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.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Classical Dressage in the Modern Age Symposium

Classical Dressage in the Modern Age
Millbrook Farms Presents A Symposium with Gary Rockwell and Guenter Seidel
This is a famous Zen story, and I excerpt it here from the book “Zen Mind, Zen Horse,” by Allan J. Hamilton, MD.
“In a famous Zen story, a pupil approaches a great teacher and asks what activities he should undertake in order to reach ‘satori’, or enlightenment. The old Zen master answers: ‘Chop wood and carry water.’
After ten years of faithfully carrying out these duties, the frustrated pupil returns and tells his master, ‘I’ve done as you asked. I have chopped wood and carried water for ten years, but still I have not attained enlightenment! What should I do now, O Sage One?’
The master answers, ‘Continue to chop wood and carry water, my son.’ The pupil faithfully returns to his duties. Another ten years pass. During that decade, the student matures and reaches satori. He returns to see his master, wearing a simple smile on his face.
‘Master,’ he says, ‘I have reached satori, and now I am an enlightened being. What should I do now?’
The master answers, ‘Continue to chop wood and carry water then, O Enlightened One.’ The pupil bows deeply and retires to his wood and water.”
You see, dressage is not a destination, it is a journey. It is day in and day out of chopping wood and carrying water. Our masters on this beautiful fall weekend at the sanguine Millbrook Farms in Fairfield, Utah, owned by Peter and Sylvia Lawrence, were three time Olympian Guenter Seidel, and FEI ‘O’ Judge Gary Rockwell, who has represented the US at WEG, as well as judged in two Olympics. These two kind, warm, enlightened men, who have reached the pinnacle in our sport, spent the weekend illustrating to every rider and auditor just exactly why they have been able to reach satori. They made it clear that the tricks simply do not matter. What matters is the quality. The daily classical work necessary to build a correctly muscled and properly conditioned athlete can never be accomplished with shortcuts, and attention to detail, taking care of the little things, is what sets the rider apart.
Riders from across the intermountain west applied months ago to ride in this clinic. Two were chosen to represent at the combined Training and First Levels, two for Second level, and one each for levels Third through Grand Prix. Utah, Wyoming, Idaho and Colorado were represented by horse/rider combinations, and auditors came from as far away as South Dakota. Since Mr. Rockwell and Mr. Seidel have never worked together in a symposium before, organizer Jan Lawrence left the door wide open for their interpretation, and they did not disappoint. This symposium turned out to be a rider’s dream come true, with nearly every common horse or rider issue appearing, and handled in the most classical way. If it is possible, this rider’s opinion is that Guenter Seidel is an even more talented coach than he is a rider. And, there was not a word that spilled from Gary Rockwell’s mouth that was not of monumental value. I wrote down more verbatim quotes than I have ever written at any clinic or symposium. Both men were funny, smart, supportive…yet very demanding of each rider. As Gary said at one point, in describing his judging and teaching philosophy: “I am very hard on the riders, because I am hard on myself as a rider.” Every rider had to check her ego at the door. While every combination was well qualified and had achieved good scores in the show ring, there were still many more logs to chop and buckets of water to carry. However, Guenter’s electric smile and Gary’s gentle insistence, combined with their collective wit which brought levity to many an intense moment, allowed each rider to feel safe to receive the constructive criticism, and each auditor to remain empathetic to the rider. The two worked together as though they had been all their lives, often finishing each other’s thoughts, or addressing an issue almost simultaneously.
