About Me

My photo
Nancy is a Grand Prix Dressage Trainer and RMT Certified Life Coach. USDF Bronze, Silver and Gold Medalist and 5 star rider. Nancy is passionate about the welfare of horses and the education of Youth Riders. Her message is helpful to any level rider that is trying to find success and fulfillment with horses.

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.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Conversations

          Through the years I have ridden with some awesome trainers. I have also taught many clinics, have students in training and have had the opportunity to teach many people all ages, levels and types of horses.
           The reason that I have studied and become an RMT Life Coach and a Mindfulness Coach is because I felt that the dressage training did not prepare me well enough for the  conversations and mindset aspects of dealing with people in a training and competition environment. I hope what follows will help people develop healthy relationships with their students and coaches, all in the interest of riding our horses better.
           The trainers I was most successful with had their way of dealing with me, and their other students, but was that approach working for me with my students. I felt that side of it was limited. So I went outside the horse world for guidance.
            I feel that my ability to communicate with my clients is so much better now than it used to be. I also feel better equipped to negotiate difficult conversations and build trust in the relationship so we can tackle the real goal, which is learning better how to connect and ride the horses. All this being said, the ultimate stumbling block, for me and my students, is healthy communication. For me, I grew up in a time where you did not ask questions. We rode and did and tried and cried, but we did not ask questions. There was a time when I was in a relationship with my trainer and we talked all the time about training, but never when I was riding, during that time it could get quite uncomfortable if I asked questions. At least we could talk about it when we weren't riding, so this was very helpful, and perhaps a bridge that helped me to where I needed to be.
              Since then I have developed the discipline to ride when I am supposed to ride and the determination to ask questions during the walk breaks and perhaps even before the lesson. I do not ride with many new people. I know myself well enough to know that if we cannot talk about the feeling then this is not the right instructor for me. I also know that I need to push myself sometimes and riding through something that does not "feel good" can be necessary. However, I will not accept that this lasts too long, and I never accept the idea that my horse is not trying. So again, the trainers I ride with need to believe the same basic principle that I do, and that is that my horse is always trying to do what I want, if we are muddled it is because he is confused and I need to explain it better.
             This is where it becomes very interesting. I believe that when two people disagree and cannot connect in a lesson, it is because there is a fundamental belief that is different. It took me a while to figure this out. I can tell you that I have stood in many rings and taught many lessons, and talked myself blue in the face, and ultimately what I was missing is that their fundamental belief was different than mine. What does this mean?  (There are many basic principles, but here I just mention a couple that could get in the way. ) This means one can believe that the horses come to the ring with the idea not to work and to do what ever they can do not to work vs me who believe that horses are generous creatures and are trying to figure out what we want. Imagine the lesson I teach coming from my point of view and the irritation of the student that has no interest to believe this. My whole strategy will have to change in order to make progress with this rider.
           Another example could be me coming to the lesson believing that the student can do what I am asking, and the student having an underlying lack of confidence or anxiety about the exercise we are talking about. With this block in place I can talk myself blue in the face but we really are not going to get the job done until we are able to come closer together on this subject.
          One more example might be the instructor coming with a preconceived notion that the student has no feeling or concept of what they are trying to do, and then this instructor comes from a place of belittling or criticism instead of thoughtful explanation and building trust. It is our obligation to hear our students when the conversation starts. I always tell my kids, unless you are the one with your butt in the saddle never ever judge. I truly believe this, and from this point of view I must stay open and listening when the conversation starts. I am also always willing to get on and feel something when I get stuck in a lesson. It might look like one thing and then you get on and it feels totally different. This is where healthy conversation must come in, and the horse must not be innocently in the middle of the struggle of two egos.
          When is a good time to ask questions? During a break. When do we take a break? Before the point of no return. When confusion starts, say that you need to take a walk break, do good transitions, stay connected with your horse and then start the conversation with respect and honest curiosity. This goes for both the instructor who may see things sliding down hill, or the student who may be confused or incapable of doing the desired exercise.
            I hope this helps students that are uncomfortable to ask questions, or feel like their instructor thinks "its my way or the highway.' Really it is not like this. Good riding requires that we get out of our heads. This is what an instructor that tries to push you through that bad moment is trying to do. I also hope it helps instructors to understand that not all questions are questioning your knowledge or capabilities, questions can simply be questions and we are curious to know your interpretation of the answer.
             I hope this is beneficial to you and the partnership you have with your horse!
               Be youthful in your approach
               Remember anything is possible
                Connection is the key

                                   Nancy

           
         
           

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Training and Care

   Good Morning! We all know that the quality of the care we give our horses will directly impact their performance, and yet how many people really love the care as much as they love the riding?
    There is a feeling among trainers that as they become more advanced they should do less of the care part. This makes sense to people in other businesses where the more advanced you become in a field the less of the grunt work you  have to do. Yet, in many intriguing businesses it is the creative part of the scenario that makes it worthwhile, and in the end successful.
     In the last two interviews I did, both top trainers said that the time spent with their horses was what made the partnership successful. Both said that noticing how the horses are in the stable, hand grazing and even taking them to the paddock to get a feel for their everyday experience made a huge difference to their relationship. Yet, so many people that are riding horses do not enjoy this part.
      Training horses is so much more than just the riding part. Letting yourself into the life of your horse and really looking to see how happy he/she is in the daily routine? How relaxed in the stable? How joyful in the paddock? Is the feed and hay really enjoyed or is he/she eating it because there is no other choice? How about his/her neighbors? Do they enjoy each other? Is the turnout routine creating relaxation or stress?
         For me ulcers and other stomach ailments are signs of constant stress, not something that just randomly happens at a horse show. Finding a way of life, a daily routine and rhythm that suits your particular horse will create a much better attitude when riding. This will also help your horse to be more ready to accept the tack and be more willing to accept the aids. A horse living in constant stress will not be able to turn the obedience and submissive button on when presented with a rider and a ring.
         Horsemanship must be holistic, in my opinion. For me as a trainer I feel that it is my responsibility to constantly ask what can I do better? How can I make this horses life even more relaxed, even more healthy? As a trainer I need to take into account every aspect of the horses care, and try to look at the picture from his/her perspective. Another difficult thing is that often the thins unseen are the most important. Do you get rewarded for picking your horses feet out daily? No! But will you be punished when he thrush? Yes, lameness will ensue. Do you get rewarded for brushing under the saddle as much as how someone might notice a nice tail? No, but will you be punished when you do not brush well under the saddle? Yes! Bumps and saddle soreness will ensue.
         As a professional horse trainer this can sometimes be difficult because we also have the owners schedules and wishes to accommodate. It is important to know as an owner that sometimes your horse actually prefers to be turned out, stabled or ridden at a certain time, and this might not be what you think it should be.
           This has happened to me with my own horses in the past and it really made me crazy that they did not like something that I really thought they would! With Alexis I thought that part of her stress was being in a new place, all the new things to look at and unfamiliar territory. I spent hours and hours taking  her to the rings, taking her to the show grounds early and walking anytime this was allowed. It turned out by the end of the show she was worse than at the beginning, but still I persisted believing that I just didn't do it right. Later I found her to be amazing if I just took her off the trailer, showed her and took her home to sleep.  Of course this eliminated CDI's from her life, but when I realized this was what she liked, at least we were able to have a successful partnership in the ring.   Our training started to improve as my preparation for the shows was more set to what she needed and not what I thought she needed. I came to find out her hormones were causing great problems with her muscles and the stresses from the show were creating this circle of pain for her. It was not at all what I thought, but it took me a while before I really understood.
            More recently with Glorious we rented a stable with an in and out barn. I was so excited for him as I thought he could spend a lot more time out in the paddock and then go in and out of the stall as he wanted too. I imagined this to be great for his breathing and his brain. I was so excited for him to have the freedom that I thought he always wanted! He hated it. Everyday I would try again, and he wanted to come in in his normal routine and eat lunch inside with everyone else. My groom was telling me Nancy he does not like it! I was determined that he should and would, of course it did not work.
            The biggest lesson I have gotten from my horses is the ability to listen. I have to trust myself to do this and I have to remind myself when things are difficult, or feel difficult that I need to listen and turn off the "should".  I encourage all of you that ride, whether professionally or as amateurs, to listen to your horses. Try not to impose your ideas and egos on the backs of your horses. Remember they are in the present moment. They are not thinking about the horse show coming up, they do not plot how not to work for you in the night. This is the biggest gift they give to us, is to bring us back to the now.
         I hope this perspective will benefit you in your training today!
                Be youthful in your approach
                Remember anything is possible
                Connection is the key.

