In preparation for the upcoming horse show at Mihara I put together a "dressage clinic" geared towards young riders. My goal was to create a fun afternoon for them while promoting the sport. Usually kids and the precise, detail oriented nature of dressage don't exactly go together. But, I fell in love with dressage in middle school, maybe one of them would too. I wanted to be an advocate of the importance and beauty of dressage.
The two other instructors and I prepared for the clinic, set up and got the horses ready before the girls showed up.
Ten girls signed up for the afternoon clinic. Informational hand outs were prepared for the girls explaining dressage and tips for the upcoming show and went over the information as quickly as possible as to not bore them to tears.
Next I emptied a bag of craft materials onto the table, showed them what was there and told them that they got to decorate their horses how ever they wanted. The girls were paired up and were partners for the day to promote sportsmanship. Many of the girls didn't know each other, so they were encouraged to make friends while working in a team.
I couldn't get over how creative the girls were. They went to town on the horses and had a blast decorating.
Next the girls got to ride. They took turns on their horse which provided them with time to ride and time to observe. First they did a dressage game.
I got the idea for this game online and modified it a bit for our group. As the website says "if dressage can seem fun and not intimidating hopefully more young riders will continue coming into the sport."
Here's the Fun Dressage Test the girls got to do:
A. Walk down the middle/center line of the arena and halt at X inside the box made of four jumping poles on the ground. Salute. Walk on again, out of the box and straight to C.
C. Turn left.
H - K. Trot down the long side of the arena.
A. Make a 20m circle around the cone markers.
A. Halt. An instructor holds the pony, take your feet out of the stirrups and to an "around the world." Feet back in the stirrups, pick up the reins and carry on in walk.
F. Pick up the hedgehog.
F - H. Walk the diagonal across the arena.
H. Drop the hedgehog off.
M - F. Trot down the long side of the arena.
A. Turn down the middle/center line of the arena. Halt in the box over X. Walk out of the box on a long rein, pat the horse.
They had a lot of fun doing the game and it helped introduce aspects of dressage such as the arena letters, salute, accuracy and control.
Next we broke out into small groups. The most beginner horse and rider team went off with Gina while 2 horses and 4 riders each went with me or Madie. Two areas were set up, one to practice rhythm, balance and relaxation through transitions. The other area was where the riders got to practice bending around cone markers using their bodies and not just hands to steer the horse where they wanted it to be.
We stressed the fundamentals of rhythm, balance, relaxation and light, clear aids. I hope the girls came away from the clinic with a positive attitude towards dressage, I think they did. Most of all we had fun and I loved seeing all the smiling faces. Overall, I feel like it was a huge success!