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  • Writer's pictureAnna Beattie

My Dare to Dance Coaching Session with Janie Rentz, by Victoria McCandless.

Updated: Sep 2, 2021

February 2021: as we continue with this seemingly never-ending lockdown, I've seized the chance to keep motivated and set (and achieve!) new goals. This month was our second month of taking part in the Dare to Dance Academy - the novel idea run by Pegasus Dressage Music where riders get the opportunity to have a test remotely assessed by a different coach every month, personalised training strategies given and then a final (hopefully improved!) test submitted for final judging and entered into a seasonal league.

The coach this month was Janie Rentz, a USDF Bronze medallist dressage rider, based in Virginia. I've really enjoyed the fact that with the Dare to Dance Academy you get to choose from a wide range of coaches from all over the UK and farther afield, each with their own specialisms.

Like last time, I sent a video of a ridden test for assessment, although (feeling more confident) I stepped up to Novice. My horse Styles seems to go much better in a Novice test (probably due to there being more movements keeping him switched on!) and medium trot is his forte so we pick up nice marks for this!

Janie was able to advise me with tips to enable us to move between the various levels of the gaits i.e. working canter to medium canter and she highlighted the fact that impulsion is better than speed. Styles sometimes anticipates medium trot across the diagonal and speeds up a gear ending up on the forehand. Likewise, in medium canter, he can get a bit carried away and he is a big powerful horse to hold between your leg and hand.

Janie helpfully advised collection in the corners before a change of pace and simple half halts on the outside rein. This works a treat, especially when Styles decides he would rather ‘tranter’ - his combination of a pace between trot and canter when he thinks he knows the terms and conditions!! Styles also has a habit of stepping to the right in his halts and Janie explained this because he tends to drop his right shoulder - we need to work more on our right bend and she advised leg yielding and serpentines to improve on this. I will concentrate on supporting him more with the outside rein to prevent the shoulder from dropping or falling in depending on which rein we are riding.

Combining Janie’s and Georgia’s (Davis') advice from the previous month, in the final judging we scored 8s in our free walk and medium walk which is where we usually fall down in marks. I’ve definitely noticed the walks have consistently improved in our last few online dressage entries, which is fabulous to hear and means our hard work and expert advice is paying off. Novice tests tend to have medium walk into a free rein walk then back to medium so it’s nice to be able to improve on this, whilst keeping Janie's 'moving between gears' strategies in focus in terms of our trot and canter work at Novice level. I have to confess that medium canter is a work in progress but I will take all Janie’s tips on board and strive for that 8 in that movement in the coming months!!

Anyone thinking of joining the Dare to Dance Academy go for it - you won’t be disappointed! It has been an invaluable training tool that has been completely personalised to my riding partnership with Styles. The process of assessment, goal setting and then judging has been so useful, not only in terms of our progression, but also keeping motivated in these isolating times. I'm looking forward to progressing further with Styles and also have just welcomed a new RoR member to our family, so it's great to have not only projects, but achievable goals to work towards with expert support. Until the next time, take care and happy riding. Hopefully, I'll be able to report an 8 for those medium strides!

Victoria and Styles

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