Equestrian Cross-Training. Taken from WCAX TV

Equestrian Cross-Training

Some young equestrians hit the riding ring Sunday morning for a rare opportunity with an Olympic-caliber rider, who also happens to be a Vermont native. But they weren't learning about the technicalities of jumping in the often tense-filled horse ring, they were learning about moving to the music.

It is crunch time for Geoffrey Hesslink and Jessie Hunt. The two -- considered to be two of the top riders in the state -- are gearing up for major national horse shows this month and next. But this clinic at Summerwood Farm in Shelburne, where they train year-round, is not part of their traditional training as hunter/jumpers -- a discipline that is serious and involves silence in the ring.

Ruth Hogan-Poulsen is teaching them dressage, a completely different discipline than their used to. It's training "outside of the box" as they learn to move and communicate with their horse with their bodies, using music and rhythm to pace their horse. "The basis of all training, whether you're a jumper rider, a dressage rider, a western pleasure rider, you know, a park horse rider -- the communication that you have with your horse is the key and the first thing that any trainer in any discipline will tell you is that you need is that you need rhythm and you need relaxation," Hogan-Poulsen said.

Hogan-Poulsen knows a bit about that. She's a nationally recognized dressage professional, whose won numerous U.S. Dressage Federation medals and runs her own training facility in Plainfield, Vermont and Wellington, Florida.

Sarah Rice, Summerwood's owner -- an accomplished equestrian in her own right -- is grateful. "I just feel blessed to be able to bring someone like this, that is Olympic caliber. These kids may never have this opportunity again in their lifetime," she said.


"I've never actually ridden to music, but it was really fun. It was a new experience and riding to music not only improved me, but it was fun to listen to the lyrics and learn your rhythm and how fast or slow you have to go to match that rhythm," said Geoffrey Hesslink.

"It's always been something that I've wanted to do because music is a very big inspiration for all of the riders here so it's cool to learn how to ride to the beat, how to choose a song, how to warm up and get inspired by it," said Jessie Hunt.

Using tempo as a training tool -- a unique opportunity on this day, teaching young equestrians how to ride to the rhythm in the horse ring.

Bridget Barry-Caswell -- WCAX News

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