins.
"A big thank-you to the sponsors who allow us to take part in these sessions," Graves said. "It's an amazing opportunity not just to train ourselves, but to audit other sessions with top riders, which often is helpful for any horses you are bringing along. It's a great sharing of knowledge with each other, Robert, and other trainers."
Kim McGrath (Yucaipa, CA.) fine-tuned test movements with Arianthi Ferronato's Winslow during training sessions with Dover in California. She feels that she is able to take her riding to the next level under Dover's tutelage. McGrath and Winslow have finished in the top five in CDI Big Tour classes in 2016.
"The training sessions went really, really well. I have worked with Robert enough times that he knows my horse, his temperament, and our training issues. Recently, we worked on polishing and cleaning things up to make it better," McGrath said.
The USEF Developing Dressage Program, made possible by a generous gift from Akiko Yamazaki and Red Husky Foundation, aims to build the depth of upcoming, talented combinations at the CDI Small Tour, CDI U-25, and USEF Developing Prix St. Georges and Grand Prix levels through training opportunities with McDonald. The training sessions took place March 8 and 9 in Wellington, Fla., and April 14 and 15 in Thousand Oaks, CA. Athletes and their trainers were asked to provide a general outline of the issues they wanted to address prior to the training sessions, allowing McDonald to develop a strategic plan for each combination and to ensure focused efforts during their time together.
"I have to say that every year I'm always excited to get to see and work with the riders. The last training session on the West Coast was equally inspiring," McDonald said. "It is so inspiring to see the future that we have coming up in the next few years excited; there is so much talent."
Christina Vinios (Wellington, FL.) rode her own Folkestone OLD, who she partnered with to win the 2015 Markel/USEF Developing Horse Prix St. Georges National Championship and The Dutta Corp./USEF Intermediaire I Dressage National Championship titles, in the East Coast training sessions with McDonald. Vinios appreciated having the training sessions to help her and her horse progress throughout the winter season. This year, the pair collected first- and second-place honors in Small Tour classes on the Florida circuit.
"I loved the training sessions. It was very helpful to have one in November at the beginning of season and also in March to see the progress," Vinios said. "I work with my personal trainer several times per week, but it was great to have another perspective! I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to work with Debbie and I hope the next developing coach will have these training sessions as well."
Twenty-one-year-old Anna Buffini (Escondido, CA.) rode her own Wilton II with McDonald and had productive training sessions in California. She feels well-prepared to continue training at home and progressing with Wilton II. The duo has already won several U-25 classes this season.
"The [USEF Developing Dressage Training Session] was so educational and fun! I love how she helps create so many lightbulb moments and breakthroughs during the ride and how she really gets to the bottom of the problems while maintaining the harmony between horse and rider," Buffini said. "The sessions are great to help guide and keep you on track and stay encouraged with the path that you're taking with your horse."
These training sessions would not have been possible without the generosity of the facility owners. The USEF would like to thank the following facilities, owners, and their staff: Michael Fowler of Epona Farms in Thousand Oaks, Calif., Betsy Juliano of Havensafe Farm South in Wellington, Fla., and Kylie Lourie of TYL Dressage in Wellington, FL.
The USEF Youth and Markel/USEF Young Horse Dressage Programs have their own ongoing training sessions taking place throughout 2016. Christine Traurig, USEF Dressage Young Horse Coach, held Markel/USEF Young Horse Training Sessions on the East Coast in mid-February and the West Coast at the end of March with much success, and will have subsequent training sessions in the fall. George Williams, USEF Dressage Youth Coach, and Charlotte Bredahl-Baker, USEF Assistant Dressage Youth Coach, had training sessions at the beginning of the year and have USEF High Intensity Training Sessions planned for July and October on both coasts. In these sessions, the young athletes will participate in educational sessions as well as riding sessions.
The USEF International High Performance Programs are generously supported by the USET Foundation, USOC, and USEF Sponsors and Members. The USEF is especially grateful to individuals who give generously of their time and money to support the equestrian teams.