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.

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 :)