Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Frisco Earns Four Titles in 2014

Wow. It's like taking the time, day after day, year after year, to set up a very intricate line of dominoes, and then when you are sure they are perfect, tapping the first one to see if the foundation design was correct. They will only keep falling if they are set up perfectly. So far, so good. Frisco has been a creation of my heart...I dreamed him to life, I knew I loved him before I met him. I am honored to share my journey with such a magnificant creature. He earned three Freestyle titles, and a Second Level title, in 2014. With the California Dressage Society, he was the 2014 Horse of the Year, First Level Freestyle Champion. With the United States Dressage Federation's All Breed Awards, he was the Westfalen Horse Association First Level Freestyle Champion. With the Utah Dressage Society, he was the Open First/Second Level Freestyle Champion, as well as the Open Second level Champion. I am one proud horse mom.

First United States Dressage Federation Certified Instructor in Utah!

I am so excited to announce that I have passed my testing and am now the first USDF Certified Instructor in the state! The past year has been very intense. I have grown so much, learned so much, met so many great people...and feel like the weight of the world has been lifted off my shoulders with this honor. It has been a goal of mine to achieve USDF Certification since the first time I gave a riding lesson, just over seven years ago. I have learned a lot in these past seven and a half years, and promise to represent this Certification to the very best of my ability. I will continue to work to develop my skills as a rider and instructor, with the framework of the Classical System as my guide. I can't thank those who have championed me along the way enough. It takes a village, and I have not earned this accreditation without the help and sacrifice of others along the way who cared about me. Many thanks, to all the horses I've ridden, the riders I've taught, the friends who wrote recommendations, the friends who went out of their way to be of assistance to me, and most especially to my husband, who believed in me. I know I still have so much more to learn, and am so happy to have this outstanding program as a guide to my further development. Onward and upward!
Frisco at 8 hours old

Thursday, October 2, 2014

California Dressage Society Horse of the Year First Level Freestyle Champions!

News Flash!! Frisco and I won the CDS-HOY First Level Freestyle in Burbank this past weekend! I will write a more detailed post soon about my experience at a record setting show. It was a marvelous experience.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Welcome Ashley and Jaeli!!

I would like to welcome Ashley Adams and her daugher, Jaeli, to the SCWDressage gang! Ashley has ridden horses most of her life, and has competed with great success in the Hunters and Medals ring. She is new to the St. George area, and has been on the hunt for both a horse, a home barn, and a trainer. I am so honored and pleased that she has chosen Beau Dazzler, Lava Bluffs Equestrian Center, and me to fill those roles for her right now!! Ashley is a very studious person, with a natural gift and excellent horsemanship skills. Her daughter Jaeli is an absolute joy to be around, keeping me constantly entertained with her insightful comments and stories. Ashley and Jaeli are leasing Daz long term. He fits their needs perfectly, with enough training and energy to teach Ashley a little more about Dressage, and perfect lunge line manners for helping develop a budding seven year old's seat and position. After only six weeks of weekly lessons, Jaeli can already canter, maintain a two point position, post on the correct diagonal, and is even learning to ride at walk and trot off the lunge line. Daz seems to understand completely his role, and stays right under Jaeli at all times, making one hundred percent sure Jaeli really does want him to trot! It takes a special horse to be able to fill both a true baby sitter horse for a child, and yet is also able to help Ashley learn how to really "work" flying changes and develop collection. The four of us are fully enjoying each other's company right now!

Daz and Jaeli

Classical Dressage in the Modern Age-A Symposium with Gunter Seidel and Gary Rockwell

I am very honored and excited to announce that Frisco Bay and I have been selected as the Second Level demonstration pair at this very exciting Symposium to be held at Millbrook Farm October 18th and 19th. This is such a wonderful opportunity, for riders and for auditors. Gunter Seidel has ridden for the US Olympic Dressage Team three times, and Gary Rockwell has judged the Olympic Dressage event twice.  But you don't need Olympic aspirations to attend this Symposium. Both of these men are widely known and appreciated for their adherence to the classical training system, and this is an opportunity for rider and auditor alike to watch how they handle each horse and rider pair, as they work to improve their classical basis for an improved performance in the show ring. I've always believed that there does not have to be a separation between the ART of training a horse, and the SPORT of training a horse. Read my previous post on this topic here:
These men would agree with that statement, and have proven it in the highest realms of the sport. I strongly recommend attending this Symposium, it will be an experience you will not forget! Find out how at Millbrook's website:
I am indebted to the selection committee for choosing us, as well as to everyone who has been an integral part of our career.

Frisco just started under saddle, at Ironhill Farm, Priddis, AB. Thank you Irene Hill for having believed in me. I still miss you every day.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Crab Mentality and Paradigms

I am reading a great book called The Four Doors, by Richard Paul Evans. I am excerpting a very interesting passage from that book here to share:

From "The Four Doors" by Richard Paul Evans:
In scientific discovery, when paradigm becomes an obstacle to progress, it is referred to as paradigm paralysis: the inability or refusal to see beyond the current models of thinking.
The cage of paradigm refers to those expectations and limits that we, and those around us, use to define ourselves, our abilities, and our potential. These shackles of paradigm are stronger than you probably realize.
A popular term among Filipinos is "crab mentality". The phrase refers to the dynamic of a pot of crabs. Individually, the crabs could easily climb out of the pot, except that the other crabs will pull down any crab that tries to escape.
The analogy to the human condition is obvious. It is a common social phenomenon that members of a group will attempt to "pull down" any individual member who achieves success beyond the others. The mindset is "If I can't have it, neither can you." It is arguable that America is becoming a giant crab pot.
Instead of being inspired by others' success, small-minded people(and this represents a significant percentage of the population) resent others' achievements because they fear that they are being left behind.
I recently came across the story of a formerly obese woman who had, remarkably, lost more than three hundred pounds. She reported that the most difficult challenge to her lifestyle change was that her husband, who was also morbidly obese, worked to sabotage her effort to lose weight. Nearly every day he brought her chocolate and donuts, then acted hurt when she resisted his "gifts". When she accused him of attempting to wreck her diet, he staunchly denied it.
Only after she had lost the weight did her husband admit that he was afraid that once she was thin she would leave him.
"The worst part of success is trying to find someone who is happy for you." ~Bette Midler
My wife and I experienced the effects of crab mentality firsthand. With the success of my first book, The Christmas Box, our world changed in some negative ways that we did not expect. Friends stopped talking to us, family stopped visiting, false rumors were spread through our neighborhood about us. It was a difficult time, one that required a lot of forgiving.
When I told my father about what was happening to us, he wisely replied, "You have to understand that your success will always remind others of their failures."
No one is perfect or above reproach. "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone." I certainly am not without sin, but, I want to strive to be a vessel for positive change and personal growth. I urge everyone to honor and applaud the successes of others, whether their version of success is multiple best-seller list books, or, raising their children to the best of their abilities. Do not be intimidated when someone is out there accomplishing something you yourself want to accomplish. Be inspired instead. Talk to them. Be pure and sincere, and ignore, or better yet avoid, the naysayers who are envious. Ask them if they have any advice for you. It's lonely at the top, even if the "top" is "only" someone who thinks outside the box in the process of raising their children, or the fastest runner in your age division at the local 5K races, or a young person who is clearly brighter than most adults you know. Maybe they would be very relieved to have a sympathetic ear, a genuine confidant, and in return their successes may well rub off on you. You might be surprised at how much  more you have to learn. I always loved the saying "A high tide raises all boats." It is the truth. Will you allow yourself to rise with the tide around you? Or will you be the crab crowding around with the other crabs in the bottom of the pot pulling down those among you who try to escape? The choice is yours.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Appreciation, Admiration, and Inspiration

Frisco and I attended the July 5th & 6th Millbrook Farms Summer Dressage Festival this past weekend. I love to show in Utah, even though it means travelling much farther. I get face time with my long-distance friends and just love it. One thing this show brought home to me(they are all learning experiences) is that going to shows is not just about me. Showing is hard work, stressful, costs a lot of money and it is nice to do well, especially as a professional. I did reach some interesting milestones with Frisco this show, ending on a high note by winning and earning my personal best score of 68.452% in recognized competition on Second Level Test 3 on Sunday, Frisco's first weekend competing at that level. What was great about that score is that we even have some areas that will be easy for us to clean up with experience. It was good for a Regionals qualifying score as well. We also further developed an effective warmup routine which I will need come September and Region 7 Championships. However, the biggest impressions I came away with were from watching other riders.

