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!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Preparing for EDAP

Well three rides back in the saddle and my spirits are both soaring and diving!  I feel so happy because i am at home here in the saddle!  I feel as if I found the thing that has been missing for a few weeks.  Yet it doesn't feel quite the same.  In the 13 I have been riding I have only had more than a day or two off maybe two times.  The first time was in 2010 after I got kicked in the torso by SJ at NAJRC and now.  I am a little out of shape!  My rebuilding is going to take another couple of weeks.  Luckily I have the time before qualifying season. I think it may turn out to be a little blessing as Jeremy has been riding SJ and our developmental year might get fast forwarded! :) 
 I have been working so hard in therapy and physio to get ready for Florida.  The Robert Dover week with EDAP is one of the highlights od my year.  I have been focused since the FOC on preparing for it. The competitive and driven part of me wanted to ride through the pain stiffness and weakness. I felt I had a lot to prove, maybe if only to myself. I also didn't want to disappoint anyone. But I also believe in teamwork, helping others and fairness.  So we agreed that I shouldn't take away the possibility for another rider to give and learn 100%. I didn't want to be unfair to my fellow riders or the clinicians.  So I called Lendon and gave her the news.  So someone today got that happy call, "bring your boots"!   I am very happy to be part of that, and sad I must admit to not riding in what everyone knows is my favorite event of the year.  
  However, I have to say thanks to Lendon for understanding and helping me by giving me a job!  I get to have education clinics during horse care for the auditors.  I have spent the time since then coming up with topics and activities. I hope my fellow RDHMW auditors will enjoy them.  I have to say I am on the countdown to head out!  I can not wait to see old friends and make new ones.

  The other news this week was getting to know Anna and her family better.  Her mom and mine seemed to bond over the stove while Anna and I planned some riding adventures. She didn't know about EDAP!  We tried to fill them in on lots of the YR programs.  I hope y'all spread the word too!  Oh and we went to the mall. I needed something to wear in the evenings in Florida.  Anna has amazingly classy taste and found a beautiful dress for me.  I might not be riding this week but I will be styling! I used to think fashion was a some girls thing; but now I  think it is a type of psychology. For example, when you feel you look good it lifts your spirits or gives you confidence. It helps and I hope it helps to make being on the ground easier.
  Well I won't write again til Florida. Then I hope to write everyday.  So the next few posts will be full of clinic data and less riding for me means more info for you because I will have time for better notes!  I will say I am actually going to be sad to miss out on the full Bob 6 am workouts too!  Really!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Healthy Holiday!

When I was really young, you know those years when your mom walks you through your nighttime routine before putting you to bed; she had me do the usuals. I brushed my teeth, got in my pj’s, washed my face; but I did something more.  She made me start putting on lotion, and not just my face and hands.  I lotion my legs and most importantly she says; my neck.  She had me do this so that my skin would look and feel younger when I was older, so that I would develop good habits of health care early. She taught me this through the method of repetition.  If you do something over and over enough it becomes a habit.  For example, tonight if you tried to brush your teeth with the opposite hand then you normally do you will feel really uncomfortable and have to think about what you are doing.
Why does this matter?  Well our lives become full of routines and habits.  Many habits we make in our early yearsduring a time when we feel invincible and see endless amounts of time ahead.  Older people look back and try to tell us things they wish they knew or did when they were younger and we often ignore them, much to our own peril! So a recent small thing for me, made me see into that future.  
As a young female rider I am surrounded at the barnsmostly with older ladies.  I have heard them through the years all talking about their back pain.  I generally felt empathy for them but felt in my youthful arrogance that really their pain was just because they were old.  Sorry!  But really it is the sport,riding puts a lot of stress on your joints, particularly the back, hips and knees.
I recently had some sacroiliac joint pain with slight inflammation. This was not an injury but a really slight nuisance that I look at as a blessing wake up call.    At 18, I never really thought ahead to how to prolong my riding career hopefully into my 70’s!  I was really interested in the now.  Sure we think about our horse’s health. In fact, most of us make jokes about how they get better health care than we do.  Maybe we sacrifice for them for the sport, or for our deep love of them, or because we want to prolong their seemingly shorter careers.  For whatever reason this pain showed me that I have been taking my health and physical abilities for granted.
    I had some slight inflammation and pain in my sacroiliac joint.  I iced the inflammation, and rested.  I thought this would be just another ache that would pass in a day or two.  When it extended, as you know, I began to do my usual research and to look to many ways to change my routine and my lifestyle to minimize these types of stresses and strains in my life.  The sacroiliac joint (hip joint) pain and inflammation can be caused,according to webMD, by any condition that alters the normal walking pattern and increases stress on the SI joint.  Well that describes riding to a tee.  This is particularly true for those of us who ride multiple horses in a day.  You know that feeling when you slide off the last one and you have to get your ‘legs back’ to walk!  Even non-horse people make jokes about our bowed legs and funny way of walking.  By the way, SI problems often manifest themselves as lower back pain with an ‘indeterminate’ cause.
I am only 18 and obviously not a doctor.  I just wanted to share with you some of the things I have learned these lastweeks working to plan a long and healthy career.  First, there are several general health changes I have made as a result.  I have dramatically altered my core training.  When I get back from the RDHMC I have signed up for regular classes in Yoga and Pilates!  The chances of these types of pains can be lowered with core development.  All the doctors I went to the MD’s, Chiropractors, physiosmassage therapists etc. all told me to do more stretching exercises, and not just right before we get in the saddle.  I now do them at home twice a day as well.  The ones on the rolling tubes and balls are fun but tough.  I like those.  
One of the products I found to be helpful was my sacroloc“stabilizing orthosis” from Bauerfind.  It is basically a really light belt brace.  I wore it most of the day at first.   NoI wear it when I feel twinges.  I should wear it at night to sleepI sleep on my belly with my leg bent like I am on the mounting block getting up on a horse and the weight puts pressure on my hip.  As of yet, I will admit I find it disturbs my sleep.  I am working on perhaps finding a lighter, smaller one although the one I have was, as of three weeks ago, the smallest and lightest I could find for under $200.00.  My Grandmother made me (I admit against deep protests) use a special pillow to sit on.  I use it when I drive and when I sit to watch lessons.  It made me feel silly at first.  She actually had to slip in under me as I sat down for me to even try it.  I was that stubborn about looking and feeling like an old person.  After a few minutes in the car and realizing it altered the level of pain I was feeling, I am a convert.  I now go back to the car to get it before sitting down to watch an hour lesson.  She also bought me at Walmart a HoMedics pocket electrode pack.  It is similar to the electrode treatment for your muscles you get at the chiropractor.  It is small enough to put in my purse and if I feel my muscles tightening I can really easily put it on for a few minutes to loosen that tension.  I really like it.
Well I hope this helps a few of you to experience less pain.  I hope it helps a few of you young people to take a look at your own health management.  We may feel invincible but we aren’t.  We may think health issues are for old people after years in the saddle but they aren’t.  In fact, if you are like me and want to have years in the saddle, why not make a few changes now to not be in that same pain thirty years from now.  I know it is hard to think about putting in the effort for something you might nothave to worry about, but I for one want to make those years as enjoyable and successful as these!
     Have a wonderful Holiday Season!  I send you all my best wishes and hope you all have a pain free New Year!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Holiday Spirit!

