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, June 23, 2014


I wrote this on the plane back from Gladstone, but it has been a crazy week so I just couldn’t edit and post it until today!
Why I am so late is that I had a taste of independent adulthood this week and wow; being completely on your own is a challenge.  As most of you know when I moved to Washington and then California to train my parents wouldn’t let me go alone.  I mean, no 16 year old is that responsible and there are all the safety and legal concerns.  My grandma lives with me and is like my substitute mom and dad.  We have a really unique grandparent-grandchild relationship because at times it is more like a parent and at times a grandparent.  Anyway she is the cool grandma that bakes from scratch, soaks whites overnight and hand dries jeans!  She is really amazing.  Anyway, when I came back from Gladstone she was on vacation with my Uncle James.She really needed a break from living with me I think.  Imagine 67 and 19 always alone together every day.  I can be a bit tiring!
Well with her on Crooked Island, I came home to dogs, dishes, laundry, cooking, grocery shopping, bills, mail and all sorts of jobs on top of my already busy daily schedule.  I have to admit, her stuff kind of sucks.  Thank you so much grandma for making sure I eat healthy, have clean clothes and get enough sleep.  And I won’t ever admit this, but being totally alone all the time is really quite quiet and boring.
On top of all that it has been a week of change and preparing for a busy summer.  Lots of plans.  I am heading to Michigan this week to speak at the Midwest Youth Festival for Lendon Gray and I am really nervous.  I have been practicing my speech, but I mean what do youth riders really want to know from me?  I try to pass on everything I can think of that might help them.  I hope people see my wanting to share not as a sign of “I think I know all the answers” but that I really want to help.  The more we share information the better the whole industry gets.  
I am also excited to see all my Michigan friends.  MaddieGutherie I hope you have time to sneak in some girl time!  If any of the other Michigan EDAP girls are coming, please FB me and we can catch up.
Gladstone was its usual amazing self.  It has always been and probably will always be my favorite venue.  I love the closeness and casualness of the atmosphere.  I love the way everyone just hangs out together.  I feel like such a kid among stars at Gladstone.  I started a signature hat!  I got so many signatures;Guenter, Christine, Steffan, Debbie, Robert and a dozen more.  I think maybe we should have them all sign one every year for each regions fundraisers for NAJYRC!  That would pull in some funds for the youths.  Anyway, in some aspects Gladstone is just like any other horse show.  There are the same highs and lows; the same triumphs and disasters.  The only difference I think is here you have the experiences in front of all your heroesand they have theirs in front of you.  It can be both rewarding to do something great with Jan watching, but it can be devastatingly embarrassing when you mess up.  Particularly if they mention it to you or god forbid your trainer!  
You meet so many amazing people. The stands are full of the diehards.  People have to get airline tickets and make cross country treks to get here so most of the viewers are seasoned critics.  There are some of the usual grandparents and friends who were brought for support.  It is fun to hear all the short and sweet descriptions in the stands trying to explain dressage to a newbie.  It was fun this year for me because I was educating Sheryl and Shade (her daughter) about our sport.  It is interesting to see the perspective of us and our work from the outside.  Particularly, from someone who is an experienced marketer of Olympic sports and Olympic athletes.  In some ways we are the same, and in some ways very different.  I like that.  
Anyway, one of the busiest summers of my life is about to begin and I can’t wait to share it all with you.  In July I may be getting a chance to go to Aachen with Christine!  I am so excited I can hardly sleep sometimes. I can’t even begin to think of an analogy of the excitement in her voice when she talks about it.  Her whole face lights up.   She speaks about it with a combined excitement like it’s the North Pole and we are going to Santa’s workshop or that we will be seeing something so amazing and incomparable; like the Northern Lights or a 75% off everything sale at Nordstrom’s shoes!
Well that’s it for now.  I’ll write from Michigan.  And thanks toLendon and Kim Boyer for putting together the Midwest Youth Festival and thanks for all you do for youth dressage every day!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Lateral Movements

