The Dressage Dossier

The discerning Diva's guide to the Dressage world

The Quick Guide to Blanketing

Winter is upon us!  In Southern California, owners that blanket are often criticized by owners that don’t.  Because we have such a moderate climate it’s often hard to know what to do when the weather dips – and the answer is almost always situationally dependent.

Here are a few quick and easy to digest reference points to help guide you with your blanketing decisions.

The first tool that I refer to is the Smartpak Blanketing app.  It’s free to download and use, and after entering your horses age, stabling, and coat length information it will give you a daily guide on when and how to blanket!  Easy peasy.

For those of us that aren’t so technologically inclined – here is a fun infographic (by HorseDVM) that can point owners in the right direction.

Breaking Down The Movements – Leg Yield

As a rider coming from a Hunter/Jumper background, I sometimes find myself needing clarification on dressage movements when riding in lessons.  More often than not when I’m asked to execute a movement, it takes me longer than it should to remember the proper cues before asking my horse to perform, lest I fling myself (and whatever poor steed presently burdened with the task of not killing me) into a haphazard and half baked version of whatever it is I’m supposed to be doing without proper preparation.

Having a solid understanding of each movement, how to ask for it,  and when to use it is imperative when bringing along a young horse – inconsistencies in cues can lead to confusion and an eventual loss of responsiveness when the proper aids are applied.

Credit: Rebecca Neff

Basic Principles

The leg yield is used to teach the horse to supple throughout its entire body.  Asking the horse to move both forwards and sideways – crossing the front and hind legs over each other during the forward stride while remaining parallel with the outside track requires and builds suppleness, strength and elasticity.

It takes time for a horse to become proficient at the leg yield, the rider needs to be able to give the horse clear aids and be able to feel through their seat what the horse is doing underneath them to be able to correct the horse if they become unbalanced.

Aids For Leg Yield

  • When riding leg yield to the left, start by riding a turn off the right rein onto the quarter line.  Keep the horse straight for a few strides along the quarter line before asking for leg yield, this helps to prevent the horse from falling out on the turn and helps both horse and rider start off straight and without anticipation.
  • With your right rein ask for slight bend to the right.
  • The left rein maintains the bend and controls the speed at which the horse travels.
  • The right leg goes slightly back behind the girth to ask the horses quarters to move across to the left.
  • The left leg stays on the girth as this will not only keep the horse forward but will also prevent the horse from falling out through the shoulder.
  • To leg yield to the right the aids are reversed, so it will be left rein asking for left bend, right rein controlling the speed and the amount of bend, left leg moving back behind the girth and right leg remaining on the girth.


  • Leg yield from the quarter line to the track.
  • Leg yield from the track to the quarter line and back to the track.
  • Leg yield from the center line to either the quarter line or outside track.
  • Leg yield from the center line to the quarter line and back to the center line.
  • Ride a twenty meter circle and leg yield into the center of the circle until you are riding a ten meter circle and then leg yield back out onto the twenty meter circle.

Common Faults

  • Horse leading with the shoulders or quarters.
  • If the horse is over bent to the inside it encourages the horse to push out with the shoulders and drift to the rail.  This can be easily corrected by riding a few steps of leg yield alternating with a few steps of straight forward movement. Only a slight bend is needed – a good way to tell if you have too much if you can see all of the horses inside eye.
  • If your horse is tilting its head, it can be a sign of lack of engagement and tenseness.
  • Rushing the leg yield can cause a loss of balance and rhythm – proper preparation is key.
  • If your horse is losing impulsion, the cause could be the horse trying to go more sideways than forwards.  Try alternating one or two steps of leg yield followed with one or two steps asking for forward impulsion until impulsion can be maintained through the leg yield strides.
  • If your horse is trailing its hindquarters, it is usually a sign that the horses shoulder is falling to the rail.  Once you turn up the quarter line, ride straight for a few strides to control the shoulder, then ride a few steps of Leg Yield followed by a few steps going forwards in a straight line. This will help control the shoulder throughout the leg yield.  Tapping the horse gently on the hindquarters with the whip to encourage straightness can also help clear up any confusion for a young horse swinging the hindquarters out.
  • If your horse is leading with the hindquarters – you could have too much restriction with the hand – or your horse could be anticipating the Leg Yield, causing the hindquarters to overtake the front end.

There you have it – go out and ride those leg yields for a 10!

Review – Horze ProBell Bell Boots

Divas – If you’re anything like me, there are few sights more satisfying than a impeccably turned out dressage horse, and no turnout is complete without the dressage signature – An impeccable snow white wrap/bell boot combo that looks like it could protect a horse from Valegro level over-reaching.

Charlotte knows what I’m talking about!

