Biomechanics and Western Dressage

Last month, my BFF and I took a Saturday and made a four and a half round trip to Chattanooga for a lesson with Amy Vanner at Training and Riding Academy of Chattanooga. Amy is a Level 1 Coach with the International Society of Rider Biomechanics. Amy and I had talked some following the inaugural Rally for the Rescues competition but officially met at Southern Equine Expo 2016 where she was assisting Colleen Kelley.

I was interested in riding with Amy for two reasons: her training philosophy and her training with Colleen Kelley.  One of the struggles I’ve had in regaining my confidence is that I’m not the athletic, balanced rider I used to be. Biomechanics can certainly help with that.

I’ve also had a lot of frustrations with young natural horsemanship trainers who don’t practice good horsemanship.  While Amy practices some natural horsemanship techniques, her training is also grounded in the best principles of classical horsemanship.  Her training focuses on progressing horse and rider at the correct pace for the team rather than any outside expectations.  She refuses to use tack to cover up training deficiencies and refuses to push horse and rider too far.  Many trainers will do whatever it takes to accomplish a goal within a preset deadline, which just isn’t good horsemanship.

I would love to give you a play-by-play of the lesson, but that wouldn’t be fair to Amy.  She definitely deserves to be paid for her time!  I will tell you that she tested our balance and position in the saddle, worked us through the training pyramid, and had us perform balancing-improving exercises.  We went home with 5 exercises to practice with our horses.

I personally had three great “a-ha” moments.  I now know how to fix my biggest score loss on my western dressage tests with my gelding: more march at the walk.  Turns out it’s a very simple thing to fix when you approach it correctly.  I also know how to fix my mare’s trot. Again, it’s going to be much simpler than I thought! Finally, I discovered that the same technique that will fix the rhythm of my gelding’s walk and my mare’s trot also helps me relax.  BONUS!  😀

I also love that Amy works with a mic.  It probably doesn’t seem like much, but there is nothing worse than when a trainer starts yelling at you for not doing what you’re told when you can’t hear a word s/he’s saying!  Amy doesn’t have to yell.  Her mic lets you hear her just fine.  😉

It’s been about 6 weeks since our lesson, and I’ve made tremendous progress in that short time.  My mare and I are connecting and developing a solid, relaxed rhythm in our walk and trot.  Because of the problems I’ve been having with her, my plan had been to begin showing her in Western Dressage in the Spring.  The progress since we’ve made since my lesson with Amy makes me hopeful that we can go to our first show together next month, schedule and weather permitting.

A lesson with Amy was well worth the four and half hour round trip.  When we get our arena finished, we’ll be able to get her to come to us, but for now, I will definitely be making the trip to her as often as possible. Not only is her training approach excellent, she’s also very good at reading a rider and customizing her approach to suit your needs.

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