Regional News

R1 April 2024



Sara MacKenzie  — Region 1 Director

Beth Lindsay, Author

Sara Mackenzie took her horse, Golden Knight, on his first ferry ride to come to Vashon Island for the opportunity to be coached by Kimberlee Barker.

Region 1 riders brushed off the dust—or more aptly, shook off the umbrella—in a late March clinic with top-ranked WE rider and coach Kimberlee Barker.

Barker made the trek from her base in Corvallis, Oregon, to Vashon Island, a small island the size of Manhattan situated between Tacoma and Seattle. Seventeen riders, from those brand new to WE to an adult amateur moving up to compete at L5 this year, participated in the clinic.

Barker is noted for clear, straightforward instruction to which she brings a lot of heart and kindness for both riders and horses. She was able to meet each participant where they were, whether that was working on suppleness in dressage or finding the most efficient lines on the Ease of Handling course. She brought energy and ideas to each lesson and had many exercises to draw upon to try to achieve the desired result.

For one rider, she suggested they sit lighter and hover above the saddle in the transition from canter to trot so the horse could carry them into the downward gait instead of hollowing the back. For another, she suggested posting faster or slower than the horse to make sure the horse is paying attention and following the rider’s seat. For some riders with opinionated horses, she reminded them that they set the plan and the horses should follow it. Transitions within the gait and between gaits help reinforce this and keep the horses waiting for aids.

A seasoned competitor, Barker also shared practical tips for shows. For staying on course during the Ease of Handling phase, she makes sure to look at the number as she enters each obstacle, checking it off her mental list. As a rider who competes at several levels in a single show, she makes sure to bring a copy of the USAWE Rulebook, specifically Table 6-1, the Obstacle Requirements Summary, with her on the course walk to double-check the gait at which each obstacle should be ridden at each level.

The clinic brought together riders across Washington State and from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines, including Western and endurance. As proof that nearly all breeds are suited for WE, the breeds represented included Warmbloods, Quarter Horses, a Georgian Grande, gaited horse, Azteca, Morgan, Friesian, Moriesian, and more. Former three-day event riders outnumbered dressage enthusiasts. Those horses are already well-schooled on the flat and naturally bold to obstacles, shortening their learning curve. All participants embraced the opportunity to learn from a top competitor and knowledgeable coach.

In addition to her dressage bona fides as a USDF bronze and silver medalist and USDF L judge program graduate with distinction, Barker has surged up the USAWE leaderboard in just a few short years of competing at WE. She has ridden two horses to the Masters level and was ranked third and fourth in the nation at Masters in 2023, as well as first in the nation at Intermediate A Open with her Dales Pony that she’s bringing up the levels. Barker is also developing a few young horses and hopes to one day represent the US in international competition.

Kimberlee offered important training guidance and practical information about levels of competition and strategies on course. We all know what an excellent rider she is so her input is especially coveted!<br />

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