Saturday, October 7, 2017

Tempo Control: Is it the Origin of Connection and Collection?

This article is the first in a series of articles that will serve to discuss in depth the various tiers of the USDF Training Pyramid. Every dressage rider should be very familiar with this Pyramid. They are as follows: Rhythm, with Energy and Tempo; Relaxation, with Elasticity and Suppleness; Connection-Acceptance of the Bit through Acceptance of the Aids; Impulsion-Increased Energy and Thrust; Straightness with Improved Alignment and Balance; and Collection-Increased Engagement, Lightness of the Forehand, Self-Carriage. A pamphlet discussing it in depth may be found here:
Since everything we do every day with our horses is interrelated, I will demonstrate with these articles specific connections between the various tiers, and how they can be used to facilitate the training of the horse at every level. The vast majority of riders and horses are at Training Level, but what the reader must understand is that this is the MOST IMPORTANT level, for horse and rider. A good education in the beginning secures the future of every dressage horse and every aspiring dressage rider. ~Stacy C. Williams

Tempo Control: Is it the Origin of Connection and Collection?
The first tier of the USDF Training Pyramid is Rhythm(with Energy and Tempo). The description goes on to elaborate: “Rhythm is the term used for the characteristic sequence of footfalls and timing of a pure walk, pure trot, and pure canter. The rhythm should be expressed with energy and in a suitable and consistent tempo, with the horse remaining in the balance and self-carriage appropriate to its level of training.” At this point I will point out that there is a major difference between the terms “rhythm” and “tempo”. Rhythm is defined above. Tempo is the RATE OF REPETITION of said rhythm. The words are not interchangeable and should not be used as such.
The Purpose stated on the Training Level Tests reads: “To confirm that the horse demonstrates correct basics, is supple and moves freely forward in a clear rhythm with a steady tempo, accepting contact with the bit.” At its most fundamental level, Dressage training seeks to establish correct basics: the horse should have three clear gaits; he should accept his rider’s aids with calmness and confidence born of understanding; he should demonstrate freedom in his way of going; he should be balanced under his rider; and he should travel at a tempo that is sufficiently active and that remains steady. In examining Training Level Test 1, notice that “regularity and quality of (insert walk, trot or canter here)” is in EVERY SINGLE Directive Idea box. It is mentioned thirteen times in thirteen movements. While the “Gaits” score in the Collective Marks section is only a coefficient of 1, it is nonetheless factored into the score of each and every movement. This requirement holds true through Grand Prix.
Most horses seen in the Dressage ring today have reasonably clear and correct rhythm in all three gaits. By including “regularity” in the Directive Idea of each movement, today’s test writers have seen to that. Riders can’t really train correct rhythm into a horse, but, they can definitely train it OUT of the horse. That goes to Relaxation, and is a subject for a different article. What a rider CAN control with regard to her horse’s rhythm as it pertains to the Training Scale, is whether or not that distinctive footfall characteristic to each gait has sufficient energy, and, whether or not the tempo remains steady. It is this continuous, unimpeded flow of energy from the horse’s hind legs to the rider’s hand that creates the connection between the rider’s aids and the horses mind and body. Dressage is about movement. It is an athletic endeavor, an Olympic sport, and a discipline centuries old. It is at Training level that the young horse is educated to accept the rider’s driving, bending and balancing aids. It is truly the most important level, the platform from which springs all the beautiful movements we identify as “Dressage”.