    So lots of good news to report this week!  I think my back is finally over the hump. I am not in constant pain and I am eagerly looking to get back in the saddle pretty soon.  Sjapoer has been getting cranky and I think he misses me riding him.  Although I go to the barn multiple times a day to take care of him; it isn’t the same.
    We had a Christmas party for the whole barn at Ridgemar.  It was neat. They had BBQ, square dancing, and a pit fire.  It was fun to see all the people you pass in the barn aisle, or in the arena out of the saddle and enjoying themselves.
    My mom finally made it to CALI! She finished grading her student’s exams last Thursday. I guess after the ice days in Texas it was a bit stressful for students and faculty.  I can’t wait to start next semester here myself.  Although I think snow days for finals are highly unlikely in Southern California.
    Being around my mom is always like a breath of air. She is full of energy, positive vibes and constant smiles; but sometimes the air moves really fast a pushes.  Luckily I have learned it is always with good intentions to help others.  She has some sort of teacher gene and tries to help everyone around her to become more all the time.  
    Anyway more great news was that Genay and my flights to EDAP on New Year’s Eve both connect through DFW and continue on the same flight! So my big sis and I are going to get to celebrate for a few hour layover in DFW and the flight to West Palm Beach.  We get in at around 11:35 PM! Mom said she is going to have some sort of girl’s New Years event planned.  I hope she knows by 12:05 Genay and I have to crash so that we are ready for an early day at the GDF grounds. 
    I met a really great girl Anna Buffini.  She and I went shopping and to the Hobbit movie the other day.  I hope we can manage time for more social stuff before I have to leave for Florida.  She will be doing Young Riders this year and will be stiff competition.  I think the breadth of our sport, particularly among youth riders is really growing.  Thank you USDF, USEF, EDAP and all those who have been working so tirelessly to make it so.
    Mom and I are going to the barn this morning, then to do shopping for Christmas!  I can’t wait to take mom to Mary’s Tack shop.  I want to entice her with the dozens of colors of Polo Wraps.  I want to emulate my former trainer Shauntel Bryant and have Polo wraps of all colors to match my pads and outfit.  It just looked so professional.  Also mine are getting awful raggedy.  Does anyone have a method to keep them looking newer?  I once read this joke list on 10 ways to know you are dating a horse person.  I think I should add “their Christmas and birthday present lists, are always lists of things their horse needs.”  

Friday, December 13, 2013


    As the dates for the RDHMW get closer, I start thinking about all I have learned and how I have changed since that first one two years ago.  I remember Mary Phelps talking about the media and how to present yourself in today’s mass media global image world.  I took to heart all she said about things like what to post, what to say and not to online.  But also, I remember her having us do ‘practice’ interviews.  I was thrilled to think about maybe someday giving one.  I was awed that anyone would want to listen to what I had to say.  The first interview I thought I might have to give at FOC that next spring, I sat up the night before, writing out and practicing answers to possible questions; just as she suggested. Even this year at NAYRC I wrote the names of everyone to thank on my hand so I wouldn’t forget.  Unfortunately, as you know that wasn’t a great idea because my palm sweated in the victory lap and all of that got smudged!
    So looking back on all of the mess ups, success and changes in my interaction with the media I have learned a few things.  First, the things you think are interesting or important might not be what journalists think are!  Don’t get discouraged when that great line you thought was a perfect quote is never heard again; but that silly thing you said in jest gets printed in bold!  As a junior I wanted to spend time letting the people in the media learn about what kind of a person I am. I wanted them to see me as my outgoing and light-hearted self. I wanted to thank all the people who helped me. I thought each time might be the last time I had to say thanks.  Everyone always wants to thank their sponsors and support team.  That gets kind of boring to the media though and I see in most interviews that isn’t really a focus.  But I can imagine from the other side it gets hard to write unique and interesting articles.  I know from doing this blog that just coming up with one topic a week is sometimes a monumental task.  Even with so few actual pieces I still have repeated myself!  So let’s keep in mind that journalists have a job.  They may love horses and our sport but they are paid to write articles to grab attention, to interest readers and followers.  So if we are prepared, have interesting and new things to add, it helps them too!
    In the last year Jeremy has scolded me more than a few times that I need to focus my interview responses to be more professional; to deliver my message to the media.  I think what he means is that now I have a goal or a path in dressage and I have to get out what I am doing, and what I need.  For example, I am looking for horses!  As Sjapoer will be 15 in February I will have to get a younger, new horse soon to look forward past the next two years.  I also have three more years of eligibility at Young Riders and would love to highlight American Bred and trained horses.  I want to ride for a US breeder the next three years at NAYRC.  I need to get those statements out into the media.  So as we get more adult and professional we have to begin to answer questions to get out the information we want. This is really hard.  It gave me some awkward moments this year as I have tried to transition my open, light hearted answers to career industry forward thinking answers.
    I like doing interviews where I can write out my full response and send them back to journalists.  This I think has always givenreally in depth information.  Yet in person interviews are fun and more exciting.  They often lead to me saying something silly though; as my natural lightness comes out more in person.  Video streaming and radio interviews are by FAR the scariest.  You can’t take anything back and they aren’t edited.  You also get to hear your own voice back later and I think no one ever likes how they sound.  I think I giggle way too much.  I am going to have to work on that.  
   So what is my point?  Like anything else media presentations, developing your online and in person image takes time and practice.  Think about what you want to say, write it out, practice your responses.  Have your friends and family ask you practice questions.  Trust me it will be worth it!

Monday, December 9, 2013


    It seems that a really hot button issue this year has been about education for riders.  This has probably been an issue for athletes from the beginning of sports!  We tell stories of the greats who dropped out of school to justify our decisions.  I mean even Bill Gates was a drop out at one time.  Over the last 6years this question has plagued me and my family.  I wanted to pursue my riding capabilities as far as I could.  Often public school regulations, like the number of days you could miss,interfered with my ability to participate in required qualifying events.  Even private school was often difficult because missed material meant always playing ‘catch-up’ to the class to stay in a group lecture format.  I found a great alternative in K12icademy.  This is a private international accredited school out of the state of Virginia.  
    Many older generations look at online or any type of ‘homeschool’ environment and think that attendees are put at a disadvantage.  Let’s look at some of the facts.  16 states have now licensed and accredited K12 for alternative education for current residents.  Many brick and mortar schools like LakeWashington HS in Kirkland, WA are themselves moving toward an online format with students working at an individual pace with a more one-on-one direction from teachers.  These students tend to be more independent workers, self-motivators and have deeply enriched educations.
    Furthermore, in a world of fast paced life where everyone tries to maximize their time an old fashioned education can becounterproductive.   For example, when I was in middle school the first class of the day was home room.  We spent 45 minutes discussing administrative housekeeping that rarely pertained to me.  Then we spent 10 minutes between each class (a total of 70 minutes a day) changing rooms.  The first 5-10 minutes in each class was used in taking roll.  The next 5-10 minutes were used to return or take up papers.  Then there would be a few minutes of some distractions from the joker of the class.  Then we would get about 20 minutes of instruction at best and then 5-10 minutes to get homework assignments, pack up books and head to the next class.  This meant in a 50 minute class we actually got about 20 minutes of class.  Now of the 7 periods, one was lunch and one was PE.  So we had 5 content classes.  That meant we had on average 100 minutes or less than two hours in a 7-8 hour day for actual work.  
    Furthermore, if we wanted to take a foreign language the limitations were set by the teachers that were available.  They taught Spanish, German, French and occasionally something random.  What if I wanted Latin and Chinese?  What if I wanted Paleontology or a hands-on Oceanography lab? A brick and mortar school has limitations of offerings.  An online school’s limitations are the limitless web.  You can also combine unique aspects to your education that you can’t do in a group class atmosphere. For example, when studying Renaissance artist you have the ability to go to museums regularly to experience the art which you are studying.  Field trips in today’s high school education are rare.  
    So here is my point.  Don’t be afraid of finding alternatives that complete many needs.  I come from a family of professors, doctors and lawyers.  There is no chance that I won’t pursue an education.  I understand the need for diverse learning and how an education has great value to me.  But there are alternative roots to education.  For example, after my often questioned“home schooled” educational route people wondered if I would ‘get in’ to a good university. Even my friends sometimes looked askance at my work and my future.   I was accepted at University of Washington, Washington State, Seattle University, and even Cornell.  One of the things my interview with the Cornell University administrator taught me was that they found my K12 education valuable!  She stated that they found these students to be highly successful in college, often because they had to be independent learners.   So I think we should quit thinking of higher education and athletics as a one or the other option.  If you are creative and willing to put in some time to work out unique alternatives you can have both!  It is just a matter of sometimes thinking outside the box and accepting ‘non -normal’ alternatives.  If you want to live a dream sometimes you have to be willing to accept challenges that others might think aren’t normal or average.  It doesn’t mean don’t go to school; it means find new ways to do so; be willing to adjust and compromise.  

