Ocala, Fla. – January 23, 2021 – Women from all over North America flocked to Ocala, Florida for the first official C-6 Equestrian symposium which kicked off Saturday morning. Attendees were greeted with Taylor Swift’s song Shake It Off blasting over the farm speakers and a warm welcome from USDF Silver Medalist and an accomplished FEI dressage competitor: Mette Larsen and the entire C-6 Equestrian team. From the moment the riders stepped foot in the ring, there was an overwhelming feeling of female empowerment and immediate community. This unique and real environment is the genius invention of acclaimed Sport & Performance Psychologist: Dr. Jenny Susser, CCI5* Eventer and United States Equestrian Team rider: Sinead Halpin Maynard, and Mette Larsen – comprising C-6 Equestrian team.
This weekend’s event focused on energy for confidence and connection in horsewomen. The group, known for their slogan “How Women Do It,” touched on more than just confidence and connection. The other four C’s: communication, commitment, culture, and community were also integrated into the first day of the weekend’s events, completing the six C’s behind the brand. A far cry from the average clinic, the symposium started off with engaging interactions between the three clinicians and the audience. Females trekked as far as Wisconsin, Detroit, and even Vancouver, Canada for the two-day event in hopes of learning how better to improve their confidence and connection not only with their horses but also in themselves as riders and as women.
The key takeaways from Saturday’s session were the four stages of energies that both humans and horses exist within. Dr. Susser explained how different kinds of people and horses, such as introverts, extroverts, and anxious personalities, fluctuate throughout the four stages: high-positive, low-positive, high-negative, and low-negative. While most riders feel as though they or their horses perform best in a high-positive mindset, it is too taxing on the mind and the body to stay there for extended periods of time. The goal for the participants was to have themselves and their mounts stay within a low-positive mindset where the best performance is achieved. Staying in this state creates responsiveness which is key to communication between horse and rider.
While people can circle all four quadrants, Larsen explained that most horses intersect the graph on a diagonal, flipping from low-positive to high-reactive, acting as the fight or flight instinct in our equines. While this is a natural state for the horses to live in at certain moments, high-performance mounts can fall victim to being pushed into the high-negative mindset in order to get “performance energy.” Mistaken for increased impulsion and energy stores, this is the most draining of all the four categories and leads to the “strung-out” mount. A tearful Larsen touched on how the low-negative is the most dangerous of all the stages. She recounted her personal experiences with mistreated equines and describing the last stage as: “the horses that have been mistreated or misunderstood and would rather lay down that continue on.”
After the group discussed where they and their horses fell within the energy graph, Halpin Maynard and Larsen climbed aboard their horses Jaru and Attila for the “mic’d up” demonstration ride portion of the symposium. The two internationally recognized riders discussed their mount’s unique characteristics and behaviors while walking the audience through their warm-up and training style step-by-step. Though the two mounts could not have been more different, both of the riders stressed softness and patience above all else. While they were both riding to get a specific feeling out of their horses, they did not have specific goals set riding and “reacting” to what kind of energy their horse was giving off. Larsen’s young mare had only been ridden a handful of times in the past few months after being overfaced and over-trained during her early years before she came into her care. She explained how exactly she was transitioning her mount from a high-negative state of mind to a low-positive state. Through softness, lightness, and rewards Larsen was able to help the mare transition in under twenty minutes.
Halpin Maynard and her horse Attila took their time in the warm-up and focused on their transitions and fluidity in their gates. Attila, who had recently recovered from serious health scares, is now very sensitive to aids and requires patience and communication with his rider. The 4* eventer talked the audience through her process of asking and rewarding in order to bring Attila back to the desired mental state.
After the professionals demonstrated their riding style, the first of four mounted students took to the ring. All presented with varying insecurities they were hoping to overcome and goals they were looking to accomplish over the course of two days. Though, these were not your average clinic takeaways. There was absolutely no talk of heels down, elbows in, or fixing one’s seat. Instead of teaching the devices of riding, Larsen and Halpin Maynard focused on listening and responding to what each rider’s horse was trying to tell them.
All throughout the day, the women in the audience were encouraged to speak up and participate in the mini-lesson themselves. From cultural norms such as apologizing for their successes to dealing with anxiety over potential failure to changing horsewomen’s belief systems, the three women utilized riding as the medium to talk about deeper rooted issues within not just the equestrian community, but also the corporate world and everyday life. Day one of the Confidence and Connection symposium was equally as fun and educational as it was raw and inspirational.
Top quotes from day one:
“There are good trainers and good horsemen but they are not always the same.”
-Sinead Halpin Maynard
“Collect accurate data. When analyzing your day was it actually bad? Instead of collecting all the negative data that we are conjuring up focus on the real positives. Positive before negative.”
-Dr. Jenny Susser
“When you are riding make sure that you are preparing. Make sure to have a walkable canter and a canterable walk.”
The symposium continues tomorrow, Sunday, January 24 with more rides and lessons from the C-6 Equestrian team.