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.

Sunday, September 15, 2013


  Middle of September, honestly where does the time go? Last week we hosted the USDF Platinum Performance Junior Young Rider Clinic with George Williams.  This was just great! A super group of talented riders from Region 8 training with a fantastic teacher. What an awesome weekend. George was incredibly precise, patient and a wealth of knowledge. He was candid in his lunch lectures and amazingly energetic all the way to the last lessons. My favorite part of the clinic was walking in on the first lesson and hearing George ask "how many beats in the walk?" ....."and in what order do they go?". That was music to my ears! then thru the whole weekend basics, basics, basics. Yes we saw lots of movements, but never loosing site of the real picture. There was no finagling, just good preparation, balance and communication. I loved watching the lessons and wish I could be a Jr again and start with this kind of training from a young age. 
         So then I see a young professional on face book complaining............."I did a clinic to benefit young riders, but where were all of the young riders?" she griped. She went on to say that "maybe she has not been in the Olympics, but she still has some knowledge to share"......So this whole thing got me thinking. At our clinic with George Williams there was a definite lack of auditors. Sadly even the kids that rode (for the most part) did not take time to watch the other lessons. This is a great loss in my opinion. I watched as much as I could. I learned a lot. I love to learn. So maybe I know a lot of the material that George was talking about, but to have it confirmed, to hear it applied and sometimes delivered in a different way is wonderful. So why am I interested at 49 years old to watch and the kids are not. Why did the kids that applied to ride and did not get in to this clinic not come and watch? I wish I knew, and I wish I could help them to understand. Sometimes watching good riding is almost as good as doing it. It sinks in, it helps you understand you are not the only one with that problem, it also helps you to be prepared for when you do get a chance to ride with that Olympic trainer. Getting to understand how an instructor conducts his lessons is part of the process, getting in his flow prior to riding will help you to do your best and take a lesson, which is what this is all about right? Taking a lesson?
         But, that was a tangent, back to the young profi that wants kids to show up to her clinic. When I make a decision to ride in a clinic it is because I know the instructor and their background. Believe it or not there are systems in this sport. There is a way to train horses  In America we have a hard time understanding that there is in fact a system that can get us from training level to grand prix. Without changing the rules along the way. There is a basic system, that builds on itself from level to level, without diversion. So when someone asks me do I want to ride in a clinic, who is teaching the clinic is very important. It is not a show, it is a lesson. Do I want to learn what they have to teach? The way I learn this is research and going to watch the lessons.
         One thing that Olympic trainers have the confidence to do is to go back to basics. They will not stand in the ring when they teach a clinic and fluff up the footing and tell you about more angle when you horse is not on the bit. They will not discuss improving the quality without asking you about the feeling. They will not let it pass them by that you may need help with balance and understanding aids. However, an Olympic trainer can be from any training system. So we need to create more criteria. Where did they learn? Are they good teachers in addition to being good showman? Are they exhibiting good horsemanship?
         If my students ask me should I ride with this one? Should I ride with that one? I go watch first. Is that training style for me, and then for my students? Are they old enough and advanced enough to have a system? And to stick by that system even when the student is confused? This is the hard part. Dressage is hard. But, it must not be complicated! So does that instructor know the theory and technique  well enough to simplify it when things do not go easy? One thing I say to my students is....if I was teaching you in Spanish, and you did not understand Spanish would screaming the directions in Spanish help you to understand? No. So lets not do that to our horses. I am spoiled by Mr Schumacher and his fantastic ability to simplify and to come up with exercises that help the horses understand, without us having to scream.
            Again, back to our young profi's....I agree they have a lot to offer. However, just because we have shown at a high level, just because we can look good on a horse this does not make us a teacher or a trainer. We have a hard enough time getting people to come to clinics with top professionals that are responsible for training many grand prix horses and trainers; with a clear system. I am completely guilty of hanging my shingle out too soon, because that is what I needed to do and the way it is done here in the States. But, at the age of 30 I went back to school. Stopped teaching and became a student again. I encourage our young professionals to not only offer their services to others but please, continue building your base of knowledge. Continue to learn, keep in the system you believe in, but never stop continuing your education. Our doctors do it, our vets do this, any one in a professional field is asked to do this. Do not let yourself be led to believe that your students will think less of you if you take a lesson. We all need a person on the ground. We all need support, guidance and direction. I do not think you will find a person at the top in the world rankings that does not have a team to help them, and that includes a coach. And please do not be afraid to confirm the basics in all of the lessons that you teach. Encouraging people to ride without developing a good independent seat, clear understanding of the aids and good horsemanship is only prolonging the agony. We all need to fight for the integrity of our sport and the good riding techniques for our horses. Sometimes in a lesson less is more.
                      Happy Riding!

