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, 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,