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.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Another nice article about our clinic :)

Jackie Cartesio


A Weekend I Will Never Forget!


            I remember when I first started riding dressage my trainer at the time, Alice Petersen, had brought me to audit a Mr. Schumacher clinic for young riders. The clinic was at Gleneden Dressage. All I remember from was a young rider questioning Mr Schumacher. Well he didn’t like that to much and let me tell you, he let her know! Never did I think I would get the opportunity to ride with him. So, when I first was accepted to ride in the clinic, i’m not going to lie I was a little nervous and didn’t know what to expect. As the days approached I was more excited then ever that I was getting to ride with such an extraordinary person.

             Finally!, we arrived at the incredible Ashby Farms in Ashby Massachusetts. Walking into the barn everyone was very welcoming and easy to talk to. We settled my horse in and were off to check into the hotel. Later that night we came back to do night check. I guess Nancy had saw the lights on in the barn and came out to check on the horses. I was in my horses stall wrapping him and when I look up I have Mr. Schumacher  peering into my stall. I didn’t exactly know what to say beside hello. I felt honored to be in his presence.  He didn’t really say much, took note of my stall card and continued walking.

            The next morning, bright and early, we were all gathered in the barn, feeding and mucking out our stalls. Everyone that participated was friendly and just as eager to learn as I was. We all gathered and watched the first ride. It was a girl that was schooling about third level. With just watching her warmup Mr. Schumacher knew each problem the horse and rider were having. It was incredible the eye that he had. The exercises that he came up with were not very difficult but something I would never have thought of. After her ride were more young riders of all levels. Still, even with them, he was able  to recognize each weakness they were having. By the end of each ride, as an auditor, you could see an improvement.

            Next, was lunch. We were introduced to Bill McMullin. One of Nancy’s student’s, Taylor, rode the Junior team test for us to watch. Mr. McMullin explained the judging scale with us. It was interesting to get his point of view. After lunch were more excellent lessons with Mr Schumacher. My lesson with Mr Schumacher was out of this world. Yes we worked on basics but we also worked on things I was having difficulty with. By the end of the lesson. Our extended canter to flying change was perfected. All in less than an hour.

             Later that evening, we all returned to have dinner together. Nancy announced that she was the new region 8 coordinator. We gathered at a table and discussed how Nancy would like our input as much as possible and how she is going to try and put together as many affordable clinics and schooling shows as possible. This was exciting with me because with living on Long Island there really isn’t much dressage happening.

            Mr Schumacher then talked to us about personal experiences and how to prepare for the show ring. I look forward to using his recommendations for our 2013 show season.I could never get board listening to him. We all had dinner together and was given the chance to get to know each other.

             The next day we got an early start. For lunch, we had the opportunity to listen to Dr. Brett Gabby. He talked about the soundness of a sport horse. I definitely learned a lot about legal and illegal drugs. Even about having it on you during a CDI.

            I had another fantastic lesson. We had worked on mainly canter pirouettes.  I didn’t exactly have bad canter pirouettes to begin with but by the end of  our ride they couldn’t have been better. The exercise he gave me was something so simple but something I could have come up with on my own. I was amazed of how well they worked and improved our pirouettes.

             The eye that Mr. Schumacher had was truly amazing. I took away some awesome exercises.  I could not have asked for a better weekend. I was able to meet some incredible people and walked away with some new friends. Thank you so much to Mr Schumacher. Another thank you to Dressage for Kids and their Emerging Dressage Athlete program. What and amazing program to be a part of. Also, Nancy Later and her husband Matt Lavoie deserve all the credit for putting together such a memorable weekend. Without them I would have never have gotten this experience. They were both so hospitable and welcoming. I absolutely can not wait for the next time.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Back in Florida!

Still tired from our 4 day clinic extravaganza at The Ashby Stock Farm we packed up our 13 horses and started the long haul to Florida from Massachusetts. It is always with a bit of worry that I put my beloved horses in the trailer and make them endure this long trip. I am always so relieved when we are in Florida safe and sound and my horses are all healthy, thank goodness.
Although I do not have a "Smart Phone" I am able in a bit archaic way to get some emails on the road.
I have added to my blog below the delightful article written by Jessica Hainsworth about our clinic last weekend. Reading this article made all the hard work worth every minute! I am so happy that even one of the girls had this kind of an experience at our clinic. But, I know that she is not the only one! Thank you Jessica for your kind words. Thank you again to Mr. Schumacher, Bill McMullin, Dr. Brett Gaby, DVM, my husband Matt and our great staff, Taylor, Ariel and Omar for making the weekend such a fantastic success. :)
Please find Jessica's article below:
In late summer, I turned 16, and my best present was being awarded a grant from the USEF as part of the High School Equestrian Program as the best submission from the USDF.  I was thrilled to say the least, but was also told I needed to have the grant funds disbursed by  October.  A few days later, I received information about the Region 8 clinic that would be held with Mr. Schumacher and be hosted by Nancy Later. It was a huge opportunity despite the 8 hour drive, so I immediately applied to be a rider, and was so excited when I was notified I was accepted to ride in this clinic!  In mid-August, I sold the horse I had just finished my USDF Silver Medal on and moved on to a new project horse that had just been purchased as a potential horse to campaign at FEI  Jr's.  This clinic was only our second major trip and clinic together in just about three months together and a big step for us to start creating a better bond as a team.  This horse has not had a "real job" for a few years now, he is an East German WB and is now 10 years old, he is the type who needs his own rider and has some trust issues, so we have a bit of work to do to get us both speaking the same language and working as a team.  ( Let alone just being able to stand quietly in cross ties at the wash rack!)  

