Western Dressage Association® of America Train The Trainers Clinic A Huge Success!
How do good ideas happen? By great people putting their minds together – and that’s what happened when Frances Carbonnel, Cliff Swanson and Neidi Cooley got together last August to work on the Educational Program for the Western Dressage Association® of Colorado. I had the pleasure of speaking with Frances about how the Train The Trainers clinic came into being.
“We decided we needed some videos to help people understand what the gaits are for Western Dressage,” Frances explained. “There are lots of different horses participating in Western Dressage and people were saying that we need a standard. What’s the standard for the jog and lope? We’re not working with just one breed of horse and our standard should be based on correct training, not a breed. This would end up excluding a lot of people and we want to be all inclusive.”
Cliff Swanson hosted an elite group to prepare the video, including Guy Brown, WDAA’s new president, along with his wife Karen. “Gil Merrick from Horseshow.com did the filming,” Frances described. “We used an Arabian, Morgans, an Andalusian, a Mixed Breed and a Quarter Horse. Everyone did their best, demonstrating all the gaits. We filmed the whole day, setting up what a jog should be – what’s a working jog, a collected jog – putting into words what has now becomes the rules that came out at the end of the year.”
“We still have a lot of people saying, ‘Western Dressage trainers, really?’ What guidance do we give them? What do we do with people who have never done dressage? How do we help classical dressage trainers understand the jog and the lope as opposed to their standard gaits? Little by little, over lots of talking and dinner meetings, the concept of a clinic came up. What would we present and what was it important to know?”
On October 23 and 24, 2012, in Castle Rock, CO, their dream came true. Cliff Swanson and Frances Carbonnel, members of the WDAA Advisory Board, shared their methods of training students.
“Cliff has the Skill Sets he’s developed,” Frances continued. “He takes them around the country and has thought them out. We have been doing these with our Colorado group, in a lot of clinics with group lessons. This is not typical dressage work where it’s one-on-one. The teaching skills are very different in a group environment. We put together a module of the characteristics of a good lesson, along with a module on rider position. The emphasis is on equitation and good riding.”
“It turned out we had very experienced teachers in our group, doing their own thing in the Western and Dressage worlds. One gal was a USDF Certified Instructor, so we had to pick the middle of the road and hope that we wouldn’t be boring all the people all the time. Our hope was that everybody would carry away something of value.”
“We are not in the business of certifying instructors,” Frances told me. “This is our first attempt to reach our clientele and test the waters. We want to be on target as to what trainers need, and speak to their credibility.”
The clinic included both lectures and demonstrations. “We had demo riders, volunteers from WDACO, who were wonderful,” Frances explained. “They participated in the rider position module and in Cliff’s Skill Sets. In one very fruitful and interesting session, I rode one of my horses, Banjo. Everybody came down to the arena floor and stood alongside. I rode and we discussed and discussed. It was very helpful. The reality is you can talk about standards, but until you show them, it’s a lot harder to get people on the same page.”
“We talked with several trainers at the program who have their own way of teaching a clinic, very different from the way we suggested. We can learn from that, too. Mary Gunn and Nancy Miller put on a phenomenal portion about how to structure a clinic financially, make it run and make your club break even, at least. It’s not about for-profit, but being financially valid as a club so you can continue to offer training to the public. Things like how to develop a mailing list, set up the clinic, what kind of cost structures, what kind of facility. This sparked as much interest as anything during the two days. That and the riding portion were two that seemed to resonate more with everybody.”
“Our hope is that Western Dressage will help people master riding skills that make a better partnership with their horse. You don’t have to wear tight britches and ride with a dressage saddle. In Colorado, even with our western culture, our riders don’t want to do cutting, reining, or participate in working cow horse programs. They want something a little slower. We don’t go so slow you just want to fall asleep. We have real gaits that push from behind. We lope in a straight line without going crooked on the rail. We ride off the rail, turn in a circle – not necessarily a rollback, but a turn on the haunches, forequarters, things that are actually useful. You can take your horse trail riding and open a gate.”
Frances stressed the incredible work Neidi Cooley did in administering the clinic. “If it weren’t for Neidi, we wouldn’t have a program. This was an enormous and thankless job that allowed us to answer a need that had been expressed by a lot of people. This made Cliff’s and my job really easy.”
Stay tuned, because there’s more to come. If you’re interested in hosting or participating in a Train The Trainers Program, please contact email@example.com or sign up for our mailing list on http://westerndressageassociation.org/training-education/wdaa-train-the-trainers-a-huge-success.
Cliff Swanson (front) along with Frances Carbonnel (mounted) at the first Train The Trainers Clinic in Castle Rock, CO.
About the Western Dressage Association® of America: The Western Dressage Association® of America is a 501(c)3 educational non-profit organization focused on providing a model of horsemanship with which optimizes the partnership of horse and rider for their mutual benefit. The mission of the Western Dressage Association® is to honor the horse, to value the partnership between horse and rider and to celebrate the legacy of the American West which it focuses on thorough its offerings of educational opportunities and events to the equestrian community. Read more about WDAA at their website http://www.westerndressageassociation.org.
Pat Van Buskirk serves as the Technical and Website Manager on the Board of Directors for the Western Dressage Association® Colorado Affiliate. She is an avid horse enthusiast and has been writing for various horse and auto magazines since 1994.