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, December 31, 2014

New Years!

         A New Year is upon us.  That means the Robert Dover Horsemastership week is almost here!  This is such an amazing event and I am so excited to be able to ride Sjapoer in it!  I was injured last year and gave up my riding spot so I am thrilled to get the opportunity to work with some great trainers on him this week. I have been lucky enough to have been part of this every year since its inception.  Like anything in its infant stages the RDHMW has grown and changed so over its initial years.  I have been happy and proud to have been able to see this great idea grow. What began with Dressage 4 Kids and Lendon’s ideas to help the youth in dressage has grown beyond a lot of its initial dreams.  Like all dreams (and all great ideas) as it becomes more solid it also has more expectations and demands.  We learn each year what to improve on and what really works well.  As we all have said our challenges in life and with horses are what makes us better.  It shows us what our weakness are and it helps us to grow.  I love that the RDHMW supporters and organizers grow and learn alongside the actual participants whose goal is to learn.  The purpose is to make us better.  The purpose is to educate the youth in dressage on the broader picture of a career in the equine industry.  The purpose is to promote broad growth in our sport.  Through giving to us not only training on the horse but off , the RDHMW shows us so many things.  While we are learning, those in positions of power or influence are also learning.  We saw how England turned around its program in dressage to become such a power house. They didn’t do it with assisting a few elite and older experienced riders at the top.  They built a program from the ground up, with the youth.  A long term pipeline has to, in its very nature, include young people who will some day be the leaders and forces in the industry.  Just as we must educate the youth in America to keep our technological advantages in industries like the sciences and advanced artificial intelligences,  we have to educate our youth to give us an advantage in dressage.  When we educate the youth in America about science and math we don’t hang our hopes on only 5 or 10 potential scientists we attempt to educate many.  From that many come legions of potential.  The odds are in our favor.  Imagine the size of the potential riding population in the US as compared to England.  Then imagine if we educate and support the youth in a similar fashion.  What amazing latent potential lies in wait in the US! I don’t just mean for gold medals.  Imagine the potential purchasers of riding pants or saddles.   Imagine the jobs for vets and massage therapists.   Supporting youth programs like the RDHMW, D4K and all the new USEF programs is the future.  I have to say in the last four years I have been so glad to see so many in our sport seeing this and donating in any way they can.  Many of them do it without any type of recognition or desire for return.  It is coming out in sponsors, trainers and even non-horse people.  For example, I have to take a minute to say thanks to Endel Ots for last year donating a horse for Genay Vaughn to ride.  That is the spirit that is beginning to spread in our industry.  I hope it grows and I hope to give it back any way I can too.  I watched the movie “A Hundred Foot Journey” with my mom and grandma tonight.  I think there is a great lesson in this movie for us.  The two restaurant owners both start keeping this ‘classical’ or ‘traditional’ in their own world.  Over time they cross that hundred feet and learn how to change and grow by allowing in new ideas and a new way.  They all end up better off.  Perhaps a little spice here and there can make things better.  I know they have for me and the hundreds and perhaps thousands of children in these programs.  I can’t wait until Saturday morning to see what new things are in store for me to learn and share with you.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Smart Snacking

    I have been working with a nutritionist and reading about diet and exercise these last few months.  I have a few snack and eating ideas I have worked into my daily schedule I thought I would share with you. First, I try an easy rule of thumb.  I try to have a protein, a healthy carb and fat in every meal or snack.  For a lean protein I try a lean meat or dairy, for the carb fruit, veggies and whole grains and for the fat nuts, avocado or fish.  I don’t do well counting or measuring so I am better at putting in ‘3’.   For example for breakfast I can have a whole grain cereal with organic whole milk and fruit so I made 3.  Then for a snack I might do yogurt with granola and fruit so again I make three.  For dinner I might have a turkey sandwich on whole grain with avocado.  
   Another thing I have found that helps tide off binging or cravings is ‘grazing.’  If I eat something about every 4 hours it really helps to keep me from getting so hungry that I just eat anything in front of me.  It also helps to keep the portion sizes down because I am not running on empty. Grazing is easier, I find, if I keep something handy.  Often eating seems to be more an afterthought than a plan.  So I try to plan to make the afterthoughts easier.  So I put Raw Revolution bars in my pockets and back pack.  I keep them in my car console.  Every time I find myself looking around for something, they are there!  It is easy, convenient and healthy.  I keep a tub of them at the barn for everyone and a big jar of them on the counter at home.  I do the same with veggies, like baby carrots.  I have a bowl with water in the frig and it is always full of baby carrots.  They are cleaned and ready to eat.  This prep motivation to eat healthy also works well with my smoothie obsession!  I buy the pre packed and frozen dole frozen fruit with no sugar added. They come with mixed berry, strawberry banana, and all sorts of combinations. One small bag is exactly one smoothie.  I keep cartons of almond milk and soy milk in the frig.  I use the soy milk for the liquid in the smoothie and then dump in one bag of fruit.  It is all cleaned, cut and measured.  Ease makes it quick and convenient.  I keep bags of Matrix organic powders in the cupboard next to the blender and I dump in different powders based on my daily needs.  
    I am also a huge yogurt fan. I live for Chobani!  I keep bags of granola in the cupboard next to the frig and dump it right in.  I also keep berries that really need little prep work like blueberries and raspberries in the frig prepped to dump in.  The Chobanipacks that have the granola and fruit already in are great too and even easier.  I even freeze yogurt packs and eat them for my ice cream cravings or after workouts to cool down.  It makes me feel indulgent when I freeze the chocolate fudge flavored yogurt and I really splurge. 
    I have read up on dark chocolate.  I joke about being a candy freak but I inevitably buy things and never ever eat them.  I have never managed to eat all my Halloween or Easter candy in my life.  However, I do have a dark chocolate craving at times.  I have read that dark chocolate helps lower stress hormones.  So I do keep a nice dark chocolate bar in the frig and probably once a week or every other week I will eat a square out of it when I need it.  However, I rarely manage to eat a whole bar in a month.  
    Another big helpful idea to premix your own trail mix in a big bowl.  I like nuts and dried fruits.  Then put it in snack size ziplock bags.  These I then put in my back packs and pockets just like Raw Revolution bars.  Again, convenience and a little planning ahead makes it easier to eat healthy.  Another thing I found out in research was the beef jerky is a great snack for athletes.  It is a high protein snack.  It also has sodium to help to keep you from cramping in strenuous workout conditions.  Bananas and apples are easily portable snacks and rich in high energy carbs.  Finally, hydration is key.  I just read that I can keep protein powder in little ziplock bags in my back pack.  If I get bottles of coconut water and mix in the protein a little over an hour before a workout it will help with hydration and my potassium needs.  Remember water is key and just having a drink after you work out is not the best way.  Replacing fluids is important to prevent muscle breakdown from dehydration.
The last bit is for gym workout times not the barn.  These are different levels of muscle activity and different types of physical activity but we need both to be balanced athletes and to be able to call on our physical strength (like core development) that we build at the gym to help with riding.
Anyway, there are lots of snack recipes on the Internet.   Most use peanut butter (which I unfortunately am not a big fan of).  However, do a little fun research and you can get lots of great ideas.  I think the key to being able to get on a plan these last few months is to make it as easy as possible and to structure the plan in a way that fits.  For me it is the 1+1+1 is 3 on every meal and convenient prep with my smoothies, yogurt and trail mix snacks. So think about what is holding you back and try to figure out ways around it!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Keeping Dressage in the Olympics

    The last few weeks there has been a lot of speculation and talk about the Olympic committee’s plan to discuss removing dressage from the 2020 games.  My initial response was ‘are they insane?”  Once I started breathing again, I wanted to look at the reasoning and arguments. saw online and have heard a wide range of opinions on this; from “oh they say this every year but it never happens” to discussions on if dressage is really a sport or a skill. I did find that even if dressage was debated every year previously for elimination it was not a class d sport so it wasn’t eligible for elimination.  This meant that in previous ‘talk’ nothing could have been done.  However, dressage was downgraded to class d.   So this should send us some reality signals.  First, it actually now can be eliminated.  Second, the powers that be downgraded it in spite of some of the facts about dressage.  For example, I have read that attendance at dressageevents has shown continual growth.  This can mean that the IOC’s decision may not be based upon profit or popularity of a sport but upon some other factors.
    I then read the mission statement of the IOC for the Olympic Games.  The IOC states they desire to encourage gender and ethnic equality in their competitions.  If their mission is to promote these goals then they have no solid argument to remove any equestrian sports as we have all noted so often, equestrian sports are the only Olympic event where men and women compete directly head to head.  There are no women’s or men’s divisions.  How more gender neutral can you get than that?  So if this is truly a priority of the IOC we must increase equestrian events and add things like reining and vaulting.
    If their goal is ethnic representation 41 nations representing all continents competed in dressage in the London Olympics.  Only 12 countries were represented in basketball, which is a highly publicized sport.  From the Plains Indians to the Argentine gaucho to the Mongolian Kerait horse tribe to the Middle Eastern Arabian horse breed every area of the globe has a horse culture and tradition.  132 nations are members of the Federation Equestrian International.  The International Skiing Federation which serves all skiing events only has 110!  
   Another concern being discussed is the nature of dressage as a skill and not an athletic sport.  Arguments point to the age of our athletes and the years it takes to develop as proof that athleticism is not a key factor.  However, if you look at the increasingly younger age of our top competitors and the swelling number of those young stars it has become obvious that like all athletic competitions in the last few decades we are becoming more and more demanding and competitive.  This increased level then requires every ounce of extra strength, stamina, and physicality. For example, in some sports like basketball the players have become taller over the years.  In some like football they are larger and faster.  This is true of all sports pushing the edge and increasing in their demands on competitors.  We see this in equestrian sports not only in our riders but in our equine partners.  Horses that scored in the 70’s or 80’s decades ago would not do so now.  Furthermore, with the longer competition life span of our riders ‘health’ is a lifestyle not a short term competition goal.  Another stated directive of the IOC is to promote athlete health.  Our riders show another aspect of competitive sports health which broadens the nature and length of promoted health issues for athletes.
    Another stated mission of the IOC and the Olympic games is to promote sports that service humanity and promote peace as well as responsibility to the environment.  Again if the stated issues of the IOC are the reality of their goals than equestrian sports should be at the top of the list to be funded!  Our equine partners make our sport unique in its environmental and humanitarian nature.  Horses serve as therapy horses.  Horses give their human partners an insight into the minds of nature and teach us so many valuable lessons about life.  They teach us responsibility for those dependent upon us.  They teach us compassion, love and empathy.  All of these lessons and so many more we have all discussed a thousand times they teach us.  These lessons are another of the IOC’s stated goals to blend sport with culture and education.  
    So having addressed all of the stated goals of the IOC and how equestrian sports as a whole and dressage in particular meet and exceed them, I now call upon phase two of the plan.  Let’s all write to the IOC.  One thing I have learned hanging out in my childhood in university political science departments is the power of the grassroots contact.  The more people we get to contact the IOC directly and to point out the benefits of our sports the better!  Perhaps they don’t know these things.  Perhaps all they perceive of dressage is a bunch of elitists in and expensive sport dressing up in outdated fashions prancing around on trained ponies.  (Trust me we have all heard all or part of that many times).  
    We need them to know that we aren’t all wealthy, that we do appeal to broad audiences.  That little girls and boys who don’t own horses but dream of riding want to watch and are inspired.  We need to broaden and change as an industry or we will never grow beyond our ‘niche.’  When our ‘niche’ is no longer supported by anything other than those inside that little group, we will all be held hostage to it.  
    So the address for the IOC is Chateau de Videy,  Case Postale356, 1001 Lausanne, Switzerland.  Please write in and let them know you don’t want dressage cut out of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.  You can talk about so many things.
-How our sport promotes ethics.
-How our sport promotes women at all levels of play
-How our sport educates the youth through spirit of fair play
-How our sport is at service to humanity and promotes peace
-How our sport is against any forms of discrimination
-How our sport promotes the health of athletes
-How our sport is responsible on environmental issues
-How our sport blends sport with culture and education

