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, 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

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Some tips!

What a lazy week. My mom is here visiting before both of us start school. We have been busy with moving and horse business all week so we haven’t done any vacation stuff. Actually I don’t think mom has seen much of Washington other than our apartment, the barn, Olson’s tack shop and a quick tour of the universities in all her visits. We had planned to go visit Colby and his family in the morning but mom forgot that to visit them in Canada you have to have your passport! So instead we are going to go on a tour. It will be a lazy day.

I took notes at my lessons today. We did a lot of work on what we need to do to progress to passage. Because Sjapoer is so uphill and has that powerful neck he has been able in the lower levels to do well without using his back. This won’t work with passage. So we have been spending lots of time getting him in the right position; head very low and using his back. This helps him develop those muscles so that it gets easier and easier for him over time. How do we get him to engage his back? Get his neck low. I have to keep my hands as low as I can. This takes a lot of strength particularly in women to ride your hands that low. Remember when working the bit in his mouth don’t effect the bend to the right or left.

When I ride like this I have to remember that he tends to brace and I have to give him a reward when he is correct; so I give for a split second. If I don’t give him a reward he just braces and gets combative. You want them to work for you so you have to make your horse not only feel secure that you are in control and aren’t going to run him into a wall or anything scary but also that you will reward him. I spent the whole lesson in canter and trot transitions. I was attempting to get him longer and lower. I do not ask for downward or upward transitions until his neck is where I want it to be. Be careful with the outside rein. Do not throw it away. It doesn’t support the shoulder if you throw it away. Keep it light but present.

When the neck is down that is the time to add more jump to the canter. My goal now is to train all transitions in trot and canter with his neck where I want it to be.

Recently I have spent a bit of time reflecting on the past. Maybe it is the whole graduating from high school and planning the next step of my life thing but who knows. Anyway I wanted to say thanks this week to all the trainers who have helped me in the past. First Mary Claeys, my first trainer who helped me get the courage to get back up on a horse after a bad fall. I appreciate that and all of the ‘pony’ camps you had for my friends and I. Mary Mahler thank you for the endless hours of teaching me not only about my aids but more importantly about working hard and that effort has its own rewards. Bre Dorsett, thanks for the opportunity to learn about every aspect of barn management and being a trainer. Thanks also for exploring the world of NAJYRC and the FOC with me. We had lots of fun. Jeremy thanks for giving me the faith to believe and the tenacity to focus on achieving my goals. Shauntel Bryant thanks for being the cheerleader and the ‘good cop’ that showed me the nuances of perfection. I am a product of all of you and I hope to be worthy of all the time and effort you have put into me and my riding. Thank you

Tuesday, August 13, 2013


Well it has been a very busy few days. The last two days I spent boxing all my belongings up to move from a one bedroom apartment in P201 to a two bedroom in the next building! I really thought it would take only an hour or two. But I swear things just populate in the closet. And then you get distracted when you find a box of old pictures, or that necklace you couldn't find anywhere and thought you had lost. So we boxed everything up, carried it down steps over the parking lot and then up stairs. Luckily Colby came down from Canada to help or mom and I would still be moving boxes. Ok, honestly mom would still be. I would have given in to overwhelming defeat.
Thursday and Friday were full of very new experiences for me. I went to Oregon to DevonWood Equestrian center to give speeches! On Thursday I spoke at the USDF Region 6 Oregon Dressage Society's summer youth camp. The campers slept out in tents above the arenas and woke up with a view at X! I wish I had lived up here when I was younger. I met so many amazing kids. At lunch I gave my first ever speech in front of people. I mean I gave them in school but everyone had to. Here I was it. I spoke about the many programs that helped me to succeed in dressage. I passed out fliers with the website addresses (that I have given you guys here on my site before). I hope everyone applies, applies, applies. Don't forget to get your friends to do so as well. That night mom and I were invited to dinner by Lindsey Savoy and Christiana Logan and their mom's. Carol Jackson and Gaye McCabe came as well and took us to this great deli and bakery. It reminded me of the ones in Gladstone with the huge cakes in the display cases. Yum! I sat up until 10:30 with Christiana at the pool talking about everything and nothing. It was fun. I hope we stay in touch. Friday I volunteered at the Glisan Street Saddlery USDF/ODS Jr/YR Team Dressage Championships. We have all done this before. However, it was a really smooth and easy show, even with three rings because they have invented something really amazing; required volunteering! Even the adults had to volunteer at some point in the show. So there were always more than enough bodies to get the jobs done without the one or two organizers (and those perpetual volunteers we love) having to do everything. I met some more girls and even gave out some warm up tips. I hope they help you Emily! I gave another talk at dinner and I think I was a lot less nervous the second time. Afterward a lot of girls came up to ask questions. And seriously girls, if you have any more email, FB, chat on my blog. I am here for you guys! Like I said, my dressage schedule doesn't really leave a lot of time for a social life.
One thing to all the riders out there who are asking parents to support their riding. This is an expensive sport. Parents want to help and are willing to sacrifice to help us achieve our dreams but only if you put in the effort and dedication. It is a lot to ask, don't forget to thank them regularly and let them know how much you love riding, what it does for you and that you are grateful they make it happen.
Jeremy was home all week and a bit out of commission. Everyone at the barn was away at a horse show so no one else was in town. So I got to spend the first real 'social' time with him. It was really great. I think, like my partnership with Sjapoer, Jeremy and I are growing on each other and our partnership is evolving. I am learning to do whatever he says! I bought longer shorts (the stuff in fashion today is unprofessional he says)! I cut off about 8 inches of my hair as it was getting in the way. It actually touched the saddle. I will say I miss it a bit but I like the lightness of the shorter cut. I got layers for the first time in years and at first I didn't like them but they are growing on me. He really notices details and tries to give me advice on how to be a successful professional in this business; not just a good rider.
Finally, its time to start turning to the fall and school. This becoming an adult thing is becoming more and more time consuming! Mom and I are headed down to Seattle so I can show her campus. Maybe we will make it over to the famous market today.