Adult Rider Camp, dressage, Ernst Hermann, Niki Grandia

Cleaning Tack in the Kitchen

When some womens’ spouses leave town they really live it up.
As for me, I had a glass of wine and cleaned tack. On the kitchen counter. Granite is ‘impervious’ (or so they say) and the evidence will be gone by the time Al gets back tomorrow night.
Just so you know, I’m cleaning tack for this weekend’s Adult Rider Dressage Camp. This is a huge deal. Four days of fun with women obsessed with dressage. (Men are welcome but none signed up.)
Imagine this: horses, terrific instruction, camaraderie, camping, food, wine — and no other distractions! Our instructors will the fabulous Ernst Hermann and Nicki Grandia.
I had a major vacation scheduled for April of this year but my husband’s unintentional achilles tendon rupture put an end to that. So, if you think my tack cleaning on the counter (which he wouldn’t be happy about) is over the top … think again.
Check back in for my reports from camp! I’m so happy that Micah is recovered enough from his April injury to be able to go. I’m also thrilled to get to spend time with other dressage fans in an informal, non-competitive setting.
I say this knowing that most of the instruction will be a critique of my position. Which (just sayin’) sucks.

Related posts
Odysseo Delivers Magic
August 2, 2016
Hanging with the Judge
July 12, 2016
Micah Comes Back
June 29, 2016
dressage, Odysseo, Odysseo Discount

Odysseo Delivers Magic

If you can catch Odysseo on tour, jump at the chance. The show offers a magical combination of entertainment and horses that will capture the imagination of even your least horse-crazy friends. Plus, there’s eye candy for everyone: gorgeous horses, beautiful but not scantily-clad women, and hunky guys.

Call me shallow, but I really enjoyed watching Fabio work at liberty with the horses. He was an expert handler with a real rapport with the horses.

Call me shallow, but I really enjoyed watching Fabio work at liberty with the horses. He was an expert handler with a real rapport with the horses.

Then there’s the mind-boggling set. Choreographing an equine ballet inside a tent is no small feat. Of course we expect an arena of sorts, but when horses appear over a ridge and make their way downhill to the forefront of the arena, it’s a marvel of engineering and imagination. To further the illusion, the backdrop changes throughout the show from day to a star-studded night, woodland to savannah, and through the seasons from summer to winter.
For the less than equine enthused, when the horses aren’t stealing the show, aerial artists, acrobats, and dancers entertain and amuse, creating a visual wonderland. Live music, lighting effects, and stunning costumes add to the appeal.
Horses on a hill, Odysseo's incredible, mind-boggling set

Horses on a hill, Odysseo’s incredible, mind-boggling set

But what about the horses? For the equine obsessed, Odysseo is a box of chocolates to be savored. A herd of 49 geldings and stallions take turns sharing and stealing the stage, showing off their strengths and personalities at every turn. Likewise, the trainers exhibit admirable fitness, skill, and technique in every act. The rapport between horse and handler as they demonstrate jumping, vaulting, roman riding, dressage, and working at liberty, is captivating.
The horse/handler relationship was at its most entertaining in the liberty work. In my favorite act, the curtain opened to find horses sleeping on the hillside, each snuggled alongside a handler. The horses woke up, rolled, and began following their handlers on cue through a choreographed routine, unaided by bit, bridle, or halter.
Sleeping horses awoke and joined their handlers to perform at liberty - with varying degrees of cooperation

Sleeping horses awoke and joined their handlers to perform at liberty – with varying degrees of cooperation

Throughout the act, new horses joined each handler, until horses were grouped in teams of three and four, gracefully moving at the walk, trot, and canter throughout the arena, winding in and out of one another in formation. The best of the riders/handlers elicited prompt responses and respect from their horses.
However, despite years of training, horses will be horses — with minds of their own. One handsome gelding left his group several times to go on walkabout in a harmless bout of naughtiness. My non-horsey husband loved the unpredictability of this. We watched with amusement as the outlier was deftly returned to his group, more than once, by skilled handlers.
Sitting in a tent in Portland, Oregon I thought of the hundreds of urban dwellers who were seeing horses with fresh eyes — cheering and applauding an animal that can be asked but not forced to comply with human handlers.
For me, Odysseo celebrates the spirit of the horse and the magic of the horse/human bond, making it accessible to those who may never before have recognized the power and grace of the equine athlete.
Spend an evening in Odyssey’s tent and take the opportunity be entertained and delighted.
For a special 10% discount to your Odysseo tickets, please use this code.

Related posts
Cleaning Tack in the Kitchen
August 17, 2016
Hanging with the Judge
July 12, 2016
Micah Comes Back
June 29, 2016

O Odysseo!

What a grand surprise when I received a VIP invite to attend Odysseo’s ‘Social Media Night.’ The event coincided with our wedding anniversary and Al, non horse husband extraordinaire, was game to go.
I’d seen the ads and trailers for the show, plus got a brief review from Linda Martin (owner of Portland’s Glisan Street Saddlery) when I made a quick (yet fruitful) stop in her shop on my way into town from Bend.
Linda raved about the set and overall continuity of the show. With two new flattering yet functional breeches in hand, I left her shop really excited about the evening’s adventure.
How fun to see gleaming white circus tents in the urban setting of Portland, OR — just under the Ross Island Bridge. I knew the horses were stabled in tents just a breath away. I would love to watch the set-up and can only imagine how much work is involved. The behind-the-scenes workings are intriguing.

In Portland's urban setting, white tents rise up against the sky inviting us in.

In Portland’s urban setting, white tents rise up against the sky inviting us in.

We were ushered into the VIP tent, thankful to find that everything was well air-conditioned since it was 80-something degrees outside, which is hot for Northwesterners. After a lovely happy hour and beautifully presented buffet dinner, we made our way to our third row seats. Third row!!!
The lights dimmed, the curtain slid gracefully out of sight and the show began.
As with any equestrian extravaganza, Odysseo begs the question, “How are they going to pull this off? How many horses? How big of a venue? What kind of riding?”
I felt certain I would be entertained and amused, knowing the work and caliber of talent Cavalia invests in their shows. The question remained — how would they pull it off?
The answer is “Beautifully.”
Today I’m going to leave you with a bit of a teaser. Tomorrow I’ll tell you what I most loved about this show, knowing that what horse people and non horse people take away from it may be quite different.

p.s. Tomorrow I’ll also include a special code, giving you a 10% discount should you want to purchase tickets. You should. 🙂

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dressage, dressage humor

Dear Edward Izzard

Dear Edward Izzard,
Thank you so much for your commentary on Dressage, comparing it to a brilliant plan to train horses to commit burglary.
You have a point — in that dressage is a bit hard to understand for the untrained spectator. I admit that it’s a bit like watching golf, if you don’t know what’s going on.
Your “Dressage a la Burgaleur” is a fantastic concept for making the sport more appealing to the average American mind. Thank you so much!
I thoroughly enjoyed your perspective and will recommend it to all of my friends, equine or otherwise.
Please check out comedian Edward Izzard’s entertaining take on our sport!

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dressage, dressage competition, dressage judges, judge Kimberlee Barker, scribing

Hanging with the Judge

I spent Sunday scribing at a local schooling show with dressage judge Kimberlee Barker. It was a real pleasure despite the erratic Central Oregon weather, which had rain dousing the score sheets at one point, as wind whistled through our judges’ stand.
I highly recommend learning to scribe and trying to scribe at one show or more show per year. It’s always eye-opening.

View from the judge's stand. We can't hear your heart pounding, but we know it is!

View from the judge’s stand. We can’t hear your heart pounding, but we know it is!

If you’ve never scribed before, it’s relatively easy to organize a scribing clinic. Ask your local dressage club about learning opportunities. Schooling shows are a great way to start.
By sitting with the judge and noting her comments and scores, I guarantee you’ll go home with a few things to work on in your own riding. From our vantage point at C, the most obvious error nearly every Training Level rider made was to overshoot centerline in their entry.
This mistake is easy to fix and can save you a valuable point or two. Practice your turn onto the centerline at home on a regular basis, starting your turn long before you reach A. If you get to A and then begin your turn, it’s too late and you’ll end up having to wobble back toward centerline — which is not a great way to start your test.
Another obvious error we saw were riders who didn’t keep their horses on the rail. Use the rail to your advantage to help to keep your horse straight and forward. Again, this is easy to school at home.
Another glaring error is allowing your horse to counterflex as he gazes longingly out of the arena. Maybe you’re not able to get a really correct bend yet, as your horse is green or you’re new to showing, but do keep your horse’s head–and attention–in the arena.
Finally, remember that part of your job is to convince your horse that the show ring is a safe place. If you are stressed out, your horse will spend most of the ride wondering, “What’s wrong with mom??”
A tense rider does nothing to help a horse relax. If you got score sheet comments like ‘tense’ and ‘tight back,’ it probably referred to both of you.
Unless your horse is a true schoolmaster, he needs you to assure him that everything is fine. When you focus on helping your horse to relax, it may help you to let go of that death grip you’ve got on the reins. You can tactfully encourage your horse to relax or yell “Relax, dammit!” with every step of the ride.
We could clearly see the effect relaxation had on each horse and rider — and their scores — as the show progressed. In nearly every case, the rider’s first ride was tense and tight. By the time they entered the arena the second time, they’d relaxed a bit, remembered to breathe, and got higher scores. Relaxation is huge and easier said than done.
I know from personal experience that show ring stress can turn your brain to mush and your body to steel. (Not a good combination for your poor horse.) My own goal is to try to keep things in perspective: no show is a life or death situation. This is something I do for fun.
Speaking of fun, look at the young riders who blissfully enter the ring without a ton of emotional baggage. They tend to get around the ring in a much more relaxed manner, often earning more points than their adult counterparts.
Try to take on a scribing opportunity this show season to gain a new perspective. You are guaranteed to learn a lot. And, while it is work, it can be quite satisfying as you get to know your judge and anticipate her comments and scores.
Let me know how it works out!

Related posts
Cleaning Tack in the Kitchen
August 17, 2016
Odysseo Delivers Magic
August 2, 2016
Micah Comes Back
June 29, 2016
Dr. Taryn Yates, dressage, Equine Rehabilitation, natalie perry dressage

Micah Comes Back

We’ve been moving cautiously ever since Micah was injured in early April. We think he got cast in his stall but will never really know for certain what started the soreness in his back and hips. Whatever caused it, it was a game stopper.
Sice then we’ve done regular chiropractic and acupuncture treatments with Dr. Taryn Yates and faithfully followed a rehabilitation protocol set by Dr. Yates and our trainer, Natalie Perry.

Micah stretches and relaxes as Dr. Yates works on his back.

Micah stretches and relaxes as Dr. Yates works on his back.

This has required a lot of slow, patient work. In the meantime, my hopes of competing at Second Level this summer have been set aside. After the first few weeks of oh-so-dull hand walking and lunging, when we were given the go-ahead to cautiously start back to the walk/trot under saddle, I was delighted.
Micah now shows significant improvement and it looks like (fingers crossed), we are out of the woods. It is so much fun to begin asking for more and feeling Micah respond. He especially loves his stretchy trot work.
This experience has helped me to become much more aware of Micah’s back. When I ride him I’m feeling every step and movement of through his hips and spine. At the same time, I’ve also learned a lesson or two about my own well-being.
While riding up an especially long hill on my mountain bike yesterday, I felt my back tighten up. “Should I pull over and take a break?” I wondered. “Or just power through it?”
Throughout Micah’s recovery we’ve given him generous walk breaks and done more rising trot than sitting, all to avoid over-tiring his back. On several occasions he’s taken bad steps, been given a walk break, and recovered quickly enough to resume work once again.
Thinking this over as I made my way up the winding mountain bike trail, I decided to give myself the Micah treatment — pausing for a break off the bike before tackling the most strenuous part of the hill. Just like Micah, the tension in my back eased and I was able to finish the ride feeling good.
The experience reinforced two things for me — it gave me a better understanding of how paying attention to fatigue and responding with walk breaks and stretching can help my horse. I was also reminded to take as much care with my own back as with my horse’s. After all, we’re in this together.
I am much cheered by my horse’s progress. Perhaps he’ll be strong enough to show this fall. Regardless, nurturing his recovery has been rewarding in its own way — as well as a reminder to never take your horse’s or your own well-being for granted.
Happy riding!

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