Everyone has their preference when it comes to bell boots – be it patent, sheepskin topped, traditional rubber, or one of the thousands of variations of neoprene.  Personally, the more patent/rhinestone/fluffy sheepskin the better, but most importantly, I want my bell boots to have two things – great hoof coverage, and the blinding white color of freshly driven snow.  Bonus points if they have “stage presence” – which to me means they are obnoxiously big and exaggerate the horse’s movement with their blinding fluffy whiteness.

For me, I’ve grown used to having to levels of bell boots – which means I’ve resigned myself to having several schooling pairs in various abused shades of yellowed white or dust-in-the-cracks black to wear at home, and then one or two fun patent/crystal/glitter pairs that only get brought out at shows.  Unfortunately as we all know, horses touch the ground – kind of a lot.  One early morning show warm up in a freshly watered arena and there go my “show” bell boots – never to be spotless again, no matter how many times I sneak them into the washing machine at my house in between loads of human laundry.  As much as I love my pile of glittery silver and metallic grey bell boots – bright white is a staple that every rider should have in their equine wardrobe.

(Un)Fortunately Isley loves bell boots almost as much as loves peppermints – so I’m always happy to have a new pair to throw on the “home” pile, however I was never really able to justify the cost of buying new boots for each big event we would go to – until I found the very VERY reasonably priced Horze ProBell bell boots.

Already dropped them *sigh*

Why is Isley standing like that?

Purchasing & Fit – I was looking for a clean white boot that was very protective for schooling at home when I purchased these boots sight unseen online.  They set me back a cool $14.99 directly from (FINALLY a price I was willing to pay for a boot that I know will last my oversized piranha two months max), and I ordered them in a size XL.  Isley probably could have taken a LG but I really like my bell boots to be long and a little bit oversized as long as they fit snug in the top of the boot which these did.

Good fit, good coverage

Quality –  When they arrived I was pleasantly surprised!  Now don’t get me wrong, they are very basic, but they are generously sized, thick neoprene with a great length that covers the whole hoof, and while they are unfinished on the edges, the material seems soft and rub-free.  The Velcro seems reasonable sturdy and secure, and while the cloth type finish of the neoprene makes me think they will attract dust like a magnet and hold onto it – they also might wash up well, and are at a price point where I could honestly justify buying a clean set for every show this year while spending about as much as I’d spend on two pairs of fancy bell boots.

Alternate view

My biggest criticism would be that I’d love if the branding was all done in shades of white for a nice clean look – but beggars can’t be choosers and for $14.99, I’ll take what I can get!

They come in a royal blue (fun option for a championship honor round!), black, and white – so please excuse me while I go buy 5 more pairs!




Stallion Spotlight – Franklin

For this Stallion Spotlight, I’ve chosen Franklin.  This young stallion caught my eye through his offspring – I saw videos of three full siblings by him from a breeder in my area, and each foal was superb.  They each had a variety of strong attributes, but the consistency in quality was undeniable – which led me to my current interest in this young stallion!

The Stats

Registered name – Franklin

Breed – KWPN

Foal date – 2010

Height – 170cm

Approved for – KWPN, Oldenburger Verband and Danish Warmblood



Bloodline Info

Franklin’s Internationally recognized sire Ampére was champion stallion in Holland in 2008 and later was licensed in the Netherlands, Westphalia, Southern Germany and Holstein. Since 2012 he has provided more than 20 licensed sons.  Ampere’s sire, Rousseau, won silver at the world championship for young horses in Verden in 2003 and has been able to present the champion stallion in Holland three times in a row.

The dam’s sire Ferro won the 2000 Olympic team silver. He sired numerous top horses and is currently in twelfth place in the ranking of the world WBFSH best dressage.  In the third generation is another performer with Flemmingh.

Being line-bred on two of Holland’s major breeding magnates (Ferro and Flemmingh), Franklin’s pedigree is rich in the Dutch tradition of excellent moving and successful dressage competition horses.


Franklin was bred by Stal Gasaya in Dorst.  As a 3 year old he won both the 2013 KWPN licensing and 50 Day 2013 KWPN performance test. In the performance test, he scored a 7 for his walk, 8.5 for his trot, 9.5’s for his canter and self carriage, and 9.0’s for suppleness, rideability and dressage potential.

He then went on to win the 5 yr. old championship at the 2015 KWPN national stallion show.  Under Severo Jurado Lopez, he showed an excellent trot with plenty of push, technique, and activity.  The jury rewarded him with a 9.5.  For the walk, he received an 8 while the canter, rideability and general impression earned him 8.5’s.  A total score of 86 points and a final score of 341 points made him the champion.

