Saturday, November 28, 2009

2009 American Riding Instructor Convention

The 2009 American Riding Instructor's Association International Convention was held Novemer 18-21, in Naples, Florida. The weather was perfect, the agenda of networking, education, research, products and speakers was amazing, as always. The group picture above pretty much says it all.

Featured speakers were Jane Savoie (Dressage), Denny Emerson (Eventing), George Morris (Hunter/Jumper), Susan Harris (Balanced Seat Riding), Rhonda Watts-Hettinger (Sidesaddle), Peggy Brown (Centered Riding), Julie Fershtman (Equine Law), Shirley Boone (Insurance for Instructors and Facilities), Bob Allen (Business Aspects), Sgt. Jerry Mayo (Royal Canadian Mounted Police), Rod Bergen (Equine Stress Management), Kimberly Carlton (Teaching Aspects), Judi Whipple (Teaching Aspects), and product representatives, Jochen Schleese (Schleese Saddlery), Suzanne Johnston (Cover-all Building Systems), Roy Burek (Charles Owen Helmets and Vests), and many other sponsors and vendors who did not speak but had lots of products available for inspection and sale.

Instructors came from as far away as Australia and Spain, and also from every state in the U.S. The networking opportunities were endless and everyone was taking advantage of finally meeting people we have communicated with over the phone or internet--in some cases, for years! It is great to be able to put a face with the name you have become familiar with and know you can trust.

All the instructors who are certified through ARIA that I have come to know have a standardized foundation in their rding and teaching philosophies (no matter what specialty they teach), and all I know uphold the Code of Ethics of ARIA. I feel lucky to know them.

There is probably an ARIA certified instructor in your area. Look at the ARIA website in the instructor directory, and you will find a listing of instructors by state. Each listing has their name, address, phone number, what their specialty(ies) are, and what level certification they hold. Level I is "instructor in training", Level II is "basic instructor", and Level III is "advanced instructor". Level III is the highest regular certification ARIA offers. If you are looking for a qualified riding instructor, this is a very good place to find one in your area. If you are a professional who is thinking about getting certified, contact one (or more) of the ARIA instructors in your area, and ask them questions--all the certified instructors that I know are more than happy to answer questions about ARIA! I know I am! :-)

I believe that every instructor who offers lessons to people should be certified by a nationally or internationally recognized certifying association (like ARIA). The public who comes to us to learn to ride has no basis for recognizing safety and quality in our programs, and so we, as a group, need to willingly prove to our students and potential clients that we have the skills to teach them to understand and ride horses.

We all know that there is no mandatory licensing of riding instructors, and anyone can "hang out their shingle", whether they know anything or not, so it is up to us to self-regulate our industry. Becoming an ARIA certified instructor is a major step in the right direction. Taking the next step and continuing our education through clinics, symposiums, seminars, conventions, and yes, through horseshows keeps showing our students and potential clients that they can have confidence in our abilities as they discover all the layers of horsemanship.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

More on the FEI and the Rollkur

I found out a couple days ago that the FEI will be holding discussions about the recent upheaval over the Rollkur. It seems that they are adding it to the agenda of the FEI's Annual Meeting in Copenhagen, scheduled in the next few weeks in Copenhagen, Denmark.

There is a good press release about it that you can view on

I hope that the petitions will be presented to them, and that they will finally act in the best interest of the horses. I know that Patrik Kittel has been burnt at the stake for the video on YouTube, but in the interest of fair play--technically--he didn't do anything that is currently against the rules of the FEI; in fact, I believe it is because of the FEI's weenie position that this occurred and continues to occur at every FEI sanctioned event, and gains momentum because of the judges' willingness to reward the flamboyant movement and turn a blind eye to the fundamental flaws in the quality of the horse's performance overall.

Now, judges might fairly say that this crisis has been coming for a long time, and the way the tests are written and the rules and guidelines have developed has set this ball in motion by setting the piaffe/passage tour as the most weighted elements of the GP Special, and emphasis on the P/P and canter elements in the GP, and minimalizing scores for walk and transitions. And they might point out (justifiably) that they can only judge what they see from the point that the horse enters at A.

But I would say, that they have taken the easy way out. They have succumbed to the pressures of the politics, and have "saved their jobs" over saving the principles of dressage.
I know that a good number of FEI judges have a problem with horses trained in the Rollkur method, but they say they can only judge what they see in front of them. In a perfect world, that might be true.

I say that the dressage community at large should embrace any judge that now has the courage to severely deduct points for insufficient collection (especially in passage), irregularity, tenseness/lack of quality in the walk, lack of obedience/submission in halts or anywhere else in the test that the horse shows these fundamental weaknesses. Make a difference now by upholding the principles of dressage and not make excuses for shortcomings...whether Rollkur is involved or not. And judges should take a look at how the horse is being warmed up if there is an opportunity.

This is the perfect opportunity and permission to get back to judging according to the rules of international dressage competition. The judges need to lead the way. Don't wait for the FEI to condemn Rollkur--my hope is that they take a decisive stand on this issue as well, but again, judges, don't wait for the rules to be re-written to include specific language against rollkur--you KNOW this is abuse. You do have the authority to stop this--but do you have the Kohonas?