Dressage


Dressage (a French term meaning "training") is a path and destination of competitive horse training, with competitions held at all levels from amateur to the Olympics. Its fundamental purpose is to develop, through standardized progressive training methods, a horse's natural athletic ability and willingness to perform, thereby maximizing its potential as a riding horse. At the peak of a dressage horse's gymnastic development, it can smoothly respond to a skilled rider's minimal aids by performing the requested movement while remaining relaxed and appearing effortless. Dressage is occasionally referred to as "Horse Ballet." Although the discipline has its roots in classical Greek horsemanship, mainly through the influence of Xenophon, dressage was first recognized as an important equestrian pursuit during the Renaissance in Western Europe. The great European riding masters of that period developed a sequential training system that has changed little since then and classical dressage is still considered the basis of trained modern dressage.

Early European aristocrats displayed their horses' training in equestrian pageants, but in modern dressage competition, successful training at the various levels is demonstrated through the performance of "tests," or prescribed series of movements within a standard arena. Judges evaluate each movement on the basis of an objective standard appropriate to the level of the test and assign each movement a score from zero to ten - zero being "not executed" and ten being "excellent." A score of nine (or "very good") is considered a particularly high mark, while a competitor achieving all sixes (or 60% overall) should be considering moving on to the next level.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Youth Webinars

I thought it might be fun to share a bit about what I am now doing with my Youth Webinars. They are going great and as we move forward I am hoping to be able to bring some mindset and focusing tactics to our talented youth riders. The concept of our webinars is not specific to Dressage or Horseback riding necessarily, however, I do believe that the girls that are already participating in horse sports have a special motivation to find connection, confidence and clarity. It is because of these special attributes that our group is creating an amazing bond.
             I started my webinars because I travel too much. I love my horse life and I am truly grateful for all of the opportunities I have had. Being in Florida in the winter is amazing, and being able to train and shown in Europe is a dream come true. However, making these decisions also put on the back burner my love of children and working with them in their riding and life skills. As I now look at my 55 birthday, it is now or never. I love riding, I love competing, I love training and I want to contribute to our youth. I had made an effort to do this in others ways over the years, however, I always fell short of my goals. Two years ago I "went back to school" and now I feel better equipped to give the gifts I am so passionate about.
             Many of you know a bit about me, some of you know less. As a child I grew up with everything I could need or want. My parents were young parents and had more kids in less years than their lives could handle easily. I was the oldest and very early on I turned to horses to find connection and discipline. I had some times growing up where I was not disciplined! And if not for my dedication to riding I know that I would not be here today. The horses helped me get up in the morning, push myself to be better and stay focused.
                The thing is that in those days I was left to make my connection with my horse on my own. I did not have a lot of lessons early on, yes I had lessons, but not a private lesson everyday,  and if I did not make a connection with my horse, or pony, nothing felt right. I look around today and I feel that this can sometimes be missing in our kids education. The desire for the kids to succeed in the show ring is overriding the overall confidence and mindset the kids need to really be successful over time in dressage and in life. This is where I can have an impact. I have been there and I know how it feels and I want to open the door for our kids to find themselves and bring their unique style to the world. Dressage is strict, accurate and demanding. HOWEVER! To be good at it you also have to have feel, patience and compassion! I love it!! 
                 Last nights webinar (or coaching call) as I prefer to call it, was so inspiring! Thank you to all of the girls who show up! Not only show up and I can see you are there, but that you participate! Ask questions, make suggestions, support each other. This is what I have dreamed about creating for so long. I love my one on one interactions in person, I love teaching kids to ride, but here I can reach out and support people that are not able to get to me in person. Thank you technology :)

                      If you have any interest in joining our calls please send your email address to nancylaterdressagehorses@gmail.com

                      Be youthful in your approach~
                             Remember anything is possible~
                                    Connection is the key~
     
                         Nancy
             

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Regional Championships

          Two weeks ago I took Glorious and Enzo to the NEDA Fall Show and Regional Championships. I had planned to show Glorious in the Prix St. Georges and Inter 1 Finals, and Enzo in the 4 th Level Finals. A mistake by me in the paperwork created the situation that although Glorious had gotten his scores to be qualified at both levels he could not do the Inter 1 Final, and Enzo's great progress made it possible for us to Qualify him for the PSG Final as well as 4Th Level. Not to be one to step down, but instead step up I pushed myself to ride Glorious in the CDI. For many people this is not a big step. For Glorious this is super special because he has been so sick with breathing and digestive issues that to be able to do a show without the possibility of support from medications was a risk and ultimately fabulous!
           Glorious did a wonderful job at the show. He is always super attentive and does not get easily distracted. His energy throughout the summer with his new health has been building and we are even becoming more confident in the double bridle. His Prix St. Georges was super fun for me. The warm up much like a normal horse, where I did not need to be careful not to do too much, so he was loose and swinging in the test. Yes, there is room for more cadence and strength, but we are progressing, and that is so fun! It was a small class and his 67% was good enough for second place. I was happy to be second, ecstatic actually! However, I was most joyful about the test and how he felt, it has been a long time since he has really been himself, its been a long road and he is coming back!
            The Inter 1 did not go as well, he was a bit too playful, tight in his back and bucking around a bit. I was still happy! I need to learn to ride my new horse! He has not had so much to give the second day of a competition, and although the timing was bad, the future is bright.
            I had the good fortune to ride Glorious with Rein van der Schaft last weekend at Bear Spot Farm, thank you Jane Karol and Dottie Morkis for including me, it was really  special. We were able to work Glorious through all of the Grand Prix movements, happy and confident and strong. Rein is a super instructor and gets the most out of his horse/rider combinations in a clear, positive and encouraging way. I was so proud of how far Glorious has come over this past year and how confident he is in his piaffe work.
             Enzo has much less experience showing. We prepared for the Finals by bringing him to Saugerties in August, however the rain at that show prevented us from doing more than one test. I am happy to have had him there at least for that, as the big show atmosphere is overwhelming for him. One could look at his awesome results and not know how hard he had to work in order to do so well. We schooled Enzo thursday around his show arena and in the ten minute ring, for his confidence and to get some of the juice out simply working. He had a class sunday also and I did not want to use him up simply because of adrenaline. We then walked over and around the big warm up where he would have to start the next day. Some horses were working there, he looked around and was quite happy so we went home. The next day dawned cold and windy. I took Enzo out for an early morning stroll to his show ring in hand. He was great, wanted to eat the flowers and grazed a bit on the nibbles that were around the outside of the ring. I had confidence that he was beginning to understand the people moving over his head in the VIP and was getting relaxed with the golf carts and other commotion that was not on ground level, as in the other shows he has been too. He had time to look and take it in, I also asked for him to take time and pay attention to me and did my ground work turns and he was listening. By the afternoon it had not warmed up, nor had the wind subsided. The big warm up was filled with horses and riders that were nervous and uncomfortable. Enzo stayed with me the best he could, but he was not super comfortable in his body. I believed in his confidence in the arena, however, I did want to do some movements in the warm up so that he felt fluent to do the Prix St. Georges. When the dividing wall in the middle of the warm up fell down beside us and all the other horses ran for cover, Enzo stayed with me, thank goodness, but it was time to make another plan of attack for our test that was in 15 minutes. We did transitions. I had boasted to my girls in camp, " if you make well ridden transitions your horse knows what he needs to do to get through any test, you do not need to waste your horse in the warm up". Well here was my chance to put my money where my mouth was. I could not canter comfortably, to many crazy horses with non steering partners, so after one short canter right and left and lots of walk trot, trot walk and big trot and small trot transitions we moved to the 10 minute ring. I believed in Enzo, he knows what he needs to know to do this Prix St. George. I did a couple of changes in the ten minute ring and some small and big canter and off we went. Knowing that you are prepared and did your homework brings confidence. When we got to the show ring Enzo took a deep breath, taking the extra time with him in the morning payed off. Although his body was not quite where I wanted it to be his mind was with me 100% and when you feel that, you know everything will work out. He put in a great test! Most of the test he was right with me, I lost him once in the canter, but we both kept our cool and got back in sync quickly. It was only his third PSG and he was 3 rd in a huge class of super performers with 69%. I was delighted. Not just because of the test, but because of how he kept himself together to get to the ring. It seems like doing the movements is the most important thing to many people, no, teaching your horse to listen and trust you is the most important thing. Without his trust I would never have been able to ride those movements that day. And on a side note, for me Enzo won the PSG because he was able to go to the awards ceremony and trot around without a handler ;)
