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, December 7, 2015

The USDF Convention

          I have arrived home after a great trip to Las Vegas! My head full of ideas and missing my horses. Florida is having crazy rain and I truly hope the weather clears up for our Festival of Champions this week.
          It was super fun to see everyone in Las Vegas and I truly feel we have an amazing group of people steering our Dressage Sport into the future in a positive way. I was not able to go to the awards banquet but so happy to see so many people arriving to claim their well earned prizes from this year. The young people especially, that were experiencing the Convention for the first time and then of course the breeders, volunteers, and riders all being rewarded for participating in our fantastic sport. Really so nice to see.
           It was heart wrenching for me that Lloyd Landkamer was not their to receive his Life Time Achievement Award, and brought tears to my eyes every time he was mentioned, such an incredible loss to our community, an amazing man taken way before his time. In addition was the sad loss of Veronica Holt who gave so much of her time to the sport and especially to the young people.
           The biggest topic at the Convention of course was the U.S. Finals. I was very sad to see headlines such as The West not Best for Dressage. This was not at all the feeling I got and I hope that the dressage riders from Regions 5,7 and 9 also did not have this feeling. I felt a lot of pressure to do the right thing for the entire dressage community when voting on this subject. Although I sympathize with the show managements that have the daunting task of moving this great show, and I completely understand the financial burden put on USDF to make this event work in more then one location, I do not believe we can have a show that is named The U.S. Finals, that does not have all of the U.S. represented. I am very pleased with the outcome of the Board of Governors and I hope that the rest of the dressage community will be as well.
            Basically the decision was made to keep the Finals in Kentucky for now, with Regions 5, 7 and 9 given the tough task of finding a venue that will fit all of the needs of this amazing show. Personally as a member of Region 8 I feel that our job is now to start to create some fundraising and look for sponsors, so that when the Finals move West we can be there to represent our great Region.
           As a Regional Coordinator and Chef d'Equipe of Region 8 I attended all of the Youth and NAJYRC meetings. The biggest news of course is that NAJYRC moves to Colorado in 2016. I gathered a lot of information during the week and will update my website with this in the next two weeks. I also am excited to see that there have been major improvements in the USDF website regarding the NAJYRC as well as other youth opportunities. So please check that out. In other news: Anyone under the age of 22 must wear protective headgear in the FEI jog, and snaffles will be accepted in the qualifying classes for NAJYRC. These rules have been in the making for a long time, but they are now in use.
           The snaffle rule means that Jr's and YR's wishing to use their test at Regional Finals as a qualifying score for the coming year for NAJYRC will be able to do so.
           I also presented a new agreement that will need to be signed by our Region 8 declared riders in order for them to be eligible for Region 8 funds when vying for the NAJYRC team. This came with positive feedback and Debra Reinhardt and I will make some necessary changes and then that will be in use for 2016.
           I am also excited that Region 8 will be able to host a USDF sponsored Jr YR clinic in 2016. previously the USDF had not enough funding to provide clinics yearly, so Region 8 was eligible every other year. With a clinic in 2015 and one in 2013 taught by George Williams. These were incredibly successful. However, they have acquired sponsorship for every year, and we will host Charlotte Bredahl this coming year, with the tentative date being September 3-4, 2016 at The Ashby Stock Farm. This will all be confirmed shortly and the information will go up on both my website as well as Region 8 and USDF's websites.
           The Adult Clinic Series is still on an every other year rotation. Therefore Region 8 has decided to host an Adult Clinic or two or three in 2016. This is still in the works, but we are very excited to bring forward an awesome format that will benefit many of our Adult USDF members.
           George Williams, president, Steve Schubert, treasurer and Debra Reinhardt, Region 8 Director all ran unopposed in the election therefore they are all on for another term. This is very good news and we really appreciate their enthusiasm, hard work and the amazing expertise and dedication that they bring to the USDF.
           I encourage anyone who has questions or comments to email me. I am looking for questions, riding, training or about USDF to answer and post on my website, I am sure your not the only one that is wondering that exact thing, so help others and help yourself! And if I do not know the answer I am happy to research the subject further for you.  Also, comments that might help us work better to serve Region 8.
           That's all for now :) Ride well!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015


         We are getting settled in Florida, so far so good, but it is still super hot! The horses are amazing to acclimate so well. We left a cool Massachusetts and came to a very summer like Florida! So far so good. I am very happy that everyone made the trip great and they are settled in and working well.
          I was looking on Face Book last night and noticing a lot of posts about training available, lessons available and new barns with new trainers opening their doors. Some of these are kids I have met over the past years at Young Riders or on the way to Young Riders. It is great to see them choosing a life with horses and wonderful to see the support they are getting from their own circle of friends as well as the dressage community.
          This made me think a lot about some very passionate and talented riders that I have known through the years making that step into the real world and what has helped them to become successful and why some people never were able to get as far as their hard work and determination should have gotten them. Yes you can blame it on money, or bad luck, or lack of support when people don't get as far as they want. You can say this person was lucky or rich or had great sponsors and that is why they succeeded. But I do not think it is all about that.
           EDUCATION , that is it, continuing education!
           What I would invite the clients of these very talented and well started young trainers to do in addition to supporting them by hiring them is support them in their continuing education. Many people are frightened to bring in clinicians or to go out and take lessons with someone close by for fear of loosing business. One of the biggest excuses that I hear from young trainers for not going to clinics with top trainers is that they cannot afford to take a day away from teaching........"and Saturday is my biggest day". So what I would ask of you wonderful dressage enthusiasts who put your trust and support into these young spirited trainers is help them to feel comfortable to get keep their education growing.
            How? First of all you need to show your support to your trainer by being trusting of their decisions and keep a dialog about the progress your horse is making. Always make it clear that you are happy with the work and not looking elsewhere. If there is a possibility of a clinician coming to the barn and it is appropriate offer to pay for your trainer to ride your horse with this clinician. Sometimes your horse may not be appropriate, but you know funds are tight, perhaps other students can join with you to pay for a lesson for your trainer on his or her own horse. Or can you create an extra lesson to help make the money affordable to them. And another really good idea would be to let your trainer take that special symposium weekend off and go learn something with pay! Would that ever be a treat for your up and coming trainer to have all of her clients actually pitch in for her to have a paid education day! Another interesting concept could be that all the good clinicians out there could add one lesson to their 6 or 8 lesson day and teach one up and coming trainer for free :) I have heard of trainers that do not want to teach some lower level students and that the home trainers should be doing a better job...........well how can they do a better job if they are not educated enough to do so? This could be a good idea to spread around :) Like buying the person behind you coffee at Starbucks, but better!
            In every profession one needs to do continuing education. If you are a nurse, a vet, an electrician it does not matter, you need to go back to school now and then. I had a client tell me when I was younger and I told her I was leaving for a bit to study in Germany, she said "but you already know all you need to keep teaching me!" . For a while I actually agreed with her, I thought probably I could keep teaching this nice lady with everything I knew at that time and never exhaust my knowledge. I was sorry, but I had other riding goals that pushed me to want more education, so I had to go, but perhaps she was right about that.
            After being in Germany I realized for sure she was not right!! First of all just getting inspiration from these wonderful trainers brings more energy to the lessons. Then there is the ability to get a lot more done in 45 minutes then I used to be able to. Yes, some people do not want to show, maybe they aspire to 3 rd level not Grand Prix, but we should still work to be the best we can be to help them get there. But, I sympathize with these young trainers and how expensive it is to get Good Help! And it is hard to give up a day of pay to pay money to learn. However, I also think if you are taking money from people to teach them or their horses you should keep up your education. It is easy to get lethargic, it is easy not to push yourself, it is easy to become boring and non productive. This is not good for our sport!! We need to be energized, enlightening and challenging. We need to encourage more people to join us in our passion. In order to do this we must keep ourselves fresh and innovative and we can only do this by getting ourselves out there and watching the best or riding with the best that the sport has to offer.
            I do not know anyone at the top of our sport that has decided they do not need continuing education. So lets make it possible for the people coming up in the sport to embrace this attitude as well. Let's help them all continue their education.

                                 Ride Happy! Ride Well :)

Monday, October 26, 2015


  It has been a long time since I posted anything about PW. When we started her under saddle I thought what fun it would be to blog about her progress and what fun she and I were having together on our journey of education.
  After we backed her as a 3 year old I brought her to Florida with the rest of the horses and as a good owner in the fall of her 3 year old year I had x rays done of her knees and hocks to see how she was maturing. Good news and bad news the vet said, yes her growth plates are mature, however there are chips we need to take out. Okay, so we take the chips out, what else?

   After months of lay up we start back slowly, my friend and colleague Rikke Poulson helped me and she got back to work promptly and seemed pretty happy to be back at it. But, as we did more work the happiness seemed to be replaced with grumpiness and I did not feel like she was totally happy in her body. I took my time, tried to fix every ailment and a year went by and then another one. We had some soft tissue damage, some sore feet, a sore back. Slowly it was becoming apparent to me that my beautiful little girl was not going to be my next grand prix horse. She was not happy to be ridden, that was the biggest point, and I could not figure out why. Most people said I was too nice to her, she needed to  learn work ethic and I had to get a bit stern. But every time she said no we always found the reason, and so it went on and on.
     I was very fortunate to be able to go to Holland and attend the Global Dressage Forum, I had been before, when I was living in Europe, but this time I took a couple of days off and flew to Holland special. Ingrid Klimke and Monica Teodorescu  the most important people in a great line up for me to learn from. I had barley noticed the name Tristan Tucker, and was not super interested in Natural Horsemanship anyway.
     How wrong can someone be, and what a wonderful life changer it was for me.
    The whole forum was amazing. Fitness, mental fitness, training, top horses and top riders, wonderful camaraderie between everyone, I loved every minute. But the best part was meeting a horseman named Tristan Tucker. His amazing technique, philosophy and sense of humor left me wanting to learn more. It took me a year and a half to get him to come to the States to help me, but it was PW that made me keep trying.
      By the time Tristan met PW I had all but given up on her. She did not want to be a dressage horse. Yes, she still had some physical issues, but in the past I have always been able to get on the horses side and help them get strong enough to get over it. Why was this sooooo not working out? Even her little brother who is 3 years younger was surpassing her in education and happiness level! In our world most of the time you end up sending a horse like this to a cowboy to get "broken-in". I could not bring myself to do this. I begged and begged Tristan and finally he actually showed up. I just gave him PW in a halter. Told him we were not getting along and left him alone with her for 4 days. The first session I was ready to cry. He looked at her with a completely different point of view. He engaged her smarts and got her to work for him and although he did things I know I could never do he never went after her or reprimanded her unfairly. He created a situation where she started to be comfortable in her skin and was interested to play with him. Since then he has been back several times. In the beginning we would digress by the time he came back and he would have to get me back on track. Now with the help of the vet and Tristan we are progressing.
       I tell the story now because I was riding her around the other day like a normal horse. I did not have to be careful, I had to be thoughtful, but, she is interested to work, she does not feel perfect in her body, but she is getting stronger and healthier. My little princess engages in the activities, gives to my legs, accepts me in the saddle , does some real dressage exercises and best of all she is happy. Still she may not be my next grand prix horse. But she has taught me so much about training. Some horses take longer, some take time mentally, some physically, they have their own timeline and it does not always work out to be the young horse program we think of from the books. I thought I was understanding this, she took it to a new level, as Arthur Kottas says "Take time but don't waste time", I was not being productive with her, I was wasting time. Tristan gave me exercises and ideas to keep her motivated even on days she could not do a big girl training session. He showed me how to make her feel better in her own body. His insight and feel is amazing, his patience is so deep and his creativity is beyond his years.  I am so grateful that I have been able to learn from this amazing trainer. In addition to my problem horses he has also helped me with my halfway normal horses and given me a big boost. I can go to the shows well prepared with confident horses and a clear idea of what is happening underneath me. The idea that we can get the horses on our side working for us and have a true partnership is for me the most important part of my training. This concept is what led me to Mr Schumacher and now to Tristan Tucker. I am so grateful to have their support and training and I look forward to continuing my education with them.

        As the summer season is ending it causes me to reflect back on the months here and look forward to a busy winter in Florida. This has been our biggest summer yet in Ashby. We hosted awesome clinics with Conrad Schumacher, Lilo Fore, Tristan Tucker and George Williams. Our Ashby family is growing and our Adult Camp is really becoming an amazing event. I welcome everyone coming to Florida over the winter to come and visit our winter location in Loxahatchee Groves and keep checking our website for some special events that we are adding to our schedule in Ashby next summer.
                  All the best! and Ride Well :)


Adult Camp August 2015

Every August we open the Ashby Stock Farm to an awesome group of ladies for our Adult Camp. Every year we have a theme, this year's theme was " Your Position and How it Affects Your Horse".  Several years ago we had a "Goal Strategizing"  theme and although we did not focus on goal making this weekend, we did " get focused and set some attainable goals pertaining to posture and the strength of a good position." :) 
 The weekend starts on Friday where the ladies are welcome to acclimate their horses to the arena and the farm. This is fun to watch as they are on their own, but choose to support each other as they unpack and work to make their horses feel comfortable in their new surroundings. After getting settled we have our first lecture where we discuss theory and what I have in mind for the weekend. This year Lynn Simonson was very generous to paint beautiful horses on votives and Linda Powers put together awesome bags for all of the campers. The dinner theme for Saturday night was Mexican Fiesta, so each bag contained fun margarita glasses and chips in addition to the votives, note pads and custom calendars made for the occasion.

 The discussion Friday afternoon also included USDF, our GMO's and how to create a better avenue for Adult Amateurs to participate in dressage. Many of the suggestions were great and I plan to take them and some ideas of my own to the Dressage Convention in December.
    Friday night we had a barbeque all together, but finished up early to get ready for an early morning.
     The lessons were great. All of the ladies were inspiring to each other. The horses feeling the excitement were all on their best behavior and worked hard to make the desired progress. It is exciting to me to have such a group of ladies that are interested in each others progress. Some remember horses and riders from years past and are eager to applaud each other on their amazing progress. There was progress made from day to day, but also goals set for future work and everyone went home with a plan for down the road.
     I am inspired by these wonderful ladies that make dressage their passion and their hobby. I have some position flaws in my riding that I had just about given up on, they were so ingrained from an early age. These wonderful ladies that have families, jobs and not always a lot of money to dedicate to their horses or riding education,  work so hard to make improvements. I see some of them weekly, monthly and others less, but time after time improvements are made, positions and feel improve and they make huge progress. So I learn from these great ladies that I too can tackle my position and make improvements. This august weekend inspires me as much as I hope to inspire them in their riding goals.

       We all decided that August 2016 is too far away and we will have a Florida Camp Getaway in February. Campers will be welcomed for the weekend to Wellington where we will schedule demonstration training sessions at my farm as well as shopping and watch the horse show together.
       I am looking forward to continued education and improvement for myself as well as helping others as they make their way in this amazing sport.
           All the best and ride well :)

Monday, October 12, 2015

Awesome Clinic with Johann Hinnemann and Angelika Fromming

   A big "Thank you" must go out to Pineland Equestrian Center and Jennifer Dillon. This past weekend they hosted an amazing clinic with many opportunities for learning. Because I often host these types of events I do know how much work goes into the planning and hosting of such a weekend, and we must give them a lot of appreciation for bringing us these two amazing professionals on the same weekend, not any less of a feat is organizing the horses and riders and feeding everyone!
   I joined two great friends for the trip to Maine and we were not disappointed.
Saturday morning started in one of Pinelands conference rooms with Angelica Fromming and her computer and an amazing discussion about judging through  the levels. She was candid and to the point. Her explanations were clear and I really enjoyed how appreciative she was of the hard work that goes into the training and therefore understanding that although every horse may have a downside her interest was to reward the good.  Now that being said, she is also clear about what is required and true horsemanship with balanced back to front riding was a prerequisite to good points. The bantering between Ms Fromming and Mr Hinnemann was entertaining and gave us a clue of what was yet to come when the horses were brought in.
    The day went along from young horses through Grand Prix with many wonderful riders putting themselves out there for us to learn from. Both trainers were kind, clear and specific. The horses were amazing in their participation as the riders worked to understand what changes were being made and how to execute the difficult exercises. All I can say is that from back to front it is! Swinging through in the transitions and never loosing the back. We all know it, but watching Mr Hinnemann take these super trainers through his exercises with no compromise while still being kind to the horses and positive with the riders it was a great day!!
    At lunch on Saturday we also enjoyed a look into the world of Oak Hill Ranch owners and Heather Blitz point of view about breeding top warm bloods and this was super informative.
   Sunday we started right away with the riding. Mr Hinnemann and Ms Fromming took two horses and explained how to improve the paces through the movements to gain more points. This was a great demonstration with a lot of clear discussion about how to train horses correctly for higher marks, without taking short cuts or compromising.
    Then we went on to the riders from the day before, from training level through grand prix. The most noticeable thing was the relaxation level. All of the horses and riders came out with a much easier idea in mind, they knew that they could handle whatever would be thrown their way. The horses started off immediately with Mr Hinnemann"s warm up suggestions from the day before and the self carriage and ability to be in front of the leg was apparent even from the stands. It seemed from our point of view that the riders had a great time in their lessons and really got a positive feeling from the horses.
      We had to leave sadly before the stem cell lecture, but I heard from a friend that it was great, and so wonderful that they were able to offer yet another subject for learning.
     For me the only incredibly sad thing to see was the lack of young trainers attending. It was great to see friends and colleagues and catch up with people somewhere other than a horse show. However, it would be so nice if some of our up and coming trainers would take advantage of this amazing opportunity. I don't know if many people do not know these names? And how much they have contributed to the history in our sport? I would only suggest to all trainers that it is not only the people winning in the ring right now that know how to train. There are many people that created the training  systems for our new super stars to be where they are today. Seek these masters out and enjoy what they have to give us. It is much easier than having to figure things out on your own :)
        Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone that made it possible for us to attend this awesome event, and thank you to Jo Hinnemann and Angelica Fromming for your continued excitement and passion for teaching this amazing sport.
          Happy Riding,

Friday, September 11, 2015

Competition vs. "Classical" a point of view

 After the Young Horse Championships and The European Championships there was public outcry from all directions about training, classical riding, rollkur, force vs positive training ....on and on and on. Sadly most of the comments coming from people that are no more competing in dressage then those of us criticizing figure skaters when we don't even know how to skate. I know I should just stay out of this subject, but I find it is very important to my day to day, and relevant to how we are able to make a living with horses.
  Presently I make a meager living at training horses. I would actually say that I have less local business now then when I was 20 years old, fairly uneducated with a Grand Prix Horse in the ring. Lucky for me I have support that is not local, so I am able to continue working with horses as a way of making money. Why I bring this up is because winning at shows does not prove education. Unfortunately. I would also say that this is not all the judges fault. People that are good at making a picture, are just that, good at making a picture....selling a story...........acting out a play. The riding is done for the judges. Videos are made, practice is done, people from the ground are supporting and validating the play. The judges are not always able to discern from where the movements come. For me what it really comes down to is why are you riding dressage?
               It is not about rollkur or judges or points. It is about horses and a way of life that has been passed down through the ages by masters with great knowledge. The horses are bred differently now, so new knowledge must be fed into the system. Conformation is not quite the same, this must be taken into account. But really why do we ride? For ribbons? For fame? For money? Or do we ride for the love of horses and a tradition of art that must be carried on?
              If you asked the whole class at The European Championships how did their ride feel? I think we know from the side the ones that had a good time and felt they had a willing partner in the test. Some of these were not the most brilliant tests, but they were the most correct, and fun to watch. But how can this compete with the play actors? It cannot. So our sport ends up being a bit like the body builders competition with or without steroids. Sometimes we have to be the best of the group that does not do the worst. And in my world that is good enough. The people that are not enjoying their daily riding because they are trying to figure out how to make tricky ways to cover this up and pretend to do that, they are the ones suffering, (sadly along with their horses).  They may have fame for a bit, they may have good clients and sponsors, for a bit. But eventually things come around and people do not want to be part of that.
             When I watch a horse like Valegro work for Charlotte I have no doubt that he would go to the end of the earth for her. I do not feel that he does it because of stress or worry. I would say on the day he comes to the ring not completely himself that this horse would still do his best for her. (and we have seen this).  He would not say no, he might not be able to do the best as he has in the past when he felt better, but he will still try his best. That is what we see, a partnership built on training and trust. Charlotte brought this horse to the Grand Prix a young rider herself. People can judge the way she rides and criticize her mistakes, but they cannot take away the partnership she has with that horse. That is what it is all about. That is why he works for her. To take a young horse even to the smallest venue for the first time is a responsibility. We owe it to our horses to build a secure training system so that when we take them out they can rely on us to have their best interest in mind. Not only the ribbons and notoriety, but their trust. When we do this we build long term relationships that win ribbons and medals in the future. But when you only have money and prestige in mind and no longer care about the horse you will do things, that in my mind, are not good horsemanship. These things do not build long term results. Horses get sour, they go lame they do not perform.
              So I did a test on Glorious not too long ago and I did not win. I made mistakes in the changes and went off course. Not good. However, he felt so great in the ring. He made beautiful relaxed flowing half passes like a grown up. He walked forward with confidence and was completely at home in the ring. I was so happy! I made him feel like the champion he is, no I did not win, but I had an awesome go with a willing partner. So I challenge all of you dressage enthusiasts out there to watch closely. Support good horseman and stick up for good training. It should not be that competition is the ruination of Classical Riding. It should be that we accept the challenge of taking our good riding to the ring. We must not let the stress and pressure take away our riding philosophy. And we must not blame other people for successfully fooling the judges. We just need to support the right trainers and ride with balance and conviction and like 100 years ago when the nasty trainers fell away from lack of interest now too they will loose popularity and positive training will overcome.
                  Ride forward and happy :)

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Quality Preparation Clinic

          The end of April we moved eleven horses up to Massachusetts from Florida. The weather and traffic very kind to us and the team we had to execute this move was so wonderful it made a daunting task manageable. Leaving Florida is always hard. Our farm there is so fun and this time of year trees are fresh, the birds are happy and our Jesus Lizards are coming out of hibernation, it is always hard to pack up. However, this year it was hotter then usual and that made it a bit easier to motivate ourselves northward. Another reason for making the move in the end of April was our Quality Preparation Clinic with Conrad Schumacher and Lilo Fore. The first weekend in May our Ashby Farm was buzzing with activity as we hosted an amazing three days of clinic with these two dressage professors.
           Thursday our participants started to move in, for some this was the first outing after a long snowy winter and the anticipation was tangible. Our clinicians arrived from the airport and a planning session took place late in the evening for the weekend. Friday was a very busy day with 16 lessons, two clinicians and preparations for the next two days that would be open to auditors. Lilo Fore and Mr Schumacher worked seamlessly together with great enthusiasm and dedication to our riders and their horses. The lessons were thoughtful and direct. The horses improved as their riders were coached, encouraged and led through training exercises, small position changes and instruction about application of the aids.  Having these two masters in the arena together was a dream come true for me. They had fun together and pushed hard to find the right way to explain to the riders as well as the best concept for each horse and rider combination. The variety of horses and the different levels and ages of the riders also made the day full of learning. We enjoyed watching Paige Hendrick a 9 year old from Rhode Island with her Morgan mare Queen's Delilah working on her position and communication with the bit as well as Helen Cast and her Grand Prix Stallion Donnersohn working out details of piaffe and passage. The thoughtfulness when applying the aids to a young nervous mare and the concise aids necessary to get a bit lazier guy working from behind. It became clear that there is a very good system for dressage and that Lilo and Mr Schumacher are experts at picking up on the priorities, helping the rider to find the feeling of the new improved connection and then putting it all into motion in test movements. Everyone went to their beds Friday night to rest and prepare for the weekend presentation.
Lilo Fore and Mr Schumacher; an awesome combination.

              Saturday dawned brisk and rainy, but the indoor was filled with the warmth of horse people excited about learning and they were not disappointed. Our riders Saturday were Susan Mercer riding Bianca GGF, showed developing thoroughness and collection, Nancy Lavoie and Glorious demonstrated working patterns for warming up a 3 rd level test, Grace Brennan and Ledgewood's Ben Baun demonstrated how to develop self carriage and preparation for flying changes and Wiebke Bank and Didore showed us 1 st level test 3 after being warmed up by Lilo Fore. After a short coffee break it was all business and Linda Parmenter executed 2 nd level test 3 with some schooling exercises and correction made by Mr Schumacher. Helen Cast and her stallion Donnersohn showed schooling exercises for Grand Prix and just before lunch we delighted in watching Paige Hendrick and Queen's Delilah demonstrate with Lilo Fore how to develop a young rider's seat and aids.
                After lunch we started with Kelly Hendrick and her Morgan Queen's Moody Blues as they warmed up and then executed 3 rd level test 3, Jennifer Fanning and her Fresian Rieke S demonstrated schooling exercises for 1 st level and then Eliza Gardner rode largo 224 thru the JR individual test. Michele Morseth and her own Ben Mac Dhui worked on schooling for 4 th level as did Dorothy Skierkowski riding Stella. The last two for the day were Andrea McCauley riding Rubin demonstrating schooling exercises for Prix St Georges and Lilly Simmons rode Willoughby through the Young Rider Team Test. There was a lot of insight given by Lilo Fore on test riding and gaining (or loosing) points. It was a wonderful learning experience for all of us as she gave her marks out loud as the testes were performed. After the tests Mr Schumacher was able to explain some of the training issues and how to deal with them at home and in the warm up to help prepare for the tests better. It was a great day, but that was only the beginning! After the clinic ended Saturday, preparations were immediately underway for our Fashion Show! From the Stable to Stepping Out was a huge success and a lot of fun for all involved.
Linda Parmenter riding Royal Cocktail
                     We all woke up Sunday morning a bit tired but with no less anticipation than the day before. Lucky for me Grace was willing to go first and I could gather my wits before riding Glorious.  Grace did another awesome job with Lilo Fore coaching her  through exercises to develop self carriage and some of the prerequisites for teaching flying changes. Glorious was awesome and we were able to demonstrate some of Mr Schumacher's famous corner exercises and  other working patterns for 3rd level. Wiebke and Didore made some beautiful work demonstrating 1st level movements and achieving better balance with young horses and all before our coffee break Susan and Bianca were able to show us the partnership necessary to develop throughness and better self carriage for the upper levels.
Grace Brennan and Benny working with Lilo Fore
After the short coffee break Linda Parmenter rode Royal Cocktail through schooling exercises for 2nd level, Michele Morseth rode Ben thru 4th level test 2 and then we were treated to Helen Cast riding Donnersohn through the Grand Prix.
After lunch Kelly rode Queen's Moody Blue thru 4th level test 1, Jennifer Fanning demonstrated schooling toward 2nd level and Eliza did some excellent work with Largo showing us working patterns for both horse and rider to achieve more control for the difficult and intricate JR tests. Andrea continued to show of Rubin thru the Prix St Georges work and Lilly did a beautiful YR Individual test with Willoughby.
Lillian Simons and Willoughby

 The weekend finished with Jane Karol and Sunshine Tour working with Lilo Fore and then riding through the developing Prix St Georges. After the test Lilo and Mr Schumacher worked together with Jane to build up even more points then she had already added up with such a wonderful test. The weekend was a positive learning experience for all. The horses were wonderful and the riders so generous to let us learn from them. Lilo Fore and Mr Schumacher made an amazing team. Both emphatic about crucial components to the making of a dressage horse but also lighthearted and relaxed about mistakes.
       Honestly I could not have asked for a better weekend. I also have to thank all the great people that helped make it possible; Mae Williams and Lisa Jensen for coming up to Massachusetts with me to take care of the horses and help with the event, Guillermo Lucas for taking care of the stable and the horses. Meadowbrook Horse Transport for getting our horses home safe and happy, NSE Stables for another safe and comfortable layover in North Carolina, Matt Lavoie for executing our painless trip north and for all of the setup and logistics involved in such an event. Linda Powers and Lynn Simonson for all of their work on publicity and food, Annemarie Field for the fantastic photos, to everyone involved and for helping with the fashion show (which is it's own blog entry) and of course to Lilo Fore and Conrad Schumacher for their energy, knowledge and perseverance as they continue to impart their knowledge across the globe. THANK YOU!!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Sometimes you get the lesson you need not the lesson you want.

     This winter in Florida has been fantastic! and a wonderful experience as I watch the growth of my students and their horses.
     One interesting subject I am left to ponder though, is how can we move forward together and avoid some of the push me pull you of what are the priorities and who's come first? We go to our instructors with a goal, they have an educated idea of how to achieve that goal, yet, we find ourselves battling against the elements trying to get the correct priorities instilled into the lesson.
       I am not in a position to judge, I have been this person also, unwilling to change, not on purpose but, because I thought I was doing the right thing. I was not understanding that letting go of old misconceptions and habits would open the door to rapid progress. Although I can look back and remember the lessons, I cannot remember why I could not hear the real essence of what was being said and what needed to be done.
      I will forever remember Mr. Schumacher teaching me a life changing lesson one freezing morning in Germany. He was leaving early for the airport and I was to fly with my horses back to the States before he returned. I had been there riding with him and with Ellen Bontje for months. But, it had all come down to this last lesson and he did not want me to go home without it. I was so cold, my fingers freezing off, all I wanted to do was trot, and poor Alexis, rein back after rein back after walk pirouette after half pass after halt after.........on and on until could I please ***** get the feeling. His persistence to get me to give up my misconception about what I was feeling and let myself feel something else, something new, and something even better! changed my riding forever. But, why did it take me so long, and why did he have to lock me in the indoor at 6 am on the freezing morning?
       We start developing feel from the first time we sit in the saddle. We are told what we are feeling. We are told what is right, what is wrong and this is how right feels. I find in most lessons we are also told it is our fault when a horse makes a mistake. So this concept, in my opinion, causes the riders to get the wrong feeling. How many times from that first ride are you told....don't let him do that? Keep him straight, keep him forward, don' let him put his head up, don't let him slow down..... How do we do this? As a beginner rider we hold on, squeeze more, tighten up, pull his head in and tighten ourselves up, by accident, but really this is what happens. When it looks correct from the side the instructor says that is good and no matter what it feels like that is what you associate good with. That is how we develop feel. This is why I think lunging beginner riders is so very important, this takes the responsibility away from the rider and allows them to concentrate on their seat and develop feel for the horses motion. One can let themselves notice the swing in the steps, the rhythm of the gait, and get the feeling that the horse moves you. From here everything else come, without this everything else is corrupt.
          After you learn how to move with the horse then you can learn aids. There is a circle of energy and a circle of aids. Seat, leg, rein. However, when we loose our balance because we do not have an independent seat and an aid becomes a way of holding on then things become confused, horses make mistakes, we are told it is our fault and then we hold on more. Later we start to see the error of our ways, but feel, feel will not let us fix this entirely. Feel is busy telling us that this is right!
          So an instructor comes into the arena and watches you ride for 10 minutes, assess the situation and your goals and comes up with priorities and a lesson plan. What can you do as a rider to let this priority in? What can we do as instructors to help you trust yourself to let go of some of those old habits and try something new?
         We have heard it all before "she doesn't know how much better we are", "you don't know how far we've come" , "he used to be much worse". This instructor sees one thing above all holding you back. How can he get through the history and help you move forward?
         I have had so much fun this winter helping people let loose of their baggage and introducing them to forward progress. However, I think we could all spend less time holding on to old habits and believe in ourselves more.
        So I put that question out there. Did you have a special lesson that helped you, a light bulb moment? Something someone said that made you realize that what you are doing really is not getting the success that you want so you let yourself open up to something new? What brought you to that place? And how can we as instructors help you get to that place sooner?
                     Happy Riding!!