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, August 28, 2023

So, You Qualified for Regionals

              This weekend was the last weekend to qualify for the Region 8 USDF Regional Finals. I hope for you, that if this was something you worked for, that you accomplished this primary goal. If you were unable to qualify, I know that whatever the circumstances, you will make the necessary improvements and make better plans and have success next year!

              If you have qualified CONGRATULATIONS!, what are you going to do until September 20?

                              I have a couple of suggestions:

                                              Go over the health of your horse, is there necessary routine care that needs to be done? worming, shots, blood tests etc? Do this now! These things can be taxing on your horse, and blood tests can give you important information. Do not wait until right before the show, give your horse plenty of time to recover.

                                               Have your horse flexed, the back palpated, teeth checked and other performance checks that you may want to act on to improve your horse's comfort and happiness level.

                                               Go over your feeding program, supplements and any other medications that might need to be changed. Be absolutely sure about what medications are allowed and take care to substitute something (healthier) and legal well before the show.

                                               Order gastroguard, supplements, buckets, anything that you might need for the show so that you have it well in advance.

                                               Make a plan with your trainer that will improve your overall fitness and accuracy when riding your tests.

                                               Start working on a suitable warm up. Time yourself and get to know how much time you need for your horse to feel happy and swinging and ready for the test. There are way too many horses leaving their best performance in the warm up, don't do that! Start timing and practicing now, so you know it and feel it.

                                               Build motivation and rapport with your horse daily. Know what makes them tick.... what helps them love to work and try harder for you? Practice doing more of these things!

                                               Learn your test (s) for yourself! Don't drill your horse, but do practice linking some movements together so you can be effective with each transition and accurate with each movement.

                                               Make sure to put some fun days into your schedule between now and then. Go for hacks, do trotting poles, maybe even learn something new that will improve your partnership.

                                               Has your horse been to Saugerties before?

                                                                   If yes! was he/she relaxed and happy? 

                                                                                  If no, what are you going to do about it between now and then? Lunging your horse to death is not a good answer (in my humble opinion) so, talk to your trainer about options for ground work, the possibility to take your horse to a different venue to practice, some relaxation exercises, TRT Method etc. that might set you up for success.

                                                If you have not been to Saugerties have you looked at the map? Can you familiarize yourself with the layout. Is there someone you know who has been there that can tell you a bit about it? 

                                                                Also, make a plan for when you get there to go around and look at everything first, without your horse, so you know what to expect, are able to make plans and create a good time schedule for getting to your rings etc.

                                                 Will your horse need to be clipped? Don't do this the day before the show!! Horses can be very sensitive about being clipped, so unless you have a complete dead head that you want to jazz up, be sure to clip at least a week before so he/she gets used to the new feeling. And be sure to blanket appropriately, this is a super hard time to manage blankets, so you have to be sure to be available for changes.

                                                  How is your tack? Do you need anything new? Don't change things right before the show!! Be sure that you make changes well in advance so you are sure both you and your horse are comfortable. It can happen that we get nervous before a show and start changing bits and spurs etc. Talk to your trainer, get the best choice organized now, then stick with it through the championships.

                                                 Make sure your horse is shod at a good time so he is not over due or just done for the show. Talk to your farrier, make sure he knows your plans and then schedule your appointment together.
                                                 Start working on your Performance Mindset! This is something I am good at! So, Book a Coaching Session!! If you don't have opportunities for Coaching Sessions talk to your trainer about suggestions. What does he or she do to strategize the best performance mindset? What would he or she recommend you do to set yourself up for the best success?

                                                  Read the rules! And practice with the new rules! For instance, whips are not allowed. So, practice your test without a whip, if you usually carry one. The rules for Regionals are a bit different then your regular shows, so go over the rule book and be sure to note anything that might affect you.

                                                  Build your team: trainer, coach, groom, shipper, support friend. Start asking now so you can make all of the necessary plans. Hotel reservations, dinner plans etc. 

                              So these are a few ideas to get you thinking ahead for your big show. "Control the Controllables" Herr Schumacher always said. There will be enough that you cannot do anything about, so set yourself up for success.

                       Be sure to email me at if you have any questions, and if you would like to set up an online or phone coaching session. 

                       Love to Ride!




  1. Thank you Nancy. It’s Alwsys good to have your advice on how to prepare. Thank you.

  2. This is a great article! Thank you.