Monday, October 17, 2011

2011 USDF Regionals

Wow! Where did this year go? Another USDF Regional Championship has come and gone!

Walking through my barn late at night, I say "Hello" to lots of happy equine faces peering out from their cozy stalls. This year, 2 of those horses contested USDF Region 8 championship classes. One is a boarded horse. The other is my husband's "Piper Warrior". Next year, I hope to see at least 3, maybe 4 of the horses on our farm qualify and travel to the Regionals.

For some, competing at the Regionals is an important required finale for the show year, satisfying the goals and objectives of their businesses or their riding careers. For others, it is a dream goal, sometimes achieved, sometimes not. For my own horses, it is something in between. We work throughout the year with the goal of earning qualifying scores in all competitions. Riding and placing well in the Regional Championships is more of the dream goal.

This year, we really only tried to qualify for 1st Level Open and 1st Level Freestyles. (Earning that very nice qualifying score in our 2nd Level debut was not part of the plan!) Training Level was "off limits" according to he who pays Piper's entry fees. In the end, we only qualified for the latter category. However, we still managed to do fairly well (but not great) in Year End Awards at 1st Level Open.

The Regionals this year brought the usual mix of weather. We managed to compete in fair weather all weekend, but bore witness to some monsoon style dressage. (We had our fair share of foul weather rides in April and I truly don't relish going through that again anytime soon.) And this year's competition had a very wide range of scores! Unprecedented high scores were earned by a few of our fellow competitors. Scores in the 80%. Wowwee! Very well done.

Two Freestyles

As done in previous years, I entered my freestyle partner in Saturday's "Freestyles - Level of Choice" class. Or as I call it, the "cocktails & evening entertainment" class. This class is always scheduled during cocktail hour in Ring 1. The spectators will be enjoying their VIP seats, sipping wines, munching on hors d' oeuvres. Some even watch the rides. The following morning, the USDF Freestyle Championship classes take place in the same ring.

Riding in front of an audience does not faze me, nor my horses. So, once Piper got used to seeing 5 judges booths instead of the usual spooking 1, Saturday evening went okay. We earned a fairly good score of 67.167%, enough for 3rd place, and half qualification for next year's championships. However, the next morning, while there were less spectators, there was much more activity at the FEI ring in the distance, distracting Piper to the point where being "on the bit" was not of much interest to him. He wanted to watch what was going on 500 yards away. (Horses. Sigh.) And so, with my equine dance partner popping above the bit whenever headed towards the FEI ring, we earned a 65.667% and 4th place in the USDF Region 8 First Level Freestyle Championships.

Now, Piper's freestyle to "All of Me" and "A-Train" is retired. Next year..... Maybe Queen. Maybe Abba. Not sure yet. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Selecting A Trainer

Online, in books, and in DVDs, there's a vast array of information from which dressage riders can learn about the art and sport of dressage. However, one dressage topic that seems to be light on suggestions is selection of one's dressage trainer. Maybe this is because it's such a personal and subjective thing.

For the past 6 years, since moving back to the USA after 12 years in England, I have been working and training alone. My husband, who thanks to auditing several European dressage clinics & lessons, attendance at shows, and viewing training videos / DVDs with me, is my primary "eyes on the ground". While he's able to tell me what he observes, he often does not know to ride corrections or make improvements. However, sometimes he comes up with great suggestions and exercises that work well.

So for the past 6 years, I've basically been going it alone without a trainer. With the show results I have enjoyed, I like to think I've done pretty well. But I want to do better. Much better.

Last year, I started looking for a trainer. And with that effort, I began to realize I definitely had selection criteria that were important to me, important for the trainer to meet.

While searching, I found that there are a lot of perfectly qualified dressage trainers in New England, and several within 100 miles of my farm. Some have impeccable competition credentials. Some are USDF Certified. Some are judges. Some actively compete. Some will travel for lessons, coming to Warner. Some do not. Variety is certainly not a problem.

The selection of a trainer can be approached several ways. Word of mouth is a good starting place. Signing up with a best friend's trainer is not unusual. Selecting the trainer who is closest may be another option. Personal economics might make price important. Watching lessons before taking lessons is one method I often recommend. Forums, social networks, blogs, clinics, and shows are all potential sources for making more contacts and learning who's who. Yup. There are lots of approaches.

