October 17, 1997
UW-RF Equine Professor Wins Riding Award
by Ellie Walradth
UW-RF News Bureau
The graceful movements of a horse and rider earned first prize at a national competition.
UW-River Falls equine Professor Sheila Schils was awarded a first place ribbon last month at the American Horse Show Association national finals. "It's not just winning. This award represents that we are doing quality teaching at UW-RF," Schils says.
Schils won the award in the dressage event of the competition, which involves leading a horse through a series of non-jumping movements. The horses are judged on the grace, dynamics and fluidity of their movements.
Schils says that audience members who watch dressage should come away impressed by the beauty of the experience. The movement of rider and horse should evoke the same appreciation as ballet or figure skating.
The performance is actually a partnership between the horse's graceful and pleasing movements that resulted from the rider's proper physiological and psychological training of the animal.
"There is an interesting mental cooperation that doesn't exist in other sports outside of equestrian," Schils says.
Schils attended the competition last month in Mason City, Iowa-one of the host sites for the national show. About 200 riders qualified to participate in nine levels of competition, ranging from beginners to those more advanced.
This is the second consecutive year Schils' and her Dutch Warmblood horse have won at the national competition. She admits this is rather unusual. The horse has showed progressive improvement by winning the training level two years ago, the first level last year and now the third level this year at either the regional or national level.
Hoping her horse will continue to excel, Schils believes that success results from first focusing on day-to-day, short-term goals.
"You keep an eye on where you are now and be happy with the day-to-day progress. As long as you're pleased with yourself and your progress, you'll eventually get better and end up where you want to be."
Schils attributes the award to her broad base of knowledge about managing horses properly. Some critical areas are knowing proper training techniques and understanding nutrition and physiology. The time a trainer actually spends on a horse's back is very minimal in comparison, according to Schils.
Having this hard work pay off and being recognized nationally is quite an honor for Schils.
"I'm pleased that all the hard work has led me to an area that not only I'm happy with, but shows I'm getting support from others in the industry who are saying I'm on the right track."
Schils teaches classes in equine Mamnagement, equitation, biomechanics, kinesiology, advanced dressage, and advanced jumping. Her doctorate in is equine biomechanics and kinesiology.