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

Sunday, June 30, 2013

It's Crunch Time!

     Well, it has been nearly two weeks since my last blog; this is the longest ever I have gone without updating everyone!  It has been a crazy two weeks full of graduations, competitions, and preparations for Kentucky.

   First, having an amazing trainer is by far one of the most important decisions in this business.  I heard for years about how the transition from juniors to young riders was so hard and often took years to achieve.  Yet I think I have made a relatively smooth transition because of Shauntel Bryant and Jeremy Steinberg.  Shauntel gives me the foundation and the positive reinforcement and Jeremy keeps me on the straight and narrow and teaches me the details.  He kicks my butt into gear.  Even being his “priority” for the last week and the next three has and will make a huge difference in my riding.  I had three lessons last week and three this week with him and will continue with at least that many until the competition.  He is such a perfectionist I feel daily as if my riding improves a point! 

     Second, write lists, organize, pack and repack! To make my lists I close my eyes and walk through my day.  I start with preparing the show space.  Envision the feed stall, what do you need in it?  What do you see?  Then I move to the tack stall?  What do you see?  Then I unload the horse in his stall.  What do you see?  What do you need?  Then I get ready for a warm up.  What do you see?  What do you need?  Write everything down. My closet mirror is currently covered in my lists. Then start to check your supplies.  Make sure everything well in advance is in working order, is clean and of competition standards.  Then if you want have your trainer or friend recheck your lists to see if you forgot anything.  FYI, try to get as much on the shipping transport and not in the car/plane with you! 

     Third, think of all the people who helped you or who are helping you get to where you are going.  Think of ways to thank them before you head off to Kentucky.  Definitely thank them with something when you get back.  

    Well, 10 days from today Sjapoer and I will arrive in Kentucky.  We are both getting excited to meet new faces and to show everyone what we have learned in a year.  I think I have grown a few more inches so I’ll look a little different.  I can’t wait to give my sister Genay the biggest hug ever and to have BBQ’s at the house for all my new Canadian friends. Last thing, got to give a shout out to my Region 9 girls! You’re doing amazing!!

    Sjapoer says he can’t wait to roll in the blue grass.  He promises to try to not get hurt this time (he has every trip to KY!)  See you there!  Stop in to Region 6 and say hi anytime. 

Thursday, June 13, 2013


 So I haven’t had a moment to write this week.  So many preparations for heading to Kentucky!  Shipping has always been a big concern.  As I mentioned before, I can see why some regions aren’t represented as heavily at national shows; it costs an arm a leg and a kidney to get there!  It also takes so much longer to haul there and back that you miss more work; you have to have hotels along the way and have to arrive really early to have more time to recover!  You are tired, your horse is tired and you haven’t even competed yet.   Luckily, my new Canadian friend Colby Dodd is allowing me to ship with him to Kentucky.  Interestingly they are headed out on July 4th.  This startled me and all of us south of the border because that is sort of an important day around here.  But as I was reminded, “It isn’t a holiday for us.”  So SJ will arrive on the 7th of July with Capri.

    So before shipping you have to make sure you have all the health certificates, passport updates etc. that you need.  You have to calculate space for hay and feed and coordinate your shipping quantities here with what you can and want to purchase there. You have to call for early stabling and pay those fees.  Then finding a place to stay for people is always a quest (interesting how we always take care of the horse details first!).  Do you stay someplace cheap or does distance matter?  Does staying together as a regional team matter more?  Do you want to be away from everyone so you get rest? There are many concerns and problems of availability if you haven’t requested rooms early.  One great option we learned from the Nommensen family was to rent a house.  They officially passed on the house rental to us last year at NAJYRC; but we felt obligated to leave it to Region 9 as we moved.  So we didn’t take the phone number.  Then my mom was searching owner rental sites and found the same house about two months ago.  So we will be staying in that same great house!  I like the tradition of it; it gives me a sense of comfort.  The entire Region 6 young rider team will be staying with their trainers and parents.  I am planning to coordinate a thank you dinner for the Canadians for letting me ride over early with them, and an EDAP dinner for anyone who arrives early.  I’ll send out the info on that as soon as I have details.

