USEF High Performance Southeast Para Equestrian Dressage Symposium a Success

Kjell Myhre talks to riders at the 2015 USEF High Performance Southeast Para Equestrian Dressage Symposium in Wellington, FL, January 12-13. (Photo: (C) Lindsay Y. McCall)
Kjell Myhre talks to riders at the 2015 USEF High Performance Southeast Para Equestrian Dressage Symposium in Wellington, FL, January 12-13. (Photo: (C) Lindsay Y. McCall)

Wellington, FL - Following the 2015 Adequan Global Dressage Festival CPEDI3* select U.S. Para-Dressage athletes and coaches had an opportunity to attend the USEF High Performance Southeast Para-Equestrian Dressage Symposium. This symposium took place January 12-13, 2014, at the Global Dressage Festival show grounds in Wellington, Florida. Over two days U.S. High Performance and developing Para-Dressage coaches and riders were immersed in the international equestrian discipline of Para-Dressage. Topics included Para-Dressage theory, scales of training, para-dressage test riding, quality of horse, freestyles, preparation for international competition, and much more. Demonstrations were given from international athletes in each of the five para-dressage grades.

Attendees were given a deeper understanding of requirements and challenges that occur in international competitions such as the Paralympics and World Equestrian Games. Riders and coaches took part in lectures and demonstrations from international Para-Equestrian Dressage judge and trainer Kjell Myhre. Coaches participated in collaborative coaching working together to bring out the best in their Para-Dressage athlete. Day One of the Symposium was formatted as private sessions with Kjell Myhre helping riders to improve challenging movements of each grade level FEI test. U.S. Chef d' Equipe Kai Handt simultaneously offered training feedback to Para-Dressage coaches in order to help prepare high performance athletes for International Level Para-Dressage Competition. Day Two of the symposium included demonstration rides, test review and more collaborative coaching opportunities.

Participants included 2014 WEG U.S. athlete Sydney Collier and her own Wentworth, 2014 WEG U.S. athlete Roxie Trunnell and NTEC Royal Dancer (owned by Julia Handt), U.S. Air Force Veteran Derrick Perkins and Gracias Juan, Debbie Stanitski and Biara G., Ellie Brimmer and London Swing,  2014 WEG U.S. athlete Annie Peavy and Ozzy Cooper, Pam Hardin and NTEC Roulette (owned by Kai Handt), 2010 WEG U.S. athlete Mary Jordan and Rubicon 75 (owned by Vinceremos Therapeutic Riding Center), and two-time Paralympian (2008, 2012), two-time World Equestrian Games athlete (2010, 2014), six -time USEF Para-Equestrian Dressage National Champion Rebecca Hart with Schroeter's Romani (owned by Hart in conjunction with Margaret Duprey, Cherry Knoll Farm, Sycamore Station Equine Division, Barbara Summer, The Ruffolos, and Will and Sandy Kimmel), and 2014 USEF Para-Equestrian Dressage Reserve Champion Margaret McIntosh and DeLorean MF (owned by Sierra Keasler).

DeLorean MF and Margaret McIntosh at the 2015 USEF High Performance Southeast Para Equestrian Dressage Symposium in Wellington, FL, January 12-13. (Photo (C) Lindsay Y. McCall)
DeLorean MF and Margaret McIntosh at the 2015 USEF High Performance Southeast Para Equestrian Dressage Symposium in Wellington, FL, January 12-13. (Photo (C) Lindsay Y. McCall)

Margaret McIntosh who rides her own Rio Rio participated in the symposium on Sierra Keasler's horse DeLorean MF. DeLorean MF was bred by Marydell Farms and is a 6 year-old son of Don Principe. McIntosh appreciated getting to know this horse and working on many technical aspects that she can take home to her horse Rio Rio. She commented, "Caroline Roffman and I went to school together and this fall we went to the equestrian hall of fame. I knew I couldn't bring Rio Rio to Florida and e-mailed Caroline about borrowing a horse for the symposium. She was enthusiastic about the whole thing and her working student Sierra Keasler jumped in with both feet right away. I am so thankful to Sierra, Andrea and Shawn Keasler and Caroline Roffman of Lionshare Dressage for making this horse available for me to ride in the symposium. He's a fantastic ride and has a super walk. I enjoyed the symposium and thought Kjell was so nice and positive. I really wanted to work on the halt. My trainer Missy (Ransehousen) says to not over analyze it. I tend to over think the halt not only on this horse but on Rio Rio. We really nailed the halt with Kjell when he said just sit down in the saddle. I also practiced my 5 meter serpentines including the preparation for them. I really enjoyed this symposium."

