This article includes a few edits from my teacher. The assignment was to write an article of any kind on any topic. I received a 95/100 for this project. Special thanks to Leah Tenney for answering my questions, and Lendon Gray for offering this amazing program!
While most teenagers around America dread the cold, boring winter months, fourteen lucky teenagers have been selected to participate in a three-month long intensive training program, practicing what they love to do: dressage.
Every year, two-time Olympian Lendon Gray hand selects a group of young horseback riders from all over North America to join her in Wellington, Florida, where they will spend the better part of three months training, competing, and bettering themselves in the sport of dressage.
But what is dressage?
The very basis of dressage dates back to the ancient Greek writings of Xenophon: On Horsemanship, but grew during the Renaissance in the Spanish cavalry. Both emphasized the effectiveness of kind and rewarding training, rather than the common misconception of using physical force to attain submission in riding. Today, competitive dressage consists of a horse and rider pair executing a series of movements in front of a panel of judges, much like in figure skating. It takes years of practice for both horse and rider to learn the advanced movements of the Grand Prix competitions.
In Wellington, Florida, commonly referred to as the “horse capital of the world,” Gray’s young riders will be bringing their horses to Hampton Green Farm, where they will partaking in the Winter Intensive Training program, or WIT. They will begin their days at 6:30 AM sharp with “basic barn chores”: cleaning stalls, filling water buckets, and giving out flakes of hay. As the day continues, the athletes prepare the horses for their daily lessons. While Lendon is the primary instructor, many other top international and Olympic trainers from all over the world come to teach these young stars. In the afternoons, the “WITtees” (as Lendon calls them) attend lectures and field trips to expand their understanding of horse care and maintenance. Lectures in the past have included farriery (care for horses’ feet), nutrition (for the horses and for the people), saddlery (the “seat” for the rider on the horse’s back), fitness, and sports psychology. Lendon hopes that “high quality lectures, hands on learning and experience are applied to mold each participant into a well educated and complete professional” (Gray, 2016). WITees have also become popular throughout the greater Wellington area for their volunteerism, sportsmanship, and overall attitudes. Various accounts of serving the area have been acknowledged by leaders of Wellington activities.
When asked what she was most looking forward to in the program, 16 year-old Maine WITee Leah Tenney responded, “I think one of the things I am most excited about is meeting new people. The Global Dressage Festival brings some of the best dressage riders in the U.S. into Wellington [Florida]. I am also looking forward to being in the warmth… Maine gets so cold in the winter, so it will be a nice change for a bit. Lectures and learning [are] one of the biggest pieces of the program. I am hopeful that my knowledge of horse businesses will increase,” as portrayed in the Dressage4Kids website, the program launches riders into a broad spectrum of horsemanship. Tenney adds, “I am most excited to gain more confidence from the WIT program. I think that I will become much more brave, meet so many new people, and become more independent”.
A common concern for the WITees is of their education outside of the barn. When prompted on the matter, Tenney replied: “Being a Junior in High School is making it especially difficult to balance my riding and schoolwork. My plan is to complete all of January’s work before Christmas vacation, so I can settle in and focus on the first three weeks of the program. During February and March, I will attend Upper Echelon Academy, which is a private tutoring service for girls who ride [horses]. I will have a tutor for each subject and meet when them when I feel it is necessary.”
Dressage4Kids’ Winter Intensive Training Program will force its WITees to learn the detailed fundamentals of horse care, organise and manage their time wisely, support their community through volunteerism, and become some of the most promising dressage athletes the United States has to offer.
Gray, Lendon. “Programs – Dressage4Kids.” Dressage4Kids. Dressage4Kids, 2016. Web. 03