               We schooled lightly saturday, he had to go back to the big warm up, he was a trooper, but no need to use him up, we got loose and happy and went home. It was fun with all of his fan club there to watch and as a team we decided he did not have to work hard.
                 Sunday morning we went for our little stroll around the arena. The wind was back and some of the horses were set on fire by the flags. He decided to be a horse in horse land for a brief moment, and then changed his mind and realized that our world together seemed much better. We did our ground work pattern and some other ground exercises and he was back focused on his job and his body started to breath again. The warm up for the 4 th level was less crowded and he was happier, but not quite in front of me. I had to wait for the 10 minute ring to really ask for him to get in front of me, but in the warm up we were really able to find the suppleness and swing we needed for the test. The second I sat in the saddle sunday I felt there were no nerves to break up our connection. He was right there under me and that was a great feeling. The test was wonderful. Enzo put in a huge effort and won the 4 th level championship with 72%. The hard work payed off.
                So as I look back at this past year with Glorious and with Enzo there are so many people to thank. Glorious would not be mine if not for the support of my husband, who so many years ago helped me to import him to the U.S. Of course my parents who continue after all of these years to travel to my horse shows and watch me ride since I was a little girl. Glorious would not be healthy if not for the constant care and attention of Dr. Brett Gaby, Dr. Meg Miller and body worker extraordinaire Jamie Cohen. His feet have been a constant project and thanks go to Michael Boylan for showing me how happy he can be on his feet, and in the summer Tim Bolduc for saving the day to get him happy and put his shoes back on after he leaves them in the field. Thank you also to my amazing friends Nancy Solomon, Andrea McCauley and Kyrena Parkinson for guiding me through the darker times with him and helping me to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
                Enzo has a super fan club and support team, without who we would never have made it to the Region 8 Championships. Thank you Karen and John Barth for trusting Enzo to my care and training, your support, energy and belief  has created an amazing team. Thank you Vicky Canuso, Andrea McCauley and Mac Rider Saddler Henriette for all of your time, energy and support through this journey. Of course his team of professionals Dr. Brett Gaby, Tim Bolduc and Jamie Cohen, who we would never be where we are without your help.
         And a special thank you is also due to the people that have contributed to my ability to build a partnership. Thank you Conrad Schumacher for being strict with me about my seat and application of the aids, thank you for teaching me that horses can and will want to participate if ridden correctly. Huge thank you to Tristan Tucker for opening my mind to all of the possibilities. Meeting and working with you has forever changed my training, and I will always be grateful.
             Thank you must also go to all of the people that created the show, NEDA, Centerline Events and all of the CDI staff. THANK YOU! We had a great time, and you did an awesome job.
                 Big Thank you to Michael Bateman for his awesome care this summer. He has taken our precious cargo to shows, clinics and sadly to Veterinary Clinics. I don't like to spread the word about our beloved team for fear they will get too busy for us! However, we must give credit where credit is due and I am extremely grateful to everyone who has helped us this summer.
         There is one unsung hero that without him non of this would have happened. I have the most amazing support team at home, Huber Aguilar, who takes care of everyone while I am home and makes me feel safe to leave. Huber works hard, loves his horses and keeps me on track. He is absolutely the rock solid foundation to an amazing team. Thank you Huber for all of your hard work and sense of humor we could never have done this without you.
             I wrote this to give everyone a little taste of the road. We look at the people in the winners circle and it looks wonderful, we want to be there, we want this success. Honestly, if you don't enjoy the road to the top you will not get there and if you get close it will not be worth it. Building a partnership with these two animals, that is the success. Taking them into the ring and having them want to do the tests and be the best for me and their teams, that is the success. The ribbons are just that, ribbons, they can never replace the feeling, and the memories of this goal oriented summer. I hope this brings value to you and your journey.