Collected Comments and Offspring Impressions

Franklin remains in training at Helgstrand Dressage, and has been offered at stud for two seasons.  Franklin foals have made an impression at auction – at the Danish Warmblood Elite show several foals by Franklin made a very positive impression. The champion filly was Francisca Lightfoot sired by Franklin and with Michellino as dam sire; bred by Annette Lyngs and Torben Damsbo – however the quality of the mare should be noted as this was the second time that this Michellino dam had produced the best dressage filly foal, the first time being ten years prior.   For the colts, Plushorses Perception by Franklin (damsire Florencio I) from the breeder Laila Holm Gudmund Meyer stood out as well.

Franklin offspring have been fetching top price at Elite Auctions – an extremely well-proportioned filly by Franklin (with the Dutch dam line of Floria Antje) – Lissaus Ginger from the breeder Majbritt Lissau – was sold to Norway at a price of DKK 350,000.

Franklin x Jazz

Lord Franklin (by Franklin x Lancelot)

Miss Moneypenny (Franklin x Cocktail)

Franklin seems to really stamp his type, and has been producing foals with active hind legs and a strong top line.  He has been reliable thus far at producing incredible shoulder freedom, and is recommended for the breeder who is looking for that attribute.  He is reported to be a very sensitive, forward-thinking horse with a good character and is noted as being fine to handle in the stable.  He is short in the back as is common with the Ampere line, which could result in him being difficult to get over the back while under saddle.  He has been seen being warmed up in draw reins which would indicate that this may be the case – however a short back is a strong back.

On the negative side, some of his foals are toed out and rather fine-boned in front as commented by the judge in the Pavo Cup in Ermelo the year of his first foal crop. In addition, he himself has front legs that are not straight, and he paddles in front although that has not been noticed as something he has consistently passed to his offspring.  His weakest point is the walk – which is poor due to his sloping and short croup as evidenced by his performance test score of 7.

Semen is reported as great quality, pregnancies on the first cycle with one dose, etc. No issues reported there regardless of source.

An ideal type to try him with would be large framed mare with strong genetics (perhaps a soft type S-line or F-line as foals out of those pairings have been reported as particularly nice) longer in the croup, a bit long in the back, correct front legs with good bone, and with a super walk.  A breeder with a mare of this type who is looking to improve upon the mares shoulder freedom and wanting an attractive foal with a natural tendency to push from behind using an active hind leg, acceptable (although possibly sensitive/hot) character, and a good top line should consider him as a very interesting option.


Stallion Spotlight – Vitalis

Vitalis is a lovely stallion with an interesting history.  He came to my attention recently when perusing the 2017 Oldenburg Elite Foal Auction catalog.  I remember having been impressed with his offspring in the past, so I decided to do some research.

The Stats

Registered name – Vitalis

Breed – KWPN

Foal Date – 2007

Height – 170cm

Approved for – KWPN, Rhineland, Westfalen, Oldenburg, Mecklenburg, Hanoverian Verband, all South German Registries, Bavarian

Performance Test 2010 Warendorf: Overall: 116.20, Dressage: 129.70, Jumping: 93.98

Bloodline Info – 

Vitalis’ sire Vivaldi is one of the most desired dressage sires of his generation and come from the highly appreciated Utopia line.  There are three generations Grand Prix horses in a row in Vivaldi’s pedigree.

His dam is KWPN mare Tolivia (D-Day – Argus – Aktioin – Uniform) and as three year old was the mare champion of the province Limburg in Holland.  Dam sire D-day was successful at Prix St George level and acted as a schoolmaster for many years after being gelded – his influence is strongly felt in Swedish dressage breeding. Third sire Argus competed up to 1.50m level showjumping and also at grand prix dressage, while Aktion J, who follows in the fourth generation, counts as one of the most successful dressage horses of his generation under Hungarian Gyula Dallos.

History –

Vitalis is in interesting stallion in many ways, not the least of which being that he almost was not approved for breeding by KWPN!  Originally bred by A. de Crom, Vitalis was a champion foal and was reserve champion at the Westphalian Licensing in Germany in 2009.  In 2012 he was rejected for licensing by the KWPN while owned by Willeke Bos and Eugene Reesink due to a weak hindleg and a bloodline not considered unique enough for approval.  The exact wording as quoted to Eurodressage was “Vitalis is a nice dressage horse in our opinion. The standards we demand for a breeding stallion exceed the quality of movement of a horse. In the second phase pedigree plays an important part. Many sons by Vivaldi have been offered to the stallion licensing process and it is expected that many will follow. Vitalis’ blood line is, therefore, not unique. In that case the performance of the stallion – if exceptional – can stimulate a positive verdict. Vitalis produced a good result in several stallion competition shows, but it is our opinion that especially in trot the power of the hindleg is focal point and the stallion has the tendency to go wide behind in the trot extension. Therefore we concluded that Vitalis is a nice dressage horse, which does not excel enough with his pedigree and strength of the hind leg in order to continue to the third phase of the KWPN (licensing process).”

