Welcome to Mary’s Dressage Blog! You can read Mary’s previous Dressage blogs here at www.dressageforjuniors.wordpress.com/marys-dressage-blog
For the newest blog entry from Mary please visit www.Dressageforjuniors.com
Friday, April 1, 2011
It is just a matter of days before we pack our bags, lug the tack trunks into the trailer, load the horses, and hit the road back to Massachusetts. The trip back north is always bittersweet. I look forward to the fresh start of the spring and getting back into the swing of things with the horses and my students at home though I will miss the Florida lifestyle. Perfect weather and good friends are always hard to leave.
This past month was an eclectic equine-filled whirlwind. Time flew by so quickly and I owe that to all of the fun I had. Polo lessons, attending clinics, press coverage at the World Dressage Masters, barrel-racing lessons, you name it, I did it this month and it was a blast.
This Florida season was remarkably different from last year in many ways. For one, my mother is here with me with her horse and having her support was tremendously helpful. I was in a less strict training program this year and I believe in some ways it was beneficial for Rossignol. The heat has affected his work ethic greatly and with some nutritional adjustments I have felt some differences though I can feel that he is a little “burnt out” at this point and I am accepting that. This horse has been going hard for the last few years and a little down time is acceptable in my eyes. In the meantime, I am working him with a little less pressure and organizing my goals for this spring and summer with him. This is yet another pivotal point in my riding career as I age out of young riders and make my debut as a professional. I want to do this right and make the right decisions for my horses and myself. As of right now, the game plan for this year is to ride solid and successful Prix St. George and I-1 tests at CDI competitions.
I was recently offered an exciting riding and assistant trainer position at a premier training facility located about an hour from our farm. After some deliberation I accepted the offer. This decision took some deliberation as I struggle to figure out exactly what I want to do this year. College still sits uncompleted and while the thought of returning back to academia does not tempt me in the least, the completion of my education is important to me and I find it leering over me at times. I am really looking forward to this new opportunity. Already I have ridden some of the horses from the new farm as they winter in Florida as well and they are truly a phenomenal bunch. Perhaps the best part is that I will be doing what I love most with these horses, competing! Sitting on more horses and taking them out into the show ring is not only going to be a fun journey but also an important ingredient to broadening my riding skills and my name in the horse world.
I am relishing these last five days in beautiful southern Florida. Under the suggestion of Pam, I am taking it easy this last week with Rossi as she believes the horses travel much more comfortably if they are in light work or given time off before the big haul north. So though Rossi may be resting up these last few days in preparation for the trip and for a supercharged training program when we get back, I plan to have fun in the sun with my closest friends and perhaps sneak off to the beach and a few polo games too : )
More blogging coming soon
Wednesday, March 2, 2011 — Call it Claridey
Before my ride this morning I was feeling like not another thing could go wrong until I was called by the breeder of my yearling to hear that he had choked on his grain and needed to go to the vet clinic to be looked at. While I could have sat in frustration and worry in the apartment I gulped down a cup of joe and headed out the door to ride Rossi.
I slammed the aluminum door in the face of my worry and troubles, looked at the beautiful blue sky and felt the cool Floridian breeze and knew that today I would have a good ride. I knew this because I needed it and throwing away any baggage for those forty-five minutes was going to do both Rossi and I some good.
I had one of my best rides to date today. The last couple of weeks my focus has been greatly set on forwardness, acceptance of the leg, and well…acceptance of the leg. For years Rossi and I have gotten by though at this point in our training as we push closer for excellent tests and a higher degree of difficulty his respect for my aids, especially my leg, is of the utmost importance.
Last week Pam and I did elementary exercises such as walking along on a loose rain and then BAM quick use of a spur and I better get a forward answer. After a couple rounds of this suddenly Rossi was jumping out of his skin the moment I applied just the slightest bit of pressure. Of course now since he really “gets” it I can be much more subtle with my leg aids and I am getting a positive response. Today I just thought “go forward” and as if he heard my whispering thoughts Rossi gracefully lifted into a more uphill and forward gait. I felt this connection and respect to my aids throughout my ride today and no matter the movement that I tested be it a transition to trot from walk or a canter pirouette it happened and with ease.
This ride was memorable in that clarity was finally found; Rossi spoke my language and rather than blowing me off, something I have been used to since he was a four year old, he listened and worked with me today. Though my day to day training has a lot to do with the success of today’s ride credit also needs to go to my state of mind.
Too many of us carry baggage when riding be it fears of falling off, what might spook the horse next, or perhaps worries that have absolutely nothing to do with riding or horses at all. Today’s clarity could also be called claridey when applied to riding. Ok, so I made a word up but this pure state of mind allowed me to ride with even deeper feel and tune in to the moment rather than the worry that haunted me out of the saddle. Maybe the stress and every day worries have found their way back into my mind since my ride earlier today but those moments on the horse should never be tainted by unfair feelings and silly distractions.
I’m putting myself in the most relaxed yoga pose and encouraging you to give it a try, leave your baggage at the barn door. It just takes a moment to tell yourself that claridey is just mind set away
Saturday, February 26, 2011
Dressage Under the Stars
The Dressage Under the Stars event takes place at the renowned equestrian nightlife hangout, Players Club, every Wednesday during the winter season here in Wellington. Much like the popular television show, Dancing with the Stars, riders “dance” under the lights in front of a large crowd and a panel of three judges.
Rossi and I were invited only the night before the event and though thrilled to take part in this fun event the stress of finding a costume for me and Rossi and spicing up our freestyle set in very quickly. After all, who doesn’t want to take home a bottle of Veuve Clicquot champagne, 500 dollars, and lots of gift certificates? My mom had the brilliant idea of having the theme for our ride be “the Last Launch” in tribute to the last space shuttle that was leaving the same week. So, with the idea of space and a hint of glamour Rossi and I were dressed in copious amounts of glitter, cardboard sparkly stars, silver duck tape, and rhinestone ribbons.
I was so impressed with how well Rossi behaved under the lights with tiki torches glistening amongst a loud gathering of mostly intoxicated spectators and LOUD music! I could have cried after our performance, I was so proud of my horse for putting up with all the glitter and a very unique venue. Not only did I have a blast performing but it was very fun to be with three other girls who were also riding in the event who I am good friends with. Rossi and I landed in a close second place, just short of taking home all of those goodies!
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Hot to trot
It seems I start all of my blog posts with some sort of exclamation of success of “finally” being able to post be it because of shortage of time, unreliable Internet service, or because of too much “horsing” around. Well, this post will begin just the same because I have been without solid Internet for the past three weeks, ouch! For a social media junkie like myself this has not been an easy couple of weeks.
Alas, I finally found the appropriate Internet stick and am connected to the world again. So, here goes a recap of my last three weeks since hauling down to Florida with the horses for these glorious two months of training.
We had a smooth (and accident free) trip from Massachusetts to Wellington at the beginning of this month. This season I have my partner in crime, Rossignol, with me and my mother joined me this year with her top horse, Safari. We are stabled at the same facility as I was last year, just a lovely twenty minute hack away from Pam Goodrich’s farm within the gated community of White Fences. White Fences is truly a equestrian’s paradise, once you punch the four digit gate code outside of the entrance the gates glide open like the golden gates of (horsey) heaven. It has the name White Fences for a reason as white fences line the entire community that expands hundreds of acres. Within this haven lies some of our nations best dressage riders and trainers, just walking through this place you are bound to see some of these stars, almost all of whom will greet you with a friendly smile or “hello.” I feel so fortunate to be apart of this community and feel this way each day that I wake up here.
Now to the fun part….Rossi is going fabulously. Coming down here I knew I had a big hurdle in front of me as my accident had set us back in the fitness area and in our training. Though I had a solid month to prepare for my training in MA, I was slightly concerned that it would be a long and difficult road before we felt like ourselves again once in Florida. Well Rossi pushed all of these concerns aside within the first light week of work here. His working attitude has been phenomenal, each day I feel like I can push for more and he is not holding back. Though our first week here was all about acclimating our horses to the climate change and being sure they had time to relax after the long trip, Rossi felt fresh and ready to go by day three of riding down here.
Since our arrival I have taken two lessons from Pam. I am happy to report that Pam was “impressed” about how straight, forward, and willing Rossi was in his work. Each training session with Pam is better than the last, she has just the right touch with me and Rossi and knows exactly what exercises will work best for us each time. I won’t recap every single ride I have had since being here but will say that my last lesson was challenging, in the best way possible. Not only was it challenging but one could say it left me dizzy after Pam had us perform one continuous pirouette left close to 20 times until Rossi correctly carried himself, phew.
Our warmup routine is essentially the same each day, while I like to ride some horses long and stretchy at the beginning, I have to resist doing much, if any, of this with Rossi. What this horse needs is a focus on forward and sensitivity to the leg in the beginning stages of my rides. Rossi is “dead until he’s not” says Pam. What this means is that he can be so ignorant to leg and then jump completely to the other extreme and be incredibly sensitive and spooky. It’s hard to say what end of the spectrum Rossi will be on with each ride though I am coming to find that I can reach the medium that I want so long as I ride him correctly in the warmup. We want him to be hot now all the time, this adds sparkle to his movement and given the level we are going to be competing he needs to be a bit on edge. Pam was amazed that we actually need halfhalts this year simply because last season it seemed we were just asking him to go all of the time without even the thought of using halfhalts to bring him back.
This is an exciting season, I will be aging out of young riders come April and am making my debut in the open classes as a professional at our first show here this year in March. While training is going well and my focus is completely on my day to day work with Rossi it is also time to begin goal setting for this year. I am coming to find that goal setting is a bit different this year. The past Five years (cannot believe it has been that long) I have been competing in the FEI junior and then FEI young rider classes. Goals during these past few years have been relatively visible and straight forward. Now with my young rider years soon to be simply a great landmark in my riding career new obstacles and opportunities lie ahead.
Now that I have Internet at my finger tips you will all be hearing more from me as I blog about the remainder of my time training here in Florida.
Happy riding and wear your helmets,
Monday, January 31, 2011
Huff and puff!
Well it has been just that…a lot of huffing and puffing with Rossi over the last three weeks as the two of us begin to get back in shape. I have always heard from either first time riders or students that have taken some time out of the saddle “I’m so sore,” or “I’m not going to be able to walk tomorrow,” well sadly I was in this very same boat after my first “real” ride a few weeks ago. I never imagined myself feeling sore or out of breath because of riding but I suppose that is what two months out of the saddle will do to you! As time has gone on and I have slowly brought myself and Rossi back to full 45 minute work outs it is so rewarding to no longer feel like our rides are a struggle and to see progress.
Yesterday I had my best ride to date since my accident. Rossi and I had a productive warmup that set him up for some nice work to follow. We worked on training pirouettes on the twenty meter circle, a few tempis to lighten his front end and activate his core, and some half passes. Rossi generally has a harder time performing lateral work as opposed to collected work such as pirouettes or half steps and yesterday was no different though he had a great working attitude and we had a few nice half pass steps.
I’m putting in my last ride here in New England tomorrow before we do our final phase of packing and hit the road for the 26 hour drive to Florida. I am really looking forward to getting into a solid training program upon our arrival to Wellington. We still have some conditioning to do before Rossi and I are back in tip top shape but I am confident we will get there. I am SO excited to be under the sun and away from this ridiculous winter weather. We are expecting another two feet of snow before we leave….this trip is long over do.
More blogging under the sun to come!
Monday, January 3, 2011
Back in the saddle
The day has finally come. Though I had planned to take this important first ride at the indoor later this week the opportunity came when I was tacking Rossi for my mother to work him today when she casually asked, “why don’t you sit on him today?” Well, why not? So with a smile on my face I strapped my new helmet on and finished tacking Rossi. Without even a moment’s hesitation I swung my leg over his back and we were off as if these last two months had been full of our regular riding.
This was the longest time I have ever been out of the saddle since I began riding. I realized how much I take my ability to ride, let alone ride talented horses, for granted as I waited these last two months. I have now felt what it is like to have this passion and love taken away for an extended period of time and for this my appreciation for dressage and my horses has grown even deeper.
Rossi was such a good boy as I took him on a trail ride through the woods, my mother shadowing behind, suddenly I had flashbacks to my lead line days! I have to thank my mother for so much; for completely managing the barn when I was recovering, for working Rossi and keeping him in shape, and of course for her support throughout this entire experience. I also want to thank everyone who reached out to me in my family, friends, and the horse community, your support was incredibly uplifting.
Though I would rather not repeat this experience (I made a point of waving my new helmet at the young culprit’s nose today and warning her she better not try that again) I definitely took a lot away from it and am a stronger person on account of the accident and recovery.
I am giddy at the idea of getting back into a training routine. I imagine the first week or so may be tough as my muscles try to remember how to work in certain areas but I am ready for the challenge.
Florida is only a few weeks away, ready, set, work!
Happy riding and please wear your helmets.
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Free at last!
Free, free at last! It was just an hour ago that I walked through the hospital doors and into the neurosurgery wing of the Brigham and Women’s hospital awaiting news that I thought would surely disappoint me. “You will be wearing the brace for another four weeks,” “You will never ride again,” all lovely thoughts that ran through my head that I expected the doctor to tell me.
Dr. McDreamy came walking through the door. Within seconds of taking his seat he took off my brace and had me move my head left and right, up and down; all feeling incredibly strange after being so careful and confined this last month.
Motioning to the brace that lay solemnly on the patient bed, “you don’t need it anymore.” I couldn’t help the grin from appearing across my face. Feeling less like my robot-self that I had come to know so well since my accident I began to feel like a human again as we looked through the CT images of my brain and my spine. The Dr. explained the injury as he rolled the mouse through the scan images. The fracture itself on the right side of my C5 vertebra did look very different from the left side though there was no alarm in his delivery and he was very optimistic given my age and the size of the injury. It was like looking over x-rays of a sales horse though this time I was the one being vetted out!
All in all I am still in awe that I am sitting here like a normal human being, nothing holding my chin up except my high spirits : )
Liberation from any limitation is such an incredible feeling. Riding will come soon enough, I hope to be back in the saddle within the next three weeks. Now it is time to let the bone continue to heal, reacquaint myself with normal neck movement, and look forward to being myself again.
Saturday, December 11, 2010
Bracing for it
When time felt like it could not go any slower only three weeks ago I was in complete denial of my inabilities and very frustrated by my neck brace. The moment I arrived home from the hospital I looked ahead to the next few weeks as a depressing waiting game. Though the first week was extremely difficult, given my discomfort and feelings of despair, as time went on this brace became less of a distraction and if anything is now providing me with a 24 hour neck warmer (not so bad on 16 degree days.)
So, I’ve gotten past looking like a Star Wars storm trooper and feeling like a much less productive me and have now embraced who I am for the time being. I remind myself that this is only temporary and that I am very fortunate for it being so. With time out of the saddle I have been vicariously riding through my students. As if teaching did not provide me with enough joy before, I am so happy to watch them ride and their horses progress. With limits on physical activity I have stepped back and reevaluated many things and have been granted time to work on things I simply did not have time for before the accident. Two fruits of my computer labor are here for you to feast your eyes upon, my new personal website (http://www.marybahniuklauritsen.com) and the complete renovation of the Cadence Farm website (http://www.cadencefarminc.com)
The holidays are just around the corner and the best gift this year would be clearance from my doctor to 1. take this darn neck brace off and 2. be able to ride within the month. Next week I will have my first follow up appointment and can only hope, yet not hope too high, that I will hear positive news. My support for helmet use continues, take a listen to the most recent Dressage Radio Show to hear an update from me as co-host http://dressageradio.horseradionetwork.com/2010/12/10/dressage-radio-episode-81-by-back-on-track-usdf/
That’s all for now, take care and don’t forget to wear your helmets
Monday, November 29, 2010
Training two weeks ago with my mother on Rossi hours before my accident. He was such a rockstar this day just starting Grand Prix movements
Thursday, November 18, 2010
Hail to the Helmet
How to type comfortably? How to position myself so I’m not straining my neck? These are two questions I ponder now as I type today’s blog.
This past Sunday threw a life changing event my way after I was violently thrown off one of our young horses. Lucky for me, I am here with all feeling in my body and the same conscious I had before that unfortunate ride on Sunday afternoon.
It was a day like any other, full of horse activity and I was looking forward to riding both Rossi and the young one that afternoon. I had a superb ride on Rossi where my mom and I worked half-steps and passage on the ground and where I had four sequential one-tempi changes. I was on cloud nine with this ride and looked forward to the next.
All was going smoothly with this young mare. We have been off the lunge line now for about four weeks and slowly building the work load. I had just begun cantering her last week and Sunday we had plans to do a bit more. I had asked for a couple steps of canter when suddenly all four hooves lifted straight up off the ground towards the center of the arena. I was now riding a bucking bronco. Rear, leap, buck, buck, rear, leap, buck, buck, REAR! I was holding on for dear life and for a split second really felt like she would stop after she realized I wasn’t coming off and that I wasn’t the clawing lion on her back that she may have first thought. Then, my time came, she jumped with all her strength to the left and I was catapulted to the right, flying head first into the sand arena footing.
“I can’t believe I just came off of that little s&%^#!,” was my initial thought as I rose up off the ground. My mom who was life guarding during this ride came running to my side and embraced me begging to know if I was ok. I did not want to be touched and in a stubborn fashion I pushed her out of my way and plopped down on the arena bench. I was covered in sand and watched as my mom caught the horse. “Your helmet broke!” exclaimed my mom. I unstrapped my beaten helmet and examined the side where it had completely separated from the insulation and the outer shell.
Soreness began to overtake my body as I marched back up the house, tears of defeat and frustration rolled down my face. Soon my mother, father, and I were circled around the kitchen table trying to decide whether or not a trip to the hospital was really necessary. I felt fine and if anything felt like I had a bad case of whip flash and muscle strain in my neck and shoulders. Finally the decision was made to go to the closest emergency room “just to be sure.”
After hours of waiting I was finally seen by the doctor and instructed to have x-rays done of my back and neck. I still felt very cavalier about the whole situation and had even performed a dance to make light of the whole thing for my mom in the emergency room dressed in my stylish hospital gown before being whisked away to the x-ray room.
Sitting in the x-ray chair I watched the technician examine the digital slides as they appeared when suddenly he picked up the phone. I saw him murmuring something into the receiver but still did not think much of it. The technician came from behind the glass and said “We are going to hold off on more x-rays and I need you to keep your head still, were going to put you in a brace and have a CAT scan done.” I nodded my head in agreement to which he said “Don’t nod your head, don’t move at all.” This is when I thought things may be a bit more serious than originally assumed.
X-rays and CAT scan done, I was wheeled back to the room with my mom where we waited for the doctor to give us the news. He finally arrived with a smile on his face and first delivered the good news that the vertebra he looked at was not broken just compressed and could be an old injury. All worries left me for that split second between the good news and then the unexpected…bad news. He then began to explain that there was something to worry about and suddenly I felt lightheaded, felt like I was watching a lifetime movie, and did not feel like this was happening to me. My C-4 vertebra was compressed but the real worry was the fracture that appeared at the bottom of my skull. Within a crack of a whip I was whisked away by ambulance on an incredibly painful stretcher to Boston’s most reputable hospital. I was immediately swarmed by the head neurosurgery doctors and nurses and once again put under a claustrophobic cat scan, this time to be sure that there was no bleeding through my brain and spinal column.
I was fortunate, there was no bleeding and both fractures in my vertebra and base of my skull had broken away from my spinal column and artery.
I spent that night, or should I say morning as I finally arrived in my room at 4:30am at the hospital.
After the news spread like wildfire through my family, friends, and the horse community an abundance of support reached me and my email and for this I was very touched. No one ever thinks of themselves as being in this situation where an out pour of support is sent your way and it is quite a surreal yet moving situation to be in.
As for now, I am back home wearing a very chic neck brace, limited to mundane activities and have to stay away from driving, lifting, and most importantly riding, for sometime. The frustration of not being able to be in the saddle has already hit after being home for three days and it could not be more tempting than when I glance out the back window and see Rossi galloping around his paddock.
As a strong supporter of ASTM approved helmets, I have always worn my helmet in training and pushed others to do the same. Bottom line, my helmet saved my life. When the doctor was asked, “what would have happened if she was not wearing my helmet?” He replied, “the damage you see to that helmet would have been what happened to her head.”
I cannot stress enough at this point what a helmet means to me and what it should mean to everyone in this dangerous yet incredible sport that we are so fortunate to a part of.
Friday, October 29, 2010
A Dressage at Devon recap
Once again I find myself entering the blog world with so much to cover in so few words. Since my last post, Rossi and I competed at our all time favorite show, Dressage at Devon. After a torrential mess of rain pounded the Northeast and the Devon show grounds many questioned how well this show would go. Already Devon had taken a participant and spectator hit as the dressage at WEG was taking place during that very same week, heavy rain and wind only brought a more unfortunate feel to what is our nation’s premier dressage competition. Luckily for everyone, the rain moved on and the sun shined happily over the showgrounds for the majority of the competition time. Day 1, Rossi and I put on a satisfactory test. Though he felt like part of his engine was left back in the stable he was hot enough to perform balanced and forward extensions and was also mentally settled among the bustling Devon atmosphere. We put in a accurate test and landed our highest score to date in front of a CDI judge panel and were reserve champions that day for the FEI Young Rider Team Test. I was thrilled by the results of this day though still felt there was much room for improvement over the next two days of competition.
Day 2, did not go quite as planned. The feng shui was off. We arrived at the warmup with just the right amount of warmup time only to hear from one of my competitors that we were not riding in the Gold arena as the program had stated. We would be riding in the Dixon Oval, a much more intimidating venue for horses as it sits inside the stadium surrounded by moving and loud crowds. I was thrown off a bit simply because this was not part of my plan and I had not had the opportunity to warmup Rossi in the Dixon before the show began this year. I rode my warmup just the same as the day before and crossed my toes inside my koenigs just hoping he would be unfazed by his new surroundings. With plenty of time on our hooves to ride around the ring he felt fine. It was not until we turned left after our entrance that he suddenly dropped his back and became stiff at the site of the flower boxes that surrounded the arena. The trot work was painful to get through but I told myself that we could pick up our average (to which I saw streaming live on the score board behind the judges, ugh) once we got into the canter work. After the completion of our first canter movement all things went haywire. Rossi spotted a dancing dark shadow on the arena border cast by one of the stadium flags and slammed on the breaks, grabbed the bit and began backing up right in the middle of our test. With quick punches of the my leg and putting on as much encouragement with my seat as I could we did get by it….about twenty feet away from it though and off the track. Every time we passed that ominous shadow his back would tighten, his strides shorten, and he would twist through his neck in a desperate attempt to runaway from the shadow monster. All in all, we came in dead last that day.
Though the Individual test was not a fun time to say the least, we did manage to earn an average that would allow us to ride our freestyle on Sunday.
I let Saturday’s ride leave my memory and shifted focus totally to my freestyle performance. I love my music and just listening to it gets my heart rate racing and my excitement to perform overtakes everything else. My music began rolling and we started with an unsettled halt. I thought Rossi’s shadow monster woes had left him but as we neared the short side where he had lurked the day before Rossi began looking for “him.” The freestyle had ups and downs. We had some lovely extensions where I felt he was really with me, then a few moments where he would bow to the inside of the ring as he nervously passed a few select areas. We landed in third place for the freestyle which I was satisfied with.
Dressage at Devon marked my last young rider competition. Though I expected strong emotions to hit me after my last ride, it felt like just another day in the life as a competitor. I felt no tears, no feelings of sadness to wrapping up my years as a young rider. I still do not feel this way, if anything I feel charged to take up the reins and passage into the next phase of my dressage career and ride it for all it’s worth! More blogging to come
Fall Reception at Cadence Farm
After my father’s annual concert with his musical group, Row Twelve, we held a lovely reception at our farm which included more music, food, wine, and dressage! My mother gave a demo ride on her horse Safari where she explained to the party goers what dressage is and how it’s training is developed. After my mother’s very educational presentation Rossi and I performed our FEI young rider freestyle. He was such a good boy and we were given a lot of praise after our ride. It was good to have had my mom discuss dressage beforehand as I think it brought more value and understanding to what exactly I was doing there after (we need more of this in our country, education and entertainment for dressage!)
Cadence Farm Ride-Review-Ride Schooling Show
After building a solid client base since last summer, I have been striving to make my students the best they can be at home and in the show ring (when the time came of course.) Well that time came! I think competition is extremely important to confidence building, riding strategy, experience, and of course goal-setting. I had four students bring their horses to our farm for a educational and fun filled day at Cadence. I wanted this to be a positive and relaxed experience hence why I made it a sort of hybrid between a ride-review-ride clinic format with a schooling show feel and requirement to dress and braid. I will certainly be putting a show like this on again as everyone walked (or rode) away with a smile and I was extremely proud of all the hard work that equaled a smooth and happy day.
So it goes without saying, life has been busy and busy with things that I truly care about and am proud to have in my life.
Since being on leave from college I often step back and think, “could I have accomplished half of these things if I was balancing my riding career and higher education?” the answer is simply “no.” I am busier than I was while in school and everything that I am involved with is bringing great joy and meaning to my life. Though it is hard to not question my decision to take some time away from school, I know I have made the right decision as more opportunities are constantly coming my way and I am happier than I have been in years.
Finally, the important stuff. Training. Rossi has really been a good boy lately, annual fall fever spooking aside as everything around the arena begins to crunch, crack, and change color. I put him back into the double bridle last week as this is generally my plan of action the week leading up to competition with him. We leave for Dressage at Devon in two days. As I am sure I have previously mentioned, this is my ABSOLUTE favorite show of the entire year. Since I was just a little girl this place has brought wonder and dreams and still does to this day. It is a dream to compete at this event.
Today I worked Rossi for a little over a half an hour, touching upon some of the “itchy areas” such as the canter pirouettes and half passes. After working on some helpful exercises leading up the movements he was supple, relaxed, and did the movements beautifully. For the half passes I started with leg yields (only to the right as this is where he needs to balance his shoulders, doing leg yield left would simply weight his left shoulder more than it already is on the day to day.) After leg yields, to haunches in left, the halfpasses were smooth (for the most part.) I learned this great exercise from my trainer, Pamela Goodrich. I encourage others to try this especially if your horse noticeably favors one direction or leans on a particular shoulder. For the pirouettes I would ride down the centerline, leg yield (again to the right) then do a left corner turn as a schooling pirouette. This exercise significantly lightened his shoulders and made for a more balanced pirouette.
The next couple of days call for packing, cleaning, and of course putting the finishing touches with one day of test riding and a run through my freestyle.
It is starting to set in that is my final competition as a young rider, a scary yet intriguing feeling. I can’t think of a better way of wrapping up my young rider years then to ride at Dressage at Devon.
Hi Ho, Hi Ho, it’s back to work we go!
This past month just seemed to roll on by! Rossi spent the majority of the month in light part time work and a lot of time basking in the summer sun (of course with his trusty UV protection sheet on!) Rossi certainly deserved a relaxed month and I believe that it relieved any mental or physical stress that he may have had after the intense consistent six months of training and competing leading up to the NAJYRC. My horse’s soundness and enjoyment of his work is my number one concern so I believe he thoroughly enjoyed his mini vacation : )
Now time to put down the apples and pina coladas and get us back into to tip top shape for three big events that are coming our way!
a fundrasier Rossi and I were invited to ride in next weekend. We will be performing a September 11th tribute pas de deux with fellow FEI young rider, Ariel Matisse. Though our particular performance is a tribute to 9/11 the actual event is an all day affair that raises money for Leukiema. I am honored to be invited to ride in this event and look forward to getting out there, having fun, and raising funds for an important cause!
The day after the fundraiser I will be riding once again to music though this time it will be a soundtrack that is familiar to both of our ears. Each year our family holds a fall party and for the past four years we have done a freestyle performance. This year I will be riding my new young rider freestyle for the audience, a great practice for Dressage at Devon which will take place a few weeks after.
Finally, Devon is just around the corner! This is my all time favorite horse show. The venue, the grounds, the competition, the company, and of course the shopping make this a premier horse show here in the states. I feel like Devon is my second home as this will be my third year competing there but I have traveled there since I was nine to watch this unforgettable weekend of dressage.
That’s just an update for now, will be back soon to begin blogging about my daily training leading up to these exciting events!
Home from the North American Junior and Young Rider Championships, our Region 8 team won the team bronze medal!
by Dressage for Juniors/Mary on 08/12/10
Finally a moment during these last crazy few weeks has now allowed me to sit and share my experience at the North American Young Rider Championships which came to a close last Sunday.
If I could summarize the NAJYRC in one word it would be inspiring. The gorgeous landscape of Lexington, inspiring. The young foals kept in rolling fields grazing behind black fences, inspiring. The world’s greatest race horses bred, raced, and commemorated in this city, inspiring. The young riders who all made it to this premier young rider competition, inspiring. The horses at this competition in all four of the FEI disciplines, inspiring. My horse performing his best under intense circumstances, inspiring. Having my family and friend’s undivided support online, on the phone, and in person, inspiring. So there you have it…it was a very inspirational week.
Rossi passed the vet check on Tuesday with flying colors and definitely felt proud as he strutted his stuff in the jog.
Wednesday was the first day of competition and it was quite enjoyable once I realized I had a solid-minded horse under me. Rossi was a star. Though a bit behind my leg, I believe do to the scorching Kentucky temperatures, he was honest throughout the test and did not put one hoof wrong. The overwhelming arena layout did not faze Rossi one bit which for me is something to be incredibly proud of given what a fruit loop he has been in the past. I was all smiles after my ride, and that was enough of a reward in itself BUT to top it all off my team and I earned ourselves a beautiful bronze medal! This was the icing on the cake. Our collaborated scores inched us into the tight third place. There were over thirteen other teams competing in this division and to be honored with the bronze medal and stand amongst our nation’s top young riders on the international podium was sensational.
Day two, we rode the individual test. Having ridden the team test the day before, I knew I could ride a more confident test since Rossi was settled in the arena. So I went for it and our overall score increased by over one point, not too shabby when competing in front of a panel of five FEI judges (ah!) I was even more proud of Rossi this day and it happened again, a big grin took over my face once we finished our final extended canter and proceeded down the centerline for the final halt. Individually we placed 15th out of 34 or so riders. We made it by the skin of our teeth yet again, the top 15 would move on to the freestyle. This was such exciting news as I love my new freestyle and I think Rossi does too : )
Day three, the final day of competition. I was scheduled to ride my freestyle in the stadium under the lights at 6:28 (don’t ask me how I remember the odd times that we dressage riders are given.) I was fourth to go, not the most ideal place to be in a lineup of the top 15 riders. Nonetheless, I tactfully warmed up Rossi and he felt so on his game and ready to rock. For what felt like a super freestyle to be, I found myself on a deflating balloon after my entrance into the arena. I start my freestyle with three-tempis down the centerline and the exuberant and light horse I had in the warmup was now more like a rhino. He shied at the new red flowers that had been placed at the letter A, was tense, and I found myself about three strides ahead of my music, oh and my stock tie decided to come undone mid-freestyle. It was to say the least, unenjoyable. I was a very unhappy camper the next few hours after my freestyle but after reflecting on the last few days and the fact that we had made it into the freestyle when many others did not I gave myself a little kick of “hey we did this!” and felt much better about things.