These are all the stated goals of the IOC and the Olympic games.  Let’s take away any argument they might have now or in the future to eliminate us!
I am mailing my letter today.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Our Horses

    There are several aspects underlying our sport (and partly all sports) that can be difficult.  First, like all sports it is a competitive business.  By this I don’t just mean sports are competitive, I mean that to make a profit and to be able to live and work from our sport you have to run a ‘horse’ business.  These businesses take many forms.  You can train horses or people.  You can breed horses.  You can be in any of the support branches of equestrian sports like insurance, medicine, saddlery, shoeing or a hundred other aspects.  You can also work a completely outside business in order to support your horse habit.  However, you have to make money somehow to feed and care for them.  Second, like all sports it is a game.  Finally, unlike other sports (except perhaps agility dogs and herding) our sports partner is an animal.  So how do these three things complement each other and sometimes diverge interests?
    As a business and a competitive sport, at times we have to make decisions not based upon our hearts but our heads.  Although let’s be honest sometimes we pick the heart too often.  We have all faced many tough decisions, like selling our partners.  This sounds horrible and it feels worse but it is the reality of our sport.  It is so hard.  It takes a little piece of our souls each time we are forced to let them go or they leave us.  I think it is a bittersweet pain, like those of a parent when their kid leaves home.  You want on the one hand to keep them safe and warm at home in the nest.  You want to be proud and let them soar to find the heights they could reach without us.  We also are terrified that something bad could happen when they are not within our sight.  I wish I could have kept every horse I ever rode.  I hold everyone in my heart.
    But this sport is not like any other. There is no huge yearly salary paid by anyone.  You don’t get millions for winning the championship.  Furthermore, the costs to participate and even keep in the game is so high.  I have come to realize that my childhood threat, “that I would rather sell a kidney than Sjapoer” just isn’t enough.  We work and we train and we love and we lose.  
    We compete and train because this sport is amazing.  We love it, we live it and we breathe it.  We read every article. We devour every tack magazine.  We inhale barn air and it fills our spirits.  This sport is about so many things.  It is about trying to obtain perfection by working hard on the same things over and over and over.  But it is not just about technical perfection.  It is not just about suppleness, frame, balance, bend and the movements.  It is also a sport about our horses.  It is about their spirit, their personalities, their power and beauty.  It is an aesthetic sport like figure skating, gymnastics and ballet. How many times have the commentators in all of these sports spoken of the difference between mechanical and technical perfection as opposed to flowing beauty and the innate feeling of the sport.  This spirit within our equine partners should never be trampled.  They have a free spirit and joy fills them.  They symbolize power and the trust between the partners within that harnessed power.  This beauty must be seen by those outside our sport.  This beauty as we know is and should be judged.  If we only see technical perfection and we allow this spirit to be crushed in the drive for a technical ten we do an injustice to the sport and more importantly to those that trust us. 
    This brings me to the underlying reason the majority of us are in equestrian sports (because it isn’t for the money!) We are all horse crazy.  Some of us caught the bug early and some later but we all get antsy, our fingers get itchy if we go too long without reins in our hands and leather under our seat.  We are obsessed with our animals and we spend thousands of hours and most, if not all, our money on them.    We get them toys, treats, blankets and bling.  When they hurt we hurt and when they learn and achieve we beam like the proud mamas and papas we are!  We post videos of their funny moments and we show their pictures like new grandparents.  Why do they fulfil us so?  I have talked about this before but I believe they give us so much.  Like other ‘pets’ they give us love, attention and trust.  Like other pets we learn responsibility and gain an empathetic nature from our role in their lives.  We talk to them and share our heartaches and joys.  We have grand adventures and lazy days together.  We learn to overcome challenges.  We learn patience.  We learn disappointment.  Like other sport animals we work with our horses as a team to achieve a goal and an outcome.  We spend countless hours working to achieve perfection together.  They show us heart and dedications.  They show us hard work ethic without complaining.  They show us that you can sense others feelings and it can affect how we interact.  They show us honor and selflessness in the way they defer their larger power to us in trust.  We learn to do the same back to those weaker than ourselves.  They teach us leadership through guidance, calm surety and love not physical dominance.   
   I think that horses have taught me everything I need to know to be a good person.  I think horses have taught me everything I need to know to be happy and content.  Horses and being able to spend my life working with them every day has been the greatest blessing of my life.  I could never imagine a world or a life without them and I wish every person could learn and share this experience with me and with all of us crazy horse people.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Health & Fitness

