Thursday, September 24, 2009

Dressage Blogs

I love blogging.

It builds a community of conversations among diverse people with a common interest(s), who may never have crossed paths otherwise. And I appreciate the people who read my blog regularly and/or who subscribe and/or follow.

As a matter of fact, if you find it difficult to figure out how to subscribe or follow, please let me know. I am rather new to all this, and there are a LOT of gadgets and widgets and add-ons and plug-ins, and I am still sorting through it all! LOL

This blog will change in layout, design and color from time to time, but it will always be about dressage and things having to do with horses and the business of horses. I hope that is part of what will keep it fresh. I also would love to build the community of readers that subscribe to or follow this blog. I am extremely grateful to the 11 people who currently subscibe--thanks, guys!

I love the fact that you can enter a search word, and basically have the world's opinion at your fingertips.

I think the biggest challenge is filtering ALL the information into the specific realm of interest that you really have. For instance, if you submit the word "dressage" (which sounds specific to those of us that do it), about 4 million results pop are listed in the results. If you narrow the search by submitting "dressage videos" you get down to 3 million results. Oy veh.

I would love to know, and as always, I encourage you to leave a comment about how you:

1. submit your searches for blogs

2. filter your results

3. decide what you will read

4. decide what (blogs) you might be interested in following, and

5. do you ever actually sign up to follow (or subscribe to) a blog

5a. if you don't ever follow, why not?

5b. if you never comment, why not?

You may always post to my blog anonymously (it is very easy to post a comment!), I never ask you to identify yourself if you don't want to, and even if you do sign in and post publicly, I will never pass on your information to any other entity or individual. I may reference your comment, but will never reveal a source.

I have received comments on several posts on this blog (even though it is fairly new) and I appreciate you more than you can imagine!

One of my goals is to build this blog into a community of dressage enthusiasts who would like to learn, teach, discuss and debate all things dressage, and occasionally something rather off-topic or indirectly related, but no less timely or important.

I am currently subscribed to a blog called Blog for Profit and they are doing an email series called 31 days to Kick Your Blog in the Butt
It is very helpful if you are writing a blog, even if it is not a "for profit" blog. We are 13 days into the project, and I am finding it incredibly useful! It gives you a lot of guidance on what to include, what not to include, (layout and settings-wise); it explains how to organize the community you build, to interact with your readers, how to find content, and much, much more! I have to thank the blog author, Grant Griffith! If you write a blog, or are thinking of writing a blog, check it out!

As I learn more about all the ins and outs of blogging (ad-ons, gadgets, subscriptions, re-mailing, newsletters, linking to other pages and websites, etc.) I will make use of these very cool things. I am learning more and more every time I blog. I also want to learn from you, the people who take the time to read my posts. I am not moderating any comments, and as long as I don't get any comments which are unethical, illegal, or immoral I will continue to allow posts to be immediately available without my interference. I will delete spam, however, but that hasn't been a problem yet.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Wellington Dressage Fall Classic results for IRIDE

On August 17, I posted that I was renewing memberships and planning to enter a dressage show down in Wellington this month.

Well, we showed at the Jim Brandon Equestrian Center in Wellington over the weekend at the Wellington Classic Dressage Challenge Series' Wellington Fall Classic. This is the first show of the series each year.

September in Florida is really iffy weather--on occasion it can be wonderful, or more often it can be blistering hot; feel like you are drowning when it is not even raining; lightning and thundering, or all is also the most active month for hurricanes. So I sent off my entries for the show....this is what we Floridians do. LOL

We had a bit of lightning early on Saturday, and they called a lightning postponment for 20 minutes. Most of us took it in stride, and by the time the break was over, even the riders who had their horses all warmed up and ready to go literally "20 minutes ago", sucked it up and made their classes. A few of the horses were disturbed by the hiccup, but unfortunately that is part of the chance you take when you choose to show (not to be callous to the plight of those riders)....actually, the timing of the warmup is probably the most frustrating part of the whole show experience for everyone (if they are being honest), because you can be as prepared as you can possibly be at home, and then you get to the show and everything is going super, and you get to the warmup, and if things don't fall into place, you may either not have enough time to warmup, too long to warmup, etc. and the performance isn't as good as it could be. Depending on your particular horse's nerves and/or prior show experience, too, it may be a disaster to not have good timing for the warmup.

Luckily, Bogart is patient and resilient. He is also used to the heat (as much as any horse can be), and is a real steady-eddie, not needing too much of the warmup to settle his mind. I also had some wonderful help in the grooming department from one of my young rider students, and his mother (who is also my student). They were a huge help, and I am so glad that they were there! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!

So, the results are:


Training Level, Test Two-- 67.500% which tied for 1st place, but we lost the tie breaker and ended up second. Funny thing is, at the first turn in the M corner, something caught his eye, we lost the power-steering momentarily and he actually stepped out of the ring with one foot--LOL. He recovered immediately, but that one small bobble (which was as much my fault for not being more prepared for it as it was his for losing concentration) cost us first place....but that is quite all right. Remember, this is his first rated dressage show EVER, as far as I know. He was an open jumper before he was imported.

First Level, Test Two--65.000% which put him second...if I hadn't gone off-course (went the wrong way in the first leg yield, DUH), again, we would have scored well enough to be first. Those 2 little error points--totally my fault (and it was a great leg yield, too! LOL). But also, I have to say here, that that ride felt SO good...he was lively in his trot work, lighter on the forehand in his canter work than usual, and totally on my aids...I believe this was actually the best test (for us) of the show.


Training Level, Test Four--66.000% for fourth place out of 18 rides! I was really proud of him, but I could tell he was starting to get tired, and it was supported by the comments in the test, too. This class also had the most entries of the whole show, since it was the qualifying class for the Regionals, so I was very proud of both the score and the placing!

First Level, Test One--65.000% for second place. I almost scratched this class, because he was tired, but we had a long break (3 hours) between TLT4 and this class, and he still looked perky and interested when he was resting in his stall, and in the warmup he was still willing, although not quite as lively. Basically, the warmup consisted of 10 minutes of walk on long rein and then 2 transitions from halt to trot to halt, and 2 transitions walk/canter/walk. I am glad that I made the decision to go, because Bogart proved just what a special horse he is. He gave everything he had, even though I know he was honestly tired. I could not ask for a more willing, giving, special horse. I was ecstatic!!!

Also, I really like the new Jim Brandon Equestrian Center facility! The stalls are wonderful, the footing is good, even when it is soggy, the rings are convenient to the barns, the show staff and the facility staff are very nice and helpful; they are very well-organized, entries are a breeze (online!), and I will definitely show there again.

Regional Championships are there October 22-25, 2009. It promises to be a great time! I will be there, will you?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Young Horses

I am helping my friend/fellow trainer start her young horse under saddle. I think I have mentioned him (and her) before, and how nice he is. Starting him has been very nice, because she has done the proper ground-work with him and has given him time to grow up both mentally and physically, without pushing him beyond his capacity.

I used to start young horses almost exclusively, a long time ago, and moved away from it because, in starting the young horses, MY OWN dressage education had kind of plateaued and was not moving beyond the "second-level" experience, mostly because all the horses that I was riding were sold before they reached that level (happy problem to have, I know). So I re-organized my business and set out to gain experience and education in riding/training horses all the way through to the upper levels.

I have had an amazing journey, and I consider myself lucky to have trained with some of the most respected horsemen in the world (some of them now gone). But along the way, I have gotten away from starting/training young horses, and do not even have the necessary tools at my own facility to do this anymore.

But lately, I have been missing it. Not enough to gravitate back to that focus myself for the bulk of my business, but enough to thoroughly enjoy helping my friend. It also "grounds" me a bit in the basics of riding/training. We both (fellow trainer and I) have to be so focused on the body language and expression of the horse, since he is a baby and his comfort (both mental and physical) is so important yet so fragile at this stage. He is taking his lessons like the superstar that he is, but we both have to be oh-so-careful about what we are doing---pushing the envelope, testing his abilities, but not only not allowing ourselves to push too-fast-too-soon, but also not allowing HIM to push too fast too soon. It is all so interesting, so familiar, so comfortable to me after all these years...but I can't let myself go back to that time.

What I can do is encourage younger riders to get the training and the mentoring that they need in order to start young horses correctly. This is an area in this country that has a big void of talented people--we seem to be a country of Olympic-wannabes (and I don't mean that as an insult!), but few people are interested in being the ones who make sure that the young EQUINE superstars are carefully and correctly started, as well as brought along.

If there is anyone reading this who is interested in making a career out of this VERY important aspect of our industry, please let me know. I am in a location (on the beach in FL) and in a position to make that a reality. Email me at

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Henk van Bergen clinic Labor Day weekend

I attended a Henk van Bergen clinic over the weekend that was not too far from my home. I found out about it last-minute from a friend/fellow trainer, and I am so glad that we took the time to attend.

Mr. Van Bergen has a long and impressive resume of riding, training and coaching internationally. I won't go into it here, as it would take up too much of the post, and I want to preserve the space for more current musings. I provided the link over his name and a few more here to make it easy for you to research his history.

short bio on USDF website about the 2009 FEI Trainer's Conference:

I am always impressed by the quiet effectiveness of the masters that I have had the opportunity to observe (and train with). Mr. Van Bergen is certainly no exception, as I got to watch him ride a horse that had been ridden by his regular trainer the day before. The regular trainer, Luiz Denizard (who hosted the clinic), had done a very good job with the horse the day before, no doubt, and I certainly don't want to minimize his work...however, when Mr. van Bergen worked the horse through the session, the reason that I include Mr. Van Bergen in the class of "master" was apparent, and I think that Lu would certainly agree with me, since it is to HIS credit that he seeks guidance from Mr. Van Bergen, and is also generous enough to share the clinic with outside riders and auditors (spectators).