     So once you have the horse delivered and a place to stay and you have a place to stay; then you have to get there!  Do you fly or drive?  Do you rent a car?  At every stage of all of these questions you have also the considerations of budget and stress at the show.  For example, one of the great things about the house is we don’t have to go out to restaurants all the time.  This saves the riders and trainers from long lines, unplanned late arrivals home and boring unhealthy and repetitive meals!  Once you have your transportation complete; then it is time to start packing.  This begins weeks in advance.  You have to coordinate team practice and jog outfits, your show clothing and tack.  The pile on the floor to pack grows (particularly if you do not have a washer and dryer at your hotel!) You then have to make sure you have one of everything and then a backup!  Load it all up and see what fits on the trailer; you want to try to avoid those plane luggage fees. 

     So once all of those details have been done and had to be redone at least three times each; then you try to remember your visualization and concentration on the riding part!  You also start to get excited to see all the people you only see once or twice a year at these types of shows!  I am going to go to bed tonight visualizing the golf cart parade and opening ceremonies.  See everyone in my dream tonight or in a few weeks in Lexington. 

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Competitions and Focus

 As the big competition nears, heck as any competition nears my nerves begin to kick in more.  When I was younger and up through juniors last year, I don’t remember getting nervous.   I don’t remember ever getting butterflies or having trouble tuning out events around me to ride.  As I compete at higher levels or perhaps as dressage became the concentration of my future, it became harder to clamp down or block out nerves and events around me. 

     I have learned ways in which to attempt to deal with blocking out distraction.  In the last few years I have asked other competitors what they do.  Because, we all have to focus, we all have to concentrate in order to be in tune to the details of our rides.  The horse, particularly the good sensitive ones, are just that; sensitive.  They feed on every anxiety.  How to find your zone and how to keep out all of the drama around you? People do it in different ways.  I think many of us become almost OCD about our rituals; perhaps because the show rituals are like training itself.  You work towards the end result you want by building to that moment you enter the ring.  You do that for months.  The week of the event is part of the ritual.  Having stood on the podium before I realize now how much a part of that feeling is every little detail to get there. We talk about the farriers, vets, massage therapists, the chiropractors, the trainer, sponsors and our parents and a whole host of others helping us to get to a point in our training and competing.  So do our mental rituals help us to obtain our goals?  Some of us visualize.  I start months before, but the month leading up to competition I do it every night for 30 minutes as I lay in bed.  I do it at competition several times a day.  At NAJYRC and FOC you will see people with headphones on totally focused on visualizing and blocking out distractions. 

     We all care about each other as people; we care about each other’s hopes, dreams and crisis.  However, this is the time to focus on your performance; on your goals. For example, I was warming up in the arena yesterday and a few “wanders were in the arena.”  You know the type, giving lessons from a horse roaming around the arena with no awareness of anyone around them.  It is easy to let them throw you off your warm up.  You try to be polite, follow the rules of arena etiquette but there is a point they can throw off your whole ride.  Shauntel said to me, “Gunter always used to say, put your visor down, pick your line and commit.  You are on an FEI horse; they will get out of your way.  Heck, if it was Jeremy he’d push them out of his way a few times and there’d be no more problem.  Later we talked about how distracting letting someone get in your space and changing your routine can be.  You have to do what you need to do for your best performance in your own mind and in your warm up.  I look back at what attempted to distract me last year and in my first two shows this year, and I recommit to focus.  It is hard not to let your training in politeness, your desire to make friends, to renew your old acquaintances and let your daily life in at a competition, but don’t  worry about what others think at this point.  If you are polite, if you are a kind giving person the rest of the time, if you are a team player every day in the rest of the year, you don’t need to prove it to others as your actions will already have done so.  The best thing you can do for your team is to give the best ride you are capable of giving them.  This might mean tuning out and tuning in to your needs. 

Training tips of the day

*Power in extensions isn’t galloping.  It is not keeping the leg on to keep him forward.  It is half halting constantly to keep him just back enough

* Stay powerful in transitions: Keep power level up.  It helps with everything.  Don’t let up in power.

*Keep pole up even when suppling.

*Be gentle when he gets defensive, otherwise he gets rude.

*When he stiffens his neck, say giving to bend, don’t try to force him into it, bend him the other way.  Don’t fight the bend, shake it off.