Jessica Agner is the daughter of Anne Ward and a horse lover by birth right. She competed in dressage and hunter/jumpers as a teenager and into her 20s. She now is living in Butte, Mont., and pursuing a nursing degree to ensure her financial future and to be certain she will never again live away from her horses!
The equestrians of the Bitterroot Valley and surrounding areas were treated to fabulous weather, expert instruction and delicious cuisine on Memorial Day weekend when Anne Ward of Sapphire Shadows Farm in Corvallis, Mont., hosted the delightful Sara Mittleider for the third time this year. Friday afternoon riders enjoyed private dressage lessons. Saturday, more riders soaked up the sun in private dressage lessons, and two semi-private stadium jumping groups worked on their precision and accuracy in a fun but technical gymnastic exercise.
As the riders and horses became confident through the grid, two more jumps were added to add two bounces to the mix. Sunday, Sara and her students had an early start as they traveled to the Equestrian Park in Missoula to school the cross-country course. Sara helped each pair with their approach to the jumps, correct pace for the level they ride at, and how to introduce a young or inexperienced horse to a new obstacle.
True to form, Sara was attentive and vocal in her teaching. Throughout each lesson, her eyes were fixed on each rider, and she coached each lady consistently with reminders for their position. One participant said, “ It’s great to have someone reminding me each time my form begins to revert back to my old bad habits. By the end of my ride, I felt like the new, correct way may become habit.”
As an auditor, I found it helpful and refreshing that each time Sara asked the rider to make a change, she explained in detail why it was needed and how it would help the horse. She helps each rider build a solid foundation to be confident at their individual level, as well as begin to have the tools needed to accomplish their ultimate goals. As the event host’s daughter, I appreciated the knowledgeable conversations and the positive vibe Sara brings to these clinics.
Many riders will attest to the fact that, when you ride with different clinicians or trainers, you gain different perspectives as to what may work for you and your horse. Often, you discover that the directions you are given are similar to what you have been told before. And, sometimes, you learn an entirely different concept.
Several of the riders told me the lessons they took away from the May clinic. They included: simplify and don’t rush, focus on the outside rein, remember rhythm and relaxation, lengthen the stride by opening your seat, and the importance of not releasing too much over cross-country jumps because you essentially abandon your horse. Sara spent a lot of time working on the different positions the rider needs to be in to support the horse before, over and after the fence.
Sara will be back at Sapphire Shadows Farm Aug. 2-3, 2014. Call Anne Ward at 406-370-1194 or 406-961-4485 for details.