But what to look for in the trainer? That is the question! As I got deeper into my search, I found there are several things I seek in a trainer:

  • First and foremost, the trainer must have utter respect for the horse and it's nature. (No huggy, kissy, baby talk to my horse, thank you!)
  • Before I sign up with a trainer, I need to see the trainer in action with their students or their own horses, either in lessons or at shows. I need to have respect for the work I observe as well as a fair level of agreement with the approach, methods, communications, and demonstrated outcomes.
  • The trainer will have had a lot of dressage training themselves and is interested in updating their own knowledge and skillset.
  • During the first few lessons, I like to sense there is structure. I need to know what we are working on, what the targets and purpose are. Not just what do to, but why. And I need to be able to envision how that work leads into future training.
  • For a long term relationship, the trainer must be willing to get on my horse, match what he sees with how it feels, and come to understand my horse better. And ideally he should be able to ride my horse better than I.
  • Price will not necessarily limit me taking a lesson, but will limit the frequency of lessons. However, at the beginning of the relationship, a higher frequency is important to reach a successful level of communication, so price is a factor.
  • Finally, this last criteria is surprisingly critical to me. When I train my horses away from the watchful gaze of my trainer, I often hear his voice and guidance in my head. Therefore, his voice and words need to be of a quality which I am happy to have bouncing around in my head for many hours between lessons.

Last summer, I had developed a short list of potential trainers to consider. However, it was through a series of shows that I had several opportunities to observe another dressage rider, someone I did not know anything about, in action. She was not just competing in the same shows as I, but was also handling young horses (I'm currently working two youngsters who were born on my farm), cleaning stalls, and interacting with her clients.

We exchanged polite hellos the second or third time we bumped into each other, as one sometimes does when recognizing a fellow competitor at consecutive shows, and eventually spoke briefly while riding our respective horses around the main competiton arena the evening before a show, she on a young horse, me on Piper.

My initial "Blink" reaction was completely positive. Watching her work with her horses fully supported it. Before winter set in, I contacted her, made an appointment, and trailered Piper 60 miles to her farm for one lesson. Just one. To see how it would go.

It went great. I selected a trainer. She accepted a new student.

This summer, we resumed lessons on a (mostly) weekly basis, weather and other interruptions permitting. It's still a new relationship, but it's progressing really well. Already, I can feel how my riding is evolving and where the guidance will take us. It's all good.

There are no self-help books on how to select a dressage trainer. Instead, each rider has to write their own book.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Back in the Saddle Again

Ever wonder why you ride?
Ever wonder what your life would be like without riding?
Ever imagine what you would be doing instead to fill your time?

Sometimes I wonder these kinds of things. And for one week, I got a taste of what that would be like. And it was not fun at all.

After a week of rest and cuperation, I climbed back up into the saddle. And, oh my, how great it felt!

So, if all goes well --- KNOCK WOOD !!! --- the competition season will now resume for me and the boy, and it will finish off nicely without further incidents. One can hope. Meanwhile.....


Friday, July 22, 2011

Sidelined by Injury

Yes, the game continues.....

Entries for the Regional Championships are due in this week. However, we are only half qualified for 1st Level Open, 2nd Level Open, and 1st Level Freestyle. So the question is, for which Regional Championships will we complete our qualifications and which do we actually want to contest if we do qualify?

We only have 3 shows left on our calendar. GMHA July's 3 day show is our best chance to complete qualifications. Entries went in early, as usual. The show starts today, July 22nd.

But not for us.

Sidelined By Injury

After a normal weekend, rolling out of bed this past Monday morning was excruciatingly painful. My right leg wanted nothing to do with walking, let alone riding. By Tuesday, the pain was no better and a visit to the Doctor was in order.

After examination, it was decided that I had either torn or strained an adductor muscle (shown in red in the drawing to the left). Pain killers, anti inflammatories, and muscle relaxants were prescribed. Lots of rest. And of course, no riding. If the pain did not subside within a few days, x-rays and / or an MRI would be ordered.

This week, I have to send in entries for the Regional Championships....

