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
         


Friday, July 13, 2018

Dressage Student's Handbook continued

              Understanding how your horse moves:

                                           Each horse will have positive attributes and even the most athletic horse will have a weak link. It is important to constantly be aware of the optimum gait on each given day.
                                           Knowing some basic conformation and how the energy moves through the horse will help you better influence your horse when riding. Watch horses move live. Get familiar with the four beats of the walk, two beats in the trot and three beats in the canter. This should become natural to watch over time and positive attributes should start to be noticeable quickly as you become more fluent. Does the horse move in balance front and hind? Are the steps rhythmical and the same size?  Is there relaxation in the joints? Does the hind leg reach under the balance of the horse or push out behind? Does the horse move over the shoulder?
                      No matter what movement the horse is doing pure gaits should persist.
                                           We add lateral work and upper level movements to clean, good gaits. The gaits are improved in suppleness and impulsion with movements, however, they need to be clean and relaxed before you add difficulty. Relaxation is built on understanding, so when tension creeps in causing rhythm problems step back, connect the dots for your horse and then move forward. When you have a particular area that you know your horse gets tense think of ways ahead of time to present the information in understandable chunks and make it possible for your horse to do it right. More small questions that get the right answers will benefit the training better than a big question that creates confusion and refusal. When you take your lessons be aware that your focus is just as much on communicating correctly with your horse as it is with making your instructor happy. Your instructor seeing your horse understand you will be happy!! When something does not make sense it is best to ask a question during a break rather then put extra miles on your horse in confusion.

                                           In the next chapter we will go into the gaits more thoroughly. So be sure to stay tuned. If you have questions please comment below, or email me nancylaterdressagehorses@gmail.com

         Be youthful in your approach, know anything is possible, connection is the key!

                                                To be continued.....

Friday, June 29, 2018

Just another day

Here we are in New Hampshire at Heidi and Dick Venuti's beautiful Kilgore Farm.
             The sun comes up early in New England in June, it is a fresh morning and the birds are super happy, everything is clean from the rain yesterday, and they are joyful in the sunshine. The hummingbirds are happy to visit the feeders and I love to hear them buzzing around outside my window.
               I still struggle with the internet, but today I am blessed with some phone service and a precarious hotspot signal from my phone. I make the riding list for today while I reflect on the training from yesterday.
                The horses were all patient and worked well even though there was torrential rain for most of the day. Today we will make a point to walk and work outside, as well as give them their normal happy time in the big paddocks we have here.
                Yesterday I had a very productive lesson with my new young training horse. He was not having an easy time in his transfer from the braking in stable to the hunter/jumper stable where he was to be trained, so he found himself in the school for delinquent warmbloods. Several months later we picked him up to have a summer of Carousel Coaching. He got off the truck from Florida shell shocked and distrustful. He is super smart and wants to please, but completely unsure of his body, his job and his handlers. The past month with him has been one of the most fun training experiences of my life so far. I am so grateful to Tristan Tucker who has taught me so much about reading horses and connecting the dots for them when they are fearful and reactive.
                 The month started with ground work only in the halter, work in the stall, work in the grooming area and work in the arena. This guy was known to be spooky and distracted, which led to fear and bad behavior. His work in the arena was amazing to watch and connecting with him as he became more relaxed and willing has been so much fun.
                Working this horse with touch and noise has been amazing as his whole body was in such tension, even in the stall. Watching the waves of understanding and relaxation go through him is so gratifying. I always say we need to video this horse so we can document the progress. This one I kick myself, I would love to watch this over and over again, especially on the days when I forget where he came from.
                The beginning of the week we started working on leg yield movements in hand, along the wall, away from the whip and toward the whip. One of my favorite Tristan exercises. He is so careful and nervous, watching him process the aids and think about how to move his gangly legs is so fun. As he becomes "like a cooked piece of spaghetti" as Tristan would say, it is clear that he is letting the aids through with understanding and confidence. Yesterday we were able to take it to the mounting block, where to spite a lot of tension he was able to understand and bring himself to the mounting block. We were able to repeat this several times and I was able to mount him in a relaxed and happy state at the mounting block bare back in the halter. As I took him back to his stall with his neck hanging in a relaxed way from his shoulders, his eyes soft and happy and his feet hitting the ground in a slow rhythm that reflected soft joints  I was so proud of him.
          I had an awesome day with my Glorious working on Piaffe and flying changes and Enzo getting stronger on his self carriage for the canter pirouettes. However, when I look back at yesterday with my new guy at the mounting block, that was the highlight.

                                Just another (amazing) day!

                                       Embrace the Journey,
                                                  Nancy

A Dressage Students Handbook, Part 1

        Introduction;
                 This blog is written by an avid student of horsemanship who has specialized in dressage. I have also become a trainer and teacher, but this is not about that. It is written to help you be the best student you can be and go forward with steady progress and understanding.
                I do not plan to teach you "how" to ride here, instead to master the art of learning. To help you understand some fundamentals that exist no matter what level you ride.
               I am so grateful for the experiences I have had thus far on my journey with horses. I am thankful for my students and the horses that have led me on this path of learning.
                Through this blog I hope to help others grasp the principles of learning early on their path (however, as with me, it is better late than never!), thus creating a more joyful journey. Dressage is not easy, but it is not as complicated as it may appear at times. I hope you are able to use this handbook to navigate the difficulties with confidence and relaxation.

                                                Be youthful in your approach
                                                Know anything is possible
                                                Connection is the key

                 Chapter One

                           The controls;

                                  The first and most important lesson to learn is that no matter what the level is, the basic controls hold true. Your steering, brakes and gas pedal are more important than where the neck is. Always remember this. Also, how the horse gets ready to process the aid is important to train correctly, as this will be very important during stressful situations.
                                  The left rein means turn left
                                   The right rein means turn right
                                   Two reins mean stop
                                   Two legs mean go
                                    The right leg means move left
                                    The left leg means move right
    Use the rein aids in a blocking, leading or suppling manner, do not pull back.

                                    No matter what level your horse is, these basics hold true. When riding at the upper levels with an educated horse aids maybe processed close together to create more difficult movements and half halts. However, even the educated horse must understand how to process these basic aids correctly, instantly and without resistance.
                                    You may be saying "But I thought we turn from the outside rein?". (Indirect rein.) I believe in "direct aids". I believe the horses want to participate. I start my training from a belief that horses want to please us. If that is where we start, from then on all aids need to come from this place. Positive aids that make sense and can be clearly given and then released because the horse gives the correct reaction.
                                     I do not want to get into training philosophy, however, just a small note; the outside rein only makes sense to the horse if he is supple and following the inside rein. Non of this includes pulling back. The rein aids are given in a leading or blocking manner, pulling back already creates confusion, so should be avoided. When the horse prepares for the aid with active resistance this must be worked through to create the correct response before moving on in the training.
                                      When a horse does not understand the basic aids it is time to step back and teach them. One can teach from the ground first and then from the saddle. As a beginner student of dressage this might be something you ask your instructor to help you with. It is important to note that when the basic aids get the wrong result, complicating the matter by trying to put aids together into half halts or complicated movements will only further confuse your horse. If you are a beginner student have your instructor teach you how to teach your horse. Be honest when things do not feel right. Sometimes this is hard to see from the ground, if you find yourself in a situation where the reins mean go and the legs mean stop, do not agree with your horse that this is how it is. Discuss this with your instructor and go back to the basics to correct the problem, then move on from that correct base again.
                  If this is helpful to you please send me an email and let me know how it improved your ride.
                                nancylaterdressagehorses@gmail.com

                                    Embrace the journey,
                                                        Nancy
To be continued.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Positive aids

          Hello!
            I have a feeling I might have touched on this subject before, because it is super important to me. So you have to suffer through my soap box again. However, I think this is a really great subject and for some, may be a life changer, if you can hold on to the concept.

