WINSLOE SOUTH, P.E.I. – Islanders had a chance to learn from an Olympic dressage rider during a recent clinic at Island Wide Equestrian in Winsloe South.
“It’s going to get people more driven, more interested and, in the end, more educated,” said Harma Fraser, owner and operator of Island Wide Equestrian.
She said Cindy Ishoy reinforced messages Islanders receive through the year, but it hits home a little more coming from the Hannon, Ont., native, who began dressage as a teenager in Germany. She was part of the gold medal team and placed fourth individually at the 1971 Pan Am Games in Columbia and a year later was the youngest equestrian competitor at the Munich Olympics.
Ishoy has travelled across Canada and the United States as well as to places like Guatemala, Peru and Germany conducting clinics. This was her first time instructing on Prince Edward Island.
“They’re really keen. They’re focused and they really try hard,” Ishoy said of the local riders she worked with. “They’re fun to teach.”
Ishoy would give instructions to participants, including to do circles, figure eights and transition from walking to trotting and to canter.
“The outside reign is your balancing reign,” Ishoy explained later. “You don’t steer your horse, you ride your horse around corners.”
The sport is sometimes described as horse ballet with the objective to demonstrate the harmonious development of the horse’s three natural paces and how the horse responds to the rider’s commands while performing a series of prearranged movements.
“Dressage is systematic gymnastic training,” Ishoy said. “People think we teach them tricks, and we don’t.”
It takes patience and plenty of practice to perfect the craft.
Kim Dolan has been involved in the sport for nearly two years. Dolan and her 1,200-pound partner, Cambridge, took part in a 45-minute session under Ishoy’s watchful and encouraging instruction on Jan. 13.
“I was nervous,” Dolan admitted before adding Ishoy is very motivating. “She explains it well. . . She’s very calming.”
Ishoy taught lessons Jan 12-14 and there was more demand than time slots available. Fraser said she is coming back in March and they are hoping to start a cycle where she comes on a regular basis.
Islanders compete in events in the Maritimes while some go to Quebec and Ontario a couple of times a year. Ishoy said this is the training season for the participants in order to be ready for the upcoming competitions.