A horse who moves freely forward, in a clear rhythm that has sufficient energy and balance is a thing of beauty. Horses like to move. It is up to the rider to teach him how to move in such a way that his gaits are enhanced, his balance improved, and his responses are instant. Stand ringside at the warmup arena at any dressage show, and observe how the horses move. Some are bold, active, and committed to the aids. Some are silly and inattentive. Some are hesitant, unsteady, and lacking in balance. Some are each of these at any given time. It is that steadiness of the tempo, the even push of each hind leg as the horse moves resolutely forward towards the bridle, or lack thereof, that will separate two otherwise equally talented horses. Any time a coach or rider concerns herself with where the horse’s head is before insisting that the horse’s tempo and energy become consistent is putting the cart in front of the horse. No amount of jiggling of the bit to create a false frame will teach a horse that his job is to keep the hind leg committed to stepping up to the hand at all times. But once the horse understands the level of energy required and willingly goes to the bridle, accepting it, the connection over the topline is simply the next step on the continuum. Connection is a gift the correctly ridden horse gives the rider, not something the rider demands. The “put your head down or you are going to the packers” mentality has no place in good training. It is this commitment to step into the rider’s hand, this establishment of a trusting connection, that is at the heart of collection. Horses will always come with different talents. Some find the extended paces easy. Some find the lateral work easy. Still others find the high collection easy. And then there are the rare horses that excel in all three areas and that is the stuff Olympic dreams are made of. However, it is the diligent rider who will take the time to solidify the basics on each horse, no matter his area of talent, that will have the most success with the widest range of horses. A horse who can piaffe, but cannot stay balanced enough in the canter to make even a single flying change, is not a Grand Prix horse. Some horses find learning the changes easy and will do them correctly no matter how poorly set up. Others will never make clean flying changes, no matter how many years they have been performing them, unless perfectly set up by the rider. But the problem’s root cause is a failure on the part of the horse to remain committed to stepping into the bridle, and/or a failure on the part of the rider to expect it. It is at the essence of everything we do from the beginning ride to developing the one tempi’s. The conversation goes something like this: Rider says, “horse, here are my driving aids.”; Horse replies, “here is my commitment to step forward towards the bridle.” ; Rider reciprocates, “here is your release, now please carry yourself.” Horse replies, “I can carry myself for this long today.”; Rider acknowledges, “Thank you for your effort today.” This conversation takes place continuously throughout every ride, every day, for the horse’s entire career.
The rider has to take the description of Rhythm in the USDF Training Pyramid to heart when developing the young horse or reschooling older horses. If the tempo is too fast, the horse will constantly ask the rider to balance him by leaning on the hand, or will hide behind the hand with a closed throatlatch and a chest that points down in spite of the high poll. If the tempo is too slow, the horse can avoid developing a real commitment to contact. If the tempo varies, it is a red flag that the horse is too crooked and unbalanced to sustain a steady tempo, and lateral suppleness needs to be addressed. Noticing variations in the tempo can help the rider identify a lack of symmetry, and, addressing the changes in tempo with steadying aids on the quick side and driving aids on the slow side will go a long way towards improving overall symmetry. If the rider further studies the Purpose of the Training level tests, she will see that it is not only the correct rhythm, with sufficient and steady tempo and energy that is crucial, but also that the horse is demonstrating acceptance of the bridle. The two go hand in hand: when the horse willingly and resolutely responds to the driving aids and accepts the bridle, the rider can then create a recirculation of energy that establishes the circle of the aids, and then she is in control of the tempo. It is this circle of aids, this recycling of the energy, that puts the horse “in front of the leg” and allows the rider to gradually influence the entire body of the horse and set him up in a balance and alignment that makes it possible to access both the thrusting power and the carrying power of the horse’s hind leg. It is the ability to access both trajectories of energy that creates, over time, the collection needed to perform at the highest of levels. If your horse is not willing-or you as the rider are too impatient-to meet the requirements as set forth in Training level, he will only learn tricks. His talent may take him a long way, but the tempo control established at Training level is what allows the rider access to all of the gears required to execute the most harmonious Grand Prix test.
To illustrate the relationship between tempo control, connection and collection, compare the following two canter photos.

Thanks to Pam Olsen of ProPhoto for the photo on the left, Andalusian World Cup for the photo on the right. The photos are of the same horse/rider, in the same show season, at Third level. The first photo was taken during extended canter, the second during collected canter. While this is by no means a perfect representation, it serves to illustrate the idea that a continuous flow of energy from the hind leg to the bridle has created a connection through the topline that has allowed me, the rider here, to open and close my horse’s frame to meet the requirements of each pace with almost no change in the reach through the topline or the degree of engagement. All that changed was the trajectory of the energy. There is nearly the same amount of separation of the hind leg, the trailing hind leg continues to work from the hip forward even in the extended canter, the saddle does not sink down as the he stretches out his frame, and his nose points to where his foreleg will land. Because my horse’s tempo is steady, and his energy flows towards my hand, I have the ability to adjust his outline forward and back again with no loss of balance, energy, or engagement. My hands are able to quietly receive and recycle the energy created by the hind leg. These are nice moments taken from reasonably successful rides. No ride is perfect every step of the way, but, studying your horse on film, either through video or still photo, is a very reliable way to assess how secure the elements of the Training Pyramid are in the daily work.

I hope this article helps the reader to recognize how important it is to notice her horse’s tempo, once the establishment of a correct rhythm has been assured. Assessing the tempo, expecting a steady flow of energy, and adjusting the tempo early and often will pave the way for a more honest connection, which creates the possibility of collection. My next article will discuss Suppleness from the Relaxation tier.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Summer 2016 Update

2016 has been a busy year thus far! I have continued to develop the young Moresian gelding, Saezzar. I started him the middle of August last year, and he has made steady progress. His mind is so incredible, and he has the talent for dressage. He seems to really love his job. In June, he went on his first outing, to Millbrook Farms in Fairfield. He learned how to go away from home and still do his job, an important step in the education of a show horse. In July, he competed at his first show, again at Millbrook Farms. I just love this facility for baby horses and new riders. The stabling is very secure and safe, the footing is excellent, the warmup arena is huge so you can keep a nervous Nelly in a corner away from other horses, and of course the organization and management are extremely welcoming. Saezzar did great at his first show. On Saturday, he got a little too excited and inattentive, picking up the wrong lead for the right canter-something he had actually NEVER once done under saddle-and our score was only a 63.409%. Not bad at all, but, he has the quality to do a lot better than that. Sunday was much better. In spite of being tired, and suddenly noticing the arena sign that had been there all along, resulting in a spook just as we trotted up centerline to start, he stayed much more focused and we earned a 71.136% on Training level Test 3. I was thrilled with him and his conduct at his very first show. Saezzar will also go to the August Millbrook Farms show, and, the Utah Dressage Society shows the following weekend.
Saezzar's owner, Persis, needed to get in the saddle herself so she could learn along with her youngster. In December, we traveled to Albuquerque, NM, to look at an older schoolmaster, a Friesian gelding. As soon as they pulled the blanket off of him and he turned to look at me, I felt that same arrow through my heart that I felt that July day in 1998 as I walked into a barn in Klammath Falls, Oregon, and Charisma put her head out of the stall and looked at me. I had to work hard to remain professional, but I had already researched the horse's credentials pretty carefully, and only needed to sit on him for a few minutes to confirm what I felt I already knew. Even at coming 18, he passed his vetting with flying colors, in spite of being extremely underweight, under muscled, and in very poor condition. The vet gave Persis a very specific nutritional program, and Chase arrived in St. George in the dark in late December, calmly walked off the trailer and into his stall, and stole all of our hearts immediately. Luckily Persis has a fleet of daughters to spoil him in his future retirement but for now "Chase" has carried Persis to her very first dressage show with very nice scores and even a first place. They showed at the July Millbrook Farms show, and will be showing in August as well, along with Saezzar.
It was really special to have six of Persis' seven children, as well as her husband and nephew, there to watch both her and I. What a support crew-I don't know about Persis but their love and support made me feel invincible!!

Diane and Legolas have been working hard with me since last fall, with the goal ultimately being First level. Legolas previously had a career on the AQHA circuit, and has had to learn a new discipline along with Diane. They are a very elegant pair and make progress each day. They also entered their first dressage show at the Millbrook Farms July show. Linda taught Diane how to make dressage braids, and it made gave me such a fulfilling feeling to see the two of them, heads together, getting those braids perfect. I have to say, Diane's turnout was spectacular! It was such a joy to see Diane's father come and watch her, and I had to hide my emotions when I heard him say to her "It's just like when you were a little girl." . Diane's husband and one of her sons(she has eight beautiful children!) were so proud to watch her, and Legolas behaved very well on show day. I am really proud of this pair and their progress.

