Welcome to the dressage spot, a place for the young (or young at heart) dressage riders wanting to gain information on the sport of dressage, training tips, equine health care, maintenance and fun!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Flying to Florida

         My standby flight on Southwest from Seattle was flawless! Cara Pasieka is the greatest. I wouldn’t be here without her sponsorship. Thank you Southwest Airlines.  I will admit that I forgot my ticket at home and my amazingly wonderful boyfriend ran back to get it for me at 5:30 am!  When I stepped off the plane I was met with 82 degree weather, sunshine and relatives I have never met! I had fun riding around on my Great Uncle Clyde’s golf cart and playing with Bella (a super-cute Jack Russell Terrier).  After a slow morning, we drove to Wellington and started to settle in.  Wellington, Florida is such a great experience for horse people.  It is the only place I know where you can go everywhere in boots and breeches and you blend in!  The tack shops actually have everything you might need; even for dressage! 

     The horse I was to ride in the clinic fell through; so I spent the day trying to find a new one to ride.  Luckily, my amazing coach Jeremy contacted his friend Ally and I am going this morning to try a few horses.  Keep your fingers crossed for me today! 

      The tentative schedule for the clinic starts with an introduction meeting on Tuesday night January 1st.  Every morning at 7 am we start the day with an intense workout.  Last year, I have to admit, I vomited on the first day it was so tough!  After the morning workout, from 8am-12 each of the 12 riders have a 45 minute lesson.  The 12 riders are divided between two clinicians each day.  On Wednesday the trainers are Tuny Page and Tina Konyot; on Thursday Katherine Chandler and Robert Dover; on Friday Robert Dover again and Jan Ebeling; and finally on Saturday Michael Barisone and Courtney Dye.

     Each afternoon after a group lunch there are lectures until 4 pm.  One thing I am definitely looking forward to is dinner at Hampton Green on Friday night.  Last year, it was a highlight of the clinic.  We played the game high-low.  This is a game where all the participants said the best thing that experienced during the week and the hardest. 

     Well I am off to have a waffle and get ready to ride! 

Saturday, December 22, 2012


          As the holiday approaches, I begin to think about heading to Florida next week.  I am so excited to see old friends and meet new faces.  The Emerging Dressage Athlete Programs clinic last year was one of the defining moments of my life.  I can only imagine the impact it will have on all the participants this year. 

     For those of you who haven’t participated in the EDAP clinics or applied for an EDAP clinic I would advise you to visit Lendon’s website http://dressage4kids.com/Emerging%20Dressage%20Athlete%20Program.htm

     This program, the website states, is to help find, develop and educate young dressage talent in the United States.  You have to submit an application and a video.  Once enough young riders in your area have submitted applications a clinic is set up.  Lendon comes for a weekend clinic which is itself more than enough reward for the application.  I suggest getting several other junior and young riders in your area to apply with you!  The clinics are unique in that it isn’t just riding, there are lectures and demonstrations.  Then the instructors of the clinics across the US get together and select riders for a week long clinic in Wellington, Florida.  The Wellington clinic last year included morning physical fitness workouts, riding instruction by industry greats like Robert Dover, Lendon Gray, Katherine Bates-Chandler, Anne Gribbons, Courtney King-Dye and many others.  After lunch which is done as a group (giving you time to meet other riders and auditors) there are hours of lectures and demonstrations by amazing speakers like Dr. Susser.  She is a sports psychologist that helped me last year in learning visualization techniques that gave me great focus at FOC and NAJYRC .  I really used all the information that I gained at speeches by farriers, veterinarians, massage therapists, chiropractors and so many others. 

     Even the great instruction, riding and fitness wasn’t the highlight though.  Getting to meet so many other young riders was truly inspirational.  To see that I am not alone in my goals and to have others to discuss questions, concerns, everything and nothing with since has been amazing.  I even took vacations with some of the girls I met at EDAP!  We spent a truly hilarious ‘bonding night out’ without any parents or trainers.  It was only a movie and KFC but it cemented dozens of friendships. 

     Finally, I received inspiration from the heightened level of commitment from everyone.  This was so motivational for me last year.  It kept me focused on my goals and what I had sacrifice to succeed in my dreams.  It made my dreams so much more of a reality. 

     Come with me on this dream trip and apply for EDAP! It will change your life.   If you are over 21, or a parent, or just a dressage enthusiast and can’t attend but want to help you can go to the same website and donate to Lendon’s amazing project. 

     Stay tuned for more news from EDAP next week on this blog…….

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Day Three of the Convention

I woke up on Saturday, the third and final day of my convention adventure in New Orleans at 7 am; that is 5 am Washington time.  The morning started with a youth breakfast.  This was just a casual get together to meet other young people from all over the US.  This is my favorite part of all of the clinics, conventions and education seminars I go to.  I admit to being a bit sleepy as I am not a great morning person.  I think after some food and a Starbucks vanilla steamer I perked up a bit.  Directly after the breakfast we had a youth education seminar about strengthening the core and how posture affects riding. The presenter really won me over and I intend to start doing some yoga when I get back to Kirkland!  I have always thought I had great posture and position but I learned that there were ways I could increase this strength and minimize problems when I get older with back, neck and knee issues.

     Then we had a meeting about the Dressage Seat Medal program.  It was very informative and I realized that they are encouraging even upper level and FEI junior and young riders to compete.  I had always thought that once I hit second or third level competency that it wasn’t really ‘sporting’ to ride equitation style classes.  The program leaders definitely discouraged me of that notion.  They want upper level riders competing they said in order to show proper position to lower level riders.  So I encourage everybody out there who qualifies to participate.  You can qualify by riding in a dressage seat qualifying test or by qualifying in any Jr/YR event in your Regional Championships.  So in essence if you are already qualified and going to regionals why not do one more test and ride the Dressage Seat Medal event?  Nationals are in Colorado.  Don’t let the cost or travel discourage you though because organizers are trying to get local breeders and trainers to let youth riders use borrowed horses for the finals.  This in itself is a great opportunity to get to show off your skills, learn and develop how to ride other horses.  I know that every new horse I get to ride I learn something new about training and riding.  Each has a new or unique quirk to work through. 

     Then it was on to the Conformation and Performance lecture by Dr. Clayton.  I will admit to having heard this three times but each time she sneaks in something new so don’t wander off!  It is a great lecture on how conformation affects the outcome not only of performance but potential health issues like suspensory injuries.  She also gives specific things to look for when you go shopping! 

     After her speech, it was a quick dash upstairs to iron my dress for the Gala and then back down for the “Look at London.”  While I always appreciate and hope to emulate Steffan’s riding, media and approachability I was particularly impressed with Aikeko, Ravel’s owner and her precocious daughters.  She brought a level of humor, intelligence and frankness to the panel that was amazing.  At times she seemed almost vulnerable in her love of Ravel.  When she admitted crying whenever she read an article about him it reminded me of myself when I think about Sjapoer.  I appreciated also the discussion on judging and the improvements in our sport and the direction and future of scoring with harmony over power.  My Olympic dreams for Rio recrystallized as I rode the elevator up to dress for the ball.

     Back down 30 minutes later to gawk at the glitter, sparkle and feathers.  Everyone looked spectacular.  I really enjoyed the more formal dress of New Orleans over the more casual event in San Diego.  It gave the event more of an excited aura.  Of all the speeches and honors I loved Michael Poulin’s easy manner as he got accepted into the Roemer Hall of Fame and Steffan Peters’ highly emotional choking up when he spoke of Ravel being his best friend and business partner. 

     So as I fly home on a ridiculously early flight I look back at the last few days and I have learned that the USDF takes an army of volunteers, delegates and enthusiasts across the nation to keep in going.  They work hard to make us safe and allow us to pursue our riding and training goals.  I also recognize that we love our horses.  I mean really love them.  We research how to make their lives happier, healthier and not only for improved performance but because we desire a deeper understanding of everything they think and feel.  We desire their happiness and longevity.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Second Day of Convention

     My second day at the USDF Convention began with the Region 6 recap meeting.  We all got together to give a quick sound bite on every committee meeting from the day before.   Several interesting current and future debates revolved around changing the bit checking format so volunteers don’t have to stick their fingers in unfamiliar horse’s mouths and some by law changes.  I felt quite helpful recapping the three youth and FEI Jr/YR meetings.  It was fulfilling to be useful and to present to the region.  The afternoon was filled with a long and formal presentation of the budget, bylaws and rule change requests.  Lots of boring voting on minutes and other details I admit to vegging out on at times. However, I did realize that lots of work gets done at the convention that affects many of us as riders and trainers that we aren’t even present to participate on! 

     All the long details were intermingled with keeping people awake with GMO Basket give aways.  A moment of humor occurred when the Kentucky Dressage Associations Bourbon filled basket went to the only underage person to win a basket; me!  I skipped down the aisle to peals of laughter.  However, I gave the alcohol to the USDF Staff who deserved to have a little celebration after all their hard work.  After we cruised through nearly two days of details in several hours (it was an unusually debate free BOG I hear); it was off to dinner with Jessica Hainsworth and her mom. 

     One of the things I love about the convention is getting to see friends from all over the country.  Jessica and I met last year at the EDAP clinic in Florida and haven’t seen each other in nearly a year.  We got to talk about horses, school, parents, boys and our future plans.  It was a great dinner.  Then off to do homework and to bed early for the 8 am youth breakfast in the morning.

Friday, December 7, 2012

First Day of the USDF convention

After a midnight arrival and an early morning registration, I got to say hi to old friends and meet new ones at the Region 6 meeting, just across from my former Region 9 meeting!  Then it was off to a discussion on the roll of carbohydrates in feed.  This was a very interesting and useful discussion on the roll of energy in your horse’s health and performance.  Dr. Lamprecht said to start all feeding choices with several questions.  First, what is his energy need?  Second, what type of pasture or forage does he have?  Finally, does he have any special issues such as age or health issue?  We then looked at the entire gastric system of the horse and where and how carbs are digested.  Then we used a graph to see what a horses calorie needs are based on its energy level.  For an upper level high performance horse it was 26.6 MegaCalories per day!  After all the science the practical information was to read labels.  First, read the PURPOSE STATEMENT on the bag.  This tells you what type of horse the feed was made for.  If this is important as the content and mixture of nutrients is based on its purpose.  Second, was the guaranteed analysis and finally the FEEDING INSTRUCTIONS!  This is where the speaker said many mistakes in feeding which lead to colic can occur. 
 Then it was off to the Youth Programs Meeting.  Here we discussed the Shining Star program and the USDF High school pin program and finally a new idea for a mentor program.  The meeting was very well attended and everyone gave great ideas.  The resulting decisions were that the Shining Star Pins would be awarded based on a single event and that the award application forms would be rewritten to ask more specific questions.  The USDF High School Pin program would be revamped to reflect the USEF program more directly.  Finally, it was suggested that the mentor program be a list of participants on the website that can be approached by any youth members that have any questions.  The idea of mentor training was discussed but no decision was made.
Then off to the FEI Jr/YR meeting.  Here we discussed the rule changes for next year.  It was interesting to learn we won’t have to ride both tests on the same weekend and that we can ride as many of each test as we desire and the lowest of each and not a single weekend would be dropped. 
The final event for me of the day was harmonizing with your Horse by Hilde Gurney.  Hilde is so much fun.  She inspires with her love of riding and horses.  She makes me look ahead and see that I can have a career that gives me as much joy and happiness as she has in hers.  She gave a wonderful breakdown of training from birth to 4 year olds.  She said her breeding and training goal was to have horses that are fun to be around, fun to ride, easy to train and have the ability to compete in Grand Prix.  She said her yearlings are handled daily in the pasture.  They get hooves cleaned, fly sprayed etc. daily.  Her 1 yr olds go into half training and learn to move away from pressure.  They work 3 times a week.  Her 2 year olds are in full training on the lunge line and are learning to turn from the rein pressure.  She puts nosebands on from the minute they have a bridle.  Not tight. Just there.  At 3 and 4 years she works on making them uphill and confident.  She went on to demonstrate basic things like correct seat and hand position.  The videos were fun and gave me a personal look into her life. 
After the convention closed for the evening Jessica Hainsworth, her mom, my mom and I went out to find a place to eat on Canal Street.  Jessica and I wanted IHOP so we ordered stuffed French toast and crepes and had a great time.  Back to the room for Hotel Transylvania giggles and an early night. 

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Dreadful Spook

    Today I want to share a training tip I have been learning and developing with the help of Jeremy and Shauntel since moving to Washington.  It is a bit different than I have been taught in the past so it has taken awhile to get integrated in my every day riding.  But I have seen an amazing change in Sjapoer and our riding since beginning the change.  Anyone who knows Sjapoer is aware of his personality.  His intelligence and sensitivity are part of what make him such an amazing horse.  This sensitivity is paired with movement and power.  I am very lucky to have such an amazing horse.  BUT…yes there is a but!  With power, motion and sensitivity comes a lot of work to stay focused and to stay in the saddle at times.  Sjapoer can have a back cracking spook; and he is always, at any moment, without notice, ready to spook.  So I have had to be tense and ready every second.  This fear or lack of ability to read and control his spooks led to a lot of tension in our riding at times.  It competitions and even in practice this meant days of brilliance and days of heartache.  No one who knew Sjapoer will believe that I can now ride him in the walk with a loose rein, one handed with confidence!  Yep, can you imagine that for even a minute? 
    So what do I do? At the onset of every lesson I start him with his head low and round so he is focused on work and not on his surroundings.  If he has a lot of energy in the beginning with his head low and long I do a lot of stretchy posting trot circles to warm up.  When it is safe we go to canter to run some energy out of him.  Then we do endless transitions of walk-trot-canter.  The frequent transitions in warm up keep him busy.  He doesn’t have time to distract himself.  The biggest change though has been in the philosophy of “getting him to go by the ghost.”  I have always been told when Sjapoer spooks, to make him go by the object directly again.  Perhaps giving him a tap or a half-halt directly before the spot of the spook to get him to know I won’t take him being afraid and to give him something else or perhaps bigger to fear.  Sometimes this meant attempting to go by a flag, or a shadow, or an invisible monster a dozen times.  At times each pass escalated the event.  Now when he gives a big meaningless spook I don’t go directly past the spot.  I go to the other end of the arena.  I get his head low and his neck long.  I do lots of quick transitions until he is focused on our activity and has completely forgotten the event.    Then we go by again.  Rarely has he ever remembered he was upset before.  This keeps us from spiraling and increasing tension to the point where the entire lesson time is lost.  Next time, give it a try!