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Call to Action!

Emerging Dressage Athlete’s third annual Robert Dover Horsemastership Week will be upon us in one month!  You have all heard me talk about this program several times.  I credit it with helping me to make a lot of changes which helped me to build my personal commitment to dressage and my goals.  I have spoken about making friends, about learning so much about the industry and how it works.  I have learned from this clinic about the countless of potential careers in our industry and how we are not lone solitary riders but networks of teams producing a few minutes of harmony and beauty.  I haven’t spent much time talking about the hard work that all the volunteers but into this program.  Lendon works tirelessly to help find and encourage young raw talent.  I remember my first clinic with her in Texas.  When I got selected as an auditor I felt so honored.  I felt all of the years of hard work were finally being noticed.  That someone saw I had potential gave me motivation. I mean sure my parents thought so, and my trainers told my parents so but that is kind of the job of parents and trainers.  They try to encourage you.  Here was someone who didn’t seem like the type to give false praise telling me I was doing something ‘perfectly.’  
I want to thank all of the presenters, lecturers, sponsors and trainers in advance for all of their time and energy.  But I also want to ask all of you to think how you might be able to help.  In this individual sport it is often easy to as Jeremy calls it, “become insular.”  We think about our horses, our injuries, our tests and we don’t take time to think of the big picture; our industry as a whole.  In order for more breeders to put out dressage horses, in order for trainers to select horses for dressage and not more lucrative ventures, in order for young riders to skip the thrill of jumping fences and ride endless circles, in order for the media to see us as something other than horse dancers we need to work on our industry as a whole.  And like most things it will take time, energy and be the results of lots of people doing lots of little things that will make our industry grow.  When I was little my mother explained teamwork to me this way.  Put a lot of different toys in the bath tub and then turn on the water very slowly.  Watch what happens as all the little molecules of water begin to become more and more.  All of the toys rise and begin to be lifted; together.  The more little drops of water that fill the tub, the higher all of the toys rise.  So we in the dressage industry are the toys but we are also the water for each other.  
So how do we help to develop future dressage enthusiasts who will need trainers, breeders, farriers, vets and other support teams?  We encourage young people to build their love of the sport.  EDAP and the USEF Youth clinics, the HSEA program, the International Dream Rider program, the USDF shining star program and many others all support this type of participation.  So think about what you can do to help these programs.  EDAP and the RDHMW always needs supplies, funds for costs and most importantly as time draws near; horses for the selected riders to use at the clinic in Wellington.  Most of these young riders are selected through local clinics.  They have talent and ability that Lendon, Robert, Courtney or other clinicians see as something that could be developed; just like they did in me.  Many don’t have the access to top quality horses and they look forward to coming to EDAP for the experience of riding a horse they wouldn’t get to ride at home.  All the riders want to get up and shine in front of their heroes.  It is really scary to get on a completely unknown horse for the first time and then walk directly into a lesson with Jan Ebeling or Tina Konyot!  I know I have done it.  I was so excited for my chance to show them something, to have them remember me.  I bet Tina does because I cried when I couldn’t even get my mount to trot or canter.  He was so freaked out, his tail was spinning in circles, his eyes were rolled back in his head and he was covered in lather after a matter of minutes from anxiety sweat.  I am so blessed and thankful that Rick Silva jumped in and got me another horse the next day.  However, I will not forget how horrible I felt with my ‘failure’ in front of Tina.  So what I am asking you readers today, if you are in Wellington or know someone in the Wellington area that might have an FEI horse that these 10 amazing riders could borrow from Jan 1-7 please contact Lendon Gray.  You can find her on FB!   Also if you or your company can donate money, time, lunch, or anything else that will help make this once in a lifetime event so memorable that it becomes for all the riders and auditors the ‘game changer’ that Robert Dover called it when it began 3 years ago; then please help any way you can.  I know it was a game changer for me.  

Tuesday, November 26, 2013


Saturday, for the first time in weeks I felt a bit better! All the therapy, rest, massages, and great advice from so many friends and family started to pay off. Britta you have magic hands and I personally cannot WAIT until you move here. I think a week or two more and I may be able to be back in the saddle. I do not want to push it as young as I am I don’t want forty years regretting not taking the time to fully heal. Sjapoer and I have a lot of work to do to be ready for the spring season with this big set-back.

So I am using my time this weekend to rewrite and update my long term strategic plan for USEF. I have my update conference call Tuesday afternoon and I want to be prepared. I know I have mentioned the LTSP in my blog and interviews before. For those of you who are new readers, it is a way for everyone to guide their training by establishing both short and long term training goals. For the youth riders selected to participate USEF and Jeremy Steinberg discuss the goals with you and check on your progress. It is kind of a way for them to stay connected and help if they can to bring us along in our dressage goals. But I encourage everyone to incorporate the tenants of the program into your riding and your life.

In essence you have to break down your goals. If you want to be at a certain place in 5 years, in 3 years or next year then what do you need to work on this month, in the next three months to get there? What can you do? What can your trainer do? What can your parents do? What can you not do? What are some of your biggest obstacles? How might those obstacles be addressed? For example, do you need an outside clinic? Do you need to do outside core training (like me).

Anyway, I am working on my update now because these last few weeks of injury have changed my goals slightly and given me some new things to add to my plan. Also I have to adjust for going to EDAP’s RDHMW in January, so all of those have to be rewritten.