International Dressage Judge Kjell Myhre also enjoyed conducting the symposium. He noted, "I was asked to come to this symposium and talk about how to prepare for international dressage competitions and goals for training. I started working with the riders on the theoretical part and talked about scales of training. As a trainer, judge, or rider it is important to know basic 3 stages of riding including rhythm, suppleness, and contact. Then you have too look at each gait. In a test if there's good contact, is supple, and the rider and horse are physically and mentally ready then the rider will get at least a 6 or 7. Then you look at the pace and the technical execution. IS the circle too big, small, crooked? If you are precise and accurate then the rider will go up to an 8. I am not a para-dressage coach, I am a para-dressage judge. I am not used to telling the riders what they should do but I can say you need more activity, bend, or flexion. That is when Kai (Handt) came in and worked with the riders to figure out what they can try to get those items I mentioned."
He continued, "I have enjoyed judging these riders this weekend, "I think they have really nice quality horses and they fit the riders. What I see is they need more fine tuning. Some have new combinations and they need the time to get to know each other. They have a lot to gain on practicing the test, being aware of what we look for, and learning how to prepare for each movement. Riders lose points because they are not accurate and do not prepare. We worked on the serpentine, how to prepare the serpentine, how to prepare a turn on the haunches, and even in the freestyle the halt should be on centerline. I suggested to the riders that they should read more about each movement. For example, what is a run on the haunches, what is a halt, why do we do that movement? A halt is not stoping. You should be ready for the next step. In the bigger classes you go from a halt to a canter or piouffe."

Myhre concluded, "It's great to be here. It's a lovely location and great show. I hope they manage to keep this para-dressage competition and I hope there will be more participants. This is the first time I stayed behind after the show and it's nice to get to know the riders a little better because you never get to talk to them, you only see them from a distance."

Kjell Myhre at the 2015 USEF High Performance Southeast Para Equestrian Dressage Symposium in Wellington, FL, January 12-13. (Photo: (C) Lindsay Y. McCall)
Kjell Myhre at the 2015 USEF High Performance Southeast Para Equestrian Dressage Symposium in Wellington, FL, January 12-13. (Photo: (C) Lindsay Y. McCall)

About Kjell Myhre:
Kjell has a BA Hons Degree in Business Studies from University of Stirling, Scotland, UK. He started his career working for the City Council of Oslo, Department of Education. In 1998 he was offered a position as consultant for training and education at the Norwegian Equestrian Federation, and from 2000 to 2010 he had the position as Secretary General at the Federation. In 2011 he stepped down as Secretary General, and left the federation.
 
After three years working for a small NGO called Hest og Helse (Horses and Health), Kjell Is now back in the equestrian federation working as development consultant, mainly dealing with the riding clubs and their ability to contribute to the main objectives of the federation -  Equestrian sport for everyone!

Kjell started riding at the age of 12 and has competed nationally up to Intermediate I. He has been a dressage judge since 1990, and became a 4 * FEI judge in 2007. In addition to being a FEI dressage judge, Kjell is a 5* FEI Para-dressage judge, and has judged the last 4 Paralympics. Some of his highlights as a 4* FEI judge have been to judge two World Cup qualifiers, as well as the US Championships for junior and young riders in 2011, and the European Championships for junior and young riders in 2013.

U.S. Chef D'Equipe Kai Handt talks to the riders about preparing the turn at the 2015 USEF High Performance Southeast Para Equestrian Dressage Symposium in Wellington, FL, January 12-13. (Photo (C) Lindsay Y. McCall)
U.S. Chef D'Equipe Kai Handt talks to the riders about preparing the turn at the 2015 USEF High Performance Southeast Para Equestrian Dressage Symposium in Wellington, FL, January 12-13. (Photo (C) Lindsay Y. McCall)

About U.S. Chef d'Equipe Kai Handt
Kai Handt was the individual coach for one or more riders at the 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2014 USEF National Para-Equestrian Dressage Championships earning  2011 USEF National Para-Equestrian Dressage Champion, 2012 USEF National Para-Equestrian Dressage Reserve Champion.He was an individual coach at numerous CPEDI3* from 2009-2014 for multiple riders earning multiple grade championships, overall championships, and as part of the U.S. Team, several Team Championships. Handt was also an individual coach and sponsor at the 2010 World Equestrian Games in Lexington, KY. Served as Chef d'Equipe at 2012 CEPDI3* in Wellington for the Japanese Team, coaching their rider to their first Paralympic Equestrian qualifying score. Served as Chef d'Equipe at 2011 CPEDI3* in Mexico City, flying to the location prior to the competition to select horses for the U.S. Team. Held daily strategy meetings with riders and their coaches, and offered coaching assistance as needed resulting in a U.S. Team Nation's Cup win, overall individual reserve champion, and individual Grade 1a and Grade Ib champions. Individual coach and sponsor at 2012 Paralympics to the highest placing U.S. equestrian overall at the Paralympics and Olympics. Handt also assisted riders and their coaches with equipment and horse training as requested by the rider and coach at the 2012 Paralympic training camp in Gladstone and in London at the Paralympics. In 2013, Handt became the individual coach for Derrick Perkins; the first Para-Dressage rider from the United States Veteran's Assistance Program. Handt provided individual training sessions in 2013 with new Para Dressage riders Benjamin Harper, Roxanne Trunnell, and Ashleigh Flores-Simmons; at North Texas Equestrian Center Also in 2013, Handt was the individual coach for Para-Dressage riders Benjamin Harper, Roxanne Trunnell, and Derrick Perkins; as well as selector of appropriate horses for each individual at each show. All individuals achieved top scores ranging from 63.478%-73.478% during that show season. Most Recently, Handt served as USEF Para-Equestrian Dressage Chef d'Equipe at the 2014 World Equestrian Games held in Normandy, France.

For more information about the symposium please contact Laureen Johnson, High Performance Director, Para Equestrian & Vaulting, United States Equestrian Federation, Inc. Phone: (908) 326-1155 Email: lkjohnson@usef.org.




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