My husband travels a lot during the summer to get out of the heat, so he met me at the show and I spent a lot of time with him. But I did break away Sunday morning to watch some riders I'd been wanting to watch.
I watched Gary Lawrence show his wife Jan's horse, "Jake", AKA R Loverboy. They put in a lovely performance and I always enjoy watching him ride any horse, but especially a young or inexperienced horse. What amazed me is how well Gary rode in spite of all the work that he and his entire family had put into making this such a great show weekend experience for everyone. It takes a tremendous amount of physical and mental work to organize a recognized competition, beginning months in advance. The family works so well together, even building a brand new water truck in the days leading up to the show, not to mention a brand new show barn! I am pretty sure no one, including Gary, got more than 4 or 5 hours sleep each night, and that is probably a generous estimate. And yet, he gave his horses soft, effective rides. I hope the Lawrences know how much I and the rest of Utah dressage riders appreciate their efforts to put together quality shows at a fabulous facility, with the best footing I have had the pleasure to ride in. The entire Millbrook crew fosters unity and sets a high standard of committment and good will within our dressage community. I am grateful for their example, and I am sure I am not the only one who can say that.

The next rider I watched was Trisha Kerwin. Anyone who has ever attended a show with her will come away with a deep sense of admiration for her. She works harder than anyone I have ever seen. She has very dedicated family, staff and students, but she leads them by example. Ride after ride, even in near record heat, she goes out there and ellicits the most from each and every horse. She is an effective rider with many years and greath depth of experience, and her students also do extremely well, so she is clearly also an equally effective coach. All professionals could stand to emulate her. She is probably the most well-liked trainer I've ever run across, and it is not because she is busy playing the game of politics. In fact no one could be less political than Trisha. It instead is because every one of us admires her continuous hard work and recognizes her for that. Whenever I feel tired, I only have to look out there in the warmup to see her at the end of the show on most likely her fourth or fifth horse of the day, to be reminded: suck it up princess!

Last but not least, I watched Lara Oles ride her new horse Bella in her Para Grade III class. Lara had a freak skiing accident years ago which resulted in stroke-like symptoms. She no longer has use of her right arm, among other challenges, and so must ride one handed. Bella is a horse I had the pleasure of riding when I was very early in my career as a trainer. She is a Canadian Warmblood mare with enormous gaits and a super ability for collection. I was so excited when I heard word that Lara would be her new owner, thinking she would make a very competitive horse for the Para team. I watched the two of them warmup and then perform, under the guidance of Lara's trainer, Annie Sweet. I know very well how hard that trot of Bella's is to sit, two-handed! I often feel exhausted when showing Frisco because of his equally enormous trot. I have to say, I came away from watching Laura's ride very inspired by her obvious basics, fitness, determination and poise under pressure. I will never again complain about being winded from trying to get through a full test of sitting trot on my horse! Laura is an inspiration to all riders and all athletes, fully able or not. She can ride circles around the vast majority of two handed riders any day. I am so excited for her, and hope to see her and Bella's name in lights(with supporting actor roles played flawlessly by her trainer Annie and her husband Dan)!
And of course every day of my life I find reasons to appreciate, admire, or be inspired by my husband and his gorgeous daughters. I love them beyond words.
Another show, another learning the books!
Below is a link to photos taken by ProPhoto/Pam Olsen:

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Las Vegas Spring Fling III-Show High Point!

