Follow Your Dream, And She Did

By
Wayne G Hipsley, BSc, MSc
International Equine Consultant and Educator
Lexington, Kentucky

So many people have grown up with horses spending their lives doing many of the fundamental activities, recreational riding, lesson programs, ground work, grooming and simply caring for a horse. All the basics. And while participating in these activities, their minds drift into many different thoughts about future activities with horses like competing at the Olympics and even riding in National Shows. Fantasizing about making the winning ride around the ring, with ribbon streamer flowing in the breeze, and the championship cooler proudly displayed. Dreams of what could come.

What young girl who was hooked on horses did not have such a dream?

Jane Davies’ dream experience followed a similar path. Jane lives on the North Island of New Zealand. A country who still regards the horse as an important part of the lifestyle and culture, which has been carried forward from its British roots. So, for Jane to develop a passion for horses and the lifestyle was easy.

She started riding as a young girl as a local stable on lesson horses. She learned the basics of riding English and found a sense of accomplishment in her participation with the horses. From the very first horse Jane ever laid her eyes upon, she had very deep yearning passion and dream to have her own horse, this was just the beginning of her dream. But, like many others, life changed, and she distanced herself from the horses for many years, devoting much of her time to the development of businesses that would eventually prove to allow her to explore other options in life.

Jane’s life for the past 30 years has been rural which in time lead on to her dream to have her own farm.

She found the perfect lifestyle farm nestled in the middle of a nature preserve. Located a considerable distance from the main electrical power and town supply water sources, the electricity for her farmstead is generated by solar and hydropower. The source of water comes from a natural spring on the farm.

Like any good Kiwi farmer, stock are very important part of farm life, she runs 100 head of sheep with her Heading dogs, a few cows and her two horses who had been Western trained. Texas is a Paint-Quarter Horse and Star a Paint-Thoroughbred Horse. Both horses matched her skill level. The next phase of her dream was becoming reality.

As she progressed at home with her riding skills, each horse offered a different challenge of her equitation and training skills. And realizing she could not solve these challenges at home, she attended a NZ Western Dressage training clinic being conducted by an American trainer. She brought both horses, and rode each during different phases of the two day training program.

It was during these training clinics she realized the sport of Western Dressage was the activity she was searching for to use her horses.

Each horse tested her skills and forced her to improve her equitation as well as her training competency. Slowly, Jane developed a true partnership with each of her horses. Learning their abilities and limitations as she worked them in Western Dressage tests and maneuvers. Now, Jane’s passion was growing into a dream to participate in Western Dressage competitions.

After returning home from the clinic, Jane worked her horses for several months on specific schooling maneuvers recognizing how to increase the horse’s responsiveness, collection, suppleness, and balance. She quickly realized the principles used in Western Dressage were making a difference in her ability to develop her horses toward a goal she thought was only a dream.

Many months after her introduction to WD, the American trainer returned to New Zealand to conduct another series of Western Dressage training clinics. Jane was the first one to sign up, and even booked private lessons. She had the ‘bug’ and once again that deep yearning passion arose and Western Dressage was her equestrian sport. Although new to New Zealand, the sport was evolving as the alternative to traditional dressage and the all familiar Western Pleasure classes.

Jane realized she could not follow her dream by waiting for the sport to develop in New Zealand. So, she came to the Kentucky on a visit, and spent a few weeks riding with the same trainer and coach who had introduced her to the sport in New Zealand. And it was at this point she asked, “I want to compete at the WDAA National Show, this is my dream, will you help me accomplish this?” A true quest for assistance.

So, a strategy was put together for Jane to return home in October of 2016 to work on specific riding skills, and then return to the US for a four week period in June of 2017. It was during this four week period in June that Jane rode the horse who would contribute to making her dream come true. The horse is a registered Quarter Horse, Tucker. Tucker’s conformation made him perfect teammate for walk-jog competitions, and he has a temperament to ‘please’ and be forgiving.

During her June visit Jane was riding often twice a day for over next three weeks. It was hot and the challenges were many during this time, as she had to learn heaps in a short period of time. She could not return home without competing in her first Western Dressage horse show in Shelbyville, Kentucky.