                            Nancy
       

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Pause

           It is another beautiful morning in New Hampshire. We have had amazing weather this summer and the mornings especially have been crisp, filled with light and the noise of playful birds. We are moving into fall, and my fall does not look as it did at the beginning of the summer.
           I got up this morning with that reality bearing down on me. I started the summer with three horses showing, all three in great shape and two of them already qualified for several classes at The Regional Finals. I also had ideas to go to the Finals in Kentucky when the Regionals went well.
           On this beautiful September morning I sit in the reality that I did not even send my entries in. This is so unusual for me. It is not easy to accept. I am not only super goal oriented and love creating strategies to create the best horse for a certain test and date, but I am very proud of my ability to have a barn of sound and healthy horses. Unhealthy horses mean I did something wrong, and this is devastating for me.
             Through the last weeks, when I allowed the closing date to go by without sending my entries in, I have gone over it in my head a million times. The first thing I wrestle with and then calm myself down about, the horses are actually fine. They will come back, stronger than before, they did not have career ending accidents, they have not even had something so catastrophic as colic surgery. Two have Lyme disease and we caught it quickly and they are being treated, ridden and all is good. So why does this bother me so much? My responsibility to them, I did not keep them safe. One thing has been true throughout my life, my horses have always taught me the most important lessons. So here I sit again with the stark reality that there are some things I cannot control. Hard to swallow, but true. True in life and true to my horsemanship skills.
                 How have I used this pause for the better? This is where the awesome lessons come in. I cannot ride them strong everyday and work them like the athletes they are. But, I can ride them everyday. I have an opportunity to honestly listen to them and how they feel that day. I have been able to slow things down, work more in the walk and address true suppleness. In addition I have been able to find places where they were obedient but not 100% understanding the work. Our relationships are better, the relaxation better and at the end of this, all of the work will be better.
                 I pride myself on practicing what I preach. I believe we should not put our horses into situations they are not prepared for. And yet I have to say that not entering the finals was really difficult for me. So much of my life is wrapped around working toward this goal. I also know that by the time the actual show comes around they will both be fine. However, I will not have been able to do the preparation, and this is the point. I think it is an amazing lesson. Really this particular year it does not matter if I am there or not. What matters is that the horses are safe and that they are getting the best possible training. I am so happy to say this is the case. They are getting even better training, and will continue to get better training because of this pause.
                 In my interview with Isabell Werth she said we must not always write about how everything is always perfect. Isabell said that the reality of training horses is that things do go wrong sometimes and one big problem is that trainers make it look like this is not the case.
                 I write this for all of you that feel that life is getting in the way. Take each day and make the best of that day, do not put the stress of the future on today. It is so much more fun and all of your relationships will be better because of this simple practice. I think we need goals in order to push ourselves forward, to grow and to develop better skills. I think we need to be in the moment and do what is right in the moment to really achieve progress. We would not be in that moment without the goal and will not achieve the goal without being present in today. When you achieve a goal, or have to change a goal due to unchangeable circumstance, put a new one in it's place.
                    I hope this benefits you in some way,
                                          Be youthful in your approach
                                          Remember anything is possible
                                          Connection is the key

                                        Nancy
   
                   
               

Monday, September 2, 2019

Interview with Ashley Holzer


May 21, 2019 I sat down with Ashley Holzer in Wellington, Florida. The following is the interview she so graciously made time for. I hope you find her insights helpful. Enjoy!!

               Nancy; First I want to thank you for making time for this.

               Ashley; I am happy to do it, I love helping kids too.

                Nancy; It’s so fun!

                 Ashley; I also think this is a learning experience for me too. I recently returned from Ottawa where they do a Rising Stars Program. A program to introduce young kids to dressage, they do a dressage test, they also have group flat classes, and there is a written quiz. There are a lot of activities, things to help them have fun and build interest in the sport. They asked me who are my idols and I said, well I have had many idols, but honestly,  I idolize anyone who goes down the center line. It is a vulnerable place to go, you canter down the center line with your horse and you have got these people judging you, and this is not an easy thing to do, on a daily bases, and I think all of you are brave to put yourself in this position.

                   Nancy:  Right, to put yourself out in front of people.

                    Ashley: Yes, put yourself in front and be judged, it is a very strong thing you are doing, it is very powerful that you have the guts to go out and do that.

                    Nancy: Yes, that is a really good point.

                     Ashley; However, I did have one massage therapist once that asked me, “now you are going to this horse show and why are you nervous about the judges? Are they able to spook the horses?”, I said no, no they have to sit really still, and he said, ‘ so they are sitting around you, and they are sitting quietly….. and they actually have no influence over you at all!” And I said yes, you are right, they actually have no influence over me at all. This helped me to look at it from a different perspective.

                      Nancy; Especially when you know on the inside who it is that you want to present to them.

                      Ashley; True

                      Nancy; And when you are strong about that then it really doesn’t matter what they think about that particular performance.

                       Ashley; This is so true.

                       Nancy; You have ridden so many horses and put yourself out there in so many different competitions, is there something that you do to prepare? Or a mentor or mindset that helps you to be brave in that situation?

