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2013 National Para-Dressage Training Symposium Day 1

Ellie and Carino H

Hello! My name is Eleanor Brimmer, I am a Grade III Para-Dressage rider and SmartPak has invited me to blog about my experience at the 2013 Para-Dressage Symposium in Lyman, Maine. My International Para-Dressage horse, Carino H gets his supplements (Omega Horseshine, Cosequin ASU, SmartDigest Ultra, and SmartLytes Pellets) in daily dose SmartPaks, so I was really happy to see SmartPak was helping to sponsor our program.

I flew from my home base in Ann Arbor, Michigan on Monday to Pennsylvania, then drove up to Maine on Tuesday with our United States Para Equestrian President, Hope Hand, and long time Para volunteer John Stevenson.

We checked into the Nonantum Inn, our host hotel, and went out to dinner with a group of early arrivals for the symposium. It was so nice to catch up with old friends and meet some of the new riders and trainers that are looking to get started in para-dressage competition.

Wednesday morning we got under way with the “Train the Trainer” section of the symposium. Even though I am an amateur rider (not a trainer), I really like to attend these sessions. We started with Hanneke Gerritsen, a five star para-dressage judge. She gave a great overview of the purpose of the rules, and more importantly what rules were up for discussion and could possibly change in the future. For me, one of the more interesting points she made was that because my grade, grade III, includes riders that are totally blind, which is why almost all of the test movements are on the rail, rather than say having a transition over X.

After Hanneke spoke, British coach Clive Milkins spoke about the British System, which has been so successful in producing medal winners, and his own personal system for long-term athlete development. I could write a novel about Clive’s lecture, but what I will say is where England has the upper hand I think, is they have a well-developed system for talent spotting potential competitive para-dressage riders from their therapeutic centers. I think places like Carlise Academy, that is hosting this clinic for us, gives an excellent model for how other therapeutic centers can become involved in the para-dressage community and help us find future medal winners!

Ellie and Captiva, owned by Cyndy West

After the lunch break I watched Clive give lessons to two of our 1B riders. 1B is a lower grade for riders with more significant disabilities than my own, and the test is primarily walk with a little bit of trot. For these riders with limited stamina, Clive talked about how a trainer needs to assess how long it takes for a rider’s body to warm up and “give in,” and then to gauge how long they have control. He used an exercise with both riders of cones on either side of centerline in the short court at D, X, and G, and 5m serpentines off of the long walls with guiding cones. Clive had them use the cones to improve centerline accuracy, denote places to make transitions, and create focal points for circles. It is something I would like to try with my own horse when I get home.

We finished our evening with dinner and a keynote address from Gill Merrick. He spoke on the team approach and how para-dressage can continue to develop as an organization, so we can truly become a force to be reckoned with on the international stage. It was a long first day, I feel I learned a lot and I can’t wait to put some of this theory work into action during my rides tomorrow with Hanneke Gerritsen and Catherine Haddad Staller!

Read the other blogs in this series:

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

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