November 13-15 found me, and 60 other professionals, huddled under a blanket in Hassler's covered arena watching some quality training. The event was the 5th annual Young Dressage Horse Trainer's Symposium, an invitation-only event created to encorage trainers to openly discuss the traing and competition issues we face every day.
The event was a fabulous experience. I enjoyed every minute--the training, the Saturday night dancing, my roommate, everything. I was going to pen some riveting prose about the weekend, then realized I already had, in my thank-you letter. So here's the letter.
Dear YDHTS Committee, Harmony Sporthorses, and Hassler Dressage,
I attended this year’s YDHTS weekend, and wanted to say a huge “thank you.” In a word, this weekend was simply inspirational.
This is my first year attending. I had considered applying in previous years, but did not. Like most dressage professionals, I have attended many, many educational events—from USDF L program, to USDF Instructor Certification workshops, to intensive training weekends, and more clinics than I can count. In past years, my thoughts have been along the lines of “this would be good to do, but how much knowledge can I get from one weekend?” Coming just after the end of show season, I’m usually looking for a weekend getaway that has nothing to do with horses. My tanks are usually a bit depleted.
So why this year? Honestly, I didn’t think it through in as much detail as previous years. I just sent my stuff in, and when I found out it was fully sponsored (thank you thank you thank you), I couldn’t use “broke at the end of show season” as an excuse, so I came.
I was expecting to watch a lot of nice young horses be trained, horses that were awesome, but not really in my frame of reality. When I saw Aesthete and Steinway on the ride list, I was sure that was all it was going to be, pretty horses with correct training, doing amazing things, that are fun to watch but really don’t resemble the kinds of training issues I see on a daily basis.
I was wrong.
Don’t misunderstand, Aesthete and Steinway are amazing. But this weekend differed from past clinics when I’ve seen these two horses go. This weekend we talked about the issues these horses, and all of the other horses, face. In most clinics, the horses are given some exercises that make the horse better, and we all go “wow.” In this one, Ingo and Scott went a step further, and said “this type of horse tends to do this, and because of that we need to do this.” That simple step of explanation did two things. First, it confirmed my eye. Second, it let me see get past the quality of the horse, and relate the training issues directly to horses in my barn with similar issues.
Ironically, the timing that kept me from applying previously is perfect for this clinic. The end of show season usually leaves me exhausted and a bit burned out. Now I’m fully recharged, and looking forward to a winter of training. The timing couldn’t be better.
But even beyond the horses, the attention to little details put me at ease. All of the tables, at every meal, were round, which encouraged conversation with more than just one person. The roommates were selected by age, which gave me a roommate with a similar perspective on the horse business. And the porta-potty trailer was hands down the nicest portable bathrooms I’ve ever seen.
Since coming home, I have been able to apply what I learned, and my horses are directly benefiting. This weekend ha s impacted my training more than any other single-weekend event of my training career.