Waiting Game

My horse show binder was open and ready. My favorite little Black NEDA Omnibus Book was earmarked and potential classes I might enter were circled. However, until I knew how my new situation was going to play out, I was not going to write any more checks towards non-refundable show entries. I needed to wait. I needed to be patient.

Tuesday and Wednesday were depressing. I was starting to envision a life without riding. Giving the horses away. Selling the farm. Curling up on the couch, eating bon-bons all day, getting massively fat, working my way to a heart attack, and dying. Yup. It was depressing. My pain was not going away.

Thursday, in comparison, was wonderful. I could walk again! With only a few tweaks of sharp pain. Okay, I was not completely better, but I apparently had NOT torn any of the adductor muscles. Just pulled or strained. I was going to be okay. I was going to get back into the saddle.

Friday was even better. And so show entries went out the door. First Level Championships only, as I predict we will complete our qualifications for those. Second Level is too much of a stretch. Next year, we will shoot for Second and probably Third Level Championships. But then, who knows what next year will bring?

Happy 40th Anniversary GMHA Dressage!

While I miss the fun 40th Anniversary Party at GMHA for exhibitors, members, and supporters, I will sit at home resting my leg for another day, knowing that I will ride again. Very soon.

So, for the next 3 weeks, I will focus on completing our qualifications for 1st Level Open and 1st Level Freestyle. And while doing so, I will be extra careful to warm up my legs before riding, stretch them gently, cool down slowly, and drink plenty of fluids. I really don't want to go through this kind of pain ever again.

Half Qualifications

The season didn't start great.  But at GMHA June Dressage in Vermont, Piper and I had a fairly good show.

To qualify for the United States Dressage Federation (USDF) Regional Championships, 2 qualifying scores must be earned in qualifying classes at 2 different shows under 2 different judge juries. Qualifying scores differ from level to level, and also by rider category: Junior Rider / Young Rider (JR/YR), Adult Amateur (AA), Open / Professional. As a barn owner and ARIA certified riding instructor, I am in the Open category. Professionals are expected to do better in dressage than the under 21's and adult amateurs (even though this is often not the case in reality) and therefore have higher qualifying score targets to meet.

For Training Level, the qualifying score is 68% for Open Riders, 63% for the JR/YR and AA Riders. That's a full 5% difference.
For First Level, the Open qualifying score is 66%. For everyone else, it is 62%. The gap is 4%.
For Second Level, the Open qualifying score is 64% and 61% for everyone else. The gap closes to 3%.
For Third and Fourth Levels, the Open qualifying scores are 62%, 60% for the others. 2% gap.
For the FEI levels, 60% is the qualifying score for all riders for all levels.
The complete Regional Championship rules can be read here.

Last month, at the 3 day long GMHA June Dressage Show in Vermont, we earned our first 2011 qualifying score for First Level Open. The test also earned us the Show High Point Award for KWPN Dutch Warmbloods.

Second Level? Sure, Why Not?

One joy of dressage shows in the USA - or at least in this region - is that riders must send in their entries well in advance of the actual show. The most popular shows fill up very quickly, so entries really need to be mailed in closer to the opening date than the closing date.

For GMHA shows, which are very popular, entries must be posted early. And with that, one must decide whether to only compete well within their current dressage level or to predict their readiness for the next level. I decided to chance it and see what Piper could do at the next level: Second Level.

Piper's lateral work is reliably in the 6 to 7 range. Leg yields, shoulder in, haunches in, and half pass. His reinback, a movement introduced at 2nd Level, was learned a long time ago and is good. And his turns on the haunches, which also debut in the 2nd Level Tests, are pretty good and could earn 7's at Third Level.

However, from a Second Level requirements perspective, his medium work is marginal, but coming along nicely. Whereas 5's were the usual score for his trot and canter lengthenings at 1st Level, now we get 6's and 7's. However, there is a lot more he needs to do, and a lot LESS he needs to do, to earn 7's and 8's in true medium paces at 2nd Level.

Would we be ready for Second Level at GMHA? Maybe. So my entries for GMHA June included Second Level Test 3. (I like the flow of Test 3 compared to the "easier" Test 1 and Test 2 tests. Also, Test 3 is the qualifier test, and when given a choice, I prefer to ride qualifiers.)

As our Second Level debut test got underway, I was feeling pretty confident. There were no goals set, just an experience to get under the belt. But Piper felt good and put in a respectable test, earning a 64% qualifying score! Very unexpected.

Three Half Qualifications

It's July and we are sitting on half qualifications for 1st Level Open, 1st Level Freestyle, and 2nd Level Open. Pretty exciting. The USDF Regional Championships are in September. Qualifications close on August 15. Entries for the Regionals, however, have to be sent in by July 23. Yes. August 15 is the last day to qualify, but entries are due in 3 weeks earlier. Fun, eh?

The game continues....

Friday, July 8, 2011

Dressage Lingo

I've got rhythm!

I've got music!

I've got Piper!

Who could ask for anything more!?

Well, maybe one thing more. If competing in dressage, it really helps to know the lingo. Over the years, the United States Dressage Federation has developed a really good glossary for judges which competitors can benefit from reading, as well. The updated 2011 version of the USDF Glossary of Judging Terms can be found here, in pdf format, and makes for great bedtime reading!

Now. Where was I? Oh yeah, I've got rhythm....

Friday, June 3, 2011

Redemption and Summer Weather

After the terrible season debut at MVHC in April, I decided to enter a local schooling show to put things right again in May. With lovely weather and no pressure to achieve qualifications, we were able to enjoy a very easy show experience, Piper and I, while also winning the combined First Level Test 2 / 3 class.

Summer seems to have suddenly arrived! And with it, show season kicks back into fast and furious mode. We have several local shows lined up...

However, with the good weather, training also shifts back into high gear. This includes working over trot poles to strengthen and further improve the trot, going for long hacks and trail rides, putting in fittening miles at trot and canter around the outdoor arena on the grass - after all, sometimes we have to show on grass, and continuing with little games to help Piper learn new things.

Left : A poor man's hay net. Noisy and scary at first, but then great fun!

And for all of our horses, their reward for getting through another long winter is clear: Grass pastures! Yes. Summer is here!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Restarting the 2011 Season with a Bang!

This weekend, Piper and I competed in our first competition of 2011, reviving the paused 2011 season. And oh my, what a show it was!

Despite what the calendar said, Mother Nature decided to throw horrible weather across New England. Travelling from New Hampshire to Connecticut the day before the show felt like time travel. We left the land of lingering snowbanks to find forsythias in full bloom! Spring had sprung in the southern part of the region. It was glorious. That was on Good Friday.

Saturday, show day, bitterly cold rain was constant except when replaced by stinging sleet. Now anyone who knows Piper knows he can be quite the woose at times as well as a bit of a drama queen. And sure enough, the cold rain and freezing sleet on his face and body was simply more than the poor boy was able to cope with. But I insisted we push on and ride the new First Level Tests 2 (a very nicely designed test IMHO) and 3, returning to the stall between tests for blanketing and drying off.

Out of 118 rides scheduled for the day, 35 were listed as scratches / no shows! That's 30%. The highest I can remember ever seeing at a dressage competition. Yes, it really was brutal weather conditions....

With half of our 1st Level Freestyle qualification for 2011 already in the bag, the plan was to complete qualification at this show. Ha! After the lunch break, the wind and sleet was worse than it was in the morning for our first two tests. During our warmup, Piper got a crash course on how to canter through puddles. He was not happy about it at all. But since we were there, we were going to carry on, no matter what!

And what a disaster! Timid horses don't suddenly get braver when pushed harder. Instead, they tend to retreat. They withdraw. They can become worried and more timid. And sure enough, instead of sucking it up and getting on with the job, PIper was simply overwhelmed for our third and final ride of the day.

Piper was tense and stiff. A 2x4 would have been more pliable. Canter work in the freestyle was non-existent. Simple changes went missing along the canter. My carefully thought out choreography went out the window. And in the end, the ride turned into a schooling session of sorts, trying to get Piper to do a little bit more than he wanted to do, trotting through puddles and striding over the small streams purposely put in place by the ring crew to help drain the arena. It was not fun.

( I have to smile..... Jeddien would have loved it, stomping through the puddles for fun. But not Piper. Two radically different creatures. )

I respectfully withdrew. Huge kudos to the judge who was incredibly understanding about the situation, offering kind words and positive feedback about what she did observe. Still, as you might imagine, it was a bit embarassing. But it was also a learning opportunity......

. . . Next time it rains, guess which horse will be worked OUTDOORS instead of indoors!?

Yes, we have restarted the 2011 Season with a Bang. Or was that just a Loud Thud?

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Herr Christoph Hess Returns

Two years ago, NEDA, the New England Dressage Association, invited Christoph Hess to the area for the annual "Spring Fling" clinic.   It was Hess's first visit to the area and included the obligatory eating of boiled lobstah!   I reported on the clinic in NEDA's "Tip of the Hat" newsletter with this article.

This week, Christoph returned to New England for a tour of clinics in the region.   Tuesday and Wednesday, he was in Georgetown, Massachusetts at the beautiful Rosebrook Farm, home of Cindi Rose Wylie's Quarterline Dressage.   There, Hess cheerfully worked with a wide variety of horses and riders, from novice to Grand Prix.   As it was two years ago, it was educational, entertaining and inspirational.

Today & tomorrow, Hess is at UMass in Amherst.   After that, he'll be going to Lexington Kentucky and Cleveland Ohio.   Hess will be back in New England for a Young Horse and Dressage Forum Clinic with Michael Poulin on April 9 and 10 in Rhode Island.   Details can be found here.

With a monster nor'easter snowstorm predicted for tomorrow (April Fool's Day of all things!) and tons of the white stuff still in our pastures and outdoor arena, getting motivated for show season has been challenging.   However, after hanging out with other dressage trainers, riders, and enthusiasts, and watching quality training with a world master, the dressage sap is once again flowing!   Time to tap it and start boiling!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Managing Horse Show Entries

In New Hampshire, we are still gazing at snowbanks of fairly impressive but slowly diminishing height and striped pastures of alternating areas of mud and melting snow.   We're a few weeks away from the start of green springtime, but competition season is approaching none-the-less!   So for me, this is the perfect time to put together my ....

The Horse Show Binder

I've come to believe preparing ahead of time to send off entries in an orderly fashion makes life so much easier in the long run.   For each horse I plan to compete, I fill out one entry form with all but the show name, show date, and actual classes entered.   As required, I ensure each line of "Rider", "Owner" and "Trainer" have my details shown in full.   No dittos or "same" allowed!   When each entry form is done, I make about 10 copies per horse.   This goes into the HSB.

For each horse, the HSB also contains sections for:

  • Multiple copies of the KWPN registration papers
  • Multiple printouts of USEF & USDF memberships
  • Multiple copies of the Coggins / EIA test results
  • Multiple copies of a dressage test showing qualification to ride in Freestyles

Other sections of the HSB include:

  • Laminated horse show checklists, used when packing the trailer & truck both to and from shows
  • Copies of entries sent in to the various show secretaries.   So far, I've only had to refer to them to remember which horse was going to be doing what, when, and where!     :-)
  • Printouts of ride times
  • Printouts of scores & results earned

The HSB seems to grow and evolve over time, but proves its worth each year!

Read Each Show's Entry Requirements

While nearly all the USDF Region 8 shows listed in the NEDA Omnibus Prize List (aka the Little Black Book) use the entry form included in the distribution of the book and also posted here in pdf format on the NEDA website, not all shows do.   Some shows have their own entry forms.   Reading the fine print in each prize list is critical to sending in a perfect entry form and avoiding disappointment in not getting accepted into the show.

Know the Key Dates

Each dressage competition has unique dates for acceptance of entries, also known as the Opening and Closing dates for entries.   Some shows open entries months in advance, some only a few weeks in advance.   Keeping track of these can be key to getting your entry accepted before the show fills up!

My first year back in the USA after 12 years in England, I learned that the USDF does NOT send congratulatory letters to riders who have qualified for the Regionals the way British Dressage did.   So, while waiting for my letter and invitation to arrive in 2007 when Jeddien and I first qualified for the 3rd Level Open championships, I missed the "entry window" for the championships!   Fortunately, I still got my entry in before the final closing date!   Phew!   Lesson learned!

For those aiming for the USDF Region 8 Championships, keep these key dates in mind!

  • Championship Qualification Dates: August 17, 2010 to August 15, 20
  • Fall Festival Entry Dates: July 18, 2011 - August 15, 2011
  • Championship Entry Window: July 18, 2011 - July 23, 2011   (The 6 days when only the entries of horse / rider combinations who are riding in championship classes are fully processed - including open classes - and given priority!)

Using good calendar management tools can really help plan and manage the dressage competition year!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Summer Dressage Fashion

One of the challenges of competing in the summer time in dressage involves staying cool enough to ride well.   When the temps climb high enough, show management will often allow riders to compete without jackets.   But not everyone looks fabulously wonderful in a white shirt and white breeches while sitting the extended trot!

In a recent issue of Horse & Hound magazine, a new rather chic piece of equestrian apparel caught my eye.   Made by Equetech, the same company in the UK that made some of my favorite competition shirts, it is a waistcoat / vest which looks like a double breasted tailcoat without the sleeves and long tails.

Personally, I think this is a very elegant looking alternative.   And definitely very dressagey.   But would it be accepted in the USA?   Would it be allowed with the current USEF DR120 dress code rules?   Would riders want to buy it?

I also wonder if Equetech will make a version with points, like on a tail coat.   But that would be redundant, I guess, as the points on a tailcoat are supposed to make it look like the rider has a waistcoat on under the double breasted coat.   Still, I think points would finish the look quite nicely.   Just a couple triangles of gold at the waistline....

Time will tell.   In the meanwhile, I am VERY tempted...   My first thought:   Time to email Dressage Extensions!.   Let's see what they think!

One final thought about these nice "cool" alternatives to jackets....   It gives the jacket-less dressage competitor a place to display their USDF medals.   And you know, for those of us who worked very hard to earn our medals, being able to wear them is kind of important.   :-)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Return of the Helmets

It's been a long time coming, but personally, I think this makes sense.   Starting in 2011, the USEF Rules for Dressage, section DR120: Dress (page DR21) state that all riders must wear "protective headgear" while mounted unless they are riding in only PSG through GPS classes and are over 18 years old.

Protective headgear is defined as helmets made to ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) / SEI (Safety Equipment Institute) standards for equestrian use and which carry the SEI tag. (PAS 015:1998 is the standard used in the UK.)

When it comes to this rule, the number of USDF & Olympic medals a rider has in his trophy case is not a factor.   Wearing a tailcoat / shadbelly does not exempt the rider from the rule.   Calibre of horse and / or rider don't make a difference, either.   The rules, although complex when first read, are pretty basic.   And so is the message.   The USEF and USDF want riders to properly protect their heads!

If a rider is competing two horses, one which is doing 4th Level & PSG and the other who is doing PSG and I1, the rider MUST wear an approved helmet whenever riding the first horse, but can wear a top hat when riding the second.   To help differentiate who can wear what when, some shows may decide to use different ranges of show numbers, or maybe even colored dots on bridle numbers.   We'll see how the show managers in Region 8 help support compliance to the new rules.

I've had the pleasure of riding in my two top hats.   Both are tight, unlikely to ever blow or bounce off while doing a test.   They get very hot in the summer.   They are tricky to get hair up into.   And they have to be handled very carefully, protected from dust, rain, sweat, and so on.   But they are ever so elegant to wear!   However, I have also competed at Fourth Level and in USDF Regional Championship classes with a well fitted helmet and three point harness.

SmartPak and Charles Owen & Co, Ltd put together this short video on how to fit a helmet.   I like that Renee asks about fitting a helmet knowing she will be putting her hair up to ride.   Whenever I try on helmets, I put make sure I test the fit as if I were competing.   Hair braided, twisted, pulled up, whatever I will be doing that year.

For those looking for more information & statistics about helmets and safety, check out the American Riding Instructors Association website about helmets.   Very interesting.

I still have a couple of my old "hunt caps". However, they are simply display models now.   Reminders of my equestrian past.   Decorations.   I wonder if the silk top hats will one day follow suit.....

Monday, February 21, 2011

The NEDA Omnibus

For many dressage riders in New England, the NEDA Omnibus is a much beloved possession.   The little black book.   The season's bible.   The favorite bathroom read.

Email and facebook notifications recently went out saying that the Omnibus Prize Lists were in the mail.   Yippee!   And as they arrive, the dormant competition itch will spring back to life, and with it, the need to put together our 2011 competition calendar and schedule of dressage activities.

Each year, I get at least two little black books.   One as a member of NEDA, the New England Dressage Association.   The other as an advertiser in the book.   One copy will travel in my "Horse Show Briefcase", the other will move from room to room in the house.

So what makes this little book so important, so revered amongst the mountain of dressage & equine books in my library?   Timely content specific to the dressage competition season.   Aside from prize lists from each of the USDF Recognized dressage competitions in New York and the New Engand states, it provides the USDF & USEF Dressage tests (our USA national tests), all of which were redesigned for 2011 through 2014, movement requirements for dressage musical freestyles per level, information about how to qualify for NEDA Year End Awards, and lots of ads by local professional trainers & training barns.

NEDA members who are new to dressage will also find lots of basic USDF rules information.   Reading the USEF Dressage Rulebook is still highly advised, but the Omnibus provides a good quick start.   They will also find listings of some of the local Schooling Dressage Shows.

Another great tool for the dressage enthusiast / competitor / trainer is the new 2011 USEF Dressage Test Book.   With the new tests now in use, getting to grips with them as early as possible is a wise thing, especially for those of us who have a tendency to sometimes go off course.   The new book contains the new USDF Introductory Level Tests and the new USEF tests for First through Fourth Levels.   Unlike the 2007 through 2011 version, the new booklet has a cool cover.   Like the older version, the price is still only $5.00 plus shipping when purchased via the USEF using this order form.   And it is still only 4 x 7 inches in size, which means it can go straight into the coat pocket for reference while riding!

So, for the moment, I sit here waiting for the postman to arrive.   In the meantime, my competition horses are scheduled to get their required Coggins tests for 2011 as well as their spring vaccinations which will help protect them from disease as we travel around the region.   We are getting back into serious goal minded work.   And if winter insists on keeping its grip on us much longer, the clippers may be put to use very soon.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

A New Year Begins

And so it all begins once again.  A new year.  And with it, thoughts about new goals.

By the end of 2010, Piper Warrior and I had achieved our 2010 dressage goals, and then some.  We made it to the 2010 USDF Region 8 Championships in 3 categories!  And we finished 2010 with several National & New England Dressage Association (NEDA) year end awards, including:
  • Champion - NEDA Year End Award, USDF Freestyles
  • Champion - Top Scoring KWPN Dutch WB at the NEDA Fall Festival / USDF Region 8 Championships
  • Reserve Champion - USDF All Breeds, KWPN First Level Freestyles, Vintage Rider
  • 3rd Place - USDF All Breeds, KWPN First Level, Vintage Rider
  • 3rd Place - USDF All Breeds, KWPN Training Level, Vintage Rider
  • 4th Place - USDF Region 8 First Level Freestyle Championships
  • Multiple High Score of the Day show awards

The 2010 NEDA Year End Championship for USDF Freestyles came with a massive championship ribbon and a gorgeous embroidered Mountain Horse jacket.   Very nice!

For the USDF All Breeds KWPN Reserve Championship title, we received a really nice 2 1/2 inch USDF silver medal on a red ribbon.  That was quite a surprise.  Now that I know about them, I'd like to earn some more All Breeds medals!  Gold would be nice....

Looking at Piper this morning, it is a little difficult to imagine the woolly black warmblood will be ready to compete again in four months time, but that is part of this year's game plan.  Well, that's only if he does not sell before then.    (Click here to view Piper's online for sale ad.)

And the plan for Big Ben is for him to enjoy lots of dressage arena time before he is sold.   (Click here to view Ben's online for sale ad.)

For another youngster in our barn, Jeddien's daughter Bea, training begins in earnest this year.

And finally, we have a number of students who will be competing this year, training for and pursuing their own riding & competition goals.  Whether their goal is to perfect 20 meter circles at home, develop a more confident trail horse, have a few enjoyable outtings with their horse, or compete in the 2011 USDF Regional Championships, we'll have fun working on progress and success together.

Today, January 1st, 2011, it is a whooping 55 degrees outside!!!!   Our woolly horses are outside, rolling in the melting snow, and enjoying a sneak preview of weather not meant to arrive in New Hampshire for another few months.  It's all a bit surreal.

So, for now :   Happy New Year, Everyone!