Sharing Strides: Two Minds, One Journey

Written by Deb Herbert & Karen Abbattista

Welcome to a different kind of blog from WDAA! The purpose of this post is to allow the reader “into the heads” of both a trainer/judge/competitor, Karen Abbattista and her student, Deborah Herbert, a Florida WDAA member. We would like to share with you some moments in Deb’s journey as she pursues her riding goals with her AQHA mare “GenuineArcticSpring”, barn name “Belle”.

Please enjoy as you follow along with these posts that we consider interesting or challenging moments on her journey with Western Dressage.

May 12th 2013, Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day Lesson – Getting ready to show First Level Test 3 and fine tune our First Level Musical Freestyle that Karen choreographed.


Western Dressage - Karen Abbattista & Deb Herbert of FloridaIt was really a wonderful day…and I was looking forward to my late afternoon lesson with Karen.  Super excited because I wanted to share with Karen what I learned at my once a month clinic with “R” judge and multi-state clinician/trainer Carol Bishop.  You see, I “found” my hips! No… they weren’t lost. I just had one of those amazing lessons where a giant light bulb moment occurred. Karen had set me up for this moment of inspiration as we had worked the day before on recognizing when Belle’s inside leg was coming forward.

Carol really tuned me into “owning my trot” and riding using my hips/seat.  I suddenly felt directly connected to Belle and with a subtle shift of a hip bone could change direction, tempo or gait. Belle and I were trotting around and I was hollering how cool it was. The auditors kept laughing every time I burst out with a “did you see that?!” Actually, did you see me NOT use my rein and leg aids… LOL!

Needless to say, I was grinning like a Cheshire cat when Karen arrived for my lesson. Belle and I were warmed up and I proceeded to explain and show what I learned. Karen smiled and asked several questions to make sure I understood the reason why my new awareness of my formerly M.I.A. body parts was so important.  Then she proceeded to put us to work.

We started with trot transitions within the gait, 20 meter circles spiraling in and then out. We moved on to 10 meter circles in the corner and then shoulder in half way up the long side with a lengthening across the short diagonal and repeat the other direction. Then we worked on Leg yield zig-zags both directions. And then moved to work at the canter to improve the quality of it by shortening and lengthening the strides. And this is from somebody who was afraid to canter not too long ago. We worked hard.

And oh my word, it was a blast.  Western Dressage… loving the journey!


Western Dressage - Karen Abbattista of FloridaI love when my students have that “aha” moment when concepts materialize into feeling, when words suddenly translate into movement and they understand what has previously been so elusive.

Deb and I have been working on tuning her awareness into her seat.  Thinking hindlegs to seatbones, I want her to be aware at all times of where Belle’s legs are, when is the inside hind stepping under?  The outside?  First comes the awareness, and then the influence.  Can you push the hind leg up under farther? Can you generate longer steps?   As an instructor, you try to create the “perfect storm” of aids and influence so when the horse responds correctly you can say, “Did you feel that?!” and hope it translates into muscle memory.  Lessons are learned when the student is ready.

I love when my students ride with other clinicians, because sometimes you need to hear something in a little different way to have them suddenly click.  I know Carol, and admire her wide range of knowledge and experience.  I like the way she approaches things biomechanically, and encourage my students to ride with her when she is in town.  It’s uncanny how well we work together.  So, it didn’t surprise me that she was able to nail it with Deb.

Deb is adorable, because she is like a kid with a new toy.  She makes me smile as she trots around the arena, practicing turns and bending, lengthening and shortening, with as little rein as possible, using just her seat.  Belle is ready for this lesson now, too.  Can we say lateral and longitudinal suppleness??  I think we can!

Stay Tuned for the next in this series…

In the meantime, visit our other Western Dressage blogs located at “The Hitching Post

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