I have also been using this time to get ready for the holidays. This is the time to thank everyone who supports all your riding endeavors all year. My family likes to make gifts. They may seem cheesy and perhaps not as flashy and expensive as some types of gifts; but they take time. Time today seems to be the most valuable commodity there is. So I was taught that taking time, using your own hands to make something; putting in your individuality, your creativity and your thought made the present more valuable than anything from Macy’s. So think about your list. Don’t forget all the people that work at the barn, the vet’s office, the farrier, and all the dozens of people that keep you and your horse healthy and happy all year. My family also takes plates of baked goods to the firehouse and the police station to thank them for their work. As a kid I thought this was so cool. I even got a tour of the fire trucks once.

You might have seen the pictures on FB; Sjapoer got some gifts from Ms. Lochhead and Mr. Kearney at Gatorade! When they heard about Sjapoer’s dehydration at NAYRC and how we couldn’t get him to drink anything but Gatorade they jumped right in to help him with his Gatorade thirst in the future. Finally, he has a bucket worthy of his size! Thanks again and I’ll keep you updated on his adventures as I promised.

Finally, I wanted to say to everyone have an amazing Thanksgiving! Although I may not get to see my family this year I wanted to share some of my traditions with you. That way even if we don’t get to do them maybe you can. Every year my mom cuts out a bunch of fall leaves from construction paper. They are so colorful, like the fall paintings nature has made outside. They are red, orange, amber, brown, golden and so many hues. We go outside on a walk the day before and look for a downed branch. When we lived on the ranch this was easier. Now we go to the park. We always find the most interesting branches. This makes every year’s tree unique. We put the branch in a bottle or vase with stones to weight it down. We take yarn and a hole punch and put a hole and tie a string on each of the leaves. Then everyone writes on their leaves what they are thankful for. We hang them on the ‘thankful tree.’ After dinner while we are all digesting and stalling before pie and coffee we read the leaves and we have to guess who wrote each leaf. It is really fun and also a great way to include guests in the festivities. They feel like family right away. Another one we do is over the Thanksgiving holiday we make Christmas paper chains of red and green paper alternating. On each ‘link’ of chain we write the names of someone (horses, dogs and other animals count of course) we love and wish a merry Christmas. We make the number of links equal to the days until Christmas. Then every day we open one chain like a calendar count down. We read the name on the link and we make sure on that day to somehow show our love for them on ‘their day.’ It is a really neat way to take time over the holidays to remember what we have to celebrate and to slow down for a minute or two every day. I miss those traditions as I get older and as I am living away from home.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Going stir-crazy!

    So my sciatic nerve is still a problem.  This long term recovery thing is going to drive be bonkers.  I will admit that I have learned a few things about myself.  First, I despise being inside the house all day.  I feel anxious, jittery, and incomplete if I am not at the barn.  My soul needs its place of happiness, comfort and refilling.  Do you have a place like that?  For my mom I think it is the garden (or the library).  For my grandma; wherever her family is.  She wants to be with us and part of our lives.  I think it is neat how everyone has a different way to recharge and a different core thing that motivates them and is their focus.  I am lucky to have found mine so early and to be able to follow that path of satisfaction and contentment.
    Ok so maybe lying around is giving me too much time to think.  I have watched every movie on Netflix that I have any desire to ever see and then some.  I have played Sims until I have an entire life built for every one of my friends, family and perhaps every person I have ever met. 
    I have been to an Orthopedic Specialist, the ER doctor, a chiropractor and two therapists.  They all say the same thing; wait, don’t rush, core exercises and stay out of the saddle!  I can tell you 100% I am going to be the poster child for core development once I am healthy.  Lookout gym; I will be living to defeat you.  Hopefully, I will be healthy enough to have a few weeks to get ready for Bob’s EDAP morning work outs.  I have already been on the web for hours designing a new program.
  I had thought before that I was in good shape.  With riding so many hours, eating really healthy and working out I never imagined I was putting myself at any disadvantage with a lack of a certain area development.  I was worried and working on overall fitness.  This has always been really important to me and my family.  My dad is a bit of a health nut and when I was little he even had me watching my sodium intake and tried to get me hooked on cucumber water and all manner of things!  I have a strong core from riding and I love planks!  But the specialist tell me there are certain moves and very specific exercises that I should be doing twice a day to help extend my time in the saddle not only daily but long term in my life.  
    I am getting excited about seeing Genay soon maybe!  She may fly down to work on some projects we are coordinating.  I also want to give a quick shout out to my mom.  I hear your speeches for Native American History month are going great!  I wish I could have been there for the ones on Native Boarding schools and to meet the former President of the National Congress of American Indians. Miss you, and I am really sad I probably won’t see my family for Thanksgiving.  Yep, there are some big downsides to this riding life.  Sjapoer doesn’t know it is a holiday and he still needs to get ridden, especially because I need to get moving on training with my weeks off.  
   I shaved Sjapoer yesterday! I think I need to work on my barber skills. It took me 5 hours and I was covered head to toe in horse hair. I am hoping to get really good so I can help everyone out around the barn with their clipping too; so I’ll keep on it.  I must admit I stood a bit too long and my back hurts this morning.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Working on Image

Money! Money! Money! The more you dedicate your life to dressage or an equestrian lifestyle and the higher levels you ride the more the discussions turn around to money. As much as we try to open dressage to the mass public, one of the reasons it (and most equine sports) has an elitist name tag is the price tag! One of the ways we try to offset the increasing costs of competition is through sponsorships. The last few years this has become an increasing issue for me. I have gotten lots of input from many different and insightful individuals. For example, my dad is in sports marketing and has been since he left his athletic career. He has been with the Dallas Stars, the Texas Rangers, and is now with Legends Cowboys. This gives him a view from both sides of the sponsorship coin. My mom had several graduate classes on marketing and used to be on the sales end of the banking industry. My Uncle James (who I am waiting to hit up soon) studied sports and entertainment law before he started practicing real estate law. Jeremy my trainer is deeply embedded in sponsorships of his own from riding and training as is my friend Reese Koeffler-Stanfield. I have garnered advice from all of them. I also went to the recent owner’s task force meeting and got to hear some of the horse owner’s perspectives. I also talk to my riding friends who are working on this same issue and we try to bounce around ideas.

So what did I come up with over the last few years? First, remember that there are several layers of difficulty for young people to get sponsorships more than adults. First, the adults have a longer proven track record of success and a recognizable name than we do. Second, they are adult professionals who are more business minded. They have experience at this and we don’t. Sponsors aren’t worried that adults will get two or three years into a project and they will ‘change their career path.’ Historically, we all talk about how the 18-25 years are the black hole for most riders. At this age we go off to college, bounce around majors and careers, get married and start families. That often pulls promising riders out of our sport at least temporarily. So sponsors often want to wait until those years are over to solidify relationships. Third, we have different perceptions on things like social media and behavior than adults often do. They did not grow up using FB, twitter, snapchat and instagram. Corporations and industry leaders are older and fearful in some ways of our ‘openness.’ So remember who your audience is. The corporate leaders and owners are not 18. Their perceptions are different than ours. But you are asking them for help. That means it isn’t up to them to accommodate or accept you. It is up to you to accommodate, understand and except their perceptions. So you need to get strict with yourself. What image do you want to present to future sponsors. What image do you want to build for yourself as to your values and beliefs about not just dressage and riding but about behavior and attitude? If you want sponsors to know you are hardworking, dedicated and focused it would be unwise to post FB pictures and twitter messages that lead people to perceive that you are not. One picture speaks 1000 words. I daily see posts from fellow young people and adults that make me think; I wonder what my grandmother would think about that. I have chosen over the years to let people know that I am as cautious in person as I am online. If my mother would give me "that look" I don’t post it or chat about it. There is no need. If you think this long enough, it becomes natural not only in your online communication but your daily life. If you constantly think about the image you want to present. The person you want to be; you become that person in your actions.