The stallion then sold to the US based Charlotte Jorst, who rides as an amateur.  She campaigned him in the FEI 6 year old classes up to I1 in the US from 2013-2014, and in 2013 placed 13th at the World Young Horse Championships in Verden.  Vitalis was then sold to breeders Paul Schockemöhle and Lone Bøegh Henriksen who paired him with Isabel Freese, the pair went on to win the 2016 Nurnberger Burgpokal Finals for German Developing Prix St Georges horses.  In addition, Vitalis’ daughter Victoria’s Secret became the 2016 World Young Horse Champion in Ermelo while he won the Intermédiaire I and was particularly distinguished as “Stallion of the Year”.

The KWPN decided against their previous ruling and in 2016 approved Vitalis for breeding.  Their motivation behind this decision was captured in a quote from in interview with Eurodressage – “he’s extremely successful in the Prix St Georges/Intermediaire I under Isabel Freese. In breeding he scores remarkably with the 5-year old World Champion. Also the champion of the last Westfalian Stallion Licensing is a son by Vitalis.”

Vitals debuted at stud in 2016 and since his Westphalian Licensing in 2009 has produced some spectacular horses.  Notable offspring include Valverde, the dressage winner of the Westphalian licensing 2016, In Rhineland in 2014, his daughter Virginia K was the winner of the elite show and at the Westphalian Week, all five of the three-year-old mare and gelding finalists were offspring of Vitalis. At an elite auction in Münster-Handorf, the four top priced horses were offspring of Vitalis with two selling for over 200.000 euros each. So far, 18 of his sons have been licensed, including Veneno who sold for 310.000 euros.  As stated above Victoria’s Secret was German National Champion in 2015, two other descendants of Vitalis also reached the final, and his daughter Vienna was at the top of the Westphalian elite mare show.  In 2016, the licensed Villeneuve won the bronze medal at the German national championships of the four-year-old stallions.

Vitalis x Sir Donnerhall I

Vitalis was ranked No. 16 on the German dressage index with an index of 157, based on only 2 foal crops.

Vitalis x Furst Piccolo

Collected Comments and Offspring Impressions –

Vitalis is heralded as a dominant, prepotent stallion who’s stamp is easily recognizable in his offspring, especially in regards to frame and size.  He passes a nice shape to the topline and a nice neck set, with flashy front leg action and uphill carriage.  Length of leg is often added, and he very reliably produces friendly foals with super temperaments suitable for both AA riders and pros, which is not surprising as he was campaigned by a (very skilled) amateur as a young stallion.

Vitalis x Furst Piccolo

He is said to pass on a walk that is inferior to the other two gaits, and while he has high hocks and longer hindlegs, he doesn’t seem to consistently pass on his tendency to go wide behind, although it seems it would be best to use him on a mare who is very correct behind with a superior walk.




Review – HandsOn Grooming Gloves

When it comes to grooming, I’m a pretty simple gal.  I love a good selection of nice

New HandsOn Glove

brushes and a great hoof pick, but when it comes to curry combs I keep it pretty basic.  I’ve always felt like there are so many gimmicky horse “massagers”, gel curries, roller curries, etc. – but nothing truly gets the job done but a good old fashioned hard rubber curry – or a stiff boar bristle brush.  In recent years I’ve strayed from rubber curries to the cheap and very useful “Magic brush” (essentially a lightweight plastic brush made of flexible plastic bristles), and while the Magic brush is great for breaking up crust and stimulating the coat, it is rigid in design and somewhat limiting on what areas it can tackle – especially on a thinner skinned horse.

I recently decided to try the “HandsOn Grooming Glove” ( and to be honest I wasn’t expecting to like it as to me it seemed like another grooming “accessory” who’s only real purpose was going to be getting dusty in the bottom of my groom kit, but I had seen a friend of mine who grooms at Rolex with one tucked into her back pocket, so I figured I’d give it a go.  I was right that I don’t like it – I truly love it.

Palm Side

Purchasing & Fit –  The grooming gloves can be obtained directly from the manufacturer, HandsOn Gloves, and comes in sizes Junior, SM, M, L, & XL.  I checked out the size chart and opted for a M, and while the fingers were a little bit short it was overall a good fit.  I have pretty long fingers and usually wear about an 8 in ladies riding gloves.  The gloves come in two different colors, black and green, and can be used wet or dry.

Quality – The gloves seem very durable and well made, the velcro strap is secure on my wrist when fastened, and it doesn’t feel like my fingers are at risk of poking through the fabric when I’m using them.  They are coated and clearly would be also to handle a lead rope, hose, or dog leash without being slippery, and I appreciate that I wouldn’t have to take them on and off while bathing a horse or grooming if I had to quickly grab something else.

