Thursday, February 25, 2010

Florida's Winter Weather

I am not usually one to complain about the weather. I know that (almost) everyone in New England and the Midwest long to spend the winter months on the horse show scene in Florida, whether it is Wellington, Orlando, Tampa, or Ocala (with Jacksonville sneaking in there, too).
Even though I am here year-round, I depend on our winter weather as much as anyone. It is not because I can't get anything done in the summer (I am used to the heat--kind of), but the show season doesn't adjust because we have crappy weather, and my seasonal students are only here from November through April.
There are two reasons that I will cancel lessons. Those are, wind and lightning. Lightning is fleeting (along with really heavy rain), and the lessons can be adjusted by a half hour or so to accomodate, so it is not usually a problem, and rarely occurs in the winter months anyway.
Wind is another story. I hate wind. Here in Florida it is usually on the cool side (this year on the cold side) when the wind blows more than 10 miles per hour....not counting hurricanes, but that is another story.
My point is (and yes, I am whining) that this year it has been cold and windy in the extreme. I have probably given up 1/4 of my lesson income this season, not to mention that my seasonal students are not getting the opportunity for advancing at the same rate as in years past.
It has been windy to the point that the students can't hear the instruction, and I am not one to use a megaphone. I could use the two-way systems, but the ones I have tried are affected by the wind, as well. Mind you, 8-10mph is okay, but we have had winds in excess of 15mph with higher gusts. And what is with these temps!?!?! LOL I feel like I am in Michigan on the banks on the Lake instead of the tropics.
Whew, I am finished with my vent.....anyone else care to share about the weather (good or bad) in your neck of the woods?

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Donna Dora

Sometimes, a great opportunity comes along. That is what happened when I was looking for horses for a lesson program at Storm Grove Stables.
I had seen this mare when looking for a horse for another student of mine back in September, and was really impressed with her (but she wasn't for sale at the time).
To make a long story short, I contacted the trainer this time, looking for a horse, and she mentioned Dora to me, saying that she was now for sale. The partners at Storm Grove were actually considering a breeding program, and this mare would certainly fit into their vision. In addition, I am always certainly looking for great training prospects for dressage, and this mare certainly fit the bill in every way.
She has super rideability, great gaits and conformation, incredible temperament, and great bloodlines--she is by Donnerschlag (Donnerhall)x Dresden (Duellglanz) which is heavy Hanoverian breeding in the very important D-line. Her foal papers are Oldenburg, and she is entered into the Main Mare Book in the Holsteiner Studbook. She was one of the top-scoring mares at her inspection with 44 bonit points over 6766667.
We will probably also look into getting her entered into the Oldenburger Horse Breeders Society North American division of Verband der Zuchter des Oldenburger Pferdes e. V. mare book (we were told it would be no problem to get her in the main mare book, and one can only hope that she achieves premium status, as well). I will also have to look into whether she could be entered into the Hanoverian mare book, since she is heavily Hanoverian in her bloodlines. I am still learning about all that, since my main focus over the past 15 years has been riding and training, not breeding. But I have always thought about getting back into breeding a baby or two if the right quality mare came along. I have always admired the Donnerhall line, so this is the chance of a lifetime.

I am also looking forward to continuing her dressage training, but the breeding comes first. I have a partnership on this mare, and we are looking for a stallion that we think will cross well on this mare. I am considering a few different stallions, but I keep coming back to Dresden Mann. He is Donnerhall as well, and I will have to ask the advice of breeders who are much more experienced with the lines than I am if this will be too close in the line, and I may need to consider a less closely related horse. But here is a link to Dresden Mann's video, so you can see why I like him....
Dresden Mann video on Youtube
I like that he is only 16.1 hands, since Dora is 16.2, and I want the resulting foal to stay between 15.3 and 16.2 if at all possible. I am not a fan of sheer size. I think the "smaller" horses are much more marketable, manageable, and are not as prone to maintenance issues. I have a 15.3 hh Dutch Warmblood gelding who did the meter-fours in Germany before being imported, jumped here in the U.S. until he was 14 or 15 years old; I "switched" him to dressage (although I still jump him lightly for fun) when he was 18, and now at 25 years old he is still sound with no "maintenance", and competitive at training/first level in Wellington. I don't think I could be saying the same if he were 17+hands.
Anyway, if anyone has any further thoughts or knowledge of Dresden Mann or his offspring, or any comments or suggestions for a possible match for Dora, I would love to have you post them!I am so much looking forward to all the possibilities with this mare!
Thanks also to Bianca Berktold for making this possible, and to Franzi Pfeiffer-Blackstone for advice, and to Storm Grove Stables (Nicole Baudo and Joy Nottage) for partnering with me in the purchase of this exquisite mare!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

GEF Statement on Rollkur

*author's note--(This post was originally published at 9:30ish this morning--Feb. 9th, and in my haste to get to the lesson I had to teach, I gave credit for the statement to FEI, not the GEF--I apologize for this mistake)...I have edited the original to this......

