Monica Houweling and Stentano


Today, a special treat. A few weeks ago I saw Young Rider Monica Houweling – individual FEI Jr. bronze and freestyle silver at the 2011 NAJYRC – at the BC Young Riders Annual shindig. She mentioned that she had been to this year’s Global Dressage Forum, an event which as you know, I was sore to have missed. Monica is a pretty articulate young woman, so I asked her if she would be willing to write a guest blog on her experiences in Holland. And she delivered! I hand over the reins for this week to Monica Houweling (who makes me blush heavily with her opening sentence). Enjoy!

NB. Next week, as a pre-Christmas present to you all, I will start a new, heavily plagiarizing series which will appear randomly in no predictable pattern. In order to at least give credit to my source (Bill Maher) I’m calling it K-Rob’s New Rules.

Global Dressage Forum 2011 – by Monica Houweling

I have had the privilege of knowing Karen for several years now not only as my freestyle creator extraordinaire but also as a huge supporter of my journey through the FEI youth levels.  When she found out that I had the opportunity to go to the Global Dressage Forum this year in Holland she asked if I’d write a guest blog on my experience so I am delighted to share with you some of my own insight!

I have never been to a forum before so I must say I was blown away.  It was held at the Academy Bartels which is owned by Imke Schellekens-Bartels’ parents and the facility was gorgeous.  I was only able to attend the second day but that in itself was so educational.  I have to say I had no idea what to expect because I have not had very much exposure to the dressage life over in Europe but I was so impressed with how united everyone was who attended.  The desire to want to learn more from one another and the openness was so evident.

Kyra Kyrklund started off the morning with a demonstration on the basics of trot and canter to piaffe and passage.  She is one incredible lady to listen to.  I really liked her description of collection as ‘controlled and contained energy.’ And one of the biggest things that stuck out to me was her comment, “everyone must start classical and then when you become an Anky or Isabell you can become your own Picasso.”  In other words, it’s about nailing the basics to begin with.  Following each session a panel would then come forward made up of judges, trainers and international riders and they would all comment on what they liked and then any questions or concerns they had regarding anything said.  I did not expect to hear such honesty and genuine comments.  It really was refreshing to hear because sometimes it seems in dressage people only say certain things they know others will accept in order to protect their reputation but the floor was completely open.

The day then moved on to judges Katrina Wust and Wim Ernes where they shared the process of training a judge.  This really opened my eyes up to how difficult it is to be a judge.  As riders we are so quick to judge them but instead I think we need to start building up a greater respect and appreciation for what they do sitting hour after hour watching ride after ride.  A lot more goes into becoming a judge than we realize.

The day ended with getting to know Carl Hester and then a training session with his student  Charlotte Dujardin.  Carl is such an inspirational character and humorous man who is a living example of how to turn a hard upbringing into a positive character building experience.   His true love and passion for horses shone through undoubtedly especially through his one statement, “horses want to learn and understand and if they don’t want to then the rider is doing something wrong.”  I found that such a humbling comment and he really brought it back down to the respect we must have for our horses.

Experiencing the forum was such a neat opportunity and honestly if you have the chance to go, I highly recommend it.  It’s such a great eye opener in such a friendly welcoming environment.  Let’s keep up learning from one another!