Adap­ta­tions for Har­mo­nious Dres­sage

Dressage Today - - Olympic Focus -

A t the 2015 Pro­fes­sional As­so­ci­a­tion for Ther­a­peu­tic Horse­man­ship In­ter­na­tional Horse Ex­po­si­tion at Field­stone Farm in Ohio, Lau­ren Bar­wick’s mare, Fergi, is clearly en­er­gized by the cold, the au­di­ence and the un­fa­mil­iar arena, yet her at­ten­tion re­mains on Bar­wick. After ground­work, Bar­wick cues Fergi to come to the cen­ter of the cir­cle. She drops the rope, ground-ty­ing the large bay mare who stands qui­etly. Bar­wick el­e­vates the seat of her wheelchair; then, with­out as­sis­tance, she lifts a dres­sage sad­dle over her head and onto Fergi’s back, pro­ceed­ing to tack the mare com­pletely. Next, two friends as­sist Bar­wick from her wheelchair onto Fergi’s back. She set­tles into her cus­tom­ized sad­dle, which fea­tures large stan­dard knee rolls, ex­tra blocks be­hind her thighs and a mounted han­dle bar. She ap­plies Vel­cro straps, de­signed to break loose in an emer­gency, over her thighs while her as­sis­tants do the same with straps around boots and stir­rups. The straps help Bar­wick main­tain the po­si­tion of her lower ex­trem­i­ties, over which she has no vis­ceral con­trol. An as­sis­tant then hands Bar­wick two dres­sage whips, one for each hand, which she uses to cue Fergi in place of typ­i­cal leg aids.

At Bar­wick’s cue, Fergi marches for­ward with an en­er­getic, swing­ing free walk. An as­sis­tant turns on pop mu­sic with in­spi­ra­tional lyrics (think Sara Bareilles’s “Brave”). Bar­wick and Fergi school at walk, trot and can­ter, in­clud­ing col­lec­tion and ex­ten­sion at all gaits, lat­eral move­ments and fly­ing changes of lead. The ac­cu­racy, pre­ci­sion and flu­id­ity with which the pair ex­e­cute ad­vanced move­ments high­light Bar­wick’s ex­cep­tional ath­leti­cism and show­case Fergi’s dy­namic warm­blood gaits. They are clearly an in­tently fo­cused world-class com­pet­i­tive team. At the same time, Bar­wick’s play­ful ap­proach, fre­quent praise for her horse and choice of mu­sic also give the im­pres­sion of a deeply in­tu­itive rider out hav­ing fan­tas­tic fun with her highly en­gaged horse. Among the au­di­ence, there is the un­de­ni­able feel­ing of rev­er­ence, cap­ti­va­tion and el­e­va­tion that watch­ing the very best dres­sage in­spires. We bear wit­ness to a level of har­mony be­tween horse and rider where each is em­pow­ered by the other to be­come greater than she would be alone.

Bar­wick’s cus­tom sad­dle fea­tures large stan­dard knee rolls, ex­tra blocks be­hind her thighs and a mounted han­dle bar. Vel­cro straps, de­signed to break loose in an emer­gency, go over her thighs and around her boots and stir­rups. The straps help Bar­wick main­tain the po­si­tion of her lower ex­trem­i­ties, over which she has no vis­ceral con­trol.

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