Aleco: What is the best advice that you’ve been given?
Debbie: I would have to say, when it comes to training horses, patience is certainly something that has to be number one. Knowing the limitations of when to stop and not getting greedy.
Aleco: Tell me about “not getting greedy”.
Debbie: “Greedy” is a term I use quite a bit, when I teach. And simply for the reason that people sometimes think they need more, and that more is better. And that’s not the case, necessarily, especially with horses that are learning something new. You want them to enjoy it and not hate it. If you keep drilling, to me, that’s “greedy” and you need to be very aware of that.
Aleco: What is some advice that you would give to an up and coming rider?
Debbie: Get yourself really good eyes on the ground, and some good training. I think a lot of people, in today’s world, unfortunately, don’t have access to trainers, and that it’s really difficult to keep yourself on track, and also know exactly the entire picture of always what you’re doing. And being able to have a great foundation, not just for your horse, but in you, your body, and your foundation, and your core, and strength. It’s the only thing you should be thinking about, in the beginning… is just really focusing on a great foundation.
Aleco: Tell me about why you’re here, today, and what you like about the Rutledge Farm sessions. Debbie: I’m here, today, because I was invited. And I accepted, because I’ve heard nothing but great things about Rutledge Farm and the series that you guys have put on here. I think it’s fantastic to have people that have had the ability to have higher quality training, and worked with really high quality horses, to give people a taste, who might not have that, and to hopefully spark more interest in the area.
Aleco: What are the three most important lessons that you emphasize for your students?
Debbie: Position. That’s a critical thing. You can’t expect a horse to do something well, if you’re sitting off to the side. That would be for me… that’s number one. You can’t expect much out of your horse, if you’re not sitting in the middle and straight, yourself. I would say that would be, for sure, number one. And number two, riders need to be athletes, too. They need to work out. They need to go to the gym.
I know it’s hard, especially for working people, but it’s something that you not only owe to yourself, but you owe to the horse.
Aleco: What would be number three?
Debbie: Again, I would say you’ve got to you’ve really got to pay attention to what you’re doing and have good eyes on the ground. I can’t emphasize that enough, how important it is to training a horse up.
Aleco: What do you wish that you had known at the beginning of your career?
Debbie: Well, I basically had two careers, because I started off in the Hunter/Jumper world. And that was a challenge because it took me a while to learn how to stay on a horse over the jump. But that was the beginning part of my life. My big career was in the dressage world. I would say I wish I had had the opportunity to start with a better foundation, for dressage, before I actually threw myself into it. I felt like I struggled. I never loved my position. When I look at it, in the films that are out there, and any of my test riding, I hated to watch. But I was effective. So in that regard, I guess that was okay.
Aleco: In general, what do you wish more people pay attention to?
Debbie: When it comes to dressage, I wish people would recognize the work and the patience that goes into this discipline and the beauty of training. And I, I just think that it needs…it just needs to have more people involved that can recognize that it’s not an easy thing to do. And it’s an art. And I think it needs to be recognized more as an art.
Aleco: Thank you, Debbie.
Debbie McDonald visiting Brentina in California.
Photo courtesy of Debbie McDonald