Norma Paoli: A Journey from Show jumping to Dressage

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Primo piano della dressagista Norma Paoli

Scuderie San Giorgio,  May 8th, 2024 – In the serene ambiance of Scuderie San Giorgio, nestled amidst the rolling hills of Italy, we had the pleasure of sitting down with Norma Paoli, an esteemed figure in Italian dressage. HSJ , traversed through the intricacies of Norma’s illustrious career, her training methodologies, and her profound connection with horses.

Norma’s journey into the world of dressage began as a divergence from her roots in show jumping, an unexpected turn prompted by her husband’s suggestion. “I was born and raised in Trentino, where dressage was relatively unknown compared to show jumping and eventing,” she reminisced with a hint of nostalgia. “But my husband, recognizing my potential beyond the jumps, encouraged me to explore dressage, igniting a new passion within me.”

“It’s his fault I am into dressage now.” She laughingly added to the conversation.

Transitioning from the adrenaline-fueled world of show jumping to the refined discipline of dressage was a journey marked by dedication, re adaption but the triumphs also came very soon . “While I achieved success in show jumping at regional and international levels,” Norma reflected, “the transition to dressage presented new challenges and opportunities for growth. It demanded a shift in mindset and technique, requiring a deeper understanding of subtlety and finesse.”

She said “My husband always saw the potential in my flat work therefore one day he surprised me with a dressage horse, it was not an easy horse but he knew I could handle the challange” she continues “in fact after a very short partnership together with that horse I came into third place at the Italian dressage championships and that was kind of the turning point of my career”

Norma’s training philosophy is a testament to her reverence for the partnership between horse and rider. together with her husband

Italo Chirocchi they run an high level dressage facility in which they train dressage riders at all levels.

“Dressage is not merely about executing movements with precision,” she asserted. “It’s about establishing a profound connection and mutual trust with the horse, a partnership built on respect, communication, and empathy.”

As our conversation delved into Norma’s coaching style, her passion for nurturing talent shone brightly. “As a coach,” she explained, “my goal is to cultivate not just skilled riders, but compassionate and empathetic equestrians. I aim to instill in my students a deep respect for the horse, emphasizing the importance of patience, understanding, and collaboration.”

Discussing her favorite training techniques, Norma emphasized the importance of variety and creativity in her approach. “I believe in keeping training sessions dynamic and engaging,” she stated emphatically.

“From hill work to cavaletti exercises, each session is meticulously crafted to challenge the horse both physically and mentally, promoting strength, suppleness, and responsiveness.” In Norma’s stable things run very different than in other dressage stables “ I like to keep the horses happy, I don’t want them to get bored from training over and over the same things, we do that mostly for the riders and not for the horses, they know the choreography’s off by heart.”

She explained to HSJ “ In fact everyone thinks that the horses doing the same things over and over could have a positive outcome in them, however that is the most challenging aspect of this discipline, because the horses can get mentally tired from having to do the same things, this is why sometimes with my students I like to include pole work in our training sessions just to keep them interested in the work we are doing”

Freestyle routines, with their blend of artistic expression and technical precision, are a highlight of dressage competition. Norma shared insights into her creative process when choreographing freestyle performances. “Selecting the right music for a freestyle is a collaborative effort between horse and rider,” she revealed. “The music sets the rhythm and tone of the performance, creating a seamless harmony between movement and melody.”

Norma also mentioned that she likes the horses to choose the music with her, and as funny as that might sound, she really listens to the horses reaction when it comes to the music she chooses. “One time I was at CDI and all of a sudden the music from the rider that was competing went off and I realized my horse started to grow with the music, and really dance to the beat of that soundtrack, that’s when I realized I had to give some “voice” to the horse when it comes to choosing the music for my freestyles” Norma stated.

Throughout our discussion, Norma’s passion for dressage resonated deeply, underscoring her dedication to the sport. Her journey from show jumping to dressage serves as a testament to her resilience, adaptability, and unyielding love for horses.

Norma Paoli’s story is one of inspiration and determination, a testament to the transformative power of passion, perseverance, and partnership. As she continues to leave an indelible mark on the world of dressage, Norma’s legacy as a champion rider, mentor, and advocate for equine welfare will endure for generations to come.

V. Sozzi

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