 I have talked before about how Bob Gutowitz shows dozens of young riders every year at the RDHMW how really out of shape we are.  That fact plus the awareness I gained from Nike of the necessity of having a more complete health and fitness package to be a highly competitive athlete has made me step up my physical demands of my training.  Most of us ride several horses a day, six days a week.  We do endless barn chores like cleaning stalls, lifting hay bales and we are getting in lots of walking to and from the pastures! But looking fit and feeling fit enough is not enough.  
So I researched the gyms in Wellington and met with some personal trainers.  For my most intense training I selected the Youfit gym on Wellington Trace.  I like the more personal nature of a small gym over the what I call ‘fitness supermarkets’ like LA fitness.  Youfit doesn’t have a pool, saunas or many group classes.  But it has 2 stories of both cardio, circuit and freeweight training. I also like the fact that the cost is only 10 dollars unlimited use per month with no contract.  A personal trainer is 25 dollars an hour which is also very reasonable.  I see Jake for 3 hours of work a week and Steve the owner for one hour and they each concentrate on different objectives.  They also have nutrition and dietician specialists that are working up an overall diet plan for me.  So that probably means no more devouring whole chocolate cakes.  Ok, while the cake story is true those of you that know me also know I am usually a good eater.  I have never liked soda, and I have never in my life eaten all my Halloween or Easter candy.  In fact, I buy bars of dark chocolate and they stay in the fridge for weeks.  I eat lots of fruits, veggies and protein.  I thought I was a healthy eater other than the occasional binge!  But I have been told by the nutritionist that sometimes the things we think are ‘healthy’ aren’t.  So I am really excited to get my new diet.  Also I received several boxes of Raw Revolution protein bars.  Now some of you also know I won’t eat anything that I don’t like the taste of, and most health foods really make me gag.  However, the Raw Revolution bars actually taste great.  I particularly like the cranberry, almond and coconut bars the BEST!  I guess I look at changing my eating similar to how we feed horses.  Different horses with different ages, body sizes and physical work get different mixes of calories and grains verses hay.  So people depending on what they will be doing physically, their size and age also would have different nutritional requirements.  Maybe that would be a great lecture to add to all the EDAP clinics!  We always do a horse nutrition lecture but not so much about people.  Interestingly, I think most youth riders research and care more about what they give their horses then what they put in their own mouths!  I know I always have. 
In about two weeks when I get over the initial, “I am in so much pain I can hardly move phase,” I intend to add back in Pilates and other individual classes in my routine.  I loved them in SoCal and they helped my back and core a lot.  But I had such an amazing instructor in SoCal that I haven’t been as happy here.
Finally, ANY youth riders out there who want to encourage each other or work together to share ideas on workouts, how to fit nutrition in at the barn and other ideas, lets communicate on my blog, fan page or over Instagram!  I am also going to be posting little videos from my workouts to give everyone ideas to try at home.  That way those of you who are at school and don’t have time or the benefits of a personal trainer can get the knowledge I do from Jake and Steve!  Oh, and just so you meet them I will post pictures of my trainers too.  Let’s get fit together and motivate each other.  I know there are times I do not want to get back up after a long day at the barn and go back to work out.  I need you guys too!  

