Equestrian Canada (EC) hosted a successful Para-Dressage Training Camp with FEI 5* Para-Dressage Judge, Sarah Rodger (GBR) and EC Para-Dressage High Performance Technical Leader, Clive Milkins, on May 13-15, 2018 in Almonte, ON.

Willaway Farm played host for three days of personalized training and education in high performance para-dressage in advance of the Ottawa Dressage Festival (ODF). Each day, five athletes rode FEI para-dressage tests and received immediate feedback on their performances from Rodger and Milkins, who used video playback to illustrate their analysis and suggestions. The afternoons ended with a theory session that further delved into the technical aspects of a winning performance.

“The training camp has been really instrumental to making the whole show weekend really come together,” said Kim Scott, a Grade III para-dressage athlete from Victoria, BC. “Between the riding sessions and the theory, it’s all wrapped up nicely.”

The Equestrian Canada (EC) Para-Dressage Training Camp, held May 13-15, 2018 in Almonte, ON, featured live feedback on test riding from FEI 5* Para-Dressage Judge, Sara Rodger (GBR) and EC Para-Dressage High Performance Technical Leader, Clive Milkins.

Rodger, who has over two decades of experience as an FEI Para-Dressage Judge, believes that events like the Para-Dressage Training Camp are essential competition training because they provide insight into the judge’s mind.

“There’s no point going down the centre line if you don’t know what the judge wants to see,” said Rodger. “This is an ideal opportunity to talk to the judge and listen to comments so that riders can go, ‘I’ve got to ride clear transitions, ride straight down the centre line, and I’ll pick up marks. If I cut the corner or ride a square circle, I’ll lose marks.’ So, you can learn an awful lot about how to pick up the marks and improve your score.”

Rodger’s observations helped the participating athletes determine what they need to put more thought and training towards at home in order to improve their test riding.

“When you come to these events, judges are critical for a purpose: they want to see the best out of you,” said Jason Surnoski, a Grade II athlete from Whitby, ON, who also competed at ODF. “When I am riding, my horse tends to lean and curl in. Sarah got me to get him up, and that’s what I took from the training camp to make myself better. Being a therapeutic rider or just riding on your own, you don’t always get that knowledge or encouragement.”

The training camp was not only valuable for seasoned competitors like Scott and Surnoski, but also for athletes in the beginning stages of their high performance careers.

“We’re just starting in para-dressage, and it’s been a great experience,” said Sophie Lehoux of Rosemère, QC, who is a Grade V classified athlete. “Everybody was great, the place was amazing, and we’re really happy that we decided to come. How the team put everything together was great for the horse and the athletes.”

Susan Allen, who owns Willaway Farm, was pleased to see the athletes capitalize on Rodger and Milkin’s expertise to help move them forward in their para-dressage careers.

“It has been amazing to watch people learning from these spectacular coaches,” said Allen. “To be able to be the host farm for this has been such an honour and a pleasure, and we’re really looking forward to the next time.”

In addition to three days of invaluable insight, athletes left with Golden Horseshoe products generously donated by Wecan Sales.

“It was a really, really good three days,” concluded Milkins. “We ramped the pressure up testing people’s knowledge, but at no point have the horses been stressed or tired. The venue has been fantastic, and the support from EC and its funding partners has been great. Onwards and upwards!”

EC would like to thank all participants, as well as the presenters, volunteers, and horse owners. The training camp would not have been possible with the time, energy and support of these many individuals. EC would also like to give a special thanks to Allen and the Willaway Farm staff for providing such a warm welcome to their beautiful facilities, and to Kerstin Blaeske, who donated the use of her horse, Kahlua for both the training camp and ODF.

For more information on Para-Equestrian sport in Canada, visit www.equestrian.ca/sport/para-equestrian.