I came to the North American Young Rider Championships in hopes of riding the very best tests I could with my partner, Rossi, in hopes of bringing home a medal, and in hopes that I would make it into the top 15 so I could ride my freestyle. I can put a big fat check next to all of these hopes and am proud and pleased with my horse. To say that we competed at this competition before aging out of young riders gives me a milestone to reflect back on. This event was by far the most memorable, exciting, and challenging event that I have competed in thus far in my riding career. I am honored to have represented the United States in international competition and look forward to doing it again in the years to come.
We are here! by Dressage for Juniors/Mary on 07/28/10We are here!
What an awe-some couple of days it has been since making it to the beautiful land of Lexington, Kentucky. We arrived here on Sunday evening. As we came rolling off the ramp to the Kentucky Horse Park exit I was awe struck.
Rolling hills laid with beautiful black fencing where horses of all shapes and sizes happily grazed lined the roads leading to the Horse Park.
The Horse Park is unlike any other equestrian venue that I have seen. It is incredibly impressive how this place works. There is representation of our country’s largest federations and breed organizations throughout the park and the arenas and footing are impeccable.
Yesterday, I lightly worked Rossi in one of the many warmup arenas. He was spunky and fresh but worked out of it and was then very electric and responsive when I went to run through the movements. After a good ride our Region 8 team went golf cart decoration shopping….was a fun team bonding experience and we will soon have a Hawaiian themed cart on our hands haha!
Today, we are here at the park waiting for the vet inspection then it will be time to ride. Our team is allowed to warmup in the stadium where we will be competing for the week. Must say the stadium venue is a bit intimidating but I have only seen it from afar, something tells me it will be even more overwhelming once we walk through the gates to ride, ah! I think it will be very helpful for both me and Rossi to ride in the stadium before competition. After our ride today, it will be time for the jog. Our team has a snazzy outfit lined up that I helped come up with, looking forward to jogging out Rossi! Photos and more updates to come!
Day four-by Dressage for Juniors/Mary on 07/28/10
What a day. After working completely on my own with the occasional coaching by my mother, the two of us brought our horses up for a day of training with Pamela Goodrich. It was with Pam that I spent my time training in Florida this past winter season and I owe much of my success this year to her.
As I mentioned in previous posts, Rossi has been going wonderfully and I only hoped I would get the “approval” from Pam when I went up to train with her today. It. was. a. super. training. session. We started in the indoor arena where we went through our regular warmup routine. Rossi was light, responsive, and was incredibly focused. Pam made many positive comments on how far we have come along since she last saw us. I had some dynamite canter pirouettes in my warmup and perhaps my best prepared rein back. The biggest focus was on Rossi’s infamous left shoulder and shifting his weight to the right shoulder. Once I “have” Rossi’s right shoulder then I have everything. When Rossi is unequally balanced, and this goes for any horse, then how can there be lightness of the front end and expression through the shoulders? There can’t be. So my job was really to weight the right shoulder, especially before executing my shoulder-ins in either direction and halfpasses, as this was where it was the most obvious that there was not correct balance of the shoulders. Through carefully ridden corners, I was able to gain the balance I needed and had some very fluid halfpasses there after.
After my warmup we went directly out to Pam’s outdoor arena where I cantered the distracted Rossi around the perimeter and then rode the Young Rider Prix St. George Test. “You are in the stadium!” Pam exclaimed as I rode a shying and tense Rossi around the arena before beginning my test. This is one of many aspects of Pam’s training technique that I value so much. She pushes you to ride…and to ride through anything and there is always an explanation behind every instruction she gives. It is tough not to become tight yourself when your horse is shying and throwing his shoulder every which way to avoid scary sounding arena borders but Pam was persistent in telling me that I must keep my hands placed low and push him past these distractions.
I rode through the Prix St. George Test which had some nice moments and a couple bobbles here and there. Though not perfect I know that I can certainly clean up some areas to make it the best we can ride. It was well worth the trek up to New Hampshire to ride with Pam as I now feel more confident in my work and also know what needs some fine tuning before the big day.
Back at it again tomorrow!
Day 5, oh deer!
by Dressage for Juniors/Mary on 07/28/10
With a perfect ride in mind after a great week of riding I had positive vibes flowing for my work in the arena with Rossi today.
After a solid warmup where he felt honest and light in the contact and was quite responsive to all of my aids I continued building up to the more advanced movements. I focused mostly on halfpass work as the lateral work can always improve and can certainly improve everything else. It was when I started the halfpass work that Rossi began to get a bit frisky…
It seemed every time we passed letters C, H, and A there was a spook or shy in store. I thought it was the 4:00pm shadows getting to him and though a bit frustrated by the constant tensing up by these letters I rode him past these spots. The tension continued to build as I did canter half pass zig-zags. I couldn’t help but get a bit angry as he just seemed unusually unfocused and was blowing up for no reason. After stepping back, reevaluating, and riding a few long and low canter and trot circles, the tension eased. It wasn’t until I was on the long rein at the end of my ride that I followed the direction of Rossi’s perky ears and noticed that a mother deer had been racing along the outskirts of the arena over crunchy leaves and twigs the whole time I was riding! As if one deer wasn’t enough this mother deer had two adorable spotted fawns running the perimeter as well! I suppose Rossi was tense for good reason, let’s just hope there will not be any deer running the perimeter in Kentucky!
Six days! by Dressage for Juniors/Mary on 07/28/10
Well, it was another great day in the saddle! With each day Rossi is becoming suppler, more focused, and a dream to ride. Today, though a little slow to my leg at first, he was very honest in the connection on both reins. The left side being his tighter side, I worked on keeping in consistent left flextion to release the tension. Before I knew it he was much softer on the left and I could feel the block on his left side begin to fade as I rode him.
After a very pleasant warmup, I schooled one string of three tempis to which he did exuberantly and happily I may add. I also schooled pirouettes in each direction. As mentioned, his left side is tricky. To break the tension on this side and to disperse the weight evenly on both sides, before riding the left pirouette I put him into a high degree of left flextion followed by leg-yield right. Once I truly felt him weight his left hind and balance his shoulders I asked for the left pirouette which he did very well.
I finished my ride with long and low canter and trot work and then walked and trotted him through the apple orchard. He was such a good boy.
It is the most wonderful feeling to smile during and after a ride, I was all smiles when stretching Rossi at the end of my ride today. This last week has truly been a blast and I have never felt so prepared for a competition as I do right now. I am so excited to compete at the North American Young Rider Championships in a little over a week. Rossi not only feels strong and well conditioned but our partnership is growing day by day. I feel so one with my horse and am looking forward to every ride I have with him from here on out.
Six more days ’til we hit the road to Kentucky!
Seven days until show time! by Dressage for Juniors/Mary on 07/17/10
I had a fabulous ride on Rossi today. It was one of those days where I had the positive energy flowing as I prepared him to ride and I had a clear plan as to what I was going to work on.
The last week or so my focus has been less on the movements in the young rider tests and more on forwardness and engagement. Because of my focus on forwardness and tactfully training Rossi these last few weeks that “slow is a no go” he has been arriving in the arena fresher and more forward off the leg.
Today he was focused and fresh and felt wonderful on account of it. I rode many of the movements from the test including trot and canter halfpasses, one string of three tempi-changes and a canter pirouette in both directions. I do not want to over-drill the movements as I know they are there I just want to be sure that the work I am doing when not schooling the movements is truly improving them. The best part of today’s ride was Rossi’s focus. He is the type of horse that will find an object to spook at just for the sake of spooking or perhaps to get out of work. Today I felt him tense up as we approached an ominous flower box that was surrounded by shadows. I simply guided him by with my inside leg and relaxed my hand and he continued to trot by the flower box without one wrong step, though a small feat I was still very proud of him.
We will be hitting the road for the fifteen hour journey to young riders in a week. I am really looking forward to our progressive training during this time and also towards the training session I plan to have with Pam Goodrich on Wednesday. I feel better and better about this competition as each day goes by because Rossi is truly rising to the challenge. Tomorrow will be a light day, perhaps no work even in the arena, and then back to more difficult work on Monday.
Let the count down begin! by Dressage for Juniors/Mary on 07/17/10
Tuesday June 29-
After a very competitive horse show season I have been able to take a mental and semi-physical break over the last two weeks since my last competition. These last two weeks have given me the chance to spend much needed time with friends (non-horsey I may add) and also relax around the farm. Though taking it easy, I have been riding regularly so Rossi does not lose any training momentum.
It has been over the last two days that I have begun to make a solid plan for my next two weeks of training before we pack up and head down to Lexington, Kentucky for the North American Young Rider Championships. Yesterday, I had a lovely ride on Rossi. I rode him for about thirty minutes. Given the extreme heat we have been enduring here in New England I find it especially important to have strategic sessions when on the horses and not to over do it. Yesterday was all about loosening Rossi and I did not really tackle any specific movements. After reading an article written about German rider, Nadine Capellman’s training on eurodressage (http://www.eurodressage.com/equestrian/2010/07/02/nadine-capellmann-dancing-her-horses-home) I was inspired to simply work “one movement at a time,” and thus yesterday I worked on forwardness/respect of my leg.
Today, I can say I did work on more than one movement but I was especially focused on collection. I worked Rossi in counter-canter in both directions asking him to collect on the short sides of the arena and then would ride a medium canter down the long sides. This exercise that I came up with today seemed to really aid in gaining Rossi’s focus and also challenged him. I think I will touch upon this exercise again tomorrow earlier on in my warmup after he has properly stretched his muscles and then move on to a bit more collected work.
It’s these weeks before such an intense competition like the NAJYRC that require a solid plan for training.
Until next time…
Mary and Rossignol’s journey to the North American Young Riders Championships
by Dressage for Juniors/Mary on 07/17/10June 15-
It seems I have fallen behind my blogging duties yet again. Though I love using new media and social networking websites it’s a whole other job in itself…as if living my horse crazy life was not enough!
Since my last post I have competed at my last FEI Young Rider qualifier which was held at the Westbrook Hunt Club Dressage Show put on by Centerline Events (http://www.centerlineevents.com/) As always, this show is run very well and had great attendance for all classes, the show was completely full. My mom and I had three horses in tow, including Rossi, Windsor, and Safari.
Overall it was a successful outing. I had a relaxed and focused warmup with Rossi on Friday, he feels very at home at this show after competing on these show grounds for seven consecutive years. Saturday I had an absolute blast riding the Young Rider Team Test, once again I felt myself overcome with smiles as my ride came to a successful end. Day one we scored over 66% and finished in third place. Sunday was not quite as smooth as Saturday as Rossi definitely felt tired due to the heat and humidity and also had a small mishap after stepping on himself after our extended trot which led to some uneven steps and a loss of my own focus. I couldn’t help but worry about the welfare of my horse after he stepped on himself though he did quickly work out of the uneveness that he had after the initial knocking of his leg which I was thankful for. Sunday we landed back in third place with a 64 and change.
The absolute highlight of my weekend was performing my new freestyle. I had composed this freestyle myself and love how upbeat and dramatic the music is, it is thrilling to ride it! I knew how much I loved the music and was pleased to see that the judges and the crowd enjoyed it too. We scored a 68.4% and landed in second place by fractions of a point…wanted that blue ribbon (and gift certificate to the tack shop haha!)
After this weekend I can honestly step back and say that my partnership with Rossignol is at an all time high. The fact that I can smile, breath, and enjoy my test rides with him now is incredibly rewarding.
Some more exciting news is that with all of our qualifiers now over….we have unofficially made the North American Young Rider Team for Region 8. It still has not hit me that we will be traveling down to Lexington, Kentucky in less than a month to represent our region in this country’s most prestigious young rider event, I am so excited!
That’s it for now, more updates to come!
by Dressage for Juniors/Mary on 06/14/10
It has been almost a month since I last posted, how time flies! I have been so completely consumed by training, teaching, and living in the moment that my regular blogging has slipped through my typing fingers. Alas, I am back.
These last few weeks have been quite eventful with three competitions happening almost back to back each weekend. First there was the Westbrook Dressage Show which was my first North American Young Rider Team qualifier for the 2010 season in the Northeast. This show was a super start to the show season here up North in Westbrook, CT. Reflecting back, Rossi was a bit full of himself during the first day of warmup which had me question how behaved he may be the next day in the test. Any doubts I may have had for Rossi’s behavior were proved wrong, he was an angel. Day one we rode the FEI YR Team Test and scored a 63 and change, a decent score and it was the winning score in my class of about six people. The next day I was confident Rossi was going to keep his cool in the arena and went for more and we improved by three points and were awarded first place again but this time with a 66% and change. I was very happy with this weekend.
The following weekend was the CDI at the Allentown Horse Park located in Allentown, NJ. The show grounds were beautifully groomed and the entire show was run in a very professional manner. This was a CDI-3* and also a qualifier for the World Equestrian Games so many of our nations top riders and those running to make the WEG team were present at this competition. I had a wonderful first day of warmup, we had arrived early enough that I was able to school around the CDI competition ring where we would be competing the next day. Rossi was a rock star and I felt confident for the weekend’s tests that would lay ahead. Unfortunately, the show did not go quite as well as the previous weekend at Westbrook. Since this was a CDI the judging was incredibly correct, precise, and conservative, something that I truly value and was glad to see. Any mistakes in a test were not to be taken lightly by the five judges that watched us young riders. Rossi was a complete yahoo in this test and it caught me off guard after how quiet he was in our warmup prior to the test. The first extended trot started off beautifully, I actually felt a smile come across my face (this is something I have just recently started doing while competing, I think it’s a good sign) but this smile quickly turned into a grimace when Rossi decided to leap through the air halfway across the diagonal…for what reason I am unsure. After that first major spook he had dynamite in his hooves and threw in multiple scoots forward and was tight through the majority of the test, this left us with a pretty lousy first day. Day two he was great! Though his partner in crime (yours truly) was not all there mentally…I am embarrassed to say that I actually went off course! I traveled probably five strides pass the centerline when I realized that I was supposed to turn down that very centerline to ride my trot half pass. This was one of two mistakes in this test as Rossi thought it would be interesting to throw a set of two-tempis in our threes. Oh well. The second day we received a 62% and change and came in third in a highly competitive class. However disappointing parts of my tests were, I can say that I came home with one blue ribbon from this competition. Rossi and I were awarded best dressed for the CDI jog, this was a nice little extra for the weekend and I thank all the sponsors who put together such a lovely gift bag of goodies for this award : )
Ah, yes now into the present! This weekend is the Mystic Valley Dressage show and it all began for me and Rossi early this am. My mom and I had decided that it would be best to trailer to this show given its close proximity and also make better use of our weekend if we could spend it back home between classes rather than waiting around at the show all weekend. So my day began at 4:30 this morning when I woke up, fed the horses, braided Rossi, did some last minute show prep packing and then headed out of the Cadence Farm stable driveway at 5:30am sharp. We arrived at the Mystic Valley Hunt Club show grounds in good timing. This would be the first time I had shown “out of the trailer” with Rossi since he was a four year old when we would trailer to local schooling show for some of the wackiest young horse showing experiences I have ever had. Lucky for me he acted like the mature twelve year old boy he is and not the cartwheeling four year old I dealt with eight years ago at the show. I would say my warmup prior to riding the FEI YR Team Test this am was decent. Rossi felt a bit heavier and more behind my leg than usual and because of this I had to work very hard on getting the “electricity” needed to have a really successful test. After my thirty minute warmup it was show time. I was definitely pleased with my test as Rossi did not set one hoof wrong and it was very clean. Though pleased after my salute I found myself completely ELATED after seeing that we had won the class and with….drumroll….a 70.1%! I was thrilled and ran back to our trailer to give Rossi many well deserved kisses.
So with that I have updated my blog for myself and for anyone following out there and I plan to post another update tomorrow after our return from the show. I will be riding the FEI YR Individual test followed by my freestyle, looking forward to getting out there and grooving to my self-composed freestyle again! Onward and outward!
by Dressage for Juniors/Mary on 06/14/10
After a couple months of relaxation and transition back to my life in Massachusetts, I am back to my blogging ways! I felt it was important to begin blogging again today after going up to New Hampshire to train with Pam after working completely on my own since returning from my Florida training. These past two months or so have really been wonderful. With my work schedule getting back into full swing and watching my students progress and prepare for many of their first time shows this summer, I am completely content with my equine life, and my life outside of the saddle for that matter! I have been keeping busy between training my horses, teaching, modeling, and now co-hosting the wonderful Dressage Radio Show (http://dressageradio.horseradionetwork.com/) Co-hosting on the show is a new experience for me and one that I am really enjoying with the enthusiastic and talented, Chris Stafford (http://dressageradio.horseradionetwork.com/hosts/)
Rossi has been progressing quite nicely and after a much needed couple weeks of rest and easy work after his trip home from Florida, we are back into full training and he is in great form and has been a complete joy to ride. I have never felt such a strong partnership with Rossi as I do now, he is a blast to ride and even through sticky times in our training I always end my rides with him with a smile simply because of how quick and smart he is.
Today marked my first time riding with Pam up north since returning from training in Florida with her. It was really rewarding to return to work with her. I have been riding with her voice in my head since returning home and I was excited to show her what Rossi and I had been up to and how I felt that we had improved. I was very pleased that she was on the same page as me and agreed that Rossi was much stronger and confirmed in his work. We focused on halfpass work, pirouettes, and extended canter today. The halfpass to the right is almost always a breeze with Rossi, whereas the left tends to be more of a struggle. To improve the left halfpass we would travel down the centerline, leg-yield with “his ribcage leading,” then once he was into my right hand, we would do a couple strides of left halfpass. This exercise worked wonders and by the fifth time or so Rossi was much more balanced in both reins and also had a better ability to bend through his ribcage. For the pirouette work, just like any work to the left his shoulders would rather be on the ground and falling through my left hand, so to tackle this Pam had me ride down the quarter line, leg-yield, collect, then ride a quarter pirouette, leg-yield, quarter pirouette, and so on. I did leg-yield into and out of the pirouettes going left and simply positioned him in shoulder-fore when traveling right as he needs less help in this direction.
My lesson was great through and through and I feel more ready than ever to compete in my first North American Young Rider qualifier for 2010 here in New England. I could thank my trainer, Pamela Goodrich, a thousand times fold for bettering my riding skills and greatly improving the bond between me and my horse, thank you Pam! I am really looking forward to another training session within the next couple weeks and also for the upcoming show season.
I am home now! by Dressage for Juniors/Mary on 05/02/10
What a wonderful two months I just spent in Florida. I am blogging from my home in Massachusetts and since arriving here, I have had a chance to reflect on these past couple months and smile. Deciding to head to Florida was one of the wisest decisions I have made thus far for my riding career. I was at a point where school was feeling like a burden and was keeping me from reaching my dreams, I also felt that I needed a jumpstart in the saddle to achieve these dreams, and heading south did just this. With a rocky first couple weeks, where Rossi was no where near a pleasure to ride, and when my stresses of being off on my own and looking for work kept me far from relaxed, I questioned my decision to pick up and leave school and home. As the first couple weeks rolled by and I began to get into the swing of things, I started to see this decision pay off. I was super charged, excited, and very willing to go above and beyond in my work, and Rossi was beginning to understand his new life in full training and under the Florida sun.
I met some amazing people while on this journey. People who have inspired me and taught me so much from great conversations and from simply watching a handful of them work with their horses on the ground and in the saddle. I was fortunate enough to work at various barns where top riders rode by with a friendly wave and “hello” and where I was able to watch them in action.
I feel blessed to have been able to make it to Florida with my very special horse, Rossignol. Never have I felt so close to my horse as I do now. After driving to the barn everyday and looking forward to my time spent with him, Rossi and I have more of a partnership then we have ever had in our eight years together.
This past weekend was a perfect way to end my season in Florida. Rossi and I competed at one of the last large competitions on the Florida show circuit, the Equestrian Estates show, held in White Fences. The first day we were to compete in the FEI Young Rider Team Test. It went well but not great. Rossi felt quite tired during our warmup and felt even less in tune to my leg once we had gone down the centerline. It is common for horses to start losing their “spark” at the end of the season, after all he had been in intense training six days a week for two months in warm Florida weather. Though his spark seemed to be a bit lost, we did have a clean test and there were some nice parts. Day two, I had reviewed my test with my mom, who had flown in the day before the show to support me and to make the drive back home with me the following Sunday. We went over my test and found parts that I could easily improve for day two. Little giveaways here and there are hidden through tests of all levels and finding them is as easy as reviewing the test and then not letting them slip away when in the ring competing. The second day I rode the FEI Young Rider Individual test and it went even better then the first day! For this I thank both Pam’s instruction and my mom’s support the evening before my test. I rode better and Rossi was a bit more on his game the second day. We scored a solid 64% (a score I am incredibly happy about given the tough judging found in Florida.) We came in third in a highly competitive young rider lineup. As mentioned, I thank my mom and Pam, and perhaps the lucky socks my mom had bought me that day : )
I was so proud of Rossi when I heard our score announced and I think he knew he had done a great job. Over the years it seems we have had more lows than high’s and this year I feel very different about how things are going to play out. The partnership I felt with my horse at this final competition is unlike a feeling I have ever had on him. In the past, the site of a flower box alongside the show ring would have sent us flying across the arena in a sort of reversed half pass, now when Rossi finds a “spooky” object he looks to me for guidance, this is an amazing feeling and accomplishment with this horse who has always had his own agenda.
Sunday morning I left Florida with my mom and all my belongings and memories. Rossi remains in the sunshine state for this next week in the care of the great owners of the farm he is stabled at. My boy will be returning to me on Monday and I am very excited to have him back at home! Here’s to more training at home at Cadence Farm and to an amazing experience in Florida!
I have included some photos here of my time spent in Florida, including some lovely photos that were recently posted (www.horsesportsphotography.com) that had been taken of me and Rossi at our first Florida competition in March.
by Dressage for Juniors/Mary on 04/05/10
Since my last post, I have simply been living life, riding, working, and unfortunately facing some financial stresses. I am finding that it isn’t as easy as it may have seemed to support myself and my equine endeavors on my own here in Florida. It comes without saying that any equestrian sport is an expensive one, and as a 20 year old young rider who’s riding habit is becoming more of my own financial responsibility I can’t say that I’m not sweating it a little. My time here spent “on my own,” has been an eye-opening experience. Not only am I realizing what it really takes to be at the top of the sport but also how much income I must have to support myself and my horses. Coming from a sheltered life in Massachusetts where Rossi and I live at our own private facility and where my riding woes are few and far between, I am taking in a new flavor of life in the “real world,” to which I now have a greater understanding of. Even living on a college campus at the age of 20, many of us still don’t understand what it takes to live on your own, let alone maintaining a well balanced life for an equine partner! I think this experience is making me an even more independent and strong being by not having things handed my way and learning on every level what it takes to be a successful and competitive equestrian. Alas, I am savoring my last week here in Florida and working hard to stay afloat amongst the difficult seas of equine expenses.
It is when I am in the saddle that I can escape any worries of the world, financial or emotional, the connection I feel and my mindset while riding brings such ease to my life. Today, I had a fabulous ride on Rossi. He has had two consecutive days off, one because it was his usual Sunday off and then Monday due to flooding after some torrential rain storms. Today he was a little tough on the left, his weaker side, though with much of our focus set on correcting the overall picture and putting him in better balance in relation to his weight distribution on his shoulders, this toughness did begin to subside by the end of our ride. Rossi’s most favorite place to be is entirely on his left shoulder, pretty sure he would be perfectly content living with just his left shoulder, this makes my job as his rider a tough one. I am constantly working to keep an even balance of both shoulders and have to be aware at all times where he is placing his weight. Today I rode almost entirely in left haunches in to distribute more weight to the right and to get him off that left shoulder. Pam instructed me to even ride with a bit of haunches in during our difficult left halfpass so that he wouldn’t fall onto the left shoulder and thereby fall on the forehand and have a messy halfpass. Rossi was very cooperative today and I really look forward to riding him the rest of the week.
This weekend also marks our second competition here in Florida. Showtime begins on Friday at 10:31 sharp, starting with the FEI Young Rider Team Test (Prix St. George Test.) It is the Equestrian Estates Spring Competition held in White Fences, only a 2 minute trailer haul from our barn, how nice! I am excited to compete and hope to do even better than our first show. Stay tuned!
Showing at the Wellington Classic II
by Dressage for Juniors/Mary on 03/20/10
Well I took a bit of a Internet hiatus as to catch up on some other areas of my life, one big one being sleep! I have never appreciated bed time as much as I do since I have been working so hard down here. Since my last post Rossi and I did have the Wellington Classic II competition which went very well. Rossi was transported from White Fences to the show grounds last Thursday by the Barteau family to whom I thank so much for giving my dear Rossi a safe and comfortable lift to the show. Upon arrival Rossi settled right in and did not seem phased to be at a show so early in the year. It always seems that the weather knows when it is a show weekend because as soon as people began arriving an unsettling wind settled over the show grounds and then….the rain, and more rain, and more rain, and more r-a-i-n rolled in the eve before competition day. It rained torrentially for hours Friday and Saturday making the Jim Brandon Equestrian Center look more like a water park then a horse show! Despite the incredible amounts of water that sent many home from the show and flooded the outdoor rings and many of the stalls under the tents, those running the show did an outstanding job reorganizing and pumping out a lot of the water so that by Saturday afternoon and Sunday the rings were rideable.
The majority of the FEI classes were held under the covered arena where the footing stayed untouched by the rain. On Thursday Rossi and I warmed up first in the outdoor ring and were then instructed by Pam to trot right into the covered arena as if it was show time. The sudden change of atmosphere perked Rossi right up and I greatly enjoyed his fresh steps and light carriage until he spotted one of the spooky gazebos on the long side of the arena and did a 180 spin to which Pam yelled across the ring “keep going!!!” I pushed and pushed until he finally trusted my leg and went forward. After a few tours around the outside of the ring I cantered right up the centerline as if entering for my test and Rossi came in with a great presence and felt amazing. This was by far my best show warmup to date and I was elated by the end. He was so on my aids and felt so rideable on account of it.
Friday was show time. There were puddles galore and show management had to make a big decision to cancel all morning classes because the competition rings were unrideable. All rides under the covered arena would continue. My ride on this day was at 11:01 and I felt like the stars were aligned, I was calm, my horse was calm, and everything that weekend had just been going smoothly. I was a bit startled when I first heard of the unusual warmup that those of us competing in ring one would have to do. The outdoor warmup was closed and therefore if you wanted to warmup you would have to do it along the outside of the arena under the covered while others were riding their tests! This meant that people were zooming back and fourth about fifteen meters off the sides of the competition ring while riders tried to ride with their best concentration in the ring. It was daunting but Rossi was fabulous! I had a solid Young Rider Team test despite one issue in the counter canter to flying change sequence when Rossi changed early and I attempted to correct it, it was a bit of a mess and definitely hurt our score. We came in second in the class with a 60.9. A decent score for our first Florida competition under very difficult judging. I was just proud of Rossi for holding it together!
Day two we would ride the Young Rider Individual test which went even better. I really rode this day. Friday evening I visualized my individual test and was sure not to make the same minor mistakes that I made the first day in order to save some points. I could hear Pam in my mind during my entire ride on Saturday. Ride the shoulder in to right pirouette, push for more at the end of this diagonal, lighten your seat in the tempi changes, I was coaching myself through the whole test. This was a great achievement for myself because for so long my focus has been on simply surviving the movements and getting through a test spook free. Now I am riding my tests. Saturday we went up a full point for a total of a 61.7 with numerous 8’s awarded for our extended canter and medium trot, this I was VERY happy about. I had great comments from the judges and I know that we will be even more prepared for the next show in two weeks and it will be even more of a success! I hope to have a Cadence Camera epsiode up shortly with some coverage from this past and upcoming show : )
** A side note: I was so happy to see the majority of the riders at the show wearing helmets during their warmups and also in competition. Many of the FEI riders even made a statement by competing in their helmets when they would generally wear a top hat. International competitors such as Jacqueline Brooks even wore her helmet in the Grand Prix. This is a big step in the right direction for our sport and I only hope we continue to take these big strides in respect of Courtney and in respect of our own lives.
by Dressage for Juniors/Mary on 03/14/10
It is competition week! Rossi and I will be competing in the FEI young rider division this week at the Wellington Classic II dressage competition at the Jim Brandon Equestrian Facility here in Wellington. I am very excited to make my Florida competition debut and because of Pam’s help and guidance I feel very prepared. Pam and I came up with a work schedule for this week leading up to the competition. After a day off on Sunday, we began with light work yesterday, heavier work with a focus on test riding today, tomorrow will be a lighter day with focus on parts of the test that need help, and finally Thursday we school on the show grounds. Something I greatly respect and appreciate from Pam is her complete dedication to her students, I feel like she is behind me 100% and each and every day she gives me advice that is making me a better rider, horsewoman, and also improving my horse’s performance. It is supposed to be a very warm weekend (80 degrees or so, a temperature that we have hardly seen down here this season!) so I am preparing Rossi physically for this climate shift by increasing his grain and being sure he is well hydrated before and during the show.
I’m feeling ready for the competition and I have felt even more positive after being complimented by those at the barn on my partnership and training with Rossi. It’s amazing how a simple compliment can make your day. After a great training session yesterday Rossi and I hacked home as his ears happily bounced and he walked with energy in each step, a nice woman on a bike turned to us and said, “looks like a very happy horse!” that made me smile : )
A most unfortunate wake up call
by Dressage for Juniors/Mary on 03/06/10
It has been a sad and exhausting few days here in southern Florida. It was on March third that Courtney King-Dye, one of our nation’s top dressage riders, was schooling a young horse at her farm (not the derby dressage competition) when the horse lost his footing and tripped, Courtney fell from the horse and had serious impact to her head. Courtney was said to be immediately unconscious and life-flighted to the hospital. Due to fracturing of the skull and bleeding of the brain, Courtney was put into a drug-induced coma. When I heard of this news I was shocked that such a thing would happen to such an accomplished and talented rider. I was asked to drive a dear friend of Courtney’s to the hospital to see her, though we knew Courtney was under the induced coma, it was not the being able to talk to her, but making our presence known and supporting her during this terrible time that mattered. Walking through the hospital it still did not hit me. Though visiting hours were over, we were allowed to see Courtney from afar. The image of this strong and beautiful person lying so fragile in a hospital bed was absolutely heart breaking. Tears streamed down my face and it was in this moment that I realized how severe this situation was. Within hours of the accident facebook, dressage news websites, and twitter were blowing up with updates, thoughts, and prayers. Courtney, an idol, and genuine human being does not deserve such an unfortunate accident, no one does. Dismally, Courtney was not wearing a helmet, there is no saying whether a helmet would have prevented such a severe brain injury, but it is truly in our best interest to ALWAYS wear head protection. Young rider, adult amateur, professional, or pleasure rider, it does not matter. We are all human beings, life is too precious and short. I came here to Florida having worn an ASTM approved helmet all of my life when engaging in horse related activities, though upon my arrival to Wellington I found hardly anyone wearing a helmet because it was the “cool” thing to do and “too hot.” I take the blame for falling into this ridiculous class of non-helmet wearing riders for a month, and from now on will never make that mistake again. It is sad that such a horrific incident, such as Courtney’s, has to wake people up to the risks that we take every time we sit on a horse. Her horse had not acted up, was not misbehaving, he tripped, and this can happen to any horse and rider combination. We must wake up and wear helmets for our own personal sake, the sake of our families, and for the betterment of our sport.
It is important we continue to send positive thoughts to Courtney and her family, this is such a difficult time in their lives and ongoing support is needed.
by Dressage for Juniors/Mary on 03/02/10
Sunday, February 28, 2010
So it’s been a few days since I last posted, apologies for that. Life has been great, busy, but great. I have been busy working for others, training, and have been hitting the hay early each evening on account of it! I must say I love the new life schedule I am on down here. Compared to my regular mundane days while in school, where I stay up late distracting myself with anything other than studying, to sleeping in until the last minute before class, I feel so fulfilled after a day’s work here in Florida. Productive, full of great horses and great people, and great weather of course, the life here is so refreshing. I have been so pleased with my work with Rossi. My warmups are much more tactful now and I am so much more aware of the exercises I must use to get Rossi where he needs to be before we dive into the main chunk of our training sessions. A few things we have done over the last week that are worth mentioning:
A shift to “competition mode,” as my first show down here is a mere two weeks away
Heavier work, more specifically a focus on pirouettes and extended work
Lastly, a strong focus on forwardness.
“Competition mode,” kicked in this past week and therefore I have run through the FEI young rider tests a few times under Pam’s watchful eye. Now we have begun to pick away at the weaker points in the test and are definitely sprucing it up.
Rossi is no doubt good at pirouettes but has some tendencies that are in need of fixing to make them great. Pirouettes are the second most stressful movement to perform in relation to horse’s muscle and tendons, and therefore we only work on them every couple days and are wise about how I ride them.
Forwardness is now becoming a way of life for Rossi. Pam is very adamant when it comes to horses respecting the rider’s leg, as we all should be, and it has made me much more in tune to how willing Rossi is to move off my leg. It’s incredible how respectful he has already become when I use my leg and/or whip.
Today is a lovely Sunday, and while I am working at another barn, Rossi is enjoying his day off. On to tomorrow, another day of exciting training!
Best Training Session to Date–February 22, 2010
by Dressage for Juniors/Mary on 02/23/10
Monday, February 22, 2010
Today was my best training session with Pam to date. I had given Rossi Saturday off to recharge after he was very behind my leg and tired during Friday’s lesson. I worked him lightly in the ring yesterday and took him on a relaxing hack afterwards. Today he felt great walking out of the barn and was a super star over at Double Bridle. The work just keeps getting easier and he is a different horse now when it comes to his work ethic and submission. I am so ecstatic! Today we did our usual warmup with leg yields in trot and canter, counter canter work, changes, tempis, etc. The main focus was on two things today. One, we focused on his trot halfpass to the left. For years I have struggled with the halfpass left, especially in trot because he is so resistant to the left bend and would rather throw his shoulders right. So to fix this, Pam had me in shoulder in down the center line, ten meter circle left with a high degree of left flextion, then rather then “falling” into the left halfpass I took three strides or so to have him perfectly straight a step of leg yield right THEN the infamous halfpass left. It was so much better this way and it was a great way of correcting his tendency to want to fall left, especially coming out of that volte. We moved on from all this great work to a little bit of mental and situational control. Rossi is what I would like to call a spooky horse, and he uses it as an excuse out of work most of the time. So Pam had me canter from one ring to another. There are three arenas at Double Bridle all with footing in between so you can ride from ring to ring. Pam told me to canter out of one ring, straight past the haunted tractor, wash stalls (with horses being hosed I might add,) and spooky flower boxes and down the centerline of the next arena, and so it went on. We did this a few times until all Rossi did was glance rather than slam on the brakes. I was so happy with him for keeping his focus and “getting over” the spookiness between the rings. This sort of work is really great preparation for competition when there are plenty of things he has to see. Spookiness has always been our downfall in the show ring so I was pleased we worked on this today. My ride ended with a beautiful long and low canter on the twenty meter circle. Rossi was elastic, forward, and up in his shoulders and it was a fabulous note to end on. Great day, I love my horse.
The saddle situation by Dressage for Juniors/Mary on 02/18/10
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
My rides today and yesterday were significantly better for two reasons. One, Rossi is improving each day. Two, I rode in a different saddle and was amazed at how much it affected my position and effectiveness as a rider. Pam is notably picky about how saddles fit horses and was not pleased with how my saddle fit Rossi. I don’t think I have been ignorant to his saddle fitting but Pam felt that with a saddle switch things could be improved and boy was she right! My current saddle may have fit him well two years ago but as horse’s bodies change so does the way in which their saddles sit on them and his muscle mass has certainly changed during this time. Sometimes it is simply a matter of a opinion when it comes to saddle fitting but I believe Pam’s opinion and believe that it is time to find a new saddle. I felt much more connected to my seat, had the ability to elongate my leg with ease, and didn’t feel like I was riding on top of Rossi’s shoulders as I did in my previous saddle. So, saddle shopping begins!
The last two days we have focused on leg-yield to half pass work, mostly in canter, and began working some medium work. Pam insisted in the medium work that I take a moment to give one big aid to gain the thrust in the corner then take my legs off the gas so to speak and let him carry me in the medium across the diagonal. Rossi is not the most forward thinking horse so this will take some time for him to get used to me unclamping my leg from his side and asking for every medium stride and to instead ask once and have him carry it himself. Today we moved on from single changes to tempis, our goal being…keeping the exuberance and straightness and not losing it simply because I was riding multiple changes. This is where my mind really has to kick into gear and I need to focus on staying relaxed in my leg and seat and allowing the forward energy to flow and not block it in anticipation of each change.
Lots of exciting stuff! Having a blast and am appreciating every opportunity and day I have down here!
Raising the bar –February 15, 2010
by Dressage for Juniors/Mary on 02/17/10
Another full day here in Florida. It all started with my new working position at Nancy Pugh Later’s farm in Loxahathchee Groves, I am working for Nancy doing your all around horse chores; cleaning water buckets, wrapping polos, turning horses out to pasture you name it…we all know riding is an expensive sport and I’m finding all sorts of ways to support myself and Rossi while in training here. After a few hours worth of work at Nancy’s, I headed over to White Fences for an 11:00am lesson with Pam. I am really noticing the progress in our training. Today we worked in yet another one of the three arenas at Double Bridle. Rossi has become less crooked in his work now that I have worked him with “training wheel-like aids,” as I like to call them, for the last week and now feel like I can remove the training wheels and let him do more of the work. He is straighter and thus has more self-carraige and a willingness to carry me forward. Pam and I worked a lot on turn on the forehand in either direction, keeping him on his toes and waking up his hind end. It was incredible how much lighter and more forward he was after the repetitive turn on the forehands in the center of the arena. After some much needed mini breaks under the hot sun, we worked canter leg yields which really tested his acceptance of the bridle and self-carraige. We have officially turned it up a notch this week, now that Rossi is settled and comfortable in his new schedule and settings. I worked Rossi rather lightly yesterday in his double bridle for the first time in a few months and he was great, I also used it today and plan to continue using it the rest of my time here unless instructed otherwise. I prefer to ride in a snaffle rather than a double for simplicity’s sake and because I feel I have a better sense of the horse’s mouth with one bit rather than two, but I have no problem riding in either and Rossi happily works in both. I am so pleased with Rossi’s attitude adjustment within just the last week, he is much more willing and seems happy in his work which is, after all, the ultimate goal in riding. Along with more amped up training sessions I have also increased to full training with Pam, that is, five consecutive days of training a week, which I am very excited about. Life is good. Looking forward to more training tomorrow.
Training day 5 and the Wellington Classic -February 11, 2010
by Dressage for Juniors/Mary on 02/17/10
Today was yet another great day of training with Pam. I was in the saddle bright and early and did my usual trot and canter warmup over to Double Bridle. Right as I approached the palm tree where I do my usual flying change Rossi stopped in his tracks and cranked his neck to the right to stare at a hurdling group of polo ponies being warmed up in an adjacent pasture. Didn’t blame him for stopping and taking a look, it was quite the site for a horse who has never seen such a thing! My lesson was great, each day is getting easier and today I went from working in the large training arena to the standard size arena which has mirrors on the short side, which was very helpful. I was impressed with how Rossi looked overall and was able to focus on the left shoulder control and placing more weight on his right front by watching in the mirror as I came down the long side and into the corners.
It was a very busy day at Double Bridle as Pam and many of her students were getting ready for the big CDI competition, Wellington Classic, that is going on this weekend. On my hack back I casually rode by Conrad Schumacher teaching a clinic at the neighboring barn…only in this place is this a regular occurance. After my ride I headed over to the Wellington Classic because I am grooming for a friend and sponsor. It was a great to stand on the sidelines for a change and just observe the talent. This particular show is a big qualifier for not only the World Equestrian Games, but the NAJYRC and Young Rider World Cup, so everyone is here. I had the pleasure of standing with Lendon and watching her coach her long time student, Courtney King-Dye, on a young horse which was of course very fun to watch. I then stood ringside with Kathy Connelly and watched her school Renee Isler, my friend and sponsor. It was a great day of warmup and I am looking forward tomorrow to have another lesson with Pam and then to head back over to the show for a full day of grooming and watching competition. Good luck to all riders, and I will report back with details from tomorrow.
Training Day 3 and an Evening at the Barrels–February 10, 2010
by Dressage for Juniors/Mary on 02/17/10
Today was a great day. I had a lesson with Pam at 2:30, I arrived with Rossi all warmed up after our trot and canter work on the grassy roadside to Double Bridle. Each day Rossi is becoming more and more willing. Today our focus shifted from less extreme use of my arms and hand to gain control of his strong left shoulder and simplified to using just the flextion of my wrist to gain the flextion in the bottom of his neck. All riders should be able to control their horses neck with light flexing of the wrist, though as mentioned, these last three days of training Pam and I have had to make it quite obvious to Rossi through use of arm that he must break down that barrier in his neck and come to me. I was pleased that I was able to have great neck and thus shoulder control with just the use of wrists rather then the strong arm I had to use these last couple days. I am amazed how much Rossi is improving and understanding this different path of training we are on, after all we are expecting a lot from him. It was one execution of a movement that made today’s lesson all worth it, a simple flying change. I can do two tempis with Rossi in his sleep, but it was the one flying change I did today where I had him so completely straight and even on both sides that the change was right off my leg, light, uphill, and thus…beautiful. As I have mentioned before, and Pam said today, it’s not the movements that are a problem with this horse, it is taking down the wall he has put up on his first half that we must take down so that I can ride him up to the bit and not hit that wall, once we have that I am confident I will have a different horse on my hands.
Today ended with a whole lot of fun, I attended my first barrel race! The Patterson family, the owners of Good Thunder Farm where Rossi is boarded, is such a neat family, they have dressage horses, polo ponies, AND three barrel racers at their stable and their teenage daughter Haley competes as both an FEI junior in dressage and at a very high level in barrel racing. They invited me to attend her competition tonight which was held at the Palm Beach Equestrian Center where some of the top dressage shows are held including the Wellington Classic (which I will be attending this weekend.) I showed up and horses were everywhere dressed in their blinged out bridles and riders were casually competing in jeans and hooded sweatshirts, quite the contrast from dressage shows! It was great fun and Haley was a blast to watch and she won her division which was also very exciting! I had a great time with the Patterson family and fellow dressage rider and the USA’s former top young rider, Kassie Barteau. It was fun to get away from the dressage scene for a night and experience a different equestrian sport for a change.
Back in the saddle tomorrow morning at 8:45 for yet another training session with Pam, I feel so blessed to have this opportunity to ride with her almost everyday.
Seeking Submission –February 9, 2010
by Dressage for Juniors/Mary on 02/17/10
Submission for Rossi has always been his main set back, whether at home or in the show ring I hardly have a ride on him that does not involve some sort of resistance or loss of attention, though it has gotten better as he has gotten older. Today I had a great training session with Pam where submission was the take home and the main focus for the second half of my lesson. I love the hack over to Double Bridle Farm, the lovely farm in White Fences that Pam is based out of. It takes me about 15 minutes to ride from the barn Rossi is stabled to Double Bridle, it is scenic and is a great warm up.
Today I asked for both trot and canter on the long stretch of grass alongside the road and Rossi was more than happy to do it, it was fun. I made it to Double Bridle for my 4:30 ride time as ominous rain clouds rolled in. Pam has me riding so differently then previous clinicians and trainers have told me to ride him and I feel that her method is working wonders on him, I will really see the results I believe once we start putting more of the advanced and required movements for the young rider tests into the training sessions. Pam says, and this goes for all horses, that he must submit to me and when I apply pressure to the reins he shouldn’t come shorter in his neck, rather he should rise to the contact, and come more forward towards it. This makes sense but her technique in getting to self-carriage is very much different then what I have been doing over the years.
Today I really felt a wake up call from how I have been riding Rossi and how I should be riding him. The movements are secondary with this particular horse, he is so quick and smart that he learned the PSG movements with ease and now it is really gaining the necessary self carriage and throughness to make his movement bigger and to turn up the execution of the movements a notch from where they have been. We spent a lot of time with me showing Rossi where he needs to be and encouraging him to carry me. Pam had me doing a lot of suppling work, left and right, but not giving away my contact on the opposite hand when suppling in a particular direction (something I had been told to do from one of my German clinicians.) After our work in the arena Pam took me and Rossi aside and did a bit of work with him from the ground as I sat on his back. She wanted to see how much it would take for him to submit to her rein pressure, he resisted, raised his neck high and whinnied to distant horses, and even tried to push her over with his shoulders, all major signs of his lack of respect and submission.
Pam patiently worked through this with him until he finally gave in and she had his nose stretched down towards the ground and he stood quietly. This was quite the epiphany for me as his rider, I knew Rossi was not the most respectful horse but this moment has given me a better understanding of how strong I need to be with him at this time to make up for the last few years that I have allowed him to be in charge. I feel we are on the right path and despite some mild pain in my arms at the end of the day, I know it will get easier, it is just a matter of Rossi accepting a different use of aids and me understanding my new trainer’s technique and using it correctly. The lesson ended on a great note with much for me to think about on my hack back to the barn. The rain rolled in right as we walked into the barn, thank you rain gods : )
February 7, 2010
by Dressage for Juniors/Mary on 02/17/10
Last night was quite the evening. My mom and I were fortunate enough to have box seats at the CDI 5 Exquis Dressage Masters competition held at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center. The top eight riders in the Grand Prix qualified to compete in the freestyle and they were all a joy to watch. It was during the last three rides that an incredible electricity flowed through the crowds. First up would be Steffen and Ravel. Chills ran down my spine as they floated through the arena entrance.
I had seen Steffen and Ravel compete last year at the World Cup in Las Vegas but I was even more taken by them this time around. Ravel looked so loose and relaxed and Steffen was right there with him. Unfortunately the crowd became a bit too excited and began clapping after his first string of two-tempis and Ravel lost it for a moment which did hurt their score. Steffen and Ravel finished with an 81 and change. Isabelle was the next one to watch and her music was incredible and Satchmo looked in top form. All seemed perfect until Satchmo put up an argument during Isabelle’s steep finish to her canter half pass which hurt their score tremendously giving them a 78 and change.
Anky was last, and what a freestyle she put on, perhaps the best I have ever seen her perform over the last few years with Salinero. It was accurate, incredibly well choreographed, and inspiring. Anky finished with an 84 and change. Overall, I would have loved to have seen Steffen take home the win and feel that Ravel has so much more to show the world, but Anky most definitely deserved last night’s win because of her precision (and because he halted for once!) Last night’s competition has certainly added even more inspiration into my day to day training.
Today was a fabulous day with an extra early start. It all started with an alarm at 5:00 am so I could drive my mom to the airport for a sad departure, definitely going to miss her support and love these next few months! After the drop off I headed back to Wellington to Havensafe Farm where I groom for a good friend and sponsor. I arrived at the farm around 7:30am and did all the necessary care and was done with the early afternoon work around 12. I headed back to White Fences to ride and finish clipping Rossi. I love all horses but there is nothing like being able to spend hours of one-on-one time with your own horse. I finished body clipping Rossi (perhaps my least favorite equestrian-related task) and then had a fabulous third day of riding on him. Today I saw the potential we have and was so excited with thoughts of what we will look like at the end of this training journey. I focused mostly on steady and accepted connection with Ross, as that is what I worked on with Pam yesterday.
The thing I admire so much in Pam is her ability to match specific techniques to specific horse and riders. For me and Rossi it does take a strong hand at first to gain his concentration and connect him, something I was told to do in the past but just in a different way. At this point in our training he is putting up some slight resistance to my demands that he comes more connected but I am confident as he becomes stronger and better understands this concept that we will be golden. I was most pleased with his extended work today. Though I try not to override extensions I did two or three in trot that felt like we were floating on air, I was also able to watch on the short side mirrors and I was pleased with his forward reach. After my ride, Rossi was turned out for his first time here in Florida, he was a bit perturbed by the different grass and palm trees and nickered to me about half an hour into it, telling me he wanted to come back in, guess he prefers his New England grass : ) I was so happy with how today went and am finding myself loving the life down here and how my focus is just on horses for a change. Today I think I finally found my talented FEI Young Rider horse….his name is Rossignol.
by Dressage for Juniors/Mary on 02/17/10
Settled in the Sun-February 5th, 2010
I am finally here and so content with how smoothly everything has gone so far. I felt some anxiety as my mom and I came off the highway onto Southern Boulevard, mostly because of all the excitement and wonder that was running through my veins for my arrival. We drove through White Fences and I had to keep telling myself that this was real and it was home for the next two months. It was neat to see two of the Dressage Masters competitors for this weekend schooling right beside the road as we drove down to the farm where Rossi is stabled. It was so exciting to roll into the driveway and finally see my beloved boy. Rossi had definitely lost a bit of weight since I last saw him due to the long haul, stress, and climate change. After some much needed bonding time (and grooming!) I took Rossi into the arena for about a 15 minute ride. I was astounded at how great he felt after being out of work for about a week and being in a new place. I was tempted to ride him further but felt it unfair to push him too hard his first day back, but it was certainly tempting! I have scheduled my first lesson down here with Pam Goodrich tomorrow at 12pm. I am really looking forward to this jumpstart and am confident Rossi will be a great boy. Tomorrow evening I will also be attending the CDI Dressage Masters competition which is going to be a memorable and hopefully history making night under the lights. My bet is with Steffen and Ravel to take home the win : ) More stories to come!
Rough Road South
by Dressage for Juniors/Mary on 02/17/10
In just a couple days I will be joining my dear Rossi down south in Loxhatchee, Florida. Rossi arrived in the gated equestrian community of White Fences around 4:00 am this morning; though it was not all smooth sailing after he left the gates of Cadence Farm. Phil Silva, of Equine Valet, ran into difficult weather as he crossed through Virginia and because of the road conditions had to pull off the interstate and wait for the highway department to clear the ice and snow covered roads, this caused delays and Phil was forced to continue his trek without his planned overnight in North Carolina Sunday evening. All four horses were being transported from New England to White Fences and upon arrival Rossi worked himself into a mild colic. I was telephoned by the kind barn owners and they calmly told me of Rossi’s colicy (is that even a word?) condition which subsided after some hand walking and a dose of banamine. Though I had concerns not being able to be with my horse, I knew he was in good hands and was sure it would pass. As of now, I have been told Rossi is happily settling in and is probably enjoying the warm tropical rain as he patiently waits for my arrival : ) Must say I miss going out to the barn and being greeted by his adorable grey face and annoying, yet somewhat entertaining “I demand your attention right now” kicking at his stall door. At this point I wish for a safe drive down with my mom this Wednesday and am so excited to get working under the sun!
Rossi heads down to Florida!
by Dressage for Juniors/Mary on 02/17/10
Rossi heads down a couple days before Mary to White Fences of Loxahatchee, Florida for two months of training. Towed by Phil Silva of Equine Valet. Stay tuned for the next exciting episode of Cadence Camera south!
First post by Mary
by Dressage for Juniors/Mary on 02/17/10
This marks my very first of many blog posts about my life as a dressage rider and the exciting journeys that lay ahead.
If I were to take a snapshot of who I am and what my life is at this very moment it would look a little something like this: I am currently training and competing at the FEI Young Rider level with my Dutch Warmblood and main man, Rossignol-ISF. At this point I am living at my family own farm, Cadence Farm in Massachusetts where I train and teach with my mother and coach, Joy Bahniuk. Though riding takes up most of my time, I do lead a fabulous social life and owe so much to all my friends both equestrian and those that are not so equine oriented. I also spend some time in front of the camera modeling for various designers and occasionally walking the cat walk : ) I am taking a semester off from college to place my focus completely on my development as a dressage rider and to better myself and my horses. I made this decision solely because time is ticking and it is my last year to compete in the Young Rider division and I want to make it my best! Can’t say I am the most academically inclined person, that is when it comes to academics related to school…but I am ALWAYS ready to learn more when it comes to horses and riding techniques. Since being away from the college scene I can say that I have never felt so super charged and ready to rock (and ride:)) I do, however, plan to return to my college to complete my degree in business in the coming years. I am leaving for my big journey south to Loxahatchee, Florida for two months of training and competition in only two days and this is where a new chapter (and new blogging) begins! So come along for the journey here and also with my online video series, Cadence Camera! http://www.youtube.com/user/mbldressage
I will leave you with this snapshot for now and plan to give you more details about my years of partnership with Rossi and a few of my other equine friends shortly.