                       Ashley; Again, I think it is people putting it in perspective. I think at the end of the day I don’t always have the best days in front of the judges. It happens that you may regret that you put your horse in a position that maybe you were not ready to go into. However, you don’t know it until you try it, because there is nothing that you can do to create the horse show at home. You can’t create the shipping to the show, put it in a strange stall, it doesn’t get turn out, it is very hard to create that whole ambiance, and some horses handle it better than others frankly. I would say, for me, what has been important is to not see it as this is my one and only time and here we go, but to think of it as a learning experience. I go in and ride my very best and pilot my horse through the test the very best that I can, that he or she finishes the test the best that they can at that time. I think it is always a great feather in your cap if you can say the end of my test was much better than the beginning, because I think it shows that you were developing more of a partnership as the test went on and showing more of a harmony as the test went on.
                 I also think that my father was very influential. He would say “go in and have a good time.” He did know me, because at the end of the day that is who I am. I have to go in and have a good time. One of our colleagues said to me the other day, “how about we just go in and do our job?”. And yet there is an aspect of just doing my job, but that’s not really who I am. I need to go in there and I have to have a good time. Now if my good time is wow, we got our line of ones, or OMG there was no spooking today, or what ever my good time happens to be, that’s what I have to have. Also knowing that no person can influence if you have a good time or not. I think that is the mindset I have to be in, if I am having a good time when I am enjoying my ride, and I am feeling that way because I am prepared, or at least as prepared as I can be. I have had some pretty bad rides that I had a good time because of where the horses are. I had one horse and he was really nervous and he actually got down to the judge, was it a great test, no, but comparatively to where I had been it was better and I had a good time. When I am in the ring and I don’t have a good time then I am thinking, well yea here I am and everyone is watching me not have a good time. That is not fun. And unfortunately, with facebook and cameras around you all the time there are some pretty angry people that feel they must find joy from bringing you down and taking a bad picture and putting it on the internet. You have to live with that, and I just tell my students know who you are, know that you are good to your horses, know that you ride very well, know that you train very well and yes, sometimes there is a bad picture and that is not the full picture, that is just a snap shot. And I think a lot of judges also, good judges, really are on your side, they are on your team and they want you to do well. They are judging you from a positive place and I believe if you can think there are more positive judges then there are negative judges that gives one confidence. I think as the sport grows we are getting more positive judges that understand how long it takes to train a good horse. The sport is changing, top horses are now 16 and 17 years old, because they are so athletic it takes a while to get them where they need to be. Judges are not your foe; they are often your friends. They are excited to see you progress as well, so I think that is important, stay true to yourself. Go in the ring and do the best you can do and go home and get ready and do it again. Lindsay who is my god daughter and my barn manager said to me, and it was such great advice, I had one stallion and he could be so great, and he could be so naughty, and she said to me just go in and see how it goes and if it doesn’t go well show back up in two weeks and do it again, and if that doesn’t go well show back up in two weeks and do it again until it goes well. It took the pressure off, it was not that I had to go in and be perfect the first time. It’s a journey. You have one big success and its over, it is fleeting, so if you do not like what you are doing and you do not like you, that success is done on Sunday and on Tuesday you are right back training again and no one really cares what happened last Sunday. So, you better be loving what you are doing.

               Nancy; And who is the most influential person for you so far?

                Ashley; I cannot say one, I have learned so much from so many people, and I keep learning to this day. Robert Dover, Sjef Jensen and Christilot Boylen have been incredible. When I was a kid, Jeannie Sinclaire was my first dressage trainer and stood out in the freezing cold teaching me. Dane Rawlins was great and came every night and taught me and pulled me out of the snow bank, you know it was cold, I was a kid, they were out there teaching me at 6:00 at night in Canada in the freezing cold and they were out there doing their best. Willi Schulteis also an incredible trainer I learned so much from him, Evi Pracht my teammate who has taught me patience and how to be positive when I get a little negative. There are so many people that I have had help from, I am so lucky to have been given part of their knowledge. Debby McDonald I have now been introduced to, she has shown me some different things, I can watch Oded Shimoni and he will tell me to try this and Jessie Werndl will tell me to try this, so many people. Patrick Kittle will say try this. I love this about our sport, when you hit a stumbling block there are so many people that are so open with their knowledge, I have never come across someone that says well I am not going to tell you what to do. I really think that I am so fortunate, Sjef went away, Anky was so busy, but she stepped in and helped me. Lindsay and PJ who watch me everyday, keeping the standards, “No that wasn’t good enough! Do that again”. There are so many people that I am a product of, and they have all influenced me in fabulous ways and I am so grateful that people are generous with their knowledge.

                        Nancy; One of the things I think about you, when I think of you as a rider is your flexibility to be able to ride so many types of horses, tell me how did you create this in your riding?

                   Ashley; There are so many different types of training. It’s a little bit like we speak English, that’s the language we speak, some people speak German, some people Italian and some people French, if you came to every horse and said I only speak English some horses might say I am German… I have no idea what your saying, I am Italian, I am Dutch. Its that flexibility to change your language to something they understand, so first it’s your ability to understand there is a language. There are many forms of language and how do you best communicate with the horse that you are riding? Because some are smarter than others, some are more elastic, some are quicker thinking, some might be smart but not quick thinking, meaning it takes them some time to grasp something but once they grasp it they have done it really well. Some are ADD some are down to business. I can give you so many “some of them’s”, but it’s really finding out what language should you use so that your horse can understand you to the best of its ability. And that is what different training styles have shown me. Some people are more set in their training methods than others, and I frankly find that old fashioned. I always say if you are not moving you are dying. So, you always need to be out there looking. The breeders are breeding better horses, the scores are going up, scores are not the same as they used to be, why, because the horses are better, the training is better, the maintenance is better. Everything is moving in a direction. And I think being open about trainers, trying to listen to different trainers, not saying “oh that method doesn’t work for me”, maybe one part of that method does work, maybe just listen and see what they have to say, don’t say “that’s not for me”. Again, I really firmly believe I have learned so much from so many people. I am grateful to all of them.

                   Nancy; Which horse has taught you the most?

                   Ashley;   Poppy! Poppy for sure.
                       Pop Art came to me it’s a very funny story. I was rushing to a horse show with Sjef and Anky, and we stopped at this barn to see a horse along the route. It was a kind of bloodlines, I don’t want to say because I don’t want to put any breeds down, but typically I don’t like this breeding. Anyway, I get on it and I say to Sjef “ it’s kind of stiff and a bit sluggish” I don’t really like a sluggish horse, he’s like ok let’s try the next one, so out comes the next one, the exact same breeding, which I do not really love, and I say to the lady, biggest mistake I have made in my life,  “I’ll just get on it first’. I am on a circle, I am rushing, I pick up the trot right away, I am not taking my time, (again know who you are, not smart) I am not taking my time. I say to Sjef, “it’s so tight on the right rein, like it is really tight”, so he says, “ put it on a circle and bend it to the right.” Well I don’t even remember it standing up, because it hit me in the head, I have Anky in the middle videoing and Sjef screaming jump off but I couldn’t because I was so dazed, Sjef is now screaming at the lady, both of us fall over backwards, the horse is running around, I am on the ground Anky is screaming, Sjef is screaming, it was a disaster…. Finally I get up, I am saying “I am ok, I am ok’ and Sjef is like we are leaving now. We walk through the barn and standing there is this little 16 if I am lying 16.1 hand chestnut and I ask the lady “does he rear?”,” no I can tell you for sure this one doesn’t rear.” And Sjef is like we are not staying we are out of here. I am saying no its ok I am fine, but you can ride him first! And that was Poppy. I remember getting him home and my husband was saying “he kind of looks like a plain brown wrapper, are you sure this thing is special?” And I assured him, he is amazing. I loved him from the first day I rode him, I loved him from the minute I got on him. So, our journey was fun because he was young, he was 6, and it was a great time. He took me around the world. He was such an incredible horse. I remember being in the Olympics in Hong Kong and Sjef asking me, “why are you wearing a helmet?” and I said “just wait a minute and you will see”, and sure enough he got one look at the jumbotron and sure enough 180 and he was gone. He was always a great spirit and fun to train and honest. He always tried for me. I would say he was by far my best horse. Now, have I had many, many other amazing horses, yes, I have, but he is the one who sticks out in my mind.  He is the most cherished and he runs around the property to this day.

