Editor's Note: This is the final part in a series of posts shared with us by Dressage competitor and trainer, Sydni Otteson. Sydi was selected to attend the USEF/USDF Young Rider Graduate Program in Florida, and shared her experience with us here and on her personal website. Thank you for sharing, Sydni, and thank you all for reading!
Sydni Otteson (second from left) and the other recipients of the grant award to attend the YRGP in Florida.
Photo Courtesy of the USDF Facebook Page
By Sydni Otteson
Just being able to watch so many horses and riders working at this elite level is so inspiring. Catherine Haddad- Staller uses the term "stealing with your eyes" and that's definitely what I have been doing! What are these riders doing? Why are they doing that? Former Olympian and founder of Dressage4Kids Lendon Grey encouraged the Young Rider Graduates to take videos of themselves and compare what we look like against our favorite top riders and figure out what we need to do to look more like them. So much of success in this sport seems to come down to a person's ability to not only analyze what their horse lacks and what it needs to improve but also where we need to get better as riders and trainers. FEI Judge Janet Foy told us that the second we think we know it all is the second that we will fail. I think that is so important to remember!
One my favorite things I heard was from FEI Judge Lilo Fore (one of the founders of the USDF Instructor Certification Program), who told us that in order to become a good trainer and instructor, we must first be a good student. She emphasized that no one ever made it to the top "by the seat of their pants". Quality education and lots of it. Get your instructor certification, attend the "L" program- if you want to be taken seriously, prove you are educated. Lilo also said that you don't ever have to tell someone you can ride; actions speak louder than words. Education will always show itself.
Sydni and her lifelong mentor and coach, Trisha Kerwin
As far as the FEI Trainers Conference, it was so great to be able to finally get to see some actual horses, and amazing ones at that! The whole theme of the 2 days was Suppleness and Simplicity. Steffen was so dedicated to making aids and clear and simple as possible, not only for the horse but for the rider as well! We don't have enough time in a dressage test to make complicated fixes. Scott constantly used to the term "coach" your horse. Not dominate, force, make etc... You are going to run into things that are hard for your horse and our job as a trainer is to make it make sense to them and to literally coach them through handling their frustrations and evasions. Steffen said he doesn't like to use the term "submission" but instead likes to think about "cooperation".
The whole week has been SOOOOOOO incredibly inspiring and motivating. At this point, I'm ready to get home and get back to work. What a phenomenal experience this has been, I encourage everyone to attend as many educational events as you possibly can. It might not be flying across the country to attend a trainers conference, but just find a clinic to audit, go to the USDF website and go through E-trak learning courses. There is no shortage of information out there. Go out there and get it. Be the master of your own knowledge and dedicate yourself to constantly improve. Don't expect your horse to give you 100% of what he has if you aren't willing to give 100% of yourself to being the best rider for him! Good luck and keep on keeping on!