Frisco and I had a great time again at Cooper Ranch. He is maturing in a lot of ways, really growing up. I learn so much at every show about how best to prepare, and how to handle different situations. It is one thing to school at home, quite another to go elsewhere and try to figure out how to warm up just enough, how make it just effective enough, without overfacing my horse or wearing him(or me) out. We wound up earning the highest score in the show with our First Level Test 2 ride, a 72.162. It was a nice, steady, smooth ride. He was really on the aids and willing, a ride I'll hold in my memory for a long time as one that came as close as I've ever felt to total  harmony. We also earned really nice scores on First Level Test 3 and the First Level Freestyle. Test 3 had moments of brilliance and moments of sillinesss-Frisco was pretty playful, and also he wanted to try and offer a flying change a couple of times. Fortunately I was able to convince him now was not the time to try his new trick out, one he's really proud of and eager to try. We earned a 69.355 on that test. My in-laws came for a visit and were able to watch our Freestyle on Sunday. Trudy, who is a dancer and has been all her life, was so entertained to see how well Frisco stayed on the beat. I told her any time he wavered from staying on the beat was my fault, because the music matches him almost perfectly. She really enjoyed being able to watch it, and Tommy loved how fluid Frisco's gaits are. As a studier of genetics and a life long breeder of Angus cattle, Standardbred racers, and miniature horses, he and I can talk horse genetics for hours. We earned a 69.667 on the Freestyle, and the judge suggested taking more risk in the choreography. Since I don't have any experience in desiging Freestyles, and wanted my choreography to help my technical tests, I kept it pretty simple and tried to focus on learning how to ride to music and stay on it. I'm getting better at that, so maybe next year I will try adding some more creative choreography! As usual, my amazing husband was immensely helpful and helped me stay focused and calm. I can't do any of this without him.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

FWA Beau Dazzler For Sale

Daz is a 15.1 hand 19 years young purebred Arabian gelding, sadly offered for sale. Sarah’s loss is someone’s gain. Daz is a solid Second/Third level horse in full training with a professional, and proven in the recognized show ring through First. He taught his 68 year old owner to ride. He is sound, easy to handle, goes barefoot, fun to take to shows, great on trails, and has lots more to offer. He would make a fun Juniors horse, or would be ideal for an Amateur tired of trying to sit her huge warmblood’s trot. Let him give you many more years of enjoyment while you learn the ropes and maybe even earn your Bronze medal. A solid citizen-he will give you confidence to go and show-but has plenty of power and energy. He is the perfect “get out of Training Level” horse. Contact Stacy Williams at for details.

Forever home required.
Show Scores in Recognized competition:
Copies of all show tests will be made available to any interested party.
Video links:
More video to come.


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Qualified for Regionals!

We did it! Two attempts, two qualifying scores, at both First Level, and, the First Level Freestyle. We had a great time at Cooper Ranch as usual. Dr. Chopra gave us excellent comments for continuing to improve. We continue to improve our Freestyle scores and I am learning how to ride them, earning a 71.8%.  I still have to get better at making my transitions happen more on the music, but I did a much better job this time and in fact this judge actually gave us the higher marks for Artistic Impression, vs. the previous two rides getting higher marks for Technical Execution. I actually did my own choreography and music editing, so you don't have to spend a fortune to do this, and I highly recommend it! For a rhythmically challenged individual I have found riding to music, especially "our" music, REALLY improves us both. He actually listens to it and helps with the transitions, and, I ride much more fluidly. Here is a link to the video:
I have to say, even with earning 67+% on both technical tests, our work lately  has been going so well that those scores felt a little like a disappointment. Sorry if that sounds bratty, but, Frisco has been solid First level for a year now, and, his balance and self carriage have improved dramatically of late. Also his expression and freedom of movement are starting to grow,  now that he has slowed down his own growing. We had a couple of "kid" moments in both tests which required me to be less tactful as a rider than I like to be, and that took the polish of what could have and should have been nicer rides. They obviously weren't awful, but, I'll be looking to do better next show. Gotta have goals!
Saturday was pretty hot, hottest day of the year so far. I think it affected me worse than it did Frisco, as I literally fell over my own feet when I was removing his bridle after we were done. Frisco on the other hand is getting extremely fit and strong, and Sunday evening walked off the trailer at home like he could turn around and go do the whole thing again.
As my friend Veronika said, "Another show in the books!". Check! Another learning opportunity, another bonding experience with  my  horse, another weekend with my handsome and sweet husband/photographer, another great time with great people at a great the books!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Dressage Foundation

I just received word that I have been selected to receive a grant for Continuing Education for Dressage Instructors through The Dressage Foundation. I am beyond honored and excited to hear this news. This grant was founded by Maryal Barnett, an amazing woman who has done so much to promote the sport of Dressage and support up and coming professionals. I had the pleasure of meeting her while going through the L Program and I found her to be so uplifting to all of us. She wanted us all to succeed. She pushed us, but in such a way that we really felt she was on our team. I remember being so inspired by her, and am beyond thrilled to now be chosen to receive a grant from a fund she established. Ms. Barnett is moving mountains to help professionals in this industry develop their skills and I am grateful to her for that.
Here is a link to the website for The Dressage Foundation. Please consider supporting their efforts!
Dressage is not a popular sport for sponsorship money, and it is an incredibly expensive sport, for amateurs and professionals alike. Without the support of entities like The Dressage Foundation, we would all be less able to reach our goals.
Thank you again to The Dressage Foundation for this most amazing honor-I will work very hard to make the Board proud. It is my hope, dream & goal to be the first USDF Certified Instructor/Trainer in the state of Utah. With this generous and timely grant, I am that much closer to my dream.
Many thanks to those who wrote incredible letters of recommendation: Jan & Gary Lawrence, Karen Martz, and Mariellyn Berry; as well as to all of you who have inspired me to be a better person, rider, instructor and trainer, from my clients, to my friends(and my clients always seem to become my friends!), to my family, to the horses, and of course my soul mate: Dow. I love you all. And lest I forget, the two horses I really owe it all to, Charisma and Frisco Bay...the Universe knew what it was doing when it placed the two of you in my path.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Words to Live By

"Remember, it's always better to be at the bottom of the ladder you want to climb than the top of one you don't. Be productive and patient. And realize that patience is not about waiting, but the ability to keep a good attitude while working hard for what you believe in."

Excerpted from the following article:

Frisco Bay three months prior to his sixth birthday, earning a 72.4% on First Level Test 3, and a 70.767% on our First Level Freestyle, only my second time showing a Freestyle, and I made it myself. I will never regret taking the long, slow, often heartbreaking path of developing my own horses.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Kathleen Raine Clinic

Frisco and I travelled up to the always warm and welcoming Millbrook Farms for a clinic with Kathleen Raine this past weekend. Kathleen's record speaks for itself. She has a track record of developing horses from 3 years onward to the International level, multiple times. I am very grateful to the Lawrences' for their generosity in allowing me to steal a ride spot from one of their horses, so I could have the chance to get input from a woman rider, who develops her own horses from start to finish, and has done so with repeated success.
Kathleen brought many exercises to develop each horse as best suited its temperament and the rider's strengths. Her ability to quickly assess what was working and what was not will be a source of inspiration to me as a coach. That is one of the trickiest things to teaching other is much easier to sit in the saddle and feel what the horse is saying, but to be able to stay firmly on the ground and help the rider figure it out for herself, and get the horse to respond correctly, is a skill I know I have to continue to develop.
One of the more inspiring aspects of watching other riders in this clinic was seeing three separate Adult Amateurs working towards Grand Prix on their horses, all horses they have brought along themselves from the beginning, with the help of the Lawrences' as coaches. Gary does not ride the horses for them except on occasion, in extenuating circumstances, such as a broken ankle! This is a testament to the willingness of the riders to work very hard, and be very committed; as well as a testament to the coaching skills of their trainers. This gang at Millbrook is the real deal.

As for specific exercises, the best way I can describe Kathleen's methods is: keep the horse thinking, moving, bending(especially bending!!), and make it be responsible for its own balance. She never raised her voice, she remained calm but insistent, her standards were high, she was planning your next move before you finished the last, and she used a variety of ways to achieve the same results, dependent on the horse. Another major challenge as a coach is being able to not only see that something is not going to work before it happens, but to especially be able to get that information across to the rider before it is too late. Kathleen has amazing foresight, no doubt born out of her depth of experience. Also, the corrections she suggests are always fair and effective, and the horses not only accepted them, but, learned from them. With one horse who was trying to negotiate how much he would sit, she used voltes, standing in the middle, tapping him behind to help the rider quicken his hind legs. His piaffe and passage went from propping in front to nicely elevated with this exercise. Another horse avoided the sitting in a different way, more pushing through the bridle. With this horse, she asked the rider to do repeated transitions from walk to piaffe and from reinback to piaffe. This work not only improved the piaffe, but also the passage. With the tempi changes, she stressed the collection, the acceptance of bend, the response to the aids, and the clarity of the aids from the riders. As a result, each horse became straighter on the line, with more expression. One young horse, who had shown Training level last show season, was easily working Third level. She used counter canter to introduce the flying changes, and with such a skilled and experienced rider aboard, he offered them easily and calmly. With every horse, and every rider, she stressed the importance of bend, even taking the issue to unconventional levels with my horse who loves to use his big broad shoulders to balance, rather than his hind end.

With Frisco, my usual "behind the leg" problems were nonexistant. First of all, he loves the footing at Millbrook. It is basic washed granite sand, only a couple inches, on top of a firm clay base. No bells and whistles, just basic, straightforward footing. He loves that, and its why I spend much of our training days on the trails in the desert because that is very similar footing: red clay base with a thin layer of red native sand. Firm, consistent, natural. Secondly, Kathleen kept Frisco way too busy mentally for him to get lazy. If anything, by the end of each 45 minute session, he has more energy, not less. She quickly honed in on our weakness: bend. Frisco is W I D E. I struggle to get and keep him between leg and rein. Kathleen made it clear: he has to do it, not me. I get caught in the mommy trap-this is the horse I raised from literally a glass vial. I still baby him too much, and try too hard to support him. That is physically impossible. If I put my inside leg and inside flexing rein on, he'd better bend, and not just a little, a lot. If I put my outside upper leg on, he'd better turn, and not just a little, but a lot. She had me literally take his head to the inside with the inside rein, and, tap him repeatedly on the outside shoulder, if he did not respond to my quiet aids. It was this element of surprise that convinced him to give me a better response. The fact that I took away that outside rein so he could not lean into it with his outside shoulder, and gave him little sharp kicks with my inside lower leg so he could not push his rib cage into it for support, and used a leading inside rein to bring his nose to the inside, and used the whip to tap his shoulder when he did try to lean out...took him off guard. This is all "young horse learning to bend and turn 101" frankly. Here is where showing can get in the way of training. I definitely wouldn't want a judge to watch this process! Or anyone else for that matter. But I have to go there, in training, daily, especially with a horse who naturally has a challenging nature, and has the kind of body that is not easy to rebalance to my ease of use. Mary Wanless says it's a cruel irony that the way to being a good rider is to make your horse easy to ride. Trying to always use subtle, classical aids is a nice goal, but, it is not always effective, especially on this type of horse.  It was remarkable how balanced the 10 meter circles became after this work. Far from drilling movements, we were retraining him to be responsible for his own balance, and, reminding him there are consequences for ignoring polite aids. Not unexpectedly, the lateral work greatly improved through this process. During moments of correction, it will not look pretty, but, pretty is as pretty does, and dragging me sideways with his shoulders, trailing his haunches, is not a pretty leg yield. Better to have a couple of corrections to remind him to remain engaged, as the end result, down the road, will be a horse that listens to subtle corrections because he knows if he doesn't, the big correction will shortly follow. When I can ride any movement with complete influence over each body part and he waits for me rather than boring through with some "trick" he thinks he knows, that will be pretty! This clinic with Kathleen brought home to me the German tradition of fair, but consequent, aids, none too soon.
Thankfully Jan offered to video my second ride. You will see a few correcting moments. For the sake of not boring people I spliced the 45 minute ride down to about 15 minutes and tried to include the more salient aspects of it, showing some corrections, and, their results. And yes, if it looked like we were working our butts off for 15 minutes, it does mean we were actually working that hard for 45! Better eat your Wheaties, if you want to ride with this clinician. Hopefully it is helpful to you. Here is the video link:
And here are some clips from the video: