Emily Smith, Rider of the Month for September, 2012
1.When was the first time you saw a rider and horse performing Dressage?
The first time I saw dressage was probably when I was three months old and my mother brought me to the barn to meet her OTTB at the time, Polywogger. She said I was the size of his head! However the first I can remember seeing dressage was when I was five years old and my mother brought my to the NEDA Fall Festival.
2.When did you first start riding Dressage?
I started riding dressage when I was ten years old after I got my first pony, Perfect Day. At one point in her life she had one tempis and half steps, and starting off as a hunter/jumper rider myself, this was my mothers way of forcing me into dressage. I have never complained since.
3.Who was your first trainer and who are you currently training with?
My first trainer was Shan Lawton and I am currently training with Shan Lawton. He has practically taught me everything I know about dressage.
4.What training advice has been the most influential in your riding?
“Ride half halt to half halt, with improvement in every stride.”
5.How do you warm up your horse and why do you think it is important for warm-up?
With my current mount, Augustus, being a much older horse with a history of health issues a solid, planned warm up essential. It starts off with plenty of “marching” walk followed by suppling exercises in the walk and rising trot. Once we are in the canter we play with “the scale” (1- being pirouette canter, 10- being gallop). After a quick walk break he is usually ready to show off his stuff in the lateral work.
6.Do you follow the Pyramid of Training scale?
Absolutely, a good rider and a good horse move up the training scale with every warm up. It is always important not to miss a step.
7.Do you include rest breaks in your training sessions?
With Augustus being an older horse we do take rest breaks. An average of two a ride. They are quick but a great way to relax any tension that has come about and to catch our breath. With him it is also very important to cool down with stretchy trot at the end followed by a nice, relaxing walk on the buckle.
8.Do you watch your peers ride in lessons and what do you learn?
Being the only junior rider at the farm, it is hard to catch some of the adults lessons. However when I do, it is always great fun. Not only do I get educated on how different horses improve through out their rides, but I also get a vicarious thrill of seeing how far the pair has come since the last time I saw them ride.
9.How often do you show?
Besides the previous year, I have never had very hectic show seasons, but in the years to come we have big plans for my younger horse.
10.Who grooms for you at your shows?
Generally it is just my mother and myself. When I braid, she brushes. When I get my coat and helmet on, she puts the saddle on; and when I put his bridle on, she gets the warm up ring bucket (fly spray, towel, water bottle, etc.). We have definitely developed a system. However it is nice showing with the Shan Lawton Dressage company, because when I get back from a very tiring ride everyone is always there to help untack and bathe Augustus.
12.What is your horse’s personality like and what is his/her favorite goodie?
If my history is any conciliation, I am a sucker a horse with a funny personality. Augustus (my current show mount) would be the stereotypically “Momma’s Boy”, but as five year old. He is completely socially awkward and if he thinks that he has done something wrong, he sticks his head the corner of his stall and mopes. However, Banderos (my younger one) is completely opposite. Because he is young, he clearly does not know a lot, yet he has enough self confidence to have his own television show. We have always called him the “frat boy” because of his haughtiness and strong personality to always show off.
13.Do you trail ride and how often?
Riverfront Farm is located in Concord, MA, also known as suburbia; which makes access to trails difficult. However there is a large corn field adjacent to the barn which makes for a wonderful hacking field.
14.What are your goals for you and your horse?
At the moment I am starting my junior year of high school at Beaver Country Day School. I hope to graduate next year on the high honor role and onto a college in the New England area so I can continue to work with Shan Lawton. If not this year, next year will be Augustus and my last year of competition together. However next show season I hope to start my many years of competing Banderos with the goals of NAJYRC, Festival of Champions and possibly more.
15.What is your favorite Dressage music freestyle performed?
For those that have discovered it, they will think I am giving away a big freestyle music secret. The best freestyle music is from the band Bond. They redo many well known classical pieces, along with many original songs. I have been using their music in my freestyles since my first level freestyles and they have always had pronounced success.
16.Who is your favorite rider?
Mica Mabragaña, she may not have gone to the Olympics six times (yet), but she has an impeccable seat and equitation. Her riding is always so quiet yet coupled with the ability to get the best out of all the horses she rides.
17.What can you tell other junior riders about reaching their goals in dressage?
Dressage in general is a very complicated process. Weather you are sixty and just learning to ride now or twelve with the dreams of FEI Ponies at the Festival of Champions, every rider has goals. I’ve always said that we have to be diligent with plenty of things in our lives and dreams should not be one of them. Sure the work it hard, and sometimes no matter how hard you work dreams still fall apart, and that can be even harder than the work itself. We just need to remember that, “Where in all the world is nobility found without conceit? Where is there friendship without envy? Where is beauty without vanity? In dressage one finds gracefulness coupled with power, and strength tempered with gentleness. Our horses are constant servants, yet never slaves. We their riders are fighters, ever without hostility. With every up there is a down, but what makes dreamers achievers is the strength to fight for a dream. No matter how big or small.” -unknown source.
18.What can you share with other riders the most important advice of learning Dressage?
To always take education as a virtue, and accept it in all forms.