                 Nancy; As he should, is there a particular test that you have done that sticks out in your mind as being special?

                 Ashley;  You know it’s funny the last test I did on Poppy…..I had decided at 16 to retire Poppy, I was going to let Jill ride him. He had some health issues and I did not want to push him anymore. I thought it would be nice if he did something that was less stressful. I was riding at the Royal Winter Fair and I was thinking this is so easy it should be illegal. At that time he was such a partner for me and I remember coming to the last piaffe and thinking should I really be retiring him? This is so great. But then, then I thought to myself yes, this is a great way to say this is it. It was a great test, and the last test at the WEG was incredible too, so yes, I had a memorable test on him. But, I would have to say too that I have had tests on other horses where they have really overcome a big fear or something, and they stick out in my mind. I have also had some bad ones that stick out in my mind too, but in general I have to say that last test I had with Poppy was one of the most memorable. I was also really concentrated on thinking this was my last test, this was my last test, make it happen, make it work, make it be good, so it was great.

                 Nancy; That is so fun. When you are bouncing from horse to horse or helping different students do you have something that you do for yourself? Something that gets you focused? Do you have any kind of mental practice?

                 Ashley; Actually, yes. Again, I have a bit of a routine, where an hour and a half before I get on I come to this apartment here, I watch the test that I am doing, I lie down, I visualize my test, I take 20 minutes, I put a timer on my phone, because sometimes I will fall asleep, but I just really go somewhere quiet and visually go through the test, what I need to concentrate on, and I would say that if I skip that phase that I have made mistakes that I have been unhappy with. So, I really do need to take the time before hand. I am not one of these people that likes to wait around all day long and do the test. I like to stay quite busy before I compete, but for an hour and a half before my test I like to get prepared. And, leading up to it I really try to make sure I carve out some extra time to spend with the horse that I am competing at the time, I know that sounds stupid…

                    Nancy; No, I think that is awesome.

                   Ashley;   If I am competing Havana I will take her in the evening and walk her and take her for grass. I try to do this everyday anyway, but for sure before the shows. Perhaps 5 days before the show I will try to connect even more with her, feel how she is feeling and interact with her a little bit more. Just take my time to spend with them, especially if it is a big competition coming up, I get mad at myself if I do not spend enough time with my horse, because I really think that is important too. And then the other thing I would say is that I really try to be in a happy, positive state of mind. I have worked with a few sports psychologists that will tell you that you actually can make yourself happy, you can put yourself in a positive state of mind. You have to practice doing it and know things that will help you get to that state, but you really need to make sure, or  I need to make sure, personally, that I am in that state, before I get on. Of course, things happen sometimes, but in general try to be thinking about your job and be well prepared so you show up for your test properly. Also, I have to care for my body, I get a massage every week, because my back is not the best, so I have to be sure that I take care of that. I also really try to take care of my sleeping, that I sleep a bit more leading up to the event. I know if it is a big event I do not sleep as well right before, but if I can have a few nights prior to that where I sleep really well that is important too. I also think about what I am eating, I think that is important too, that coming up to an important event I am not eating crap, but that I am eating the right food and in the right space with my hydration. I do a lot more walking, where I used to do a lot of running, my back does not handle that anymore, but now I do a lot of walking.

                           Nancy;  If you could go back to your younger self and tell her something with the experience you have now what would you tell her?

                        Ashley;  There were times when I look back and I was not proud of the way I rode, and I rode that way because I did not have the knowledge to ride better, if that makes sense. So I would caution people that when they feel in their gut they are not riding well, to reach out and try to have their coach help them more, or find someone that can help them more, or find someone that communicates better with you, or tell your coach what’s going on.

                        Nancy; Ask questions.

                         Ashley; Yes, ask questions about why is it going that way? Because knowledge really, it’s amazing, I am able to help people just by saying, “ he going to do this, and then he’s going to figure that out, and then he will be able to do it this way” and they say “ oh, this is normal? Ok, fine!” it’s not the end of the world. That knowledge is so freeing. That’s the one thing I look back on and I wish someone had just said to me “hey, don’t worry about it, it’s a phase, it changes, they all learn their flying changes, some take longer than others, don’t worry about it.’ Make sure you go out everyday and you are training properly, but training takes a while before you get results. So, patience and more education.

                    Nancy; We weren’t brought up to ask questions.

                  Ashley;  And think of the tools they have now. You can go and search things on the internet, you can make a long-distance call and it does not cost $40. You can do so much more to reach out, when in the past we were told to shut up and watch. We were not told to ask questions, and delve deeper and look into things.

               Nancy; But, I still think that the kids blame themselves, even though there is more information available, often times you still think you are stupid if you are asking a question.

               Ashley; But, then you are asking the wrong people!

               Nancy; Thank you.

               Ashley; If someone makes you feel stupid for asking a question, then you are asking the wrong person. That’s my thinking.

                 Nancy; Perfect.

                  Ashley;  Anybody that is knowledgeable and generous will be loving the questions.

                  Nancy; Super.

                  Nancy; As the sport moves forward and the horses are becoming more extravagant, and knowledge is becoming more available, but we hear so many bad things about where the sport is going. What can everybody do to make sure that the sport is going in a direction that benefits the horses as well as builds interest in the sport.

                  Ashley; I do think that as of late, with the success of Isabel and Charlotte and Carl. These are really great horse people and I am happy to see these are really happy horses going around and doing the job. The one thing I will say is that our sport now has a huge level of competition for the younger kids coming up. Meaning, we have to fight soccer, la cross, skating, skiing, and video games. I would say there is not the same availability that there was when I grew up. When I grew up there was a riding school right in the middle of the city. When I ran the riding school at Riverdale there were a lot of city kids that came after school and were able to go riding.  I worry that parents hear that it’s dangerous, it’s expensive, oh this oh that, they really don’t think to even offer that to their kids, when they can do soccer or something like that. I think that is really unfortunate, I think we have to be careful not to overprice our sport to the point of making not available at all to these kids. I think when we do well we need to make a point to give back to the kids to make sure that we are bringing on board more kids and they are having fun with it. When I saw the rising stars program in Canada I was really happy to see that, they made it fun. They really made it fun, the kids interacted with the judges. The judges came and spoke to them.

          Nancy; How old where they?

            Ashley; 10 to 15, maybe even 8, some were really young.

             Nancy; Awesome.

            Ashley; We all got to interact with them as well, they got to ask us questions, they did not all want to ask questions, so we had to ask them questions as well…… Some were jumpers that had fallen off and wanted to move to dressage, some were eventers there to improve their dressage. They were saying how much they enjoyed it. I think the friend thing is so important too, if I think to this day I have so many friends from growing up riding. We all get to do this beautiful sport together.It’s also about bonding great friendships. It can be a very isolating sport, because it is not a team sport, but on the other hand it is amazing when you come to a barn you can have a team around you. People are all enjoying the sport together there is a social aspect as well, which is fun for a lot of people. I think if we don’t keep it fun we are going to loose a little bit of our viewership and participation.

           Nancy; I think it is really important how you focus on that connection side of it. Many trainers don’t promote that side of it and then the kids miss out, that is very special part about why do we do it altogether.

