Archive for December, 2009

Zeppelin enjoys a wonderful life with his family….Jody, Ric, Sarah, Ben, and Sam. He lives out on a beautiful farm with two other horses, Ekko (a Fjord gelding owned by Sarah) and Oliver. Zeppelin is given attention all the time and loves to interact with people, even more than with horses! Here are some pictures of him with his family (human and horses). We recently got a lot of snow up here in Maine and Zeppelin loves it!


Read Full Post »

Wednesday, Dec. 23rd was young Zeppellin’s first day of training at Isaac Royal Farm. Jody (his owner & mother….he follows her around like a puppy dog) and her daughter Sarah trailered him over and he did awesome. He loaded great and wasn’t too excited when he arrived. I free-lunged him first to let him get used to the indoor arena. It was his first time in an indoor and he was suprisingly very focused and behaved perfectly. We let him chill in a stall for awhile and then did a little training session with his tack on. I free-lunged him and then we put on side-reins fairly loose to help him start stretching and using his back. We didn’t work long (not even 20 min) and he was starting to relax his topline by the end. I really think he liked the adventure and he loves to please everyone!

Read Full Post »

Last May one my good friends, Jody Cabot,  got a beautiful Friesian for Mother’s Day! Born and raised at Starlit Ridge Stables in New York-visit them online at: http://starlitridge.com/starlitridge/ -he is very sweet and loving. Zeppellin has quickly become the family’s newest member and enjoys being with them at all times. When he arrived at their place he was only 2 and a 1/2 years old. But because of his wonderful temperament and desire to please I have started his training under saddle.


When I work with Zepp I free lunge him first in their large, sand round pen. He gets in tune with my commands, halts to my voice and get his excess energy out. He is used to the saddle and bridle while free lunging and I have also put him on a lunge line a couple times. At first I had Jody walk next to him so he would be clear on what was expected and he picked it up quickly. Jody would like to drive Zepp so our next step is to introduce him to long-lines. I have sat on his back three times, two times just standing still while he was held and treated. The third time we did a little circle at the walk. Each session lasts about 20-30 minutes and we try to introduce something new each time. He was a little too sensitive with his hind end so I have worked him a few times with a blanket over him to get him used to something hanging over his back end. I do not want the long-lines to scare him when they go behind him.

First day Lunging-as you can see I wasn't dressed for the occassion!

Zepp is a talented, sensitive Friesian and I am excited to see what he is capable of. Having worked with my horse, who is a bit lazier and dull, it will be fun to see if Zepp finds balance and being engaged at the canter easier than Douwe. I also don’t have to deal with past training and he gets to start fresh. This will be a fun horse to watch!

Read Full Post »

Starting in November I took over the reins on a Lipizzan/Thoroughbred mare named Royal Victress. She was born and raised at Isaac Royal Farm where I have been training for 15 years. Over the years she has been ridden by various students on the Aspirant/Academy Programs at the farm. She was  ridden for the past few years by an Academy student who recently became a judge and moved back home out of state. She has been shown up to Third level but has been known to be a little high-strung and sensitive. I like to think of her as a horse with attention deficit disorder…..she gets claustrophobic in her stall and is very herd bound. She has lived in a herd of about 20 horses since she was very young so she gets nervous when she is alone.

Sandra long-lining Victress

Anyway, I started riding her and began with basics-working through the back in a relaxed, confident fashion. She had issues with the left rein, resistance and tension in the halfpass, and tends to be late behind in her changes. She hadn’t touched upon a lot of collected canterwork but has a very expressive, large stride that impresses the judges. Her medium trot is very nice and she loves to power around with her front feet in the air. Here are the few exercises I have done with her and my where my focus is at this moment in time.

Relaxation & Confidence: Victress is not necessarily a spooky horse, she uses distractions more as an evasion from work. At times she would stop dead in her tracks and stare at something but instead of reacting to her I ignored it and just kept going. When a horse is really not scared of an object but is “faking” it, it is important for the rider not to be pulled into that. I have ridden some truly spooky horses and some very naughty ones as well so her “moments” don’t bother me at all. When she would change her tempo and tense up I kept my post the very same tempo that I had before she got tense and just kept riding her as though nothing had changed. I would give her no indication that I was tense by keeping my reins very light and by riding her forward confidently and relaxed. After two sessions she now has a consistent trot tempo and is completely focused on my seat.

Confidence: Victress is a very smart mare, she likes to work and gets offended easily when she does not understand or becomes overwhelmed. My approach for her is to make her training like a game. I use my voice a lot in a confident manner and say “good Girl!” every time she does something that deserves rewarding. I do use treats with the harder movements but she does prefer to keep working so I use my voice as we continue in our work. Her ears are very telling in that she pricks them forward when I make a big fuss over her. When she walks she also stretches and relaxes with a satisfied feeling. Her trot halfpass has changed dramatically in a month and now she slides over with plenty of cross-over with no resistance in the head. In the beginning she would throw her head up looking for my inside rein, a common resistance in the horse when both the horse and rider are first learning. I allowed her freedom with the rein while still asking halfpass with my other aids. After realizing I would not use my rein to make her halfpass she relaxed and is now consistent and focusing on her body rather than the head.

Royal Victress

Canter Collection: With such an active stride she has always been very forward in the canter. Many riders have said her canter was hard to sit and control because of the large jump in her stride. Using my skills from training many other horses to do canter pirouettes I imagined her as  an upper level mount and rode her with my collected seat from the very first step. She is old enough (12 years) and strong enough to handle a real collected canter but just hadn’t figured out how to do it consistently. By riding her like a higher-trained horse she was able to find her balance with a shorter stride. I handled the motion of the canter straight up and down, in a holding seat rather than a pushing seat. By emphasizing the lift of the canter she has also lightened more in the front and sits more in the hind. She was not able to hold this canter for more than a 20 meter circle before she would break but that was/is okay for now. This gives me an opportunity to walk, reorganize and do the transition again. She has now found her balance easily, she is talented enough that a collected canter will be easy for her to maintain and I have started doing 1/4 turns with her. She can do a 1/2 canter pirouette to the right quite easily with no stress and again, I praise her with my voice and she thinks it is fun.

Clean Flying Changes: What I love about Victress is that she is very smooth in her changes. She does not get excited and hop in the hind or kick or buck. When she is too forward she will be late behind one step because she is not completely engaged in her hind. With the collected canterwork we have been doing her changes are cleaner and she is staying more balanced.

Now that it is the winter season here in Maine we are riding in the indoor arena. Our indoor is about the size of a Training level size arena so there is not ample space for extended trot and canter. I will be focusing on developing her collected gaits, her consistency, and flying changes until we can be out in the large show ring again.

For more information about the Aspirant Training Technique go to: http://www.isaacroyalfarm.com

Read Full Post »

On this blog I would like to journal my training experiences and progress about the different horses that I ride. In the past I have had up to 10 horses at a time under my training while I was studying on the Academy Program at Isaac Royal Farm. I had a difficult year in 08 and lost two of my upper level dressage mounts, one to colic and the other to a vet error with an exam. The same summer I got bucked off and couldn’t ride for over a month. Let’s just say I was a bit depressed and the experience sort of knocked me off course…..I started focusing more on my art business and dance classes. Currently I just ride two horses (Douwe and Victress) full time and I also have a young Friesian (3 years old) named Zeppellin that I train. I would like to share with others my difficulties and also my successes with each individual horse. I will also bring in other topics that have to do with other horses that I have trained in the past that may be helpful to others. I have trained over 5 horses to the upper levels (Fourth level and above) and at least 10 more to First/Second level. I have experienced many rare and interesting cases of horses in my time at Isaac Royal Farm. I hope that others may post questions or their own stories regarding what I write about. Thank you so much for reading and I hope you enjoy my blog!

Sandra riding Royal Vienna, a Lippizzan mare

Read Full Post »

I fell in love with horses when I was 7 years old. Since then I have been riding and training like crazy! I always wanted my own horse but it just never worked out. Luckily my Mom was smart enough not to get one for me even though I would cry every Christmas. Every horse I rode and trained at Isaac Royal Farm felt like my own horse because I would be the only one riding it. So I was definitely fulfilled enough but I always knew that I would find a special horse someday.

20 years later I am doing my first clinic on Vinalhaven island off the coast of Maine. I have been going to Vinalhaven since I was a baby since my grandparents have a beautiful camp there. A man on the island had just bought a Friesian gelding 3 weeks beforehand and was going to get rid of him because he had dumped three riders. I worked with the gelding (Douwe) and liked him but he certainly was a handful at the time because he had learned how to get the best of his riders. I had to lunge him for over an hour to get him to calm down and pay attention. He was hard headed and very distracted, so much so that when I rode him I really wasn’t sure if he even knew I was up there on his back! But I tried him twice and then had him on trial at the farm for a few weeks. He turned out to be so calm and lazy that now I have take him out galloping in the fields just to wake him up! He is my first horse and definitely my dream horse because the Friesian breed is so magnificent. I have had pictures of Friesians on my walls for years and years, all that visualizing and dreaming about them made my dream come true! It just goes to show that you never know how life will work out. I would have NEVER guessed that I would find my horse on Vinalhaven island…..there are only about 20 horses there to begin with and definitely not any other Friesians.

Douwe’s training is progressing very well, I ride him in Quadrille a few times a week and he is learning how to be partners with another Friesian gelding named Griffen. They are so beautiful together! My goals with Douwe are to show a First Level Musical Freestyle with him next summer and work on my USDF Freestyle Bar. I am hoping it will be a lot of fun and that Douwe will like doing freestyles. That’s it for now, I could go on and on about him but I must try to keep things short and sweet for the sake of any readers. More updates to come!

Read Full Post »

Training a Friesian definitely has its highlights and difficulties. I have ridden many different breeds of horses ranging from baroque Lipizzans, Andalusians, and Lusitanos to the heavier warmbloods like Oldenburgs, Hannoverians, and Holsteiners. Riding Douwe has been challenging for many reasons: 1-he was trained to drive and then trained saddleseat so he was the stiffest horse I have ever ridden 2-his hind legs (like many Friesians) tend to push out behind him instead of engaging underneath his body (typical of driving breeds because they are meant to pull from the shoulders) 3- because his back was so hollow his trot was extremely hard for me to balance on, even posting! 4- he is thick skinned and not very sensitive to the leg/whip.

The first month of training was just us getting used to each other and trying to help Douwe canter with more balance. He leaned sooooo much on his right shoulder that I could not get him to track on the rail and he would dive into his right lead canter and not pick up the left lead. When he would break from the canter he would throw his head up and rush in the trot, I think he expected me to run him back into the canter. One of the first things I taught Douwe was to half off my voice (using the “ppddruupp” noise with my tongue) and get a treat. He caught on quickly and I was able to stop him off my voice and calm him down when he broke from the canter. I had to fix the rushing and nervousness because he would hollow his back and lose his hind legs. Because he was so stiff in the jaw, the rein was quite useless to help stop him, I had to turn him into a corner once or twice to keep him from bouncing me off at the trot…haha. So after a few weeks we had control of stopping off my voice which  made him relax and listen to my seat.

Next step: balancing him off the inside shoulder. Both directions he wanted to counterbend and put all his weight into the inside front leg, making it difficult to balance him in corners. I did a lot of (and am still doing every day) bending and flexion in the walk. The second he would start trotting he was back into that shoulder again. We had to walk slowly, keeping the bend and me riding against him with my inside thigh. When he would fall off the rail I would back up my inside thigh/leg with a tap on the shoulder with my whip. The normal inside leg to outside rein on him didn’t really work because he was so dead to the aids. I had to do as much with my body as possible to help regain sensitivity in the jaw so he would relax his neck and back.

Working the horse through the back: Because of his driving and saddleseat training he hardly had any back muscles. You could see the buildup of muscle right behind the withers and then nothing when his head was lifted. He wanted to hold his head quite high with no reach over the back and neck. The Friesians tend to have a high frame naturally so I had to build up his back by taking him way down. I tried side reins on the lunge line but he was so poorly balanced on the lunge line I ended up just riding him. He balanced better and paid more attention when I was on his back. I did use draw-reins a few times to help show him the way and riding with a very long, allowing rein. I am quite practised with double reins and draw reins so I only had them there to resist him when he came too high. Otherwise they were loose and inactive. It didn’t take him long to realize that stretching down felt good and that I wouldn’t catch him in the mouth when he stayed long and low. Now he has a chew-down stretch to die for and his back really lifts up underneath me. The biggest difference I have felt is that he is so much more comfortable to sit to at the trot.

Engaging the hind legs: Using the Aspirant Technique taught to me by Carole Rose has helped me change Douwe’s way of moving. Instead of driving him to a steady contact I use constant releases of the rein and engage his hind end with my seat and whip. By “brushing” the hind with my whip to remind him to step under he gains better muscle memory. The horse does not have to be “forward” necessarily to bring the hind end under. By using the piaffe-in-hand exercises the horse learns that the whip does not mean to rush forward with a burst of energy, it means to activate the hind, step under and engage the hind leg. The forwardness comes from the tempo you give the horse with your body, not the speed he gains from the leg and a forceful whip. I do piaffe-in hand with Douwe every time I ride him with a lot of rein-back as well to help him stretch out the muscles in his hind end. He loves it because he gets rewarded often so it is like a game to him and not work.

Using the trails/fields: Douwe is the first horse that I have utilized a lot of trail and field riding. I feel safe on him and since I am not the kind of person that likes to gallop everywhere I am so happy to have a horse that will not get overly excited. I am perfectly able to ride a buck and a gallop but I prefer to play it safe after training many, many young horses. With Douwe I can ride in the back of a group of cantering horses and he tries to keep up but he just doesn’t have that extra motivation to be in the front. He moves with heavy, pounding feet so it feels very exciting anyway. I rode him outside all summer and only rode him in the dressage arena a couple times. I was taking a break from serious training  after getting my judges scores so it worked out perfectly. We would canter up hills and stay at the trot when others would canter to help him gain strength in the hind. He even did a little jumping! Now that we are back inside for the winter he has improved so much on his strength and motivation to work that I don’t have to work so hard to keep him going. We have so much farther to go but I hope that what I have explained may help others who are training their own Friesians. Please comment about how your training is going, I love to meet fellow Friesian lovers!!

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »