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July 2024 Newsletter

Junior Clinic

The UDS held its inaugural Juniors Clinic on Saturday, June 1, 2024. The board would like to extend its gratitude to UDS Education Director Mindy Simmons, clinician Justin Giles, clinic co-sponsor Hilltop Dressage, and the seven amazing juniors who rode their hearts out and made it a truly inspirational day. Justin delivered clear instruction of classical principals, which every rider was able to implement, showing a marked improvement in each horse’s way of going. With such talent coming along the ranks, the future of dressage is looking bright in Utah.

Rated Show Season Commences

The rated show season kicked off in June, and Sage Creek I & II, the C&M Farm Summer Show and Millbrook Farms Summer Dressage Festival I & II are now in the books! Congratulations to all the area dressage riders who have had the chance to show off their wonderful horses. 

If you haven’t ridden down centerline yourself yet–or if you’re looking to get out and have some more fun (and maybe build on those first scores), there are several more rated shows on the horizon. Sage Creek III will be on July 19 and Sage Creek IV on July 20, C&M Farm will host the EIC High Desert Classic July 27-28, Millbrook will host its Summer Dressage Festival III on Aug 9 and IV on Aug 10-11, and C&M Farm will round out the rated competition year with the Gem State Classic and Championship on August 17-18. For more information, including links to sign up, check out our competition page.

If you are interested in trying out a rated show but worried about the additional cost, you may want to consider applying for a UDS Bridge Scholarship. Once a year the UDS awards a scholarship of $500, to an applicant with an average Short Tour Series score of 63% or greater, that has not previously competed at a USEF/USDF/USD recognized show. For more details, look at the scholarship information on our membership page.

UDS Short Tour

The UDS is gearing up to offer a fall short tour on October 5, and we’re hoping for a lot of member involvement to support this show. If you would like to earn volunteer hours or help to sponsor refreshments or awards, please contact UDS secretary Katie Lorens at

UDS Educational Scholarships Awarded

Lori Jameson, Lindi Kopeko, Whitney Loftus, Melanie Meerbrook, and Siân Griffiths were awarded $250 scholarships to improve their dressage education this past winter and spring. These scholarships were used for in-person clinics with Trisha Kerwin-Bell and both virtual and in-person training with Amelia Newcombe. 

If you would like to apply for an educational scholarship to attend a clinic, complete some virtual training, or extend your dressage education in other ways, consider applying. Our next UDS Educational Scholarship deadline is September 15. In return, we will ask you to write a short essay telling us about what you learned so that we can share it with our members. You can find more information and apply on our membership page.

UDS Board Change–and a Very Big Thank You

It is with very heavy hearts that we announce that Mindy Simmons is stepping down as UDS Education Director. If you have been a member of Utah Dressage for any period of time, you likely know how instrumental Mindy has been in lining up some world class educational opportunities for riders here in Utah, from bit fitting clinics, instructor certification clinics, to the latest youth clinic. Mindy’s efforts have been nothing short of heroic, and she’s leaving very big shoes to fill. 

For the short term, the UDS board will be filling in until November, when elections open again. If you’ve been thinking about volunteering for the Utah Dressage Society, please consider running for this or other open positions. 

Rethinking Straightness

An Essay on How I Used My UDS Educational Scholarship 

Siân Griffiths

On its surface, straightness does not seem like a difficult concept to understand. I learned to draw a straight line in grade school, and most of us have been riding our horses down the straight line of the rails for much of their elementary dressage schooling. Even the dressage-specific definition of straightness does not seem so complex. “A horse is said to be 'straight' when his forehand (shoulder) is in line with his hindquarters and he is using both hind legs equally,” says Horse and Rider Magazine. Dressage Today’s definition is much the same: “A horse is straight when his body is properly aligned from poll to tail. When he travels on a straight line, he should be straight along the length of his body.” Even the FEI’s definition does not add much in the way of illumination, stating “The horse is straight when its forehand is in line with its hindquarters, that is, when the longitudinal axis is in line with the straight or curved track it is following.” Like so much of dressage, the devil is in the details, and as my horse Larry and I have been in the process of stepping up to second level, a key part of our focus has been rethinking those definitions and learning new levels of straightness. This was the focus of the Trisha Kerwin-Bell clinic we attended in March thanks to the UDS Educational Scholarship.

We had started working on re-negotiating the concept of straightness months earlier while training with Charell Garcia. Under her patient coaching, I had begun to realize that, while straightness might be related to how the hind legs track up in relation to the front, that was not how I felt it. Rather, when Larry became straight, it felt like his withers lifted so that he grew two inches taller. Straightness was a feeling–that of my horse being powerful and engaged.

Trisha built on this foundation. As we began our ride, she asked me if Larry’s shoulders were in front of my legs. I have to admit, this question confused me. Where else could they be? Wasn’t it impossible for his shoulders not to be in front of my legs? I rode on, my mind racing to figure out how to answer, but all I could do was admit my confusion. “I don’t know how else to ask the question,” Trisha said, but she did know how to show me what she meant. 

She asked Larry and I to complete a series of lateral movements–shoulder in and half pass–that specifically focused on having me move his shoulders around. As we did each movement, she asked me where Larry’s chest was pointing and then whether that was where I wanted his chest pointing. If my answer was no, I made adjustments. I came to understand what she meant by having his shoulders in front of my thighs. For me, it was a feeling of aligning horse and rider between two legs and two reins–another concept that seems so simple but that has become deeper and more profound as our training has progressed.

The lesson connected with the first very basic straightness work I had done with Charell years ago when I first purchased Larry, and he tended to pop out his shoulders in every corner or circle. She’d taught me then how to use my outside rein and outside thigh to support his shoulder so it could stay aligned. Though he was no longer jack-knifing his way around a corner, the aids for aligning his shoulders into straightness were the same. 

By the middle of our time together, Trisha reminded me not to look at his shoulders to check for straightness. “You need to feel it,” she said, and sure enough, I found that I could. We began to work on this in canter and counter-canter. To the right, Larry went beautifully, but to the left, we immediately discovered a weakness. If Larry was straight when I asked for a left lead canter, he would pick up the right lead instead. Building strength in the right hind to improve our straightness has been a focus of ours ever since, and I believe we are making real progress.

I have often heard it said the the training scale is one that riders circle through continually as they progress up the levels, and this experience really drove that concept home. Trisha’s clinic built on concepts and asked me to find a new level of straightness, one that I can carry forward and build on as we train.

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