Saturday, March 14, 2015

Karen McGoldrick, Author & Equestrian


Welcome Equestrian and Author Karen McGoldrick! Karen is the Author of The Dressage Chronicles, a two volume venture into the world of horses by Lizzy, a new rider that soon becomes well-schooled in dressage, life, and more. Karen shares insight to her riding and writing…

I began my riding education by answering an ad in our community newspaper for a working student job.  I was only twelve, but the woman had just returned from England where she had earned her BHSAI certificate and was kind enough to take me on as a Guinea pig. It was a great start.

My family did not have the financial means to help out too much, but perhaps that just made me all the hungrier.  I always have felt lucky to have any sort of equine to ride.  It made me stick with whatever I had and learn to train it.  It's the reason I was able to take my $900 Quarter horse through the levels, teaching him one-tempis and piaffe and passage.  He was only competitive in the USDF All Breeds Quarter horse division, but he was a fantastic learning experience for me.

Although winning is a lot of fun, and the comradery of a positive group of people is great fun, the highlights always seem to come when no one is watching.  When you are training there are sublime moments when something finally clicks.  Like the first time you get a flying change in a way where the horse really understands.  Or when you get a supple piaffe on whisper aids.  Or when the horse finds the balance in the canter pirouette and you feel as if you just sit on top of an expanded rib cage and observe rather than direct.  Or when the horse hunkers down in his haunches and rises up in front of you in a powerful yet balanced extended trot.  Those moments usually only happen when you are totally focused and relaxed...a place mentally that is hard to get to in a competitive setting. 

I wrote The Dressage Chronicles as a way to teach about dressage.  I've always loved learning about history and people and all sorts of things through well researched novels. Learning through stories should make things meaningful and hopefully memorable.  It's also such a fun way to learn.  When you start The Dressage Chronicles, Lizzy is an outsider who desperately wants to be a "real" dressage rider.  By the time you finish the third book, she is completely integrated into the dressage world, although still on the journey of becoming a top level rider.  The truth is that I still think I am getting better as a rider and trainer, and no one, even my adored Lizzy gets a high level of proficiency until a great number of years have passed.  I would need to come back to her after many years have passed to find out how far she does go.  But she is in an immersion phase and gets to see the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Without giving my sport a black eye I wanted to show the rough edges too.  Margot is a wonderful and ethical person with a strong maternal instinct. She protects her horses and her students and sees them both as a reflection of her. Lizzy was chosen because Margot recognized something in Lizzy's video, but Lizzy also chose wisely.  

I am in my fifties now, but just now finding the confidence in my own abilities that you need to develop horses.  My current horse "Gia" has been quite a challenge, in a totally different, yet not different way from all my other horses.  They are all horses after all, and she is all mare, as was my last horse, but she is far more defensive.  I've just had to put in some "overtime" with this one.  She is beautiful though and worth the effort.

I had to put book three aside last year to take care of other pressing things, but have picked it back up and am determined to get it out sometime this year.  I am planning on making it the last installment of the series.  But, not to worry.  I have so many more adventures planned with dressage and since writers as a rule feel a compulsion to write, you haven't heard the last of me.

I am a USDF certified dressage instructor (T-4).  I have earned my Bronze, Silver, and Gold USDF rider medals on horses I have trained from youngsters all the way through the levels.  I would say that my own methods are informed from the traditional German and USDF systems and in that sense are completely mainstream. However, since I spent four years at Sweet Briar College studying the LIttauer system of forward seat riding I also am just as happy to get into my jumping position and gallop.  I did get to do a bit of fox hunting and combined training.  I am lucky to have an incredibly talented three-day event sometimes-student who is an absolute genius. In fact my eventing students are some of my favorite to teach.  They understand "desire to go forward!" Good horsemen can be found in almost any discipline, so I like to stay open and when I see something impressive I want to find out more and get behind the scenes.  When I go to the top horse shows in the world I like to sneak over to the warm up arenas (if I can get around security).  That's where the most interesting stuff usually is on display.  Because of my curiosity I will never be bored with a horse or with training. 

Besides writing and riding, I also write free critiques and answer training questions on judgemyride.net.  Signed copies of my books are available at Deeds Publishing.  I am always interested in teaching, either at my farm here in Alpharetta, or in clinics, and of course if you ask me to, I'll pack books for signing or give a reading.

Connect with Karen…





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