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, September 22, 2014

The end of summer...

 Today is the autumnal equinox. People told me time would go by too quickly when I got older, but I had no idea!
We got home last night from NEDA. We are not heading to Devon this year. I am looking forward to showing in Florida. It has been a while since I have had a horse ready for the CDI's and I am truly missing that. However I am also very grateful for the wonderful horses I do have and the incredible support.
  Glorious was third in the second level championship, he received over 70% from Lilo Fore and a 9 on one of his simple changes. I am proud of my little man that takes everything in stride. He has not been well enough to show a lot this summer. I am so amazed how he goes to the shows with big eyes and just gives me that feeling as if to say "if you think I can do it then okay! I trust you!" how lucky am I. But really, that is what I wanted to create and I am grateful to my trainers and mentors for making me believe it is possible. A horse that can go to a scary place and feel happy and comfortable to perform. So much fun!
            So while we are reminiscing about good behavior.. I am also very proud of Roxanne. She was 4 th in the 4 th level championship also receiving over 70% from a top judge. But, you know those tests you come out and you do not care what the judge says? The test that you feel like everything I wanted from her she gave me? She came to the ring thinking "I really need to be nervous now" But when I sat on her and said no you don't she answered with "okay! Let's do this" No drama queen, no taking over, just in front of me awesome Roxanne doing what we all know she can do and that is what it is all about. It was a long road getting her fit again after her accident and surgery and knowing that we are on the way up again is so fun. CDI's here we come! Thank you Scott and Casey and Andrea for giving me this wonderful opportunity. And thank you to Roxanne.
           I also have to say I had an awesome time helping some wonderful ladies with their magnificent horses. Tyrelle, Faye and Kerri all rode in the third level championships and I was so proud. The adult amateur class was very competitive and Tyrelle with two blips was 5 th and Faye 9 th and Kerry not far behind. But more importantly all rode beautiful presentations with the fundamentals in place. And when Kerry took a guy that was a bit "taking over" in the extended canter into a beautiful collected transition in the corner and then completely gave the reins on the short side  I was ecstatic! That is it!  Andrea and Michelle were riding in the Prix St. Georges and although not record breaking tests they both are so determined to do the right thing for the horses and improve on every outing. Rubin is doing an amazing job of coming back into the competitive world after some bad experiences and Andrea so dedicated to making things right for him. Rodney is a superstar and finally Michelle has time for him and is reaping the rewards of his honesty and her hard work. I love my job when it is filled with such determined, hardworking and wonderful people and horses!
           It is hard to imagine that I am 50. The masters have said and continue to say the day you stop learning is the day you die, and I truly embrace that. I am so looking forward to our clinics with Mr Schumacher and Tristan in October. One thing I do have to say I noticed at this horse show (maybe now more then ever) is how many horses were really scared. I invite everyone to believe it is not necessary. We are all trying to be better riders and everyone has their own path they need to travel. I respect that! My path has been long and sometimes in the wrong direction. But, knowing that my horses can be comfortable in all situations, knowing that I can prepare them for that is such a great feeling. If you have time please come join us at The Ashby Stock Farm Oct 3-5 for Conrad Schumacher and Oct 17-19 for Tristan Tucker.
            Looking forward to seeing you soon! Until then Happy Riding!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Labor Day

  Once again the Adult Camp held at The Ashby Stock Farm was one of the highlights of my summer. This years theme, Body Language, proved to be an interesting one for everyone that took part.
   One of the things I love about having a theme is that no matter the age, level, experience or athletic ability it is always easy to watch the positive aspects of the theme benefit all participants. This year was no different and paying attention to and keeping positive body language transformed these horse and rider combinations.
     Friday everyone, yes everyone, (that is a first, usually we have some Saturday arrivals) arrived and settled in on time for our lecture and great dinner made by Gail Price and Kerri Arruda. The lecture gave us a chance to go over our Body Language Work Book. I created the workbook with a place for notes and key points that I feel are important about body language; what to look for in your horse, how to change it and how to come to the lesson prepared for riding. I incorporated some ideas of what body language means to me and how to work on these points, both on and off  ones horse. 
      Saturday morning started early and with a lot of enthusiasm. Our star of the day was Zoe. She has been to camp before, as a matter of fact this was her third camp. Zoe started with us a year ago with her dedicated owner Karen. Zoe had been started badly and really did not want to play. Karen has done an amazing job. She has not only participated in camp, but she came back several times over the summer for reinforcement. Watching Zoe walk , trot and canter around the arena was wonderful. Seeing her happy about participating with Karen is amazing. It was rewarding to see Karen and Zoe communicating so well, I think it was also an inspiration to all of the other campers to see her improvement. The bar was raised high from the first lesson and no one disappointed us. Taking time to talk about the movement of the horse in all of the gaits, the timing and application of the aids and then discussing the horses positive and sometimes not so positive reactions gave the ladies the power to make good decisions in their riding.
       At lunch we had a brief talk about goals and I reminded everyone to use their goal workbooks from the April camp. We talked about how easy it is to think we are not improving. Writing things in the goal workbooks helps to keep things in perspective. Sometimes one forgets that only two months ago it was difficult to pick up the left lead and now it flows easily. Take time pat yourselves on the back when goals, big or small, have been accomplished. Let riding be a fun journey about partnership and confidence.
        Saturday night we ate together in the lounge, a wonderful homemade dinner made by Linda Powers. Everyone enjoyed the time to talk about their lessons, their horses and our sport. I took a couple of more minutes to answer questions from the day. I love this time because by the evening all of the ladies have had time to reflect on their lessons and start to think about what they want to make better tomorrow. It is great that we have that time to answer the questions while the riding is still fresh in everyone's mind. Also, it is nice having the group together and listening to the compliments and positive admiration spread around the room.
       Sunday all of the riders were even more comfortable than Saturday and everyone was on a mission. The horses were happy to be ridden by such riders with good timing and technique, the riders were able to move about the arena with ease. I enjoyed all of the lessons and was especially impressed by the awareness the riders were gaining of their mounts. Everyone went home with homework but also with new skills. In addition I think that every participant in camp gained a new level of understanding about what their horses are doing underneath them. Each time we do a camp I am amazed at the progress everyone makes. It is awesome that everyone watches all of the lessons. This makes a huge difference in the understanding of their own lesson. The lectures also make it easier on the horses so a lot of the goals have already been discussed and the horses do not have to put up with  that part. I could also say thank you to this great group of ladies that come to camp, they bring an enthusiasm and desire to learn that makes it so easy to create progress. I am already looking forward to Spring camp and I am going to start working on a new theme and an extra special Work Book for everyone.