On the day of the show she was a bundle of nerves, her first horse show ever, anywhere, as an adult. She was coached through her warm-up immediately before the class in an effort to build her confidence. But, it was unknown if it had worked until she entered the ring in the first of three rides on this day. She kept building on her rides, gaining the confidence in herself and building the partnership with Tucker as the day went on. She learned to focus on her equine partner and the test, letting all the other distractions not sway her mission.

She stayed on pattern in each class, no errors. Her execution needed to be improved, yet she performed in the upper 50’s and mid 60’s first time out, placing in each class. Tucker carried her through the classes like he had done this all his life. Little did Jane know this was Tucker’s first Western Dressage show as well. So, for this newly formed team, it was a win-win day. Another step toward the ultimate dream.

At the end of her four week visit, the next challenge was to go back to New Zealand, continue to perfect her skills and return to the US in September, three weeks before the WDAA National Show in Guthrie, Oklahoma. And that she did. When she returned in September, there were no shows in the Kentucky region for her to fine tune her skills before heading to Oklahoma. So, the training team focused on building confidence, developing scenarios like those encountered in the show ring, improving movements, and advancing her ability to ‘feel’ the horse. All the time building a partnership, she and Tucker.

Once, sometimes twice a day, Jane was back in the saddle again under the watchful eyes of her trainer and coach. Riding in different environments. Riding without reins. Riding without stirrups. Performing exercises while riding. All to build confidence in herself and her ability to control and guide the horse. The weeks in advance of the WDAA National Show seemed to slip away quickly as she anticipated the journey that was taking her to Oklahoma, and the fulfillment of her dream.

The time in September was winding down quickly, soon it was time to load the horse and gear, and head to Oklahoma, and taking the dream to the next level. Hoping all of the hours of preparation would pay off.

The team arrived in Oklahoma and dealt with the challenges of the rain, while Jane had the first time experience of riding Tucker in the indoor arena. There was a lot for both horse and rider to focus on while the mental preparation continued. Remember, this was Jane’s second Western Dressage horse show.

The WDAA National Show was going to be the fulfillment of Jane’s dream, and knowing that, she was happy and nervous at the same time. She knew her tests to perfection. She knew she just had to think her way through the process, because she could not rely on prior experience to carry her through the competition. She was focused. Taking one ride at a time. One portion of her dream at a time.

In the end, Jane was named the Western Dressage Reserve Champion Equitation rider in the Walk-Jog Equitation Pattern class. She and Tucker competed in the Western Dressage Suitability Class and came away with a seventh place out of a very large class of over 18 entries. In the Western Dressage Walk-Jog Equitation on the rail class the pair placed 3RD. In the Western Dressage Walk-Jog Introduction Test classes she had bigger challenges to overcome, one of which was dealing with many more experienced horses and riders.

Jane represented the true amateur competitor. Jane was riding a true walk-jog Western Horse, not an advanced horse being ridden in walk-jog. She was working to achieve success against those with more experienced show horses and more personal ring savvy. She went unplaced in those WD test classes but earned very respectable test scores for her second WD horse show, riding a borrowed horse, following her dream.

Jane’s goal through this entire process was to follow the dream of competing at the WDAA National Show. She traveled over 8,000 miles to fulfill her dream. She learned many things during this journey. She learned the difference between being a rider, passenger, and a horsewoman. She learned how to develop a partnership with the horse she rode. She honed her personal riding skills. She built her confidence to meet the challenges created through competition. And all of these factors have a lasting personal impact as she pursued her dream.

Jane’s dream of competing in the WDAA National Show was fulfilled. She encourages anyone with that same dream to step-up and make a plan to set a path to the WDAA Nationals. As she says, “It was worth every hour I spent learning to ride and train, and developing a competitive mental attitude while building that partnership with a horse. It was worth the journey, I want to do it again.”

In her own words, ‘ones dream is simply, the very beginning of something that is imagined in our own mind. If we hold onto our dreams with Desire and Intention, our dreams will become a reality. The greatest gift I received from fulfilling my dream was the deep yearning passion and love for horses has been re-embedded in my heart and embraced with confidence and knowledge of a true partnership with my horses and the passion continues to grow.

I am forever thankful to my Trainer and Coach, for their Belief in me and my Dream.

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