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Things I've Learned

    In the middle of all the recent changes in my life, I wanted to take a moment to look back and reflect on all the trainers I have had in my life and all the amazing lessons they have taught me. The lessons I have learned have gone well beyond riding and the details of a half-halt.  The things these very special people have given me in many ways have given me the spirit of who I am today.
    My first trainer Mary Claeys-Smith was a stickler on horse care.  I spent 30 minutes of preparing properly for the lesson and then taking proper care of the horse after.  She patiently had me and my 9 year old friends running around her large property just basking in the joy of newborn foals, wild stallions and the joy of loving horses.  She had this peach tree in her front yard that we used to secretly, or maybe not so secretly, raid.  She was the first trainer who believed I had talent and she made a German clinician who came to work with adults watch me.  I remember him making me ride without stirrups on my pony for nearly 40 minutes!  Afterward, he agreed that he would work with me when he came to the US.  She is the one who pointed out my potential to my parents and had them get me more training and a horse of my own. She got me back on a horse after my first big scary fall and I will always remember that.
    My second trainer, and the one I spent the most years with was Mary Mahler.  Mary had kids my age and I spent time swimming in the pool with them and we even went on family skiing trips together.  Mary made the possibility of a life in the equestrian world seem like a future I desired.  She kept me in the small environment of the Arabian dressage world to give me time to grow in confidence.  She gave me the protection of developing my abilities without stress.  Being at her house as a working student in the summers was a lesson in the contentment of a day well lived through hard work, persistence and dedication.  She had a good heart and was the epitome of patient and kind yet firm and honest.  I blossomed under Mary and started winning a lot of local, regional and national attention in the Arab world.  When Mary decided to return to teaching in the classroom and not the barn for a period of time I was so scared to leave the warm and loving nest that I had thrived in.
    Mary sent me to my next trainer Bre Dorsett.  Bre was by far the most fun trainer I have had.  She has the spirit of a teenager and we quickly all flocked to Aunt Bre.  She encouraged us to see the fun in equestrian sport and ownership.  We had costume parties and trail rides.  Our horses bobbed for apples on Halloween and we played question games in the truck on the way to competitions.  Bre was the trainer that also told me to take my time, not just to enjoy riding but to develop my skills properly.  Don’t be in a rush to get to the end goal, get there in the best way.  She showed me that sometimes to get 3 steps ahead you may have to go back first.  Here I began to feel the pressures of winning and also ways to deal and not deal with the choices I have made in my career.  These were the typically ‘tough’ teenage years and I think we survived them together and with only a few scratches each!
    After winning Juniors I moved for a year to train in Kirkland, Washington with Jeremy Steinberg and his partner Shauntel Bryant.  Jeremy had been the youth coach for a short time and he had just begun his whirlwind traveling tours.  Shauntel ran the daily training and Jeremy would direct me training when he was home.  Shauntel taught me about being a professional.  Shauntel came to the barn every day with a smile on her face, with her hair perfect and her earrings in place.  She always looked spotlessly clean, and after hours at the barn I think she must have had magic powers.  She always spoke to everyone with the kindest but most professional demeanor.  I found myself wanting to be like her.  I started to dress like her and wear my hair the same.  I started to match my polo wraps to my saddle pads too!  She is probably one of the best kept secrets in the dressage world.  Because of the location of Kirkland, Washington it is not in the dressage hot spot.  If she was in SoCal or Wellington she would be another JJ with flocks of young and successful adoring students around her.  Jeremy would pop into town and teach me about the bigger picture.  Having grown up in Texas and then moving to Washington I had never been in the stresses and pressures of the highly competitive youth programs of some other regions.  This had been a blessing but also kept me isolated from many of the things that my friends like GenayBebe, Anna and others had to experience from a lot younger age.  Jeremy spent a lot of time telling and showing me how to make the transition from youth rider into a professional.  The perspective of my goals, of the things to be considered needed to change. Things that were legitimate and valid to consider at 14 as a junior rider were not the same goals at 17 after winning back to back championships and considering a career as a rider.  He taught me the need to change some of my perceptions and goals.
    When Jeremy moved to SoCal I moved as well and then began to train with Christine Traurig.  I have to say that I love Christine in ways I cannot even begin to express.  Christine is my hero.  I will admit openly that I worship her and think she is truly gifted and the most talented person.  If I can be like her someday and live a half of the life she leads I will have been successful in my goals.  She explains things exactly as I need them.  She is a perfectionist.  She has shown me how to take a 6 or a 7 and make it an 8 or a 9.  She has shown me the truly detailed beauty of our sport.  She taught me to feel the horse’s thoughts before he has them.  She taught me about true harmony and connection.  She also taught me about myself and claiming my own goals and my own outcomes.  Robert was absolutely correct in pairing Christine and I up!  We meshed and I will always hope that I get the chance to continue to work with Christine again throughout my career.
     But like all change, we discover the amazing and new things ahead and the pain of what we leave behind lessons.  I will be working regularly with so many great people in Wellington. Let me say a heartfelt, overwhelming thank you to the amazing people who have helped me in my life so far.  You all played such big roles in helping me to become not just the rider I am today, but the person.  

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

I'm moving again!

   I haven’t written since my trip to Germany!  That is because my life has been in non-stop motion.  Some of it is really funny and I can’t wait to tell you.  After my family visit to Ingolstadt, I flew home for less than a week.  Then I was back to Europe again!  Three round trip flights in under 5 weeks.  I think my body had no clue of what time zone I was in.  I got a feeling for what it means to be ‘the walking dead!’ But I was back for two weeks of training with Daniel Martin DockxI learned so many great things in my time in Spain this summer.  I was lucky enough to get to go to a show and watch a competition (congrats Kerrigan).  
    Then it was back to work trying to get caught up at the barn while packing and boxing up my life.  Yes, I am moving again.  I have lived in three of the four corners of America in the last three years!  From Texas to Washington, then to Southern California, and now to Wellington, Florida!  All I need is a stop over in Maine and I have all the corners!  So amid boxes and sorting and the usual hassle of moving, I tried to get in some time to say good-bye to friends.  We went to a haunted house!  Those of you that know what a huge chicken I am will laugh at this.  I think even some Disney movies are scary and close my eyes during some rather terrifying scenes with Ursula.  But I felt brave enough to go surrounded by a group of big guys, which was my first mistake! Never ever has there been a bigger group of wimps.
    I am also eating as many tacos from Juanita’s tacos shop as I can get before I move.  If you are ever in the Carlsbad area you have to get there.  One of mom’s former students Fernando Carrillo, who came to help load my stuff in the Uhaul and drive everything to Florida, said they were the best tacos he has ever had.  That is saying something for a Hispanic whose mom is a known gourmet.  By the way, thanks Fernando for helping out.  What an adventure putting your feet in the Pacific and Atlantic within a week!  
The move was a real work in coordination! A week and a half ago all my belongings left for the trek to Florida.  I have been living in my apartment with nothing.  In fact, after the truck pulled out I realized I had no blankets, pillows, dishes or food. It was an adventure though.  My friends enjoyed playing cards and board games with me to pass the time in a completely empty apartment.  I realized getting older isn’t always fun.  I had to do the exit interview, take back the Uverse boxes and a dozen other little things you have to do when leaving an apartment.  The benefit about moving so often the last two years, you get some great packing skills. Packing the truck is the most important use of Geometry in your life as you try to find space to put everything.  Also you never know where it comes from but the things we accumulate around us grow and populate in the cupboards.  I mean where do we get so much stuff in just a year?  Do the utensils and plastic containers populate in the drawers?
    Anyways, I have never been to Wellington in the off season and most of my haunts are closed I am really excited for all the new adventures ahead this year; ok and to spend some time at Cilantro’s!  Hopefully I'll get some time to sit down and really write something for you all soon!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