             Ashley;  Yes, it’s the most important part. Again, unfortunately when we were kids we were left to play around with the horses. And, did we fall off, oh yes, for sure. I fell off every day, sometimes twice. But we would take the ponies out to the back and race back toward the barn because they galloped faster going back to the barn. My parents thought nothing of that. Did we all have saddles? No not everyone even had a saddle, but some people did. They did not get the head start, the kids without the saddles got the head start.  If you think about how dangerous it really was, but it was so fun. A little bit of that is lost these days because there is this safety aspect, and rightly so, we were probably very stupid doing what we were doing. There is a way to find a middle ground that you are playing with your horses, you are playing with your ponies. I have one student, she got on and she sent me a video of her and her sister, in their big parkas doing one time changes holding on to a snaffle bridle, and doing piaffe and passage on the horse together. As an instructor, I know it is dangerous, so is driving your car, or getting on an airplane, I wish it wasn’t.  We have to make it as safe as possible, but still have a really good time and enjoy the sport for what it is. Those horses are incredible animals and they give us so much of themselves, and I think if you do not experience that part of it you are really missing out.

                   Nancy; One attribute? If a student came to you what is the most important thing they bring with them?

                 Ashley; Curiosity
                 Humble  
                 Grateful
                  But, I would have to say they have to love their horses foremost. Because if they do not love their horses I do not want to have to deal with that type of person. I think that if someone loves their horse and loves riding you can teach them. If they really don’t love their horse and love riding at the end of the day you have to ask yourself why are they doing it? And those answers are not the answers I want to be associated with.

                 Nancy; Fabulous, thank you so much for all of your time!



                                 

Monday, August 26, 2019

Remember Anything is Possible



    There are so many examples of amazing triumphs over adversity. For me never forgetting that any thing is possible is an important part of my strategy. In life and in riding.
     Synergy is when the combination of the parts equal more than the actual sum of two parts. This is something that has always struck me in my training. People say you are only as good as your horse, and in so many ways, yes, this can be true. However, I have gotten 8's on lines of changes where the horse only has a 6 or 6.5 for a canter, I have gotten 10's on halts and halts and rein backs when the horse only had a 6 for gaits. I have gotten great scores on tests where the horses overall capabilities might have been doubted but when presented with confidence and not stressing over the short comings I was able to present an overall good impression. I have received many horses through the years that people had given up on, or labelled unsound or uncooperative. I had some of my biggest successes on these horses. Why? Because I believed in them and I believed in my creativity to make it happen. I love riding. I love training. I love the connection I build with my horses. Because of this I create an anything is possible attitude in my riding. I can go out everyday and work with a horse without pressure, purely for the joy of the moment, and create a partnership where the horse wants to do the job. When you have a willing partner success is inevitable. Sometimes it might take a while to create the willing partner, but athleticism without willingness will not create long term success.
      I was not always believing this way. I definitely had times in my life with impatience, failures and lack of belief. However, it is the toughest horses that taught me the most. I am curious and stubborn to a fault. When the owners have given me the time the resulting outcome has always been good. I have not always had the luxury of time, and in these cases the outcome was not always as successful as it could be. In the event I had the time I was able to achieve good results, and in these times I really started to notice that anything is possible. When I really looked back on my training and the progress of the horses I realized that my times of doubt were unwarranted. I realize it does take time to explain things thoroughly. Things you thought the horse understood yesterday may need to be reinforced today. I also realize that I had the answers, there were just times that I did not trust myself to honor it. I always found out if there was something bothering the horse, even when the vets doubted my concerns. I always found the answers I was searching for when I really stopped and asked the right questions.
       What are the main ingredients? Patience, the ability to listen and curiosity.
      When you do not relax into the training session and put yourself in the right space, training cannot happen. The second nervousness creeps in, all learning shuts down. We all know this in theory, but it can be difficult to maintain in times of pressure. Putting yourself in a space for teaching is very important, with each horse, before every session. Most especially before shows and when teaching new movements. If you cannot find it, go for a hack and enjoy the time you have with your horse, pushing forward when you are impatient sets you back, it does not move you forward.  Remember, anything is possible, so tomorrow is another day.
       The ability to listen. Not to what you think the horse is saying, but to what it is actually saying. This is a game changer. My horse does not like to do changes, could actually be my horse is nervous because she does not understand my aids for flying changes, she over reacts and then I do not react correctly to her mistakes. We can work with this, we can break things down and teach the horses to understand the prerequisites for making a flying change. In this way they might even start to like being praised for their positive effort and then begin to like flying changes! There is a lot more to this, we can go into in another post. Listen to your horses, do not put your voice in their head, really ask your horse what are you trying to tell me?
       Curiosity. I am naturally curious and question everything, some people might think to a fault. In training horses this curiosity helps me to be a better trainer. How can I do this better? Why does my horse react that way? How do other people deal with this problem? I invite you to ask big questions everyday and if you do not know the answer ask someone, (that has experience) how to do it.
        Anything is possible is a way of life. It is about taking what you have and doing more with it. It is not only about riding. It is about believing that all you need is inside you. Allowing yourself to dream big dreams and then not let anyone convince you that it cannot be done. It might be hard work, it might take longer than you wanted and there might certainly be bumps in the road, but if you can dream it, you can do it.
         Start today and ask yourself, if I had time, which you do whether you think so or not, what could my Anything be?

                   Enjoy!!
            Be Youthful in Your Approach
            Remember Anything is Possible
            Connection is the Key

                                 Nancy
 
   

   

Friday, August 9, 2019

Be youthful in your approach

         Perhaps you have noticed that I now sign things:
 Be youthful in your approach,
          Remember anything is possible
                     Connection is the key.
                   