Friday, August 30, 2013

Mr Schumacher

This is the nice letter Mr. Schumacher wrote for me last May when he came to teach our Jr/YR clinic at the Ashby Stock Farm.
          To Nancy,
              It is so nice for me to be in your home,
              Therefore for you a little poem.
                You certainly deserve a special toast,
               Because you are a wonderful host.
            First of all I have to say
            Region 8 is the most exciting in the USA
            And for me it is so much joy
           That the coordinator is Nancy Lavoie!
          You believe in education, your expectation is smart,
             Everybody shall ride in the classical art!
           You want confident riders who go for it,
              And happy horses, well on the bit.
            You trust my system along the way
               This is the reason why I am here today
             Conducting this clinic triggers reflexion
            Thank you Nancy with much affection :)

                      I am so lucky to have such a wonderful mentor and we look forward to our clinics in October.
               THANK YOU MR. SCHUMACHER!


Adult Camp

     Last weekend we had our third annual adult camp. This years campers were a fantastic group of ladies with varying degrees of ambition and education but one common goal, how can I get along better with my horse? Everyone was open and forthright with their worries, limitations and problems. Everyone was receptive to the tools we were able to provide and all of the horses made huge strides forward in a short weekend.
      One of my goals as an instructor is to create thinking and feeling riders. I would like to give you the tools you need to problem solve and succeed even when I am not present. As a rider you need to be open to suggestion in order for this type of training to work. It is so delightful to spend a weekend with a group of ladies such as the group we had at the Ashby Stock farm last weekend. Everyone supported each other and we were able to work together as a team to make improvements and gain awareness. There was only relaxation and learning.
     I teach a lot. One of the hardest things about teaching is just getting the student to relax enough to hear what I am saying. What makes students tense? The worry of what their horse may do, especially in a new place. The worry of what their peers may thing when they make a mistake or do not do well enough. Disappointment in themselves and their horses. So when you have ten ladies that allow all of those fears to disappear in the safety of the indoor arena at The Ashby Stock Farm anything is possible.
      The theme of the weekend was balance. For me this took on three different meanings: balance in your daily riding routine, the balance of your horse and independent balance between the horse and rider. No matter who was riding we could solve all of our problems thru the fantastic concept of balance.
        Jennifer Waurinen, Susan Raineville, Patrice Lagrant, Tamison Rose, Martha Goodwine, Karen Chevalier, Liz Shepard, Deb Brewer, Marlene Berghout and Wendy Terebesi  were our participants. The camp would not have been possible if not for the help I received from Matt Lavoie, Ariel Matisse, Linda Powers, Lynn Simonson and Gayle Price. Thank you everyone for such an inspiring weekend and happy riding!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Words of Wisdom from Lendon

