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!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Back to California

    I am back in California!  I got to fly home with Sjapoer and I was really excited about that.  I have a few new concerns now though.  For example, in case of an air pressure drop – there are no masks for the horses. What’s up with that? I think I will have to noodle on that.  There are also no life rafts for them.  I had a plan to tie SJ to the raft so he could swim alongside us until we were rescued.  I spent a good part of the flight plotting how I would save him. I sometimes curse my wild imagination.
    Anyway, I have had a truly enlightening and empowering trip, but I am glad to be home.  I got to LAX last Tuesday. The apartment complex I stay in got renovated while I was in Florida and it looks great.  I am glad to be back with my roomie; grandma! I missed her smoothiesI have already eaten at my favorite taco shop ,Juanita’s, so everything is fitting back into a routine quite quickly. I am excited to begin the next phase of work and training.    Congratulations to all the other USA team competitors this summer across Europe and the Americas.  I have been honored to be even a small part of this explosion of the red, white and blue. Congrats to all my friends and fellow competitors at NAJYRC! 
    Definitely can say I like the SoCal weather better than anywhere else in America.  I do miss the green and the hazy mist of Washington and those 45 days of the best season on the planet.  But for overall broad perfection I can see why California is so expensive.  You pay for the weather.  Heading up to Oregon to visit my Nike family this weekend.  Exciting!  Have to go to New Student Orientation in Texas even though I have been going to school online!  
   But it is time to focus on being my best for Christine and Sjapoer!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

My experience in Germany

   Well my first big European competition was a very exciting experience!  Before anything else I want to say thanks again to everyone who helped me to be able to be here.  The USEF committee and donors that made the program possible, I hope you continue this program because it is life changing and eye opening.  The Dressage Foundation, the Renee Isler Dressage Support Fund, and Lendon Gray and Courtney’s Quest Scholarship for helping to defer the financial costs and giving me the opportunity to stay a few weeks longer for additional training.  Thank you to my sponsors Custom Saddlery and IRH for making SJ and I look good and to do our best.  Thank you to Nike for giving me the privilege to represent you and the honor of having your spokesperson here to not only support me but to get to experience the amazing sport I love.  Thanks to Sheryl Shade the most supportive and knowledgeable agent anyone could ask for.  Thanks to their daughters Shade and Ryan for giving their mom’s up for a weekend so that I could have them.  Next time I hope to see you both here!  Thanks to Jessica Hainsworth a true friend and my partner in all things dressage.  These things would be so stressful without you.  David Wightman it was so fun getting to know you and I am up for staring contests, singing, and general goofiness any time.  Thanks for being there for us all.  Genay Vaughn one of the greatest rewards of getting selected this year was to get time to spend with you.  You always give me a reboot and I think you are the best friend a girl could have.  Catherine Chamberlain (Cat) thanks for being such a great teammate and being so supportive.  I enjoyed getting to meet you and hope we can do it all again soon!  I love your sense of humor and your focus.  George Williams, when I say we clicked in training I really mean that. I don’t just mean about riding, but politics, sportsmanship, strategy, teamwork and a list of other things.  I really appreciate all you did to help make me successful in the ring and out of it. I also want to say thank you for all the extra time you took with my “posse.” They were all awed and impressed.  Finally, to my extended family of supporters I have to say my heart overflows with your generosity.  Uncle James you were there every minute jumping in any way you could.  You went literally countries out of your way to be helpful and supportive.  You got people on trains, stood in line for coffee, carried bags and all manner of things, all while expressing deep interest and support for me.  Grandma and papa I know you couldn’t come physically because of work but you were here in spirit.  I love you and thanks to you and my mom for all your help.  You guys are the rock on which I stand.
     I put the thanks first, because if we put them at the end I know sometimes you just quit reading!  HaHa and they deserve top billing.  So What did I learn here.  First, I have to admit some of the most valuable things I learned here are not what I expected to learn. I had heard that shows here can be crazy.  At the RDHMW I remember Devon Kane telling us about the craziness she encountered here and it stuck.  Though I had been told how different it is, this is really something one must experience to appreciate.  Some of the things they casually do here, we would lodge a formal complaint about at home. Scooters with four kids on them zooming between mounted horses and jumping off right in front of you, while you’re walking on cement next to a moving tractor lifting bales of hay while a loose dog runs around your feet!  I kid you not! It is truly an atmosphere one must experience to believe.  It isn’t bad or wrong it is just totally a different culture.  I am so lucky to get to learn to deal with it as a young rider which is a great benefit of this program.  I think that Europeans grow up in this chaos which makes them more prepared for it later.  
    Second, I realized that while dressage has been my life for over a decade, this sport I love doesn’t have the same history or awareness and support it does in Europe.  I mean, I always knew it was ‘their’ sport but I didn’t realize what that meant until I got here.  The facility the show was at opened in 1322!  That is 450 years before the US became a nation and longer than we have been one!  The show atmosphere, and the stress got to me a bit the first day and I was nervous.  We improved every day as I got more comfortable. That is another great benefit of this program.  I didn’t do as well as I could and I am sorry for that. The individual day I started to put everything aside and to focus and I was lucky enough to move up to 12th.  The interesting thing was that from like 6th to 12th place we all were 67% so the spread was so close. It showed us how competitive my old guy can still be.  On freestyle day, SJ shines.  We ended up 7th so I was ecstatic with him.  We were warming up in a torrential downpour but just as we started to get ready to go in, the rain cleared up and the sun came out.  George and I had looked at my choreography (done by the brilliant Karen Robinson of Applause Dressage) and it was done so that there is space at the end to input things that might have messed up.  I had three different options we had worked out so that I adjusted a bit at the end.  I want to thank Karen for always making me the best freestyles. 
    Another thing for young riders coming over in the future, the June weather is unpredictable.  Bring clothes for all four seasons and layer.  Having lived the last few years in Southern California and Florida I haven’t been this cold in a long time. But the Germans do know how to put on a show regardless of weather! Almost 900 combinations with just jumping and dressage.  NAJYRC I don’t think has that many with eventing, endurance and reining.  The horses were fabulous.  I saw a pony passaging!
    I have to say sitting in the dining tent was a bit of a surreal experience.  At the table on your left there could be the Dutch with their vibrant orange jackets and pale blonde hair.  The Russians sitting next to them are leaning forward and are highly animated. Twenty seven countries are staggered everywhere speaking differently, looking different in their bright colors.  The atmosphere is electric.  NAJYRC is similar in that the Canadians are always identifiable in their Red. Yet this is really different.  It is as if 27 different groups like the Canadians are around and each has a history, an identifiable dressage story and characters.  But as I sat there, it felt comfortable and a bit like coming home.  We belong here and with enough support and experience we will continue to take a seat at the table and flash the red, white and blue. 
    Another difference is that there are guys here.  I don’t mean one or two in jumping, guys in dressage.  There isn’t just the lone one that makes him unique, special or identifiable.  There are dozens.  In fact, many teams had more males than females in jumping and there was a fair number in dressage. 
    The transport trucks here are awesome.  I will dream about the little one that is like a minivan with a box stall, and the full size half-million dollar Mercedes RV thing with the 6 stall and living quarters.  Wow.  Someday, if I can ever get one of those I will be in heaven.
    So far I haven't run over anything while driving around these narrow roads! My German is limited but I do ok speaking.  Driving without GPS would be a nightmare though because the words are so long that you pass the sign before you have sounded out half the word!
    Then it is home to Albert Court in California! 

Thursday, June 11, 2015


    My first week in Europe has been quite an adventure.  Sjapoer arrived with a little piece missing; his tail!  I guess he must have rubbed it on something, which was new for him.  It makes me want to cry as he always has had the most beautiful tail.  I am seriously considering a weave.  Haha.
    When I arrived in Dusseldorf there was a mix up on the rental car so I had to adjust my plan on the fly and I grabbed a train into Dorsten and then a taxi to my hotel.  The hotel is just a little B & B style place with a very nice lady running it.  She is taking great care of us and the food is good.  I think we are all gaining weight with all the rich foods.  We do some shopping at the grocery store.  Between Genay and I together our German is ok for shopping. 
    Jessica, Genay and I have been staying together and we basically have the entire top floor to ourselves.  There is a little spiral staircase out to a small widow’s walk with an amazing view.  The first day we were all so excited because you can see the big church from the window and it is a breathtaking view.  At five am when the bells ring every morning the view doesn’t seem quite so important!   The city is a typical little German village.  Gut Hohenkamp where we are staying is a beautiful facility.  
   George Williams has been coming over every day for lessons and Sjapoer has been doing well.  The cool weather here has really perked him up a bit.  I think he feels 5 years younger.  He has been a little frisky. 
  We have been getting out a little to do some sightseeing after riding.  One day we went strawberry picking.  The berries tasted really sweet and we had them for dinner on Sunday when EVERYTHING was closed. One afternoon we stepped inside the church, it was so beautiful. Another afternoon we went for ice cream and we have been to the tack and feed stores a few times.  The tack stores here are amazing.  I bought bell boots for 14 Euros! It is unbelievable how much variety they keep in stock.  Genay had some great photos of the stores on FB. Henrick took us to see the foals.  Talk about heaven, nothing could be closer to an equestrian’s idea of heaven than baby horses.
    We had one day that we had to drive up to Amsterdam to exchange rental cars. The car company had added all of these fees on the initial reservation and the car was almost 2000 Euros!  So we made a new reservation for less than half that and had to drive the car back to the airport.  We got there and they said they didn’t have any cars ready so we had to come back in about an hour.  We walked around Amsterdam and saw the cool moats.  Then we went back, and guess what?  They gave us the SAME car! A five hour ordeal for the same car! 
    I am starting to get excited and ready for Hagan next week.  Genay will be headed to Rotterdam.  Jessica is doing her usual amazing job being ‘mom’ for everyone.  I can’t imagine ever being on a team without her. 
    I have to again say thanks to everyone that made this amazing adventure possible. I am learning every day and the memories I take from here will be with me forever.  I can’t wait to see everyone coming over next week for the CDI.  I am grateful for such supportive family, friends and sponsors.  

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

And we are off!

   The packing continues! I was standing in a pile of endless polo wraps, blankets, and boots thinking to myself; I have something to cover any possible event or emergency that might arise for Sjapoer.  Yet, I am taking a bottle of aspirin and a few bandaids for me.  
    Sjapoer has just been loaded onto the transport and is headed to the airport!  On our last riding day in Florida, we had the opportunity to go canter on the track at Palm Beach Equine.  It was so nice to be able to stretch Sjapoer's legs before he left. Mom had been spoiling him with treats and had been banned from giving him any more. She enjoys turning Sjapoer into a Cookie Monster. Every time she comes to visit in the past four years we are usually packing to move somewhere; it is so common that the animals get all excited and feel displaced when she comes because they know something is up.  Odessa, my little schnauzer saw mom in the parking lot when she arrived, grandma was out walking her, and she heard mom’s voice and made a beeline for the car and stood at the door waiting to head out!  It was really funny.
    Speaking of moving, today I say goodbye to Wellington.  What a unique place for the equestrian world.  The format of packing so many shows into one place in such a short time is really intense.  It is also challenging, demanding and a whole new level of well ‘everything.’  Like everything it has its goods and not so good things.  It can be demanding yet distracting. It can be rewarding yet defeating.  But I would suggest anyone who can manage to have a season here or even part of one to do so.  It is a great teacher, a great eye opener and you will learn a lot about yourself and our sport.
    I am beginning to get the excited nerves about the new adventure ahead.  I am excited to get to spend time with my teammates and get to know one another. Friendship to me is one of the greatest benefits of life.  I hope we can get a little down time in Germany to spend bonding and developing those friendships. Auf Wiedersehen!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

ThinLine Book Drive!!

The world is becoming a more diverse and tolerant place, yet we still have so far to go.  I think one of the reasons we are becoming more accepting is because we have become more educated and thus more understanding of the differences, histories and uniqueness around us.  As we learn about who people are, as we learn about why and how things and people became what they are we understand and with understanding perhaps we gain empathy.  
One of the things I hope to educate people about is the needs of Native people here in the United States.  As a part Ojibwa this is very personal for me. I could write for pages (and my mom could speak for days) on the state of the Native American being the result of the genocidal practices of the US government.  She could speak to you about the boarding school tortures, the coordinated effort to take land and to keep the Native and African from uniting.  She could talk about the growing crime on reservation land in the “Breaking Bad” style as nontribal criminal elements cannot be prosecuted by the tribal governments.  But I don’t hold the knowledge she does about the story of the Native people.  What I do know is that I can do something to help, to understand and to leave a mark by making the life of another better than I found it. 
I hope you can join me in this quest.  The Pine Ridge Sioux are some of the poorest people in the entire United States.  Their education system is sadly lacking in all the basic supplies we have at our finger tips.  They don’t have computers and the technology we take for granted in their schools.  Heck, they don’t even have enough paper and books.  So I want to join with ThinLine in their goal to promote a book drive for the population of the Pine Ridge Reservation. I found the ThinLine effort in an article on dressage daily.  I put the link below if you want more information.  I also put the direct link on the ThinLine site for more information about their efforts.  I hope to organize a book drive at my mom’s university and to further promote the effort whenever I can.  If you are interested in helping out contact me directly on my FB or email!  aydenmouse@yahoo.com

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Thank you!!

I am going to Europe as part of the Young Rider Tour.  I was so blessed to be selected, along with Catherine Chamberlain and Bebe Davis to represent the US in international competition this summer in Germany.  This is a dream come true. I mean really, I have written dozens of applications for things in the last few years and they always ask my long and short term goals.  My answer is always ‘to someday get the opportunity to compete for the USA in international competition.”  So here is the dream!
Now comes the time of getting everything ready to go! I am sad that I won’t be coming back to Florida after as I will return directly to California from Europe so I am packing up the apartment here at the same time.  Ugh, I am digging in my closet and sorting my stuff into different piles for boxing. Let’s just say it is a bit crowded here.
Jessica Hainsworth, the best sidekick and friend on the planet is coming with me to groom.  We met at the first RDHMW almost 5 years ago.  She has been at every major competition I've been to.  I am really excited to see her as we were supposed to visit over spring break but things got in the way.  We haven’t seen each other since our trip to Spain last summer.
I need to take a moment to thank everyone who helped make this dream a reality.  Mom and dad you are really great supporters of my goals and dreams.  I appreciate that you don’t make it too easy for me and that you have made me work hard, stretch and sacrifice for my dreams.  It makes them all that much more satisfying.  Grandma you know that I am the luckiest granddaughter on the planet.  I get to see you every day, and I have your unconditional love and support which is the foundation of my daily life. Endel Ots a huge and never ending thank you because without your last minute rescue I wouldn’t have even been able to qualify to go. Sheryl and Lori you have been amazingly supportive these last two years through the most difficult ones of my career. I have faced some challenge in growing up, in my career, and in my personal life and you have both stood by me and been a light in the tunnel to guide me.  I will never forget all your kind words, support and belief in me.  It really means a lot. Christine all I can say is I love you and I cannot wait to get home.  We have some great years ahead and I couldn’t think of anyone in the world I would want by my side and in my corner more than you. You are my inspiration and I strive to be even just a tenth of the kind of person you are. Thanks to all my amazing sponsors Nike for taking a chance on me and our amazing sport and for all you do for athletes worldwide.  Custom Saddlery thanks for always making Sjapoer look and feel great.  IRH for being both supportive and fun!  HGF for the support in my season in Wellington. Charlotte Bredahl for all the work you put in with Sjapoer and I this season.
Last but not least Lendon, I have to take some time to say how very much you have meant to me and to this sport.  I came to you a little over four years ago from Texas and you have shaped every day of my life since then.  Without your support, your guidance and your patience I would most likely have not been able to stay in this sport and I would not have achieved all I have done.  You have inspired, pushed, cajoled and dragged so many of us through so much.  All my love, respect and support in any way you need forever!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Road Trip!

I went back to Texas!  I came to my old stomping grounds at the Great Southwest Equestrian Center in Katy for the CDI.  I was lucky enough to catch a ride down with Endel Ots and his horses. 

The weather there wasn't nearly as brutal as the South Florida humidity.  I think SJ approved. Leslie Rohrer of the Houston Dressage Society arranged for us to stay at the totally awesome Isabella farms.  The arena was great (the mirrors are amazing), the grass was lush, the stalls big and the giant shade trees were everywhere. 

Grandma and I crashed at the hotel eating Chili's to go and catching up on sleep.  The last few weeks in Wellington were tough because with everyone leaving it seemed like a endless week of goodbyes.  I am so thankful to Kim Boyer and HGF for my season in Wellington.  HGF is so beautiful and the girls and I had a lot of fun learning and growing together.  I was excited for this weekend to see some of my old friends and I made some great new ones.  

Heading in the truck for 17 hours back to Wellington. Can't wait for whatever new adventures are ahead and it seems not so scary knowing that Albert Court and Christine are there somewhere soon! 

Monday, March 23, 2015

My Time in Wellington

I can’t believe there are only a few weeks left in the Wellington season.  Time seems to both drag and fly by here.  I have learned so much and had so many amazing new experiences.  I also feel I started the road to the change from youth competitor into something else.  Sometimes I am not sure what; but I know I am changing, or that I have to change.  The steps from the youth divisions into the open divisions at the FEI levels are sometimes big chasms, and sometimes strangely small baby steps.  A lot of the change this year has been a mental battle more than anything else.  I can hardly begin to tell you how many times I have had debates with myself this season.  Perhaps part of those debates are the lures of Wellington; the Friday night freestyles, the guests who come to see the beach and the Sunday polo matches. Part of the debates were about the realities of adulthood and independence.  Independence is great in some ways but scary and demanding in others.  Part of the debates in my mind havebeen about taking big risks and perhaps falling flat on my face!  For example, a big diversion for me this season has beensinging for the AEGT.  Here was the big quandary.  I want to help my sport in every way that I am able.  I feel very adamant that everyone needs to give back in any and all the ways they can.  I write about this all the time! It is unfair to have only a few people carry the load of so many to move our sport forward.  I look at Lendon and I get exhausted at just imagining her daily schedule.  She needs a secretary and an assistant (and her secretary needs an assistant).  I look at Robert, Debbie, Charlotte, George, and Christine and so many others who seem to live tirelessly to help our sport and all of us in it.  I see individuals helping in every way they can. We all should try to help in whatever way we can.  What if we all did all that we could? 
I know that giving to the sport can be a tough call.  Because as a competitive sport we want to win and to increase our own chances of winning.  So giving our valuable time, resources or secrets away could in the short term seem a conflict of interest. But I learned this season that being first in a class of 2 is not as rewarding as coming in 10th in a class of 60.  So if we grow the sport we grow our own competitive long term success.
Well for example, all this season I have had almost weekly bouts of fear that distracted me a bit.  I initially sang in the AEGT the first week as I have told you because I wanted to step outside my box.  I wanted to face my biggest fear (seriously this is my paralyzing fear) and I thought it would make me a better competitor.  Now, I believe it has not only made me a better competitor but a better person in a lot of ways.  What I didn’t know that first week was that I would have to come back week after week and face that same fear over and over.  I didn’t know I would have to learn new songs and have new music every week.  UGH!  Several times I wanted to call Robert and break down and say, “I just can’t do it.”  It really effected my sense of security about myself and distracted me. But I didn’t quit. I wanted to continue on the road to overcoming this fear.  I knew the finale was looming in a few weeks and the stage would be bigger, the audience overwhelming and I needed to be ready to face the bigger fear by facing littler ones.  Just like in our sport, and anything in life, it gets easier the more you do it.  So I pushed through those tough weeks believing it would make the finale easier. Finally, I wanted to do something to help dressage, even if I did make a big fool of myself. In the end I learned, I didn’t die and the USET Foundation made money and I got to try.  Trying whether you win or lose makes you grow.  I have learned so much this roller coaster season and I realize that the little bit of distraction in the short term, even the great fear of facing my anxieties in the end is more than worth the lessons about myself that I have gained.  

Friday, February 27, 2015

Recent Update

    This week is the first ever USEF Outreach “ride a test” clinic.  I was lucky enough to be selected and I think it is really going to help us get ready for next week. They are having several more outreach clinics around the US so be sure to apply. If you can get enough people in your region to want one, it never hurts to ask George or Charlotte.  They both seem really excited about these new programs and growing youth opportunities.  
    Then there are two more CDI’s directly after the debut.  During that time it seems like all my friends in college are on spring break.  As the rest of the world is buried under snow I think they all are thinking “who do I know in Florida” and they think of me!” Mom is in fact home for the second day iced in in Texas.  Although I wouldn’t tell her I bet the students are happy for the extra days to study for her test.  
So I have a few friends coming each week to visit (mostly like the beach not me).  Just kidding guys, anyway the couch is always open and many of you will see me most weeks in March with a few extra teenagers around.  Just say hello as they aren’t horse people and may be overwhelmed by all the activity at shows and may need a little guidance.  
    I have one more weekly singing at the grille on March 4th.  I think the weekly singing has been pretty tough on my schedule.  Having never even had a singing lesson I had no idea how hard it is to pick a song to sing let alone to memorize it, find the music in your key and tempo.  The finale is March 15th be sure to get your tickets at 
    It will be really fun and is for a great cause.  We need to get a lot of dressage people there to cheer for any performer in dressage as the winner’s discipline gets a larger cut of the money.  GO US Dressage! Due to scheduling issues my backup singer setup has changed and I am scrambling to start a new set up but I know it is going to turn out amazing!  I even got some help from a dance student with the moves.  
   The Florida Youth Championships are coming up in less than three weeks as well.  Make sure you get registered through the show secretary!  It is going to be so exciting this year as the Europeans are coming.  We need to represent everyone, so whether you are riding or just watching lets show the European youth we are not just poor step-kids in the equestrian world.  See you there.

Monday, February 16, 2015

How to Look For Educational Programs

I thought I would take the time this week to give a heads up to or perhaps retell some of you about some great opportunities for training and scholarships.
First, for those of you that have participated in ANY Dressage 4 Kids events, the have two great scholarship opportunities now.  The first is the Lendon Gray Scholarship for training.  This can be used for clinic fees, training fees or other expenses of education.  The link to the application is below.  You need to complete the form, have two recommendations letters and then email to the address on the application. A budget for your expenses of your plan is required so you will need to spend some time on that. 

Also on the Dressage for Kids site is the Courtney’s Quest scholarship application.  This is for international competition level events only.  However, when you get to the point of wanting to compete and qualifying to compete in Europe this is the place to apply.  Again, you have to have participated in a Dressage 4 Kids event to qualify to apply.  This year, I hope when they take a U25 team to Europe all the riders are former D4K participants and everyone applies.  I think it would be great to have that bond as a team and to show what a great change D4K has had on dressage youth in America! 

The site also has some great ideas on a career search program and a mentoring program.  I have not participated in those but anyone who has please leave some input about them in the message section.  No matter what I encourage everyone to participate in everything you can.  You never know where the next opportunity may come from or where your path might take you as a result.
I mean I even got up and sang at the American Equestrian’s Got talent competition.  I was the first singer on the first day of auditions.  Truly ugh!  I have never been so nervous in my whole life.  However, the 500 dollars pays for a lot of feed and shoes (horseshoes of course).  But even better I am getting to work with and become friends with some really great girls who are now helping me by being backup singers for the finale.  I think you are all going to get a kick out of this (or a big laugh).  
Another thing that is new this year is an opportunity with the new youth coaches.  The are doing a ‘ride a test’ clinic.  The application is below for future ones.  I have been selected along with some great riders to do the first one here in Florida at the end of February.  I am really excited because it is the week before I do my first ever U25 and it is at a CDI-W.  I am really interested to get some judge feedback before then and really work to enhance my potential test scores.  Furthermore, I get to see the other riders do nearly similar level tests and gain info from their rides as well. 

Lastly, I have learned this season about the unlimited opportunities for young students to work in internship positions, working student positions and sponsored rider jobs.  There are some posted full time on the internet like the amazing opportunity to work at Maplecrest Farms with Reese Koffler-Stanfield.
Other opportunities you have to make by asking.  Find a trainer you admire or a breeder you think does an amazing job and write to them.  Tell them your goals and why you came to them.  Explain what you hope to learn and what you could potentially do for them.  It never hurts to ask and even if things don’t work out in the end you will have not only tried but have learned valuable information from that failure. Sometimes the things that don’t work teach us more or are better for us than things that do.  
Finally, check your breed associations and GMO’s they always have opportunities whether it is volunteering at shows or scholarships everything gets you further into the life of horses and the dream of being part of that world!  
I went online for 5 minutes and found all of these-and applied for the last one!

Friday, February 6, 2015

Laura King Hypnosis

    “So how does one learn something new?”  This was the question posed at the RDHMW by hypnosis therapist Laura King.  So that we could understand she asked a bleacher full of young dressage riders to think about sitting in the saddle.  The majority of communication with your horse is through your body, not your hands.  As you go up the levels the communication becomes more subtle and more intense with each small piece of communication.  She said we came to the clinic to fine tune our abilities by learning from the best trainers. We are watching and listening.  The information we take in goes to the only 12 % of the brain is what we think and reason.  The majority is like an iceberg ‘below the surface.’ An example of this is when you are told by your trainer how to do something differently and then you get on your horse and do it the same old wrong way you always have.  Why is it hard to ‘retrain’ your brain or to break habits?  Because the 88% of your brain does what it is trained to do.  Your expectations and thought are made into reality by the power of your mind.  It takes 21 times of doing something over and over a new way to reprogram or retrain your brain.  
   So if you want to change something in your life, whether it is a riding issue or something else, she said you have to overwrite an old program.  So when you think about the brain there is a hard drive and software.  The 88% is the hard drive that has to be reprogrammed.  You have to override the hardriveYou want to define what it is your working on and what you want to change.  Your 12 % conscious mind has to be aware and focus to create new habits.  She uses hypnosis to shortcut the rewriting of the hardware.  It bypasses the 12% critical thinking.  She said it is like guided imagery or guided visualization which is what Dr. Susser talks to us about. She just aids in that. 
You have to have a focal point on what you want to retrain. She uses a focus word.  Think of that word whenever you want to remember the new lesson.  The word brings up the thought or visualization that you are trying to overwrite with.  Too often when we lose focus our mind goes back to the old way of doing things.  If you have a new focus word that you tell yourself is associated with the new focus it will help to get you back into that mode.  I guess it is kind of like a mantra or a saying that brings you to the new plan.  I write these on my mirror all the time.  Whenever I feel myself heading down doubt lane, I read one of the sayings and it helps to keep me focused and looking forward and not dwelling on what I did wrong in the past.  I think that is really similar to what she is saying.  
She also said that many people have a fear of hypnosis because they think they will be made to do something they do not want to do.  She said that no one can hypnotize you to do something you don’t want to do.  It is impossible.  You have to want to do it.  It is just a faster way to relax the mind and get around the 12 percent and make it easier to reprogram.  It is science.  It has been proven that an image in the mind is just as powerful as the reality.  She talked about the effectiveness of placebos on people getting better. Your mind is that powerful.
The problem with dressage is often that we are perfectionists and we tend to focus on the error. Because we focus on the error we tend to do it over and over again incorrectly and by doing so we program our mind to do it wrong.  She said she had a top jumper come in and show her his video and all he could see was the one error he wanted help with and not the entire rest of the video he did amazingly. That is what our brain does.  
She has a great CD called Peak Performance for dressage riders that is great to use right before you go to bed.  It helps to put you to sleep!  It actually is about visualization and she just aids in it.
She went on to talk about different types of learning.  I have heard this before from my mom because she actually does a speech at the university on learning styles.  I know I am auditory so this stuff works great for me.  I can listen to something and it helps me to learn it. It is also why certain trainers that give verbal directions on how to fix things work great with me.  Visual learners have to see the information and kinesthetic learners have to experience it through physical motion.  There is a website www.VARKlearn.com that has a free test you can take to find out what you are.  Knowing what you are can really help.  For example, now when I have a speech to give I read it into my phone app and then listen to it over and over instead of trying to read it.  I am not great at speeches yet but that has helped me to get a little better or maybe just have less anxiety about it.  She said they can use hypnosis to help you balance out what you are not.  For example, I am not visual at all.  So they could help me to be more balanced and not completely auditory. 
Once we get the 88 percent trained correctly we can just tune out the reason and ride with instinct and memory we would do better. 
The last things she said was your subconscious mind doesn’t hear the word don’t.  For example, don’t think about a black horse. I bet you just did. So you can’t say to yourself, don’t do ________. You have to say the way you want to do it.  The brain will only hear that you want to do it.  So write the phrase to yourself.  So for example, drop saying “I do not want to miscount my 3’s” and instead say, “I am going to count my 3’s perfectly.” Either way your brain will make it happen you will miscount in the first case and not in the second. When you have a negative or ‘don’t or can’t’ thought hit the cancel button.  Do this with your focus word.  Then you can get back to what you are working on.  She uses a meaningless word like “purple elephant.”  That takes you away from the previous thought and then you can’t refocus on the correct way to program yourself.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Bit Fit By Beth

    One new lecture we had this year at the RDHMW was on bit fit.  Beth Haist gave us a great bit of insight into bits (haha).  
    The most important thing I learned was not to listen to the hype of bit companies.  They are in the business of selling bits.  To determine what you need think about the inside of your horse’s mouth and the dynamics of what you are trying to produce and how much space you have in your horse’s mouth.  To do this when you are looking at bits do not hold it in your two hands with facing you.  Turn the bit sideways and activate it.  By this Beth meant move the side pieces as if our reins are pulling on the bit in different directions.  From this see what happens and where pressure would or wouldn’t occur in the horse’s mouth.  There can be pressure (or pain) caused by the bit in three places; on the palette, on the tongue or on the cheeks.  
   Beth explained putting together bits through working through the needs of your horse from each piece separately.  She first discussed the cheek pieces as she always builds bits starting with the chekk piece.  We examined fixed verses loose cheek pieces.  The fixed cheek pieces she suggested for young horses.  She called these grammar school bits. There is less communication between the rider and the young horse’s mouth so they don’t get overwhelmed with too much going on at once.  The full cheek also steadies the young horse a bit more which they need in earlier development. A nice big D ring also helps to give them more directionality because of the larger area. Fixed cheek bits are softer on his lips and less likely to pinch than a moving loose ring bit.  An egg butt helps to get young horses to lower their poll. A loose cheek bit she called a university bit where you give lots of information all at once.  It is important she stated when using a loose ring bit that you have control of your hands. If you do not have steady hands your inadvertent movements aregiving signals you may not want to be imparting to the horse.  So you pick the bit not only for the age and knowledge level of the horse but also for the experience and level of the rider and how quiet their hands are.
   We also discussed the differences in horse breeds and how warm bloods are being bred to have huge lips and the top lips are much thicker than the bottom lip.  So think then about physics.  How does a fixed cheek bit work with a warm bloodwith thick lips?  A fixed cheek will protect his mouth more because it sucks in the big lips and puts a little more stability on his mouth which makes the fixed bit even more important for young warm bloods as they are less likely to pinch.  
    She suggested you feel the real size of your horse’s mouth by feeling the jaw bone.  Because warm bloods have so much lip the mouth may be much smaller than you think.  The bits are designed to sit with the bars on the edge of the mouth. Most of the time she sees bits way too long because the bars are in the huge lips and not the mouth. If the bit is a little too long for the horse’s mouth, sometimes a two piece bit will be nicer too the horse’s mouth than a three piece because of its shape.  Of course, try not to have them too big! If your warm blood doesn’t like the 3 piece bit which is supposed to be softer; She suggests it may be too long because the short arm of the bit if it is too long is hitting the wrong place in his mouth. Do not have a bit too big that is slides through his mouth!  To judge the size of bit mouth piece you need. Hold up one end of the bit against his check and pull it across there should be room for one finger afterin the jawbone not the lips. IF you have more than one finger you need to go smaller.  What happens if your bit is too big is that the center piece slides in the mouth.  It doesn’t give him stability nor does it sit where it is designed to. She explained why the three piece bit is softer than a two piece. In a three piece bit, no matter how hard you pull on the reins you cannot keep the center piece rigid.  So the horse owns the center piece.  Be careful of the whole size, the shape and length of the three piece bit.    
    Curb bits when working a double bridle fit in the mouth with the snaffle.  Beware that you know how the curb and snaffleaffect each other in the mouth.  Is one stopping the other from its function?  Do they both fit?  If you have a smaller horse his mouth may not hold what you are putting in it. 
Every time you have a break in the mouth piece that is where you get pinpoint pressure.  So if you use bits with breaks think about where that pressure will hit the tongue or palette. No breaks mean even pressure but not pinpoint pressure.  But curbs still use curb chain and poll pressure even if there is no pinpoint pressure.  In closing Beth said to consider the age, breed and experience level of the horse as well as the rider when choosing a bit.  Always use the softest bit possible and be kind to your horses by having things fit them well!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Robert Dover Horsemastership Week

    The 4th annual Robert Dover Horsemastership clinic finished yesterday and I wish it would have gone on and on.  Just glancing over my notes and the videos from the last week, I have so much to tell you.  I do not know where to begin.  I will post my lesson videos on Youtube by this weekend.  I will then post the links on FB. The other riders are also posting their videos so watch out for that.  All levels of trainers and riders should take a look there will be lots of great info.  The overall theme I carried through all my lessons was how to make the movements impressive.  We tweeked on how to keep impulsion and the wow factor in movements like the 2’s and canter zig-zag.  My favorite event of the week again was social night and not because it is less work than the 7 am workouts with Mike!  I love getting to spend time with all the girls being goofy and getting to know each other.  We went roller skating and if you check out the little clip on FB and you listen to the hilarious laughter in the background you can tell it was a blast.  Getting to know them outside of competitions and the barn is so important to me.  We even had Hannah one of the other participants end up staying the last few nights with us when her mom had to leave early.  What a blast just getting ready for the HGF party together.  She sure can do big 80’s hair well!  I love learning quirky things about my fellow riders.  For example, I found out Rosie is just as much a lover of avocados and yogurt as I am (not together of course). I really got to spend time with Molly and Rachel this year and I hope that over time it will grow into deep friendships.  
    My biggest take away all week was being pushed to face my fears of riding the edge, of not riding conservatively and risking losing control.  So when Robert Dover mentioned Monday that on Wednesday they were holding the first audition for American Equestrians got talent; I sort of got signed up to audition.  Some of you may have heard that I sing but few people have ever heard me sing.  I don’t like singing in public even with family. I can’t even read music but I thought if they want me to face my fears and take a step outside my comfort zone, this is as far as I can get.  If I could overcome this fear and stand in front of strangers and sing; I can do anything.  So I let Robert know I was going to audition and my song would be an Etta James song titled, “At last.”  It was the first of nine auditions and there were a few baubles on the technology so all the singers had vocals to the tracts but it was ok. While waiting for the auditions to start I just keep thinking I didn’t want to be first. Just my luck, I was first. My heart started pounding out of my chest.  I have never ever been that nervous in my whole life about anything.  Not only were there lots of people there, but in the crowd was Lendon Gray, Debbie McDonald, Robert, Charlotte, Sabine and a few young riders I knew.  What was I thinking?  So I took a deep breath and just closed my eyes and listened as the music started.  I took a breath and said to myself, “don’t think just sing.” About half way through I got brave open my eyes!  
   The judges had nice comments for me and the guy said, “don’tact like you don’t own that stage…you belong there.”  I then watched the other contestants.  I really liked the comedian. He made me really laugh.  Anyway at this point I did not care at all about winning.  I had done what I set out to do.  I had faced my biggest dreaded fear and I had lived with minimal scarring!  
    After the judges ruling in the tie between the top two popular vote getters I learned that winning meant I had to come back for the final at the GDF on March 15th!  What!!! Anyway the lesson that they tried to give me all week really hit home and I realized this morning what they meant.  That adrenaline I felt singing was a mix of fear but also of power.  I got bigger and stronger not by avoiding the hard stuff but by embracing it!  Thanks to all the trainers at the RDHMW for that amazing dressage and life lesson.