Forward, With Confidence

Forward, With Confidence

Scholarship Recipient Isabella Rodwig

When I was 12 years old, I attended my first dressage show (as a spectator), and I saw Mrs. Vicky Busch riding a beautiful rendition of a Fourth Level test. I turned to my parents and said, “I want to do that!” I have admired dressage ever since. The way those high level riders can make their horses perform incredible movements with only the nudge of a leg or the tickling of a rein fascinates me.

Isabella-IMG_2512So, when I received the Spring 2015 SEDA Junior Scholarship, it seemed like a no-brainer to further my dressage skills with a few lessons from Mrs. Vicky Busch of Busch Sporthorses, LLC. I took my horse, Kit Kat, my seventeen-year-old Oldenburg mare, to her barn for four days of “dressage boot camp”, and came back knowing so much more than I did before.

After watching Mrs. Vicky ride that fateful, foggy morning, I began doing dressage on some wonderful school horses, and eventually decided to start jumping. I fell in love with the sport of eventing, and when the opportunity arose for me to purchase my own horse, I settled on Kit Kat. While Kit Kat would happily take me around a 3’6 jumper course, our dressage skills needed some help. The dressage portion of every event or combined test was the weak link in my performances, and constantly dragged my scores down.

I was warned that Mrs. Vicky was very, almost brutally, honest, and would have no problem pointing out every single weakness that my horse and I had. However, I was more interested in hearing all of my weaknesses so I could fix them and move up the levels than hearing all praise. I actually found her teaching to be super positive, and she always explained what she wanted me to do, how to do it, and most importantly, why I was supposed to do it. She told me from our first lesson that it was not just my riding skills that were causing trouble, but also Kit Kat’s resistance to my aids. She could see how much I was used to fighting the horse at every step, whether on the flat or over fences. One of the biggest things she stressed was the importance of riding FORWARD! She explained that if I rode Kit Kat more forward and kept her sensitive to my leg, I would be able to keep her from dumping her weight into my reins and dragging me around the arena. She stressed the idea of keeping my posture by bringing my chest up so that I could use my body weight as leverage to keep her balance uphill while being on the vertical. She also gave me a great visual on how to hold my reins to keep Kit Kat on the bit: “Pretend that your reins are side reins.” By keeping my reins steady and keeping a feel of her mouth, I could use my legs to drive her up into my rein and put her on the bit. I never realized exactly how much leg I needed to put on her to keep her forward and round! Mrs. Vicky made it very clear that however much hand I was using had to be backed up with the same amount of or more leg. I had many “lightbulb moments” working this way, especially in lateral work such as leg yields, which Kit Kat excels at. We also spent time working on positioning and bend. If I allowed the horse to get too straight, it was easier for her to get heavy and pull on me. We did lots of small circles and shoulder-fore to emphasize that idea.

Mrs. Vicky’s instruction was not limited to teaching riding lessons; she also taught me lots of little horsemanship tips and tricks to make life easier for my horses and me. Who would’ve thought there were so many uses for Ivory soap! She also taught me some about saddle fit, proper nutrition for horses with varying work amounts, and general barn management skills. I enjoyed my lessons with Mrs. Vicky so much that I began boarding Kit Kat at her barn for training and lessons, and I have now been there for about eight months. Mrs. Vicky introduced me to my new jumping trainer and helped me find my new dream horse, a Secretariat grandson named Make No Mistake. Mister “M” also resides at Busch Sporthorses, where he has shared paddocks and made friends with both a one-eyed miniature pony and a mule! I have since qualified for Dressage Championships and Dressage Seat Equitation Semi-Finals on M under Mrs. Vicky’s guidance. I cannot express how much Mrs. Vicky has changed my life and my riding career for the better, and I can’t wait until I can reapply for another SEDA Scholarship.Isabella-IMG_6993

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