Last weekend I had the opportunity to audit a clinic with Eddo Hoekstra at Sonesta Farms in Cypress, Texas. Sonesta Farms is owned and run by Rebecca Pennington.
I first met Eddo a couple of years ago at another barn when a friend said, “You have to come audit this clinician and make sure you bring a notebook.”
So I did just that. I sat alone and just wrote all day long. It was amazing when I look back at those notes and see the notes I took this weekend. While the riders have changed, his teaching has grown, and there are so many things that have remained consistent.
He remains classical in his training and his belief that dressage is good for every horse and every rider. He is steady in his teaching. He does not yell, belittle or berate anyone, and yet somehow he pushes every rider to do what they are not sure they can do.
He sees things in horses and riders that others could easily miss. He finds them because he looks for them. He believes that through correct work every horse and rider can and will improve; they just need to add some tools to the toolbox. He knows if you take the time to learn the basics and the foundation you will also learn to feel. Nothing to him is out of the realm of possibilities—you just need the basics, not tricks.
I watched him work with all types of horses and riders over the four days, and each rider left feeling successful. The riders came in all types. Some riders were in double bridles and some in western saddles with carrot sticks. He treated each horse and rider with the same respect, and while he works within each horse and rider’s abilities, you can certainly see a change in both from the beginning to the end of the lesson.
This time I was not able to ride in the clinic myself as my horse has adopted an orphan foal. So I decided to take advantage of auditing and focusing on my best friend/student Mechelle Sieg and her horse Rena.
Rena is a finished reiner and has competed in working cow horse. She is on her third career and is now doing dressage.
Mechelle loves dressage. She feels it is a journey you make with your horse. With Eddo’s help and classical training you learn to have a relationship with your horse that continues on and off the horse. If you stay on the path long enough you may also find it changes things in your life that are not horse related as dressage with Eddo is a philosophy.
Eddo has lots of saying and seems to know how to talk to you in a way that makes sense to you. One thing he said this weekend was “whatever part of the horse you hold on to is a part that the horse cannot use.”
Eddo also has so many different exercises that he constantly builds on whether this is your first clinic or your 100th. Eddo can help you no matter what level you ride or what your background is. He makes sure you can do the exercises so that your riding improves with just a couple of tweaks. Every time we think we know where he is going, and we can say we have done that one, he changes it so it is a whole new exercise. His exercises help us know where our horse’s feet are, how they are feeling, where they are mentally today and where we are on any given day. He also comes with exercises that I have never seen before so I always make sure I have a notepad close.
While I have ridden with a number of different clinicians, Eddo is the right one for me. I know that clinicians can be like religious leaders and getting a follower to change churches could be easier than getting someone to change clinicians. I am always still open to auditing clinics, and while I ride with Eddo I audit other clinics whenever I can. I want to learn all I can about dressage and often feel like a sponge just looking to soak up knowledge.
Coming from a western background, all of this classical dressage training is logical and makes sense to me somehow. I’ve been blessed enough to have a once-in-a-lifetime relationship with a horse, and we were best friends who ate and slept together. I knew everything about her and she about me. I did things with her that now seem impossible, and when I look back, I shake my head and say, “Why would she let me ride her into a friend’s house, jump off the side of a sand pit and slide down to the bottom and take her into a small tack room to blow dry her?” I also used to wonder if I could ever find that relationship again with a life that is busy and often spinning out of control.
With Eddo’s help and dressage principals I have changed my riding and found the ability to have that childhood relationship with every horse I ride.
If you have a chance, please come audit one of Eddo’s clinics or look him up at www.hoekstradressage.com.