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, April 17, 2019

We need more corners in life!

Percolating in my brain is a book about life lessons that dressage has taught me. It will be an awesome book about the parallels of a life with horses and lessons necessary to navigate a happy life in the "real" world.
             One of the chapters "We need more corners" Can be found, in it's infancy, below.
              I hope you enjoy it, and please share with other people that may need a corner sometime.

                  When I ride I am very particular about my corners. depending on the age and experience of the horse every corner has a purpose. If it is a young horse it still needs to be "my" corner. Not too deep, not too shallow, balanced and being sure not to loose the rhythm. With an older horse it could be that we school transitions, leg yield, smaller and then bigger steps, and then the half halt. Axel Steiner said a couple of weeks ago "the horse should be a bit taller when he comes out of the corner". I love this! So, what if we applied this to life.

                    When I ride a corner I ask my horse to wait, rebalance, build energy and then come out of the corner "a bit taller".

               If we build corners into our life it might be to stop and reflect, remember our purpose, or even who we are or who we want to grow into. We might pause, stop running from task to task or lesson to lesson, we might take a minute to prepare a healthy meal for our self or sign up for a necessary yoga class or massage appointment we have not had time for. We might even schedule some family time, vacation time or even alone time. What if we were able to build some corners into our life and then come out of the corner a bit taller? With renewed energy and enthusiasm, with clarity and direction? Perhaps even with a bit more understanding of who we are and where we are going?

                 I just love this concept! Then we could take it even further to the next step. Because when I show I really use my corners to set up the next movement, to make sure my horse is with me, balanced, through and ready for the next step. I believe we could build corners into our lives purposefully, perhaps once a day,once a week, once a month? Whatever timing suits you to give yourself the clarity you need to motor forward in the right direct. Imagine how tall you could be!

                        Have fun considering this!

                    All the best!

       Be Youthful in your approach
       Connection is the Key
       Remember anything is possible

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Awesome interview with Isabell Werth

Wellington Florida is an amazing place to be in the winter. Many learning opportunities, coupled with good friends and amazing horses.
This February we were fortunate to have the opportunity to watch Isabell Werth doing a Master Class at Global. The following morning she was kind enough to sit with me for a couple of minutes and let me in on her thoughts about training horses and dressage sport.

                          February 8, 2019        Global Dressage Festival

           Thank you to Isabell for her time and honesty.

           Nancy;      My first question is, if someone was to come work with you, a student or working student, what would you say is the most important trait they bring with them?

           Isabell;       The patience for horses.The patience and love for horses. Without this it makes no sense to want a life with horses. There are no clear times, it is seven days a week where you are responsible for an animal. I cannot teach someone who is not patient and looks at the watch and it is time to go. To be in this job it means to be more idealistic rather then professional.

           Nancy;        Do you have practices that help you to stay balanced? Exercise, meditating or yoga or anything?

          Isabell;         No, there is no time. The whole time I am in the stable normally, I think about what I need to do and around about the horses. I was growing up at Dr. Schulten-Baumer's place and he was a strong mentor and a strong trainer. So there was no special mentor training, and twenty years ago there was no idea of mental training. It was more that you are here and you do and there is no question, you love and are patient and you are doing it. It was a big dream of mine as a little child to work with horses. So I looked around and stole with my eyes what I could from the other riders and I was breathing this in. This is what makes the difference between good or better.

         Nancy;       Beautiful! Which horse would you say has taught you the most about horses?

         Isabell;       Satchmo was the one. He was the first one that taught me and educated me in a different way then any of the horses before. I had a really lucky situation to get, after Weingard and Fabienne which are the horses that brought me into the sport, to get Gigolo. Gigolo was so clear minded, so positive, so strong in his mind, so strong in his mind in a positive way, he was not as much of an athlete, but there were never any problems at all around him. I could really concentrate on the competition and he was always there. Then with Satchmo I learned all the problems I could have without getting a solution in a month or even six months, it was really difficult. Sleepless nihts about how I could find a solution and how I could do it better. And, the most important, he really taught me to listen.

           Nancy;     That is great, that is really great. So which horse do you think has benefited the most from what you learned from Satchmo?

           Isabell;     All horses that came after. All horses that have come after Satchmo, because I now have a different perspective. 

           Nancy;      Is there a favorite test for you? Any horse? Any level that stands out for you as a favorite?

           Isabell;      You mean which test I really like or test I have ridden?

           Nancy;       One that you have competed, any horse that stands out, the feeling and the way that you experienced the test? One that stands out that you really loved.

           Isabell;        No, it's not one test. I really love to sit on the young ones and to bring them up, but I am really a fighter for the special. Because there is no other competition with such a clear comparison and such a high level competition where there are changes between the forward extensions and the collections. This makes it really difficult and when it works it gives you the feeling like you can fly. Of course, the freestyle when you have the music and the horse it also gives you a very special feeling. You feel the atmosphere and you feel that the music is carrying the horse and yourself, and the crowd is also. This atmosphere touches you, there is no question.

