THE TT Equestrian Association (TTEA) has been fortunate enough to experience the esteemed coaching of Maria Ines Garcia who have graced TT's shores four times over the years. Garcia’s first three visits in 2017, 2018 and 2019 were via the FEI ESEE (Equestrian Sport Educative Events) Solidarity training initiative for developing countries.
As a result of this, in the spirit of continuing the training efforts from the FEI ESEE initiative, TT coaches and riders were afforded the ability to invite Garcia back for the fourth time in March 2020 to conduct another excellent dressage training clinic.
As Garcia’s visit was coming to a close, the world started feeling the effects of an international coronavirus crisis. Fortunately, she managed to return home to Colombia just in the nick of time before her country’s borders closed. Due to the current state of the world, new ways of training had to be explored. Virtual zoom sessions were the answer and online coaching launched with Garcia.
A FEI-trained professional, Garcia understands all levels of riders. She comes with a refreshed outlook and invigoration to keep her students going. Through her excellent wealth of knowledge with years of experience from Colombia, Germany and world-wide competitions, she gives riders the keys to have confidence in themselves and their horses in developing their abilities and providing astounding new techniques which taps into skills they never knew they possessed. Garcia had approximately 16 participants in her training clinic of varying age levels and skill sets.
TTEA president and experienced rider Patrice Stollmeyer, was the driving force in inviting Garcia back to TT in March along with implementing the zoom training sessions. This was done in efforts to build on what the FEI ESEE programme started in 2017, to assist TT's riders by expanding on known techniques and skills and introducing them to additional riding methods for their advancement. As stated by Stollmeyer, "My zoom lessons with Garcia have been wonderful. Maria is the best dressage coach that I have been lucky enough to ride with, and I am getting one lesson a week on each of my horses.
"I have never had the benefit of regular coaching before, only riding with clinicians one every three months or so....and of course, no one recently due to covid. I am working towards 4th Level with Claudio, working on super collected canter, half pass at the canter, and flying changes along the diagonal. With my other horse Monte Carlo, we have been working on canter pirouettes, collected canter and flying changes. All my lessons with Maria are excellent learning experiences!”
Venturing into new territory, the zoom online training commenced in June with Stollmeyer along with a few of TT's young riders Justynne and Jaimie Fletcher, and Annabella Hill. The younger riders needed improvement with their transitions and getting deeper into their corners in the canter with more control of their horses. They were thrilled with the drills that built up step by step and they all were given ways to accomplish this based on their specific horse.
The following riders and coaches participated in the Dressage Clinic during Garcia’s March 2020 visit to Trinidad – Stollmeyer, Hill, Jaimie Fletcher, Justynne Fletcher, Sandhya Moll, Natalie Rapier, Melanie Waddell, Janelle Spencer, Sara Mc Cartney, Olivia Xavier-Harford, Andrea Leigh, Jessica Pagee, Caitlyn Sebastian, Clare Hobday, Myrisa Maundy and Amy Costelloe.
Here are seven questions with Maria Ines Garcia...
1.How has covid and the current world events impacted you and your coaching in your country and around the world?
The impact for myself has been mainly good. When I returned from Trinidad and Tobago I went into quarantine and it was a wonderful time to be at home, to stop, to enjoy my family and my house, and have the time to rest and really do nothing, just look at the horizon and be quiet. I had time to enjoy things I couldn’t before when I was working regularly. After that time, I was in mandatory quarantine, the whole country started quarantine, so I was really one month quiet and resting, just at home and in peace.
Then I got permission from the government to visit the horses and work them a little bit to keep them healthy, but only coaches were allowed and just a few per stable. In Colombia, at the moment we are still partially closed in different areas, especially no sport practice is allowed; just professionals in some of the sports that can practice it in open areas, like our sport, is allowed, but even with a lot of restrictions.
Not only has the daily practice of the sport been affected by the current world events, but the prospects and future plans regarding the sport. For example, it is highly possible that this year we will not have any competition in Colombia.
2.How does this affect things?
Well, competitions are postponed, economically everything is very hard for the sport, the leagues and federations, for professionals too because the horse trade also stopped and their competitions too; but on the other hand, many people organised fundraising to support the sport community in our country, also we had the opportunity – thanks to all the possibilities the technology opens – to listen and share time, with great international riders, coaches, judges, that enhance the knowledge of the equestrian community with their experiences. In a way, all the world has had the time to stop and look around and see things differently.
I think these moments are moments of great transformation in sport and in our lives and we should embrace this transformation, this new idea, the new technology and the new ways to be in contact with each other, with the IT platforms.
I have been visiting TT since 2017, with FEI ESEE, with Mercedes Campdera. I really like the country and the way riders take care of the horses, very different to many places in Latin America, here too you can see the English influence. After the FEI ESEE finished, Stollmeyer asked me to come and keep working in developing dressage in Trinidad and Tobago.
3.How do you get riders to trust in themselves and their abilities?
I think that as a rider and coach in all my sport career, I had the opportunity to work with a lot of different coaches, ride many different horses and coach many riders. So, I always learn things from every horse, coach or rider that passed through my life, especially I have learned that I need to trust in myself to be able to achieve a result.
So, I made a tool box of experiences that helps me to transfer my knowledge over the years to the riders. I must say you learn every single day about this. But, at the end, you need to have the trust in yourself to be able to ride a horse and tell him what to do. If you are not sure you will not be able to control him and manage him. It is a matter of everyday work.
4.How can riders break out of their comfort zone, old habits and ways that aren’t working for them?
First you need to realise that you are doing something wrong. Let’s say seating in a bad position to be able to correct the position. As coaches we need to learn to see the position of our riders, learn to find out why things are not working in a proper way, and believe me that is not always easy. But as I said before, you learn every day.
It is also important to use tools we have right now like the possibility to film your ride and analyse it on the spot, that will tell you a lot about the riders’ position and the way the seat is influencing the way the horse is going.
I think, as coaches we need to be able to bring riders out of their comfort zone because it is in that zone where they learn. If you just always do the same thing, well you will always get the same result. So we need to go out of the box and look for other possibilities to be able to get the best out of our riders.
5.What can help to gain confidence to keep going to get you through and over that complicated bump in the road without giving up?
Riding horses is a great thing for our lives, since horses are mirrors from ourselves, so I always like to see the full picture. Not just the complicated bump in the road with my horse, but what is that reflecting from other aspects of my life? At the end is just personal work that will help me to overcome the problems. It is important here to get the support from professionals, like a sports psychologist, to help us to overcome the bump.
6.Are you a big proponent of continued education even for riders with a fairly high-level understanding of riding?
As coaches and riders we always learn, every horse is a new world, our sport evolves all the time, as proof of this is when you look up on the internet the masters of the past and compare them with the masters of the present. There you can see a difference.
With horses, the methodology of training them always evolves and you can always get new ways, new ideas to make the training more friendly or efficient. So a big yes for the question, we always need to continue our education, even if we have a fairly high level of understanding the sport.
7. What possibilities do you see for our TT riders based on your visits over the past few years?
Riders in Trinidad are very engaged with the sport. In your (country), you get the kids riding and competing in dressage and jumping and also, they learn to take care of the horses, I really like this very much. Riders like Patrice Stollmeyer, Luisa Fernandes, and Michelle Sabga Aboud are very good examples to follow since they train their horses and themselves to be able to ride at the higher levels, as I always suggest the possibility to get trained horses and maybe not thoroughbreds.
This will help the younger generations to have more possibilities to ride the FEI Levels according to the age of the children, and I think this is a step that the country needs to start looking for.