                     Go out and ride with confidence ~clarity~connection

                                        Nancy
               
             

Monday, August 20, 2018

Be Youthful in Your Approach

            Upon returning from a show this weekend I had a lot to think about. Not only from the show, but also from an amazing coaching call we had earlier in the week.
This blog entry is dedicated to Olivia Suker, with Love

Lately I have been signing out:
                   Be Youthful in Your Approach
                   Know Anything is Possible
                   Connection is the Key

                 I love these three points, and interestingly, the more I think about them, and live with them in the forefront of my mind and decision making, the more value they bring.
                 I have to say it is funny how that happens.

                So let's start with;
                                                     Be Youthful in Your Approach

               Many years ago I had the occasion to be invited to watch Hubertus Schmidt in one of his first private clinics in the US. He was riding several super horses that had been trained by him in Germany and then purchased by this nice lady that allowed me, and my partner at the time, to come watch. It was a fabulous experience to say the least. My fist impression of Hubertus was how playful he was in his riding. How he approached every exercise in a relaxed and non egotistical manner really struck a cord with me. His posture seemed to blend with the horses natural movement rather than manipulate it, his joy was effervescent. When money and horses are combined there can become a pressure that infects the basic beauty and joy that the horses bring us. Yet, here I was watching a man with tremendous pressure to succeed still riding in a joyful and loving way. This experience really touched me. I have been in many training stables where the pressure and money seemed to over ride the true spirit of why we do this in the first place. It gave me great hope that I too could be successful and still compassionate and loving at the same time.
              Through the years I have had my ups and downs. Truthfully the downs have always correlated with unhealthy pressure I put on myself and that I forgot this fundamental principle.
               What does it mean to be Youthful in Your Approach?
                      To me it has grown to mean:
                                       Always open yourself to learning, approach every situation as a student
                                       Ask questions, stay present, no judgement
                                       Keep your body open and relaxed; practice, breath, try again, be like a child
                                       Remember that we are all unique in our own being, savor that, do not compare yourself to other people. Get to know yourself as a child would, independent of other people and their ideas of you.
                                       Learning comes from putting yourself in difficult situations that force you to grow; never back down from the pressure, open yourself to learning the lesson and stepping up to the plate.

                    I hope this helps bring a new positive perspective to your riding, and to the relationship you have with your horses.

                  Be Youthful in Your Approach
                  Know Anything is Possible
                  Connection is the Key

              To be continued :)

                                                     Nancy
                             
                         
               


                     

A Dressage Student's Handbook; The Canter



   The Canter

                The canter has three beats, which I find confuses many people to start. First of all it is important to understand that the canter originates from the hind leg, when done correctly with proper energy.
                The outside hind leg steps first
                Followed by the inside hind leg and outside front leg together
                The last step is the inside front leg
     Because we learn in our beginning riding lessons to look at the lead instead of feel the lead many people are then confused to learn that it starts behind. As early in your training as possible try to feel the hind leg strike off and challenge yourself to know the lead without looking down. Without proper energy it is possible for the diagonal pair to get slightly separated where the outside front leg will actually hit the ground very slightly before the hind leg. This is incorrect four beats. This can often be seen by accident in a pirouette for example. It can also be seen in some techniques of riding where the movement is disturbed by the reins and the horse is unable to jump through with the hind leg correctly. Be careful to keep your horse supple and not to think of the reins as balance. In addition, follow, very slightly, the natural nod of the head and neck with your wrists, so that the half halt happens at the proper part of the canter. Half halting on the front leg can distort the jump of the canter and put the horse in a defensive posture.
                In all of your work you will learn to have your inside leg very slightly in front of the outside leg. In the canter the inside leg is in charge of engagement, the outside leg is in charge of the energy. Being very careful to keep your good positioning early in your riding makes good preparation for flying changes and for pirouettes. It is always important to build a good foundation, so that as the work becomes more difficult you are able to rely on your good posture and proper aids.

                     Please email questions to nancylaterdressagehorses@gmail.com

To be continued :)

Be Youthful in Your Approach
Know Anything is Possible
Connection is the Key

                                       Nancy




Friday, August 3, 2018

Stress and misunderstanding

         On facebook the other day I came across a post from someone who had made a short clip of a stressed out horse warming up in Aachen. The girl was clearly not in complete control, the horse not happy and although in my eyes she was trying to keep her cool she was also making the horse super round and trying to gain control with some abrupt transitions. There were many negative comments about this type of riding. I do not get involved in these posts on facebook, personally I think we have to be positive and, I cannot judge from a short video clip what is going on. It made me sad. I put myself in her place, making it all the way to a competition such as Aachen and my horse not being able to handle the atmosphere. I have never been competing in Aachen, but I have been to shows that seemed like Aachen to me! and when my horse was overwhelmed it was a very difficult and disappointing situation.
          It really makes me happy and appreciative that somehow I have found a different path of training. I do not look at this lady in a bad way or as if she is at fault, in the moment. Controlling 1500 pounds of frightened equine in a situation where you are supposed to be able to perform ballet movements does not seem like a comfortable situation for me. We build up the training systematically and clearly the horse was strong enough to perform movements of his level. The break down shows up when we forget to install the necessary relaxation and attention to each horses natural reaction to stress. Many people use the nervous energy of the horse to create impulsion and more extravagant movements. I have even had trainers tell me that the horse needs to be a bit scared of me (I do not say this in a bad way, only that it is a training tactic). The thing that I have always wished for is a system of truth, that when I apply an aid I notice does it get the desired result and will more of that aid get more of that result? To me that is the meaning of throughness. There should not be a.) the defensive reaction followed by manipulation and then the right reaction or b.) the point of no return where a little bit too much of an aid gets a completely undesirable reaction.
              This takes time and thorough truthful training. It also needs to be tested! Where we then take the horse into situations of stress, read the results and continue the training based on the feedback.
             I am in no way saying this is easy! I am only grateful that I feel that I start to find the path. In this way I am able to also help others find a healthy and connected partnership with their horses. A million thank you's to Tristan Tucker and his amazing generosity to share his journey with me.
            The other day I was teaching at a nearby farm. One of the younger trainers was having a difficult time with one of the horses. It was difficult for me to watch and not be able to help. I do not judge the situation, I have been there and I know all to well how it feels to have the pressure of the owner and not have the session go as planned. I thought back to when I was at Mr Schumachers farm in Germany. Everyone, even the sweet hobby riders would offer assistance from the sidelines. In the beginning as an American with an American attitude I was shocked that they would think of helping these other profi riders, and me. Later I came to appreciate their dedication, love for the sport and horses and the energy that they put into making our rides better! I so wish we could adopt this, non judgmental, generous attitude here. They were not going to tell me how to fix it, only that the hindleg was back in a halt or the horse was not straight, these kind of helpful tips. Learning to be open to this feedback was an awesome lesson for me. I also remember riding one day while Ellen Bontje was riding, (something that I tried to avoid! Because I was quite insecure). I was not getting through to my horse what I wanted and I am sure it was obvious I was struggling. Finally Ellen stopped riding and asked me "what! are you trying to do?" I meekly told her whatever it was that was going wrong, she jumped in, helped me out and then went about her merry way to finish her ride. While mine became much improved. These experiences are what made being in Germany special for me. The training, not the egos being the most important aspect of the day.
                  When I watch these young trainers I wish for an atmosphere of learning. The greatest men (and woman) in the world say that to keep a learning attitude is what keeps them successful. To ask questions is not showing that you are less, it shows that you are open and wish to improve. Of course who you ask is important, but even someone who is not a profi might have a different and helpful perspective.
                Be youthful in your approach
                Remember anything is possible
                Connection is the key

