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!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Life of a Scribe

There has been a grab bag of activity in my life this last week.  I got a glimpse of ‘the other side’ last night in a scribe clinic.  I have always envisioned the life of a judge as very exotic.  They travel all over the world, viewing some of the most amazing horses and riders.  They get to sit in the mysterious covered booths and as a vague outlined form render judgment and insight into our performance.  Every show I rush to the window to pick up my test form and read their comments.  We have all had a few laughs at their humor and a few awakenings at their insight.  So I decided to get a peek behind the curtain and train to sit beside the judges’ seat.  Perhaps this would be a way to see inside the covered booth.  Well three and a half hours spent learning abbreviations for terms on tests and ‘judging’ lost its aura.  This is detailed work.  This is hard, work.  After hours of training level test practice from videos I was ready to pull a harry-carry.  How do they do it?  How do they stay so cheerful, helpful, and calm?  How can they still love dressage?  I have gained a new respect and understanding of the hardships of judging after that.  I did hone my skills however, and I hope to get to volunteer soon to sit in the co-pilot seat.

     I got my freestyle mapped out; all on my own.  No one has even seen it on paper. I will spend this week practicing the moves so when Jeremy gets back from New Zealand he can check it out.  Sjapoer already loves the music.  Some of you may remember how he was doing some piaffe at the end of the victory laps at NAJYRC last year.  He seems to want to ‘boogie’ as my mom calls it.  Did you ever wonder what type of dancer your horse would be?  When I saw an episode of ‘so you think you can dance’ I tried to imagine Sjapoer.  Would he be modern contemporary?  Would he be ballet?  I think with his attitude he is a waltzer all the way, but only because there is not some type of blues dancing. 

    I found some notes from the Robert Dover lessons at EDAP.  I thought that I would share them now even though it has been over a month since Florida.    Some are the simple dressage realities that we ‘know’ in our minds but sometimes forget.  First, breathe!  Breathing is key.  Relax.   Also remember that there are 3 natural driving aids; two legs and one seat.  But that in dressage 80% of the control is from the seat and only 20% from the hand and leg. Half halts are the calling of a horse through balance and attention.  You should never go more than 2-4 strides without a half-halt. 

    Finally, I am counting the days until my two upcoming trips.  I am off to L.A. in two weeks and then to visit Genay the week after.  I am so excited.  I miss her so much and can’t wait to see her facility.  What is it about horse girls that we dream about seeing barns, tack and developing horses!  I am sure we will learn a lot and enjoy the clinic with Jan but I am really looking forward to the giggles until wee hours and Genay’s sense of humor! I can’t wait to meet her boy.  And like most dressage queens that means the horse not the boyfriend! ;D

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Happy Valentines Day!

     Well what an amazing week.  My first Valentine’s Date EVER!  So I am going to take a moment in this week’s blog to tell you what a great time I had.  Billy arrived early! He was really excited to head into Seattle; but he should know a teenage girl is never ready 45 minutes early!  But the beautiful roses he brought for me and the chocolate roses for grandma were lovely. We went for chowder at Pike’s Place Market and a Ferris wheel ride over the water.  I bought a bag of his favorite taffies and then unwrapped them all, put in little sayings about things I like about him and then wrapped them back up.  I think girls love the ‘homemade’ gifts the best. 

.  Jeremy is off giving a clinic in California with my friend Genay Vaughn.  Hope you guys are having fun, but I miss you!  I can’t wait to see her in March for the Jan Ebehling Clinic at Starr Vaughn Industries place in Elk Grove.   Brandi cut off her hair to donate.  I am so proud of her.   It is going to be a busy few weeks.  I have lessons with Jeremy all week then my dad flies in for a visit.  We are going snowboarding.  I promise I will be safe and stay off the blacks.  J

     I learned a lot about training tips this week from Shauntel.  First, you don’t have to do the extensions in Canter always on the long side.  Your horse will always expect them on the longside and may start to incorporate them in himself on every long side canter!  Like anything else, mix it up and do some on the short side.  Never let things be consistent that way or they memorize and start to anticipate.  You want them on your aides, not trying to outguess you.

     One way to check this connection is in the transitions.  Do a bunch of canter-walk transitions.  Then make as if to do one, by shortening the stride go into more collection but do not do the transition—go directly back to canter.  Make sure your horse does.  If not the test worked and you learned he wasn’t on the aid, just anticipating the transition. 

     We worked a bit on Tempes and Sjapoer has great flying changes.  Last year at FOC and NAJYRC he got a lot of 8’s on these and racked up points.  We have been working on making them even better by working to keep him straight.  When you move from changes to tempes there is a tendency to want to bend the head toward the lead.  Keep his head and your body straight.  It improves the quality of the change.  Finally, with the tempes, Sjapoer likes to do them a lot.  He throws in extras all the time.  When he gets strong and isn’t listening I relax on that diagonal and don’t push it if it is wrong.  Circle back to the corner and do it correct the next time.  Give yourself the long side to regain his concentration.  (Obviously this is for training not in a test!)

     Well it was a memorable week; I hope everyone shares their valentine’s stories.  Next week is a crazy busy week.  I got a new 180 degree mounted camera for Christmas and I put it to some use taping my lessons. It’s a great learning opportunity to tape one of your daily lessons and see where you are at in your training.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Freestyles 2

So this week has been focus on freestyle week.  I have been scouring music and think I have my choices narrowed down.  I can’t let you guys in on the secret yet.  I don’t want to take away from the uniqueness!  I am rather proud of going out on the limb though.  I really have fun listening to all new sorts of music doing freestyle research. 

     Jeremy was back in town for lessons.  One tip I got was to never just ‘cruise’ around for two laps without changing anything in the horse’s body.  Be productive.  Show that you are making the horse work.  Do not just do the movement to show that you can do it. Be smart about using a previous movement to move into the next one.  For example, use a motion with bend like a volte left to prepare for a half-pass left.

     So once you have music selected and your program mapped out; it is time to ride it till you have it down perfect.  Then get out the video camera (no duck face) and video tap the ride from beginning to end.  You need to then calculate the exact amount of time you need for each section of music.  For example do you have 1.02 minutes of trot and then 87 seconds of walk etc.?  Once you have the entire time sequence it is time to splice your music.  This is when it helps to have musician friends.  This year over spring break I am heading out to Hollywood to my mom’s music producer friend. He has a home studio and will splice the music together.  If you don’t have a friend who has the equipment there are services online that will put the music together for you, and also programs you can purchase to do it yourself.  Once you have it completed make sure you have digital copies on flash drives and LOTS of burned discs.  Use a different disc for each show.  You never know when you get a scratch. 

     One hint I have learned through Sjapoer’s big bolts in the freestyle at NAJYRC last year.  Always know your music well enough so you know how much time you have if there is an error.  If you mess up on your tempes, or the bolt puts you three quarters of the way down the diagonal and you are only supposed to be a quarter you have to be flexible enough to correct it on the fly.  Have some ideas in mind of what you could throw in if you have an error.  Last year when we got rather quickly across the arena I knew to get back on the trot music timing (which was now about ¼ of a minute away) I threw in a volte.  This can not only get your music back on timing but also be used to recover from a bolt and get your horse back in the mindset and prepared for the next movement. 

     Finally, a non-freestyle tip I got today I had to share before I forgot.  When working passage you cannot have the horse’s head too low because when his head is low it means he has to use his back In the movement.  Your horse has to find the rhythm to get the passage. Putting their head down makes them take their legs up more and get more bouncy.

Hope this helps!  I can’t wait to see everyone’s freestyles and have you get a look at mine!  First show in May!

Sunday, February 3, 2013


     So it is that time of the show season where thoughts turn to freestyles.  Like most riders this gives me a moment of smiles and a sick feeling in my stomach.  We all love freestyles.  In fact, for the non-initiated they are often the only thing we can get non-dressage people to watch and appreciate.  So this is our chance to hook them in.  This is a chance to divert from the standard test and show a little personality. 

     I like to think of my freestyle as a way to show people a bit more not only of me, but of Sjapoer.  I want them to know him how I see him.  The finished test product is the end of hard work.  The finished test is only a glimpse into his attitude.  You can tell a horse has power, agility and grace in a standard test but you don’t know if he is innately outgoing, or curious, or a bit of a joker.  Freestyles are a chance to bring people into the music, the tempo of your understanding of him.

     I think one of the major ways to communicate your knowledge of your horse’s personality is through music choice.  Last year in Juniors I used a mix of Blues Brother’s tunes in the freestyle.  I did this because I wanted people to know that Sjapoer has a big sauciness in him.  He has the soul of a blues musician.  He is sensitive yet full of deep emotion.  I wanted to portray that sassiness in the music.  I also wanted people to see him as unique, like the music choice.  Finally, I wanted a powerful music that fit is powerful motion. 

     So how do you go about selecting music?  First, you have to time the beats.  I take a video of the movements I am going to be riding.  I redo it every year.  DO NOT assume the beats don’t change.  As your horse gets more collected the timing will be different!  As I watch back the video I pick one leg and count each time that one leg hits the ground in each gait (walk, trot, and canter).  Once you have the count you get to start the long search for music.  Just because you like a song or a type of music, it doesn’t mean it will fit your horses gait count.  I suggest going to your tv instead of itunes.  I know this might sound weird but on the tv there are all these ‘radio’ channels that have types of music you will NEVER listen to normally.  They have classical, blues, jazz, modern, rock and dozens of other types of channels.  Listen for a few songs and expose yourself to some new stuff.  As you listen close your eyes and ask yourself if the music reminds you of your horse or feels like riding him.  If not move on to the next new style; last year I found at least 20 new ‘old’ songs that I now love.  I discovered Etta James, Keb Mo and a bunch of great musicians.  Once you select a style it is just a matter of hours of listening to music to find something that fits the style and the gaits.

     I have got my music selections ready for my lesson Wednesday with Jeremy.  You should always get your selections ‘approved’ before moving on to the next step…just in case!  So next week I will have to let you know how it went and what he said.  We can go from there to laying out the patterns for the show.  I’ll let you know if he gives me any new hints.