By Jessica Eggers

On the first weekend in December I had the great good fortune to attend the Ingrid Klimke clinic in Ontario. I’ve never met in person nor ridden for someone as accomplished as she is. This meant that I have been wired for months! I prepared as well as I knew how, with good hard work as well as light, fun rides. I thoroughly enjoyed it and cheered for the others who kicked butt all weekend. I have been thinking about the weekend in great detail and I would like to share the most important lesson here. I think you may understand.

I kept saying to myself and others leading up to the event that I was so happy to be there that I would be content if I just stayed on the horse. I was convinced that meeting Ingrid Klimke in person was so incredible, that I was just grateful to attend.

The dressage riders were grouped into semi-private sessions, as close in ability as our limited numbers would allow. When we introduced ourselves I said something similar (just happy to be here!). While my semi-private partner seemed to be having some difficulty with her mount, after Day 1 concluded I barely did any riding and she barely me asked anything of me, she didn’t teach me anything. I was devastated. The blame for this lands squarely on my shoulders.

She is famous for her work using cavaletti to improve the horses and riders she teaches. On that first day, my partner spent lots of time working on her walk, trot, and canter over or around the poles; I was only given time to use them at the walk. And then after a lengthy break for me with the focus turned to the other participant, we schooled some trot to canter transitions. Now, as reference, for the past six months or so our trot-canter transitions have been lovely. Sadly, my excitement translated into tension and our usual light, open, joyful canter departs were rushed, hot, frantic and nearly spastic.

So, I cried my pity party tears and cared for my sweet mare. I stood in her stall and quietly reflected. The thing that struck me like a hammer is that there is a large group of riders – me the first – who play humble and speak of ourselves in belittling terms on the understanding that those around us will bolster us. They’ll fill in your missing self-confidence with their compliments and praise. This means that we talk down about ourselves and we don’t congratulate ourselves when we do well. It means that we dream small dreams and fear stepping into the spotlight to show off what we’ve achieved.

Now, the truth is when you tell a successful Olympic athlete not to take you seriously, they take your words as the gospel truth. They don’t think, “oh, she’s just being modest”. They look you in the eye and accept you at your word.

On Day 2 I gave myself a good shake. I took a massive breath and acknowledged that I had to be really honest about where I am in my riding and where my mare is in her training. I rode earlier to prepare better and came out ready to show off my absolute best. My girl gave me all of her concentration and she was very pumped! She had way more elevation and action than at home. I even scored a few points back by doing two spot on, clean, gorgeous walk to canter transitions in front of Ingrid. Until now we’ve only played with them on and off.

She worked us harder and pushed us farther than I thought I was capable of! We completed the prettiest medium gaits! While my horse, Esme, is built for collection I was so impressed with the ease she showed in a huge trot that came really close to a real extended trot. It was massive. And I was smiling large enough to split face right open!

We were going to finish with cantering over the cavaletti poles, but my mare thought she should jump them. So instead, we finished our big dressage clinic weekend by riding two equally spaced cavaletti poles on a 20m circles as if they were jumps. As I write this I am smiling recalling it. The surprise is that she was amazing at it. She was rhythmic and cadenced, in a soft canter. She and I may not have understood the spacing of when to take off but she was so honest! She was so keen and happy to leap over things in a new environment. I am very happy we went, I am more pleased with this important lesson that I learned.

Jessica Eggers