Manna is defined as (among other things) any sudden or unexpected help, advantage, or aid to success, because as biblical scholars will attest, manna was the food miraculously supplied to the Israelites in the wilderness during their flight from Egypt.

It wasn't long after Sammie and I fled Clancy's backyard to the upscale boarding facility that I was blessed with my own manna from Heaven. Just two weeks after we moved in, our trainer Meg asked me to reschedule our usual Saturday morning lesson to the afternoon. The request came a day or two before the weekend, and was preceded by
Did I forget to tell you that Debbie McDonald will be here all weekend for a private clinic, that boarders can audit for free?
Uh, gee...let me think...my dressage idol is coming to teach a clinic, and I can be a sponge and absorb lessons without paying a dime? I am pretty sure I would remember if you told me that! Debbie McDonald! My husband, my non-horsey friends, my relatives, all have been strapped to a chair and forced to watch my DVD from the 2005 World Equestrian Games with Debbie's famous musical freestyle on her mare Brentina. Debbie and Brentina have performed that routine numerous times. I was lucky enough to watch it in person at the selection trials for the 2008 Olympics. Though I think the 2005 WEG performance was their best, if you haven't seen it, this video from the Olympic trials suffices to show what a brilliant rider Debbie is, and why I consider her such a dressage rock-star. (Commentary is by Hilda Gurney.)

Click here to view youtube video.

Meeting Debbie in person had me all a-twitter. But watching her teach a clinic over the course of two days? Pure manna. If I hadn't already decided Sammie's new digs were Heaven, this would have sealed the deal. Debbie is unquestionably one of the most charming people I have ever met, and her teaching style is awesome. She maintained a good running commentary for the auditors, gave examples to the riders that helped them visualize the instructions, and helped improve the quality of riding for riders from First Level through Grand Prix.

As wonderful as it was to be surprised by the Debbie clinic, I learned that such clinics are a regular occurrence at Shadow Ridge. The barn owner and trainer, Kathy Pavlich, is an accomplished rider and trainer in her own right (she was Grand Prix champ on her fabulous horse, Komo, at our regional championships this year), and brings big name trainers in from Europe (Bert Rutten from the Netherlands and Judy Harvey from Great Britain) every couple of months to train her and Meg, and any boarders who wish to sign up. I have now had the privilege of auditing clinics by Bert and Judy, who are astoundingly talented.

I just learned that Debbie will be back in April, for the California Dressage Society's Regional Amateur Clinic. Last year, the clinic was held at my barn (with a different trainer), and my friend Kristin rode in it. Watching Kristin ride was my first exposure to this barn, and it feels a bit like kismet that next year's clinic will feature Debbie. I am tempted to put my application in, but somewhat fearful that I may actually be selected to ride. Riding under a top international rider/trainer is intimidating enough, without it being my dressage idol. But as much value as I get from auditing clinics, I know that the benefits of riding in one would likely be exponentially greater. I'm still having so much trouble getting consistent, forward, work from Sammie, though, that I'm afraid I'll embarrass myself in front of Debbie, the other riders, and the auditors. Think of your most embarrassing red-faced bumble from Junior High, and that's what I'm afraid of. I was a geeky awkward kid growing up, and a part of that shy girl who was teased by the popular kids resides within me to this day.

What do you think? Should I risk humiliating myself and just go for it?

From my blog: Green on Green

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Comment by Ferrous on November 3, 2009 at 6:44pm
I think that you should go for it! I am still a geeky awkward "kid" (read: geeky awkward adult who refuses to "grow up" *lol*)... and I am VERY anxious in public. I hate to be the centre of attention. Despite the fear of having a meltdown (or my young horse having a meltdown), I forced myself to enter a show in September and it was one of the best experiences of my life. I was in abject terror... so much so that I actually do not remember being in the ring... but in the end neither me nor my horse had a meltdown, we gained valuable experience, and we had a fun weekend.

The breeder of my horse reminded me that even experienced horses and riders have "off days"... riders may get dumped and horses may spook (I've seen some spectacular spills at clinics and shows), but those same horses and riders continue to compete. It's part of the horsey experience. She also reminded me that small shows and clinics are good places to get experience and feedback as preparation for "real shows". It is great to have a friend who knows when I need a nudge in the right direction! ;)

I recently audited a clinic (with John Lasseter) and saw people far more experienced that I am make mistakes... and no-one cared. Ah, everyone makes mistakes and it's no biggie. Phew. I enjoyed the clinic so much that I have decided that I am going to muster all of my courage to sign up for the next clinic. If The Squirt is not under saddle yet, we will do a lungeing and long-lining lesson... if he is under saddle, well, we may provide even more entertainment for anyone watching. Eep, um, I'd better start gathering that courage now. Ah well, I know that we could gain so much from participating.

When opportunity knocks and all... ;)

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