I imagine that this will be (or already is) viral, but this decision deserves blog space and accolades from every corner of the world.
The GEF (German Equesrian Federation) has made its official statement against Rollkur (hyperflexion), and has not only stepped up to the plate on the competition front, but also in training and exhibition contexts.
Finally, BRAVO to Germany's highest competition authority.
Now FEI needs to solidify the stand and issue a statement as strong as the GEF--the GEF's statement is courageous, and even if FEI doesn't completely step forward, every other NGB (national governing body--USEF in the USA) needs to issue a statement of their own, reflecting the courage of the language in the GEF's statement, and in addition, needs to pressure the FEI to do so as well, if need be.
To our international judges and stewards (and trickling down to every national organization), now you have a mandate with teeth towards standing up for our horses, who cannot speak for themselves. Please take it upon yourselves to finally do so.

Here is the link to the article in Eurodressage (thank you, Astrid, for being our ace reporter!):

Eurodressage News

I don't have time right now, because I am due to give a lesson, but I will add links as I read more about this.

All comments are welcome here. :-)

Further information:
10:34pm, Feb. 9th-- member Barbara F. has added an interview post with the Equine Canada CEO Akaash Maharaj concerning the GEF statement and what it means for Canada, including his comment on what the FEI should do to follow this.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

World Dressage Masters Competition-one trainer’s opinion

First, the results:

Salinero, van Grunsven, 82.750 83.500 87.750 83.000 85.250, 84.450
Ravel, Peters, 83.500 80.250 84.750 80.750 79.250 81.700
Satchmo78, Werth, 77.500 80.250 81.250 79.750 76.000 78.950
Pop Art, Holzer, 74.500 77.000 78.000 76.750 75.250 76.300
Leonberg, Gunderse, 74.000 74.250 69.250 72.000 71.500 72.200
Ovation, Laarakkers, 71.750 72.000 70.250 68.750 73.000 71.150
CalectoV, Konyot, 72.000 67.500 70.750 72.500 70.750 70.700
LeMont d'Or, Ploenzke, 69.000 70.750 68.500 69.000 72.500 69.950

All the tests can be appreciated for the level of skill and quality of both horse and rider. There are two horses that I would like to ride...Ravel and Pop Art. In my opinion, the others were lacking in fundamentals in their training that would make them not fun to ride. Yes, those two also made mistakes, but they were either mistakes of the test, or of the night, but not mistakes of the training.

Salinero and Satchmo both were laterally supple, but showed an endemic lack of luppleness longitudinally, which affects collection and even more fundamentally, rhythm. Both showed a quickening of the rhythm in almost every movement, especially in the piaffe and tempi changes, and for Satchmo resulted in mistakes in the changes at the end, and his rhythm was even more affected than Salinero's.

The feeling I got was that the flambouyant articulation of the joints in Salinero, and the fact that he is laterally supple was more important to the judges than the fact that the collection was not enough for Grand Prix. His hind legs (even in piaffe and passage) were not quite under the optimum point of balance for the horse. If you look at the angles of the entire hindquarters in a good profile picture, the hindquarters do lower, but not from bringing both hind legs optimally under, but rather from sheer articulation of the joints. This is NOT true collection, and it speaks to the inherent quality of this horse that he is able to do that without breaking down, but do we really want to reward the sheer strength of articulation in one horse at the expense of the highest principle of riding (collection)?

Apart from one spook at the F corner (because of an enthusiastic crowd), and the want of a bit more activity in the piaffe, the partnership of Ravel and Steffen was flawless. He was truly collected. He showed lateral and longitudinal suppleness, his rhythm was impeccable throughout, his transitions in and out of movements were incredibly balanced, strong and supple, and you should have seen one particular point in the freestyle where he transitioned from canter pirouette, straight into piaffe, straight into extended walk--WOW. His degree of difficulty was outstanding and he stated in the press release at the awards ceremony that he wished in hindsight that he had risked the one-handed tempi-changes.

In my opinion (while that would have been great to see, and he could have totally pulled it off), it wasn't necessary for him to have won the class. He should have won it on the merits of the strength of his fundamentals, the super choice of music, and the degree of difficulty that he DID show....which was second to none.

