Grand Prix international dressage rider Kim Herslow knows that correct position is one of the keys to good riding and her coach of five years, Olympic athlete Debbie McDonald, is a stickler when it comes to position, alignment and balance.
“I think a lot of trainers don’t focus enough on the balance of the rider’s position,” Kim said. “How can you expect your horse to be balanced if you’re not balanced? It’s just not going to happen.”
Debbie helps Kim hone-in on body awareness. This, in turn, allows her to not only be a more effective rider but to also be a top-notch trainer and coach to her students.
“I need to know all the nuances and details that a lot of other people never worry about and don’t recognize as a fault,” she said. “Debbie does and it makes a difference in your horse’s performance and overall softness. I’m big on that, too, when I train people. Once you’re aware of how important your position is and how it affects your horse, then you are more conscientious about being organized.”
Kim said she first rode with Debbie at a clinic at Scott Hassler’s in 2012 when Debbie was one of the instructors. But Kim really got to know her in 2014 when fellow rider Katherine Bateson-Chandler gave her a call asking if Katherine, Laura Graves and Adrienne Lyle could keep their horses at Kim’s Upper Creek Farm in Stockton, New Jersey, before the Festival of Champions in nearby Gladstone.
“They all came up for two weeks and Debbie was training them,” Kim said. “I was able to watch her teach the lessons and I thought, ‘What am I doing? Why am I not with Debbie?’ and that’s when I made the change.”
Kim said that Debbie doesn’t need to say a lot to get the point across during the lessons.
“It’s very straightforward,” Kim said. “There’s no fluff. She doesn’t have to drill me on exercises but she helps me tweak things to a place where I’m effective.”
Debbie’s approach stems from her mission to make the people and the horses she helps successful.
“It’s not just about the lessons,” Kim said. “Whether it’s a question about a piece of equipment or feeding or any number of things that could help you achieve your goals, Debbie is ready to help. She’s kind, big-hearted, straightforward and down-to-earth and I couldn’t ask for more.”