My high school English teacher always told me, "Show, don't tell." In the case of Heather Blitz's tip for Day 2, she has definitely done this for me. Let me explain:
Last January, I was in Wellington working on training articles for the upcoming year. We were months away from naming a team to the Pan American Games and if you talked to me about Heather Blitz and Paragon, I was only reminded of their victory gallop at Dressage at Devon in the Prix St. Georges the previous fall. I had been sitting in the press box behind C and in came a very tall, slim pair preparing to accept the blue ribbon. For a moment, I wondered if the class had low entries, as Paragon seemed quite tall and skinny for what I expected of a horse that could win the PSG at Devon. I say for a moment because as they took off on their victory gallop, Paragon's trot made me stop what I was doing.
Needless to say, I was curious to know what these two would look like at home as I pulled in the driveway for their photo shoot (see the September 2011 issue of Dressage Today for Heather's article on developing balance and strength in your horse). It was ridiculous. I was sitting in a chair next to the ring, with Paragon and Heather (their combined height has got to be about 12 feet) just floating around in the trot and I turned to the photographer and we just both could not believe this horse. Heather took him from extended trot to passage like she was schooling 20-meter circles. Then, the moment I will remember most happened. Heather was cantering Paragon around the corner and she put her leg on. He did not get faster, he did not get tense. He simply activated his hind leg and stepped another foot or so underneath himself. In my mind, it was one of the clearest examples of such a basic aid that I will remember it for a long time.
So what does this have to do with Heather's advice to all of us on sticking with it (riding at home as you would in your test)? When I watch videos of Heather competing, I am reminded of her riding at home that day. The pair, for what seems like the love of the ride - at a show or at home, give 110% each day. When Heather gives us the advice to ride the same, whether we are at a show or at home, I think about her rides and add "and give 110% every time."
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