                     Be Youthful in Your Approach

                              What does this mean to me? And why do I like to share it?
                                            The reason I have adopted this as an affirmation is because sometimes we need to be reminded that its okay not to be perfect, and we must just try again, or continue to try.
                                             I am  reminded of Tony Robbins (who I am sure is not the first person to say this) who asks "how many times will you allow your child to try to walk before you say that's it? Never mind, you cant walk lets just give it up." These young children just try, fall down, get up, fall down over and over again until they get it done. They do not think about doing it wrong, they do not worry about what someone thinks, they just keep trying a little bit everyday until it is accomplished.
                                          This is what I mean by be youthful in your approach. Stay on course, know the objective, do not get frustrated and think about all of the reasons you cannot do it, just calmly stay the course and believe in yourself.
                       How do we apply this to riding?
                           Do you run before you walk? No you walk first. So is it okay that we learn how to sit properly before we learn how to make a leg yield and counter canter? Yes! Is there something wrong with us because we need to actually learn how to sit? No! We are not born knowing how to sit. We may be born with certain feel, some more than others, but this feel can easily be distorted and taken away by horses that are not properly trained, instructors that push us too fast or feed us incorrect information, or simply by not nurturing the feel. You also can develop feel with time and proper training. Learning how to properly sit on a horse is not easy, takes time and will always be rewarded. Seat work should be part of everyone's training and I can guarantee you that all the top riders are spending time on their seat. So why do we think we are bad riders because we need to do this? Perspective. We are looking through the window not open to the world. One might think they do not have time for this, they are bored with it or even have accomplished the best seat they can get and that is it. No! We can always get better, what we focus on gets better, but on the flip side, if we don't focus on it slowly we will loose it. Don't look around at the other people getting away with not sitting properly, look at the people that can sit and how their horses benefit over the long term, how normal horses move up the levels, tense horses become relaxed and less talented movers become graceful and extravagant. The people taking the short cut may be at the top of the leader board for a minute, but the people not afraid of learning will always achieve more in the long run.
                          Do you do half pass with a stiff horse? No! You can create more suppleness with lateral work for sure, but there are prerequisites for half pass and if your horse is stiff perhaps we would do better to start with flexion and bending exercises, leg yield and shoulder fore. Be youthful in your approach, put first things first, lay the foundation for a supple, through and happy horse. The same way we would nurture our children to learn the alphabet before putting a book in front of them to read.
                         When you are youthful in your approach you avoid overwhelm.   Why do we feel like we are not in control when we are riding? Because we did not lay a proper foundation and the horse is misunderstanding the aids. How can I avoid this? Approach everyday like a new day. Start with a proper warm up, notice how your horse presents itself. Is he stiff or supple? Energetic or sluggish? Nervous or relaxed? If you try to ride the horse you had yesterday you may not have success. Be present, aware and open to how your horse is feeling and you will have a much better ride. Install the correct aids daily. Part of my warm up is reminding my horse what my aids mean. If I take it for granted that everything works I will find myself overwhelmed when I am preparing for a pirouette and I cannot engage the haunches. I need to create a horse that is sensitive to my aids before I start with my difficult movements. How to ride a pirouette becomes extremely overwhelming when I have been riding the horse by holding up the basic canter. Riding a leg yield is not easy when my horse runs through my rein instead of waiting on the half halt. Start where you are.
                         Last but not least relax and enjoy the process. When we are young we do not have the concept of deadlines. We try and try again without thinking there is a time limit. Give yourself this freedom, in your ride, everyday. If it takes 30 minutes to warm up today, take 30 minutes. Tomorrow will only be worse if you force your horse to work in an uncomfortable stressed state. A little bit of progress day to day beats the up and down 5 steps forward 10 steps back scenario. Take time, don't waste time, but take time. When you are riding be riding. Deal with other life issues when you get off. Make space for your riding. Make space for your learning. Realize that the horse show that is coming up will only be more of  a success if you make the connection and process a priority. Not just getting it done, but how you do it. If your horse is more willing, more alive and supple at the end of the ride then you now you are on the right track.

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

                      Enjoy!       
                                      Nancy









Wednesday, August 7, 2019

What does watching do for you?

    Some years ago I went to Germany with Oded Shimoni and his horses. Beside supporting Oded and taking care of his horses I was there to learn. The first year I did take one horse, but none of it was about me. I rode on lunch breaks and tried hard to stay out of everyone's way. I watched as much as I could. From the lessons Mr Schumacher taught the people training toward the WEG to the inexperienced riders, the lessons taught by his students and many lessons taught by Ellen Bontje to her upcoming Bereiters. I sat in the corner and watched. In the beginning I had a bit of an American attitude about it I am sure. However, I sitting there and watching and watching and watching, slowly things started to sink in.
      So many people go to clinics or even to train with a master and go do their lesson and go home. This is a wasted opportunity.
       Anytime you are availed the time to watch I strongly urge you to do so. This was a major contribution to my knowledge base and all I wish is that I had had even more opportunity to do so.
      Recently I was able to audit a clinic with a super trainer, competitor and judge. I had hoped to ride, but things did not work out as planned, so I went to watch anyway. Super day and very thankful to all involved in putting this together. I know how hard it is to manage educational events and I so appreciate anyone who is putting forth the effort to do so.
     The first thing that struck me is how few people were auditing. We have a major lack of educational opportunities right now in New England.   There are so many trainers and students that would have benefited from this clinic. Second, it was labelled as a symposium, so directed toward the auditors. As a rider you have an obligation to the auditors to create a good learning environment. And yet, most of the riders did not watch any of the lessons.
      Lesson number one about clinicians: they have priorities, exercises and a way of delivering instructions that if you know about them ahead of time your lesson will go much smoother, communication will be easier and YOU will get more out of your lesson. In addition to the fact that the auditors will get a lot more out of the experience. I felt at the end of the day that everyone in the audience could teach someone how to warm up and do warm up leg yields because it was repeated again and again in every lesson.
          What did I love about this clinic? The absolute attention to relaxation, warm up and correct throughness. There was no short cut and if it took the whole lesson well that was that. So nice to see. Everyone is in a hurry these days and many times we are trying to ride the horse we ended with yesterday and forgetting the warm up and exercises that got us there. It was refreshing to see the time taken to get the horses in the correct frame and carriage for the movements and each time going back to work finding that again before moving on. So important and good for the horses. And as much as I believe in this it is easy to get off track! So yes, I also needed a reminder.
             So why is it good for us to watch?
                   We are not the only ones having a problem, chances are someone else is struggling with the same thing you do. It is relaxing to know you are not the only one, and maybe you will find a new perspective how to fix it.
                    When we watch we imagine what it would feel like to be riding that trot, giving that aid, riding that transition. When you get on your body has a better idea of what to do, how to swing and how to find the flow and then apply the aids.
                    Watching will provide you with new tools. Perhaps a new exercise you have not thought of or something you have not done in a while. Also, a new perspective of how to read your horses reactions and reaction time.
                     There is an obligation for us to learn. We must not think this is all about us. We are the example to the younger generation coming up.  Horses are evolving, training is evolving, riding is evolving. However, the direction must be correct. It is easy to get off track and forget about priorities. When we allow our own ego to get in the way of the training things can go wrong. We can get in a hurry, blame the horses, circumstances and many other things. When we watch, we open ourselves to the possibility that we can improve, we can get better and when we get better the partnership strengthens and when this happens we get back on the path to correct positive training. This takes time, we must always remember this. Staying in your own bubble can stunt your growth.
                  All this being said we need to pick what we put into our minds carefully. Try to find long term successful trainers that are putting the horse first. Make it important to look for trainers that are patient, interested in long term goals and not afraid to take their time to actually teach you.
               I hope this helps you on your path!

             Be youthful in your approach
             Connection is the key
               Remember! Anything is possible

                         Nancy

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Let's do it for the right reasons