          Nancy;        I think that watching you compete, you are one of the only people that you can really see it on your face when everything is working.  You show such happiness and joy when the horse is working with you. You can really see it when the horse is with you, how is it possible for you to be so present? How can you just be there with the horse in the moment and not think of the surroundings? Doing a fabulous test, and yet not noticing anything else around? How do you create that for yourself?

        Isabell;        It is when it comes as one unit. It does not work all the time, but when you have the situation that you are really feeling that you are one unit with the horse and that it goes in the right way you forget the rest. But, this is the big advantage in our sport, you have an animal, you have a partner, and a partnership to the horse where you can forget the rest of the world. You know! Then you are in your own world, you are in a communication with the horse where there is no space for others. I think that is the reason why you focus together, like when you are really in a conversation with a human and you forget the rest are around, it is the same with a horse.

        Nancy;       And how do you teach that? Do you teach that to your students?

        Isabell;      You can't teach that. You can't teach that. This is there or not. It is a question of the patience of a person. And you can teach a lot of things, but you can't teach patience. You can show it, you can live it, but you can't teach patience. You can teach discipline, you can teach responsibility, something like this, but at the end, to have true responsibility to the horses, to have REALLY patience, you cannot teach this. It is there or not, you wake up on Sunday at morning because you love to go to the stable, or you say no I don't want it.

        Nancy;     Great. Ok, The way the sport is going now, and the way the competitions are developing, what do we need to do, as participants in the sport,  to keep it going in the right direction? To keep the horses as the most important part?

       Isabell;       It is always difficult to keep the balance, on one hand we need some special things, the commercial parts of the sport, it is a business, where a lot of people make a living from it. We need show and the show character. All this on the side, we must not forget the horse. A horse is a horse and we must take care of this. All of us can make mistakes during the time, with horses, educating the horses and the children. No one can say they did not make mistakes, no one can say they are always perfect, I am always fair, or I do not punish, or I never have a bad day. That the horses won't feel it. Everyone feels it, this is human. We should not put on Facebook or whatever that we are all doing everyday the right way, and we should not post  all the fakes. This is really the problem! It is not the truth most of the time, what is posted. The photos are through a filter, or with the stuff you can do to them. There are good days and there are bad days. We should be allowed to ask for top performances, we sit on a horse, this is allowed, we would like to show the best that we can, from ourselves and our horses. We do competition, performance, it means expectations it means success or no success and disappointment. This all around we should show in an honest way. There is a part of us that says I would like to sit on a horse without a saddle and go in the field, and this is nice, ok, leave it, leave this part for these people and leave the performance also, accept what we are doing. This is the challenge for the next ten years, we will have to work to be able to compete and stay on our horses.

          Nancy;            And your program at home? How do you keep your horses happy so they want to come to the ring everyday? Come to the shows? Do you have other things that you do with them to create this partnership?

          Isabell;            Our whole team is busy everyday to be around the horses and keep them as happy as possible. We also have days where five people are sick and we have to rush to do our work, and we cannot always take the time we should take. So this is a daily choice. At the end I have to go by myself, now I need the time, I have to prepare myself and see how my horse is. If I lost the partnership, I have to get a new feeling. I have to feel how he is with all the work around, or see myself and take him to the paddock to see how he behaves. This all is part of the top sport also. But, most of the riders do not think about it, or do not have time to do it. I need to take the time. This is a mixture of everything. You cannot teach it, you have to live this or you can't do it.

            Nancy;          Alright! (I have to say, anyone who knows me, knows! this made my heart sing :) ) So, my last question is, how do you want to change the sport? What mark do you want to leave on these kids, the up and coming generation?

            Isabell;          You know I am an idol for a lot of  young riders because of the Medals. This is one part, of course I have a lot of medals and this is nice. But, I really want to be an idol for my patience for and partnership with the horse.  I go through the ups and downs because I believe in what the horse can do. This is worth more than the medals, the medals are just the result of this.

           Nancy;            Thank you so much, I cannot tell you how much I appreciate your time. I know my kids are going to love your perspective.

           Isabell;             You are so welcome.

                       This is a highlight for me, not only this winter. I have been behind the scenes in the stabling at the World Championships, Europeans and other top horse shows. Watching Isabell with her horses not only when she is riding, but spending time with them in the stables is amazing. It is so fun for me to talk to her and hear her complete honesty, dedication and love for the horses.

                      I am even more inspired to create a loving and successful environment for my charges, and the horses of my wonderful clients.
                     I hope you enjoyed this as much as I did!

                                 Ride well and enjoy the journey.

                       Be youthful in your approach.
                       Connection is the key.
                       Remember, anything is possible.