Linda and Cazador continue to make progress. Caz was very green when Linda bought him just over a year ago but they have really gelled as a team. They showed at the July Millbrook show as well, at First level, and they earned a qualifying score for Regional Championships!! This thrilled me to no end. Linda is very excited to begin work on their First level Freestyle, a long time goal of hers. I have high hopes for this pair's future in the sport. I can easily see Linda earning her Bronze medal and Freestyle bar in the very near future. 
April saw the departure of Ashley Adams and her darling family. Her husband Chris received an Army assignment that took them to Monterey(rough life!). I miss all of them terribly. Ashley purchased the grade gelding Silver Lining in February from Kerri Coufal, head groom to Alison Brock. "Charlie" schools Third level and is a super find for Ashley and her daughters. Charlie and Ashley participated in several shows at Gilroy Gaits this summer, earning the First level scores Ashley needed towards her Bronze medal, as well as to allow her to begin designing her First level Freestyle. I have been coaching them via email and phone, which while not ideal, is still helpful. Were it not for Jan Lawrence's virtual coaching while I rode Kleine, I would not have progressed from never having shown FEI to a very respectable 65% at Intermediate II and 59.7% at Grand Prix within seven short months. 
Ashley's KWPN mare, Dulce' stayed at Lava Bluffs with me, in full training, with the aim to sell her to an ambitious rider who can capitalize on the mare's great paces, energy, and work ethic. I took her to a clinic at Cooper Ranch in Las Vegas and rode with David Wightman. He praised her elasticity and gaits. Details, photo and video about Dulce' may be found on my For Sale page. Dulce' will be shown at First level in the August Millbrook and Utah Dressage Society Shows.
Karen and Tanner continue to amaze me at their diligence. Tanner is so honest, and gives it his all every single ride. They participated in a schooling show at Cooper Ranch in Las Vegas, in January, and did a great job, earning a very nice score. They were unable to participate in the April  show due to a scheduling conflict, and, the remaining schooling shows there were cancelled for 2016. Karen and I are preparing her to show recognized next year. 
Alison and Biscuit continue to improve and have become a super partnership. Pat and Blue are taking the summer off from lessons due to the heat. Pat has to be careful about getting overheated and rides very early every morning. We will get back to lessons in the fall.
Frisco steals my  heart on a daily basis. I love that horse so much. Together this year, thus far, we have earned our Bronze Freestyle Bar, qualified for Regional Championships at Third level, at Third level Freestyle, and qualified at CDS-HOY Third level Freestyle. 

2016 has been a very full year for SCWDressage, and I am excited to see what the remainder of the year holds for my horses and riders. I am blessed and filled with gratitude.
Here is a link to a complete album of photos from the show:

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Las Vegas Chapter-California Dressage Society Annual Awards Banquet

SCWDressage would like to congratulate Ashley Adams and Beau Dazzler on their 2015 year end award with the LVC-CDS. The LVC-CDS Awards Banquet is this Saturday in Las Vegas. Ashley and Daz were the Schooling Show, Adult Amateur First Level Reserve Champions in the Opportunity Division. Also receiving an award at the banquet is Stacy Williams and Frisco Bay, who were the Rated Show Musical Freestyle Champions across all levels with their Second Level Freestyle. Full results for LVC-CDS Year End Awards may be found here:

Jaeli, Ashley and Daz, Chris, and Sage. It's a family affair!
Frisco's Second Level Freestyle earned three Championships in 2015.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

2015 USDF Awards Banquet

Silver Medal with George Williams

LVC-CDS 2015 Silver Medalists: Pearlier Rorhbacher, Marthe Winner, Stacy Williams, Kristy Keller

Receiving Frisco's All Breeds Westfalen Horse Association Second Level Freestyle Championship

Westfalen Horse Association Award Recipients

Friday, November 27, 2015

In Loving Memory of Barb

Obituary of Barbara Clara Repta-1940-2015 

Barbara Clara Repta, formerly of Lawrence, Kansas, passed away on 23 November 2015 of natural causes after a long bout with Alzheimer's Disease. She was born Barbara Clara Vogel on 12 December, 1940 in Manitowoc, Wisconsin to Earl Otto and Lois Vogel, who along with her brother Garrity Vogel, preceded her in passing. "Barb" is survived by her husband Arnold and son Garrity, both of Park City, Utah and daughter Tracey of New Orleans, Louisiana. Barb and "Arnie" were married in Cudahy, Wisconsin on 10 November 1962. Barb was an ardent lover of animals and an accomplished equestrian. Along with her dressage riding, she enjoyed the outdoors including gardening, swimming, skiing and skating. She was a loving and devoted mother and wife who was very outgoing and filled with energy and the joy of life. Her warmth, smile and infectious sense of humor endeared her to all she met. She will be remembered and deeply missed by her family and all her friends. She enjoyed many friendships in the numerous places she lived including Milwaukee and Madison, Wisconsin; Lawrence, Kansas; Wilmington, Delaware and St. George and Park City, Utah. Per Barb's wishes no funeral or service is being held. Those wishing to honor her life are encouraged to make contributions in her memory to “Best Friends of Animals Society” ( and or the “Fisher Center for Alzheimer's Research Foundation” ( Condolences may be addressed to

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

GAIG USDF Region 5 Second Level Freestyle Champion!

Frisco and I have developed into a Freestyle team that gets noticed. It is a fun way to show off your horse's highlights. I have enjoyed learning the process of choosing and editing music, and, creating choreography. I have zero musical talent or knowledge, beyond a love for many kinds of music. Listening to music always makes me happy. I have had lots of help from clinics with Terri Gallo hosted at Cooper Ranch Las Vegas and sponsored by Las Vegas Chapter of the California Dressage Society, along with lots of telephone and email advice from Jan Lawrence of Millbrook Farms, who creates many freestyles of all levels. At the most recent Freestyle clinic, I mentioned to Terri that while I loved my canter music and it had special meaning to me(Soul Sister by Train), I didn't feel as though it had enough dynamics that would help give impact to each movement being performed. I was also at the time considering changing the trot music, which is The Piano Guys performance of a mashup of Beethoven's Fifth, and, Secrets by One Republic. The Piano Guys are a St. George, Utah group that I just love. They are so creative with the pieces of music they put together. Terri and Jan both agreed: do not change the trot music, it is perfect for Frisco. Most judges agreed, except when we were really off our music. Terri suggested that I try to find another piece by The Piano Guys that would suit for the canter. That was much earlier in the year, and, I couldn't find anything I loved, so I continued through summer with the first music I'd put together using the two pieces featuring OneRepublic, and, the piece featuring Soul Sister. Somehow, I overlooked The Piano Guys' version of Over the Rainbow. About a month ago, I decided to try again, because I wanted to go to Regional Championships with music I knew would highlight everything about Frisco. I was playing various pieces while watching video of Frisco canter, and when I played their version of Over the Rainbow, I burst into was PERFECT. That music says everything about Frisco that there is to be said. I downloaded it to my iPod, and rode to it the next day. There were so many shifts in the music that I could really just have creative license, to ride whatever figure worked at that time. That makes it so much easier, when riding your Freestyle, to catch up, or fix an error, or even if you just miss your mark to fudge it and find another mark to ride to. That was the beauty of the trot music that I'd experienced all along, but never had found in the canter music. Jan had a great suggestion, since editing is not something I have a lot of skill with yet, and that was to use the same music for walk and canter, because the dynamics of this piece easily allowed for that. It made for a really nice adjustment to my choreography, because I just never loved my walk and canter choreography, and frankly never rode it the same way from ride to ride. 
To make it all even more perfect, Frisco was bred, born, raised and trained right here in St. George, Utah, and, The Piano Guys are also from St. George, Utah. In fact one of our very dearest friends worked at The Piano Gallery for Paul Anderson for quite a few years. It is really fun to bring the title of GAIG USDF Region 5 Second Level Freestyle Champion home to St. George, on a horse from St. George, using music by a group from St. George. Judge Bill Warren said "Creative ride and interpretation was spot on." Obviously, I chose the right music. Here is a link to video of the ride:
I'm excited now to move on to Third level, try to earn the score needed to allow us to ride the Freestyle, and begin putting together Third level choreography to this music. 
In addition to being Region 5 Champion, Frisco is also the 2015 Westfalen Horse Association's USDF All Breeds Second Level Freestyle Champion, as well as the 2015 Las Vegas Chapter-California Dressage Society Second Level Freestyle Champion.

Linda and Cazador RHR on the left. They had a GREAT show together, earning a fourth and a fifth place her Training level classes. They've only been a team since April and Caz had only very little dressage training. They are a great team and Caz is a super influence on Frisky Boy. They are both the same age, but Caz is wise beyond his years.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Latest News and Happenings

