More Power!

In our lesson today, mild-mannered mustang Roo, took off the glasses and ripped open the shirt to show his Super ‘Stang side once again. He has to be convinced to show his super powers (i.e., his potential for upper-level dressage work) but when he does, it is exciting and exhilarating to me!

While driving home, I had this epiphany, if I truly want to move up the dressage levels, my expectations about my riding have to change and I am the only one who can change them. Since my trainer, Chris Erbskorn, frequently reminds me to increase Roo’s energy, manage his evasions, and ask for more – more power, more from him in general – I have to ask the same of Roo and of myself. Chris can coach me in a lesson to get all the desired power and correct movements or he can get on and change Roo but if I don’t expect the same from us between lessons, we won’t make real progress. I have to take that responsibility and expect us to be able to do it, getting the appropriate help, too, of course.

Roo is not a difficult horse – he’s fairly easy – but he’s so smart and he prefers things to be easy – for himself. He doesn’t seem to mind me working hard but he is not inclined to put in more effort than I request. There are times it seems like we can work on a new movement or skill and between rides, he will exam it to find all the escape hatches, which he will try the very next time I ask for that skill. I don’t usually set the bar too high because I, too, prefer things to me easy for myself!

What did we do in today’s lesson that brought on these thoughts? The lesson was not really much different from any other lesson but it clicked so it must have been the right time for me to understand this information. We focused on the cycle of energy from back, over the top, to front and then recycling that energy. I had to sit more up with more lift through my sternum. Roo had to lift through his thoracic sling and sit. We started with half steps in order to get a strong lift through the back and set the energy in motion. I had to have better than good posture. It’s amazing what happens even with tiny improvements in the rider, not to mention adding energy to the pony. Brilliance! I’m truly humbled and beyond thrilled by how much potential Roo has for advancing in dressage. I’m so lucky to have such a nice horse and to have a trainer who can bring out his super powers!

In light of Roo’s obvious abilities to handle the physical aspects of advanced dressage, my expectations are being raised!

  • I’m going to expect Roo to participate by bringing his Super ‘Stang super powers to each schooling ride.
  • I will adjust to being outside of my comfort zone and accept the power from Roo’s inner Porsche, without fear.
  • I will manage the “open doors” (evasions) by either not leaving them open or closing them as soon as Roo shows me they are open.
  • I must improve my fitness – the huge trot Roo has when he’s in Super ‘Stang mode took it out of my abs today!

By stating this in writing, I expect I’ll be reminded frequently (ie, every time I moan or lose a little confidence) that I’ve committed to this. It’s my own fault! LOL

See you at the barn!

June Brewer


Life Lessons from Bear

  • Be vocal. Tell ‘em what you want. If they don’t respond, tell them again, only louder.
  • Never kill an idea, relationship, or mouse before its time. Play with it. Throw it around some. See where it lands! If it stops moving, bring it to your tribe to get their input.
  • Be loving! Head butting works to show affection and gets a response – every time.
  • Sleep? Yes! Rest is good for the soul. Train your family to let you in at bedtime by giving them signals such as head butting and kneading.
  • When it’s hot, lie down on a cool floor.
  • Be protective. Chase “frenemies” right out of your yard, and the neighbor’s yard, and the woods next door. It’s all your territory, right?
  • Show your beauty. Pose when the camera is out. Make sure they get your best side.
  • Eat what you are given and ask for more! Show enthusiasm for your favorites. One benefit of coming in from the wild is the many-meals-a-day plan humans offer.
  • Purring? Overrated.


Are you getting my best features?


Who is that fabulous kitty in the mirror?!


Bear’s inner black panther resting in the grass~


The wood floors are cool in the summer.


Enjoy the holidays!


A Brief Awards Primer

Competing? Make sure you and your horse are properly registered! As with any horsey information, don’t take anyone’s word for the rules and requirements, always confirm for yourself!

Are you considering moving from schooling shows to recognized shows? What’s the difference between a GDCTA-recognized show and a “recognized” show?!! GDCTA-Recognition is the schooling shows participating in the year-end awards program. They meet a set of criteria set by GDCTA to be granted that recognition (see website When I say recognized when referring to a show, I mean a show that is USEF/USDF/USEA sanctioned. You can find recognized competitions on – both dressage and eventing; – dressage; and useventing – horse trials.


Membership in GDCTA runs from December 1 through November 30. As a member of GDCTA, you are also a Group Member of USDF.

The year-end Awards program has a number of rules for each discipline but the first is that you must be a current member when scores are earned. Join or renew before showing!

Awards Program Rules for both Recognized and Schooling can be found on the website under Awards:—forms

If you are interested in seeing any of those rules, modified, please be sure to put together your intended changes, plan to attend a board meeting to present your request, and contact GDCTA president Caren Caverly ( to get on the agenda for the meeting.


USDF has a number of awards to use as riding goals. Some are rider oriented and some are horse oriented. Some required only a Group membership (as you have when you are a GDCTA member) and others require that you join USDF directly as a Participating member.  Here is a list of the majority of them. There are other awards for GMOs, volunteers, artists, etc.

Performance Awards

USDF Rider Awards

USDF Rider Awards are based strictly on the scores the rider achieves over time and need not be earned in one competition year.


Rider Performance Awards
This award may be achieved at Training, First, and Second Levels.

Rider Award Medals
Rider medals (bronze, silver, and gold) are awarded based on attaining the required scores at the necessary levels.


USDF Horse Performance Certificates

USDF Horse Performance Certificates are based strictly on the scores a horse achieves over time and need not be earned in one year. These certificates may be earned at every level, Training through Grand Prix. Horse performance certificates can be earned for young horses competing in any USEF four-year-old young horse class, or FEI five- or six-year-old young horse class.

Adequan/USDF Year-End Awards

Adequan/USDF Year-End Awards are awarded in the categories of vintage cup, adult amateur, junior/young rider, para-dressage rider of the year, dressage sport horse breeding horse of the year, dressage horse of the year, materiale horse of the year, all-breeds, musical freestyle, musical freestyle challenge, breeder of the year, USEF four year-old and FEI five and six-year-old. The USDF competition year is October 1 through September 30.

Adequan/USDF All-Breeds Awards

Designed to recognize the accomplishments of specific breeds in dressage, these awards are presented to horses declared for a participating organization (PO) with USDF. While open is the standard division and Training through Grand Prix are the standard levels for all-breeds recognition, optional division awards can be presented in the following categories: freestyle, adult amateur, junior/young rider, vintage cup, para-dressage rider of the year, USEF four-year-old, FEI five and six-year-old, materiale, or dressage sport horse breeding. Learn more.

Other Awards and Recognition

Youth Dressage Rider Recognition Pin Program
The USDF Youth Dressage Rider Recognition Pin Program is designed to recognize the accomplishments of youth in the dressage community at all levels. This program is open to students who are currently enrolled in grades 6-12 of a middle/ high school or home school program and are a Group or Participating Member of USDF.

Youth Shining Star Program
Offered by the USDF Youth Council, this award recognizes outstanding sportsmanship by USDF youth members. Learn more

Youth Convention Scholarship
Supported by funds raised at the annual USDF Youth Executive Board Silent Auction, held at the annual convention, these scholarships provide financial support to young dressage enthusiasts to help defray the expenses associated with attending the annual convention. Learn more

Arts Contest
This annual contest was designed to highlight the creativity and beauty of dressage and to allow USDF members to express their interest in the sport outside of the competition arena. Learn more

USEF Youth Sportsman’s Award
The USEF Youth Sportsman’s Award was designed to develop leaders in the equine industry from all breeds and disciplines. Learn more



The USEA offers several Awards Programs and maintains an extensive Leaderboard to reward our members for their successes each year.

Leaderboard (Point System) (Leaderboard)

The USEA Leaderboard is formulated based on points earned at USEA Recognized competitions throughout the calendar year. In addition to the overall leaderboards for horse, rider, young rider, amateur, pony, lady rider, and mare of the year, the Leaderboard is also broken down by level with a category for every type of rider!

Questions about the Leaderboard should be directed to or 703-779-0440 ext. 3005.

Charles Owen Technical Merit Award (Information)

The Charles Owen Technical Merit Award was founded by the USEA Professional Horsemens’ Council. The hope is that this award will provide incentives for riders who demonstrate safe and appropriate cross-country technique, and will also educate riders and trainers as to what constitutes safe riding across country. Riders entered in the designated divisions will automatically be judged during their cross-country rounds and will receive score sheets with written comments, which will provide valuable feedback for them and their trainers. Judges qualified to evaluate riders to receive the award are: Level III and IV ICP instructors, USEF licensed eventing officials, and USET Senior Team riders.

Questions about the Charles Owen Technical Merit Awards should be directed to Kate Lokey at, (703) 779-9897.

USEA Medal Program (Requirements)

The USEA Medal Program provides our members with recognition through a goal oriented program within the various levels of eventing. Each individual member may earn a Bronze, Silver, and/or Gold medal at the Beginner Novice, Novice, Training, and Preliminary levels. A certificate will be awarded for a horse registered with the USEA, based on the same scores.

To earn your medal you must submit the Medal Application to the USEA office. All scores from February, 2009, until present can be submitted.  Once the scores have been verified the member or horse owner will be provided with the associated awards for the medal achieved. Individual medal winners will earn a pin (at the level won) and certificate. The person’s name will also be published on the USEA website and in the magazine.  Award certificates and pins will be sent out quarterly to each rider and horse who achieves the appropriate qualifications.

Blue Ribbon Award Program (Requirements)

The Blue Ribbon Program is a stepping stone to achieving the Eventing Medals and then heading to the top of the leaderboard. The USEA will post the names of Blue Ribbon qualified horses and riders on the awards section of the USEA website on a monthly basis. Award certificates will be sent out quarterly to each rider who achieves the appropriate qualifications.

If you have any questions about any of the USEA Awards Programs please contact Michele at or 703-779-9890.

To qualify for the Blue Ribbon Award which is available at the Beginner Novice through Advanced levels a horse and rider combination must place 1st through 3rd at three events in the same level in a single year. In addition, both the horse and rider must have an active USEA membership at the time of their competitions.

Certificate of Horse & Rider Achievement (Requirements)

The Certificate of Horse & Rider Achievement is an opportunity to award and recognize our Beginner Novice members for successfully completing events. In order to qualify for the Certificate of Horse & Rider Achievement the horse and rider together must have completed three or more events at the Beginner Novice level during the same competition year. In addition, both the horse and rider must have an active USEA membership at the time of their competitions.

Note: Beginner Novice Horse and Riders who have achieved the next award level, the Blue Ribbon Award, will not receive the Certificate of Horse and Rider Achievement


Region 3 Dressage Championships

In horse showing, the new year doesn’t begin in January but in October when the awards year changes.

The Great American Insurance Group/USDF Region 3 Dressage Championships & ANFD Dressage Show was the completion of the last show season, the crowning glory to 2016. Magnificent weather – bright days; chilly nights – greeted the competitors at the Georgia International Horse Park in Conyers, Georgia, this October. It was a grand reception with clear skies and, in the air, the smell of pine shavings and horses. Lots of horses!

With 600 entries – competitors rode 1296 tests – this was the largest regional championship show, nationwide. As morning dawned on Thursday, the air was vibrating with anticipation and excitement. Classes ran from Thursday through Sunday with nine rings running on Saturday. Burgundy, purple, and all the different shades of brown and gray, contrasted with the traditional black and white. The colors mingled with the dazzling sparkle from the bling – on clothes, tack, and boots!

GDCTA was pleased and honored to once again host this monumental event. We could not have pulled it off alone. We celebrate our partners in this record-breaking show. We could not have asked for better in any way – sponsors, vendors and artists, staff and volunteers, and competitors – all were outstanding.



There are so many ways to say thank you to our sponsors and vendors. You play a crucial role in bring our events to life. Thank you for your continued support and dedication to our organization and our sport! Your support is not something we take lightly and is very much appreciated by everyone connected with the club.

There is a deep well of creativity in this area. We tapped that well for equine-related art and came up with our own Equestrian Art Gallery on the show grounds.  Our Show Gallery Manager, Ulla Strickland put together an impressive array of artists – Amanda Moretz, Kimberly Sheldon, Zan Economopoulos, Julie Nestor, Sydney Frost, Karin Martin, Marcy Criner, Helena Savenius, Susan Burns, Sam Sherry, Jayne Ryan, and herself – with a variety of styles and pieces.

Ulla said about the Art Show, “I don’t want to sound corny, but it really was a show of superlatives: The longest art show we’ve ever had; the most artists with the most art work we’ve ever had; and the most sales we’ve ever had. We sold over 40 pieces of art! People bought and bought. Interestingly, the sales were spread out pretty evenly over most of the artists, so it was not just one or two who made the show. It was quite obvious that our concerted marketing and PR efforts helped; we had an almost constant stream of visitors coming in. I am very, very happy with this show (and I think Don is, too!).”

Look for our “Equestrian Art Gallery” at the largest of our future shows. We cannot thank the artists enough for being there. The gallery brings a unique elegance to the events.



