What a journey! The number of times that I have been encouraged, supported and told “Yes, you can do it!” since beginning my work towards my USDF Associate Instructorship has been incredible.
The PVDA immediately offered to sponsor my goal, which has helped with costs and spoken to their commitment to their members and the growth of this sport in the area.
I would like to say that my trainer and boss, Barbara Strawson, went out of her way to prepare me for this Certification; the fact is, she has been going out of her way to prepare me to be the best dressage trainer well before this goal came about. Her background in psychology, as well as her BALIMO certification, compliment her formal dressage training in a way that make her an unbelievable resource for learning to teach dressage to horses and riders in a systematic way.
The Workshops themselves were run in a similarly systematic way: For Riding the Horse, Lungeing the Horse and Rider, and Teaching, our 45-minute hands-on sections were always broken down into an assessment/warm-up, followed by a training period and then final assessment/cool down. My mounted and unmounted lessons at home prepared me entirely for this 45-minute program at the Workshops.
My hard work seemed to pay off when I taught one of my best lessons of the year in front of Lendon Gray, my Teaching Workshop instructor. I was more nervous than I have been in a LONG time, but she noted that I taught my hands-on demonstration with “confidence and conviction” and seemed to be the only Participating Instructor that seemed entirely focused on my demo student. I was over the moon, especially when I saw that her final recommendation was that I go right to Testing to become a USDF Certified Instructor through Second Level.
When I got home, one of my students joked that she was going to call Lendon and tell her that I was a great teacher. To have had so many students and supporters back home that truly believed in me, was the icing on the cake. I had proven my skills to the unbiased members of the dressage community, even if the biased dressage riders were willing to call on my behalf!
Now that I am home, I am not sure those clients are as happy that they were willing to let me leave, as I returned with many new exercises to help them improve them and their horses… some of which have led to some sore muscles and generally tired students, many of whom had just came off substitute lessons with Barbara and a clinic with Nicole Uphoff-Selke, while I was away. Barbara even offered to work my horse while I was away, increasing her workload simply to help me out.
As you can see, I was not the only one working hard because of this Workshop! But, if this journey has reinforced one thing, it has been that in order to succeed in dressage we must work at it. From the moment I decided to work towards my USDF Associate Instructor’s Certification, I knew that it would be just as hard. The monetary costs alone for the three workshops are $1050, with another $2,000 or so going to hotels, travel, “renting” demo horses and First Aid Certification. Scheduling three Workshop weekends away in other Regions, when I teach both days, was a tremendous burden on the business, Barbara, Lauren (her apprentice trainer), Nicole and my clients.
Nine days away and over $3,000 later, I am not only proud to say that I am a USDF Associate Instructor, but I am entirely confidant in the path that I have chosen as a trainer and student of dressage – The GMO I belong to, the teaching I receive, the team I belong to and the clients I am lucky enough to work with every day.