Thursday, December 31, 2009

2010 Goals, Dreams, Hopes, and Aspirations

From a Dressage Queen's perspective, 2009 was a good year!

Jeddien was, yet again, on form for a good competitive year with pleasing results.   She also shared a wonderful feel of upper level dressage work with several students at Kearsarge Meadows.

Piper Warrior provided a rider-challenging second show season with wonderful highlights and heart-stopping lowlights.   However, at home he made good progress in his training, including 2nd and 3rd level dressage work.   Even more fun, he starting working over colored jumps with a talented young rider who works at our farm.

And, sweetie pie Big Ben!   What can I say?   He has been started under saddle and is a joy to ride.   And he's very comfortable!

Going forward into 2010, this Dressage Queen has a few goals, dreams, hopes, and aspirations for her horses.

For Piper...
For Big Ben...
  • Successfully compete at Walk Trot
For Jeddien....
  • Debut at Prix Saint Georges
  • Earn 2 scores of 60% at PSG,   completing the earning of my USDF Silver Medal
For little Bea Yewtee....
  • To be backed and ridden   (With our groundwork coming along, we're getting closer to this important milestone!)

Dreams.   Hopes.   Aspirations.
Making them come true in 2010 is the goal.

Happy New Year !
And Happy Dressage !

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The DQ's Perfect Christmas Gifts

When it comes to gifts, what can one get for the dedicated Dressage Queen in their life?   For some, this is a perplexing problem that is difficult at best to solve. However, in our household, this is a "no brainer"!

Sure, gift certificates to Dressage Extensions, USDF's Store, Dover Saddlery, Smart Pak Equine, and other horsey shopping stores make sense.   But, for the true Dressage Queen, such as myself, who already has everything they need, often in triplicate, a truly special gift is called for.

Music CD's!

Yup, you heard me right.   Music CD's.   But not just any Music CD's.   I'm talking about Isabell Werth's "Musik zum Reiten" CD's, specifically designed for use in Musical Freestyle Kurs.

I have talked about this great series of Isabell Werth's instrumental CD's before.   Each CD comes with a selection of music highly suitable for use in Kurs.   On the back of each CD cover (as well as on the website itself) is a list of the selections along with the beats per minute speeds shown.   Once you know the tempos of your horse's paces, this makes the creations of Kurs another step easier.

For me, adding additional CD's to my Isabell Werth collection is always a great gift idea!  
And Santa has already hinted.   The computer and arena stereo system are both standing by.   It seems Happy Holidays! are here again.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Pasture Play for Dressage Horses

There are several camps regarding how dressage horses should be managed, both within the competition season and off season.   Opinions about daily routines for the dressage horse can differ from barn to barn, and within a barn, from trainer to trainer.

With show season on hold for Winter until next April, dressage horse owners in New England are faced with decisions in regards to things such as :
  • Light (if any) work off season or keep in full training ?
  • Long winter coat, partial clip, or full clip ?
  • Shoes during off season or barefoot ?
  • To turn out or not to turn out ?
  • Turn out alone or with others ?
  • Wrap in cotton wool or rough it ?
  • ... the list of horse husbandry issues goes on and on.
For our horses, pasture time is a constant.   Whether winter or summer, show season or off season, they are turned out in small groups of equine buddies.   Clipping is kept to a bare minimum (bib clips).   Shoes are off for the winter.   And ridden work is kept fairly light, with focus on submission, response to aids, and lateral movement.

A couple weeks ago, just before our first good snowfall, we filmed some of the pasture play between two of our KWPN Dutch Warmbloods.   The dark horse is our Training Level competition horse.   The chestnut is a 3 year old who has just recently been started. This goofiness is a daily occurance.   We enjoy it, as it lets us observe how happy are horses really are day to day.   Yup, it's a dressage horse's life!     :-)

Friday, November 6, 2009

3rd Level Test 3 with Judges' Scores

The youtube video below shows Jeddien's test from the 2009 USDF Region 8 Championships held at the NEDA Fall Festival this past September.

With the sound turned up, you may hear the wind blowing, a train pass in the distance, a bit of audience chatter, and the bell of the judge in the next ring,... something which momentarily caught my attention during the half pass left.

The marks from both judges, scores ranging from 4 to 9, are provided throughout the video.

And yes, Jeddien's trot is not easy to sit, even for riders who are more supple than her 50 year old owner.   However, she makes up for that with the most willing attitude and excellent work ethic.   This horse really enjoys her dressage!

I hope you enjoy this!

TIP:   Double click on the image to see bigger higher quality video on YouTube.com

Friday, October 30, 2009

Let Me Sleep On It

Every time it happens, I am amazed.   You would think by now, after training dressage horses for 25 years, I would be used to it.   But that is not the case.   I am still impressed by this phenomenon.   And tonight, I again sit here thinking, "WOW !   How did that happen!?"

Piper Warrior, our 1997 Olympic Ferro x CandyBoy gelding, is basically a 70% Training Level / 63% First Level horse....   That's when he is not freaking out about judges booths, flowers, or oddly shaped pebbles.

When working at home, he is really good at leg yield, walk to canter, reinback, and shoulder-in.   A couple months ago, we played with travers / haunches in along the wall.   It was not pretty, but it was a start.   Taking it to the center line for half pass was quite unsuccessful.

Tonight, after a really good session of transition work, leg yield in walk and trot, and trot shoulder in, I gave the half pass a shot again.   I don't what I was thinking.   It is the normal progression of work with Jeddien, but this was Piper!

But sure enough, starting between the centerline and quarterline, I asked for half pass and GOT IT!   And it was satisfactory!   But why!?!?

This is the amazing thing about horses.   As ridiculous as it sounds, it seems like they actually sleep on it, thinking about the work presented to them, and getting their heads around it.   Really, it makes no sense!   Horses are not recognised as being deep thinkers.   And yet, over and over, I have seen this happen where the horse, when presented with new work, does not do well, but then goes back to his stable and thinks about it, and the next time out, does the work.

Impossible!   Or is it?   Do horses sometimes need to sleep on it?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Cross Training

Cross training.   That's the fancy term used these days.

Ever since I started taking riding lessons as a kid in 1971, it was apparent that the average riding horse should be trail ridden, worked on the flat, and jumped.   This, after all, was what they taught at Watchung Stables in Summit NJ where I rode for 3 years.   When we moved to Dunstable Massachusetts and bought our own horses, the same point was stressed in Pony Club and 4-H.   We were taught horses are versatile and can do lots of fun things.   And FUN is definitely what we had!



In England, where I lived, trained, and competed in dressage for 12 years, cross training was and continues to be the norm.   Even FEI dressage horses go for hacks, occasionally pop a fence, or even follow a hunt!

Those who practice natural horsemanship understand cross training, as well.   They believe that allowing the horse to dabble in different activities can broaden their horizons, help them grow mentally and physically, and further strengthen the relationship between horse and rider.

Our two dressage horses have always enjoyed trail riding and jumping.   Jeddien even earned a rosette at a fun day event at Merrist Wood College (in Guildford UK) for going clear over a full colored show jumping course.   Piper has also done a bit of jumping under saddle and truly enjoys free jumping.

This winter, Piper's work will alternate between dressage training sessions with me and jumping lessons with one of our grooms.   And so far, he is LOVING it.   In the spring, the plan is for him to compete in 4-H competitions with his new jockey and USDF dressage competitions with me.

And so, with fun new training plans underway, new colorful jump poles seemed in order.   Winter will hardly be bleak and grey in our indoor arena!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Dressage Radio

We get bombarded with so much advertising these days that it's no wonder if I missed ads for this entertaining and informative innovation:   Dressage Radio.

Today, while playing in Facebook, I stumbled upon the Facebook page for Dressage Radio.   So far, I've only listened to part of Episode 21, a recent interview with Isabell Werth.   But I heard enough to know I will be tuning in again.

With dressage activity quieting down up north, Dressage Radio will no doubt become a very welcome addition to the motivational toolbox, keeping the dressage fires burning during the months of winter.

Well done to Chris Stafford and Heather Blitz, and thank you to all the people behind the parent Horse Radio Network project.   Top marks!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Winter Games

If I were Australian, I would no doubt be using the word CRIKEY a lot this week.   It has been that kind of week!   October 16th and half of New England saw snow today.   Tonight, temperatures are expected to fall into the mid 20's.   And our spectacular fall foliage has been getting shaken off the trees this week by gale force winds.   Crikey indeed.

It seems Mother Nature has full intentions of providing another strong Winter this year.   No question about it.   Thankfully, our horses are getting ready, already growing thick winter coats.

New Hampshire winters and dressage training are not a match made in horsey heaven.   For serious training, indoor arenas are a must.   With the amount of snow we get, it can be quite challenging just FINDING our outdoor arena during dead of winter, let alone getting to it, and then riding in it.


(The indoor arena, sleeping.)

And then there is horse & rider health to consider.   Whether the horses are well clipped and religiously blanketed or not, riding in sub-freezing temperatures must be done with extreme care and consideration about warming up, sweating up, cooling down, and drying off.   What might have been a 90 minute visit to the barn to school one horse in the summer quickly becomes a 150 minute visit in the winter.... or just a 90 minute visit with MUCH LESS actual training time.

In general, when the temperatures in the indoor arena drop below freezing, I personally back off on the intensity of the work.   If I can't comfortably ride without wishing to cover my nose with a scarf, I don't ask my horses to work to the point where they must deep breath ice cold air.   Instead, when the cold spells kick in, we switch over to no speed / low speed winter games.

Winter is a great time for reinforcing the horse & rider partnerships through groundwork.   We bring out the blue plastic tarps, practice trailer loading, play the Parelli 7 games, do tons of walk work including lateral movements and rein back, and then maybe venture outside for a "trail ride" up and down the driveway.

This winter, we will be playing with our new Parelli Horse Balls which arrived last week.   And, just for Piper, maybe we'll even do some special training with plastic flower baskets!

Winter is coming.   Let the games begin!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

2010 Goals

The USDF 2010 competition season is already well underway.   However, so far, I have not competed in any qualifiers for the 2010 Regional Championships.   In fact, I have yet to set my goals for 2010.

That needs to be remedied!

Jeddien, bless her, has had a good long run of competition both in the UK and the USA.   Next year, she is 19 years old.   So, unless she miraculously suddenly becomes ready for PSG this winter, she is retired from competition and will be taking on the title of Head Schoolmistress at Kearsarge Meadows.

Piper.   The goal is to qualify for FIRST LEVEL.   Doable as long as he remains spook free.   In fact, if he can keep his wits about him, he should be able to qualify for SECOND LEVEL as well.   A big if.

Ben.   Now here is an interesting prospect.   Big Ben is turning out to be quite the special horse.   Unflappable.   Super mover.   Gentle giant.   He will be 4 in April.   WIll he be ready to compete?   I think so!   Young horse material?   Maybe so!   The decisions on this will come as Spring approaches.

Bea Yewtee.   Unlike Ben, Jeddien's flashy sharp daughter by DaVinci has not been started yet.   She is still going through awkward growing stages.   Lunging under saddle, she is a good girl.   But no one has tried to sit on her as yet.   That is the goal for this winter.   Competition is not forecasted for 2010.

Winter is a challenging time to train in New Hampshire.   The indoor arena can reach temperatures of 20 degrees Fahrenheit!   But, the goal is to be ready for April, when the USDF Region 8 shows start up again.   Ready to compete and qualify.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Rollercoaster Kur Championship

I mentioned before that I had a chance to chat briefly with Ulla Salzgeber.   What I had not shared was that I had complimented her on how she handled "the disaster" that occured during her Grand Prix Kur with Rusty at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.   Maybe you remember....

....Ulla demonstrated such incredible professionalism in a situation which would be any competitor's nightmare.   The CD player playing her music *fried* part way through her ride!   The music stopped.   She simply rode on.   Then the bell was rung.   And her ride came to a premature end.

Later, after learning of the technical cause of the problem, Eric Lette, the head of the judge jury sitting at C, allowed Ulla to finish her ride at the end of the class.   Yes, finish.   Not restart.   Ulla had to pick up where the ride was stopped earlier.   So she did.   And she did it very well.   She earned an impressive 80.67% and helped the German team win another Gold Medal.   Truly, truly incredible.   For this, she is definitely one of my dressage heros.

On Sunday morning, I rode my 3rd Level Freestyle with Jeddien in the USDF Region 8 Championships.   It was our 4th time riding a freestyle test in competition and our 1st Freestyle Championships.   Leading up to this moment, I had visualised our ride countless times.   I had mentally corrected angles on the lateral movements, worked through impulsion issues, was ready for flying bucks changing to the right, prepared for spooking, and even imagined my Christie's top hat taking flight.

But what I had not imagined...   Happened.   (And in retrospect, I should have!)   On 3 occasions, my music momentarily PAUSED.   The first time really threw me.   I nearly stopped.   The second time, my brain split into troubleshooting mode (why would the music be pausing?) and trying to figure out how to undo riding ahead of the music (should I circle?).   The third time, I was both heartbroken and angry.   A completely useless combination of emotions in itself really.

I later learned that a few other riders had similar issues with their CD's.   And of course our CD tested out perfectly fine after the fact.   Georg's theory is that the IBM PC used for playing the CD's was "context switching", momentarily giving CPU time to other tasks.

Anyway, with my sheer lack of experience riding Musical Freestyles, I didn't cope well at all.   I lost focus on the one thing that counts:   Ride The Horse!   As my husband Georg put it later, NOW I have that experience.   Ah, yes, another "Learning Experience".

As I left the arena feeling rather pitiful, I looked down at my white show gloves and realized I was wearing my best, cleanest pair of "Ulla" signature Roeckl gloves, the ones I always keep in my top hat case and reserve only for the big occasions.   Hmm.   Little events in life find ways to connect.   I smiled and patted Jeddien.

When the scores were posted, I was amazed to see that the expected winner, Grand Prix rider / trainer Heather Mason from Lebanon NJ, and I were only one point apart in scores!   Not one percent.   One point.   She earned 311.5 points (64.896%).   And we earned 310.5 points (64.688%).

Jeddien and I worked hard to reach the 2009 3rd Level Freestyle Regional Championships.   It was an interesting, fun, and challenging journey.   How awesome to finish the year as Reserve Champions in not one, but TWO Championship classes!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Day Three

Today, as planned, was a day of rest, work without a competition timeslot deadline, bathing, and hand grazing.   Jeddien snoozed, ate, enjoyed some pampering, and rested in her stall.   Georg and I spent time watching FEI level classes, including the big afternoon Grand Prix class.

After the GP, award ceremonies took place in Ring One.   In the top placings were some fabulous horses, including a 4th Level Dutch pony and a paint named "Mustang Sally" who we are assuming IS actually a mustang!   Gonna have to double check the program tomorrow.

After the awards, during which competitors were treated to hors d'oeuvres and drinks, sound checks for the freestyles were done.   Now, this was a first for me.   And a bit of a thrill.   I wandered out to the middle of Ring One and listened to a snippet of my freestyle music played over the arena loudspeaker system.   And of course, I used the opportunity to just FEEL the arena and imagine.....

....You see, six months ago, riding my first Freestyle was just a dream.   Tomorrow, we contest the 3rd Level Freestyle Championships.   Talk about a whirlwind.   And, how cool that, barring elimination or other disaster, we will at least be in the Top 8.   There are only 3 are in the class!   :-)  

I am soooo ready for tomorrow.   But as with all things horsey, I know nothing about tomorrow is certain until AFTER our ride at 8:33 am.   However, if all else fails, I can honestly say that the journey to get to this moment was absolutely a blast!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Day Two Ends

Horses are NOT motorcycles.   Each time you ride them is a little bit different...   Unlike my Suzuki 300.   Today, Jeddien reminded me of this in spades.   She was in a wicked little mood this morning, but a complete super star this evening.

When all was said and done, we failed to place in the Sweepstakes.   To say I am disappointed would be an understatement.   However, that may have fired me up a bit for the evening competition.   But as I said a moment ago, horses are not motorcycles.   They are not machines.   They have their own minds, their own personalities, their own moods, their own aches and pains, their own ups and downs, and their own opinions.   And it is all of this that adds constant elements of variation when competing with these large prey animals.   Sure, the consistent top leading riders learn how to limit those variations.   It is not, however, a skill in which I claim to excel.

This evening, Jeddien and I worked hard to get back in sync right in time for the 3rd Level Open Championships.   The test we rode resulted in us becoming the 2009 USDF Region 8 Reserve Champions at 3rd Level Open.   Now THAT is a wonderful result!   And truly quite a surprise!   It is our best competition result at this level.

Tomorrow is a "rest day".   We will go for a hack.   Do a bit of training.   Enjoy some hand grazing time.   Maybe I'll give Jeddien a bath.

Whatever happens tomorrow, it will all be done with an ear-to-ear grin.

Managing Poo

At the HITS Saugerties New York showgrounds, each barn of 80 stalls shares one manure trailer.   And believe me, even when only 50 or 60 horses are in residence, we are talking about a lot of used bedding and manure being mucked out to the trailer on a daily basis...   A trailer which can get filled up fairly quickly.

With so many horse owners sharing a muck heap trailer, you would think they'd all do their part to make it as usable as possible for as long as possible, right?   Ha!   Within hours, the floor of the trailer gets covered, but only to a depth that makes very inefficient use of the trailer.   And then, without any boards or planks to make it easier, very few people will try to push their wheelbarrow over the low soft piles of bedding & manure to build height to the whole muck heap.

But at home, you can bet most of the horse owners do maintain more efficient muck heaps that are well over 2 feet tall.

This morning, the trailer was emptied and by the time I got out there with my morning contributions, already the back 6 or 7 feet was "filled" to a whooping height of 24 inches.   With nothing else to do while Jeddien rested, I did what I was taught to do many years ago.   I worked the muck heap, making it taller and buying everyone a few more precious feet of muck heap trailer space.   And so, the muck trailer at Barn 11 was looking managed instead of just used.

For a few minutes anyway...

Day Two Begins

With our hotel bed a mere 60 metres from New York's Interstate Highway I-87, a full night's sleep was not to be last night.   Nonetheless, we made another early start this morning, got to the showgrounds early to feed the beast, and then enjoyed a little rest before preparing for a 9:39 am ride of 3rd Level Test 3.

The Sweepstakes at each level consists of two components, using the two highest tests of the level.   So, for 3rd Level, that means Tests 2 and 3 are ridden.   The average score is used to rank the winners in the Sweepstakes.   The two tests are held on consecutive days.

The reason I enter the two classes is to use them as a warm up for the 3rd Level Championships.   The reason I pay the extra entry fee for the Sweepstakes aspect is just in case I do fairly well and can win a bit of cash and a nice prize.   Last year we did and that was pretty cool!

With a pleasing start yesterday in the 3rd Level Sweepstakes yesterday, I really believed we might continue on a roll.   But that was not to be.   Jeddien was not on form and ran out of gas.   And any insistence on my part was rewarded with a head toss.   Nice.   The old chestnut mare has a way of sharing her opinions at times.

Since my true purpose is to practice for the 3rd Level Championships, I rode both tests so far without a whip.   Good practice, since they are not allowed in Championship classes.   But I do wonder....   What did it cost me in terms of Sweepstakes winnings?   An occasional little reminder may have made a difference.

This evening, we ride the 3rd Level Championships.   Sans whip, of course.   In the rain.   The goal is to make it into the Top 8 out of a class of 24.   We'll have to see what Jeddien thinks of this plan....

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Big Event - Day One

At last, after a year of working towards this one goal, we are at the USDF Region 8 Championships & NEDA Fall Festival of Dressage.

The 5 hour drive from central New Hampshire was easy and uneventful.   By 5pm Wednesday evening, Jeddien was settled into her stall on the showgrounds.   And after a couple hours of "nesting", organizing our tack stall, we checked into our hotel.

Today was our first day of competition, where we contested the first half of the 3rd Level Sweepstakes early this morning.   Putting in a performance that was obedient and close to the best Jeddien can do, we came 6th with a 63.333%.   Unlike some shows were the first test tends to be the throw away score, this start was much better.   So, I am happy with it.

The rest of the day, we ate, walked around, and spectated, watching a lot of PSG and Grand Prix rides in Ring One.   At one point, much to my surprise, I realized we were sitting near one of Germany's star dressage riders, Ulla Salzgeber.   Ulla is in the USA supporting her student, competitor Chris Hickey, who won the PSG Regional Open Championships this afternoon.   It was a pleasure to chat briefly with Ulla and even nicer to hear that her famous partner, Rusty, is well and enjoying his retirement.

Sitting above Ring One provided me with time to mentally ride through my 3rd Level Freestyle a few times, imagining how it will feel to ride Jeddien there on Sunday.   Should be great fun!   I'm really looking forward to it!

So, one full day done.   At this moment, I feel dusty, tired, and quite content.   In another hour, we'll go back to the showgrounds to tuck Jeddien in for the night, then head "home" to clean up and call it an early night.

Tomorrow, rain comes.   Not a problem for us.   We'll just pretend we're back in England.   :-)

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Massage & Diets

And of course, before the big competition, it certainly doesn't hurt to get a bit of a massage followed by a day off.   Aside from having her pedicures, Jeddien also gets treated to top quality massages by her equine masseuse, Angela LaFave of Centaur Massage. (The photo shows another of Angela's equine clients.)

Jeddien's rider, meanwhile, has been making an effort to shed a few pounds, thus lightening Jeddien's workload a tad.   However, a couple of evenings spent wandering around and eating at the Hopkinton State Fair probably reversed any good progress made in that area.

Now it is Sunday evening.   The 3rd Level Open Championships are this coming Friday.   The Freestyle Championships are next Sunday.   Training time is over.   Now, we are just focusing on quiet consistency, harmony, and getting completely comfortable with the test patterns, with whatever we have to work with.   Problems can't be fixed now.   We have what we have.

Before Friday's main event, we have two other tests, which combined, comprise the 3rd Level Sweepstakes.   Last year, we came 5th in that, winning some cash and a gorgeous black leather halter which still had the $129 price tag attached.   This year may prove to be more challenging, as there seem to be a lot more horses & riders competing, and Jeddien (and her rider) are not getting any younger!


(Jeddien & Piper in their stalls at HITS in Saugerties New York, venue of the 2008 Championships)

Saturday is currently a rest day.   It may turn out to be a last minute entry kind of day.   Already, there is one 4th Level Test 2 opening which we could fill....   Sunday morning, just before 9am, we contest the 3rd Level Freestyle Championship, riding to our German Folk Music in the international arena.   Ring 1 is where the CDI (Concours Dressage Internationale) classes and awards ceremonies are held.   It's a beautiful arena, situated in a bowl surrounded by grassy banks where spectators can sit with a fabulous view.   I know riding in Ring 1 will be great fun.

So, with only a few days to go, while some riders may be starting to get nervous and worried, I've started to shift into happy mode.   World peace is not riding on our scores and it is not an Olympic trial.   And, as we say every year, this could well be Jeddien's last year competing.   So, we go to the Championships one more time, with pride and joy and a sense of adventure and good fun.

2010 will be Piper's year!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Hoof Care


Preparing for the USDF Championships is not just about dressage training.   It also involves the total overall care of the horse.

Jeddien, like so many women, has her nails (or hooves) done on a regular basis by her farrier, Adam Pearson .   Adam has been working with Jeddien and Piper Warrior since we all moved to the USA together in 2005.   Jeddien, who earns fame wherever she lives as being a true grumpy puss, puts up with Adam much better than she puts up with most people.   Apparently, they have an understanding.   The fact that Adam trains and competes with oxen much bigger and grumpier than Jeddien, may have some influence in that.

Nonetheless, every 6 to 8 weeks, and as otherwise needed, Adam does Jeddien's nails, comments on her hair, asks about her latest competitions, and provides her with the attention deserved of a true Dressage Queen.

:-)

Friday, August 21, 2009

World Record Kur & Tiny Triumphs at Home

Hickstead England.   July 2009.   A standing ovation was earned by Edward Gal of the Netherlands riding KWPN Dutch Warmblood stallion Totilas, a son of Gribaldi, for their technically correct and artistically stunning Grand Prix Kur.   The full scoring for the Top 6 in the CDI5* EXQUIS World Dressage Masters Grand Prix Freestyle can be seen on this Hickstead results website. 2nd & 3rd places earned remarkable scores over 80% as well.

Meanwhile, Back on the Farm...

Jeddien is going to the USDF Region 8 Championships in 3 weeks.   In our training sessions leading up to this, we have been working on our flying changes.   We earn 7's or 6's to the left, but often get 4's or 5's to the right.   At an earlier show this season, in an attempt to get a cleaner change to the right, I bent Jeddien to the right.   The judge, Bill Warren, spotted this and commented straightness was needed.   True.

So we've been working on this.   Returning to the pre-requisites for flying changes, we have been working on counter canter, simple changes, snappy transitions, uphill canter with "jump", and straightness.   When we returned to the changes, they were cleaner.   In fact, I have found that the more efficient I am with the prep and aids, the better Jeddien's response.   Over preparing just gets her worried.   And so with that, she is now producing "Fours" and "Threes".   In other words, flying changes every 4 and 3 strides.

And this from an 18 year old "big-boned" mare whose X-rays at age 5 confirmed a diagnosis of OCD in her left hock and who peaked at every level of dressage competition from Novice thru Advanced Medium, USA First thru Third, and then amazed everyone by moving on.   Now, she is at Fourth Level in the USA and Prix Saint Georges no longer looks like a distant dream.

Every day is a tiny triumph with Jeddien.

And Now for the Weather....

So, after a completely washed out June & July, August has brought stifling heat & humidity.   Hurricane Bill will be glancing by this weekend, and then hopefully the weather will relent a bit.   Three weeks to go to the Championships.   It would be nice to be able to train without dripping sweat *before* getting into the saddle.

Bring on Autumn!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Riding for Specific Judges

With more and more competition experience, dressage riders eventually start to encounter the same judges over and over.   In the UK, this was certainly very true, as the judges don't often travel far to judge the 1 or 2 classes they would judge at a given show.   In the USA, however, there are several big differences.
  • First, judges are paid big bucks to do their job, plus hotel, airfare, and other expenses in the USA. In the UK, this is not the case.... yet.   Judging is more about "giving back to the sport".
  • In the USA, judges usually work a long day, judging ALL of the classes in a given arena, some of which will only have 1 or 2 riders in them.   UK judges don't often do that.   Instead, they usually judge 1 class, but that 1 class might be huge and run all day!
  • Show managers in the USA publish the names of the judges for their shows well in advance of Opening Entry Day.   In the UK, the rider often finds out who is judging when they see the scoreboard.
  • And finally, in the USA, show managers work hard to try to bring in different judges than those being used at other local shows.
However, even with these differences, American dressage competitors will eventually run into the same judges again & again.   What I find interesting is that some competitors decide which competitions to enter based on who will be judging.   Preference would be for a judge from whom they once got a good score.   Or maybe a judge who may be known as being more "generous".   Or someone who prefers their horse's breed.

Amazing to me, some riders will even adjust their riding based on who's judging.   Now, this is where I am a complete novice!   I have yet to establish a mental database of how to ride for a specific judge....   other than my husband!

Georg's excellent dressage eye was developed by attending hours of clinics and lessons with Robert Pickles (Fellow of the British Horse Society and my UK Dressage Coach), Christine Stuckleberger of Switzerland, and Jan Nivelle of Germany.   He is my top critic, keeps me honest, and demands to see consistent and correct dressage work.

No, I do not change my tests depending on who is sitting at "C".   Or another position, for that matter!   Geez, I wouldn't even know where to start.   At the end of each test, Georg gives me a score and a bit of critique.   And that, for me, is the feedback which means the most.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Good Luck, Bad Luck, Horse Luck


I have always believed there are 3 kinds of luck.   Good luck.   Bad luck.   And horse luck.

People involved in horses in any way, shape, or form probably understand.

Recently, we encountered some not so great horse luck.   Piper managed to get an injury which has sidelined him from all work for a couple weeks while his left front leg recovers from a 7 inch gash.

Freak kind of accident.   Unlikely to ever occur again in the next 100 years.   One of those kinds of things.

Horse luck.

Thanks to fabulous veterinary care, antibiotics, pain killers, and lots of TLC from everyone on the farm, he is recovering well.

But, he missed two competitions...   And the final chance to finish his qualification for the USDF Regional Championships.

And so, in a week or so, we will get back to work.   We will prepare for a two day show October, which falls under the 2010 USDF Championship year.

We will once again go on the pursuit for a ticket to the USDF Championships.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Bumps in the Road

Just when things are going swimmingly, one can encounter bumps in the road.   This is exactly how I would describe Piper's second show of the season.   BUMP!

At the June dressage show at the University of New Hampshire a couple weeks ago, Jeddien completed her qualification for the USDF Region 8 Championships for the Freestyles to Music, 3rd Level.   The fairly good sized audience appreciated her work and enjoyed the German folk music to which we rode.


(Super moment of trot suspension captured by Mystical Photography in Springfield Mass.)

Piper's ride, however, was not nearly as successful.   We did not complete our qualification for the USDF Regionals.   In fact, we did not get beyond movement 5 of Training Level Test 4.....

After performing a nice 20 metre circle in canter, movement 5 has the horse & rider canter to C for a transition to trot in front of the judge.   As we finished the circle and headed towards the judge, Piper spied the huge beautiful hanging flower basket quietly swinging from the corner of the judge's hut.   And STOPPED.

Like a showjumper putting in a sudden stop right in front of a fence, he slid and then bounced on his front legs, jolting me clean out of the saddle, after which I continued to canter... right onto the floor.

Bump!   My first fall at a dressage competition!   Embarrassing and no fun at all.

And so, now we are once again preparing for the next competition, continuing our training at home... and considering growing gorgeous flowers just for the boy.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The First 68%

To qualify for the USDF Regional Championships in the Open / Professional Division at Training Level, two scores of 68% or more must be earned in Training Level Test 4, each at a different show.

This weekend, in his first show of 2009 and his first ever trip to Vermont, Piper earned his first 68% at GMHA.   He also earned a bonus 69+% in the same test on the second day, but was eliminated due to me using equipment which must be preapproved by the judge.... Ear covers to protect from flies.

These same ear covers were allowed at NEDA Spring and at GMHA but I later learned it was only for specific Young Horse classes.   Oh well.   A lesson for all!   Do not make any assumptions when using marginally legal equipment.   Check on a daily basis what is being allowed.

Overall, Piper was really good and I am very happy with how he went.   A wee bit of spooking, but nothing major or traumatic as in the past.   He even marched across the famous stream next to "the dust bowl" several times.

Next week, we compete at the University of New Hampshire for the first time.   There, we will try to get the final qualifying score at the University of New Hampshire!

Monday, June 15, 2009

2009 Season Begins for Piper

After a long lazy winter vacation, it is now time for Piper Warrior to compete again.   Entries have now been accepted at 3 different USDF Recognised shows.   Before the 2009 qualification season closes in August, a couple more entries may be sent in for other shows as well.

The 2009 Plan

Piper's training at home as progressed to the point where he is much more likely to cope well away from his home environment, ride happily past the judges booths, and be able to settle into good work in the warmup arenas.

His first show will be in mid June, at the Green Mountain Horse Association's venue in South Woodstock, Vermont.   We will ride a few Training Level tests over two days.

Piper's second show will be in late June, at the University of New Hampshire's June Dressage Show.   There, he do the Training Level and First Level qualifier tests.

Piper returns to GMHA in late July to again do the qualifier tests at Training Level and First Level.

The 2010 Plan

Piper's training is now working towards collection.   With his lateral progressing well, nice steady shoulder-in's, light travers, and acceptance of the aids for the half pass in trot, one can easily envision him progressing this summer towards Second Level.

The Dressage Queen of the barn, Jeddien, will soon be retiring.   However, the throne will not remain empty for long.   Piper is coming into his own this year with a great attitude towards the work and learning.   It is very exciting to see, and feel!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Christoph Hess Clinic

A week ago, New England Dressage Association (NEDA) members were treated to a 3 day clinic with Herr Christoph Hess of Germany.   Christoph worked with 7 very talented horse-rider combinations while also entertaining questions from the audience.

When I lived in the United Kingdom, I became aware of the very high regard in which Hess is held worldwide.   Even my UK trainer said, "If you ever get the chance to watch or ride with Hess, use it!"   So it was great to have the opportunity to see Hess a mere 113 miles away in Massachusetts.

I was one of (no doubt) many dressage riders to put their name into the hat for consideration as a demo rider for this clinic.   And, accordingly, I was disappointed not to be accepted.   However, after watching the first day, I can honestly say I was GLAD they chose the riders and horses they did.   They were absolutely fabulous!

The clinic was a week ago, but my own work is just beginning.   In a strange twist of fate, I was asked by NEDA to write a review of the clinic for an upcoming newsletter.   So, with my pad chock full of notes, and with inputs from the riders themselves, my work for the next few days is clearly laid out in front of me.

This should be as fun to write as the clinic was to watch!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Ribbons vs Scores

We are back from the NEDA Spring Dressage Show.   As a key season opening event for 2009, this show attracts both the top professional riders of the area as well as amateurs and grassroots riders.   And, as long as Mother Nature cooperates, it is a very good show.

Jeddien and I only contested two classes.   We won one with a score of 63.75%, and came second in another with a score of 60.9%.

Reflecting on this, one might think I must be most pleased about the win with 63.75%.   However, this is dressage....

Measuring Progress

When a rider competes in a dressage test, the scores they earn are an assessment of the work they presented to a judge on that day.   When the rider competes over and over within the same level, over time they will soon have a collection of judged dressage test sheets.   Spreading these out on the kitchen table, a rider will most likely notice a pattern in the feedback and be able to identify their dressage training strengths and weaknesses.   Looking at the tests as a history of the horse's progress, the rider will hopefully also notice that skill areas which were once weaker improved with time and training.

From this perspective, when competing in a dressage show, it is the score that will make the rider smile, not the ribbon.   For example, after consistently receiving scores in the 50's, the first 60% score is a milestone worth celebrating...   Even without placing in the class.

There will always be better riders with nicer horses.   When they show up, oh well.   When that happens, the smart competitor rides with the goal of improving upon their own scores and gracefully accepts whether a ribbon comes with it or not.

Qualification as the Goal

However, dressage is also a competitive sport with Championships, trophies, cash awards, and of course, recognition.

Under the rules of British Dressage, a horse & rider need to WIN a class AND get a certain score to qualify for the Regional Championships.   In the USA, it is only the score that matters.   For each level in the USA, and depending on the rider's status (Open/Professional, Amateur, Junior Rider/Young Rider), there are various minimum qualifying scores.

For me (Open/Professional) riding Piper Warrior at Training Level, we need to earn hefty 68% scores to qualify.   At 1st Level, our target is 66%.   2nd Level, 64%.

The placing doesn't matter.   So, if the better rider with the nicer horse does end up in the same class, a competitor can still qualify as long as they get their score.

Ribbons vs Scores

Yesterday, Jeddien won the USDF Freestyle Class, earned a nice blue ribbon and a trophy, but we went home with a non qualifying score.   This was a huge disappointment, especially after earning the first half of the qualification with a lovely 70% a few weeks ago.

Jeddien came 2nd in the Fourth Level Test 1 class (3rd overall) with a score of 60.9%.   Quite a few 7's and 8's graced the test sheet as well as a couple 4's.   The collective marks of 6656 pulled her score down a bit.   But overall, considering it was the first ride of the day after a 4am start and a 2.5 hour road trip, and considering that both horse and rider were not yet energized and in sync, THAT is the score I'm smiling about today.

It's about the scores.   Sure, the ribbons are nice, too.   :-)

Friday, May 8, 2009

Dressage Shows

It is early May.   The 2009 show season ends mid August.   So, we are now in full swing sending in dressage show entries and competing....

Jeddien is qualified for 3rd Level Open (Professional) Regional Championships.   Tomorrow, we contest the Freestyles to see if we can finish qualifications for that as well.

Meanwhile, Piper Warrior's show entries have been sent in.   Training Level and First Level.   GMHA in Vermont will be his first show of 2009.   The June show at the University of New Hampshire will be the second.

And so, with winter only a few weeks behind us, and summer a few weeks ahead, the dressage activity suddenly kicks into full fear.

It is exciting!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Dressage Queen in the Pipeline

Jeddien's 2006 filly foal by DaVinci is already showing signs of being a future Dressage Queen. Oh my she is fun to watch playing in the pasture!



Like Jeddien at this age, the chestnut filly is sharp, energetic, and a cute mover.   UNLIKE Jeddien, she's a bit of a snuggle bunny who loves attention from people and other horses.   Like Jeddien, she can already open and close her stall door, and is happy to stomp on dogs, chickens, and turkeys that get within reach.   She is a keeper and destined to be a super dressage horse.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Freestyle Debut - The Movie


Mystic Valley Hunt Club
April 18, 2009
3rd Level Freestyle
Score: 70%

Sunday, April 19, 2009

My Kur Debut & Musik zum Reiten

My first ever "Kur" aka "Musical Freestyle", has now been done. This past weekend, Jeddien and I performed a 3rd Level Freestyle at the Mystic Valley Hunt Club in Connecticut.

We rode to German folk music, using three different songs for walk, trot, and canter.   Using "Audacity", I edited the songs, modified the tempo, and put together 5 minutes of music to which I then choreographed a riding pattern.   In all, the effort to do this took many, many hours.   But in the end, it was well worth it!

We earned a full 70% score, with an "8" for the music and both written and verbal comments from the judge that she really liked the music.

I have to give Isabell Werth some of the credit on this great debut!   While I would love to report that I regularly train with Isabell and that she helped in this production, that's simply not the case.   However, she is the rider who provides the dressage world with the "Musik zum Reiten" series of music CDs.   High quality instrumental music selected, performed, and designed specifically for editing for use in freestyles.   My music originated from one of my "Isabell" CDs.

Ingredients used in the creation of our first Kur include:
  • Competition size arena
  • Metronome   (Little Seiko DM-50 clip on model)
  • iPod Shuffle   (So rider can listen to music)
  • Full sound system  (So horse can hear music)
  • Computer   (with CD burning capability)
  • Audacity   (Excellent music editing software)
  • Blank CDs
  • "Dressage Divas"   (Optional software to help design kur)
  • A lot of stress & creativity   :-)
  • One clever husband / partner / friend to help provide input
So, our debut is behind us and now we are getting ready for the next performance which is in a few weeks.   Until then, a big THANK YOU to Georg for all his help, and to Isabell, too!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Audacity

1.   Fearless daring; intrepidity.

2.   Bold or insolent heedlessness of restraints, as of those imposed by prudence, propriety, or convention.

3.   An act or instance of intrepidity or insolent heedlessness.

OR the name of a wonderful FREE Cross-Platform Sound Editor available at http://audacity.sourceforge.net/ .

While Dressage Divas is the tool I am using to choreograph and "test" my Kur design via the software program's Virtual Dressage Horse, it is Audacity that I have found to be most useful for the detailed editing of my freestyle music.

With only 10 days to go   (Eeeeeck!)   I'm finally starting to feel Jeddien and I may pull off a good Kur after all.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Sally Swift

Many equestrians are waking up to the news that Sally Swift, the wonderful woman who shared with the horse world the concept of Centered Riding, passed away yesterday, April 2nd, at an impressive age just 3 weeks shy of her 96th birthday.

I never had the opportunity to see Sally in person, but she's been a major influence on my riding since the 80's.   To this day, I still use her imagery when riding.   And in lessons with students, I apply and share many of the ideas I learned from Sally's book, "Centered Riding".

No amount of recognition & awards will ever match the contributions Sally Swift made to the equestrian world.   She will indeed be greatly missed.   However, through her books and students, she will continue to positively influence riding for a very long time to come.

My heart felt sympathy goes out to all who had the honor and pleasure of knowing Sally.

(The image above is a poster you can purchased at the Centered Riding Store.)

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Choreographing a Kur

1)   The Dressage Diva software package arrived and has been really fun to experiment with and explore.   At this point, I would recommend it to those who want to plan their kurs or just practice dressage riding on their laptop!

2)   Today was the first day that all of my 20x60 metre outdoor arena was usable.   The snow has finally melted.

And   3)   should read:   "My Kur is ready for the April dressage competition I entered!"

Hardly.   Not even close!

OMG I have a lot of work to do in a short amount of time!   My music, which I quite like, now needs 3rd Level / Advanced Medium choreography that flows with it.   Or I need new music.   Anyway, now the hard fun really begins in earnest.

Choreographing a Kur.   The whole thing feels a bit daunting.   But, nothing like a challenge & looming deadline to get the adrenaline pumping again!   Eeeck!   :-)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Planning My First Kur

In October 2003, I submitted to British Dressage the details of my first Dressage Kur or Musical Freestyle.   The music selected was from a collection of German folk songs and fit Jeddien quite nicely.   However, I never actually rode the Kur in a competition.

Five and a half years later, I'm now FINALLY planning to ride my first Kur.   Ever.   (Not counting Quadrilles.)   But imagine my surprise when during a practice run I found Jeddien's gaits and paces no longer match the music!   Her tempo has slowed just a tad with time & dressage training.   So now I need to "stretch" her music or redo it all together.   Hmmmphf!

While browsing the web, I discovered that Equitech Software in the UK has provided the dressage world with a great little software package called "Dressage Divas".

I purchased the package from the USDF (click on the image to go straight to the USDF store!) and am now playing with it.   Looks like a good software package.   So, we are back in business and looking forward to our Kur debut in 2009!

There's no business like show business, like no business I know....

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Spring Vaccinations

A critical part of the preparation for competition involves Spring Vaccinations & Coggins Tests.

Today, all of the horses in our barn were vaccinated.   Each of the owners at our barn are completely & proactively supportive of regular vaccinations.   And those planning on competing also had blood drawn for testing for Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA) aka the Coggins Test.

All of the horses are generally good for their jabs.   Even the younger ones.   Our vet knows each horse, goes through the barn efficiently and compassionately.   And she's happy to give each horse a mint and a scratch after everyone is done.

Comically, Jeddien voices her dislike of cold wet cotton balls with mareish squeals and insertion of needles with very unique grunts, but stands for the medical attention.   It's hard not to laugh as she vocalises her opinion.   Piper, however, makes the experience more unpleasant than any of us like.   He suddenly becomes quite the drama queen!   However, he survived yet again.

Vaccination Day behind us, now we await our Coggins results.   Once in, we are ready to rock and roll!

Monday, March 9, 2009

USDF "L" Education Program

What does the USDF "L" Education Program got to do with getting to the USDF Regional Championships?   Directly, not much.   However, indirectly, TONS!

I am one of the dressage riders currently in the USDF judge training program known as the L Education Program.   The specific session in which I'm enrolled is very kindly being hosted by the Central Vermont Dressage Association.   (Thank you, CVDA!)

In the "L" program, we learn how to evaluate the performance of horse and rider in dressage tests, how to score the movements, and how to provide constructive feedback to encourage training progress along the correct lines.

However, as a competitor, it also provides me with a more indepth understanding of what judges are looking for when I ride in front of them.   It helps me to understand how to better interpret my own test results and the feedback provided on each test sheet.

Will the "L" Education Program get me to the USDF Championships?   No, of course not.   But armed with a better understanding of the sport of dressage, it certainly improves the odds a wee bit.     :-)

Entrance into the "L" program as a participant includes meeting criteria (including proven success at 2nd Level) and fairly hefty fees.   However, auditors are accepted, get the same information and training as the participants, are often allowed to ask questions, and all for much less money.   So it comes as no surprise that our sessions have had a lot of auditors from all over New England.   It's really cool!

For more information, check out the "L" Education Program Blog.

Training in the Snow

Winter continues.   Meanwhile, Jeddien is just getting back into the swing of things.   And as part of her training, we have been taking advantage of the soft snow on the ground before it all melts away.

We never got a hard crust layer in the snow this winter, so riding in the snow is quite doable.   However, depending on the depths, it can be hard work for the horse.   I know.   I have walked out there myself without snowshoes.   It's a real slog to walk through snow that is more than a few inches deep.

So, as part of Jeddien's work to get back into shape, we have been doing figures in the indoor arena interspersed with walking outside in the snow.   Interestingly, the more difficult work is the latter of the two.   To walk in the snow, which currently varies from 3 to 15 inches deep, she lifts her legs higher, takes extra care in balancing, really uses her neck and back, and is soon breathing fairly hard.   It is slow, hard work, but provides a good whole body workout.

And that's exactly what the old mare who wintered way too well needs right now!   :-)

Saturday, February 21, 2009

2009 NEDA Omnibus

Eecks!   IT has arrived!   Yes, I'm talking about the 2009 NEDA Omnibus.

It is still dead of winter here and we have another snowstorm coming tomorrow which is likely to dump 8 to 12 inches of the white stuff.   But the arrival of the Omnibus, with its listings of USDF recognised dressage shows in our area for 2009, means Spring is just around the corner!

And, EECK!, show season!   It's all so exciting!   Time to start planning the show calendar, juggling the budget, and figuring out which horses will go to which shows.

We already have our hotel booked for the NEDA Fall Festival and USDF Region 8 Dressage Championships.   This was not about ego and high expectations.   It was about not making the same mistake we made in 2007 after a July qualification.   All the hotels were booked and we ended up staying 25 miles away from Saugerties!

Now, it's time to plan the competitions that will get us to the USDF Championships again.   Jeddien needs only 1 more score of 62% at 3rd Level Open.   Piper will need to earn 2 whooping great 68% scores at Training Level Open, or 2 scores of 66% at First Level Open.   And even if only one of them qualifies, we will take both to the Festival for the experience and to keep each other company.

So!   Let it snow!   We have dressage competitions to daydream about, plan for, and train towards.   Thank goodness we have an indoor arena!

(Click here to read about and see our 2009 NEDA Omnibus advertisement.)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Two Months From Now

The Region 8 USDF recognised dressage competition seasons runs from mid August to mid August with the Champsionships in September.   If a rider starts trying to qualify after the long winter's snow melts, there's only 4 1/2 months in which to do so.   In New Hampshire, there are only 2 USDF recognised shows.   So for many of us, that means travelling to other states.   More miles on the road.   And sometimes overnight stays in hotels for the 2 and 3 day shows.

For those who start chasing qualifications in late August, they extend their show season by 2 1/2 months, making the whole show season 7 months long.   A far cry from the year round showing that other regions enjoy.   And a huge difference from what we enjoyed in England where there competitions ran year round and dressage competitors enjoyed Winter and Summer Championships.

Thanks to doing really well at the NEDA Fall Festival of Dressage last September, Jeddien is already half way to her qualification for 2009 at 3rd Level Open (Professional).   She needs one more score of 62% to finish.   However, aside from managing her competition calendar, our biggest challenge right now is her...   ehrm...   heftiness.   Yes, the old lady faired extremely well through the cold winter, grew a massive coat, and under it, laid down a pretty impressive layer of insulating fat.

Two months from now, Jeddien will be back in competition.   To be more precise, I mean the more slender & fit Jeddien hiding somewhere deep inside the fat fuzzy pasture pet.

So, training started today.   As always, mentally she is firing on all cylinders and knows all the work by heart.   Now we just need to lighten the load so she can dance in the dressage arena instead of plow through it.   :-)

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Piper's Winter Vacation

We are still in deep winter in New Hampshire.   It makes it very difficult to even imagine entering at A, halting at X, and saluting the judge.   But our first competitions may be only 2 months away!   Mother Nature is going to have to back off a bit first.

Meanwhile, Piper is loving winter and is keeping himself busy playing in the snow.   Little does he know what's being planned...   :-)

Monday, February 2, 2009

Starting The Young Dressage Horse

This spring, aside from training and competing with Piper and Jeddien, I'll also be starting two youngsters.

Big Ben will be 3 in April.   Bea Yewtee will be 3 in June.   Since birth, they have both been handled daily.   They were taught to lead within their first week.   And they were lunging (Parelli Natural Horsemanship style) within the first year.

Last fall, both of the "B" babies had their first lessons carrying a saddle.   A couple of times, Ben also wore a bridle with a nice comfy HS KK "nugget" bit under his halter.   Both horses took their lessons in stride and showed no worries at all.   Now, well into their 3rd year, we are working our way towards having a rider sitting astride.

However, maybe most importantly, their dressage education started at birth.   "Move over" is a verbal command that has been associated with pressure placed generally around where a rider's leg will one day be.   "Move over" is used in the stable, in the aisle when on cross ties, when enforcing personal space, and on the lead when opening gates, passing through, and closing it.   Eventually, the words and accompanying pressure will be used under saddle to encourage sideways movement of the front legs, the hind quarters, and the whole horse.

People often talk about when to "start" a dressage horse.   It's a bit cheeky, but I like to say, "Day 1".   :-)

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Bitter Cold

Temperatures are in the low teens again, in New Hampshire. And with that bitterly cold weather, it is hard to even imagine that the dressage competition season will be starting up again in just 2 months.

It is simply too cold to ride, let alone think about serious training.

So, while waiting for it to warm up, I've been going through some of the photos of Piper at the 2008 NEDA Fall Dressage Festival....

This photo shows Piper's gentle character, kind eye, and willing attitude, and reminds me that the blanketed dark brown goofball rearing & playing in the chilly pasture with his pasture mates will soon transform back into a dressage competition horse....

...Just not this week.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Looking Forward to 2009

While the USDF 2009 Region 8 Competition Calendar is not yet showing all of the upcoming competitions, I can already feel show dates looming. March. April. May. The first competitions may be only 2 months away. Hard to imagine while New Hampshire's winter is well underway with no signs of spring on the horizon.

Piper is looking like a woolly bear right now. Jeddien is also quite fuzzy. And yet, both are have been lightly under saddle all winter. However, that light work schedule will be changing in the next couple of weeks.

And this year, two youngsters will start their ridden work with an eye towards competition in 2010.

So, tonight, while we batten down for another storm, I am already daydreaming about 2009 and what goals to set for the Kearsarge Meadows dressage horses.