One step forward, two steps back. This seems to be my motto over these past few months. If you recall my “Inside” from October (“Shake Things Up!”) I wrote about how my 9-year-old gelding would be going into professional training. Well, he did, and things were going quite well until one day he came up three-legged lame with a massive hoof abscess. Now, after three vet visits and more than a month off, it looks like we might be cleared to begin our work again. The time off was unfortunate, but I did my best to use it to reflect on where we’d been and where we’re going.
While unable to ride, I did have some great stories to work on for this issue, including one from overnight dressage sensation, Laura Graves. The American sweetheart and her 12-year-old Dutch gelding, Verdades, aka Diddy, arrived in Europe as the underdogs and ended up in the top tier of riders at the 2014 Alltech World Equestrian Games in Normandy, France. In her cover story, “The Connection: Making Adjustments Inside the Box,” Graves gives us exercises on how to refine the connection with our horse. She says: “When half halts have successfully balanced my horse, I feel like he’s moving forward between my legs and my reins. I don’t feel him stronger on one rein or the other, and he’s not leaning on one leg or another. In that balance, I can do anything: I can halt, do an extension, half pass left or right.” You can read more about this fantastic duo on p. 26.
Speaking of fantastic, we caught up with Grand Prix trainer Shannon Dueck to discuss horses, happiness and how battling cancer transformed her attitude forever. In 2009, Dueck, her mother and her aunt were all diagnosed with breast cancer. She remembers that prior to her diagnosis, she had always taken for granted how her body works. “I had always been athletic and healthy, but mortality had suddenly become real for me and my loved ones.” Dueck opted not to undergo chemotherapy or radiation and instead had a double mastectomy. Just 17 days after surgery, she was back in the saddle and she returned to her normal schedule in six weeks. You can read more about her journey on p. 52.
Finally, we wrap up DT’s 20th anniversary year with one last DT Classic: “Build a Stronger Bridge” with Olympian Sue Blinks (p. 34). In the story, originally published in October 2003, Blinks says of the bridge: “It is the Holy Grail that the rider searches for in every ride. It is the ideal for which we strive.”
December is a good time to look back. We hope this issue will help you reflect on your accomplishments over this past year and offer encouragement for new goals. And with that, the entire DT team wishes you the happiest of holidays.
Until next time …