• Alanna Flax-Clark

It Takes a Village


This weekend was my last show down here for the season. It was also unexpectedly the end of Adequan Global Dressage show season for the winter. The COVID-19 virus has brought an abrupt end to many sporting events around the world for an unforeseen amount of time. It's been a difficult season down here for me with my health with lots challenges I've had to face, but the highlight of it all has been my time with Taco and at the barn. It's the one thing that always pushes me to get up and start the day. I think partly because of everything I've been dealing with, I've been wanting to push myself even more with my riding. It's something I actually have control over. Every little success is something to celebrate, and something I can celebrate with all the people that help me each and every day. There's no way I could do this alone, and I truly appreciate everybody that makes this possible. From Sara who helps me and talk learn each day and become a better team; to Lily who came down here this winter not really knowing much about para, but stepped up to learn about Taco, the equipment I use, his quirks, my quirks, and didn't bat an eye when asked to help warm him up and teach me when Sara was out of town; to everyone at the barn who's helped me get stuff out of the tack room, help untack or wash Taco, and help at shows.



Last show a couple weeks ago my scores were hovering right below the 70% mark. I made a goal for this show of getting above 70% no matter what I had to do, or how far out of my comfort zone I had to ride. The first day I was riding through my Grade 2 Team Test. I was testing out new reins made for me by Kate Ballard. I only had them for a week and they had such a different feeling to me (the leather has a more elastic feeling and every little movement makes it feels like it's going to break so it tests my balance and is a bit unnerving), but I told Sara I would test them out in the show ring. I pushed myself in the warm up with a very forward trot. I made sure Taco knew who was in charge. We went in and really rode. I felt calm and confident. As we were leaving I heard them call out my score: 72.273%!! I could hardly believe it. I came out 1st out of 7 rides that day. I was so happy.


The next day I was riding my Grade 2 Individual Championship Test. I went in with the same idea. I wanted to push things more. It was all going really well. We went for our lengthening and it was feeling huge so I pushed myself and asked for even more, and that's when he started cantering-- oops! Now, Taco is the type of horse that knows the program for me is only walk/trot. He likes to take care of me and be safe. This is the second time he's ever cantered for me, the first being in a CPEDI in Canada. I have to say I did a really good job of sitting it and pulling him back, and Sara said my face didn't have as much of a look of shock as the first time it happened. As we're pushing for more and I'm learning to hold him up better, I think we're also learning to find our balance; this may have just been a misstep. We received a 67.5% with two 4's. Without those two low marks we would've been up around 72 again. I can't be upset. I'm proud of myself for pushing myself out of my comfort zone and trusting him. There's no way to improve, but to try for more and keep expanding.


The second day my friend Ginny Dixon came out. Ginny, an award-winning photographer, helped to create The Raw Beauty Project, an innovative arts project that celebrates women with disabilities and educating viewers to redefine perceptions and beauty. I was part of the photography exhibit in Los Angeles, which was a collaboration between photographers and women living with various types of disabilities that showcased their beauty, power and passion. Ginny took some photos on Saturday and they perfectly tell the story of my "village" and how grateful I am for all they do. Sara Schmitt Dressage is a truly unique place of people of all ages and backgrounds, but we come together with our common bond of the horse. We celebrate that everyday. Thanks for the beautiful photos, Ginny!





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© 2016 by Alanna Flax-Clark 

Califon, NJ, USA

Contact: aflaxclark@gmail.com 

U.S. ParaEquestrian