            We had a uneventful drive to Massachusetts and that started what became an amazing clinic with Mr. Schumacher!   I must start with a huge thanks to Nancy Later for being such a great hostess and her wonderful staff, working students, and husband as without them this clinic would have never been such a great success!   Throughout my experience at the clinic I participated as an EDAP program rider and as part of every EDAP clinic the participants are expected to observe every lesson or discussion when not riding.  I brought my riding journal as I do to every clinic and recorded notes and points on each lesson.  I learned so much and met so many new friends, as well as made connections with other teens who have a passion and love for horses.  Both days I rode right before lunch,  so I was able to bathe my horse first thing in the am (my new mandatory morning duty as an owner of my first gray horse) then watch several lessons before having to get ready for my lesson.  A clinic like this is such a great learning opportunity yet so many try to get as much as they can out of it by just listening and trying to remember the details... it just won't be enough!   If they are truly trying to take what they learn and then apply it to their own riding it is a must to write down what they learn so each lesson I jotted down notes and comments to help me recall the focus and main point of the lessons.

My new horse can be stiff and blocked in the neck that in turn leads him to have the option of  being behind my leg and often ends in a battle between us trying to get him to respect and react from my application of the aides.  Mr Schumacher was so amazingly patient to wait for him to give at his poll, even giving him a sugar when he had been quiet and soft in his neck connection with what my hand was asking.  He acted as my interpreter between what I was asking and finding a generally quiet and kind way to work through the tension until I was able to feel a better connection up into my hand that came from behind.  The first day was spent mainly finding ways to use lateral work to reduce tension to get him through his neck.  One exercise especially useful was the use do the counter bent extended canter on the long side turning on the 1/4 line and focusing on leg yields and straight lines.  The second day we used a ton of cavaletti work which my horse had not had much exposure to in the 3 months I had him and from his reaction not much prior to that either.  Despite a few excited "discussions" the cantering  cavaletti work helped to loosen him to a point where we really established some trust as I helped him figure it out.  Mr Schumacher told us during that lesson "That only in the dictionary does Talent come before Work."  That it was my job to show him how and where to take off, cantering within the small corner bordered by cavletti showed how precise your straight lines need to be coming into a quarter pirouette and then how straight you need to ride out of them to be able to maneuver this short corner in 4 or 5 short strides on every straight line.   My horse was excited at times but I have to say the improvement in his gaits once we went back out  on the track was amazing.  I felt the future passage that is in there, the flying changes we made after this work brought new meaning to "flying" as they were the most uphill I had ever had with him.  We had established a new level of connection not through toughness but through making him use his body in new ways to release tension and create trust. 

             At lunch Saturday, we had a lecture from USDF judge Bill McMullin about test riding and judging and were even lucky enough to watch Taylor Lindsten ride a beautiful Junior test and then listened as he gave each score  being able to hear his remarks with each movement was so helpful as a rider considering that test for the next year.  We also had Dr. Brett Gaby, come on Sunday to discuss how to keep your sport horse sound by sharing a wonderful PowerPoint presentation.  Then, each day finished with some more really great lessons, and no matter what level or age the horse and rider, I was learning something new as Mr Schumacher found ways to get the best out of each pair.  He was really an inspiration to watch as he found a new and refreshing approach with each lesson and I was amazed by the tactful and kind approach to each horse and rider.   Never did one lesson resemble what the last rider had done or if it did it was presented in a way to address the specific area of tension or stiffness in either the horse or rider that he was being presented with.  Being able to ride with Mr. Schumacher was such an amazing opportunity,  my horse has great gaits and a lot of potential, but is tricky based mainly on the inconsistency that he has had in his training.  He said in my lesson that retraining a horse is "one of the hardest things to do and in Germany it would never be done by a "young lady"  that instead it would be the job of a professional."  Yet  he was very supportive of my efforts so far in the short time we have been together, and focused his lesson on ways giving me some great tools to work with to get my horse to soften and allow us to work together rather than holding that tension between us.  In just two lessons I learned so much and I could feel the change in my horse and as we became more connected.