 Just home from Centerline Events at Hits. What an absolutely perfect weekend weather, horses and good friends, who could ask for more?
   Glorious had his first big boy horse show and he was just so good it makes me cry. He looked around at this new world on Thursday with big eyes, but he said if you think it is safe then I am with you. Friday I had one of the most fun tests of my life. He was such a blast attacking every movement with determination and confidence, I felt like I did not even need to be there, he was so good!
    Dhoppler did two very very correct and relaxed tests and he has grown up so much since our last time out at Hits. No mistakes, no taking over, just very attentive and trying his best. So much fun!
        So here I am in my office and I came across a little project I had wanted to do a while back, and of course did not have time for.
         Here it is:
                  Who has time to read the show program? Not many people, so I just wanted to post part of Lendon's letter from Dressage 4 Kids show program. I think it is great advice we all need to hear now and then. Thank you Lendon.
                  " Let each one of us do everything we can to make this a great few days for everyone. Take a moment now and think about what needs to happen for you to have fun, and then you take responsibility to make it happen for those around you. This might involve helping a fellow competitor or a volunteer with their work, thanking as many people as you can, cheering up someone having a tough day, helping your child learn how to lose graciously, seeing a problem and coming forth to try to solve it. I hope everyone will say as they drive out the gate on Sunday, "Wow, that was a fun three days."
                   Remember riders, you have already proven that you are a winner just by qualifying to compete. For those who take home medals, my heartiest congratulations. For those who maybe don't have their best days of competition, hey, that happens to all of us. I hope you have fun anyway. I had some really disastrous competitions in my day but still made two Olympic teams. The one dressage test sheet I have kept from all my years competing is the one where I got 38%! There are lots of ways to win; Overcome a difficulty, be a super sport, have your horse stand still in the halt for the first time, do your first test ever in the pouring rain, keep smiling even though you just had the worst test of your life.
              My hope is that each of you goes home with a new friend, a new technique for riding, and wonderful memories."
                 Happy Riding :)

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Open House

   Yesterday we had an open house at our beautiful summer location, The Ashby Stock Farm. It was a great day! First of all it was great because people got to come and spend a day at The Ashby Stock Farm, which in itself is something I cherish. But, it was also great because we got to share what we do with other dressage enthusiasts and I think this was great fun!
    Ariel, Chanett, Darwin and Linda helped and prepared the day so nicely, I cannot say how lucky I am to have such great staff as well as such great friends and supporters. Ariel, Kate, Chanett, and Gayle rode wonderfully and worked hard to give the audience a real feeling of what it is to train horses. The riding was super and we were able to show a really nice training system as well as show of some beautiful tests! Thank you!
      I was so happy and relieved that people showed up to share our day.
      We had a silent auction to benefit the Jr/YR kids as well as Tulip feeding (carrots), the kids loved her, and braiding by Ariel, refreshments and raffle.
       The weather outside was a bit hot and humid, but inside we were cool and able to work without breaking a sweat. How lucky am I to have such a great arena to ride in?!
     My goal is to be able to have more training clinics at The Ashby Stock Farm. To make this location available to the interested dressage enthusiasts in our area and beyond to come and learn, work together and enjoy good horsemanship.
      Riding dressage is our passion and I am excited to get to meet others with the same passion and goals.
        Ride Well :)

Monday, May 13, 2013

Home again home again :)

      Hi there,
               We have been back in Ashby for a total of 13 days and I feel like I have been on a month long marathon!
                So happy that 13 horses moved safely from Florida to Massachusetts. Many thanks to Chanett and Darwin for there hard work along the way and to Ariel for closing up the farm in Florida while taking care of her last days of school and exams. And a big thank you to Meadowbrook transport for their awesome service and a trip well executed.
               I am always a bit nervous about the trip and it usually takes me a couple of days to realize that we all made it without a hitch and start to relax. But, this time it took 13 days to realize we are safe and home ...because.........when we arrived to Ashby we had a couple of big jobs ahead. Our clinic with Conrad Schumacher was fantastic. Thank you so much to everyone that joined in to make it such a special weekend. Mr Schumacher is in great form with his teaching. I think everyone got alot out of every lesson. So awesome that the riders not only get so much out of his lessons, but by their open approach to the lessons we all learn from every lesson!  Thank you also to Bill McMullin and Dr Brett Gaby for their guest apperances as our lunchtime lecturers. It was such an awesome weekend of positive horsemanship, I am thrilled.
               The Bill's were kind enough to fit me in their clinic with Mr Schumacher as well, so my well travelled boys Wesley and Dhoppler got to go for more instruction and we had even more fantastic help form the master at Dry Water Farm. :) Never enough!
               Then it was off to NEDA Spring....I had a wonderful time catching up with our Jr/Young riders some at their first qualifyer for the season. The support for the fundraising is starting to build momentum, thank you girls! We are looking forward to our first Silent Auction to be held at Centerline Events at Hits this coming weekend.   This is alot to manage and I cannot do it without your help!
               Dhoppler was a star at the show and has earned himself a couple of easy days out in the beautiful fields at The Ashby Stock Farm. I am so lucky to have the support of Scott and casey Satriano. Dhoppler is so fun to train and I hope to help him become the best most confident competitor for his next owner.
                 So here we are monday morning, a look back at the fast paced couple of weeks brings a big smile to my face, memories of a job well done by my staff and my wonderful husband. A look forward to alot of work that needs to be done, but with energy and enthusiasm toward our wonderful sport and fantastic horses.
                  Ride well!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Jr's and YR's