I have not updated in quite some time, not because there has been no news to report, but mostly because I have just been very involved with my clientele and horses on the ground instead. Lots has been going on. I introduced Ashley Adams and her daughter Jaeli some time ago. They leased Beau Dazzler until he sold in March to a wonderful "active retirement" home with Jeanine Rush, DVM, of Overton, NV. Prior to his sale, Ashley and Jaeli showed Daz one final time at a schooling show in Las Vegas. Ashley and Daz currently stand ranked Reserve Champion with the LVC-CDS in the First Level AA Opportunity division. Jaeli and Daz were adorable in their Intro B test. You have never seen a more nervous trainer than myself, reading her test from the sidelines, completely unable to step in and help if needed. Daz was a superstar and Jaeli was extremely focused and poised. I am SO PROUD of them. Anyone who has followed my blog knows of Daz, the beautiful grey Arabian gelding brought to me by Sarah Glidden in 2009. Sarah learned how to ride on him, and the two were very successful in the Intro/Vintage category locally. I trained Daz through Third level, and he schooled the entire Prix St. Georges before age began to catch up with him. Oh to have had that horse to train BEFORE he was 14 years old! SCWDressage is very happy for Jeanine on her new ownership of Daz. Every horse deserves this and I admire Sarah for allowing Daz this opportunity to live out his life as the King that he is.
Daz' new home with Jeanine Rush, DVM

Jaeli, Ashley, Daz, Chris, and Sage at their final show with Daz

Ashley began her search in earnest for her own horse, and found a diamond in the rough in Olathe, KS. Dulce is a stunning grey, 16.1 hand 2008 KWPN mare by VDL Prestige out of a Riverman Hilltop daughter. Dulce is very talented, but also very quirky and quite green. The two are working hard to form a strong and trusting partnership. Mares usually take longer to develop this, but the two of them get along marvelously. I work with them regularly, and ride Dulce on a regular basis to help the training progression. Ashley took Dulce to a show at Millbrook Farms in August and showed in the Opportunity classes. It was great exposure for Dulce, and a good chance for Ashley to get to know how Dulce acts away from home. Dealing with horses outside their home environment is perhaps the most difficult part of training them and it was a positive experience for both.
Ashley and Dulce, photo by Pam Olsen

SCWDressage was ecstatic to see the return of Linda Thompson to the program. Linda rode with me years ago with her Trakehner gelding, Master. However Linda took a fabulous opportunity to go work as a full time groom in the training program of Carolyn Heaton in Las Vegas, and since Carolyn had been Linda's trainer from the beginning, it was a great opportunity for them to work together again. Linda learned a lot while working in a training barn, with lots of exposure to good training methods. Linda decided Master needed to be retired a little over a year ago due to ongoing soundness issues that she had managed for years. She searched for her new partner for over a year. Master's shoes are impossible to fill, so it was a slow and hard process for her. It has been a very emotional journey for Linda. She finally found her new soulmate in Arizona. Cazador RHR is a 2008, 16 hand bay Andalusian gelding. His name means "bull fighter" and he certainly has the heart to match the name. Caz' only problem is trying TOO hard! He is gentle, intelligent, friendly, athletic, and a joy to be around. He had very little Dressage training prior to Linda purchasing him, but had been exposed to many other things, making him a super all around horse with the aplomb to handle any situation with poise. I am very excited to report that after only owning Caz since the end of March, and in only two shows, Linda and Caz qualified in the Training Level Adult Amateur division for the USDF/GAIG Regional Championships. This can be a daunting goal at times. It's a feat she sadly never accomplished with Master, as I never did with Charisma, in spite of the fact that both horses were the catalysts for both our deep commitment to this very difficult sport. I am so very happy for Linda, and happy that she was able to provide a loving and active retirement for Master on her sister's horse farm.
Linda and Cazador, photo by Pam Olsen

Linda, Steve and Cazador, Photo by Dow Williams

Karen Martz and Tanner have made more progress in the past six months than they have in the prior six years. Karen was finally able to retire in December, and after recovering from some planned shoulder replacement surgery, she was back in the saddle full time by April. I am so happy to see how quickly the two of them are progressing now that Karen can come to the barn every day.

SCWDressage was the program chosen by Barbara Derksen of Heber City, UT, to assist in the selling of her beautiful 2002 Morgan/Friesian mare, Kleine. I was honored by the decision, and did my best to represent the horse, the owner, and the entire transaction well. Kleine was trained to Grand Prix by Dallas Sweat, and her earlier training was by Annie Sweet, of Sage Creek Equestrian. I began riding Kleine the first of November, showing her at Prix St. Georges after only two weeks of getting to know her. She and I had a very successful show season together, qualifying for the USDF/GAIG Regional Championships at Prix St. Georges. Kleine helped me clinch the remaining scores I needed to earn my USDF Silver Medal. And I was fortunate to have her in my training program long enough for the two of us to gel on the Grand Prix movements. I showed her in May at Intermediare II and Grand Prix, earning 65% and 59.7% respectively. It was a fabulous opportunity for me to catch a ride on a trained horse, a real luxury for me when I am used to always having to develop every horse from scratch. I am happy to report that Kleine found a most wonderful home with Kara Pack of Henderson, NV, who rides with the Cooper Ranch team in Las Vegas. 
Stacy and Kleine, photo by Robert Schmidt