So I have been reading up a lot lately, which is a good way to supplement riding if you are like me and most often only have one horse to ride!  I think it is a bit like visualization because you do the movements, or think about the basis of the movements when reading.  
This week’s reading has been about lateral movements and why we need to practice them. In a chapter of  Hans Von Blixen-Finecke's book, The Art of Training, he teaches you of the importance of the lateral movements. If you think about training a horse like training a person, you think in muscle groups.  For example, when you lift weights or do circuit training we do machines in pairs to work muscles in both directions and both groups.  Think about your biceps and triceps.  You have to move your arm and develop the muscles as a team or you would have these big biceps and wimpy triceps that didn’t even out.  We do this with horse muscle development as well.  Think of everything not just in right and left but muscle groups.  To develop muscles you have to move the horse’s legs in a plane separate from the straight direction of his body movement.  When you strengthen the adductors and abductors (pairs) by moving sideways in respect to his body position it produces flexion of the back. For my mom (and other non –horsey people) the lateral movements are leg yielding, half pass, shoulder-in, traversand renvers.
There are other benefits of working lateral movements.  In schooling for example, they test the horses understanding of the movement of his own legs and help him to engage the hindquarters.  
Today I wanted to talk about the details I read about leg yielding in particular.  I remember Janet Foy telling us at the RDHMW that one thing we should do is read the description of what movements are in!  So I will start with a description of leg yield.  The horse, straight in the body and neck, moves forward and sideways by crossing over the inside legs in front of the outside ones.  To achieve this you use the inside foreleg to follow the diagonal line and it becomes the outside foreleg as the yieldstarts, the rider affects the hind leg movement first.  It takes 1-2 steps for the horse’s body to get parallel to the long side in walk and 2-3 steps in trot. The exercise should lead to a flexion in the poll away from the direction in which the horse is moving.  Things to do, “check the horse’s response to turn on the forehand and the zig-zag line aids and then walk him through a corner and on to a diagonal.  Once he is moving straight along the diagonal, begin to gradually make his body parallel with the long side by changing your lateral position in the saddle to the new inside (the side from which he is moving) and applying outside hand and inside leg each time his outside forefoot comes to the ground.  Move your whip to the new inside hand and adjust the length of the reins with the new inside one slightly shorter. Repeat the aids every time the outside forefoot hits the groups (the horse’s outside shoulder is forward), having him continue along the diagonal. Control the outside foreleg with your outside leg on the front leg button, when the horse preforms well in the walk, repeat at a working trot.
Remember that leg yielding is a loosening and not a collecting exercise.  Things NOT to do! Do not start the leg yield directly from the long side. Do not move the seat from side to side in the saddle to push the horse’s body sideways.  Do not pull with the inside rein and bend the horse in the neck.  Do not pull your outside leg back to prevent the outside hind leg from stepping too much sideways.
Things have gone wrong when the quarters trail, with the inside hind leg not crossing over or when the quarters lead, with the outside hind leg stepping too much sideways, or when the horse pushes the forehand sideways with the inside foreleg against the ground, and takes hold of the outside rein with the outside of his neck, or when the horse lacks impulsion when ridden straight forward out of the leg yield.
You can prevent these things (in order) by, using stronger outside reins and inside leg aids, moving the forehand across with the inside leg nearer the front leg button, keeping the neck straight with the outside rein, the hand moving in the direction of movement and applying stronger outside leg on the front leg button, and finally using a stronger leg aid on the outside front leg button, allowing with both reins.
I want to thank Hans Von Blixen-Finecke for this amazing layout of how to do movements.  I love the way this book is written, it has specific picture instructions, written instructions, dos and don’ts as well as pointers on each movement and how and why to school it.  I suggest it to everyone!  
And in a quick closing, I am headed up to NJ for the Festival of Champions in the morning, so excited to support all my friends!  I will be at the Beyond Sports conference all day Wednesday at Yankee Stadium.  Can’t wait to give you guys all the info from that.  The topic this year is about social media and using it to develop youth markets!  Dressage could really use that.  I’ll keep everyone updated this week from NJ!  Good luck all.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Getting Fit

One of the great things about Lendon’s D4K and Courtney and Robert’s Horsemastership weeks are their desire to increase access to resources for youth riders who might not have competitive horses (or any horse) or might live far away from top trainers (or any trainer)!  I know I have been blessed to have a family that supported my goals enough to let me move to train here with Christine Traurig; but not everyone has that opportunity.  The desire of Lendon, Courtney and Robert to open our sport is also one I am finding that Nike shares.  I am learning from them how to increase my riding athletic potential by increasing my overall fitness and health.  This is one way that I think it is practical for all riders young and adult to improve without needing a certain horse or a certain trainer. 

     I know I learned from Bob at the EDAP RDHMW that I am not as fit as I thought a competitive young rider is!  We all moaned, groaned and had tough times walking all three years.  I think this process made us make promises (which sometimes lasted) to increase our overall fitness when we got home.  I have tried to do this in some ways with regular Pilates classes, running, massages and regular chiropractor visits.  I know at first this was hard to coordinate.  I looked in the city rec sports class schedules.  They do offer some cheap and fun yoga, Pilates and Barr classes that are all helpful for dressage riders.  But the times (and often the times at paid gyms) are early in the morning.  Barn people, particularly in the warmer southern climates are always at the barn in the morning.  So morning classes aren’t possible.  I then checked out times at private gyms and that was tough to coordinate as well.  I finally called Rachel my instructor directly and asked what it would take to have her do a private lesson at a time that fit in with my crazy barn schedule.  This was a bit more expensive and I had to cut out a few other things from my budget  but it not only allowed me to make the classes possible but I get so much done in one hour that is concentrated solely on what I need.  I have learned so much on core strength and balance it has been amazing.  My whole body shape has been changing.  I can sit on a balance ball crossed legged, using only my core and watch a whole episode of Vampire Diaries without falling off!  Grandma can’t do it for even a minute without holding on to something.  Maybe I could convince her to start coming with me.

    Anyway, I know it is hard to maintain outside fitness with our schedules, work, school, and barn take up most young rider’s schedules.  Then we all live so far apart that we can’t do this together.  Let’s face it, exercise alone can be kind of boring and not nearly as rewarding as going together.  But we all live so stretched out across the US.  I mean Bebe or Jessica can’t come for daily runs from NY, Genay is up at UC Davis and I am sure can’t miss class for the 6 hour round trip flight daily, and even Anna is over 30 minutes away in one direction.  So how can we help each other with fitness?  Using the Nike+training and Nike+running apps!  Download these free apps and connect with me!  They are great to connect and challenge each other to develop and meet outside training goals.  There are videos of demonstrations for exercises you can do for different results, from top Nike trainers.  You can plan a work out that develops and challenges your goals.  The apps also track your progress.  This helps to stay on track.  I absolutely love that the app logs in my motion when I am in the saddle.  It records so much activity when I am in the saddle it is fun to show people how active riding really is.  You can share your workouts and exercises with each other. You can post goals to your social media or challenge other users directly.  You can earn Nikefuel points and work your way up rankings in different user groups.  You can even send photos of your runs!

So if any youth riders out there want to join a fitness network with me (or create one for your barn or your region) let’s get started!  We could work together to make dressage youth riders more fit.  Maybe we could challenge the young rider reiners, jumpers, eventers and vaulters at NAJYRC this year and find out who is the most fit!  See you at the gym or on Nike+training and Nike+running!