Dena Ross has loved horses her entire life, however it was only a few years ago that she was able to realize her dream of owning one of these beautiful animals and learning to ride. Her first horse Ike, a 25yo TWH did a great job of teaching her the ropes on basic handling, care and light trail riding. Unfortunately, shortly after joining the Ross family, ike’s arthritis was found to be much worse than originally thought. He is now happily retired and officially herd-boss of the Ross family farm!
It was time to find a new riding partner! Chevy was definitely not the horse Dena had been looking for, however there was just something about him…..the only information he came with was his age (approx. 6 yo) and the fact that he had very little handling and was not halter broke. Dena very quickly discovered that Chevy was an extremely distrustful and unconfident horse who spooked at everything, became very stressed with anything new and took his time warming up to people. Developing a partnership was going to be a challenge for this green rider!
For two years Dena and Chevy worked diligently to build their confidence and leadership through regular twice-weekly lessons, several horsemanship clinics, desensitizing classes and other similar events. Despite this, Chevy continued to struggle, especially in new environments. While he was getting pretty solid with the ground work and at home in the arena, every time they headed out to a new place he lost his confidence – it was time to change it up!
Dena discovered Working Equitation (WE) quite by accident while researching events that might be helpful in building Chevy’s confidence. The WECup and clinic in Oregon was 6 months away and although neither of them had ever showed or participated in an event of this scope before, it seemed like a reachable goal. (Little did they know!)
What attracted Dena to the sport was the focus on building a true partnership between horse and rider, any breed could participate, you didn’t need a fancy horse or fancy gear (good thing for the grade QH purchased for meat price at the auction and his second-hand saddle!) and you could participate at whatever level of skill you had as long as you could walk/trot – it seemed like a great fit.
Dena has learned that the ease of handling component really provides a practical application of the skills you are learning in a way that makes it easy to see your progress and identify areas to work on. Each obstacle brings its own challenges and requires you and your horse to develop and build on different skills. She finds it so rewarding to be able to really set achievable goals and then measure the progress!
The thought of doing dressage was more than a little intimidating for this western rider and while she had never done any dressage work and did not really understand what it was all about, she found that when it was explained in the context of the skills needed to progress through the ease of handling obstacles, the dressage component actually made perfect sense! It is very helpful to have some understanding and purpose around developing those impeccable 20-meter circles and why learning transitions is so valuable!
The trip to Oregon for the WE clinic and show was an amazing learning experience! Even though Dena and Chevy were greener than grass and had no idea what they were getting themselves into, they had so much support and encouragement from every level of rider at the event. In fact, every WE event Dena has attended has been comprised of amazingly supportive people who are very willing to share their knowledge and time with you.
Dena and Chevy made huge strides in the months leading up to and during the clinic and show. On day one of the clinic, Chevy would not go anywhere near any of the obstacles and could barely walk among all the horses and activity without losing his mind (think 80+ horses and four arenas on the go)…….fast forward only five days later and they actually participated in the WECup, completing both the dressage test and ease of handling course without being disqualified – pretty good for their first show experience! With each WE event they have participated in since that first show, Chevy continues to build more & more confidence.
Now back on home soil, Dena has committed to help grow this amazing sport in her community! Dena would like to encourage everyone, regardless of skill level, to come and give this amazing sport a try – it is so much fun she is sure you will be hooked!
Next goal – Cross National Cup Alberta, August 2019 – a great way to see how far their hard work has taken them since the last Cross National in Oregon.
“Working Equitation has been a huge contributor to building our confidence and our partnership – it is a great community of folks and we have enjoyed every event we have participated in “.