Guiding Influences Which Shaped Her Career

Wednesday, February 9, 2011
Posted by Holly Jacobson

A. Whit Watkins - Dressage Trainer/Rider

“Horses have always been my life. I have been fascinated with them and ridden since I was three. My dad, William Whitfield Watkins, took me to ride the ponies at the park on Sunday afternoons and later rode with me for fun. He was my first mentor. He taught me to believe in myself.” She rode hunters and jumpers as a junior through college but when she happened upon a dressage show after college, she was hooked. Whit trained and competed as an adult amateur when she worked full time for the National Park Service and while her son was young.

When she moved to west Texas in 1998, she began to teach and train professionally. “My life with horses is a major part of who I am, it revives me when I am overwhelmed, it gives me empathy for those striving to reach possibly unattainable goals, and it thrills my soul to have an incredibly close connection to an individual of another species.”

Whit credits her college riding coach, Col. Donald R. Nance, for helping her understand the importance of riding in balance. Watkins later trained with Janet (Brown) Foy, Janet "Dolly" Hannon and Debbie Riehl Rodriguez at Table Mountain Ranch in Golden, Colorado. “These three people expanded my understanding of the mechanics of the sport of dressage, how horses move and how people need to move to ride effectively.” This marked an exciting time of growth for Watkins.

Whit next trained with Hilda Gurney. “Her depth and breadth of knowledge helped fill in holes in my information I didn't even know existed. Hilda's teaching boosted me into the FEI levels for the first time. She taught me how to train my homebred gelding to the Grand Prix. Top priority in those lessons: the rider must take responsibility for the safe keeping of the horse.”

Work with Hilda helped Whit transition to riding in Germany with Hubertus Schmidt during the winter 2009-2010. “Hubertus Schmidt also cares deeply that our horses are relaxed and happily swinging in their work. He furthered my insights into training and developing the equine athlete. With his input building on the base of information I have gathered over the years, I continue to learn how to speak more clearly to my horses so we may enjoy closer partnerships and better demonstrate the beautiful dance of dressage.”

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