The devil’s in the details, they say. And nowhere is that truer than when organizing a horse show. Dressage shows are massive productions with spy-grade secrecy (sort of) – and an enduring detail-oriented format that you are likely familiar with. A look behind the horse show management curtain can be incredibly illuminating the first time around. Armed with radios, the onsite production team often seem to be magicians. It really does not matter how the magic works, just that it appears seamless from the outside looking in – and this team pulled that off with aplomb. The staff put in loooooong hours well before the actual show days and were at the Horse Park sun up until sundown during the event.

It takes committed and selfless individuals to produce an event of this nature (therefore, blooper moments will not be shared). We bow to our show team – for your organizational skills and hard work as well as your time before, during, and after the show. Thank you!

Someone once said, Those who can, do. Those who can do more, volunteer. We are deeply indebted to those who can do more – those charitable individuals who give their time so generously. Volunteers are the backbone of our organization. We are grateful to our volunteers for your support of our club and how kindly you shared so much of your time with us. Thank you!



Competitors, we would not, could not, forget you for you are the reason for the effort in the first place! We know you have the option to declare for other regions but that you chose us. We are humbled and truly grateful that you trusted us with the completion of your show year (unless you are heading to US Finals – yippee for those who are). In the ribbons or not, each and every one of you is a superstar to us!



Judith Anne Mitchell

Please let everyone know…you all did a fantastic job hosting the Regionals these past 2 years! Team Heather’s [Heather Caudill] group had a super time.

Lisi Tibrea

Awesome show! Everything about the facility was top notch! They even dragged the lunge areas…and the people were above top notch. All of the staff and volunteers I came in contact with were so nice, friendly and helpful. Lovely ribbons, great vendors, exhibitor events each evening…all in a great job done by everyone. I had not competed at a Regionals in 10 years and I was very impressed. Thanks to all.

Janet Holimon Stone

Totally agree with Lisi. Well run, friendly. And the addition of the food trucks helped tremendously.

Jennifer Hodgson-Kozel

Great show!!!

Heather Rodney

Such an amazing show! Pleasure to meet you, Sandy! I had a fabulous time!

Beverly Bowman

Fabulous Show!!!

Mary McGuire Smith

Fabulous show again!! Thanks to all the volunteers and show management (all the incredible people of GDCTA and beyond), things ran so smoothly that it was AMAZING! Even a hiccup in our arena on Saturday that could have been a disaster was handled so well that the judge was back on time within 2 rides! And we all know how amazing THAT is!

Jody Langton

Yes!! Great rides, fantastic weather, and a great time with both old and new friends. Congrats to all and those who are continuing on to Nationals. Safe travels to all.

Debbie Grant

Thanks everyone I had a great time at your well run show!!!

Nanette Manning

It was amazing to me and I loved volunteering!

Sharon Anthony
Our moms would probably never consider an email format an appropriate form for a thank you note, but I hope this will cover a number of individuals whose names I will probably never know. Please feel free to let them know how much I appreciate all of their time and efforts. Thank you to all who helped to make the Region III Championships such a wonderful experience for my horse (It’s Teddy) and me. All of the early communications were so helpful. I was amazed at how much pre information came out so early, i.e., ride times. This certainly makes a big difference in planning and reservations. Please extend my appreciation to all of the ring stewards and bit checkers who were thoughtful and patient. The number of times that they must have answered “how many until I go?”-  thousands of times throughout the days. The bit checkers were thoughtful with my horse and made their job a “non event” for him. Having a clock and water at each of the arenas certainly contributes to the mental and physical condition of the riders, so appreciated by those of us who may not have people on the ground for assistance. I realize that it took an army of skilled and focused individuals who did an AMAZING job in getting the scores out so quickly. I am glad to say that I also saw the efficiency of the awards crew who gave us our tests and ribbons. My thank you to each judge for the specific comments and the scribes whose writing and abbreviations I could read and understand. In summary, every aspect with which I had contact was SO WELL ORGANIZED. Thank you so much for all that you and your team did before and during the show to make things go so well for me and I am sure for many, many others. Best wishes and a sincere thank you for a “job” so well done.



May today’s success and luck be the beginning of tomorrow’s achievements!

Raffle Winners

  • Valerie Swygert on winning the Vitafloor™ VCM vibrating floor
  • Maryanna Haymon of MaryDell Farm for winning the FABBRI Custom boots


Richard Taylor/KWPN:

  • Kathleen Peterson on Aurora 1 (owner Susan Mitchell) with a PSG score of 65.167%
  • Laura Sevriens on Genevieve HF (breeder Julie Ballard Harralson) with a training level score of 80.909%


Oldenburg High Score Award:

De Premio (Owner/rider Amy Swerdlin)

Training AA Championship: Score 74.432%


Equinety™ Class Winners:

Alexandra Dominguez , Amanda Lopez, Anna Logan-Merritt, Beate Kuska, Ciera Foley, Elaine Sherer, Elizabeth Jannaman, Emily Copeland, Erin Brinkman, Faye Flynn, Jayme Untiedt, Jean Thornton, Jessica Howington, Joanne Trout, Juliette Cain, Laura Pendleton, Laura Sevriens, Leigh Kent-Scherzer, Lyn Davis, Madeline Tincher, Magdalene Vilada, Marge Savage, Markella Stavrinakia, Micaela Love, Nicole Levy, Pamela Hardin, Shelley Rahiya, Susanne Benne, Victoria Retamoza, Victoria Templeton


BORN IN THE USA High Score, sponsored by Maryanna Hayman:

Susan Graham on Leander 77.5%


Dover Medal:

Marissa Long on Zoe Ludinga 71.098%


High Scoring German Import, sponsored by Euro Imports:

Kristy Truenback on Living Lucky


Overall High Score (through Saturday), sponsored by MRK Dressage:


AA: Janne Rumbaugh on Armas Zumbel 72.237%

Jr/YR: Melanie Doughty on Fascinata 65.338%

Open: Suzanne Benne on Zonnerhall 73.1%


Training through Fourth

AA: Kristy Truenback on Living Lucky 76.25%

Jr/YR: Avery Lewis on The Manx Man 76.364%

Open: Laura Sevriens on Genevieve HF 80.909%


Musical Freestyle Exhibition:

1st: Linda Strine – Captain Jack Sparrow
2nd: Ryan Bell – Zorro
3rd: Joyce Lewis – East meets West
4th: Tamara Didjurgis – Grease
We had so much fun! Thank you all for your participation. We hope you will join us in 2018.





More Puzzling

20161105_095736You know how in many puzzle images there are sections that are similar in color and it’s hard to know where pieces fit until you try them or compare their shape to your “holes”? Well, that’s how it’s been for me lately as I continue on my dressage learning path. But, today, I think I’ve seen the shape I need and I can now keep my eyes open for it as I keep puzzling, er, riding.

Since taking a couple weeks off in September to regroup, we are working on strengthening our training weaknesses, in particular, getting our flying lead changes correct before we do any more showing. When I signed us up for the show in September, I knew our changes weren’t ready for showing but I figured we needed to get out there and give it a shot and that was the best opportunity for us so I took it. (Glad I did – it worked out better than I could have hoped for.)

Last lesson, my instructor Chris Erbskorn helped me nail down where things were falling apart in the change. As part of his assessment, he rode to feel what exactly was happening. In addition to Roo’s desire to “help” by changing at the hint that we might want to change, he pointed out that I didn’t have Roo supple enough through the hips. So, he tackled that and then was able to get several clean, correct changes. I, however, was unable to get the change without that darned extra step. That left me with much suppling homework. I’m happy to report that in today’s lesson, with the aid of ground markers, I was able to get a clean change with jump and more power than I expected or could handle! Yippee! It can be done!

The suppling homework included walking turn on the forehand, leg yield, renvers/travers, shoulder in and “should in” in counter canter. The aim is to continue to build strength and improve flexibility so any exercises that cross the hind legs well under the body work. We did much of the renvers/traver as warm up in walk and walking turn on the forehand is also in walk.

For my part of this equation, I have been doing hip-opening yoga asanas. It only seems fair that I improve my strength and flexibility to keep up with Roo.

In addition, I had to start by breaking done my canter aid into a very clear communication with Roo. He wasn’t really trusting that I wanted to counter canter and was “helping” by changing at the suggestion that we might straighten a bit. All week we practiced the canter depart aid, first confirming straight through his body, then scooping with the inside seat bone while lifting/squeezing with the outside thigh for uphill departs. My description might not be easy to follow but Roo appreciates that we cleared that up. He’s now happy to give me counter canter in either direction and he is willing to hold it even when I make changes in his body’s bend.

We were well warmed up when Chris arrived today so we got right to work with counter canter and switching the body bend. That was easy enough on the circle but when I asked for the change, I couldn’t get enough oomph resulting in the dreaded trot step. Chris wanted me to dig deeper and really demand that Roo change which required me to give a fairly strong aid and get more forward before asking. Using a couple of the arena letters, he set up a narrow “L” for us to canter through (around?) to make a sharper than usual turn and that, along with the strong aid and forward thinking, did the trick. We struggled through a few attempts but then – success – one strong, clean change with jump and that power I couldn’t handle. I didn’t know Roo had that much engine! I will have to learn to sit through that power and allow him to use it without thinking he’s running away…

It’ll be a couple of weeks before I can get my next lesson, but I have “seen the shape” I need and will be looking for it at every opportunity between now and then. Fortunately, I really enjoy working this infinite-piece puzzle called dressage.


Success for Super ‘Stang!

We did it! Roo and I entered and completed our first USDF dressage show weekend ever as a partnership. There were many firsts – Roo’s first-ever off-property show, both of our first time showing third level, the first time that I’ve had a coach at a show, and the first time showing with this group of people, and more.

Preparation in the form of training started long before GDCTA awarded us the grant, but receiving that training grant seemed to condense time and intensify my focus.  At the time of application, I set the general goal to cross the challenging chasm between second and third levels and the ultimate goal of earning scores for my bronze medal. The bronze medal goal required entering a show, which we did this past weekend only a few short months from receiving the grant. Oh yeah, why wait for perfection when there’s money to be spent? Besides philosopher John Dewey said, “all genuine education comes about through experience.”

(Beginning – excitement builds, activity ensues) Friday early – Left the house for the barn, the barn for the venue where the horses got settled into stalls, all the gear came in, walked Roo around the grounds and rode in the covered then cleaned tack and fed for the night before heading from the venue (wait, did I really leave the Horse Park?) for food and finally got to the hotel where there was some time for sleep.

Saturday, Sept 17

(Middle – showing happens) Saturday also early because we were the first ride in ring B at 8:00 AM – My butterflies had arrived on Friday. Instead of being more relaxed because all was going well, my butterflies were morphing into bats. The bats were asking, Why are we here? What if we embarrass ourselves? Among other unnerving things. But it was too late to turn back. We were there and my trainer was there so off we went to warm up where things went okay. Time flew and I was riding down center line. Halt at X. Salute. Okay, we were off. The whole ride went quickly and then it was over. Sometime during the test the bats disappeared and I began to enjoy the experience. Roo did a good job. We did a good job – the score was high enough to count toward our bronze, which was a confidence boost.

My second test was less than an hour away so I wasn’t really sure how to handle the between time. We got water and tried to cool off a bit before I had to get back on. It went quickly. We took a short warm up and headed into the covered arena. Roo quickly let me know he had not given approval for the tents in the vendor area at the end of the arena. Just as there are no great achievements without setbacks, there are no great horse shows without problems at times, right? We can hope to learn from mistakes and situations. Identifying and dealing with them is the key. Needless to say this test was not one that counted toward the bronze. Bright side: even though Roo was uncomfortable, he was still willing to cooperate. We moved from letter to letter in the pattern even if the movements didn’t look so much like graceful and elegant dressage.

(End – more showing but also a shift in energy as everyone hurried to get moving toward home)  Sunday dawned with beautiful pink light and sun beams reaching into the sky. Then it started to sprinkle. Then rain. With later ride times, there was a slower pace in the morning. Due to the schedule and having earned my one score toward the bronze, my second ride of the day couldn’t count toward the bronze so we had to make the first ride count. Of course, it was the highest test of the level (a bit of a stretch anyway!) and in the covered where the test the day before didn’t go so well… I had to shake all those thoughts off and focus on making it the best test I’ve ever ridden. Still confident from the first test, my coach and I took a fairly aggressive approach to warm up – lots of big, forward WTC before working through lateral movements and changes. Going in, we knew the changes would be an issue so I held no expectations there. We didn’t try to improve them or make any adjustments. We focused on forward and quick-like-lightning off the leg. And then it was time.

Roo went in easily enough but gave a slight hesitation as we trotted down the long side. The bell rang so we only had a few seconds to realize the vendor tents were gone. Yay! It didn’t really matter. Seconds later, we were in the ring and I was concentrating on the movements and keeping the flow going. There’s an electronic scoreboard in the outside of the arena. Riders and spectators can see it. I was so zeroed in on Roo and what was happening in the ring that I didn’t even see it – not even out of the corner of my eye! When we finished, my coach came over to congratulate and hug me – we had earned a score high enough to count toward our bronze! What a proud moment!


When I picked up the test, I glanced at it (there’s time for postmortem and planning for improvements later) and was chuffed to see that all except three boxes held a 6.0, 6.5 or 7.0. The three “errant” boxes were double coefficient and low. It’s okay. I was expecting it. I’m still pleased with the horse and the whole test. Likely I would have been sad if we hadn’t gotten the score for the bronze but we got it so I won’t go there. When you consider that I can count on one hand how many off-property activities Roo has had and that this was his first show, you have to agree my sweet horse is Super ‘Stang!

Rain happened. Scores were earned. Lessons were learned. Goals were met.  So what exactly did I get from receiving the GDCTA Grant?

  • Renewed purpose
  • A deadline
  • Incredible encouragement and support from the whole dressage community
  • Goals accomplished

All of that because of one gift. I encourage everyone to apply! Receiving it is a huge motivator.

Hold the music. I still have to give my Emmy … err… Bronze Medal acceptance and appreciation speech!

I would like to thank:

  • GDCTA and the Grant committee for awarding me the 2016 AA Training Grant
  • Mark Brewer for tolerating my intense passion for the crazy world of dressage and horses
  • Chris Erbskorn for his infinite patience, skills, and friendship
  • GHF show management – Ann Genovese, Mary Lou Freil, Mark Fornwalt – for making the show easy for this neophyte
  • Equinety Horse XL for improving both Roo’s and my ability to stay focused
  • My faithful and supportive friends from all sources – personal, farm, Facebook – especially this weekend’s crew – Lauren, Evie, Madison, Janice, Suzanna, Caitlyn & Chris
  • Last but not least, my mom for her unconditional love and support

We could not have done this without you! THANK YOU!

Facebook photo album: HERE



Labor Day may mark the unofficial end of summer, but Mother Nature has been slow to start the change of seasons this year. My mid-September dressage show is looming and it is still sweltering so long rides are out of the question which means preparation has to be very precise.

Funny how limits can fine-tune your focus and awareness, isn’t it?!

I’ve been counting down the days until this show and have been attempting to improve our training as much as possible before we go. Now that the show is less than a week away, it is time to let go of the idea of advancing the training and instead focus on smoothing the edges to make the tests flow with ease and accuracy.

The number of rides left before the show is very small so I have added visualizing riding the tests well to increase the number of rides from very few to as many as I can imagine (the subconscious mind cannot differentiate between a real and imagined experience).  The secret to the “mental representations” is being able to clearly and specifically visualize the right way to do something in your head, including seeing the horse with correct muscle patterns in your mind’s eye. Since I have not always experienced every nuance of riding perfectly for myself, I am studying videos of good riders/horses to help my imagination see it going well.

Warm Up

Rather than having a set series of exercises, I’ve started going through a check list of basics to make sure both of our bodies are working thoroughly.


[ ] Am I sitting squarely on my outer thighs in the center of the saddle?

[ ] Am I relaxed through the hip with a draped leg?

[ ] Dem Bones! Am I “lifting my bones in my skin” (coccyx & sternum)?

[ ] Am I breathing – long, slow relaxed breaths?

[ ] Am I holding tension anywhere? Let it go!


[ ] Is he quick off my leg?

[ ] Is his inside leg moving to my outside hand?

[ ] Is he reaching down and forward into the outside rein?

[ ] Is the base of his neck soft and flexible?

[ ] Is he lifting through the base of the neck?

If all the boxes on both check lists are checked, the result should be Roo moving forward, uphill and swinging through his back. Yay!

Throughout the ride, I must remember:

  • Keep Roo straight through the body with a slight inside flexion and a soft base of the neck
  • Stay relaxed through my hips with draped femurs
  • Make sure my lower leg is under me (shoulder-hip-heal) especially for turn on the haunches and lateral movements (i.e., do not block the shoulder)
  • When preparing for shoulder in, place Roo’s outside front leg on the inside edge of the line of travel as we turn the corner
  • Change flexion at the quarter line when changing direction
  • Allow the movements to happen (see “stay relaxed through my hips…”)
  • “Deeper” bend for the lateral movements
  • Know the tests!
  • Correct geometry
  • Transition at the correct letters
  • Preparation – transition – follow up
  • The judge would prefer to see a good test – she’s rooting for us!


Every ride brings new opportunities and challenges. There is never a dull moment!

See you at the barn!



Mature & Sophisticated

Today was a big day! Roo and I tackled the double bridle. We’re very sophisticated now. In it, he looks like a “mature” dressage horse to me. My baby is all grown up!

It took forever for me to figure out the fit and make the proper adjustments to it yesterday so I didn’t ride then. Also, I wanted him to get used to it before we rode in it. I have found if I have patience and allow him the time he needs to process new things he’s really able to handle just about anything. If I rush, I have to pay a price – both breaking a bit of our growing bond and dealing with his flight instinct kicking in, which is never fun.

This morning I tacked him up and put on the double. At first, I only picked up the snaffle rein but quickly picked up the curb reins. He didn’t blink. I tested his feelings about the curb bit by dropping the snaffle rein completely and riding with a light contact on the curb. Nothing changed. He continued what I was asking as if I was riding with only a snaffle. I’m confident he’s worn a curb bit before although I do not believe anyone told me that specifically. I may be assuming that because he has been ridden western. Not that it matters if he has or he hasn’t worn a curb bit before yesterday. What matters is that he went perfectly well in the double bridle. “Refinement” here we come!

The ride itself went about like our rides have been going (so-so, but with improvement) except for a brief but definite instance of brilliance. Yes, I said it, we were brilliant! There was a moment when all planets and horse gods aligned just for us. Roo’s back came up under my seat in that “suction seat” way that people say of the best riders’ seats when describing how they bring the horse’s back up. He lifted himself and did a little half step so when I asked him to move off, he was up and light and forward. Wow! So what was I doing during that special moment? Good question! I believe, but cannot say for certain, that I collected the reins, lifted my sternum and inhaled. I might have dropped my shoulder blades into my pockets as well. Whatever I did, I could only come close to repeating it but couldn’t duplicate it exactly during this ride. I’m still chuffed about it because I whole heartedly believe if I can do something once, I can do it again. That bodes well for future rides!

I’m holding onto today’s moment of brilliance and allowing myself to believe we will be ready enough for the show in mid-September. The entry deadline is tomorrow. I’ll be signing us up.

See you at the barn!




Can’t stop sweating!

The overcast morning made me think about fall so I went for a run around the outside of the neighborhood. The temperature was mild but the humidity was high – it’s most definitely still summer!

Recently, I’ve decided to improve my fitness prior to attempting to show again and also to get out of the house and away from the computer. The inspiration to return to running came from an article about meditative walking, i.e., meditation in action. Meditation seems like something I should do more of too so I am combining efforts. My outings are now “meditative running.” I prefer that term to “exercise” and this reframed version has the benefit of getting me to practice gently setting aside all my busy thoughts to allow a deeper awareness of my body and my immediate surroundings. Place one foot in front of the other. Keep going…

Many random thoughts raced through my head this morning but I will only share this one memory because it made me smile. What a long time ago that was!

My route takes me past North Cobb High School. Bunches of people were in the parking lot. Kids were waving flags and tossing guns during what must have been try outs. The scene flashed me back to my experience when trying out for guns. I had terrible performance anxiety back then. I went through all the practices but almost didn’t try out at all because it made me so anxious to stand in front of the judges. I did do it but practically cried through my routine. I don’t remember exactly how many judges there were but the drum major whom I can picture but not name and my best friend Amy who was captain of the unit are front and center of my memory. They were sitting in black folding chairs watching me so intently! Needless to say I didn’t make the squad.


I have to admit that rather than being disappointed, I was hugely relieved!

See you at the barn.



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Is It Too Early To Prep?

Since my horse show countdown has begun in my mind, I am riding with even more purpose and I have started cleaning Roo more thoroughly after each ride. It’s not as if I believe he’ll stay clean, but I am hoping that after 30+ days of mane and tail attention, I will actually get his mane and tail hair clean all the way to the skin! This horse proudly wears his hair and he has lots of hair – all over, but mostly mane and tail. If anyone has tips or can suggest products that work well for a long-haired horse, I’m listening.

Roo seems to like parts of this “show horse” thing. He is happy getting attention and to be ridden although he seems to prefer a bit more fun, ie, more field and trail than ring work.


If we are working in the ring, Roo would prefer the feline peanut gallery stay out!


He’s very tolerant during baths – probably because he can immediately roll to return to his preferred scent. He seems to really enjoy a deep massage with the flower shedder.

Life is good, right at this minute.

See you at the barn!