Last weekend, I attended the MDA Janet Foy Symposium. The MDA allowed me to host a silent auction benefitting The Dressage Foundation on Saturday of the symposium. I set up my silent auction early before the day began, then was able to watch the riders work with Janet for the day.
The symposium was organized with riders from Training Level through Grand Prix, with some levels having one horse/rider pair and others with two horse/rider pairs. Janet had so much useful information that resonated with me, especially because I am currently in the USDF L Judges Program (and Janet happens to be an upcoming faculty member in my program).
Since Janet is both a USEF S and FEI 4* Judge she took some time to talk about what she looks for when she judges throughout the day. She talked about a level balance at training/first level with the horse carrying equal weight on all 4 legs. Once the second level horses and above came to the ring, she wanted to see the horses carry more weight on their hind legs, with more collection clearly visible in the FEI horses. Janet described second level as "the great black hole of training," because it is such a challenging transition from first level.
She made a few points that really stood out to me. She said,"The horse is the piece of the sport we should all love." The horse should be "in front of your leg, behind your hand, on your seat," which is wording I have been repeating to myself when I am in the saddle. Janet said, "dressage is about going forward." This statement was reiterated throughout the day, but especially visible when she was working with a Grand Prix pair, making transitions between medium trot and passage. Janet helped the pair think about riding forward with power into passage instead of bringing the horse back to passage. Another helpful point Janet made was about straightness, which a lot of riders misunderstand and think their horse must be completely straight in the body to achieve. Not so. Janet said straightness is "riding the horse along the line of travel." Therefore, the horse can have bend and positioning in their body and still be "straight."
If you haven't listened to Janet teach or talk at a conference, she is a complete inspiration, hilarious, and joy to listen to. She is clear in her instruction and identifies problems that riders can address to make their riding on their horse much improved, which was visible in just the short amount of time each pair worked with her on Saturday.
Everything I have learned in Part I of the L Program has made me believe every rider competing whether an amateur or pro would benefit from taking that part of the program. Janet's description of what she looks for at the horses at each level helped solidify my understanding of how judges get their scores-which was super timing, because I have the C Session coming up this weekend!
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