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!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014


I was asked to write a little bit at this point in the show season about how I cope with ‘show nerves.’  I decided that instead of just hearing my method it might be better if I found out from some of my friends how they handle them too.  That way I could give you a bunch of ideas!  Genay said at the show she tries to keep herself busy around the barn with chores.  This keeps her from thinking about the ride itself.  I found that many of us have very specific routines about our gear, tack, and how we prepare.  In fact, although most of the young riders I know are very open and easy going normally, at shows we tend to be a bit anal about our routines and may seem  ‘touchy’ or ‘standoffish.’  I think this is because we have learned not only to visualize and practice our tests in our head but to visualize the entire day.  Our sport is about details.  Our rides are only minutes long but those minutes are filled with details.  For example, a six minute ride has 360 seconds.  If you have to think about 2 or 3 movements or detailed parts of a movement in a second that is 1080 actions in only 6 minutes.  So we develop ways to block out everything but our motion toward those 1080 actions.  Christine prepares by taping all her rides.  I mean all her rides and then going over every detail.  She gets direct and instant feedback.  I noticed that she like Genay and I also needs quiet time and space, and has a specific routine before competition.  Both Genay and I listen to music the day of the competition.  This is a direct way to isolate yourself from the noise, drama, emotions, and people around you.  It creates a type of bubble of space in your mind.  You concentrate on the music instead of the hundreds of questions in your head.  We all visualize our rides as we listen to music, every one of those 1080 motions over and over.  That visualization doesn’t just happen the day of the show.  I start months before a big competition doing it every night.  Then a big show isn’t big, you have already done it hundreds of times in your mind and it isn’t new.  Devon said she likes to take the butterflies and those fears and turn them into a positive thought.  When she thinks “I can’t do this, what if I fail, I should back out now,” she replays those thoughts as a new idea.  She says the butterflies are just excitement because “she loves this, and is just really excited to get in the ring.”   She said this transition in her thinking of butterflies as positive and not negative has helped her to have more fun and look forward to being in the ring.  It relaxes her and this also helps to relax her horse as well.  I have also watched Christine at a few shows these last months now.  I have realized that even Olympic medalists (and magical unicorns of dressage) still get excited before rides.  Maybe that is a good thing.  Maybe that is the magic, it means we care, it means we are thrilled to be doing what we do.  My friend Anna Buffini also feels this way about butterflies.  She sees them as a good thing.  We are excited by the love of our sport, by the thought of doing well.  When she gets nervous like Devon she tries to focus on positive thoughts and says inspirational quotes and bible verses to herself.  I do that too.  I even made a calendar this year of pictures of SJ and I with inspirational quotes. It hangs in the kitchen and every day (not just at shows) it reminds me to enjoy the energy of excitement.  One of my favorites from the calendar this year is “If you are offered a ride on a rocket ship, don’t ask which one…just get on!”

Monday, April 21, 2014

Some updates!

Sorry I am a bit late this week with my blog. This has been a week as crazy as only show season can be!  Throw in a few holidays and my grandmother's birthday and I am lucky to be breathing!

I got asked to speak at Lendon Gray's youth event in Michigan June 27th and 28th.  I am really excited. I am getting better at public speaking with practice.  It makes me more nervous then riding in competition. I am so grateful to Lendon for single handedly giving me so many opportunities to get better at it!  I may be outgoing but I am not a natural speaker.  Thanks also for letting me give back to EDAP.  I hope to meet so many new youth riders in Michigan. My mother is actually from there but I have never been so its doubly exciting for me.

Also this week, World Cup in Lyon..wow record breaking!  I have to give a shout out to my friend Bebe Davis who got to experience it all first hand with her family's horse Van the Man.  I can only imagine the atmosphere and trying to ride with spotlights, tens of thousands of spectators and the pressure!

On a side note Devon Wycoff suggested we talk about dealing with show pressures next time with FOC and NAJYRC coming soon.  She sent me her tips and I have mine, but I thought that if anyone (rider or not) had a tip or hint on dealing with show pressures please email me or FB me this week.  I will compile them for next weekend, at which time I will actually be at a show in Del Mar riding my first I1!

I took grandma to the beach for her birthday.  It is interesting because she lives here with me we have a really unusual relationship for most grandparents and grand kids. I see her every day.  We eat together every day and we talk.  But also we are each others family when no one else is here.  So I got to organize the cake, the early shipping of everyone's presents and the plans.

