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.

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


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


Wednesday, April 17, 2019

We need more corners in life!

Percolating in my brain is a book about life lessons that dressage has taught me. It will be an awesome book about the parallels of a life with horses and lessons necessary to navigate a happy life in the "real" world.
             One of the chapters "We need more corners" Can be found, in it's infancy, below.
              I hope you enjoy it, and please share with other people that may need a corner sometime.

                  When I ride I am very particular about my corners. depending on the age and experience of the horse every corner has a purpose. If it is a young horse it still needs to be "my" corner. Not too deep, not too shallow, balanced and being sure not to loose the rhythm. With an older horse it could be that we school transitions, leg yield, smaller and then bigger steps, and then the half halt. Axel Steiner said a couple of weeks ago "the horse should be a bit taller when he comes out of the corner". I love this! So, what if we applied this to life.

                    When I ride a corner I ask my horse to wait, rebalance, build energy and then come out of the corner "a bit taller".

               If we build corners into our life it might be to stop and reflect, remember our purpose, or even who we are or who we want to grow into. We might pause, stop running from task to task or lesson to lesson, we might take a minute to prepare a healthy meal for our self or sign up for a necessary yoga class or massage appointment we have not had time for. We might even schedule some family time, vacation time or even alone time. What if we were able to build some corners into our life and then come out of the corner a bit taller? With renewed energy and enthusiasm, with clarity and direction? Perhaps even with a bit more understanding of who we are and where we are going?

                 I just love this concept! Then we could take it even further to the next step. Because when I show I really use my corners to set up the next movement, to make sure my horse is with me, balanced, through and ready for the next step. I believe we could build corners into our lives purposefully, perhaps once a day,once a week, once a month? Whatever timing suits you to give yourself the clarity you need to motor forward in the right direct. Imagine how tall you could be!

                        Have fun considering this!

                    All the best!

       Be Youthful in your approach
       Connection is the Key
       Remember anything is possible

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Awesome interview with Isabell Werth

Wellington Florida is an amazing place to be in the winter. Many learning opportunities, coupled with good friends and amazing horses.
This February we were fortunate to have the opportunity to watch Isabell Werth doing a Master Class at Global. The following morning she was kind enough to sit with me for a couple of minutes and let me in on her thoughts about training horses and dressage sport.

                          February 8, 2019        Global Dressage Festival

           Thank you to Isabell for her time and honesty.

           Nancy;      My first question is, if someone was to come work with you, a student or working student, what would you say is the most important trait they bring with them?

           Isabell;       The patience for horses.The patience and love for horses. Without this it makes no sense to want a life with horses. There are no clear times, it is seven days a week where you are responsible for an animal. I cannot teach someone who is not patient and looks at the watch and it is time to go. To be in this job it means to be more idealistic rather then professional.

           Nancy;        Do you have practices that help you to stay balanced? Exercise, meditating or yoga or anything?

          Isabell;         No, there is no time. The whole time I am in the stable normally, I think about what I need to do and around about the horses. I was growing up at Dr. Schulten-Baumer's place and he was a strong mentor and a strong trainer. So there was no special mentor training, and twenty years ago there was no idea of mental training. It was more that you are here and you do and there is no question, you love and are patient and you are doing it. It was a big dream of mine as a little child to work with horses. So I looked around and stole with my eyes what I could from the other riders and I was breathing this in. This is what makes the difference between good or better.

         Nancy;       Beautiful! Which horse would you say has taught you the most about horses?

         Isabell;       Satchmo was the one. He was the first one that taught me and educated me in a different way then any of the horses before. I had a really lucky situation to get, after Weingard and Fabienne which are the horses that brought me into the sport, to get Gigolo. Gigolo was so clear minded, so positive, so strong in his mind, so strong in his mind in a positive way, he was not as much of an athlete, but there were never any problems at all around him. I could really concentrate on the competition and he was always there. Then with Satchmo I learned all the problems I could have without getting a solution in a month or even six months, it was really difficult. Sleepless nihts about how I could find a solution and how I could do it better. And, the most important, he really taught me to listen.

           Nancy;     That is great, that is really great. So which horse do you think has benefited the most from what you learned from Satchmo?

           Isabell;     All horses that came after. All horses that have come after Satchmo, because I now have a different perspective. 

           Nancy;      Is there a favorite test for you? Any horse? Any level that stands out for you as a favorite?

           Isabell;      You mean which test I really like or test I have ridden?

           Nancy;       One that you have competed, any horse that stands out, the feeling and the way that you experienced the test? One that stands out that you really loved.

           Isabell;        No, it's not one test. I really love to sit on the young ones and to bring them up, but I am really a fighter for the special. Because there is no other competition with such a clear comparison and such a high level competition where there are changes between the forward extensions and the collections. This makes it really difficult and when it works it gives you the feeling like you can fly. Of course, the freestyle when you have the music and the horse it also gives you a very special feeling. You feel the atmosphere and you feel that the music is carrying the horse and yourself, and the crowd is also. This atmosphere touches you, there is no question.

          Nancy;        I think that watching you compete, you are one of the only people that you can really see it on your face when everything is working.  You show such happiness and joy when the horse is working with you. You can really see it when the horse is with you, how is it possible for you to be so present? How can you just be there with the horse in the moment and not think of the surroundings? Doing a fabulous test, and yet not noticing anything else around? How do you create that for yourself?

        Isabell;        It is when it comes as one unit. It does not work all the time, but when you have the situation that you are really feeling that you are one unit with the horse and that it goes in the right way you forget the rest. But, this is the big advantage in our sport, you have an animal, you have a partner, and a partnership to the horse where you can forget the rest of the world. You know! Then you are in your own world, you are in a communication with the horse where there is no space for others. I think that is the reason why you focus together, like when you are really in a conversation with a human and you forget the rest are around, it is the same with a horse.

        Nancy;       And how do you teach that? Do you teach that to your students?

        Isabell;      You can't teach that. You can't teach that. This is there or not. It is a question of the patience of a person. And you can teach a lot of things, but you can't teach patience. You can show it, you can live it, but you can't teach patience. You can teach discipline, you can teach responsibility, something like this, but at the end, to have true responsibility to the horses, to have REALLY patience, you cannot teach this. It is there or not, you wake up on Sunday at morning because you love to go to the stable, or you say no I don't want it.

        Nancy;     Great. Ok, The way the sport is going now, and the way the competitions are developing, what do we need to do, as participants in the sport,  to keep it going in the right direction? To keep the horses as the most important part?

       Isabell;       It is always difficult to keep the balance, on one hand we need some special things, the commercial parts of the sport, it is a business, where a lot of people make a living from it. We need show and the show character. All this on the side, we must not forget the horse. A horse is a horse and we must take care of this. All of us can make mistakes during the time, with horses, educating the horses and the children. No one can say they did not make mistakes, no one can say they are always perfect, I am always fair, or I do not punish, or I never have a bad day. That the horses won't feel it. Everyone feels it, this is human. We should not put on Facebook or whatever that we are all doing everyday the right way, and we should not post  all the fakes. This is really the problem! It is not the truth most of the time, what is posted. The photos are through a filter, or with the stuff you can do to them. There are good days and there are bad days. We should be allowed to ask for top performances, we sit on a horse, this is allowed, we would like to show the best that we can, from ourselves and our horses. We do competition, performance, it means expectations it means success or no success and disappointment. This all around we should show in an honest way. There is a part of us that says I would like to sit on a horse without a saddle and go in the field, and this is nice, ok, leave it, leave this part for these people and leave the performance also, accept what we are doing. This is the challenge for the next ten years, we will have to work to be able to compete and stay on our horses.

          Nancy;            And your program at home? How do you keep your horses happy so they want to come to the ring everyday? Come to the shows? Do you have other things that you do with them to create this partnership?

