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Showing posts from 2018

Is Your Bottom Too Big For Your Saddle?

In dressage the saddle is often deeper than its counterparts in showjumping or eventing and the space and place where the rider necessarily sits should encourage a centering of the rider's weight upon the horse. In many instances everyone goes with saddle purchasing by what is readily available in the shop or online in popular seat sizes for adults of 16-17.5 inches. Unfortunately in many cases we simply don't fit into that space properly. Yes, our bottoms are too big!  Not only do our behinds not fit into the correct position within the saddle, this significantly affects the position of legs and angle of our hips. Vanity has no place in riding. Many of us age out of the 120# weight bracket and 17 inch bottom! If you sit upon the saddle and not in the saddle, then you are not only doing a great disservice to yourself, but also to your horse. Soundness issues for both of you will prevail and your spines will not align as they are supposed to do. I visited with a video

The Grand Prix Dressage Test ~ All Chopped Up With No Place To Show

The new shortened version of the Grand Prix dressage test will be showcased at Olympia, London, UK, this December. The new test has not been well received in the dressage community and there are many good reasons why.   Are You All In With The New Test? ( Photo: Brittany Fraser and All In) The FEI seems to have gone for a shorter test, thinking this means more spectator interest which is ridiculous as the reduction of the test by 2 minutes per test will not mean more viewers. What it will do is to reward the horses at the very top of the sport already, that have crowned their talents with excellent 3 'p's movements.  The new test offers lots of activity early in on the test which means no time to allow the horse and rider to settle into the test. While much of it feels more like an Intermediate test than a Grand Prix, the missing elements such as the zig zags would have Wolfgang Niggli turning in his grave. The rein back also missing will have many clas

Retiring From Horse Breeding ~ Hard To Let Go

If you've ever produced a foal from your mare and orchestrated the entire breeding process from start to finish from sire selection, AI and delivery with imprint training and weaning, then you know how rewarding the process of horse breeding is and how it has enriched your life. Sure there are ups and downs, and I do count my blessings that in 25+ years of breeding registered Hanoverians, Dutch and Baroque horses, we have never lost a foal or mare or had any mishaps. Aside from one mare who resorbed her foal one year and went through a false pregnancy period thereafter. I know that false pregnancy is not strictly a veterinary term, but it certainly fits the experience we had in that particular instance. Now it is time to retire from the business of horse breeding. All the horses running about out there with the Willowview Hill Farm WVH, either as a prefix or suffix, are a testament to our dedication to produce kind, athletic sporthorses for the dressage world. Their progeny con

Dancing With Dressage Stars

It's important for all trainers to keep training with other trainers. Stagnation is the enemy of progress and it can also just be hard to keep yourself motivated as a trainer or clinician. You need fresh material and fresh knowledge to bring to your students and you always want to keep improving both your own training of horses and the training of those under your wing. Over the past 25 years or so my husband Paul and I, a duo of Grand Prix dressage competitor/coach/clinician and trainer, have always kept busy continuing our education so that we can share that wealth with others.   Access to the top echelon of dressage riders worldwide, is not available to all and by taking part when invited to special symposiums, or hosting Olympic level clinicians for our regular students as well as to our own benefit as riders, we are very happy to provide some added value to our valued students. Our annual, 'Ride With An Olympian' clinic is a prime example of how much fun

A Solid Foundation is Everything in Horse Training

Over the many years of training horses, not just our own homebreds or imports but also for clients that send them in for schooling and development, we know that horses need time to develop their own personalities and to develop their confidence. With horses that don't belong to us but are under our wing for a portion of their training and careers, we have additionally experienced a variety of clientele with a myriad of notions and levels of education as to just what constitutes what in the training pyramid. Our mantra is based in the classical training that we have received and that we continue to receive from notable sources/masters of dressage around the world. Simply put, a solid foundation is fundamental to the success of the horse in his training.  Some owners know basically nothing about dressage. They have seen a pretty horse or two dancing at an exhibition, have even developed an eye as a breeder and know lots about bloodlines and can read the studbooks out loud almo

The Balance of Life with Horses, Home and a Horse Business

Like any business your horse business will change over time. If you are doing things right it should constantly evolve and grow. And, just like any other endeavor in your life, there are times when a critical evaluation is a good idea. An opportunity is thus created to re-balance life and responsibilities. For hubbie and I, we have had a busy time with the horse industry over the years. Both of us have trained both horses and students to the Grand Prix level, and helped train many horses for colleagues, especially those in the breeding world that need polish put on their horses for sale. We have worked extensively to learn more about dressage and enjoyed time spent with iconic names such as Herbert Rehbein, Gabriella Grillo, the Eilberg family, Ewe Shulten-Baumer, the Kemmers ( both Swiss and German sides of the family), George Theodorescu, Wolgang Niggli, Gen. Jack Burton, Raul de Leon, Jim Belman (who also taught Dane Rawlins and Paul Alvin-Smith at the start of their careers),and

Selling a Horse? Look Out for Scammers

I confess to being amazed at the change in the horse market over the past several years. It used to be that you posted a print ad and produced a video and folks would call you to ask lots of questions about your beautiful horse and if you felt them to be a serious prospective buyer ( or even if you didn't) you'd send them a copy of the video. Gambol's Georgy Girl is for sale..Proven broodmare, great dressage or eventing prospect. After receipt of same the buyer would generally either call or return the video with a note saying whether or not they were interested. With the arrival of the internet, website and social media the market has certainly changed. I believe the availability of free information on a horse you have for sale to a massive audience is helpful overall. But unfortunately with it comes a lot more than just tire kickers. Video of Gambol's Genevieve: For Sale Currently $5000.00 Price will increase once under saddle. A few experiences f

New York State Equine Inherent Risk Law Enacted ~ What Does It Mean?

My husband Paul Alvin-Smith is also a Grand Prix trainer As a professional dressage competitor/coach/clinician and trainer the wait on the State of New York to enact the Equine Inherent Risk Law has been a long and patient one. Finally, after a collection of corrupt individuals were removed from the NY Assembly, the bill was finally enacted. What does this mean to horse owners and trainers and folks involved in the horse business? Will everyone enjoy lower insurance premiums for the services they provide and the liability to which they are exposed. Possibly and possibly not.  What is important as a trainer and as an individual or any sort that spends time around horses is still the same, safety first. This law will not protect you from law suits. Anyone can sue anyone at anytime, we are all aware of that. The new law may help the decision that comes down from the bench if a suit is filed, but it is yet untested. It is still imperative, for moral reasons and also for rea

Dressage and Crossbred Horses - Drafts, Andalusians, Lusitanos and Warmbloods

I was recently talking to a group of students who asked about preference in breed of horse for a successful dressage horse and why Paul and I didn't breed registered warmbloods much anymore. While we bred, imported, trained and loved our 20+ years as a Hanoverian dressage breeder (with a few Oldenburgs thrown in), we came full circle in our breeding program and came back to the beauty of the cross bred horses. Why? The soundness and great temperaments that crossbreds can produce I believe comes from their genetic variety. After so many visits to Verden to purchase horses, the 65% statistic for OCD that was given me by their own vet, Dr. Gerd Bruncken was validated at every turn. Our operation in the U.K. where we also bred many Donnerhall, Lord Sinclair and other warmblood lines and imported them as part of the Willowview Hill International Collection every Spring, also taught us that OCD was a sincere issue across the German lines. We moved into Dutch Warmblood breeding as