Both Gary and Guenter were sticklers for detail in every facet of the work. A recurring theme in every ride was rider position. The most common mistakes were: hands too high; upper body behind the vertical; lower legs too far forward; improper canter mechanics; and looking down. Gary said: “Guenter and I are going to have a race but I’m going to close my eyes. Who do you think will win?”. Laughter ensued, but it was a serious point. They both elaborated on this by explaining that if you do not look where you are going a cascade of issues develop. Gary pointed out that if you do not keep the front legs in front of the hind legs, the horse does not have to pick the front legs up, seriously hampering the rider’s ability to develop the horse’s balance. Guenter added to this by explaining that looking where you are going influences the horse’s forward thought. Later in the first day after yet another “eyes up” correction, Gary joked “Tomorrow every rider who looks down has to pay more.” In regard to hand position, both men agreed, hands need to be kept low, especially the outside hand. Raising the hands causes the poll to overflex. Gary shared the observation that when a golf instructor shows a new golfer where to place her hands, and then walks away, the new golfer keeps her hands there! Not so with riders. It is not so easy due to the dynamic nature of riding a horse, and therefore the rider must be committed to developing the necessary fitness and strength in motion to keep her hands where they best help the horse. Failing to keep the elbows bent and at your sides causes the rider to round her shoulders. If the upper body collapses backwards and the lower leg comes forward, this forces the rider’s seat into the horse’s back in a continuously driving way, completely blocking his ability to lift his back and bring the hind legs underneath. When asked later to expand upon his instruction to one rider to use the upper leg, Guenter explained that using the upper leg can allow the seat to give more space for the horse’s back to come up. Gary pointed out that it is a very common mistake, when riding the canter, to allow the shoulders to fall backwards at the very moment when the horse most needs the rider to remain vertical. It is often done in an attempt to follow the canter, but the problem is, it is following in the wrong direction, and that along with tension results in the nodding so often seen in the canter, as well as forces the horse onto the forehand. Gary said to Fourth level rider Lindy Kinsman on her spectacular 13 yr old Lusitano stallion Visquiero V.O.: “He can do the canter, you just sit there.” To which Guenter dead-panned: “It’s that easy.” Many riders were asked to cross their stirrups in order to stabilize and quieten their positions. Understand that this was not your usual gentle seat lesson on a lunge line…these riders worked on simple changes, forward and back within the gaits, and lateral work, all without stirrups. I had to ride both days without them, and Hannah Johannson, the Third level rider on her handsome 8 year old Friesian/QH gelding Zander, had to do her entire solo 45 minute ride on the second day without stirrups! Madison Bigler, one of the Trainning/First level riders on her elastic 8 year old Hanoverian mare Dega’l had to do posting trot! Guenter rode three horses over the course of the Symposium. With each one, he deferred to Gary to ask how things were looking. Upon putting the rider back on her horse, he would ask Gary how the horse looked now in comparison to how it looked with him. This was clearly his normal way of studying his art of riding…seeking input from other sets of eyes. It served as a very compelling example to us all that a three time Olympian is careful enough to make certain that what he is feeling is correct by checking in with another rider. Other common corrections were toes up/heels down, toes forward, sitting in the direction of the bend(many riders tended to sit more left and needed to sit more right), and heels underneath the seat.
There were a number of recurring issues with the horses as well. Several horses had the tendency to curl behind the vertical; many were behind the leg but showed it in a variety of ways; correct bend was often lacking; as was throughness during the transitions or even throughout the work. Guenter advised Beatrice Marineau, on her expressive 15 yr old bay Grand Prix gelding Stefano 8, to “fight for the frame”. He told her to allow him come up in the transitions, and, to require him to work with a longer, more open neck in piaffe and canter pirouette. He told her that if she can’t give rein and ride forward, it is wrong. Gary quoted Robert Dover in telling “Trixie” that she will need to feel extension in the collection, and collection in the extension. Several riders had difficulty keeping their horses in front of the leg. My own 6 yr old gelding, Frisco Bay, likes to rely on his good looks rather than give forth a solid effort, and I in turn get very “busy” in an effort to energize him. Gary told me, after one correction which resulted in a kick out at my leg, that “a correction must be correct.” He said that if the correction does not yield a correct result, or cannot be done in front of a judge, it is not a suitable or effective correction. Guenter asked me to cross my stirrups which would stabilize my position, so that I could use quieter aids. By day two of this, my horse was able to stay very engaged and active, because I was now out of his way to work. My corrections had become more correct. Training/First level rider Susan Hallenberg, on her very elegant 6 yr old chestnut mare Ravinnia, was encouraged to really let “Vi” fly, with Guenter promising “I won’t get you bucked off!” Guenter advised Susan that Vi will be much easier to get on the bit if she is sent forward, rather than contained. Gary followed up by saying that if the tempo is too slow at this level, there will not be enough activity for collection later. By the end of the ride on Sunday, Vi was showing off her spectacular Rotspon/Donnerhall gaits.  