Dressage – Columbia Metropolitan Magazine
Dressage can be a small world. Everyone seems to know everyone. Becky Shealy competes at the Grand Prix level and Amy was her first coach. “I’ve been training for 35 years,” says Becky. “I’ve been with Amy for over 20 years. It’s a psychotic addiction. I never thought I’d ride at this level. When I rode with Amy, I was riding at lower levels. It really takes years, many, many years.
Growing up, Becky used to do horse jumping, which she says is very common. She has been riding her horse, Dani, for 10 years. “Dani was only second level trained when I bought him, so we progressed through the levels together. We call some horses ‘old school masters’. They can really teach you how to ride a bike she says, “and then you have to find the right trainer, and you’re never done training. I train more than I show now.”
Amy notes that the successful trainer-rider bond is truly a committed relationship. “It’s like a wedding. I have many long-term students that I have enjoyed working with over the years and continue to work with,” she says.
Basic dressage requirements include mastering three standard gaits: a four-beat walk, a two-beat trot, and a three-beat canter. The rider must learn to balance and move in the saddle so that the points where the body makes contact with the horse – called “helpers” in dressage jargon – provide direction through manipulation of the seat, legs and hands.
“In competition, you’re not allowed to use your voice,” says Amy. “Points are deducted if you use your voice. Communication between horse and rider is physical. You use a lot of your core muscles. Over time, understandably, horse and rider develop a special bond of understanding and trust.
Eventing begins with basic dressage, followed by cross-country, which requires greater endurance as the horse, running at a gallop, overcomes a series of strong fences and natural obstacles – up to 30 or 40 at levels superiors – on a long outdoor course. . A speed component is included, and if a horse and rider exceed the set time limit, they incur penalties.
The third and final phase of eventing is show jumping. Carried out in an enclosed arena, this phase tests the technical jumping abilities of the horse and rider, who must overcome 12 to 15 light and sensitive obstacles where the slightest cut will cause the rail to fall and result in a penalty. As with cross-country, show jumping is also timed, with penalty points applied for every second over the required limit. At the end of the day, the team of riders with the lowest score wins.