Sade Cain recently rode in a clinic with Florida eventer Hilda Donahue, who donated all the clinic fees to benefit the Equi-Ed Therapeutic Riding Program. Thanks so much for sending in this clinic report, Sade, and thanks to Hilda for setting such a great example. You can “like” Equi-Ed on Facebook here. Remember that all published reader submissions are eligible for the Omega-Alpha Reader Submission of the Month! Send your submission to [email protected]
I was truly lucky to have been able to participate in the Hilda Donahue clinic offered at my home facility, Santa Rosa Equestrian Center in Santa Rosa, California. Facility owner, Tracy Underwood, and resident eventing trainer, Toora Nolan of Raydiance Eventing, advertised the clinic well and brought in riders from all over Sonoma County and beyond. Spending hours coordinating with 15 riders and their horses on convenient ride times and days was surely challenging, but greatly appreciated by participants. All the groups ran on time and very smoothly.
The clinic was the weekend before my first move up to training, and getting last minute, fresh jumping exercises was both challenging and constructive. Entering an arena with a clinician who is just meeting you and your horse for the first time can be nerve racking, as you hope to ride well and be able to complete what the clinician asks. Hilda quickly puts you at ease by starting with a quick background and details of what you would like to accomplish, and where you would like to go. I personally asked Hilda to assist me in waiting for the jump to come to me. I expressed how long courses with long approaches had a tendency to confuse my rhythm the longer the course went, and soon I would begin to jump before my horse. Hilda’s skill shined through as she catered to every rider and tailored the exercise to the horse with trot/canter poles angled through a corner to establish a consistent rhythm and then progressing through a five-jump grid series.
With her fun and upbeat demeanor, she made the atmosphere positive. Finishing up our time with her, she had us end on a course that included canter poles, grid work, and an angle line that rode four strides one direction and three strides the other — keeping horse and rider on their toes from start to finish. Having that variety all in one course calmed my nerves and kept my horse listening to my instructions. Hilda is a great clinician who instantly adapted to each group and their needs. She engaged not only with the pupils in the clinic, but also the volunteers who helped, so everyone got a chance to be educated.
I not only participated in the clinic for my own benefit, but also to help the non-profit I work for: Equi-Ed Therapeutic Riding Program. Equi-Ed specializes in “enhancing lives through the therapeutic power of the horse.” Hilda generously donated her time and all clinic fees to the program. The donation will allow Equi-Ed to offer a full 8-week lesson session to clients of the Victor Center. Victor Treatment Centers are residential communities made up of children who are severely challenged either mentally or emotionally and are unable to succeed in their home situation. Hilda made a positive difference in the skills of the clinic participants while also making a difference in the lives of riders with special needs too. I hope Hilda serves as an example of what an impact clinicians and trainers can make in the horse world.