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.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019


           It is another beautiful morning in New Hampshire. We have had amazing weather this summer and the mornings especially have been crisp, filled with light and the noise of playful birds. We are moving into fall, and my fall does not look as it did at the beginning of the summer.
           I got up this morning with that reality bearing down on me. I started the summer with three horses showing, all three in great shape and two of them already qualified for several classes at The Regional Finals. I also had ideas to go to the Finals in Kentucky when the Regionals went well.
           On this beautiful September morning I sit in the reality that I did not even send my entries in. This is so unusual for me. It is not easy to accept. I am not only super goal oriented and love creating strategies to create the best horse for a certain test and date, but I am very proud of my ability to have a barn of sound and healthy horses. Unhealthy horses mean I did something wrong, and this is devastating for me.
             Through the last weeks, when I allowed the closing date to go by without sending my entries in, I have gone over it in my head a million times. The first thing I wrestle with and then calm myself down about, the horses are actually fine. They will come back, stronger than before, they did not have career ending accidents, they have not even had something so catastrophic as colic surgery. Two have Lyme disease and we caught it quickly and they are being treated, ridden and all is good. So why does this bother me so much? My responsibility to them, I did not keep them safe. One thing has been true throughout my life, my horses have always taught me the most important lessons. So here I sit again with the stark reality that there are some things I cannot control. Hard to swallow, but true. True in life and true to my horsemanship skills.
                 How have I used this pause for the better? This is where the awesome lessons come in. I cannot ride them strong everyday and work them like the athletes they are. But, I can ride them everyday. I have an opportunity to honestly listen to them and how they feel that day. I have been able to slow things down, work more in the walk and address true suppleness. In addition I have been able to find places where they were obedient but not 100% understanding the work. Our relationships are better, the relaxation better and at the end of this, all of the work will be better.
                 I pride myself on practicing what I preach. I believe we should not put our horses into situations they are not prepared for. And yet I have to say that not entering the finals was really difficult for me. So much of my life is wrapped around working toward this goal. I also know that by the time the actual show comes around they will both be fine. However, I will not have been able to do the preparation, and this is the point. I think it is an amazing lesson. Really this particular year it does not matter if I am there or not. What matters is that the horses are safe and that they are getting the best possible training. I am so happy to say this is the case. They are getting even better training, and will continue to get better training because of this pause.
                 In my interview with Isabell Werth she said we must not always write about how everything is always perfect. Isabell said that the reality of training horses is that things do go wrong sometimes and one big problem is that trainers make it look like this is not the case.
                 I write this for all of you that feel that life is getting in the way. Take each day and make the best of that day, do not put the stress of the future on today. It is so much more fun and all of your relationships will be better because of this simple practice. I think we need goals in order to push ourselves forward, to grow and to develop better skills. I think we need to be in the moment and do what is right in the moment to really achieve progress. We would not be in that moment without the goal and will not achieve the goal without being present in today. When you achieve a goal, or have to change a goal due to unchangeable circumstance, put a new one in it's place.
                    I hope this benefits you in some way,
                                          Be youthful in your approach
                                          Remember anything is possible
                                          Connection is the key



  1. Thanks for this ,best of luck to you and your horses

  2. I am so proud of Nancy for the interview with Isabel Werth. Nancy accomplished a lot more in one summer than I have done since riding horses on and off with working student stunts and so on since the age of 12 and I'm only 37. I have seen pictures of Isabel Werth as a young woman and horsewoman in her early 20s and she was and still is an excellent superb dressage German rider and Olympian.