Equestrian Training at Eastward
Eastward offers all levels of horse and rider training from beginner to Grand Prix; a full range of trainers is available who can customize the training program to the clients’ individual needs and desires. The farm’s focus is adult amateurs whose goals range from simply becoming better buddies with their equine partners, to advancing their own knowledge, to showing at the highest levels. One of the farm’s highlights is the spirit of friendly supportive cooperation among all the professionals, the clients, and the staff.
Catherine McWilliams, the owner, hails from California. In fact, the farm name Eastward is derived from her family home Seaward, which was on the water in her home state. She is a bronze and silver USDF medalist and trained in dressage with Hector Rodriquez, 1988 Olympic dressage competitor from Columbia, South America; Franz Rochowansky, former chief rider of Spanish Riding School in Vienna; USDF Hall of Famer Karl Mikolka; Ronald Postleb; Lisa Postleb Kaptein. She has also studied natural horsemanship with Kenny Harlow, specializing in trailer loading.
Catherine focuses on alignment, symmetry, and balance to create a supple and harmonious horse and rider partnership. She teaches beginner through PSG, and is especially gifted in helping early stage riders bring the nuances of the sport into focus.
Shinto Farm (shintodressage.com) established in 2000 by Trish Helmer and Michelle Dineen, helps clients identify, achieve, and exceed their riding dreams. Trish, a dressage rider/trainer professional for over 50 years, has a passion and flair for education, advancing clients’ riding skills through a comprehensive training plan and ‘eyes on the ground.’ Michelle schools clients, and their equine partners, to be their best and truest selves.
Raised in the Midwest, Trish Helmer sat on her first horse as a toddler. Visiting a farm with her uncle, she was mesmerized by horses’ size and smoothness, and with her family’s support and encouragement, rode whenever, wherever, however, and with whomever she could. She got her first pony at twelve, and rode him everywhere, like a bicycle. She advanced to more formal studies with Chuck Grant, the “Father of American Dressage.” She went on to build her classical repertoire with top trainers Chrislot Boylen-Hanson, Egon von Neindorf, Dianna Rankin, George Thedorescu, Walter Zettl, Hank Van Bergen, Kyra Kyrklund, and Patrick Le Rolland.
With over 50 years’ experience riding, training, and teaching, Trish is dedicated to riders’ educations, and is passionate about helping clients refine their riding skills. She has trained many individuals to the Grand Prix level and is considered one of the dressage world’s hidden treasures. Trish’s greatest joy is teaching, seeing riders develop, and passing on her wealth of knowledge. As a result, she is in great demand as a clinician throughout the US.
Michelle Dineen comes from a military family and moved every two years. She started her career as an avid Pony Clubber, and took up eventing at 8 years old in Steamboat, CO. She loved jumping and cross country, and needed to sharpen up her dressage skills. She’d heard about a dressage trainer, Trish, who was coming to their base at the time (Wright-Patterson AFB near Dayton, Ohio), and she scraped together money for a single private lesson. She was hooked right away, and began working with Trish regularly. She continued eventing through Preliminary level, One Star, and shortly after that, decided to devote herself entirely to dressage, and to partnering with Trish. For the last 20 plus years, she has focused on bringing dressage horses along to national and FEI levels. She has trained with Henk Van Bergen, Patrick Le Rolland, Lars Peterson, Scott Hassler, Christoph Theallet, Jacqui Brooks, Rob Waine, and Ben Franklin.
Michelle is a sympathetic rider who customizes her programs to the individual needs of the horse and owner. With her emphasis on the dressage training scale, horse and rider pairs make steady progress, and her early training and experience gives her philosophy a comprehensive thoroughness. Her students, mostly adult amateurs, compete at all levels – local, regional, and National, as well as CDI. Michelle always enjoys working with students who are committed to the educational journey and working on their personal bests.
Guest Trainers (Limited Availability)
Lisa Postleb Kaptein (LPKDressage.com) rode her first horse at 3 under the instruction of her father, dressage trainer Ronald Postleb. She began showing as a youngster and spent her teenage summers in Germany, where she interned at multiple facilities. She received her Bereiter FN (Professional Degree in Horsemanship through the German Riding Federation) in 2003, having trained with German masters George Theodorescu and Klaus Balkenkhol, and remained overseas training and presenting horses for sale and competition, from 3 year olds to Grand Prix veterans.
Since 2006, she has built a career in training, teaching, showing, and sales here in the United States. She has personally taken many horses to success at the National level, as well as several students and their horses. She has an intuitive understanding of horse personalities and she is quickly able to get the best from each one of them. Emphasizing the importance of a solid foundation in the German training system, Lisa helps clients achieve their goals by creating balance, strength, and harmony between horse and rider.
Mark Gomez of Hilltop Polo and Positive Results Training, has been training horses of all breeds and disciplines for over forty years, using natural horsemanship methods. He grew up on a dairy farm, and secretly wanted to be a cowboy, despite being from northwest Connecticut. When their father bought them a pony, Mark and his siblings rode mostly bareback, practicing roping and cow chasing. His herd expanded to a string of fifty, following which he went to Oregon to work at a ranch.
On his return to Connecticut, and almost by accident, he began a lifelong working partnership with Leslie Desmond. They were mutually bitten by the polo bug, and through his work with her, playing polo, and training polo horses, he expanded and refined his training beliefs. Incorporating the influences of John Lyons, Ray Hunt, Bill and Tom Dorrance, and more recently Warwick Schiller and Tristan Tucker, Mark fosters relaxation, balance, and impulsion – the core foundation of training.
Mark believes “every horse, pony, donkey, mule” can be in charge of their own feelings and his training provides strategic ways for them to practice handling their natural flight, fight, or freeze instincts.
In recent years, the dressage community has embraced natural horsemanship as a pathway to greater suppleness and stability. Mark works with horses on the ground, under saddle, or at liberty, offering them and their human partners the opportunity to gain clarity and completely synchronize with one another.
In addition to training and offering clinics, Mark is a farrier, a polo umpire, and an Associate Professor at Post University in Waterbury, CT, teaching Equine Communication.
Eastward has held workshops in:
Alexander Technique for Riders
Long Line Training
Practicing Your Musical Ride