USDF Instructor Workshop
With Rachel Saavedra
Cynthia F. Hodges, JD, LLM, MA
In August 2001, HDS sponsored the latest USDF workshop held at Solstice Farms in Houston, Texas. The clinician, Rachel Saavedra, flew in from Northern California for the clinic. She is a former working student of Gerhard Politz’s, an experienced Grand Prix competitor, and an examiner for the USDF certification program.
The USDF program offers certification for dressage professionals through Fourth Level, with plans to extend that through Grand Prix. Testers must pass the examination through Second Level before they can test through Fourth Level. The foundation of the USDF program is the German School of dressage. The reference materials we relied most heavily upon were the USDF Manual and the USDF Classical Training of the Horse.
The workshop began each morning with a two-hour theory lecture in which much methodology was discussed and debated. Following the lecture, we all headed to the arena, where each instructor gave a 45-minute lesson while Rachel assessed our skills.
The first thing the trainer did when the student entered the arena was a tack and safety check. The instructor then evaluated the horse’s temperament, conformation and structural development in order to get an idea about the horse’s condition and ability. She then guided the student through a warm-up to better determine these qualities, as well as evaluating the rider’s position, i.e. the vertical alignment of the rider in relation to the horizontal alignment of the horse. The exercises in the warm-up were meant to expose areas where improvement was needed.
Once these areas were recognized, the trainer devised a training plan, sometimes in collaboration with Rachel, sometimes on her own. The instructor then directed the student in executing the training plan. The success of the lesson was placed squarely on the instructor’s shoulders.
At the end of the 45-minute lesson, the training plan was evaluated. If the lesson yielded results that were not as good as were hoped for, Rachel and the instructor discussed what could have been done differently and what could be done in the future to help the student. In my opinion, every lesson resulted in at least some improvement.
The workshop offered excellent objective evaluation of the trainers’ skills and valuable knowledge about how to spot, evaluate and improve problems. Rachel is very interested in having the instructors succeed if and when they decide to test, and her critique of skills is offered in a positive, encouraging manner.
The instructors gained new insight and knowledge about different approaches by interacting with other dressage professionals. I, at least, got new ideas for training exercises. One of these was the “ribbon candy” serpentine that is good for teaching leg yields and flying changes. Another was the relationship between the 8 meter volté and the 4-track shoulder-in. Also noteworthy was the explanation of the connection of fingers to bit, wrist to poll and arms to neck.
All in all, the workshop was very successful. I believe we all left with something positive. I hope HDS will continue to support local professionals in their quest to improve their skills.
Translations on classical dressage: