Dressage training advice for riders basic through Grand Prix from proven GP competitor/trainer Nikki Alvin-Smith of Willowview Hill Farm, http://www.WillowviewHillFarm.com, Stamford, NY. Horse breeding advice and training of young warmblood and Iberian horses, plus how to successfully shop for horses in the USA and Europe from an experienced importer and USA producer of performance sport horses and ponies.
Well it's been a mad time dashing about downstate to ride some of the Willowview Hill International 2012 Elite Collection and I have had plenty of time not just riding but watching to think about what kinds of problems folks have training flying changes. One of the mares in the collection is a Rohdiamont/Donnerhall Prix St George horse and sitting on her changes were to die for. I can't claim to have put the flying changes in to this particular horse but I can tell you from years of training including from the mare's trainer and mine, Greta Kemmer, that when a horse is properly trained I sure know it. I think flying changes are one of my favorite things of all to do and there is nothing to compare to the joy of having your horse succeed in passing this test of canter quality with flying colors.
Do you have trouble with flying changes? Don't despair. Here's a few hints to get you on the right track ( pardon the pun).
The quality of any movement in dressage is always…
Over the years many students have come to us stuck on that huge plateau that is 2nd level dressage. Their horses have excelled ( they say) at all the 2nd level tests and have a counter canter to die for - so why they ask, can't my horse master the change.
We've all seen it. The rider jumping left to right on the saddle with the horse's rear swinging anxiously with no semblance of straightness, the weird and wonderful contortions of both horse and rider. The rider's lower leg bouncing up toward the hip or stifle, their holding hands dragging the horse to the new inside, hands lifted to their chins, and all the other maladies that await you when you are learning the changes and how to school them.
First rule. It is very helpful, though not absolutely necessary, to have ridden the flying change (s) on a schoolmaster with a ground person that knows of what they speak. When you yourself have no idea of the 'feel' and the subtle change in balance of the horse beneath…
I recently purchased the new DVD Lameness, It's Causes and Prevention and wanted to pass along some interesting facts that the highly respected Dr. Robert Miller presented.
When you think of all the things that can cause lameness such dangerous environments with barbed wire fences and steep hills, infection, genetic issues and the myriad of others, you probably don't think first off, working the horse at too young an age.
According to Dr. Miller if you took all the other possible causes of lameness in the horse and added them all together, they would not total those caused by starting a horse too young.
A friend recently told me a story of a lovely eighteen month warmblood colt that was already under saddle and had been lightly ridden. This was by an experienced dressage rider who really should know better. The growth plates haven't even closed yet. Seriously. As I also know the breeder who produced the horse I feel bad as I know just how much thought, energy, and the loss…
There are lots of tricks to the trade when it comes to fitting and riding in the double bridle. The latest one is to address the new rule concerning the crank noseband issue. Take a glance around the Wellington showgrounds this winter and you'll see a lot of riders employing the nifty Equifit curb chance cover. Made of T-Foam, it is the perfect 'sane' solution to the new rule requiring finger wiggle room in the noseband. While it was designed for the curb, it works effectively on any part of the bridle.
My plans to head to Florida for a little sojourn myself this month were cast in disarray by my inadvertent cracking of a couple of ribs. Bruised maybe, cracked more likely. Like most horse riders I have been through this experience before. So, while they heal, I am not interested in a plane ride no matter how short so no return to the sunshine of Naples and West Palm for me.
Instead, like many of you, I have been enjoying an 'English/American' winter. Relatively tem…
Since living in New York, whenever The Oscars are coming up on T.V., it signals for me that Spring is just around the corner. While actors, producers and directors are receiving the kudos for their achievements, I am in the process of producing and directing my own artistic endeavor. My horses and my students. Thus, I enter Spring mode. Years ago the schedule for the movie industry's most iconic event was closer to April. While 'The Oscars" might have changed their schedule, in my head it's time to focus on the next season for our horses and students. As a P.S. here, please bring back my favorite comedian Ricky Gervais next time and don't gag him.
Above is a photo of one of our Grand Prix horses here at Willowview Hill Farm, Tiberio Lafite aka Tigger, taken in Spring a few years back. Whenever I am in the winter doldrums I post this as my desktop picture, and am immediately cheered up. Spring is a time of renewal for everything in nature, so naturally, I am no e…
When I first arrived in the United States of America, I was in my twenties, and was an ardent writer with no outlet.
My father arranged a very special interview for me when I was back in London in my late teens and headed to college. It was with a leading advertising firm on Fleet Street. The powerhouse street that used to engage all major journalists in Britain. Home to the most revered journalists of the day. The large conference room was daunting. Little me sat at the end of the shiny mahogany table as instructed by a friendly assistant. The lady did look quizzically at my green Paddington Bear duffel coat, Levi jeans and black clogs, (it was what I was wearing at short notice when dad called to say, head on over to Fleet Street NOW).
The table was so long and the room so big that it took the tall, immaculately dressed 'Director' a few minutes to reach me. This gentleman guided me through studios of photo shoots of various food products that were ongoing. He indicated how h…
Like most riders of a certain age for me the question of fit and fitness in the saddle poses a significant obstacle to progress in my riding.
Yes I have my excuses. A surgery nearly ten years ago that wrecked my hormone balance. But you have to take care of the yourself don't you. Actually, on reflection the surgery I underwent was possibly not the best option. Unfortunately my doctor did not relay to me the hormone impacts that would result from a fairly minor procedure. Not a major event in the grand scale. Though at the time I was very stressed. Certainly nothing compared to what others have suffered and continue to suffer. Net result was a massive weight gain, an incremental advance in all you don't want reflecting back at you in the mirror. In fact, you wonder where you've gone. Inside you feel the same. Outside you are completely different. And yes, people treat you differently. That's your own fault though isn't it. You should diet, exercise and get on it.
Essentially you are asking your highly electric equine partner to settle down and pay attention in the confines of a small space just as he arrives 'amped up' with anticipation at coming out to do something he presumably is good at and enjoys ( well those two go together I guess).
As you probably know many eventing 'events' are won in the dressage ring. Well almost. How do people like Bruce and Buck Davidson, Pippa Funnell and David and Karen O'Connor manage to win so many events? Could it be that horses and riders that excel at dressage are actually better jumpers and cross country athletes? And why is dressage before the cross country portion of the event?
The latter question is easy to answer. It makes perfect sense when you think about the order of go - make sure your horse is safely on the aids and listening before you head out on your run. Show that your horse is obedient no matter what and ensure the horse that will blast around demanding courses like Badmi…
As I watch the freezing rain descend on this damp gray day, my thoughts turn to the joys of Spring. In particular to the immense pleasure I derive from watching a foal take his first bounce around the pasture.
Here's an oil painting I produced this time last year. Inspired by the lure of Spring foals. For those that are interested, the foal captured is a Hanoverian colt ( WVH Majik, Maronjo x Gimli/Grande ), that we bred at our farm, Willowview Hill Farm back in 1993. He enjoyed a career as an event horse and then went on to dressage. Although born bay he turned into a massive gray beast, full of true bounce and at times a good measure of questionable attitude. The picture is for sale at my studio by the way http://www.NikkiAlvinSmithStudio.com. Sorry, have to plug my art. And I donate a percentage of proceeds to equine retirement organizations.
This horse and the many that came after him, taught me so much. I never became any better at bouncing during a fall and at times lost c…
It's a chilly -15 F out today and not ideal riding weather. I look with zero envy at our students booting up readying for their morning clinic with Greta and I. Our " Speaking French think Philippe Karl " clinic will soon be officially underway. And I should give a shout out to http://www.TheHorseStudio.com, The International Equestrian Shop, for their ongoing sponsorship. Everyone appreciated the hot breakfast they provided this morning, fried egg on a roll with starbucks coffee and a freshly squeezed orange juice certainly hit the spot. Later they are presenting a catered lunch, a trunk sale and an equine art for charity silent auction and their welcome baskets went down a treat. But I digress.
The question of the day is the push and pull of classical dressage. The nemesis of every rider. Following German teaching, we have all seen the big moving warmbloods hounded by the riders forceful seat and leg aids slamming into unrelenting hands at the Elite auctions in Verden…
Welcome to my new blog - dressage diva central. Well - not really. While the haute couture from America and Europe will be avidly addressed, and there will be some 'whining' and 'wining' going on, let's learn how to sit better, ride better and feel better. Masters of art and of dressage have historically been men, so isn't it time to look at iconic women in our sport too. It was Karin Rehbein and Donnerhall that inspired me - yeah - hubby Hubert rocked too. Wanna visit Grunwoldhof but can't afford the airfare? I'll fill you in. Lots to share. Can't wait.
Before we get started. Reality sets in. Snow here in the mountains of beautiful New York State and my own herd of homebreds and home trained horses to care for ( including my Grand Prix Andalusian/DWBx featured above, stable name 'Tigger", because of his ever so bouncy springy legs), but must out and at it.
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