Classical Dressage Training in Spain

by Hidden Trails 06/01/2010

My name is Kim Yotko.  My husband and I own and operate Fox Meadow Farm Riding School in Haymarket, Virginia.  As an American Riding Instructor’s Association Certified Riding Instructor in both Hunt Seat and Dressage, I understand the need for continuing education and I embrace any opportunity to do so, both in and out of the saddle.

In the pursuit of higher learning, I journeyed to Epona Equestrian Center, in Seville, Spain along with three of my most enthusiastic dressage students to participate in the Rafael Soto Clinic.  Our goal was to improve upon our classical dressage seat and to clarify aids.  Also, we were extremely interested in learning more about the Andalusian breed.

Our group had such a fabulous time at Epona that I feel compelled to praise them and to share with you a brief synopsis of our experience.

Upon arrival we were thrilled to meet Fernando Garcia.  He and his wife, Jane are the owners of Epona Equestrian Center.  They and their staff provided the perfect environment for Dressage emersion.  Every detail was taken care of for us.  A 16th century Hacienda served as our accommodations, we dined upon delicious home-made gourmet food, and we were carefully matched up with gorgeous, classically trained Andalusian mounts.  All we really had to do was think about dressage!  I remember thinking that this was like a dream that had finally come true!
 
Their intensive program of lunging lessons and training classes with Caty Garcia was designed to accustom us to our horses and the techniques that would be used by Raphael later in the week.  In addition to working on our positions, we focused on stretching techniques and plenty of lateral work.  Thanks to our work with Caty we felt like we were set up for success.

Upon completion of our prep work, we were finally ready to ride with Rafael Soto.  What a pleasure!  This 2004 Olympic Silver Medalist was extremely encouraging and enthusiastic about his teaching.  He was very generous with imparting his vast wisdom and knowledge to each and every one of our rides.  It was almost as if he was riding every step right with us as we half-passed, piaffed, and passaged around the arena!  Rafael Soto is truly an ambassador to his sport.

I also must express how amazing an experience it was to ride their lovely and talented P.R.E. horses!  I enjoyed my mount Seneca so much that I actually regretted having to take a break to eat and sleep because it meant that I would have to dismount.
 
Now that I have returned from the clinic, I have noticed that my horses are happier than ever with my riding.  I am full of new inspiration, along with an enhanced appreciation for the Art of Classical Dressage, and of course, I now dream of owning an Andalusian some day!

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