Performance & Experience – Here is where I was really impressed with the gloves.  I used them on an unusually chilly summer day to groom Isley after his ride.  I had groomed him without the gloves before the ride and thought he was pretty clean, but because of the chill I didn’t want to hose him after.  First of all, from the very first touch he clearly LOVED what I was doing.  Isley typically rubs himself all over his stall walls to scratch himself after every ride, so I knew the scratchy factor would be a big plus for him – and I was right!  After the initial hilarious itchy faces, he really relaxed and closed his eyes as I groomed him.  He has a thin summer coat, but the amount of hair I got out of his coat with minimal pressure was pretty incredible, all while keeping my hands clean.

Just a few strokes worth of hair shed.

Working on him with the gloves was rewarding and relaxing for me as well – I clearly was having a positive effect on my four legged partner, the benefits of bringing the oils out of his coat, and the chilled out bonding time that we were having was making me feel just as happy and relaxed as he was clearly feeling.  It was easy to access the spots that I usually have to fight to clean around his ears, and the gloves made it possible for me to contour around legs or use just one or two gentle fingers around his eyes.  It also showed me truly how much I was barely scratching the surface (pun totally intended) with my other grooming tools – even after the full grooming before his ride I got an incredible amount of crud and hair out of his coat with my HandsOn gloves.

Wow! What a dustball!

I haven’t used the gloves to bathe Isley yet, but I’m sure I will be singing the same praises all over again when he has the most effective and relaxing bath I’ve ever given him!  I am absolutely getting rid of my other curry combs and will be putting the HandsOn gloves at the center of my new grooming regimen.  Can’t wait to see Isley’s coat bloom as a result – no supplements necessary!






Managing Frustration

It’s been a while since a “Life with Isley” post, and that’s because quite honestly, life with Isley has been fairly mundane lately.  Young horses go through so many development stages and oftentimes there are stretches of time where nothing particularly exciting happens, and you find yourself in the training trenches going over the same lessons until your baby horse is fitter, more balanced, and ready for the next thing.  Unfortunately repetition can lead to tension, boredom, and anticipation, so these stages should be handled with some imagination.  For me, I have to make sure my cross-training ideas don’t get me into trouble lest Nina come out to discover that I’ve taught Isley to bow at X or some other nonsense that inadvertently creates a problem because now he will ONLY bow at X and not just halt like a normal horse – and I’ve ruined the show season till we sort it out.

I am a huge believer in introducing new exercises and getting out of the same old routine, so while Isley has been in a “baby funk” these past few weeks, I have done my best to keep the lessons from getting repetitive and change things up just enough that he flexes both brain and body.

….Not quite how that’s done.

PHASE ONE a.k.a “Ground poles are not oxers”

The first thing I attempted was pole work.  In the past Isley has shown a natural capacity for extension at liberty, but under saddle when you ask for “bigger” he suddenly has 4 left feet.  Reaching for different stride distances over poles seemed like the perfect exercise to help him start to find the muscles required to open up his stride.

Painfully awkward… rewardingly hilarious

Important fact about Isley, he has two nemesis in this world.  1.) Spray bottles (don’t ask me why, I’ve worked on it since he was 4 months old and he is convinced that battery acid is the only thing they could possible contain), and 2.) Obstacles.  He immediately becomes a snorting, fire-breathing mess when asked to walk over a single ground pole.  I have always ignored his antics and made him do it anyway, but the sudden lack of coordination and complete offense he takes at the suggestion of jumping/stepping/or otherwise crossing a line on the ground is incredibly embarrassing (for him).  Months and months ago Nina suggested we put a pole in

Such a look of concentration. Such a simple task.

the round pen and lunge him over it.  At first she didn’t understand my Cheshire-cat smile and response of “be my guest”, but upon seeing his sudden departure from sanity and snort/bolt/three footed leap 4 feet off the ground with the coordination of a newborn taking its first steps it, was quite clear that jumping is not Isley’s forte.

I made many attempts to re-introduce and incorporate poles into Isley’s day off exercises – letting him romp around the roundpen at liberty with poles set up (FAIL), lunging him over single and double trot poles (NOPE), and riding over single poles at all three gaits (despite an obscene amount of offended snorting surprisingly this was not a disaster).  He had a few good moments, but all in all not great.

PHASE TWO a.k.a “Fine, then I’ll give you something to jump about!”

I thought it might be beneficial for Isley to use his body in a different way, find his feet, and work his hind end.  What better way to do that than over fences at liberty?  If the look on his face was any indication, he strongly disagreed, but I got him to jump little cross rails and it definitely got him thinking different (probably more violent) thoughts during his work outs.


Frustration has no place in the arena.  I tell myself this time and time again – but it is much harder to practice what you preach, and honestly – sometimes I get pretty frustrated.  Fortunately I can commend myself on not taking it out on my horse and trying to manage it in ways that minimize it hindering my riding.  To combat frustration, I always try to break things down to a more simplified version of what I’m aiming for, so success can be had on a smaller scale that will still aid in putting together the big picture in the long run.  Can’t get the trot leg yields today?  Lets get them at the walk.  75% of the time, I’m frustrated with myself – when I feel ineffective or like I can’t get myself together enough to clarify my communication to Isley.  20% of the time I’m frustrated with outside factors – a day where everyone decides to garden, dump stuff with the tractor, or pressure spray the barn, etc. during my ride and any attempted exercise turns into a spook zigzag down the long side with minimal steering and maximum cursing.  5% of the time I get frustrated by my own impatience – I know my horse can do what I’m asking, I know I’m asking him well, and I know that some day soon it will come together, but that day is not today and that just gets my feather ruffled.

I was having one of those 5% days where the canter was just miserable, Isley felt sucked back and tight, and nothing I did at the trot or walk was helping to relax him – he was grinding the bit at the stretch circle even while giving me a good stretch, he would plod along at the walk, but when I asked him to move up and march out he would get immediately tense and shuffle into a trot.  He was fussing around in the cater and I was at my wits end when, on a short side, I had an idea.  I suppled him in front a bit around the corner, picked up my hands, kept my seat light, and gave him a big ol’ “Yee-Haw”.  I’m not sure his reaction could have been funnier – there

Baby versions of canter collection

was a moment of in-air suspension where his body language SCREAMED “wait, you’re not serious?”, but I kept my leg on, gave a big kiss with every stride, sat quiet, and asked him to get his butt FORWARD.  The first long side was a little silly, he barely moved up as he dithered in disbelief – but on the next short side I sat deep, aimed for some baby collection, and cantered a balanced 10-15 meter circle before giving a big “Yee- Haw!” again and asking him to take me down the long side.  This time he pricked his ears forward, opened up the canter, and WENT.  By the time I hit the short side again I couldn’t help but have a huge grin on my face – this was fun!  We did the exercise a few more times, each time coming back easier,  getting more balanced on the circle, and having more and more fun extending down the long side.  We were both enjoying the work and that’s when it hit me – Sometimes the best training for rider and horse is just having fun!

Happy Human, Happy Horse








Review – Imperial Riding Hologram “Unicorn” Tendon Boots

Isley pulling focus from the product like a DIVA

Because I am a shiny hoarder, if I see something horse related online that is a new breed of shiny I lose all will power and order it immediately (and often in multiples so I can put it in a pile and sit atop it like a weird glitter-tack dragon) .  Its a fact of life that I have accepted (there are worse vices to have, right? RIGHT?!) and will not be seeing a counselor about this particular quirk of mine, thank you very much.

Unfortunately for me in the USA – Europe is the motherland of fun and shiny tack, so trying on is usually impossible, and shipping is often very expensive (so honestly it makes sense to buy these things in bulk – let me here all those enablers out there say “YES it makes SENSE!!”).  Fortunately you have me, your friendly online dressage goods hoarder to do the dirty work for you and give you the details on if these things are worth the price of shipping.

Purchasing – I ordered these boots from – they come in sizes pony, cob, and horse.  I ordered horse for fronts and hinds because Isley is 17hh and leggy, even though he is fairly slender.  For reference, he wears M DSB boots in front (can wear large) and L DSB boots behind.  I received my boots in a timely manner considering they were coming from the UK, although they mistakenly sent me one set Cob, one set Full.  Matchy Dressage has excellent customer service and sent me my other full set very quickly with no fuss.

Fit – I would not recommend these boots for horses with larger legs!  The cob size fit Isley width wise ok (not ideally), but were clearly too short. I would say they would be perfect on a 15-16hh ish horses with light, normal, and medium bone.  They might be fine on a stockier horse but I like my boots with lots of overlap, and on these boots the hologram is so cool that it was important to me to not see any velcro.  The horse size boots could be a littler taller behind, but they fit just fine.

Quality – I have not used them a ton (I’ve been saving them for special occasions like horse roller derby night or pony disco parties ever since my trainer Nina strongly suggested I not wear them to clinics and shows) – but they seem to be excellent in design and quality.  They are very thick and have a stiff protective layer inside that I really, really, like.  Where they are covering on the leg would be well protected in case of impact or overreach.  They also seem like they would be difficult to remove if a naughty baby horse named Isley were to try and free himself from the confines of horsewear and run naked in the turnout like he always tries to do.  I doubt they would be hard to clean as they seem to be vinyl, however I would worry that they might scuff with regular use and mess with the super shine they have going on currently.

All things considered these boots are SO fun and unique, and I really like this style of protective boot for dressage.  Because of the fit limitations I can’t say they are perfect, but come on – HOLOGRAMS!

Isley is very unenthused about modeling

USEF Young Horse Benefit Clinic – a.k.a – Don’t Fall Off

I was fortunate enough to recently be invited to ride in a clinic that will hopefully be the first of many – the USEF Young Horse Program Benefit Clinic, hosted by David Blake and Rebecca Rigdon at Ad Astra Stables in Encinitas, CA.

Ringside tables


The Details – This lovely and intimate clinic experience was held over two days, with horse and rider pairs representing the following categories on each day – 4 year olds, 5 year olds, 6 year olds, 7 year olds, 8 year olds/PSG, Intermediare II, Grand Prix.  Presentations by USEF Sport Horse and ‘S’ Dressage judge Arlene Rigdon on conformation and biomechanics prefaced the riders, and even when multiple riders were in the arena as was the case with some age groups, clinician and National Young Horse coach Christine Traurig switched off and gave each horse and rider pair ample individual coaching.  Shopping was available with a booth set up by Horse and Rider Boutique, and there was a fundraising silent auction full of luxe prizes like a custom pair of Deniro Boots, a flight up the west coast in a private plane, a weekend getaway vacation package in Las Vegas, and much more.  The $50 auditors fee generously included seating at shaded ringside tables complete with bottles of chilled (surprisingly drinkable) Prosecco, and above average sandwiches, desserts, and other hors d’oeuvres.

Warm up day, I like to call this frame “giraffe”

Day 1, Warm up – My goal for both Isley and my first clinic was simply – to not fall off (of course I always want to learn and have a nice experience and blah blah blah – but mostly, please God don’t let me fall off in front of all these people, amen).  I trailered in with friend and fellow rider Lehua Custer, and while there was no check in (possibly due to a late evening arrival), after a little stroll around the property we easily figured things out.  I could write sonnets about the footing in every single arena on the property – The warm up arena seemed to have an additive of shredded yoga mats – even my boyfriend Heath commented on how nice it was (although I suspect he was referring to the pretty colors), while the clinic arena and the round pen contained a shredded carpeting addition that was fluffy and immaculate, and made me feel better about the prospect of falling off just by walking across it.  At one point I was lunging Isley in the round pen, and Heath and I were dead silent listening to his hooves thudding in the footing – it was that satisfying of a sound.  The arena where the clinic was to be held was already set up, and it was a lot of atmosphere.  Isley was tentative but took everything in stride with only minor “snorkeling” as I like to call it.  While he wouldn’t give me full relaxation, what we have been working on at home is starting to translate to off property work – even if only a little.  I had a long ride and schooled each gait with only one blow up at the canter which we worked through and from which we continued on immediately.  We were still having some residual shoulder control issues from hell-week at home, but for the most part we coped.  For schooling alone in an unfamiliar arena at dusk complete with ringside tables, chairs, umbrellas, and tents set up, he was fabulous. Have I mentioned that I love my baby?

Day 2, Clinic Day – The day of the clinic everything was relaxed and well organized, again without there needing to be anyone bustling around to check in on anything.  David and Rebecca were back and forth getting their various horses ready and participating in the clinic, and were so friendly and helpful in answering any errant questions.  There was a support staff of riders and grooms helping to braid and prepare horses who were capable of fulfilling any request, and my dear friend (and phenomenally talented rider) Anna Buffini was among them.  Upon realizing my bell boots were not quite as white as I could have hoped next to my new white polos, she volunteered herself in between braiding horses to go on a wild goose chase across the property to find me a pair – The girl was a godsend!

Not pictured – me trying to regain my outside stirrup frantically before Christine notices something is awry

I was riding in the first group of the day, a group that consisted of Isley and I, and Rebecca Rigdon on a stellar 4 year old named INXS who had most recently scored very well in the 4 year old young horse classes at Flintridge Dressage Show.  Isley had a mishap in the round pen (he suddenly realized his crazy mother had brought him to a very fancy shindig and attempted an escape) right before my ride time, so I entered the arena after Rebecca had already started, and warmed him up at the walk while Christine coached Rebecca.  Unfortunately it was immediately clear to me that Isley had zero gas in the tank after his long warmup the night before, and his shenanigans in the round pen.  Even getting a forward walk was proving to be difficult, I have not yet introduced him to spurs, so my whip was my only ally.  I also made a mistake at the beginning of my ride – Christine asked me how long Isley had been under saddle and I blanked and responded “about a year”.  Nina reminded me afterwards that while we started him in May of 2016, we spent about two months backing him in the round pen, and then from October 1st to January 1st he went on “winter break” and did not work, which I had completely forgotten about.  Isley did his best to execute and I did my best to not curse aloud as Christine coached us, and the principles that she presented to me (that I could hear above my muttering about spurs under my breath) were incredibly insightful and useful.  Some big takeaways for me are below – bonus points if you can pick out which ones were from Christine.

  • When you pick up the contact from the walk, the horse should feel like they are expecting to move forward, not to stop.  That is key in developing a “forward thinking” horse.
  • Age and stage appropriate contact is always the key, but no Grand Prix has been won with long reins.
  • Gina, see above.

    Reins at questionable lengths

  • If you are having to ask continually to get your horse more forward now, you will be begging for it later.
  • I’m definitely begging now so that can’t be good.
  • I’m more fit than Isley and I can barely get my groceries from the car to the house.
  • Although my horse was not nearly fit enough to present himself at 100%, I couldn’t be more proud of him for not quitting on me, and proud of myself for continuing to do the best I could to ride accurately.

At the end of my ride, Christine told me that Isley’s walk is a 9.  What a feeling to hear those words from someone as knowledgeable about young horses as Christine!  She was such a gracious clinician, and clearly is a huge benefit to the Young Horse Program.

Pretty sure my desperate panting was audible at this point

Overall – I had a wonderful first clinic experience.  My only regret was that I did not have a chance before my ride to communicate with Christine any info/history about Isley and I, what we have been working on and struggling with, and what we are working towards.  I think that I may have been the only rider/horse combo she was not familiar with, I was told afterwards that many of the riders at the clinic had just ridden the Carl Hester clinic, and she was familiar with them either from that or from previous events – so that was most likely an issue exclusive to me, but I would have loved the opportunity to give her a short summary of our past.  It was extremely rewarding to be told after my ride by an auditor that my ride was her favorite, because it’s what she learned the most from.  I am so grateful to Rebecca and Christine for inviting me to ride, and so encouraged that they are welcoming riders like myself to these events!  I’ve attended numerous clinics, and while the horse and rider pairs are often incredible to watch, the takeaway is sometimes discouraging instead of relatable and encouraging.  In my opinion – clinics are most successful when they inspire auditors to go get on their horse and conquer issues with the tools they have learned,  and that can only happen if there are issues presented that they relate to.  I love to support dressage whenever I can, and having an opportunity to ride in such a great clinic as an adult amateur helps to make educational events like clinics relatable to more riders so that the knowledge gained becomes the incentive to attend.  I’ve audited numerous “elite” clinics, and while it is incredible to watch, the takeaways when watching world class horse and rider pairs is sometimes overwhelming instead of relatable and encouraging.

I’m proud of my horse, my trainer was proud of me, and best of all – I’m kind of proud of myself?

And I didn’t fall off.  



The Prep Week From Hell

Before a big event, it’s important for things to go right.  Preparation is key, right?  Right.

Thats why the week before the big clinic that Isley and I had been invited to, I wanted everything to go perfect.  Nina was to ride him Monday and Tuesday, and Thursday I would have a lesson before hauling to the clinic Friday.  It was perfect – He’d get schooled by Nina early in the week, rest up on Wednesday, and then we would have a prep session Thursday.

The disaster started Monday – due to an unforeseen tragedy in the barn family, The training ride was cancelled.  Tuesday was another training ride, but because it had been so suddenly hot, Isley was both tense and very quickly tired.  There was all kinds of commotion at the barn with construction and trailers pulling in and out, so

Isley got a lot of exasperated looks from me after his ride.

he was unsettled nearly the whole ride.  Nina attempted to shake him out of it and use the tension to introduce him to walk-canter transitions, but he did not get the concept and she got a grand total of – 0.  It was not the worst day, but by no stretch of the imagination was it the most successful.   I decided to give him another day off Wednesday since had been so tired and a little cranky Tuesday, and I didn’t want him to have a heavy week right before the clinic.

Thursday is when it all went south.  Upon arriving at the barn, I noticed that they were painting the outside of the round pen.  I tacked him up as usual, not thinking anything of it.  When I went to lead him to the round pen, I was told there was no lunging, as they didn’t want dust in the paint.  Due to his explosive nature, we do not ride Isley without lunging first.  There is a strict no lunging allowed rule in the arena, so I was at a loss.  When Nina arrived I told her the predicament.  Was I going to get on him without lunging – after a day off no less, or was I going to go to the clinic without having ridden my horse all week?  I made the choice to ride.  Immediately his tension from not being lunged was evident.  Outside factors kept worsening the situation – the painter came back from his lunch break, and started re-mixing the paint with an egg beater style contraption, a worker started pressure washing the inside of the barn, a horse trailer pulled in and someone drove a tractor out of it.  Isley never spooked, but ground his teeth and became evasive of the contact through his shoulders, he started popping his shoulder to one side or the other, refusing to bend, and wiggling down the long sides. Without working him to the point of exhaustion, we did our best to get him schooled, but it was apparent that it was not an ideal start to the weekend.

My goal for the clinic was set – Don’t fall off.


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