SCWDressage was also the program chosen by Sussanne Felleson of Draper, UT, to assist with the rehab and eventual sale of her older Lusitano/TB cross, El Nino. Due to a longterm lease situation that did not go well, Nino had quite a bit of mental and physical tension when he came to me, resulting in a horse so unhappy that he was nearly unrideable. Nino was placed on a very specific program of therapeutic lunging which later progressed to classical lunging with the help of my student Ashley; a great deal of body work from Anita DeLelles and Alissa Grover; removal of shoes and placement on a frequent and therapeutic trimming program; an overhaul of his nutritional program; and eventually, when his body and brain would allow it, daily riding by me. By the time he left, Nino was working Third level very competently, confidently, and most importantly, soundly.  "Nervous Nino" became Schoolmaster Nino: a most gentlemanly lunging lesson horse for quite a few students of varying capabilities. And now, Nino has become the Junior division partner for Jade Thomas. I am very moved on a deep spiritual and emotional level by the dedication and commitment of Sussi to this gentle and kind horse. Nino deserved EVERY chance, and Sussi gave it to him, no matter the cost. I have never been so humbled to be allowed to be a part of such an important project. I have the deepest respect and admiration for what Sussi did for this horse and wish Nino and Jade all the best in their journey together. Jade rides with Margo Gogan in Heber City, UT.
Stacy and El Nino, photo by Ashley Adams

SCWDressage has been chosen by Persis Hammon and Sam Zitting of Hurricane, UT, to develop their stunning young Friesian/Morgan gelding, Seazzar. He will be three in January, but has the presence and poise of a much more mature horse. He is small but mighty-a gigantic energy in a nice compact 15.1 hand package. I predict he will finish taller, but not more than 15.3. He is very dark bay and one of the most beautiful horses I have ever seen in my life. He came to me the middle of August to be started. We have gone from the first day of wearing tack to trotting under saddle solo in the dressage court in six weeks. I cannot claim great skill in this rapid progress, this is a testament to the brain of this fine young gelding. Every single day sees progress-he never regresses. All I provide each day is consistency, kindness, and the ability to stay out of his way. His gaits are very expressive, he is naturally very balanced and carries himself with a lovely, round, uphill balance. I am thankful to be chosen by his owners for his development and am very excited to watch his bright future unfold. Seazzar is the same cross as Kleine, and if these two are a normal representative of the cross, I am now a huge fan of the Moresian.
Seazzar Day One

SCWDressage has seen an influx of new students this year. Suzie Floyd moved her beautiful 17 yr old Lippizaner/Hanoverian cross mare to Lava Bluffs this past spring. Suzie moved to St. George from northern California a couple of years ago, and it is so fun to work with someone who has ridden with more experienced and advanced trainers, and knows how "it" is supposed to look. Suzie is enthusiastic and has an undeniable spirit. She is quite possibly the friendliest person in the barn and we are happy to have her being the one who is always first to speak and smile at every person who shows up, every day, no matter how bad HER day has gone. 
Diane Johnson recently moved to St. George from Texas with her family. She is the mother of EIGHT!! What a woman!! Diane brought with her two horses, Legolas and Ebony. Legolas is a 13 yr old 16.1 hand bay AQHA gelding by the legendary Rugged Lark. Diane is transitioning from the AQHA circuit to Dressage with Legolas, taking twice weekly lessons. She stated her goal as First level, and I see nothing to stop this pair from achieving that, and more. Ebony is a sale barn purchase, which as I know from my own past can net quite the wonderful find. She is a petite, pretty, black Arabian mare of somewhat unknown age. She is gentle and kind, blind in one eye, and the perfect kid's horse. Jaeli can tack her up, groom her and bath her all by herself. It is very kind of Diane to share Ebony with Jaeli now that her kids are too big to ride her. She's also serving as Diane's Grandkid horse. 
Pat Matthews is a local trail rider who was referred to me by my farrier, JB Rex. Pat is a brave and independent woman with two AQHA geldings, Montana and Blue. She has quite a bit of horsemanship experience, but wanted to learn about Dressage, to see what it could bring to the table to round out her knowledge. I am having a ball working with her and her two horses. 
Alison Salone is a former trail outfitter who moved to St. George this past fall. She has been there and done that, leading all manner of rides with clients, managing a full string of trail horses. She is intelligent and knowledgeable, and is working with me also to round out her riding knowledge. After a freak accident with her  young mare just prior to moving here that caused her a pretty significant injury, I am helping Alison regain her bravado by giving her some arena training that she can take to the trails later. 
SCWDressage also thoroughly enjoyed working with Rick Crockett and his Hanoverian mare L'Gitanna M this past year. Rick and GT were the Intro High Point at the January schooling show in Las Vegas. Rick will be working with Blondie Brimhall going forward, but we remain friends and I am thankful for the chance to work with Rick, whom I refer to as The Renaissance Man.

