Sally Collins is something of a local legend. She’s been a pro for over forty years, is a USEF licensed hunters/equitation judge, and previously held the position of president of the WSHJA. TrainerM, LJO, and InstructorA all lesson with her semi-regularly. The other day I was admiring a horse’s flying changes—guess who put those on? And who judged the IHSA show back in February? And who was doling out advice on the sidelines at the hunter derby I photographed in June? That’s right, Sally Collins.
I’ve never taken a lesson with Sally Collins. She’s a serious, traditional lady, and I’m not a very serious, traditional rider. She’s got a good eye and a blunt way of doling out advice. She’s the type of person that once she starts to teach, the whole ring becomes her arena—high expectations, good work ethic required.
The first rider of the day was training for the Zone 9 Maclay Regionals. She was jumping big fences and Sally was really digging down into the nitty gritty of her performance. The second rider was a six year old that just wanted to have fun bombing around on her pony, Buzz Buzz. Talk about a big difference!
I’m not going to lie, Sally Collins is intimidating. I’ve only ever seen her teach incredibly talented, experienced riders, so a part of me just assumed that she always demanded excellence. When the kids started riding, though, an unexpectedly soft side of Sally Collins came out.
“Imagine yourself succeeding,” Sally told a very nervous young rider. “Picture yourself jumping over it. You’re much better at this than you think you are.”
My biggest takeaway from the clinic was actually something that InstructorA said (that she may or may not have heard from Sally Collins)! She used the phrase “rhythm is balance, pace is distance”—the idea that you can use the rhythm of the horse to help you balance, while the pace that you set helps you find your distance. Rhythm and balance working in harmony is what allows the horse and rider to work as a team.
By the end of the day, I was kicking myself for not taking InstructorA up on her offer to haul Raglan in for the clinic. I had this picture built up in my head that I wasn’t a good enough rider to lesson under Sally Collins, that she would make me feel out of shape and incompetent, but after watching her teach so many riders of differing skill levels, I’m disappointed that I didn’t get to ride, too. You would think by now I’d have learned that it’s always better to say yes when opportunity strikes!