A rider should know what their horse is capable of doing. James “Shea” Walsh, Irish Olympic dresage team member, who competed in the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games, and is a United States Dressage Federation, Bronze, Silver and Gold Medalist, will be conducting a clinic to benefit Equine Rescue of Aiken at the facility on Saturday Nov. 17. All the proceeds from the clinic will be donated to the rescue.

The primary focus of Saturday’s dressage clinic will be to educate people, and for people to realize that training a horse isn’t a set formula, said Walsh, in a phone interview Wednesday morning.

“You have to know the capability of a horse, what its limitations are, how far it can go up the levels, and when not to push,” said Walsh.

The fundamentals of dressage help every horse, especially in the three Olympic disciplines of dressage, eventing and show jumping, said Walsh.

“If the horse is a better athlete, more sure of himself, the better the relationship between the rider and the horse,” said Walsh.

The horseman’s goal is to get riders to do certain exercises with their horses, more difficult exercises, to build a horse’s ability in stages, and to find out what they’re capable of doing.

“You want to make it easier in a way that it doesn’t stress them,” said Walsh.

The emphasis should be on the connection from the back to the front, and to try to get the horse to straighten, he said. Walsh’s goal is to make the movement easier for the horse, improving reaction and balance, so the horse actually does it themself.

“A horse in nature doesn’t go straight,” said Walsh. “You have to make a horse ambidexturous; make the horse equal.”

A more educated approach has to be used in dressage, so the horse develops the ability to do something gradually without being stressed, he said.

“You can’t do dressage without being passionate about it,” said Walsh. “I’ve had the good fortune to go in big competitions in Europe and around the world.”

Saturday’s clinic is placing an emphasis on how the dressage training method is beneficial to the horse.

“People speak of the old masters,” said Walsh. “Today, we have a a lot more resources, more scientific knowledge, and a better idea of biomechanics. We evolve with our own knowledge as well as taking from the old masters. We take what we know now and make it better.”

Walsh’s approach to training finds him tapping into his great breadth of knowledge and experience, enabling him to refine his training methodology.

“We’re breeding better horses, more sensitive horses with a more sensitive psyche.” said Walsh. “The older types of methods have to change to suit these types of horses.”

For more information and to make reservations, call Katharine Parrish at 904-476-2011.