SCWDressage has been chosen to be the agent for the gorgeous 2002, 15.1hand jet black AQHA gelding Black Jack Smooth, AKA Eboni, owned by Carylon Stone-Ruethlinger. Carylon is a very accomplished horse woman, earning many accolades in her long career of developing horses, most notably in the Appaloosa world. Unfortunately Carylon has a nerve problem in her right leg that now prevents her from riding any longer. Eboni has so much knowledge, and so much more to offer, that Carylon has decided that while it breaks her heart, the best thing for Eboni is for him to find a new home with someone who will see him through the second chapter of his life. I have been working with Eboni since the end of June and he is a joy. More details can be found about him on my Sales page.
Photo by Ashley Adams

Last by not least, Frisco Bay and I continue to chip away at progress. My heart beats for this horse. He's had a very successful show season this year at Second level, particularly in the Freestyle. We are currently listed as the Champion USDF All Breeds Westfalen Horse Association Second level Freestyle, with a median score of 71.167, two points higher than our median last year at First level, and again using music and choreography I designed myself. Assuming no corrections are submitted by other riders, this standing will be made final on October 15th. Frisco and I are also currently ranked as Champion with Las Vegas Chapter of the California Dressage Society, Second Level Freestyle. This standing is final. Frisco earned his Second level Horse Performance Certificate this year. He did so with all of his scores from the hardest test of the level. He is also currently ranked third and only two points off from first in the USDF All Breeds Westfalen Horse Association Second Level division, again achieving this very solid median score of 66.281 from scores earned exclusively from the hardest test of the level. Frisco qualified for the USDF/GAIG Regional Championships in the Open Second level, and Second level Freestyle divisions. Region 5 Championships will be held in Scottsdale, AZ in two weeks. We are very excited to go with Linda and Caz!! It has been a while since I have had a show buddy and it has been so nice to have Linda and Ashley joining me at some of the shows this year. I look forward to many more, with both of them.
Frisco and I have been working with Jan and Gary Lawrence of Millbrook Farms in Fairfield, UT these past couple of years. Everyone needs a mentor, someone they can trust wholly, in this journey. I have found this in the entire Lawrence family and clientele. I have been welcomed as warmly by all of them as any of the regular boarders who are there every day. I cannot thank Jan enough for all of the long phone and email conversations, discussing all aspects of the life and roles of a trainer. Jan and Gary have been down this road a few times, and their students have a great deal of success, on horses the students have developed themselves from Training level to Grand Prix. It is this depth of knowledge that I admire and respect. I am beyond grateful to be able to work with them whenever I can find time, resources, and energy to make the nearly ten hour round trip with Frisco.
While two full months remain of this year, it has been a very full and positive year already. The rest will be icing on an already very full cake. I will be leaving for the Region 5 Championships on Tuesday, October 14th. Upon return, I will have just a few days to rest up and catch up on training home horses and riders before heading north to serve as a scribe during the Teaching Workshop of the Utah Dressage Society's Instructor Certification Workshop Series. I look forward to learning from the experienced and knowledgeable Sarah Martin, and gaining insight into how my colleagues in Utah would handle various training situations with their riders. I also plan to attend the USDF Convention in Las Vegas the first weekend in December, and, the USDF FEI Trainers Conference in Florida in January.

I can't do any of this without the love and support of my husband, for whom I am so grateful, or without the continuous levity and cuddles provided by my horse show kitty.

Photo by Pam Olsen
Dow and Femke, contemplating the meaning of birds.