Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Kristen's ride at Thorncroft Handicapped Rider's Event

Before Doug and I opened SFD, I spent two years as stable manager and instructor at Hope Springs Equestrian Therapy.  Since my background is able-bodied riding, not physical therapy, I taught students with mental handicaps and mild physical disabilities.  At Hope Springs, I learned as much as I taught - about caring for older horses, about breaking riding techniques into steps for every learning and physical ability, about the dedicated parents of kids with disabilities, and the courage of the kids themselves.  

When I went from freelance dressage instructor to renting a farm six years ago, I had to make the difficult decision to let Hope Springs go. A few of my Hope Springs students weren't happy with my decision. Kristen Chelmow was one of those students.  Since we first met, Kristen has finished high school, graduated college, and is now is working on her masters degree.  She is also a regular competitor at OVCTA schooling shows.  Watching her grow as a rider and as a person is one of the joys of my job.  Below is her story of competing in this year's Handicapped Rider's Event at Thorncroft. 


On May 28, 2011, I had the opportunity to represent Straight Forward Dressage at Thorncroft, the Handicapped Riders Division of the Devon Horseshow, located in Malvern, PA.  Victoria Franzen coached me as I rode her horse, Clyde, A.K.A. Silver Lining, in the advanced rider dressage test and equitation class. I had an amazing team rooting me on that included Joyce Faccenda, Jennifer Olson Bryant, who trailered us over there, her mom, and my mom.  I only had one goal at this show: to have fun.  I accomplished this due to Victoria’s wonderful coaching which helped calm my nerves and the fantastic staff at Thorncroft who encouraged me to smile my way through the dressage test.

The dressage portion of the competition required me to ride Intro Test B.  I enjoyed watching the other riders warm up, and I appreciated their enthusiasm and support as we each prepared to enter the show ring.  At the end of the test, everyone said that I seemed to enjoy myself.  Even though I thought that I had concentrated too hard to smile, the pictures don’t lie. 

With dressage completed, I could now turn my full attention to the equitation class.

Prior to the competition, Thorncroft organizers informed riders in the advanced classes about the possibility of including a Figure 8 in the equitation class.  In several lessons prior to the competition, Ange Bean worked with me to perfect the Figure 8 pattern.   I practiced and stressed about it, and of course, as it turns out, they never asked us to do one.  The caller asked the riders to trot, walk, circle, and change direction.  I received third place in Intro Test B and equitation, and consider it an honor to have competed with four fantastic riders including Special Olympians, Kate Burns and Leslie Hartman, Lauren Woodburn representing Freedom Hills and Kelly Rubin of Thorncroft.  Thank you so much to everyone at Straight Forward Dressage for your support and expertise.  I look forward to smiling my way through future competitions.

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