             I read a great post on Face Book yesterday about why being in a hurry when training horses does not bring long term success. It is funny, because when I am coaching the kids we are often talking about what success means to them. I actually have never heard one of them say getting to a high level as fast as I can so I win more ribbons and have to retire early my horse due to injury. I also have never heard any of them say that they would like to be in a hurry, misunderstand their horse and react badly to a misunderstood aid or other mistake. In addition I have never had them answer that success is making things look good, when they are actually feeling really bad.
            And yet, this is where many people find themselves.
            Many people ask me, why do you want to work with kids? This generation is not the same, they have no work ethic, they don't want to care for the horses, you are wasting your time.
             Several years ago I felt the same. I was discouraged and shocked by the working students that were coming into my stable. I was also saddened by the kids that were wealthy enough to buy a nice horse and have good training and show. The interest in the actual horse seemed to be missing. But, I do not blame these kids. I started to look at what I could do better to help the horses. These kids are the future of our sport and if we do not help them, there will be no help for our horses.
             Society has changed so much with the internet and social media. Everyone says it, but how has it affected our sport?
             Kids are less able to speak directly, look you in the eye, say what they mean, know who they are and act accordingly. Hiding behind phones texting, emailing, face book whatever. Snap Chat the worst as the photo disappears, so maybe it did not even happen. Would we not have done the same? Maybe not now, but with impressionable young minds? We had it easy, outside, biking, riding and safe! It was normal and fun to get physically tired. Now kids must be pushed to do physical exercise. Even gym has been eliminated from many schools.
              Horses can help get the kids back on track, but only if the trainers take the time. Help them read body language, engage their feeling, learn to have confidence in themselves and teach them some basics! Unfortunately trainers make more money not teaching basics. They will have more success with ribbons if they ride the horses for the kids. They can charge more if they have grooms do the work. And to be totally honest teaching basics is hard work! It can also be frustrating to have to go back and teach again and again how to clean a stall, actually groom a horse and cool one out properly. Why did someone take the time to teach us? Or did someone teach us? For me it was a bit of both. Sometimes I was left on my own to make mistakes and figure it out. Sometimes I had people around that could point me in the right direction. The thing that kept me moving forward was the absolute understanding that the horses depend on me. They do not have water to drink, food to eat or a comfortable place to sleep without us. I took pride in learning how to take care of them the best I could. Now I have developed that further into working with each individual horse to figure out what makes him happy and willing.
               I was also the kid who messed stuff up and made mistakes. I was the kid who lacked confidence and made bad decisions because I did not understand my emotions and my lack of self esteem. I am grateful for the people that I encountered along the way that helped me. Without my desire to take care of horses though, I am truly not sure where I would be. Not just the desire to ride horses, but to take care of them.
               The most successful competitors in the world in all disciplines do not hand their horses off to grooms and not look back. Successful trainers are involved in every aspect of the horses care, not just the riding, but the feeding, turnout schedule, tack fit, everything.
                I urge everyone to take another look. Let's try not to blame the kids, but instead to be a good example to them as we exhibit good horsemanship. Have a system in place to teach all of the upcoming riders and trainers about horse care and the importance of daily tasks. Let's also keep putting it out on social media not just the perfect scenarios of seemingly easy success, but also some of the hard struggles that led to great success. We are loosing many good, talented riders because they think they are not good enough. They think that without immediate success and top ribbons that they will never be good enough. Many kids truly believe that without money they will not have a good enough horse and a competitive life.
              Yes, I did have some financial advantage through my life, my parents have been very generous to help me along the way. However! The most successful horses that I have shown have been difficult, inexpensive horses that other people have given up on. In these cases I had more confidence because there was nothing to lose, people had tried, failed and given up. With these horses I could take it slow, listen and create a learning environment for the horse without being in a hurry. Now I do this with every horse. But, I had to learn the lesson. Pressure from the outside creates mistakes on the inside. Don't let horse shows determine your training, let your training determine your showing. Be honest with your students and help them to get the basics down, everyday. Be honest with your trainer, when you do not understand something, ask. When you do not like how something feels, ask. When you train horses and students for the right reasons you will always find the right way.
             We need to teach our kids resilience, dedication, sportsmanship, patience, awareness just to name a few things. The riding is easy compared to this.

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

                                         Nancy
         
             
             

Friday, June 28, 2019

Youth Camp

           It has been a couple of years since the last Carousel Dressage Youth Camp. I was able to host a small program in Florida this past winter and for sure this ignited the fire inside me to get my youth programs back on track and make them a reality.
           This past week was definitely an adventure. I had many doubts and worries as we moved forward toward our start date, the least of which was not stalls for the horses and sleeping arrangements for the girls. Every time I started to get overwhelmed with how was it all going to go I just kept my eye on the ball, doing a Youth Camp is really important and we will get it done. And I am so incredibly happy about the results!!! The week was amazing, and I am inspired for the next one!
           The power of persuasion! Many of you saw my posts on Face Book asking for recommendations for stalls. The people that offer stalls in this area are few and far between, some businesses already closed shop and the others already booked. I am super grateful to  Bob at National Show who was able to dig up some stalls for me, send his driver from New Jersey and direct me where to find a tent, what kind and how, because he was out of tents. It sometimes takes people to step out and lend a hand to get things done and THANK YOU Bob for helping us get this camp off the ground!!
             Where to put the tent! Already not an easy task, was made even more complicated by the weather!!! Not typical June weather, the rain made it a bit more difficult, so I need to thank Christian Party Rental and their creative staff for being so generous with their time and energy to put the tent in a bit of a complicated spot and they did so with expertise and enthusiasm. I am so lucky!
               Our girls!
                     It was as we started to get closer to camp that I realized we needed more help!I reached out to Remy Sprague who has joined in all of my camps in the past. She was just back from college and had not started work yet. Remy was a life saver and not only a super help with the organizational side but a wonderful mentor for the girls and a fabulous example of how this positive mindset coaching can change lives. We also had help from another student Annie Wohlgemuth which was amazing because Lexie and Huber and I needed to not only be hosting camp but taking care of and riding the horses we are training! We never could have done it with out Remy and Annie. Thank you!
                     Leah Drew, Samantha Mahar, Hazel Greene, Clara and Addie Locke and Natalia Haycock Tafur all arrived Wednesday morning and the riding started Wednesday after our first lunch lecture. I prepared work books that were a combination of mindset and dressage and each meal was spent with some discussion about our work books. Although we had an outline, much of the discussion was directed by the girls and their questions and curiosity to dive in to some of the subjects deeper. I always feel like I learn so much during camp!! Some of the talks I did remember to record, so some of this will be coming on the website.
                     The girls all made amazing progress in their riding. We were able to do lunge lessons where we did a lot of seat work and well as practical riding. We also hosted two guests Saturday Nick and Sophie who ride with me once a week. With two more campers we all did work with the horses twice having fabulous Tristan Tucker ground work lessons as well as riding. The ground work lessons were super fun and everyone learned even more about their horses, and this followed thru to make an even bigger impact on their riding. Thank you Tristan for your inspiration!

                     Throughout the week we also did special grooming, braiding, bandaging and other care and management lessons. Lexie and Remy guided the girls to be more conscientious about the routine care they give their horses.

                     The week flew by and all I can do to keep my spirits up after everyone left is to start planning the next one!!

                              Thank you to everyone that helped bring this special week together! Especially Heidi and Dick Venuti who were so generous to let us overtake their beautiful Kilgore Farm, Remy, Lexie, Huber and Annie for all of your hard work and energy, Casey and Scott Satriano for helping to sponsor the tent!! And very importantly to these girls and their parents for their time, enthusiasm and all of the effort it took to get here. Thank you for joining us for this special week and I look forward to the next one!!