Similar advice was given to Second level rider Laura Lusienski on her studious and handsome 10 yr old chestnut Lusitano stallion Zaire. By encouraging more freedom and forward thought with this pair, Guenter was able to work vicariously through Laura to mold “Z” into a magnificently correct, elastic and expressive horse. Watching from atop my horse, I was awed by his perfect upward arc from tail to poll…he looked like a painting in motion. While working with Andrea Lewis on her 10 yr old Intermediate 1 gelding Beaumont, Gary pointed out that the I-1 test is a surprisingly big step up from Prix St. Georges, and tends to separate the horses more. Guenter worked with Andrea on improving Beau’s bend in all of the work. Gary advised that she should feel a softening to the bending aids before riding into the pirouette, so that she would not have to pull him into it with the inside rein but instead could give into the pirouette. With the Prix St. Georges and the Intermediate A/B horses, Guenter and Gary stressed throughness in the transitions. The inimitable Trisha Kerwin, on the PSG Old/Arab mare Casini, was advised to address the stiffness in the bridle with just the wrist combined with a tap to the hind leg. Tasha Coleman, on her 12 yr old ISR mare Bellini, was asked to work her with a deeper, rounder neck for much of the ride. This worked helped “Peach” become much more elastic and through in her topline. Gary, the King of Quotes, said, “You have to get girls working without them knowing they are working.” He went on to say that lazy horses and mares have a strong sense of what is reasonable. On the second day, Guenter rode Peach, and in making a correction for lack of response, he tapped her with the whip but then let her go. Gary pointed out that because Guenter sat so well, when he made the correction, he left a door open for her to respond. When Tasha got back on, her superb ability to execute instruction and Guenter’s even more superb ability to coach combined to create a stunning evolution in this mare’s way of going. Guenter joked…”You’re making me look bad, she looks better with you than she did with me!”
The Reserve Riders Lara Oles and Liz Hirschland had the toughest job of all…keeping their horses braided, loose, and ready to step in at any moment, for multiple levels, should a horse or rider come up injured.
There were presentations during the lunch hour both days. On Saturday, Graham and Sue Newell of LimeLite Saddlery presented on the topic of “The Evolution of the Modern Dressage Saddle”. They had many very excellent pieces of advice with regard to saddle fitting and how to keep your horse comfortable in his work, so much so that the topic should be an article all in itself. On Sunday, Jeff Monroe, DVM, presented on the topic of Acupuncture in the Dressage Horse. Again, this presentation was so helpful and thorough that it could only be addressed fully in its own article. Also during the lunch hour, and throughout the Symposium, amazing gifts were raffled off. Various items such as Back on Track saddle pads; polo wraps; whips; an 8x10 commissioned portrait; The Horse Angels, a book by Mark Neihart; and other great gifts were handed out to the auditors. Riders were spoiled with embroidered saddle pads donated by LimeLite Saddlery; embroidered bridle bags and stall organizer bags donated by Dover Saddlery; polo wraps; and various grooming essentials. Gold Medal sponsors were Eva Maria Adolphi, Jim and Donnette Hicks of Sage Creek Equestrian, Sage Creek Catalog, and Premier Equestrian. Many other individuals and retailers donated to make this whole event classy and fun.
Watching Guenter “paint” with words to create beautiful works of art out of each horse and rider pair, as Gold Sponsor Donnette Hicks described to me later, was an experience I think anyone involved will not soon forget. “Professor” Gary tied everything back to the Training Scale with so many sound pieces of advice that I got a hand cramp trying to get it all down on paper. As another Master, Abraham Lincoln, said over a hundred years ago: “If I have six hours to chop down a tree, I will spend the first four sharpening my axe.” It became evident to us all that these men practice what they preach in their work with horses and riders, and better examples I cannot imagine. Guenter instantly settled my shaky, star struck nerves with his welcoming smile. He exudes a simple, deep joy that is infectious and undeniable. When talking with Gary Saturday evening, I felt like I should be sitting in an overstuffed leather chair by a crackling fire, with a glass of port in hand while we discussed the theories of riding into the wee hours.
The entire Lawrence Family and the students and friends of Millbrook Farms came together to produce a learning experience beyond compare. Gary and Guenter were able to unwind at the end of the Symposium on Sunday evening with a glass of wine and some fly fishing lessons from Millbrook head trainer Gary Lawrence and his nephew Evan Hills, capping off a very successful weekend with well-deserved fun.