            Why do we start riding horses? I cannot answer the question for you, but for me it was about partnership, connection and team work. I competed in all horse sports; jumping, eventing, competitive trail riding even arabian park horses, riding was all I ever wanted to do. I got stuck on dressage in high school and that is all I have ever known since then.
              I believed it could be a partnership, yet it did not feel like this when I was taking my lessons. It was super clear that I was not good at saying what I wanted and the horses could not hear me. There were all sorts of reasons the instructors gave me, at the time I could not hear the right words and my body did not respond the right way.
              I was almost 30 years old when I met Conrad Schumacher and he said the words "the horse can positively anticipate what needs to be done and work with you toward that outcome" I wanted to hug him! This is the knowledge I had been looking for, this makes sense, this is what my heart wants to participate in.
              So many times I had heard that the German Principles were so strict, don't go there. to Germany, it is too hard, they are not nice. Why did this German guy say what I had been looking for? Because he understood the Principles!! And what fun is that.
                So my lesson for today is positive aids and I learned it from Conrad Schumacher, Ellen Bontje and Tristan Tucker.
           Believe that your horse actually wants to please you. This is number one. If you start out your ride with this in mind everything you do from that moment forward will be different. EVERYTHING.
             Believe that if you train your horse to go forward from a normal aid, and then actually go forward with him forward is what you will get.
               Believe that if you ask your horse to wait with an aid that he understands, wait is what you will get.
             HOWEVER!! if you tell your horse to wait and push the crap out of him and he does not understand how to let the rein through and bend his hindlegs and hips then you get a million pounds in your hands and have to squeeze with your thighs to keep your tight butt in the saddle it is not going to work over the long term. NOT! 
            And from here it all goes south.
          Half pass turns into aids that actually tell the horse what not to do instead of what to do. Pirouettes are a terrible confusion of manipulation and strength.
             We have amazing, talented horses.
       Why would you put your butt in the saddle if you were just there to manhandle a horse around the arena?
              Start by believing your horse wants to participate, and train from there. Positive aids; turn, go stop, it all starts and finishes there.
                   

Monday, March 26, 2018

Weeeeeeee! Certified Personal Coach!

Today marks a big day for me ! I finished (and passed, and am now Certified!) my Core 100 Coaching Course ! This is an exciting step toward my future goals. I have really enjoyed the class. The program has been so helpful to my already motivated mindset! Now I have many more tools to utilize in my dressage lessons,  training business and my new endeavor, Personal and Performance Coaching, Carousel Coaching. MToday y website will be online soon.  In the meantime interested clients can email me at nancylaterdressagehorses@gmail.com for a free introductory session. If you need support in any area of your life; competition, health, family or you know someone that could use a boost please email me for more information. My passion is to help young people with their riding goals, identifying and nurturing strengths and gifts and balancing the complications of life as they move through the inevitable challenges of growing up. 
           In the meantime, the winter in Florida has been wonderful. We have had beautiful weather. I have been able to catch up with some old friends and make new ones. I have had the honor of showing two super horses at Global and I am eager to continue keeping them in the ring and successful. My Glorious has been struggling with some stamina issues. I am excited that we may have answered some of the questions about why we are experiencing these problems. I am always and forever grateful to my amazing vet Brett Gaby for his consistent support, advice and creativity as we travel this road together. This winter I have also had some great expert help from Meg Miller and I value her input and feel extremely lucky to have her close by.
            Karen Barth has entrusted her beautiful Enzo to my care and training and this has been one of the highlights of the winter. Karen is a force to be reckoned with and I have needed her encouragement and energy at times, I am so lucky and I feel blessed to have her on my team. Her partner in crime Vicky Canuso has also been a delight and I am eager to see Vicky moving forward with her own Truman in the months to come. Vicky's loving care has brought Truman back from layup and he is getting stronger every week, this is beautiful to watch.
            Andrea McCauley has been a super help with her watchful eyes at the horse show and continued support. Andrea and Casey have been diligent about keeping up with their lessons, and the improvement over the weeks is great. Roxanne is always getting stronger and Casey figuring out this difficult sport, getting more and more feel for the movements and it is always so powerful to watch as the horse and rider come together. Andrea has been working with her own Rubin to get him up and running after a pasture accident a while back. The fact that he is working and even doing the upper level movements is nothing less than remarkable. Andrea has been diligent in his care and rehab and Rubin is looking better than ever after a long road. I look forward to their continued improvement and for her to reenter the show ring in the summer.
            We are sad to loose our Brittany :( This week she will head back to Massachusetts to embark on the next stage of her life. Brittany has made some fantastic progress with her own horse Ravi, including getting him out to a real dressage show this winter!! Ravi has grown up this past year so much and Brittany has done an amazing job of supporting him through some real problematic health issues. He is on his way now up the levels he will climb and we wish them all the best of luck and success in the years to come.
                Brittany's departure leaves me looking for my next working student, so please pass the word along if you know of any ambitious young person looking for some education to use in the horse industry. I am incredibly thankful to Paul for his hard work and expertise as we say good bye to Brit.
          