Finally,  today in honor of the first running if the Boston Marathon after last years bombings Nike is donating 1 dollar for every mile run and logged on the Nike+ running app today.  So I bugged my mom to tell her students and I am posting everywhere.  Run today and then log onto the app and record the miles under #STRONGEREVERYRUN to help out.  I plan on heading out this afternoon.  Mom is actually going to run from 5:30 to 6:30 in the university gym!  She never sweats in front of students if she can help it so that's fun! So go get up and get a start running into your summer beach body, help out and be part of the fun today.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Nike Visit

My first impression of the Nike campus; Holy Cow!  It is better than Disney World!  They have rock climbing, running trails, sport memorabilia museums, amazing restaurants, and laboratories with amazingly cool equipment that does who knows what engineering wonders!  I only ever want to have a career in dressage, but if I EVER had to work inside anywhere; this would be the place. Actually it would be the only place beside a barn I could ever see myself working at!  
While the facility was amazing, the people were even better.  They were so nice to me.  They were really interested in finding out everything about our sport.  They asked very specific details about what muscles we use and how we train.  They asked about resistance training, and we even talked about outside things like surfing and rock climbing.  
The long and crazy filled day was capped with a visit to the employee store where they let me buy things for my friends and family!  It was so rewarding to be able to think about all the amazing people that have helped me and to be able to give back a little.  I have to thank Nike for making that possible.  
Finally, I came back with a new sense of how much I need to develop my overall and specific health and fitness in order to be a truly top international competitor.   I already added Pilates to my regular routine and in just a few short weeks I have seen amazing results in my core development. I’ll get some specific exercises that Rachel has shown me for specifics for riders soon.  For example, we work on pelvic strength and balance. I run stairs and do sprints at the park near my apartment and I work out in the gym at the apartment.  I have to admit I am limited in my training partly by time and partly by funds.  I pay for a trainer for Pilates but I have to do the rest on my own.  Nike has a great training app that I will be talking to you about as I work on developing a better and more complete training program.  It’s free so that could benefit all of us!
I would really like everyone’s input into developing my training program.  If you have a favorite exercise or style of working out to help your riding, let me know!  

Thursday, April 3, 2014


On the plane from Wellington a few weeks ago, I read an article on Ulcers in horses in the Sport Horse International Issue 5 from 2013!  It had some amazing statistics and advice I would love to share with you.
First, top athletic horses have an extremely high rate of incidents for ulcers.  In some case studies as high as up to 98%.  Yet in a clinical study of broodmares exhibiting no “clinical signs” of ulcers the rate was 71%!  This means to me that our horses may not look like they have ulcers and they do.  This means to me that while types of activity increases the incidents of ulcers even pastured broodmares have high rates.  Imagine an incident rate of 71% ulcers in humans!  
Interestingly, in one study pleasure horses exhibiting what appeared to be ‘signs’ of ulcers had only 53% of the horses actually with ulcers.  This means to me that we don’t necessarily diagnosis the symptoms properly!  
The article went on to state that the things that increase the chances for ulcers in our horses are increased amounts of exercise and increased intensity of exercise, the number of hours spent in the stall and the number of hours spent in the pasture.  While the first ones increase the chance of ulcers the last decreases it.  This is because horses are meant to be constant grazers.  Their constant saliva production decreases acid levels.  The article stated that “In fact, the most reliable way to INDUCE ulcers for research purposes was to take away all feed for a set period of time.”  This was why the author suggested that increasing the number of feeding times from two to three daily can decreases the chance for ulcers.  Obviously, you don’t feed more just more often.  The statistics the article listed was that it clinically decreased the chance of ulcers from over 70% to 57%!  
They also indicated that the use of Bute or Banamine actually increases the chance for ulcers.  They then went on a long discussion about Gastroguard versus other types of ulcer medications.  They noted that at the time of the article last summer Gastroguard was the only FDA approved and clinically proven effective treatment.  The active ingredient is a protein pump inhibitor called Omeprazole.  Ok that is a really big word I don’t much understand, however the article argued that the rest of the products are made outside the FDA so they may not have the same percentage of active ingredient (even if it is included) so the effectiveness may be less.  This means to me either pay for Gastroguard or check with your vet about the effectiveness and percentage of active ingredient in alternatives!
Finally, they gave other suggestions to decrease the risk of ulcers.  First, alternate the intensity of workouts and exercise.  Second, increase turnout.  Third, as mentioned above break up feeding into many smaller portions for grain.  Ideal they argued is every 6 hours.  Finally, if your horse whips through their hay, try hay nets with really small holes to make them work more for the hay and to take longer to eat it!
Hope this helps.  If you want more information see the original article in SHI Issue number 5 2013!