World Equestrian Games By: Anna Buffini

WEG 2014. Wow!!! World records, Rain, crowds, Nutella crepes, Laura Graves and dancing ponies! These were just a few highlights from my mother's and my trip to Caen France to watch the World Equestrian Games.
We I knew it would be a special experience, but never expected the magic that would happen during our 6 days there. The first day the weather was overcast and rainy, not a favorite for us California girls, we were all bundled up much to the surprise of the locals in their T-shirts who looked at us like we were Eskimos. There were 100 dressage horses in the competition in all, the most ever for the dressage part of the WEG, so they split the team test into two days. Each and every rider was so focused and all of the horses new it was game time. One aspect of the competition that stood out to me was how serious everyone is about dressage in Europe, we are slowly but surely becoming more horse savvy in the US, but at the WEG there was a filled rugby stadium of 20K people to watch dressage and they are into it, gasping when the horse missed a tempi change or a quiet wowwww would fill the stadium after a perfect piaffe. It was so fun seeing each country show support for their teams, Spain would do their version of a train clap while the horse was making it around the outside of the arena, the Dutch wore extremely bright orange shirts and jackets that you could see from a mile away, the Americans always had on some form of red white & blue with matching hats and carried little US flags waving them wildly after each US team member rode. One of the surprises of the trip was that we were in the same hotel as the US team! Running into Laura Graves or Robert Dover in the lobby was such a treat and the entire US team and USEF staff were so welcoming. After the US team rode for an incredible 4th place in the first leg of the competition, it was time for the Grand Prix Special and Freestyle where the riders would compete for individual medals. There were so many incredible rider and horse combinations that I had never seen in person and let me tell you, YouTube does not do them justice. Damon Hill, Parzival, Verdades, Bella Rose, Valegro!!! Just a few names of the horses that danced their way into my heart. Laura Graves is a huge topic in dressage right now and she deserves everything that's coming to her, so young yet a very mature person and rider. Laura and Verdades made a lot of new fans worldwide at the WEG, and the sky is the limit for that pair. Charlotte and Valegro are just as good as everyone says, the arena was their canvas and they painted a stunning picture as they ran away with the gold medal in the Grand Prix Special and the Freestyle.  There was no beating Valegro this show but none the less the 18 freestyles were unforgettable, with Laura Graves placing 5th in the world and Steffen right up there at 10th. US dressage is fighting their way back into medal contention internationally and a true force to be reckoned in the years to come. On our off day we took a tour of the massive beaches of Normandy and the beautiful American Cemetery, it really put in perspective what the US and allies had to overcome in order to win WWII and gave me an even bigger sense of pride to be an American and hopefully ride for my country one day.
The overall the experience at the WEG was unforgettable and so inspiring, especially being a Young Rider and seeing so many younger people competing successfully. It doesn't have to be a fairytale dream that is decades away, it's attainable & shows that with an immense amount of hard work, anything is possible. It definitely motivated and inspired me for the U25 next year, my goal is Aachen, and my dad always says a goal is a dream with a deadline, and I'm more determined than ever after France to chase my dream. Watching the WEG was fun but hopefully in the future, I can experience it from the back of my dancing horse.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

It's Been A Busy Summer

   Nearly the last two weeks I spent hanging out around Ingolstadt, Germany.  It isn’t a place one instantly thinks of when you think about a vacation!  However, it is the town where my dad grew up and around where most of his family still lives.  My grandfather, or Opa as they say in Germany, lives there.  With my school and riding schedule I haven’t been able to go over and visit for many years.  I went to see him, my Aunt Andrea and Uncle Alex and their kids and one grandson.  We did all the usual family visiting and hanging out.  We also got to see some really great things around Ingolstadt.  
    Ingolstadt is one of the ‘unknown’ really great tourist destinations in Bavaria.  It is one of the only completely walled cities left in Europe.  At one time in history it was a military fort to defend Germania against the Romans, Huns and other invaders.  The entire city wall still stands.  So cars can’t go into the town.  You have to park and walk into the city through one of the few gates.  The main gate is very beautiful.  I put pictures of it on Instagram and twitter.  It looks like a moats castle entrance at Disney’s Cinderella’s castle.  The original castle where the heads of the garrison lived still stands.  It isn’t a castle for noblemen so it isn’t filled with furniture and paintings.  It was a soldier’s home.  It has been turned into a military museum.  This is a museum that is great for kids and families.  It isn’t boring endless art or stuff you can’t touch.  There are giant ancient cannons you can sit on and take pictures.  There are moats and room size panoramas off famous battles made out of those little handpainted lead army guys.  There are suits of armor and weapons dating back a thousand years.  For me the coolest part is the main hall.  It is a giant room that was used to train in winter when it was too cold outside.  There are long ramped steps up to the hall because they used to hold indoor jousts there.  The flags of the knights of the times hang from the rafters.  I can almost imagine being there and watching the large war horses practicing battles.
    Another great thing about Ingolstadt is this is the real home of the historically infamous Dr. Frankenstein!  He supposedly did his human experiments at the university here. They have a medical museum in his former home.  It is like a history of the medical field.  I think people in the health care world would find it fascinating.  Also anyone who has ever been or will be sick will find it interesting in a sick way too!  They have chairs where they tied people down and bored holes in their heads.  They have all types of saws and tools for extracting demons.  One really gross treatment included sticking pins through the eye balls.  Anyway it is another unusual museum that kids would find a lot more entertaining than the usual when traveling.  There are parks and great gardens.  Also it is only about 30km northeast of Munich so you can easily take a train or drive down to Munich.  If you go in the opposite direction from Ingolstadt you can visit Nuremburg and the seat of the war crimes tribunals after WWII.  The black forest and all of the traditional clock making, schnapps houses, and home of the Grimm tales are very close as well.
    If you head west you can see Ludwig’s famous Castles and a bit East and South you hit Garmisch and some of the best Alpine skiing in the world.  So I guess the greatest thing about Ingolstadt is its nearly central location in Bavaria.  Maybe that is why they built the original garrison there in the first place.  To easily defend all of Bavaria.  Anyway, I am exhausted from all the travel this summer.  I was so happy to get home and ride Sj.  I really miss him when I don’t see him every day. I am only home until Thursday and then it is back to Europe again!  Third visit in six weeks.  I am not sure if my body knows what time it is.  I am excited to go get to work with some great people, exciting things to come!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Dressage Youth Riders and Parents

    I wanted to share with you some important informational links on programs that have been a key to my dressage development.  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 byLendon 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 withLendon 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 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 NAJYRC 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.
Also, check your breed association and local GMO for possible scholarship and academic opportunities.  I have gotten to attend the national convention and the Robert Dover clinic because of money I was granted from the KWPN (Dutch Warmbloodsociety), my local dressage chapter and the USDF.
The USEF high school equestrian athlete program is also a great way to keep track of your training achievements and to be part of a larger group of other high school athletes.  https://www.usef.org/highschool/  I love the letter jacket I earned the privilege to wear by being a four year participant.  So many of us ride instead of participating in a high school sponsored sport and we miss out on the inclusion and this program makes you part of a support group.  The t-shirts are really great too.  I wear mine all the time because of the fit, they look great on.  
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 onfacebook!  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!  

Friday, August 8, 2014

On the road again!

This week was to be action packed with travel, responsibilities and fun.  But things have gone all wonky.  The Region 6 overnight dressage youth camp at Devonwood was delayed.  It is being rescheduled for another week in August but I won’t get to make it then.  I was really looking forward to sleeping in a tent with Genay, getting to meet some more young dressage lovers, and showing the Nike representative what our dressage youth can do.  But I get three more days with Sjapoer, yeah!  Saturday I am headed up to LA though!  I am so thankful for getting to be a part of the Teen Choice Awards.
I can’t wait to tell the youth magazine journalists about dressage!  I can only imagine the questions they will ask.  I will have to pull out all the analogies I have used in the past.  You guys know, I am sure you have used them too.  “Have you ever seen the white horses at the Spanish riding school, or at medieval time’s dinner theater.”  One of my other favorites is “do you remember the Romney’s horse in the last election?  I do that sport that Stephen Colbert joked about.” The awards are being broadcast on Nickelodean and start at 12:30 PST if you want to watch.  I’ll try to wave if I get on camera.
I drive up to LA on Saturday afternoon, after riding.  I will stay with Sheryl my agent and another of her athletes Nastia Luikin.  I am really excited to meet Nastia.  She is only a few years older than me and won Gold in gymnastics.  She is also from Texas!  I hope to pick her brain about so many things.
I have been on a hunt for something to wear this weekend for a month.  So I scoured the malls, the markets in Spain and my closet and came up with a unique alternative.  I actually bought it about a year ago and have never worn it.
Monday when I get back to Carlsbad I have only 2 days to see SJ and then it is off to Ingolstadt, Germany for 10 days to visit my father’s family.  My Opa is old and I haven’t seen him in a few years with all my riding, school and competition obligations.  My German cousin Antonia even has a one year old baby named Rafael.   He looks just like my dad when he was young; white blond hair, round face, blue eyes and pink cheeks.  I really really hate missing this many days with SJ but family is first.
I will post a lot of pictures from this weekend on all of my social media so keep a look out!

Sunday, July 27, 2014


    I haven’t written in two weeks for several reasons.  First, I have been in Europe and with the jet lag, high school Spanish use, museum tours and seriously physical treks I was tired!  Second, it seems coming up with what to write about every week sometimes gets hard and I got writer’s block.
    The trip with mom, Julie and Jessica was an amazing whirlwind.  The food along the Mediterranean as you can imagine, is mostly fish and seafood.  Luckily for me, I love nearly everything from the water.  I won the nightly dinner choice award almost every night.  I was also the most food adventurous so I tried all the local specialties.  The Gazpacho was like a tomato soup with veggies and seafood in it.  It wasn’t like any type of Gazpacho I have had before but it was ok.  The sardines were salty and I have to say I am not a fan.
    We did a bit of shopping, particularly in the markets.  The leather goods were really beautiful, and the jewelry was one of a kind. In one booth, a man even made his own metal designs that go on the leather bracelets. It was very exciting to watch the magic happen!
    I dragged everyone to the Picasso museum.  Both Julie and Mom don’t really like his work, but I do.  They both did say though that they gained a greater appreciation of him from all the quotes on the walls explaining his perception and vision of the world.  I took a sneaky photo in the museum for my childhood friend and artist, Madi Mercer. I knew she would appreciate him the way I do.
    We hiked to the top of the ruins of a fortress in Malaga.  It was quite a haul.  I am lucky my stride is so long as I made it up faster than everyone else.  At the very top of the fortress, the view was absolutely extraordinary. On one side you have cityscapes and picturesque mountains, and on the other, a great view of the ocean and the port. We were so high that we could look down on the fog rolling in from the ocean. It was so beautiful, words cannot began to describe it.
    Jessica and I hit the beach for a few hours one day. The sand was so burning hot it could give hot asphalt in Texas a run for it's money. Despite the temperature outside, the water was way chillier than what was expected!  I did find a cupful of great rocks to bring home.  I collect rocks and have boxes and boxes full of them at home. On the way back to the train, Jess and I were asked by some British boys,"Why have you got a cup of rocks there?" And our response being that we were unique individuals and we like to collect things. HAHA Aren't we the smoothest?
    We had dinner looking right over the water one night.  It was a great evening, I ate octopus!  Ok, I have had it before but it was fun to watch Jess bit into it before she guessed what it was.
    I am home now for a week. Then I am off to Portland for the Region 6 youth camp at Devonwood.  I am really excited to camp with Genay. We have so much to talk about and catch up on.  I will tell y’all when I get back because I have to tell my BFF first!   I will be sure to take lots of photos and post them on my FB.
    In closing, good luck Lendon and everyone at the Youth Festival in New York.  Sorry I couldn’t be there.  Have fun!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Quick Update!

