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 :)


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