Why is image so important? Sponsors spend hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars developing their own image. They will want your image to reflect or enhance theirs. This is why even industry greats like Michael Phelps and Tiger Woods have lost millions because of their behavior. More importantly they have lost respect and have tainted their lifelong athletic achievements. They dedicated and sacrificed decades and lost what to so long to build for a moment (or two) of stupidity. Once this is done it is hard to recover from. It is hard to change people’s perceptions of you once they are formed.

So part of my strategy is and will be that I am not only dedicated, hardworking and focused but loyal to my sponsors. For example, Schleese was the first company to sponsor me. They supported my goals and dreams before I had proof that I could achieve anything. In 2012 a few weeks before the Festival of Champions my saddle broke. I had purchased years before a used Schleese that I had been riding in for a long time. It had been lovingly used but had seen better days! Schleese jumped in and gave me a new saddle to use while they fixed my old one. It was phenomenal. It was like riding in a couch. It was their Infinity II which I still use. It has brought me two National and 6 North American medals. We have traveled a nice road together. Over the last two years many of the people at Schleese have emailed me to congratulate me personally. Any time I need a saddle pad, or anything I need they get it right out to me the next day. They have been helpful, supportive, loyal and professional. The values they have shown me that they have; reflect the ones that I hold important. So after NAYRC this year I contacted them about maybe increasing our commitment long term. I don’t want to be that girl who jumps from sponsor to sponsor depending on who offers me the most at the time. I want to be that girl who is loyal to her owners, her sponsors, her family, her horse, her trainer. Heck I moved from Texas to Washington my senior year on two weeks’ notice to train with Jeremy. Then after less than a year I put off a full ride to a private four year Jesuit school to follow him 1000’s of miles to California. I want to build long term dedicated relationships not only with my trainer but my sponsors and hopefully someday my owners.

So what happened with Schleese? Amazing things! They have a similar belief in developing relationships and loyalty. They feel they have been part of my story from the beginning and want to continue to be. They are changing in my Infinity II saddle (which I am going to miss) for the new Obrigado!!!!! I am so excited it feels like Christmas and my birthday at the same time. They are sending their local representative to measure Sjapoer and I. They are sending me Mr. Schleese’s new book "Suffering in Silence"; which I cannot wait to read. As soon as I get my butt in my new saddle I will let you know how it feels. Really, I have a bony butt and until I got my Infinity II I had trouble with my butt getting numb in the saddle. I used to have fairly bad back and hip problems. Regular chiropractor treatments, increasing exercises for the area and my Schleese helped with that! (Sounds like the topic of another blog).

So back to the point about sponsorships; I want to look back 40 years from now at my long dressage career and still have the Schleese symbol on my pads and their saddle on my horse. I want to share my memories over those forty years with the same people. We can grow and succeed together. I want my sponsors, trainers, vets, massage people, farriers and owners to know that about me. That is the product I want to sell. That is my brand.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Working on Professionalism

Well a lot of productivity this week. Piles of changes and learning going on! I first have to say thank you to all of the people who continue to support me in all my endeavors, not just riding. I think that everyone from the farrier to the sponsor becomes part of the development of who you become as an individual. I told you in my last blog that you have to find out who you are; that you have to ‘brand’ yourself and let those around you know what you stand for. Well you in part become who you are because of their input and advice in your life.

For example, I had several really important discussions with Jeremy this week. He really is helping me make the transition from a youth rider to an active participant in the future of the industry. There are many possible careers in the equine industry (of course mine veers toward riding) but professional is professional and it requires some changes to be accepted in the adult world. Anyway, so we talked about the move into a new market. We discussed how Southern California and Washington and Texas have subtle nuances. Here people could be ‘just in the area’ and stop in without notice; regularly. This could be a sponsor, an owner, another trainer or a potential client. So never ever come to the barn without your person already spotless; stud earrings only, hair up, and professional clothing choices. Absolutely no short shorts! I swear if he could, Jeremy would make it illegal to wear anything shorter than knee length! Hint to anyone attending his clinics: He is a perfectionist about you and your horse’s appearances. If you want to impress him be immaculate! Your horse should be able to be pulled out of his stall without notice and look spotless! If you want to be treated as a professional, you have to look like one. I guess this is true of most careers in life.

Jeremy did start me on this in Washington; it has just upped in amperage in CA. For example, when I first moved to Washington I was so impressed by Shauntel. Every day when I went to the barn she was so perfect; she never had a hair out of place. All of her polo wraps, pads and apparel matched every day! I started trying to emulate her at first just because it was impressively cool. Then I began to realize the benefit. If you look cool, collected, put together and professional people treat you that way when speaking and interacting with you. It also makes you feel more empowered and gives you more courage to speak up and stand your ground.  professionalism

On a side note, I remember in the early years in riding many adults asked my parents, "but can she make a living in dressage?" After having spent years in the equine industry now the answer is unequivocally yes! I have met massage therapists who are making 80-100K a year! That is more than the average college graduate. Heck that is as much as most college professors! Shoeing, vetting, saddle fitting, braiding, clipping, dental work, training, and so many more industries thrive on the equine market. These careers can be very comfortable. Not only do they pay well but you are outside, working with horses and horse people! You get to be physically active and not stuck inside behind a desk. What could be better than that?

Anyway, in closing take all ‘suggestions’ as that. The adults in this industry want to help and share their knowledge. It is not criticism. That is a lesson I have to learn. As riders we tend to be type A controlling, over achiever types and we have a hard time not being ‘perfect.’ I am working to be better, to learn and grow from you and the people around me every day!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

New Info and an Update!

I have had a fun (not) few days. First, I woke up Monday feeling really crappy. You know the signs, feverish achy and overall crap. Then in the afternoon as I am blundering in misery about the apartment, I somehow mysteriously, totally wrenched my back. So within a matter of hours I am at the chiropractor getting electrode treatments, getting iced, and the usual ‘yanked’ around. Tuesday, I was supposed to have a lesson but the Dr. said no way I should sit in a saddle and get bounced around. I had twisted my lower lumbar and pinched a nerve. The inflammation and pain is not the worst part however; that is the boredom that comes from lying around all day doing nothing! I can’t stand to be inside all day. I have definitely realized I could never work in an office job. I literally felt like my body was pacing while I was sitting on the couch. I don’t do inactive well. I think after two days of this my grandmother might be ready to call in reinforcements.

The worst part is worrying about SJ. I haven’t seen him for two days. That is tough. I get worried that he misses me. That he wonders where I am. I guess this is how people feel about their soul mates; mine is just a horse! All you horse people out there know exactly what I am talking about. Ok, and you dog people (that means you Aunt Julie) know exactly what I mean.

I also feel anxious because I want SJ and I to be working on our goals. We have a lot of work to do if we want to be successful next year at Brentina or I1. I don’t want to miss a single day of working toward that goal. I also get frustrated because I have this AMAZING trainer in Jeremy Steinberg and I hate to miss even 5 minutes of his knowledge. So Wednesday, when I still couldn’t ride I at least got to go watch Jeremy ride my baby. It was the first time he sat on SJ. I was really excited to watch him.

