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!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Long and Short Term Planning

This week I received my Long Term Training Plan back from the USEF.  For those of you that don’t know about this program yet; the United States Equestrian Federation is trying to assist committed junior and young riders to achieve their long term goals in our sport.  They have knowledge and resources to help riders to focus, plan, gain knowledge and guidance.  The monitored program for now is limited by invitation to the top three junior and top three young riders in the country.  There is a self-monitored version as well.  Furthermore, I today would advise and direct any one to follow the same steps and create your own similar plan.  Whether it is on USEF paper or not the theory to help your success is universal.

     The first step for the plan is to set realistic goals.  What is a realistic goal?  Well if you are riding first level this year it might be unrealistic and even undesirable, for example to jump to fourth next year.  Not only will you be disheartened if you fail to achieve the goal, but you may fail to see how great riding a very successful second is because of this.  Second, set specific time limits.  You can make one week goals, one month goals, three month goals, one year goals, and even very long term goals like three or five years.  First start with where you want to be in those time frames.  When I wrote mine I started with the farthest time period and worked in.  For example, I want to make a respectable run for the 2016 Olympics.  So in 2016 I had to be riding and competing GP.  To be viable as a possible choice I would have to do respectably in 2015 at the Pan Am games, that meant in 2014 Brentina cup and competing Intermediare. Finally, in working backward that meant this year competing in Young riders. 

     The next step was to speak to my coach about the factors necessary to achieve these goals.  First, is my horse capable of riding at these levels?  I am lucky enough that he is.  My only concern is his age.  He is 14 this year.  So for him to be 17 at the Olympics is asking a bit much.  However, I can increase the probability of this by maximizing on not only treatment but prevention (or delaying) of many of the old age issues of horses.  This meant looking at diet, medical treatments like regular massage, chiropractic and other treatments not as merely a response to issues, but for regular care. The next question was my training schedule.  Is this a feasible track for me?  Jeremy said yes but that I had outside issues I could work on or build to help increase the likelihood.  I have had to increase my outside workouts.  I started lifting weights, and I have become a queen of planks to develop my core. 

    Next, what extra training can I get above and beyond my lessons?  I began looking for opportunities that were near, or funded by foundation grants.  I apply for everything I can in order to increase my knowledge, to meet other young people like me who can share their information with me.  I applied this year for the International Dream Riders program.  Every day I try to visualize, the way Dr. Susser taught me to see myself receiving notification that I have been awarded that opportunity.  I reapplied to EDAP.  I asked my big sis Genay Vaughn to let me stay at her house so I could audit the Jan Ebeling clinic. 

    Next, I had to break down the goals.  If I wanted to be competitive at young riders this year, what did I need to work on?  So then with my trainer I reviewed Sjapoer and my weaknesses and strengths.  He has amazing changes and power.  We designed my training program around those things.  Then each week when we work on lessons, I know what we are doing and why.  It keeps me focused and helps me to push myself when I know the goal.  You can see what you want and realize that each day is a step closer to those goals.  Finally, having a short and long term plain with defined attainable goals gives you a list with milestones to mark off.  This reinforces what you have achieved and builds a cycle of success.  So I say get out some paper and start on your plan today!

Monday, April 22, 2013


So this week I videotaped a lesson with Jeremy.  I then watched it back repeatedly, taking copious notes for you.  I also realized that note taking directly after a lesson is probably a great idea as a learning tool.  We often forget what the trainer said as we were riding, but keeping a log that we jot down points in (perhaps while our horse is in the cross-ties drying) can be a great tool.  Remember in these schooling tips that my horse tends to be hot and forward.  Our problem is more bringing him back then getting him forward!  The same might not be said about your horse.  But I hope you can find a grain in this for you.

     So when working on transitions, make each one bigger and more definite. Take risks in schooling.  Constantly push them forward and back.  When bringing him back, be tough in it! Try out different things; put in a change, then back, then forward to a pirouette and back, etc.  Make each one quick but with organization.  Do not have a trot step from walk into the canter.  Not even a baby step!  If you don’t get eights in the transitions (he said in that Jeremy straight forward way) it is because you don’t school enough.  Demand a transition; every transition in schooling should be an eight or do it again.  Also in transition no pulling in the neck from walk to canter.  Use the outside rein to keep him round.  No lifting the neck into it.  Be careful not to chase him off it with your leg. 

     Pirouettes jump into the canter.  In the right pirouette I have to be stronger on left leg, making smaller and smaller circles until he takes the weight on his left leg and moves over with the right hind.  It is a jump and over motion off of the left spur.  Haunches in, with big reaching steps behind; you should feel him take a step with the left and reach big with the right.  Don’t just pull him right and left without riding the hind legs.  Remember hind legs are what make the front feel better.  You deal with the issue on front but ride the hind legs to really remedy the situation.  Challenge him to be steady with the outside spur.  Hold steady on a ten meter circle, having the shoulders stay on the 10 meter circle but the haunches are way in –like—on an eight meter circle with the haunches in. 

     Also on pirouettes he said to keep the angle and bend the neck more.  This hollows the body on the right side and makes a bigger pocket for that right hind leg to go into.  When he starts to take the weight behind, sit.  And NEVER come out of the pirouette to a walk. No! No! It is not this way in the test.  This is like riding a line of flying changes and then walking in the corner immediately after.  NO NO (he reiterated).  You never want their minds in a downward transition linked with that movement as it is never done in the test. 

     On my left pirouette he said sometimes when I come around he can see my spur touch him, but I seem to be negotiating.  Give him no other option.  It is not about waiting for it to get better!  Be tough and don’t negotiate.  If you use the spur, use it.

     He said in my trot work I sometimes run flat without really using the lift in his back.  I said that when I try to put my arm to my knee I don’t have the strength to get him or pull him.  Jeremy responded that’s why the hand comes up and because he’s stronger and we get the wrong effect.  The neck shortens and tightens his back, so it gets the jaw to give, but neck is up and nose is in but he is not over his back.  (hint to build biceps and triceps here) also when hand is low and wide down over leg, draws his neck down, round and long and into the outside rein. 

     Finally, he said when I hit resistance I do a good job in fighting him through it, but when he softens and I finally get what I ask for I give it away.  He can see my mind say “ok now he’s done it.” So I correct the wrong but I don’t give the next step of turning it into something better.  So don’t quit when it finally goes right!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Healthy Living

      Not a lot to say this week.  Sorry, I had final exams and a whole bunch of applications and paperwork to complete.  So first let me remind everyone to get their EDAP forms for 2013 sent in.  Even if you applied before you can and have to apply again each year.  Most GMO’s and USDF and USEF grant applications are coming due soon.  Check your due dates. 

     While studying for exams I thought you might like to know a few tips I picked up that help not only with school but also with riding.  I make a de-stress smoothie that is supposed to lower stress hormones.  It uses dark chocolate.  Put dark chocolate chips in either frozen chocolate yogurt or pudding.  Also to increase concentration levels I pack a ‘focus snack mix’ to use for studying or at the show grounds.  Mix you choice of nuts I use pecans because the original version called for walnuts that I am allergic to.  Mix those with your choice of dry cereal and a pinch of cinnamon and sugar.  The Omega-3’s are supposed to help with concentration.  A post ride smoothie is a banana, chocolate milk and a bit of low fat frozen yogurt.  The protein and carbs will help muscle recovery.  Finally, a great study energy snack that isn’t full of sugar is popcorn with dark choc chips or chunks of chocolate.  Anyway try some and share your ideas for healthy snacks. 

     Speaking of health, when I look around at horse shows or dressage events I am always comforted by looking at the older people in our sport.  They all look fit and at least 10-20 years younger than their ages.  Yes readers take the compliment, it gives me great hope.  I assume it is our sport that creates good health or maybe certain types of people self-select to ride dressage.  Perhaps it is being outdoors all the time and having jobs that keep us out of the office and our butts from growing in chairs.  We should be thankful for that.  Anyway as a small sort of wimpy girl (yes I am jealous of my friends Genay and Brandi for their inherent athleticism) I have to work to build muscle and strength.  So here are some great exercises to help.  For lower body strength stand with your weight on your left leg and hold a dumbbell in your right hand with your palm facing you.  Hinge forward at the waist, lowering the dumbbell as you lift your right leg up till it is parallel to the ground.  Squeeze your legs and butt to return to start.  Do 2 sets of 8 reps each leg.  To strengthen my core (beside all the usual planks and crunches) I do single leg squats.  Take a weight (about 2 lbs) in each hand.  Stand with feet about shoulder with apart. Lift your left leg to 45 degrees and raise your arms out in front of you to shoulder height.  Drop your hips and back as if to sit down as deep as you can and still keep your balance.  Hold it for 1 second and then rise.  Do 10 reps each side twice.   

    A final note from Shauntel, when starting with shoulder in left, be careful when you change to the new direction that the haunches aren’t in!  This may not seem like a big deal, and it can be fixed quickly, but there are BIG deductions for such a small error. 

    Stay tuned.  My next blog I will tape lessons with Jeremy and will watch them and write up some direct tips for Young riders. 