The quality of the horses and the riders was very high overall. Lu was incredibly welcoming, the other riders were warm and friendly, and the facility was beautifully maintained and the covered arena was superb. It was also "private" enough that one didn't feel like a "number", or an inconvenience. I can't say enough about it.

I also have to say, in closing, that Mr. Van Bergen is one of the most articulate, accomodating, humorous and generous horsemen I have ever met. He and I had a couple of fairly long conversations during the breaks, and we covered many topics both general and specific, and he is down to earth, straight to the point, honest and generous all at once. His knowledge of the inner workings of the competition world and the FEI is as valuable as his training knowledge.

I am looking forward to the next clinic, and I will make sure that if there is a spot after Lu and his students, that I get a spot to ride. :-)

Also, for those of you that are farther away, he will again be the clinician at the 2010 FEI trainers clinic in Loxahatchee, FL (Wellington area) in January. He did the clinic in 2009, and was invited back by the USDF, because of the great praise for the 2009 clinic. I did not attend the 2009 clinic, but I know exactly why he received such high praise and the return invitation. I have attached a couple links (above) so you can read up about him. I know I don't normally "jump on the bandwagon" in terms of BNT's (Big Name Trainers), but I do recognize a master when I meet one and see him work, and to find a master with not only the skill for the horse, but the skill to IMPART the knowledge to every level of rider is truly special. Henk van Bergen is that master.

I thank Franzi Pfeiffer (my friend/fellow trainer) for letting me know about the clinic, and Luiz Denizard (whom I had not heard of before, but who I hope will become a friend/fellow trainer) for hosting the clinic and making me and my young rider student who accompanied me to the clinic feel so welcome. Auditors are not always treated so well.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

I Love Ponies!

It's true. I love ponies. Children are the future of our sport, as well as the rest of the future stuff. They are who will take care of us in our old age. Would you rather be taken care of by a person who was raised in front of the television and computer, or one who was raised in the company of horses (and ponies)?

Let's face it, if a child's first experience has to be on the back of a horse, the most important life lessons have to be put off (grooming, leading, haltering, handling, etc.), just because of the size difference. A good pony levels the playing field. The kid can groom it thoroughly, pick up its feet, tack it by themselves, and be responsible for the bulk of its general care. This teaches them responsibility, independence, leadership, hard work, teamwork, and so forth from a much different perspective...they do it themselves, rather than have an adult do everything for them until the are big enough.

Pony breeding has come a long way in the United States. If ponies were ever as bad as their reputation, that is no longer the case. These days, there are a great many ponies who have wonderful, calm dispositions, good, balanced conformation, and good to very good gaits. To a point, the issue of good training is still a challenge, but there are capable adults who are small enough to start and train ponies for the children.

The pony in the pictures is one of my very favorite ponies! His name was D'Apples, and he was the heart and soul of all the children at Windsor when I was the director there. He was a grey Welsh Cob and was 13.3hh. His disposition was unparalleled, he had really good gaits and was willing to try anything. I showed him at a local show in the off-season for Windsor (the kids were not there to show him themselves) and received scores of 66% and 68% at Training Level (that was his only show that I know about). He died way too young at 13 years old from Melanoma. It was the worst case I have ever seen, and if he had not received the stellar care (due to his owners at Windsor and a great vet), he would not have lasted as long as he did.

But he is not an exception....there are many, many great ponies out there. The Hunter/Jumper world utilizes ponies very well, but I would love to see a much more wide use of ponies in the dressage world. After all, a foundation in dressage should be what we are teaching our ponies AND our kids at the beginning, before they specialize in any discipline....even before Hunters--I see too many kids going over cross-rails long before they have the seat and effectiveness of the aids which is what makes it safer. Most of them survive, a slight majority of them even stay interested in horses, but at some point, all need remedial lessons in their seat and position to keep moving forward in their riding. Wouldn't it be easier to learn the foundation at the beginning than to have to go back and UNlearn the bad habits and replace them with good ones?

I would love to hear from people who have had (or known) great ponies. If you email me their pictures and stories, I will post some of them here.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

90.7% What do you think?

I can say that this is an amazing ride. I can also say that I enjoyed watching it, and I put it in my favorites on my account at Youtube. :-)

I wonder, now that we have broken through the "glass ceiling" of 90% (it wasn't that long ago that 80% was unimaginable), if we are going the way of other olympic judged events (I am thinking of ice-skating, gymnastics and diving, for instance) that we will soon have to re-think our scoring system....because after 100%, where do we go?

Now, before you start thinking, "well that won't happen, because how often do you see a perfect ride?", remember--a score of ten does not mean it is "perfect"; a score of ten means it is "excellent"...and we don't even have the luxury of tenths of points (yes, I know--halfpoints for freestyle) It is not just semantics. There are real consequences to approaching 100% scores, and there are widespread ramifications. I wonder if anyone at the FEI organizational level is thinking about this--I wonder if our FEI judges are thinking about this?

But then, watch the video, and ask yourself--"where would I have taken away points?" I understand the score, and agree with it when it is judged against our current standard and methodology, but this is what begs my question in the first place.