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MDA Turkey Trot Show


Article & photos by Nancy Brannon

The Mid-South Dressage Academy (MDA) finished its 2018 USDF show season with the “Turkey Trot” show the weekend before Thanksgiving, November 17-18. The weekend’s weather featured glorious fall days with sunny skies and temperatures in the 60s.  MDA owner Elizabeth Clifton commented on the show: “Turnout was good, although it wasn’t our biggest Turkey Trot show.  And the weather cooperated. We had riders come from Kentucky, Alabama, Arkansas, Missouri, and, of course, Mississippi and Tennessee. We had every riding level represented, and we had all ages, from young riders to older adults. This was our last show to ride the old tests; the new tests start December first.” Judge for the show was Dolly Hannon, USEF “S” judge from Arvada, Colorado.

The show was particularly memorable for Natasja Kraska-Massey: she made her USDF Gold Medal ride at this show! She was excited and thrilled about her accomplishment, even though her horse Windsor did have a “hiccup” at A during the ride. Overall, it was a good one, earning her over 60%. Natasja had already achieved her Silver Medal.

Natasja is originally from The Netherlands and was a Third level dressage rider when she arrived at MDA with her horse Windsor in 2014. She has had Windsor since he was a two-year-old and has done all the training herself – both are now at Grand Prix level. Windsor is a 15-year-old KWPN. She finds it interesting that Windsor does Grand Prix level dressage barefoot!

Her young three-year-old horse in training, Urso, is a Lusitano/American Bashkir Curly cross, although his dam has the ‘smooth hair’ gene. He turned out to be a gorgeous dappled buckskin color.

Her philosophy of training is “based on the classical riding principles,” she says and writes on Pinterest. She has trained with the classical riders in The Netherlands, such as Anja Beran. “Every rule in the classical riding tradition has an anatomical basis,” she writes. “The word ‘classical’ means nothing more than pure, correct, and practical. So whether you are a novice or Grand Prix rider, the basis should be the same. The work should complement Nature’s law – the aids are designed to help, never to hinder or cause stress or pain.”

Some of her favorite sayings are:

“Classical horsemanship is based on love for the horse…
“It is not the reins! It is the body of the rider which turns the horse.”
“The rider’s hands are not to control the horse, but to feel the horse’s thoughts.”
“If your horse can’t stand, walk, trot, and canter on a loose rein, then that means you are using contact for control and not for communication. This can lead to an anxious horse and dull responses to your aids.” – Warwick Schiller
“For a horse to be in balance, it has to be relaxed…”
“Anything forced and misunderstood can never be beautiful.” – Xenophon
 “When the student is ready, the Master appears.”

Natasja had much praise for MDA owner Elizabeth Clifton. “She wants everyone to have the opportunity to learn dressage and to train with the people they want to train with. Elizabeth makes all kinds of opportunities available to train up the levels. Elizabeth has a big heart for the dressage community.” She mentioned a few of the trainers whom Elizabeth invites to MDA for clinics: Jim Koford, Martin Kuhn, and Debbie Hill.

Natasja has also taken advantage of the ‘L’ Program at MDA. She said she doesn’t really want to be a judge, but the ‘L’ Program helped her improve her training and gave her the judge’s point of view. From this experience she learned how difficult it is to watch a test and then judge it. “In the comments, you can’t give training advice. It was a real eye-opener for me!”

High Points awarded for Saturday rides:
Open:  Jamie Lawrence on her Silas
Adult Amateur : Jennifer Van De Loo on her mare Fair Gold HM
JR:  Jorja Samsel on MDA’s Axel
FEI:  Natasja Massey on her Windsor

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