 Good morning. It is monday. My day off from riding and my day in the office. The middle of April now, many of our winter friends have gone back north and we are starting to make preparations to move north to Massachusetts in a couple of weeks. I am also deep in preparations for our Conrad Schumacher clinic May 3-5, looking forward to see our region 8 junior and young riders as they make their preparations for the coming season. :)
  Our show over the weekend was a great success. I am so proud of Ariel and her first Brentina Cup qualifier. The test had a beautiful rhythm. All of her movements well planned and accurate. Some interference from the pigeons put a damper on the score, however Ariel clearly showed her confidence and focus is building by staying in the moment and riding the next movement in the best possible way. We are so lucky to have Sax in our lives and I am excited to see them build there partnership in the Grand Prix arena after having such a fantastic season at Inter 1.
  Chanett and Cipriana had their first show and were fantastic :) Chanett was super to give Cici the confidence she needed to work in a new place. The judges rewarded their efforts with 71% and 69% in training level. The whole experience was  a big success for Cici. Wonderful to watch!
   Dhoppler had his first real outing and he did not dissappoint us. His work ethic and concentration have improved so much in the past months. He is a joy to work with and this carries right into the show ring. I was very excited about both of his performances. The first day I could have been a bit more proactive so a 64% gave me a kick in the butt to get a bit more out of my willing partner. The second day 67% was more on track with where we are, and still alot of room to grow :)
   Now some comments about why todays blog was instigated. Is it really true that in our sport people do not like to see other people have success? I do not think so. Maybe I am naive ( okay yes, people do say that about me :)  ) but I am super psyched to see a good ride getting rewarded. I love watching someone work hard for something....and then having success. I feel that most of the people I surround myself with are also on the same track. Work hard, do your best, win or be instigated to be better because someone was better then you that day. But helloooooo, dislike the people that beat me? I don't think so. And for sure not if they have good honest training methods and respect their horses.
     I asked my jr's and yr's to tell me what dressage means to them....I got some fantastic answers. And I feel our region 8 girls are awesome with their goals, ambitions and the reality of dressage. "Dressage creates a strong bond between you and your thousand pound teammate, I love being part of that partnership" was one girls answer! Yea! I love that!. Dressage translated means training. The sport of dressage is about the partnership between a horse and its rider. The beauty of our sport is when a horse performs the movements harmoniously, willingly and with little aids showing from the rider.
      I feel that their maybe people in our sport that are forgetting this concept. It is a problem worldwide that the FEI and other organisations are trying to get hold of, the idea to respect our horses thru the training process. Of course competition can sometimes bring out the worst in us. We all want to do well. One thing to keep in mind is that we are not born knowing how to ride. Training is a process. You cannot win without loosing. You cannot win without putting your heart and guts into a test. So there are times when we feel let down and dissappointed. But, keep your focus on the big picture. If you have to go back to your stall and cry because you made a mistake in your test, personally I think something is wrong with the big picture. If you are not happy to watch a colleague do a great test, you are missing the point. I love watching good riding! It inspires me to be better. I am so proud to be with the group of riders that surround me. To go to a show and feel good about what we are presenting at that time and place, what we have achieved so far, and knowing what will develope in the coming weeks, months and years. Some of us do not have the funds to buy world champion mounts to be U.S. or International stars. But those that do can also stay on a human level. Respect your expensive horse. Learn how to ride it to the best of your ability and not coast on it's talent. Some of us do have the talent and the drive to get there even without the big funding. Some of us compete for the challenge and love of the sport. But in my neck of the woods fighting with your horse, riding with force and lack of understanding just to win a ribbon or trophy that is not it. That is not it at all. The good top riders their best performances....they know when they were. Sometimes the judges notice, and sometimes they don't. Sometimes someone was better that day then they were. But we ride for the dream of that test that goes from start to finish with balance, communication and energy. We know when we have it. We as equestrians know when we don't as well. But, with maturity we respect and honor those who have a better test on that day. And we really respect the judges that notice that. I hope that we can bring along a new generation of young dressage riders that choose training over force. That choose partnership over dictatorship and that choose horsemanship over a mentality of throw him out and get me a new one. A group of riders that are interested in the learning process. Yes! We have to learn how to ride, how to communicate and how to sit! Then we have to maintain that in the arena when we are under pressure. It takes alot to learn how to ride. It takes alot to learn to perform under competition pressure. Enjoy the journey. Take time to learn the lessons. Good Horsemanship is a way of life. Live it :)

Monday, February 11, 2013

Trainers Conference 2013

  I cannot get away without saying something about this years USDF Trainers Conference.
          Steffen was fantastic. And thank you USDF for choosing an awesome, articulate, well educated American citizen to help us learn our sport. Steffen knows where the American dressage trainers are coming from. He works with us everyday. His delivery of the information was concise and never confusing. Scotts comments were uplifting and genuine.
           Overall my favorite part of the entire weekend was the regard for the horses. Again these experts explained the importance of simplifying rather then pushing harder. Working with the horses instead of against them. Of course sometimes this is easier said then done. However, that is what Steffen is so good at. Okay so he does not what? Always an answer, always clear, uncomplicated and fair. I loved it!
            Thank you to everyone who put together this great learning opportunity for us. This includes not only Steffen, Scott, The McPhail's, and USDF but also the great riders who put themselves out there for us to learn from.
                   THANK YOU!

" Engage the brain first, even before the hindleg, teach the horse to offer"   Steffen Peters

Do I want to Learn Dressage?

   Recently I read a blog post written by Lauren Sprieser about playing the guitar vs learning to play the guitar. It immediately hit home with me. I would LOVE to play the guitar like Eddie Van Halen! But take time and struggle learning to play the guitar, I do not have the patience! So I do not know how to play the guitar, but I have a super respect for those who play well.
     This applies to our sport as well. So many people want to ride dressage. They watch their friends, trainers and hero's ride and want to do it like that, but that is easier said then done. I think in America we are not good at taking lessons. I know I was not good at taking lessons. This is not something they taught us in school. How to take a lesson. I could not take a piano lesson. I hated making mistakes so much I never bothered even trying to listen to my instructor. She was a teacher. Should I not at least try to listen to what she has to say about where to start and how to proceed. No, I thought that every mistake I made was my fault. It obsessed my brain until my fingers were stiff and frozen and no pretty piano music came out of that instrument. I just thought one could sit down at the piano and somehow it should already be in us how to play the piano.
         So then I want to ride horses. But my skill level at taking lessons has not improved. So my poor horse! The same frustration with making mistakes over took me! Luckily dressage was not my first equine sport. So it was easier on my horses, jumping, cross country and trail riding are much less detail oriented then my present passion. Honestly I think I was well in my 30's before I could take a lesson. Some of my trainers may even say later then that!
      As an instructor I have tried to take time to learn not only my sport, but I have taken time to learn about teaching. Some of the psychology behind giving information in understandable content and exercises. I have taken alot of time and spent alot of money learning to train horses. To learn to explain things to them in simple ways and get them to work for me willingly. Thanks so much to Mr Schumacher for confirming and nurturing my belief that horses can be willing partners. But, in order for them to be willing partners we need to ride with feel and understanding. We need to try to stop ourselves from over reacting on every little mistake and we need to take lessons! Listen to what our instructors have to say. Let it help us! There are steps that need to be taken to become a good rider. We cannot just jump in and ride like Ingrid Klimke and Isabel Worth. As much as I wish this was not the truth. These gifted and EDUCATED riders have spent their whole lives learning their sport. Taking lessons!
        So you want to learn dressage............take it step by step. Enjoy the little things. When you are able to relax and feel your horse participated with you, even at the lower levels this is so much more fun than forcing an unwilling partner to do the upper levels. And once you have mastered the skills it takes to be balanced on your horse and understood by your partner the upper levels will make sense and feel almost (ALMOST!) easy. Riding a horse that is balanced and willing is so gratifying! Learn dressage and make that your priority! Everyday will be fulfilling, and before you know it flying changes and pirouettes will be made out of simple changes and ten meter circles. :)

Monday, January 7, 2013

Day to Day

 Cannot believe that the time has gone by so fast. The first couple of shows at Jim Brandon and White Fences, horses arriving from the cold, Christmas and New Years!
        January is a very full month for us in Wellington, the list of activities is overwhelming! I feel sooooo lucky to have our beautiful, relaxed farm for our fantastic horses. When we venture out into the busy world and experience all that wellington has to offer it is so nice to come home to 999 B road, peace and quiet, a great place for the horses too train and live.
         The shows have started out mostly good! Ariel is finding peace with Sax in the Inter 1. This is great and will be the foundation she needs for the next step :) P and P in the ring, relaxed. Zee was a star at 3 rd level. Very proud of her and impressed by how far she has come in her self carriage and understanding. The flying changes are becoming easier and easier, now it is just a matter of whose idea is it......! Barbara arrived this week and I look forward to putting them together as a team. They look so beautiful together and Zee although young has such a great work ethic I am excited to see the future of this team. Noah started with his Prix St Georges at Jim Brandon in November and he was great! Then I got the bad idea to find him a new saddle, which he clearly told me during White Fences did not fit!! Oooops, bad timing Nancy. Anyway beside his small hoof abcess that caused him to take a short vacation he is back in top form and we are looking forward to our next outing to redeem ourselves.
           PW has been growing (okay time to stop now!) and when we are home starts to look mature, but wen we take her out in public she is still looking like a baby next to the other horses! She has done her first couple of REAL shows and was great! Thank you Rikke for giving her such great experiences :) PW scored 76, 75 and 74 % in her first 3 classes. So proud.
           Chanett was able to show one of our sale horses over the weekend 4 th level and that went great! Congratulations to Chanett and Palermo for 65% in their first outing together and Palermo's first outing in some time I am sure. They looked great!
          Roxanne is back and I am so happy to be riding her again! Some finishing touches and we will soon be out there at 4 th level and Prix St Georges I am sure by the end of the season.
            Dhoppler our new toy is making some great progress and he is such a joy to work with everyday! Dhoppler is 9 year old Don Federico gelding that we purchased this fall as a sales project. He is a big baby. Loves to be loved on but is very serious about his work! He is learning his tempi changes and pirouettes with style. We took him to the show over the weekend for his first outing and he was great! Perhaps I will be able to get him into the ring before someone snaps him up!
           Welcome back Ingrid, Barbara and Jeanette! And first time welcome to Nicole, the first of many training visits we hope!
          Also have to say congratulations to Lendon and Robert for what sounds to have been a fantastic week for the Horsemastership program :)
         And! Looking forward to Mr Schumcher arriving in the end of January and some days to ride with him in February as well. Cannot wait.
        I am so happy to have such a great teacher who (finally) got through to me with his fantastic horse training philosophies and technique. Our barn is full of happy athletes and so much of it is because of Mr Schumacher and Ellen Bontje. Everyday I think of how confusing it is to make your way thru the maze of training techniques and ideas. It is so easy for me to look away now and say, that is not for me ! I know what I want and I am excited that Mr Schumacher is willing to dedicate himself to helping me achieve my goals. Without a dedicated training partner nothing is possible. Now the Alexis is 21 this year! Better get a move on training the next superstar :)
      Happy Riding !