Michael Barisone teaching Genay Vaughn on Wilson,
owned and generously donated by Bonnie Maxon.
I was offered the wonderful opportunity to ride in the Robert Dover Horsemastership Week in Wellington, Florida, Jan. 2-6. Robert Dover and Lendon Gray chose 12 riders and nine auditors from around the country to participate in this educational clinic, where we had daily 45-minute lessons as well as educational lectures from top professionals from around the country.
Work Your Way to The Top
Every day started with an intense workout at 7 am with Robert Dover's personal trainer Bob Gutowitz. We ran across the arena while holding chairs over our heads, did sprints, high knees, squats, planks, and frog jumps. This was in a sand arena so it was 10 times harder! I learned that you have to work out to develop the strength and stamina necessary to be a successful rider.
I was lucky to have the loan of a wonderful horse from Michael Barisone's barn: Wilson, owned by Bonnie Maxon, for my lessons. With Tina Konyot, we worked on getting good bend in the half pass work, expressive extended trots, and being very correct in my position.
Our group had a fun lecture by Robert Dover, who explained his journey to becoming so successful. He talked about the importance of reading books about dressage, which opened my eyes to the learning I can do outside the arena.
We toured Devon Kane's beautiful Diamante Farm, where we learned about how it was managed, and then toured a top private quarantine facility where we learned why horses have to be quarantined and what they are tested for.
After the tours, sports psychologist Dr. Jenny Susser lectured on the importance of visualization, emphasizing that we need to do it months before our show, not just on show day.
Genay Vaughn, riding Wilson, generously loaned to her for the
Robert Dover Horsemastership Week by owner Bonnie Maxon.
In my lesson with Katherine Bateson-Chandler, she stressed the need to make sure my horse responded the same to my leg every time. She called it "being spicy to my leg at all times!"
We also worked on keeping a clear rhythm and more jump in the canter. We did a lot of forward and back transitions, and eventually I could keep the same jump I had on a 15-meter circle when I did working pirouettes. Having a big jump in the canter made the changes and pirouettes easier.
Our dressage group joined the jumper riders in the George Morris Horsemastership Clinic for some great lectures. Dr. Deb Bennett spoke about the horse's physical conformation and how it can tell you which horses will tilt or lean to one direction.
USA Olympic Team Vet Dr. Rick Mitchell talked about maintaining competition horses. This lecture was personally one of my favorites because my dream is to become a veterinarian.
Ayden Uhlir and Genay Vaughn , enjoying a few minutes of
relaxation under the Florida palms..
Before my lesson with Robert Dover, I was a little nervous about riding in front of someone who has been to six Olympics, four World Championships, and seven World Cups. But he turned out to be one of the nicest people I have ever met.
He focused on helping me ride every movement for a 10. He told me to ride my tempi changes as if I was in the Olympics and it was our last shot every time I rode them. If your horse is used to riding them for a 10 every day it won't be hard to do in the show ring.
Confidence was one of the most important things I took from the lesson with Robert. He told me I was a great rider and had a lot of potential, so I thought if someone as successful as Robert believes in me, then I need to believe in myself.
Dr. Deb Bennett lectured about the importance of a horse being straight, and what straightness means. She spoke about the bond between a horse and rider, when a horse is willing to do anything for its rider.
Farrier Dean Pearson lectured about hoof care, how to pull off a shoe and shoe maintenance. He thinks that everyone should have an emergency farrier kit.
Making Genay's week an experience
Bonnie Maxon, left, and Robert Dover, right.
My last lesson was with Michael Barisone. We worked on a lot of the Grand Prix, which was amazing for me because I plan to show the Brentina Cup this year. The highlight was doing the Grand Prix canter half pass for the very first time and getting all the counts right. This experience gave me a lot of respect for Grand Prix riders because it showed me how hard the test really is.
Mary Phelps lectured our group about the media. She explained how we should answer questions in press conferences and that we should be careful of what we write on social networks, since what we post can be on the internet forever and we need to be careful about how we
I was unable to participate in day five because I had to fly home for my first day back to college after Christmas break. The remaining riders rode a test of choice in front of Anne Gribbons, and Robert Dover warmed the riders up. Riders and auditors had an opportunity to be in the judges' box and see how she judges a test.
Opportunity of a Lifetime
It is still amazing to look back and realize that we were surrounded with the top professionals who showed us what it takes to be the best. Their lessons and advice made me determined to be the best that I can be. Hearing Robert's and Lendon's stories of hard work and dedication, and our instructors' belief in us, inspired me to believe that I can become a top rider and represent the United States one day.
Thanks to so many generous supporters who donated their time, expertise, facilities and more for this incredible experience: Robert Dover, Lendon Gray and Courtney King-Dye of the Emerging Dressage Athlete Program (dressage4kids.com). Trainers Robert Dover, Jan Ebeling, Tina Konyot, Lendon Gray, Courtney King-Dye, Katherine Bateson-Chandler, Tuny Page, Michael Barison, Natalie Lamping, and Anne Gribbons. Lecturers Bob Gutowitz, Dr. Jenny Susser, Dr. Deb Bennett PhD, Dr. Rick Mitchell, Dean Pearson, Mary Phelps, and stables managers Devon Kane and Nikki Nobles.
Thanks also to Mark Bellissimo, The Palm Beach International Equestrian Center, Kim and Fred Boyer and Hampton Green Farm for their ongoing support and for our party, Tuny Page for the use of Stillpoint Farm, Robert Dover and Robert Ross for lunches, Carol Cohen for all her help, Gisela Pferdekamper for donation of her artwork, Two Swans Farm for refreshments and shirts, Custom Saddlery for saddle pads, Premier Equestrian for dressage arenas, Show Chic for gift certificates and Horse of Course for polo shirts, Everglades Dressage for the caps, 2KGrey for the T-shirts, World Equestrian Brands for the tack cleaning tools, Johnny Robb of JRPRnews for publicity, Jennifer Baumert, Allyn Schiavone, and Tuny Page for housing participants, Michael Barisone, Rick Silva and Kathy Owen for loaning horses for
Author Genay Vaughn last year won the 14-18 division of the USEF Dressage Seat Equitation Medal Finals, was a member of the USDF Region 7 Young Rider dressage team that won silver at the NAJYRC, and she captured third and sixth place in the Young Rider division of the USEF National Dressage Championships. Now a student at UC Davis, Genay is working toward her goal of Brentina Cup competition and a future representing the USA in international competition. Visit www.svequestrian.com for more about Genay and her horses at Starr Vaughn Equestrian.