                 

Monday, June 10, 2019

Dressage from here to there

           It is with great enthusiasm that I return from Mystic Valley Dressage Show and sit down to write this Blog. Always fun to catch up with friends and to realize that so many of my colleagues are still as passionate about this sport as when we all started just a few years ago. Glorious and Enzo were very good. We put down four tests that were relaxed and confident with many good points and positive comments. Enzo did his first Inter 1 which is super fun to get him going at this level and Glorious did his first freestyle!! Both boys topped their classes with very good scores and I am grateful to have them in my life.
           I was very grateful to have time to do a short talk during the competitor party with my friend Kyrena Parkinson. Kyrena and I talked a bit about competition mindset and creating healthy eating habits for optimum energy. These subjects are part of my youth webinars and it is fun to be able to give a talk like this live.
           Something that I am also very excited about is developing good riding skills from an early age. I find that many of the trainers end up having to undo some bad habits and misconceptions as the kids move along, and part of this is because we do not utilize the system as well as we could. As Americans we tend to be in a hurry. We can occasionally skip steps, or feel as though certain pieces of the puzzle are not necessary. We all know that building a lasting foundation takes time, and there is no more important a foundation than our seat and the application of the aids. I know for myself I could have learned these basics in a more systematic way, and I have worked hard to create a confident seat that can serve me in all situations. I am eager to help all riders find their best seat and I know from experience that the earlier we start working on it the easier it is!
             It is with this in mind that I encourage trainers and children and parents to look at the system in place with the FEI and now the addition of our Dressage Seat Medal classes added by the USDF.
              Children's classes are offered now at most Dressage Shows and are for riders 12 years to 14 years. Children's is close to first level. So of course prior to Children's training and first level would be a good option if your child wants to start before 12 years old. However, there are differences in the way the children's tests are written and judged that create the foundation necessary to move up the levels. The tests ask questions, and the scores do not reflect the special gaits of a particular horse, but instead reflect the ability of the rider to sit, create balance and understanding in the horse/pony and build an honest rider that can go to the next step with confidence.
               Pony classes are for riders ages 12 to 16 years. Pony classes are equivalent to second and third level without a flying change. There is controversy over the flying change, however, I am 100% in agreement that there should not be a flying change. One of the hardest things to master is the posture change from sitting in position right to position left and vs a vs. Getting this to work in a body that is right (or left) handed takes time and practice. Taking it to the show ring and being able to do it under pressure another challenge. Creating correct aids for lateral work, collecting after extended gaits and so on, this is not easy and should not be looked at as such. It is challenging and should be treated with respect and diligence. Kids that are successful in ponies absolutely will develop good seat skills and the application of the aids to move up to Juniors and Young Riders. Skipping this step can be detrimental to a child's education and in addition can prevent the ability to experience the joy and confidence of learning what is necessary to create a solid partnership. If you can connect and partner with a pony, You can do just about anything!! Let our future dressage riders have this experience, the kids deserve it! Another important note here is that these classes are offered at CDI's. This means that one can get the experience of this high level competition at a young age. A CDI is much more comprehensive than a normal dressage show. There are medication restrictions, stabling rules, schooling time and award protocols. Having this opportunity will better prepare our youth riders for the challenges they will encounter when moving toward team competitions.
                Junior classes are for riders 14 to 18. The junior classes are equivalent to 3 rd level, but, are they really? Junior tests ask many questions. Have you learned how to half halt? Can you ride your horse in position right or position left? Can you give the reins away and keep your horse on your seat. And, most importantly do you and your horse understand a double bridle. Many of these important subjects are dumbed down, or overlooked. They are so important and they take time. We are not born knowing how to sit. Seat development takes time. Learning how to sit and learning how to sit while riding a test, another challenge. Learning how to sit and learning how to sit at a show, another challenge. As trainers we need to support our riders through this process. As riders we need to learn it is a process and it does not happen all at once, but over time. Take time to ride the Junior tests and have a Junior horse! It is well worth the time spent and the connection created.
               Young Riders are for riders 16 years to 21 years. These tests are equivalent to the Prix St. Georges. However, as you see from the text above they are asking even more questions. The sequence changes, canter and trot zig zag and introduction to pirouettes all challenge the riders ability to balance their horse and ride with flexion and collection. When introduced to these tests without a basic foundation they become complicated and discouraging. When you move into these tests with good basics they are still challenging, but the basic principals make sense and the tests will flow with grace and confidence. Through the use of the systematic approach up the levels one has learned about the use of corners, half halts and proper forward and collecting aids. The proper use of the seat will make the questions in the test welcome and fun.
                Under 25 classes are the developing Grand Prix level and are a fantastic way to step into the Grand Prix ring and gain experience. They are open to riders 16 years to 25 years. Getting to Grand Prix as fast as you can should not be the purpose. The fact that you can start at 16 years old does not mean you should. There are many scenarios that might make this work, but I am a strong advocate for learning the basic foundation before jumping into the Grand Prix. There is so much that goes into the Grand Prix, being relaxed and present for your horse can only be possible when you can control your seat, legs and hands. This is built over time and takes practice. Enjoy the process. The partnership and the connection are so important. Believe it or not this is what makes successful riders.
              USDF is really working hard to get the Dressage Seat Medal Classes going. These classes are open to anyone under 18. There are two divisions 14-18 years and under 13. This program is great! and more can be found out about it on USDF.org. There is a championship that you need to qualify for. These classes will help get the focus on the proper seat and application of the aids. Being part of this program allows kids to be rewarded for working on these very important fundamentals. Please consider making these classes part of your training program and show schedule.

                       Please feel free to contact me with any questions or for more information. If I do not know the answers I am happy to find someone that does. nancylaterdressagehorses@gmail.com

                     Be Youthful in Your Approach
                     Connection is the Key
                     Remember, Anything is Possible

                                  Nancy
       
                         

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

There is no balance if you do not know the direction

      It is funny how the life lessons my dressage life has taught me continue to bubble up. Yesterday I was teaching, " it is impossible for you to notice if your horse is in balance if you do not know the path of travel". I stopped to think for a minute, how true is this for life? If you are making a diagonal and your horse falls in, you are not looking where you are going, you go with the flow and end up in a completely different place than you started out toward. If you look up and draw a path of travel with your eyes, ride it from your center, the horse falls in a little inside leg, he falls out a little outside leg, the corrections are small and seamless. This is balance. Balance is maintained step by step. The path of travel is defined and then we ride the horse from his center of gravity along this path. Of course we are constantly and consistently teaching our horses the aids so he knows how to react properly to our aids. Where would we be without a direction? A path of travel?
     In life it is easy to get pushed around by other peoples opinions, by doubts, fears and overwhelm. Take a minute today to think about your path of travel. Where do you want to be in your riding in one month? A year? Five years? Today is as good a day as any to start to draw this path. Visualize the next steps to build your success. Who do you need to build your team? What shows, clinics or equipment do you need to start to plan for? I find that there are two awesome tools for this. Number one, write backwards from your goal, add some tactics and targets as you think about your long term goal, so that you don't get too far off the path, and loose balance. Keep a journal. It is easy to get overwhelmed, loose track and not realize how far you have come. Sometimes looking back and reading the pages will confirm your progress. Things that used to seem so difficult are now feeling easy, we get greedy and want too much too fast. Keep a journal, stay grateful and clear about where you started and were you want to go. Be sure to include some of your fears and then a bit about why they are unfounded and how you will be overcome them with the right team.
        I think back to my little Glorious and how as I taught him his changes, one direction was so easy, and the other was a bit more difficult for him. It  took time. Glorious has been a long term project, his health has been a struggle at times. It is worth every minute. As I am able to work on his one tempis, his piaffe and passage I think back about this little four year old that did not like to hold the bit in his mouth. Every horse has their own timing. Don't rush, take your time, but never loose sight of the path. Even when Glorious was too ill to work hard I still went everyday and taught him something. One summer we spent many days together just walking in the hills because it was all he could do. He was on the back burner, but he never knew it. My relationship with him is very strong because of this patience and we are working on the grand prix work because I kept the destination in mind. Spend a little time today and think about your dreams :)

                              Be youthful in your approach
                              Connection is the key
                              Remember, Anything is possible

                                      Nancy