Lendon Gray coaching at the second Winter Intensive Training Program Photo: Betsy LaBelle
The Winter Intensive Training Program (WIT) started January 2, 2014 and ended March 28, 2014 launched for the second year, three months of training led by Lendon Gray, the chairman of Dressage4Kids. Taking place at Hampton Green Farm, owner Kimberley Boyer generously provided her farm for the 15 young riders. The program covered riding instruction, rider fitness, nutrition for horse and rider, sports psychology, media training, horse care, riding theory, and instruction from other top international riders. Starting the day out at 6:30am every day the youth had to feed their horses and cleaned their stalls.
Riders had early morning fitness for the Winter Intensive Training Program Photo: Betsy LaBelle
Early morning fitness routines geared the youth up for strength for their riding, and the daily riding lessons were all about working out the fundamental basics of dressage at whatever level the rider and horse might be. Lendon pushes them to try harder and the youth work their hearts out trying to overcome whatever difficulties at that moment they may be in. The three month program provided a great platform for learning the correct basics for these youth. They also had the opportunity to compete at the Global Dressage Festival and the White Fences shows under Lendon’s instruction and the results prove the building blocks set in place for each rider. The Dressage4kids Winter Intensive Training Program is three months of clear dressage foundation building for fifteen youth.
Meghan Watt riding Invicto MC at the 2014 Lendon Gray Winter Intensive Training Program Photo: Betsy LaBelle
Lendon shared, “The first month in most cases was geared toward making sure the basics were there: rider position first and then the horse second. I like to start from scratch, and in some cases even after three months some of the horses were still working on the lower levels on the Training Scale. For many it was filling in some of blanks on position and the basic Training Scale blocks like Rhythm, Looseness and Contact. Rider position is super important: correct position, rider elasticity, and I am huge on the independence of the aids.
For a couple of them, we worked on Rhythm, but most of the riders get caught in the Contact: the thoroughness. Whether it was basics on the acceptance of the bit, or basic response to the bit and the aids, or elasticity in the contact, the rider position and contact go together, so position is really the focus. If the rider didn’t have a basic balance position and they didn’t have the elasticity within their body, they would never find the lightness and the elasticity in the horse.
So much of the contact is the basic response to the aids. We had to do some rebuilding there, and then we developed the horse from there.
Hardly anyone showed the first month, a few showed the second month, and more competed the third month. There were some serious building blocks in those three months.“
Allyssia Bryant and Display during the 2014 Lendon Gray Winter Intensive Training Program Photo: Ali Perkins
Allyssia Bryant, 18 yrs old, from Livermore Falls, Maine riding fourth level dressage with Display a 15 yr old horse she leases from Dressage4Kids. Together for a year, she shared, “I just started riding this horse last year. Before that I was only riding first and second level. So this past year and these last three months, I’ve quickly moved up the levels, figuring everything out, especially the flying changes.
Basically the last three months, I’ve been trying to solidify fourth level work. Straightness is a huge lesson we are learning. He knows his stuff and he likes to take over a little bit. Not only are we trying to figure out the flying changes together, the balance, just the right moment, but the straightness.
It’s super important, especially with the half-halts. If the straightness isn’t there, he won’t come back correctly. Lendon reminds me where he is not straight so I can make the necessary move to make him straight, getting him where he needs to be balanced.”
Madison Chamas and Rolex at the 2014 Lendon Gray Winter Intensive Training Program Photo: Jeff Bryant
Madison Chamas, thirteen years old, from Millstone Township, NJ riding Rolex a 15 yr old Oldeburg gelding shared, “I’ve learned so much. When I got here, I couldn’t get him out of a Training Level frame and I couldn’t keep him going forward. After a month with Lendon, I could really ride him. I could really work on my riding.
There is a foundation in everything here, in everything we do down here, in whatever level. I’m so excited because we received a 65% in First Level Test 2.
You spend every waking moment with the others in the group. Since we all have the same passion, we connect. Everyone is here for you. These are friends for a lifetime.”