Monday, April 8, 2013


 So this week I am going to do something a little different; I am going to give you second hand information.  I am doing this because I spent three days listening to my mother talk about information she got at the Phi Theta Kappa honor society convention.  She was in San Jose, California chaperoning 5 college students to the convention.  The theme of the organization for the last year has been “The Culture of Competition.”  Obviously, this fits in with our world!  The speakers were legendary tennis player and civil rights activist Billie Jean King, Fortune magazine editor and author of “Talent is Overrated” Geoff Colvin and many others. 

     Geoff Colvin wrote a book that was based on the same research that was used for the famous book about putting in 10,000 hours of practice to be successful at any endeavor.  Robert Dover talks about this book at clinics.  The original research was done with violinists at a school in Europe.  The professors were asked to rank the students in three groups.  Those that would be ‘world class’ and play in the world’s greatest symphonies, those that would be performers but not at the world’s greatest orchestras and finally those that would most likely be teachers and not perform for a career.  They did in-depth interviews of their families, their roommates, and their friends.  The researchers also took data on every aspect of their lives.  They found several things.  It wasn’t IQ or an innate talent that made some better at the violin.  In fact, when they did the study with World Class chess players (who we assume are smart) they had below average IQs!  All had begun to play violin (or chess) about the same time; early in childhood.  All performed about the same number of hours in concerts or matches. The difference was in what was called deliberate practice.  Those that were considered world class players practiced in a different manner and for an unusually high number of outside hours.  The practice contained several traits.  The practice was designed to work on the players specific needs.  It isn’t for fun.  It was designed specifically to improve performance.  It was to be repeated often and had built in feedback.  Finally, they learned more by focusing on less.  All that dissolved into a lot of the things we have been told by the greats in our business.  You can’t be World Class great at 15 things.  Tiger Woods might be a crappy basketball player, or Billie Jean King might be a crappy bowler but WHO cares!  Also, find a trainer, coach, and a parent or mentor to give you regular feedback about how to continually push and improve yourself.  NEVER rest on what you have achieved; daily try to build.  Repeat, repeat and then repeat again over and over deliberately. 

 I have to admit I did not really know who Billie Jean King was when my mom excitedly called me and told me about her speech.  Then I googled. She was a world class tennis player with so many titles I stopped reading when I lost count. I watched the most amazing clip on a famous tennis match called the “Battle of the Sexes.”  This thing was bigger than the Super Bowl!   A top ranked guy player called Bobby Riggs was playing Billie Jean King to prove women couldn’t compete with men!  Can you imagine the pressure to win that game during the civil rights era?  Today we take so much for granted.  Mom said Billy Jean talked about Serena Williams and many women pro tennis players who make millions of dollars a match.  In her day women got often only 1/20th of what the men got for the same tournaments.  They didn’t have their own association or tour.  Billie Jean started the women’s tour.  She fought for their rights even when they were told if they didn’t just play they would be banned and not allowed to play anywhere!  More importantly for so many young women today Billie Jean King won that game and changed how men perceived women and women in sports from that day on!  Anyway in the speech she said she has learned a few tricks to succeed!  First, she said she often gets afraid or starts to focus on what is going wrong.  When she does she breathes.  Always a full four count breath in and a full four count breath out; then she replace the negative thought with concentrating on a positive one.  She was very particular about the positive.  She said she thinks of her very best strength.  She thinks about the thing in the match or practice or in general with tennis that she does the best.  She doesn’t beat herself up as is so easy for all of us to do.  Whenever she faces a fear or a negative she immediately does the breath and reminds herself of her greatest strengths.  It gives her courage, focus and determination.  It helped her win in sports and life. 

     Another interesting story Ms. King told was about the people that changed her life.  In fifth grade a friend turned to her in class and said, “Do you want to come play tennis with me after school.”  After the first time she played she went home to her mother and said, “I want to be a professional tennis player.”  She knew she had found her thing.  They encouraged her and supported her choices and she said she was lucky in that she had teachers, coaches, and parents who worked to help her achieve her goals.  They didn’t tell her she needed a ‘backup’ dream or that her dream was not ‘realistic.’  They told her to follow her heart and work hard.  They told her brother the same thing and he became a pro-baseball player! 

     Finally, one historical fact about Billie Jean King; have you ever heard Elton John’s song “Philadelphia Freedom?”  It was written about her!  That was the name of her mixed doubles pro-team she played on in the 1970’s.  Can you imagine being so World Class not just in sports, but in changing perceptions in the world that you get a song written about you?  Now that is inspiration.