Today’s blog is a more a list of little events and comments than a story or lesson.
First, I want to say again good luck to everyone in Kentucky at NAJRYC.  I really miss being there with everyone.  
Second, the nostalgia of missing is slightly lessened as I am off on a girl’s trip to Spain with my mother, her friend Dr. Julie Harrelson-Stephens (also my frequent family photographer), and my friend Jessica Hainsworth (also my amazing sidekick and groom).  I’m packing beachwear, swanky dinner wear, and stuff with sleeves for the cathedrals and museums that I know I will get dragged into.  One great and one bad thing about going anywhere with two professors; they actually know historical stuff and art stuff and political stuff about everywhere you go and they want to see it.  That can be a bit too much like school for a teenager, but it is actually (but don’t tell them) sometimes pretty cool to get the scoop on what the crumbling rocks were once all about.  Also Julie is an amazing shopping partner.  She and I are more alike in many ways than mom and I on the whole fashion, shopping, and general awareness of anything fashion forward leaning.
Third, when I get back it is only a matter of days until I am off to the Region 6 youth camp at Devonwood.  I am really excited for so many reasons; the facility is beautiful, I get to spend three days with Genay (amazing), I get to help 70 campers in whatever way I can about dressage and we get to sleep in a tent!  Ok, I am not sure about how Genay and I are going to do with that but if our friendship survives sleeping bags, the ground and a shared shower stall I think we are in for life!
Sorry it has been such an uneventful week but Sjapoer and I have been really working on a lot this week and I hope to get to update you on that soon.
Finally, for my dad the German soccer player who left all thepretzles, bier, and lederhosen behind to come to America to follow my mom (which I am glad he did or I wouldn’t be here)……GOOOOAAAALLLLL GOTZE and Deutschland uberalles!
Congratulations and enjoy the celebrations in Texas with all your old soccer buddies dad.  

Wednesday, July 9, 2014


A lot of my friends are headed off to Kentucky this week.  I feel a little off not getting packed myself.  I am going to miss the US vs Canada water balloon fight we started at our house! I am going to miss the parties, the meetings and most of all making friends.  Reese, summer just isn’t summer without a visit to Maplecrest Farm. The grass in Kentucky is so green an rich, even the horses dream about this trip every year.  By the way, everyone be careful about grazing too much!  The NAJYRC vets told me last year that the cell walls of the grass in Kentucky is thicker than most types in other regions.  
The last three years we drove from DFW to Lexington and I think I know the route by heart.  Like my Canadian friend Colby mentioned on FB yesterday be sure to check out Cracker Barrel!  I think I know all the Cracker Barrels between DFW and Lexington!  We used to stop at them with the Bauers all the time because Courtney loved them.  Anyway I thought I would take some time to say good luck to everyone and I wish I could be there to cheer for you.
I also wanted to give a little advice to all the first time attendees (and maybe some returning competitors).  Get some sleep.  I don’t just mean the night before you ride.  I mean from now until then be eating right, sleeping and drinking lots of water before you go as well as when you are there.  Sometimes when we stress in preparation we take short cuts.  My mom says that at the university, students cram, don’t sleep, and eat like crap the week before finals so finals week they are all sick and run down!  You don’t want Lexington to be your finals week when the time before catches up with you.
I have talked about visualizing before on several blogs.  For more details review those or check out some of Dr. Susser’sarticles online.  Every night for months before big competitions when I go to bed I lay there and visualize my test.  I think about every half-halt.  This is easier for those of you that have been to Lexington because you can see the arena, you can smell the sweet Kentucky grass and you can feel the heat.  Even if you haven’t been doing this for months start now.  It is a great relaxation exercise right before bed too.  On the day of competition I always like to zone and focus.  I put on head phones and try to keep all the ‘helpers’ out of the barn until they are really needed so Sjapoer and I get a lot of bonding time.  With the music in your ears it is easier to not get distracted and it gives you time to review the test and just connect to your horse.
In Kentucky be sure to stay hydrated and out of the heat as much as possible! And don't forget about the people around you, look out for each other! Several riders every year end up in the med tent or back at their rooms from the heat.  
Be sure to thank all the volunteers and the USEF and USDF teams.  Give Hallye a big hug for me and take advantage of all the wonderful information and events they have planned.  They are there to help you do not be afraid to ask any question you have and get help.  
Finally, have fun and good luck!