Olympian Debbie McDonald Draws a Crowd for New England Dressage Association Fall Symposium
RELEASE: November 13, 2008
AUTHOR/ADMINISTRATOR: By Ginette Brockway
Olympian Debbie McDonald filled the house as this year's featured clinician at the New England Dressage Association's (NEDA) Annual Fall Symposium. The annual event, which has hosted such leading clinicians as Anky van Grunsven, Klaus Balkenhol and Ingrid Klimke, draws hundreds of riders and trainers from throughout the Northeastern U.S.
With her popular partner, the Hanoverian mare Brentina, McDonald, a member of the 2008 and 2004 U.S. Olympic Dressage Teams, is one of America's most successful dressage competitors, counting among her list of titles that of World Cup champion and National Grand Prix Champion. Despite her own competitive successes, McDonald's focus at this year's NEDA symposium, held October 31–November 2, was less about how to achieve competitive success and more about how to put the welfare of the horse first in training.
"I want a world where people don't think of the horse as a tool," McDonald told symposium attendees. "Horses have become a tool to success instead of a partner. I would love to be able to let people know that you can have both without sacrificing the welfare of the horse."
Concern for the horse was the common theme throughout the three-day clinic with McDonald frequently reminding riders to be patient and to focus on reducing not only the stress their horses were feeling but their own. "If the rider has tension, it shows up in the horse, especially in the back. You have to relax your own body and be flexible."
More than 80 riders applied for the opportunity to work with McDonald and fifteen lucky ones were chosen, many of whom were young riders and adult amateurs. McDonald said she had asked clinic organizers to chose a mix rather than focus on better known upper-level riders and horses. "I really want to give something back to riders and horses and what I most want is to educate those who most need educational opportunities," she said.
In addition to advising riders to be patient and give their horses the time they need to advance, McDonald strongly encouraged riders to do the same for themselves. "Too many people in America are into shortcuts," she said. "But there is no shortcut to a good seat. There are many people that if told to let go of the rein would fall off. And I'm not kidding. Riders must take the time to develop a good seat in order to advance."
The New England Dressage Association hosts symposiums in both the spring and fall. On tap for the spring 2009 symposium is Christoph Hess. Scheduled for the fall 2009 symposium is Hubertus Schmidt. Information can be found at www.neda.org