          Isabell;            Our whole team is busy everyday to be around the horses and keep them as happy as possible. We also have days where five people are sick and we have to rush to do our work, and we cannot always take the time we should take. So this is a daily choice. At the end I have to go by myself, now I need the time, I have to prepare myself and see how my horse is. If I lost the partnership, I have to get a new feeling. I have to feel how he is with all the work around, or see myself and take him to the paddock to see how he behaves. This all is part of the top sport also. But, most of the riders do not think about it, or do not have time to do it. I need to take the time. This is a mixture of everything. You cannot teach it, you have to live this or you can't do it.

            Nancy;          Alright! (I have to say, anyone who knows me, knows! this made my heart sing :) ) So, my last question is, how do you want to change the sport? What mark do you want to leave on these kids, the up and coming generation?

            Isabell;          You know I am an idol for a lot of  young riders because of the Medals. This is one part, of course I have a lot of medals and this is nice. But, I really want to be an idol for my patience for and partnership with the horse.  I go through the ups and downs because I believe in what the horse can do. This is worth more than the medals, the medals are just the result of this.

           Nancy;            Thank you so much, I cannot tell you how much I appreciate your time. I know my kids are going to love your perspective.

           Isabell;             You are so welcome.

                       This is a highlight for me, not only this winter. I have been behind the scenes in the stabling at the World Championships, Europeans and other top horse shows. Watching Isabell with her horses not only when she is riding, but spending time with them in the stables is amazing. It is so fun for me to talk to her and hear her complete honesty, dedication and love for the horses.

                      I am even more inspired to create a loving and successful environment for my charges, and the horses of my wonderful clients.
                     I hope you enjoyed this as much as I did!

                                 Ride well and enjoy the journey.

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




Monday, January 21, 2019

Long Over Due

 Hi there,
          This is long over due and I apologize for this. I have moved to Florida and took on more horses in training, this leaves less time for these other aspects of my life I am working to expand. Old habits die hard. I love training horses and it is easy to get lost in it, especially when I have such great horses to ride and wonderful students to work with.
           I am still committed to my webinars which we are doing bimonthly and continue to go great! I am also expanding to do a live coaching here in Florida this wednesday. I am super excited about this.
             I believe that being live will give me the opportunity to connect even more with the girls, create better awareness and ultimately personal success for them.
            I feel the more technology there is the farther away from ourselves we get. As much as I love it! And I love learning, and there are so many awesome opportunities for learning on the internet, I feel we need to go out, breath in the air, connect with our horses, our bodies and our friends in person! So doing this group coaching in person is exciting for me, and being here in Florida where there are a lot of youth riders should be a great place to put together an ambitious group.
               The horses are going well. My Glorious did his first competition last weekend at Global. He was great in the Prix St George. We were second with 69%. I was super happy. He is getting stronger, I was thinking a bit too much about how I wanted to sit, or more specifically that I was not sitting how I wanted to sit! in the 4 tempis, so I could not count and sit at the same time, takes practice! and I did not start my extended walk in the right place.....and then lived a bit too long in the mistake, so we definitely have room for improvement!
               This past weekend I rode with Rein Van der Schaft, thank you very much Dottie Morkis for organizing. I was meant to show on Sunday, however, the lessons went well, but also took me away from my normal show strategy with Glorious. So I decided to work again with Rein and not go down center line. This is always a difficult decision for me. I love showing, and I also get a lot of confidence and motivation from the process. In addition I had a couple of my clients and parents in town who were looking forward to watching me show.  It actually took me into a funny mind struggle to first consider not showing and then to decide it was the right way to go.  In the end, my lesson with Rein was even better than the day before, we really got a lot accomplished, and I believe it helped him to understand Glorious better. I have to stay true to my relationship with Glorious and talking with Rein about strategy and future goals made a big difference in our work together, This is not always easy, but I tell my kids that communication is key, so I need to put my money where my mouth is, and it worked, it just took a bit of relaxation and introspection.
              I hope where ever you are reading this that you are happy in your day, I know the weather is challenging many of my horse friends up North. I am sending strength and resilience your way. Breath deep and know that spring is coming, and it will feel so much better after such an appreciation of winter.
                 Be youthful in your approach ..... to everything!
                     Remember anything is possible! ..........Yes good things as well!!
                          Connection is the key!            Start with connecting to yourself!