             We  had a great dinner Saturday night followed by a lecture by Mr. Schumacher about the preparation for a show and  how  it's not just about packing up the equipment and walking into the show, but that you as the rider need to be mentally, physically, and emotionally prepared before you consider entering a show.  He explained that a rider should see mediate through each part of the test, be in good physical condition and fit, and emotionally know and be prepared for whatever they are about to do.  Also, a rider should have a planned warm up similar to the warm up done at home rather than the 45-60 minute warm up he sees so many people do at shows.  He said that essentially providing this consistency of the warm up routine to your horse often will help your horse behave more similarly at a show ground if what you ask there, is the same  or very similar to what you ask of them at home.    One of the best parts of this lecture was his explanation of the difference between being a good rider and a good competitor.  I hadn't really thought of it that way and he shared many points of preparation that go into being at the top of your sport.  I was able to meet many of the riders from Region 8 that being from 8 hours away, I just haven't had the chance to do so before.  We also had a chance to discuss some plans for the NAJYRC region 8 teams and discussed the planning and commitment that goes into that program.  

             I am so very thankful for the opportunity to come to this clinic to learn from Mr. Schumacher!  I had an amazing time getting to meet the other Region 8 riders, and of course the excellent staff at the Ashby Farm!  This was my 3rd EDAP program clinic and thanks to the support of Dressage4kids and Lendon Gray several youth riders will be getting some funding to help cover the cost of this clinic and more importantly we had the opportunity to get some incredible education offerings as part of this program.  Most of all a huge thank you to Nancy Later, and the USEF and USDF for helping to support kids like myself through programs like the High School Equestrian Program and therefore allowing me to participate in this amazing opportunity!
Happy Riding :)

Monday, October 8, 2012

Conrad Schumacher Clinic!

    The clinic with Mr Schumacher was more than I could have ever dreamed it would be! This morning as I reflect over the past four days I get even more excited about what the future will bring.
     The clinic started thursday with the adult phase. The lessons were fantastic. Mr Schumacher's ability to zero in on the most important factors, stay calm and patient and explain, explain, explain, created a day of overcoming hurdles for some and developing new skills for others.  This guy gets more done in 45 minutes than most people accomplish in a month. He is clear, relaxed and so positive it is impossible not to get what he is looking for. The horses become relaxed and the riders learn. The second day for some was easier. Everyone came energized for the next step and of course Mr. Schumacher did not disappoint us. He has an amazing combination in the  depth of his knowledge and his complete patience, this makes every lesson special. He knows when to push and when to wait. Even the way he tells you "Oh come on, just do it!" makes you feel like it is possible to do what he says. I had the luxury of watching most of these lessons as well as riding and I feel energized for the winter training!
      Friday afternoon the kids started arriving and what a fantastic group of kids we had! Everyone was wonderful. Such a group I was so happy to work with. Helpful, happy, ambitious yea! Congratulations to all of the girls for making the weekend even better with their positive attitudes and desire to be part of this amazing project.
        Mr Schumacher taught on and on and on. The lessons were so great. The girls all looked amazing. The nerves that some came in with quickly disappeared when they realized he was on their side and fighting for their riding. Everyone stepped up to the plate and worked at these dressage basics and communication that is so vital to good riding. Position, timing, body language and reward reward reward. Fantastic day. The lunch lecture that Bill McMullin did about judging was wonderful. His direct language about points and scores took some of the mystery away from the judging aspect of our sport. Taylor Lindsten performed a super example of the Junior team test for everyone and his discussion after was eye opening. Thank you to Bill for taking time out of your busy schedule to come and be part of our educational weekend.
          Saturday did not end after the lessons! We had a nice dinner where the girls and I had a minute to discuss some of our plans for Region 8 for the coming season (and beyond). I encourage all the Region 8 kids to stay in touch with me about their ideas for fundraising, education and competition. PLEASE!
          After dinner Mr Schumacher gave us a very informative lecture about Competition Preparation. He talked a bit about the weeks leading up to the show and the training strategy, as well as warming up and the test itself. His many experiences at all levels really makes this lecture amazing. Of course he always adds some fun personal stories that help us to realize that even in the top, competitors are human!
        Sunday came quickly! The lessons started early and the quality of the information was tangible. There was no converstaion going on in the auditor section as Mr Schumacher taught about collection and haunches giving in and throughness and and and. Awesome lessons to awesome girls who were willing and able to soak it all up.
         Lunch time was filled with the reality of the soundness issues that can come up. Dr. Brett Gaby gave us a very informative talk about, yes again, preparation! Planning ahead to avoid problems in the most important times. He and his assistant Becky Hicks presented a creative slide show that targeted long term soundness strategy as well as discussed the CDI jog and legal and illegal therapies. Dr Gaby has been super helpful to me in keeping our horses in the ring and happy and Region 8 is lucky to have him on our team!
         I loved every minute of it. My only regrets are that I am not able to watch every lesson and that at the end of the day I had to take the Master to the airport. 
          Thank you so much to everyone who came and made this weekend spectacular. The parentswere so helpful and positive. These girls are so lucky to have such great support behind them and their learning process. Thank you to the auditors that supported our event and their positive energy that helps to fuel our energy for the next projects.
          I am over the top with gratitude. THANK YOU!
                     Have fun while you ride well !