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Florida

      I am constantly surprised by the speed at which time goes by these days.
        Brittany and I are in Florida and enjoying Half Pass Heaven Farm and some beautiful weather.
      The horses all acclimated well and are progressing in their training. We have eight horses in our care presently and it is a perfect work load for challenge and success. The horses are getting fantastic individualized care  through the great work of Paul and Brittany. They are all working hard, happy and participating in their learning which makes it all more fun.
          Glorious was able to show in the first show at Global and he was great. I am so proud of his confidence after not showing in quite some time, last June actually! He was second in the Prix St Georges with 67%. I have had some issues with his stamina, which we are investigating and until I get that resolved I will not take him out again, however, my goal is by the end of the month. We did the Prix St Georges a couple of weeks ago and I think the Inter 1 is well within reach. He is also gaining in his understanding of the piaffe and passage and one tempis are coming along!
          My beautiful PW stayed in Rhode Island and is working for Lynn Phipps at the Beachwood Center for Wellbeing. She is so personable and in tuned with people that I have no doubt she will be instrumental in changing some lives for the better.
           Pnut has landed in the capable hands of Olivia Suker and is participating in Lendons WIT program here in Wellington. I am so proud of both of them and happy for Olivia with all of the progress she is making with her riding.
              Brittany and Ravi are progressing well. Ravi had his eyes opened wide coming here to Florida. He was a trooper on the long trip and settled into his new lifestyle well. Brittany is developing her dressage seat with lessons on all of the horses and Ravi is benefitting from her experience. She is working with him consistently on the 1 st and 2 nd level work and we are looking forward to showing him soon.
              Florida is just amazing this time of year. The opportunities to learn are endless. The shows have been interesting. There are some amazing riders here for the winter. For me I would also love to see more developing of real throughness and balance in the shows. I feel that we have made little progress in this area even over the past couple of years. The sport is growing and the horses are amazing. The whole disaster on face book with amateur rider from California being picked apart as well as the judges giving her inappropriate scores brings me back to the idea that we need to implement a better system for allowing riders to move up the levels. Such a sport already has a systematic and proven way for teaching riders and training horses, it would behoove us in America to adapt the system in our show requirements as well. Just a thought :)

               Where ever you are this time of year I hope you are opening yourself to learning, if it is not easy up North go online for inspiration. There are many, many options available. Your horse will thank you! Even if it is not until spring. Stay inspired!

              I am excited to be opening my new coaching practice. I have been studying hard and am now taking clients for personal and performance coaching. Email me for more information, my website is going to be online soon.
            We will also be doing a weekly boost on facebook, so if you have not already done so follow my carousel dressage page!

                         All the best! Ride Forward!
                                     Nancy