Steffen was the absolute sportsman in the press release, giving compliments to the winner and the other riders, and I applaud him, even if I don't agree with him. ;-)
Here are some links to press releases and results of the show:

Exquis Palm Beach World Dressage Masters website

Dressage Daily awards ceremony press release

Dressage News results and press release

Monday, February 1, 2010

Dressage Clinics for "Newbies"

I teach all levels of dressage (riding), from first time on a horse through Grand Prix, but my students are generally at least in solid training level (or above), when they first seek lessons with me. There is still a disconnect in the general public's mind about what 'dressage' is. Our riding culture has developed the attitude that dressage is either "boring", or too difficult, and we 'dressage-types' haven't done enough to dispel this misunderstanding (myself included).

One of things I like best about teaching riding and dressage is bringing new people into the sport. I believe it is our responsibility as instructors to do this.

On January 16, I judged the dressage division of the Starwood Sporthorses Dressage and Hunter Schooling Show here in Indian River County, FL (where my dressage facility is also located, and where I am based most of the year).

The show manager, Liz Daniel, has combined the dressage and hunters in a smart move to initiate interest among the "hunter-types" to make the foundation of their training follow the principles of dressage. Most of the Indian River County riders have heard of me (truth or false, good or bad LOL), but there is a lot of misinformation about me as well (like, I charge $125.00 for a lesson-false, or that I only take upper-level riders-false, and I am a tough and exacting teacher--kind of true, but sounds a lot scarier than it really is, etc.).

Liz asked me to judge the schooling show, and I jumped at the chance, since it would give an opportunity for a large group of riders in the 'hunter world' to get to know the real Mary McGuire Smith, at least a little. The show actually generated a lot of interest among people who ride and show, but don't necessarily "do dressage". All of a sudden, I wasn't so "scary". LOL A long-time student of mine, Amy Chisholm, whose son also rides with me, was at the show, and talked with a lot of enthusiastic riders about doing a clinic with me at some point.

One of the first-time dressage riders was a young girl whose mother, Joy, is the manager/trainer at Abbey Road Stables, so Amy and Joy got together and organized a "fun dressage clinic". Abbey Road Stables hosted the clinic, and the facility owner (Barbara Lewis), their trainer (Joy Nottage) and the trainer's daughter rode in the clinic, as
well as a number of their boarders, and we had a few riders trailer in as well. We also had a number of auditors, despite the clinic happening so soon after the show, and without the chance to advertise! It was a well-hosted, well-organized and well-attended clinic, and many thanks to all who participated!
It was a very nice mix of riders and horses. The first to go were a couple of my current students, who gave an opportunity to the new riders to understand some of the terminology that we use, and see the figures ridden, and how the horses go (forward-not fast, and what "round" is, what 'connection' means, etc.).
Then the riders that were new to dressage had their lessons throughout the day. The weather was windy, which made it a challenge for the riders to hear sometimes, even though I was yelling as loud as I could (I am definitely investing in a mic system now--I have been on the fence about it). The forecasted rain held off and we got some great pictures of the clinic and the riders, some of which I have posted here, and some of which are in a collage on my website. Amy, the organizer (and multi-tasker extraordinaire), also took some great shots on three different cameras and posted some on Facebook.
I think one of the greatest things we can do for our sport is to encourage participation among young people (half the riders were under 16--yay!!), and riders from other disciplines. The horses were all nice examples of their breed-types with a lot of potential towards dressage. Somehow, people get the idea that just because they don't own a "warmblood", their horse is not suitable for dressage.
That is the farthest thing from the truth! We "dressage-types" have been lamenting this phenomenon from the beginning of time, blaming it on the "other disciplines" for not wanting to be open-minded and learn the true benefit of dressage training for horse and rider, and yet, the idea is still pervasive--could it be that WE are doing something (or are NOT doing something) to perpetuate this; that WE are the ones who are close-minded??
Although I was tired at the end of the day (as I think every instructor should be!), I had a lot of fun, and judging from the smiles all around, so did everyone else.
It is my mission to offer these clinics on an ongoing basis here in Indian River County, Florida, and to encourage younger people to incorporate the principles of dressage as their principles of lay the foundation for any specialized discipline(s) they ultimately choose for themselves and their horses. I believe every higher level dressage instructor who gives clinics should set aside a percentage of their time for "beginner" clinics at a reduced price, to encourage real knowledge about our sport and way of riding, and set it as the foundation of training. At present, I hear people saying "dressage is the basis for all riding", but the understanding of just what that means to them in their own everyday riding and training is still a mystery.