Another positive thing this week was that International Riding Helmets did a featured rider FB post on me and it was so cool. One thing in the last few years I have been working on is getting sponsorships and assistance with the many costs and supports that are needed in our sport. I know this is a huge question for a lot of you junior and young riders. How to get help? My first advice would be to ‘brand’ yourself. You have to let companies and individuals know what you stand for and what you represent. Companies that have the same values and want to have the same image will be whom you seek out or who seek you out. I will have more on this strategy next time!

Another announcement this week; EDAP again in January! I am really excited. I have to say this is one of my favorite, favorite, favorite events in the year. It is better than a lot of holidays for me! I can’t wait to see everyone and get to spend noncompetition time together. Every year at EDAP I make new friends that become such a big part of my life. Genay, my big sis and I really solidified our friendship there last year. My great friend and the best ever Groom Jessica I met there my first year. You all know how imperative she has been to my success this year. Brandi, I met the first year and she gives me great competitive strategy advice! She even called me at NAYRC from Europe after watching my first ride to straighten me out for the second day! I visited her last week at the local show and we talked about our long term goals in dressage. It really helps having a peer group support network of fellow riders. I made these at EDAP! I already have visions of the new friends I will make and the old ones I will cement. We are going to have a lot of fun everybody! Let me know when you guys are getting into Wellington. I will be there a few days early so let me know your plans and we can all get together.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Some News!

I have moved to California! My trainer Jeremy Steinberg relocated from Kirkland, WA to Del Mar, California. I came with him to this more competitive market as it was a great opportunity for my dressage career. While the choice was not hard for me and I jumped on the chance, there were some ‘issues.’ For example, my parents were a bit distraught that I might give up my full ride education to Seattle University a private four year 40K a year institution! However, I called SU and the Redhawks graciously deferred my enrollment for up to two years with my scholarships intact. This gives me a bit of time to see where this opportunity leads me and the safety net of school later. I also intend to apply at UC San Diego and several other schools here for the spring. I also still have the transfer option to Cornell as well through my sophomore year. The next issue was expense. We had just moved grandma and I into a new apartment literally the day before Jeremy announced his move. That meant a broken lease, new deposits in California….ugh! But my amazing parents and grandma stepped up and continued their support of my goals by making all the pieces come together. THANK YOU!

The tricky part was heading to KY for the Festival of Champions; sending SJ back to CA not to WA and moving me and my stuff while I was in KY. My mom and grandma didn’t attend the FOC this year because instead they loaded everything into a Uhaul, made the 22 hour drive and unloaded the UHaul in the new apartment in Carlsbad in 3 days! They are amazing women. Ok, so they had a little help as mom brought Ryan Jordan, one of her former students and I got a friend of mine to help with the heavy lifting. They somehow managed to get it all in and have nearly everything but my boxes unpacked before I got home on Tuesday.

SJ got in Saturday morning. He is doing well and seems to love his new home. It is so beautiful here and the weather is perfect. I hear it is like this all year, sweaters in the evenings and morning. Shorts in the afternoon! I cannot wait to get to the beach. I am really excited to be at Ridgemar Equestrian center, mere minutes from the Del Mar horse park. Jeremy will have less flight time and be home more so I will be getting 3-4 lessons a week from him and when he is gone there are so many wonderful trainers here I have a plethora of amazing clinicians to see. I met the dressage trainer here Marie Medosi and she seems very sweet and welcoming. I am going to start working for her a few days a week.

I spent the morning working on my submission to the new owner’s website. I spent the day just hanging around the barn all day watching SJ. He isn’t known to be a great hauler so I have to literally sit with him all day to keep an eye on him. No one knows him like I do and they might not catch some change in his behavior as quickly after a long haul. I did have to meet the shippers at 7 am and I left without a coat, or having eaten so I learned a lesson about that…

A few glitches about moving in, exhaustion from the FOC and the move put me firmly on the couch most of the week! I felt mentally and physically depleted. But over the weekend I started getting my energy back and even started running every day. I need to build up my endurance. My knees hate pounding the pavement though. I may have to think of an alternative. Grandma keeps trying to encourage my getting out and about by telling me there are cute guys in our complex. However, I have yet to see one so I think she is making it up!

I saw Caroline Roffman is leasing Pie. My mom spoke to her about it but he has to stay and show in Wellington. She was really, really nice and the next time I get down there I am going to visit her facility. If anyone is going to be there I think he would be an amazing investment of your time and money! Also if you haven’t heard Tina Konyot is looking for working students. If I hadn’t already committed for the next few years here that would be a great opportunity! Check on it.

Jessica Hainsworth finished her applications for college this week! Good luck Jess. I have my fingers crossed for you. I know how hard it is to try to pursue dressage and an education for a lot of riders our age. I got an email from Megan Heeder from the same EDAP clinic I met Jessica at. She also has lots of questions about this subject. It seems to be perhaps one of the biggest issues that loses dressage so much young talent. I know it is becoming a bigger discussion topic with so many of the coordinators and supporters at the highest levels. Stay tuned for more on this topic soon.

Friday, October 18, 2013


So it has been another eventful week! It seems like these big shows are about months of planning and preparation and then days of frantic execution. No matter how much you plan ahead something always isn’t how you thought it would be. You forget your warm-up boots. Your horse refuses to go near the awards arena because he is terrified of carriages. It rains. It pours.

On Tuesday, after a morning lesson with Jeremy we had an EDAP dinner at our house. It is always so fun to get everyone together. I think one of the great benefits of many different junior and young rider programs are the friendships you build at noncompetitive events. I have gained such great support and understanding from other riders like my big sis Genay Vaughn. We rented a house together at FOC this year so we got to spend a lot of time reconnecting. I love her mom so much. She and my mom have got to be the two highest energy women I have ever met. Genay and I spent some time swapping mom stories you can be sure! I also wanted to say I am so PROUD of Genay. Her first year at Brentina Cup she and DW were Reserve Champion! You set a high bar for those behind you to live up to (and I don’t just mean in competition). I stumbled upon a deck of cards at the EDAP party and lets just say we are a group of very competitive people!

Wednesday was the jog and they are becoming a lot less eventful than they used to be for SJ and I. Maybe I shouldn’t jinx it. As you guys know, he and I have had a few moments in the past. He has lifted me several feet off the ground. My feet have somehow gotten under his. He gets so nervous and he keeps trying to move in closer to me. He is such a big guy though it is really hard for him to physically jump in my lap! Sometimes I think he has the spirit of a dog and not a horse.

The first day of competition I was not pushing him too hard. He really wasn’t feeling right and he gave a decent ride but I didn’t push him for brilliance at all. I went for accuracy and then messed up my counts. Why is it at home I can count to 3 and 4 but in the ring sometimes I leave the counting to SJ?

Friday I had a few baubles that were not too major and we ended up Young Rider Champions. It was really an amazing end to an amazing two years with SJ. Even our first difficult year together was part of the thrill of doing so well these last two years. We have come a long way together and he has given me such opportunities.

I went to the launch of the new website to match owners and riders on Friday night. Amazing idea! I will definitely be signing up soon. Be sure to check it out on FB and their website. ExperienceDressage.com

Saturday was the charity celebrity mounted games to raise money for USEF. It was so fun. I was horribly slow. I guess dressage has trained me for accuracy not speed. Anyway we raised I believe over 20,000 for USEF and had so much fun doing it.

