Archive for January, 2010

I found out yesterday that I am officially accepted into the United States Equestrian Federation’s “r” judges program. I am currently an “L” (learner) judge through the United States Dressage Federation and this is the next step up. I have been judging dressage shows since 2001 and have been working towards this goal for 8 years. Along the way the requirements changed and were made much more difficult. Instead of earning 5 scores at Fourth level at 60% or higher they raised it to 65%. That may not sound like a lot but at the upper levels this can be a difficult score to get when you

Max at PSG

have limited shows to go to. I live in northern Maine so shows are very few and mostly very far away. Luckily my trainer hosts a couple recognized shows every summer that I help organize. This gives me the opportunity to compete without the extra expense of travelling. I had earned three of my scores by 2007 and was very excited to compete in2008 with Max and Vanidor. Max, a Percheron/TB gelding was schooling Grand Prix and we had gotten a 65% at Prix St. George the summer before. Vanidor, a Lippizzan/TB gelding was schooling Prix St. Georges and ready to do a nice Fourth level test. So I had two ready horses and was feeling very confident. Then tragedy struck, we lost Max to complications of colic in January and then Vanidor in February due to a rectal tear caused by a vet examination. I was down and out for the count……shocked and depressed I tried keep it together and train Rory, an Oldenburg/Cleveland Bay cross that was just beginning Fourth level. My friend Lydia generously offered me her Lipizzan mare Vienna to ride who she had shown at Grand Prix a few years before.  But then the week before our first show I was unexpectedly bucked off Rory and could hardly move. (I guess that saying is right that bad things come in sets of 3….) My tail bone was broken and my pelvis was a mess, causing extreme pain in my left thigh. I had never experienced that kind of physical pain and limitation before. But that is another blog entry all together….I did try to compete at our last show but I was only able to ride a week before and

Vanidor at Fourth level

that was definitely not comfortable and I was in no emotional state to be level competing.  I didn’t get my score (I didn’t really expect to anyway) and was even more depressed. Another year passed and I was able to compete Vienna at Fourth level and just squeak by with the two 65%’s that I needed. Needless to say I was relieved and ready to take a break from chasing scores. I love to judge but boy do I dislike competing. Kinda odd I think but that’s the way it is. Anyway, I feel like I can finally close that whole chapter of my judging career and start new with the hard work and training that lies ahead. I would love to hear about other people’s hard earned goals, I love hearing about the journey, the roadblocks and then the sweet victory. Pursue your dreams because they are what keeps you growing as a person!!


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Dec. 31 was another breakthrough day for Victress. During the week I rode her in a quadrille class and she was the leader with another mare named Mirage who looks so much like her. They both have the same father and similar markings. The quadrille is wonderful to keep horses focused and give them a “job”. I feel like many horses get bored with dressage when riders stay at the lower levels for too long. There is no challenge, they just trot around in circles and try to get that perfect moment. I used to want to do that but my trainer, Carole Rose, always had me start a routine or a test so I had something to follow. That way she could gauge our progress and the horse had a “job”. Most horses are pretty happy when you put a jump in front of them or aopen field and you say “let’s go gallop!”. It is clear what you want and they are happy to do it. But dressage gets a bit controlling and frustrating for the horse because there is so much information coming in every single stride. Usually the signals are unclear and then the horse gets upset. I used to dislike practising my tests because I felt rushed and overwhelmed. But now I utilize the test as seperate exercises that prepare the horse for the next movement. It is all in the way you look at it. Horses like to know where they are going, where they will rest and walk, and also when they are done and get a reward. The dressage test accomplishes this goal. I rarely have had a horse that anticipated a movement and performed it poorly. If a horse is expecting a flying change or transition  then you can just move it forward or back a letter until they anticipate opposite of what you want, making them pay more attention to you. So to get on to my original thought….I have been “playing” around with the Prix St. Georges test with Victress so she can start to become familiar with how the moves go

Lovely medium trot.

together. She did two beautiful trot halfpasses off the wall on both sides and both canter half-pirouettes yesterday. That was the first time we had done the half-pirouette left because that has been her weaker side. She actually felt stronger on that lead today then the right, staying active and connected. We need to work on the counter canter corner because she would prefer to change leads when she meets the rail instead. So, for now, I will be keeping the counter canter all the way through the short side, flying change, and then circle back towards the next pirouette until she maintains her lead. We have not finished the canterwork with the tempi changes or canter halfpass change in hand. I am leaving that for awhile to get her more confirmed at her changes and halfpass on a regular halfturn.

Her big breakthrough today was starting piaffe under saddle. She is pretty good at doing piaffe in-hand so I asked her using the same clucking & whip rhythm.  Just a couple baby steps at a time and eventually most horses love doing piaffe. I find it interesting how each horse likes to be asked in a different way. Some horses like the seat to lighten into piaffe and others like a deeper, holding seat. I tend to lighten a little with the bounce and then deepen around the horse for passage but you just have to feel what the horse needs. Hopefully I can get some video on a warmer day to show her progress.

Piaffe in-hand

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