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, 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!!