I have been hanging out in Lexington ever since waiting for Brookledge to pick up SJ and take him home.

Sunday, October 6, 2013


Well the 2013 Festival of Champions adventure has begun. I flew to DFW on Wednesday morning. A lovely 4 am wake-up call for a 6 am flight. I arrived and walked out of the terminal and started to melt! My first order of business was changing into shorts to deal with the 50 degree weather change. Then mom had a dozen errands to run before the trip which was exhausting. We met papa for dinner at Olive Garden and then early to bed. It was time to start adjusting to the three hour time difference for FOC. In the morning it was off to get straightened by Dr. Bell. Every equestrian had better find a good chiropractor early the are worth their weight in gold. I see dr. Bell every time I am in DFW. Then it was off to shop for shoes for my jog outfit. Directly after we hit the road for a fourteen hour haul to Lexington. I wondered what mom would do this time to try to kill me, it is a family joke that every time we go on a long haul some event occurs where I get injured! I have had my head shut in the hatch door, been fed walnuts that I am allergic to and all sorts of trauma. It didn't take long until I found out this years. She spilled concentrated liquid ant killer in the car. Even after having the carpets scrubbed twice the fumes burned all the hair out of the inside of my nose. Friday bright and early we pulled in to Lexington. We went straight to Reese's Maple Crest Farms where SJ stays before we are in Ky. I just love her facility and dream of some day having such a place to calmly own. Everyone there is just so nice. They dote on SJ and with the deep thick green grass and the huge pastures I don't think he ever wants to leave. Then we were off to the house we rented for dinner and early bed. Mom found a different place then the one we normally stay at while in KY. It is even closer to the KHP but smaller so when we aren't here for region team events it is a perfect size for us. We are sharing with my sister-friend Genay Vaughn her mom and my groom Jessica Hainsworth. I am so excited to see them both. Part of the fun of these big competitions is getting to see them.

Today it was back to the barn to feed, ride, clean and talk to my fellow Washingtonian pony rider Nadine. We had fun talking about what she can expect this week at FOC. I can't wait to meet my fellow mounted games team riders. Go team George Williams. Check out my FB to get the link to donate and help the United States Equestrian Team. The week will get crazy fast.

I have a lesson with Reese Sunday and Monday then it is off to the KHP. The jog is Wednesday and then directly after a jr/yr meeting and then the welcome party. Thursday is the team test and Friday the Individual test for Young Riders. Saturday is the mounted games charity event and the competitors party. Then Sunday off on a new adventure I will tell you all about soon!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Kentucky again!

   Well I am getting packed for Kentucky!  Everything is getting washed, boxed and ready to go.  It feels like I did this only last week for NAYRC.  One question I wish someone had an answer for is how to keep barn Gremlins from making off with everyone’s stuff.  I mean when you get that pink embroidered bedazzled whip you thought it was the only one on the planet.  Yet inevitably there are 3 in the barn and none are yours!  So Jeremy and I have been having four lessons a week for the last month. One of the things I really do work and concentrate on is trying to implement the corrections and changes that he and the judges suggest.  I try to be open to exploring different ideas on how to tackle a problem or training issue.  You would be surprised where some of the biggest ‘ah ha’ moments come from. It is also amazing how long it takes to fix bad habits.  I have historically skinny chicken wing arms.  It has taken a very long time to get them tucked in!  I think because they grew before my body.  
  In the last few years you may have observed that I like to do research when I have a question.  I like to gather information, make lists and think about things for a while before coming to decisions.  Maybe this is a reaction to living with my "jump off the cliff without looking" mom, but I like to make powerpoints and files.  I also like to collect things.  I kind of horde and can’t stop collecting things until I have the set.  For example, remember happy meals at McDonald’s?  I always had to get every action figure in the set  Anyway, I have all my Breyer horses labeled with their model number etc. and I kind of laugh at myself about this.  My point is one of the suggestions I have to youth riders is to do the research.  Before I go to a show I look up who the judges, stewards, vet, show secretaries, and other personnel are at the show.  If I don’t know them already I google and try to find a picture.  I want to be able to say hello and call them by name or perhaps know something about them.  For example, the name of their horse or dog is always a great piece of information.  This helps me to relax around strangers and to make people of ‘power’ seem more human and less scary.  Try it and see if it helps you other shy people.  I know most people don’t think I am shy and I am not; AFTER I have that first opening to meet people.   
   Finally, I have been making jewelry for the last week.  I am so excited to see so many people in KY that have been so helpful to Sjapoer and I this last year.  We will be staying at Maple Crest Farms with Reese Koeffler-Stanfield again.  I have to say everyone listen to her radio show the next few weeks!  I can’t wait to tell everyone on her show about some big changes in my life coming up soon.  I won’t spill the beans until then so tune in to the Dressage Radio Show! See you all next week in Kentucky!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Sabine Schutz-Kery Clinic

