Dressage Summit Brought the Disparate Worlds of Dressage and Natural Horsemanship Together in One Star Studded Weekend

February 19th, 2013 7:24 AM | Comments Off on Dressage Summit Brought the Disparate Worlds of Dressage and Natural Horsemanship Together in One Star Studded Weekend
press release
Wellington, FL – The 2013 Dressage Summit brought together six of the most renowned figures in the world of modern horsemanship. Though their areas of expertise appear vastly different on the surface, they gathered in Wellington, FL with one collective goal in mind: bringing the competitive world of classical dressage and the foundational approach of natural horsemanship together. In doing so, they brought out the best in each other, opening up new lines of communication and cooperation between these two previously disparate communities.

Christoph Hess, Walter Zettl and Charles de Kunffy are legends within the classical dressage community, with well over a century of world class training experience between them. Their participation afforded this event a level of prestige and interest amongst the dressage community that would have been difficult to attain otherwise. Additionally, the opportunity to witness these three masters working side by side in such an intimate setting worked to convince those attendees who may have been initially skeptical of this progressive event.

“I’ve told Pat and Linda (Parelli), ‘We need to build a bridge between you and the dressage world,’” said Walter Zettl. “The dressage community needs more of a connection between horse and rider. I’m so happy that, together, we can create a new level of respect and share it with everyone here.”

A lifelong enthusiast of the sport of dressage – who had been engaged solely in horse behavior until recently – Linda Parelli considered it a dream come true to be a part of bringing these two worlds together.

“I am so lucky to have had the opportunities I’ve had, to have the luxury of asking the questions that all of us are secretly dying to know when we see a great master at work! To learn from Walter, Pat and Christoph – and then share the stage with them, with a common goal of fun and enthusiasm for the horse – is just huge to me,” said Linda.

As a rider biomechanics pioneer and former Grand Prix judge, Colleen Kelly’s recent collaborations with Linda Parelli had already begun to bridge the gap between dressage and natural horsemanship even before her session at the this event.  An outspoken and charismatic presenter, her continued relationship with the Parellis and the respect she has gained within the dressage community make her an effective leader in furthering the goal of the Dressage Summit.

On initial appearances, Pat Parelli seemed like the outlier at this event. But while his cowboy hat and chaps may have looked out of place, his educational sessions and his problem-solving equine behavior skills fit right in at the Dressage Summit. His Progressing through Problems session featured an off-the-track Thoroughbred named Book Smart with a penchant for rearing and striking.  Book Smart entered the arena spending more time on two feet than four, but after 90 minutes with Pat, he exited – to a standing ovation – with a calm demeanor and a newfound sense of respect for his handler’s space.

Noting every highlight from this event is nearly impossible, but a particularly inspiring moment was the appearance of Lauren Barwick. A Paralympic gold medal-winning dressage rider, Lauren was paralyzed below the waist over a decade ago when she was struck by a falling hay bale. She has since participated in three Paralympic Games, and her will to succeed and exceed expectations was on full display at the Dressage Summit. Christoph Hess awarded her top marks for her freestyle ride Monday morning, and her relationship with her mare Paris was remarkable, as she directed Paris around the arena using little more than willpower and focus.

As the sun set Monday evening, the presenters waved their final goodbyes, and the 2013 Dressage Summit officially came to close. Everyone involved departed agreeing to one solitary fact, regardless of their competitive or non-competitive affiliations: horses are amazing, and the lifelong study of the human partnership with them never ceases to be enthralling. The camaraderie between the presenters, the continuity of their messages, and the enthusiastically positive response from the audience proved that, despite their superficial differences, classical dressage and natural horsemanship have more in common than meets the eye.

“I believe that the art of riding has more to do with the heart and the mind than the breeches,” said Charles de Kunffy as the event drew to a close. “The skills we need to acquire physically are miniscule compared to what we need to gain in the mind and the spirit.”

Learn more about the Dressage Summit presenters at www.dressagesummit.com and see event coverage, including short video clips and photos, at www.facebook.com/dressagesummit.

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