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Wed, 2017-06-07 08:22

Featured Clinician: Phyllis Dawson

Authored By: Kira Topeka

The Featured Clinician article series is being provided through a partnership between Event Clinics and the USEA.

Phyllis Dawsons’s dedication to horse and rider advancement includes serving as an Olympic Team Selector on the USEF Eventing Selection Committee, holding a faculty position with the USEA Instructors' Certification Program and judging the USEA Future Event Horse program.

As a veteran of the U.S. Eventing Team, her list of rider accomplishments includes top placings at four-star events all over the globe, as well as the highest-placed U.S. rider at the Seoul Olympic Games in 1988, where she finished 10th. Today she runs an extensive training and boarding operation at Windchase, her farm in Purcellville, Va.

Each winter, she holds a series of popular jump clinics in the Windchase indoor that are open to riders of all levels. Event Clinics stopped by to ask her about her teaching philosophy and what she looks for in riders.

For Dawson, riders who stand out are those who truly want to build and enhance their skills. She says, “I like most teaching those students who are really enthusiastic about learning, whatever their level.”

Not all training techniques work for all horses. Having developed hundreds of horses and riders, Dawson knows every trick in the book. She notes, “I love the process of figuring out what approach is best for each individual horse in order to help the horse and rider form a great partnership.”

To accommodate busy schedules, horse and rider levels are often mixed at Windchase clinics. She explains, “It’s important to watch the other horses and riders as well, because you can learn a lot that way.”

As a Beginner Novice rider, you might pick up techniques watching an upper level rider on a green horse tackle the same questions.

“I adjust my teaching style somewhat depending on the student,” she says. “With the serious students who want to go to the upper levels I am more demanding, and for the less experienced or nervous rider I gear the lesson toward confidence building.

Dawson designs her winter clinic series to developing skills through an evolving set of jump exercises. Lessons evolve from grids and cavalettis to coursework through the winter. Heading into spring, clinics turn to cross-country questions in the indoor in preparation for competition season. If the weather cooperates, the final clinics are held on the Windchase cross-country course.

The goal at Dawson’s clinics is always fun and education. “I really do believe in the motto ‘It’s the journey, not the destination.’ My goal is to have the rider go away from the lesson realizing they could do more than they thought they could!”

For more information about Phyllis Dawson and her clinics, visit
You can find more upcoming clinics with your favorite top riders at or on the USEA's Educational Activities Listings.


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