                Ride well :)
                      Nancy
               

Monday, July 23, 2018

A Dressage Student's Handbook The Trot

         
        The trot comes in two beats, diagonal pairs, separated by a period of suspension. It is shown here in the photo above. The outside hind and the inside front in the air and travelling together, the inside hind and outside front on the ground travelling together.
         It is important that the thrust of the hind leg is the reason you post (or swing in the sitting trot), your posting or pushing must not be the reason the horse trots. Be sure to invite the horse to bounce in the period of suspension rather than push the back down. Obedience to the leg is necessary to achieve this. If you have a very hot horse that tries to run along, post very slightly slower. To do this keep yourself in the saddle just a split second longer and in the air just a split second longer. This way you are managing the balance and the tempo with your posting rhythm as well as the half halts with your reins. It can be that if you only use your reins you will loose track of the balance and natural movement of the horse, this in turn will cause you to balance on your hand and the horse will do the same, this will cause your rein aids to no longer work properly.
          If you have a lazy horse it is important not to push the horse along all of the time. Be sure to use your positive forward aids correctly and with good reaction and then go back to neutral so that your horse learns to move on its own without constant pressure. The application of the aid means go, the removal of the aid means stay the same, and is a reward. The horses are not born knowing this, so it is up to us to teach it. By neutralizing your leg aid you are allowing the horse to move freely, if he faulters, slows down or lowers his head as a response to you not squeezing or pushing you must teach him this is an incorrect response. Ride as if the correct thing will happen when you remove your leg, and push him forward and then remove the aid again. Do not get stuck in the rut of riding with a constant pushing aid because your horse misunderstands, teach him.
          If the back muscles are tense and blocked the hind leg will not be able to step under the center of gravity. This will cause difficulties in the self carriage and the aids being understood by the horse.
The goal of the rider is to find the optimum pace for the horse on a given day where the hind legs, front legs, back and neck all work together in the same size, strength and power. One then develops this through the ride to improve the strength level and suppleness of the horse. I find that it is best to return to this place of relaxation and balance often during the ride so that the horse always feels like what we ask is possible, the work is not overwhelming and they do not look to my hands, seat or reins when they loose their balance.
           Please feel free to email me at nancylaterdressagehorses@mail.com with questions!

I hope this improves your ride.
                           Nancy

Always remember;
             Be youthful in your approach~Anything is possible~Connection is the key

Sunday, July 15, 2018

A Dressage Students Handbook The Walk


  The walk has four beats. There is no period of suspension. From this picture here you can see the distinct four footfalls.
                      1. Outside hind, just came to the round.
                      2. Outside front, on it's way to the ground
                      3. Inside hind, in the air and will come to the ground.
                      4. Inside front, has most of the weight of the horse and will be last to step forward.

         One side of the horse moves, then the other, the hind initiates the step.
          There is a slight nod in the neck which must be present in order for the back to be free and mobile. The neck must bob down and out rather than up and out. The working phase of each back muscle starts when the hind leg on the same side touches the ground. The muscles on the other side swing and relax provided the neck is allowed to nod.
          In addition to the neck I like to also feel for the rib cage swinging from one leg and into the other leg. As the hind leg comes forward there is a slight moving away of that sides rib cage. Allowing for this swing will also help the horse to stay loose in the back at the appropriate time and keep a clear walk. One can imagine one hip being picked up, pushed forward and let down, this is then repeated on the other side.
          The walk is the easiest place to spot a rider that manipulates the gaits. A horse that is not correctly through and has an artificial high head set will have to hold the  longissimus muscles in constant tension in order to hold the weight of the rider, thus causing a distortion or ambling gait (pacing).
When the neck is lowered and the forward downward nod is allowed the supraspinus ligament system is engaged to allow alternating relaxation of the longissimus muscles. For each level of understanding the amount the neck must be lowered or more correctly: allowed to lower is different. It is also possible that when a horse becomes tense from atmosphere or schooling that the neck should be allowed to come down more for a period of time and the nose allowed out and down to let the horse find that place of relaxation again before moving on.
           I find that hot horses that become tense at shows may need time with ground work, leg yields and transitions in order to find the relaxation. Loosing connection will further confuse and stress the horse, but manipulation will cause unhealthy pressure in the reins and a gait distortion. So staying focused on the swing, connection and proper reaction to the aids will bring relaxation and ultimately a correct pace.
            Please let me know if you have any questions!
             I hope this helps your ride!

               To be continued.....

                  Be youthful in your approach ~ Know anything is possible ~ Connection is the Key

                                                   Nancy