So a few weeks ago we moved into a new apartment here in Kirkland. You know how when you move you find all kinds of things you forgot existed! I found a bunch of old clinic dvds! One of my all-time favorites was my very first clinic with Sabine Schutz-Kery it was at least 5 years ago I was about 13 but looked around 10 or 11 in the video. I was riding this Friesian named Teleos.  He was often compared to the quarterback of the football team in high school. He was absolutely beautiful but a little slow on the uptake. Anyway he was an infamous bolter and had been hanging out in the barn being ridden sporadically for almost two years. My trainer at the time, Bre Dorsett thought I could ride him. My mother was terrified but after a few months she quit coming to watch every time I sat on him.
In the clinic we were working on a bunch of different things we were having difficulty with; walk to canter transitions, haunches in and other issues. He was showing first and schooling second level at the time. I went through her clinic with me and wrote out a lot of really great suggestions she gave me at the time that helped not only with Teleos but to develop in my training.
First, I had to laugh at myself. I was so skinny and bony my little arms look so much like chicken wings; especially because I used to have a problem with tucking my elbows in. We started with shoulder in work in the trot. She told me to get off the rail to make sure he wasn’t just using the rail but that I was riding on the aids. She told me it was good that “when you change direction you are not taking the neck beyond the shoulder line. Keeping his neck between his shoulders makes him take the bending aids, because if you take the neck to far over, almost inviting him for the evasion to throw his shoulders out.”
When we switched to canter work she said to start on the side he does better to help him gain confidence. She said working on transitions was about quality not quantity. Had to make sure we had bend, he was supple and relaxed but alert in the walking mode. We talked the whole time as she said about “bend, bend, bend…because it really gives you access to his body. It really makes him elastic, supple and relaxed.” We have to‘gymnasticize’ our horses she said. She asked what ingredients you need to make a good walk-canter transition. She went on to list several things. He has to bend around your inside leg in order to set up to start on the correct lead. He has to be over his back so the neck has to be somewhat low and relaxes and he has to walk on his hind legs so that he can really push off the right way so he is not forehand oriented in that moment. He has to use his hind legs to start proper walk-canter transition.
In the canter his neck kept popping up. She said I needed steady aids in the turns of the canter circle because he was hopping. “So every step of turn in the circle is the same, yes you need to use your outside rein but not too much that it takes the bend away.” As we repeatedly did walk transitions she was adamant that I have the walk correct first. She said when “you get the feeling he wants to drop his neck and be round that is when you ask for the canter. That is not the drop of the neck where you drop into the forehand but he releases and carries himself. It still stays balanced. Do not let him drop the neck and then go on the forehand. Drop the neck but then pick him up into a bending aid so that he stays uphill in the shoulders-so it’s not as easy as just giving the rein because then start stretching down and he comes down in the shoulders. But when it is just right, at that feeling move away from inside leg, then outside leg back.” “Push him away from your inside leg before asking for canter. It is not a leg yield, but to see if he is responding in the ribcage. You are just looking for his response.”
Then once he is cantering ”be alert of the feeling when he wants to come back so that you are ahead of him in your driving aids.” The timing of the driving aids she repeated often. “Be ahead of him.” When he gets“stabby or quick in the stride you want a soft round jumping stride so supple him then.” Contact is not constant but has elasticity. Take and give.
She later said that ‘when he relaxes with energy is great. That is what is challenging in dressage. You want energy and power but with relaxation and not because they are tense or fearful.”
Then we worked on haunches in! First we did them at the walk and then trot. She talked a lot about why it was so confusing to him. We ask him to not just bend but to bend and go sideways. “ In a leg yield we don’t have the bend. In the shoulder in same bend but leg aids move away from inside leg. But on haunches in the inside leg with every stride (here my left) said to bend from pressure on rib cage and outside leg says to go over. It is confusing because you have two legs with pressure saying move over but both in opposite directions. He is traveling to left but ribcage is bending to right! Try to have equally bend and equally sideways. Each step inside leg asks for bend, and release and at the same time feed sideways driving aids into the bending aids from your outside leg. Main aid is your outside leg. Try to keep him supple from left rein. “Each long side we did haunches in each short side ten meter circles. She said this was to remind him to move away from the inside leg in the middle of the body, in order to get a nice curve.” Use the short side to regain the main ingredient. She said he had to understand that you don’t want either, you don’t want bend without sideways and you don’t want sideways without bend. Then “when he gets comfortable with the idea, then the suppler he gets the more angle we can get because it’s the rib cage suppleness that makes the angle greater.” She also noted that the inside leg is also responsible for keeping the trot moving and keeping him through the neck so he stays round.
He was a bit confused about this new stuff so she was adamant that he was evading because he was confused so not to discipline him but to keep riding all the aids so he had no option but to do the movement I asked for until he figured out how to make his body do these conflicting things.
By the end of the hour I had taken several layers I was working up such a sweat. That was the first of several great sessions with Sabine.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Lazy Days

This is the longest I have gone without a blog. It isn’t because life has been really exciting and I have been too busy. In fact, just the opposite is true. Things have been sort of wakeup, repeat the last two weeks. With my online schooling schedule running well into NAJYRC and fall already here I made a bucket list of a few things I wanted to do in my only two weeks of summer. I went paddle boarding, rock climbing and hiking. I took my grandmother to see the One Direction movie! We had the time wrong and got there really early so I went on stage and gave her a one man serenade to an empty theatre. She said it was a night to remember.

When my mom was here we went out on Jeremy’s boat to see Seattle. We drove out to the locks, parked and went to dinner. I got to drive on the way back. It was really pretty seeing all the lights. They even had these people that stand on shore and throw and twirl fire. It reminded me of my Aunt Julie who was a baton twirler. She said she used to light her batons on fire too; and my mom thinks horses are dangerous.

Both Jeremy and Shauntel were out of town last week. We worked on the same thing we have been doing for weeks; long and low. Get that back in the right position. But it is back to pushing this week as Festival of Champions is only 5 weeks away. I am already getting excited about seeing Reese, Jen, Genay and everyone else there. This week I had four lessons with Jeremy. I can barely move. Just when I think I am in shape or I have learned how to do something we push just farther. It is great but exhausting. So I spent a bit of time just hanging by the pool and catching up on the season finales of my shows from last season to get ready for the new season!

My dad is coming to visit this week! We are going to look for a used car because Audi is beyond elderly. I may have to get a truck for hauling a trailer. I guess that is a question for every horse girl. I need to find a one horse box stall trailer. Is there such a thing? Anyone know where I can find one in Washington or Texas?

Monday, August 26, 2013

My Keys to Success

Dressage youth riders and parents;

I wanted to share with you some important informational links on programs that have been a key to my success. I encourage everyone to explore the opportunities offered by these amazing programs. Do not let the ‘parameters’ or the seeming requirements of the applications deter you from applying. Many of the decisions on selection for these programs are not about the quality of your horse, or the level you are currently competing at! These programs often look only to your potential or need for support in training etc. Go for it! The worst thing that could happen is they say no. Even then you get practice and experience with applications, which as I recently learned is a big part of going to college!


The Emerging Dressage Athlete program which was began by Lendon Gray, Robert Dover and Courtney King-Dye is a huge foundational growth opportunity. You submit an application and if enough riders in your area apply, a weekend clinic with Lendon is coordinated. From those clinics 10 riders and 10 auditors are selected for the Robert Dover Horse Mastership Clinic in Wellington, Florida over the Christmas break. The application fee is minimal and if selected horses, accommodations, stabling and fees was 250.00. You have to get to the facility, do some meals and pay for family lodging but otherwise costs are covered. You get daily training from Olympic level trainers and workshops which teach everything from focus and visualization to how to handle the media. This program changed my life.


USEF National Youth Dressage Coach Jeremy Steinberg and USDF president George Williams hold clinics around the country. This branches into the USEF Elite Youth Clinics. You have to submit an application to ride and the fee is 300$ if selected but again the level of training and exposure gives you the possibility of being selected for the elite clinic participation. This is a feeder to the NAJYRC and Long Term Strategic Planning program. I participated in this program twice with George Williams but didn’t last year because it was with Jeremy and he is already my coach! The Elite program has a similar purpose to EDAP except that Elite series has the additional step of the LTSP.



NAJYRC is the premier competition for youths ages 14-21 in North America. There are two divisions junior and young rider and they have different levels of difficulty. Junior level is equivalent to fourth and Young Riders is PSG. The costs can be prohibitive as you have a certain number of qualifying shows and the competition is held in Lexington, KY at the KHP. The pamphlet link above has a general guideline for parents on that. Fundraising in the region can help defer those costs. If you are interested in participating and gaining the benefits of team fundraising call the NAJRYC Chef Jodi McMaster or email her. Her information is on the Region 6 Youth Dressage Form. If you have dreams of competing for the US Internationally, this is where you gain recognition and experience of performing at an FEI top performance level. You can see video links of rides and interviews on the usefnetwork.com website.

Finally, I would encourage everyone to stay connected. Your biggest support base is each other. I could not have gone to EDAP if enough Region 9 riders hadn’t applied for the clinic to bring Lendon to Texas. I couldn’t have afforded to attend NAJYRC without team fundraising. I would not have won a team bronze and team silver in the Junior and Young rider division without a strong team that worked together to build support emotionally and financially. Today my friendships with Brandi and Genay have helped me dramatically to achieve my goals. So make friends support each other. Friend me on facebook! I would love to keep up with your endeavors. Read my blog at
http://dressagespot.blogspot.com/ to (hopefully) gain some insight into journaling, training and competing!

Good luck,

Ayden Uhlir