I haven’t posted in my blog for a couple weeks and to my surprise I had 20 new posts! All thanks to 17 new “admins” who added themselves to my account. I was able to delete everything but what a pain. Not sure how to keep people from hacking in but I will definitely keep a closer eye on my blog! If you notice any off-topic posts please ignore them, mostly likely they are not me!!
Marsha Hartford-Sapp and I had some fun with our horses yesterday at Southern Oaks Equestrian Center. We asked both of our horses to lay down on command, hoping that they would do it together. Here is the video clip…..
I have been training Douwe to execute some performance movements to use in our future exhibitions. Ever since I bought Douwe I had hopes of teaching him to lay down, bow, rear, and do spanish walk along with his regular dressage training. After four years of persistence and patience he is really starting to understand what I am asking of him. When I started teaching him how to rear he was confused and I gave up for awhile, the normal way of asking him wasn’t working and he was just shutting down. I taught Rovandio to rear simply by lifting his head and tapping him on the chest with my whip. I would reward him every time he thought of lifting his shoulders and after a few days we got our first rear and then he fully understood what was expected and loved it. Douwe on the other hand would lean into the whip, pushing onto his shoulders or try to do spanish walk. He has NO natural inclination to rear, he doesn’t do it in the paddock and I have never felt like he would rear under saddle. My friend Danielle mentioned that some trainers teach a horse in a stall, pushing their rear end towards the corner. That reminded me of the horse dentist and of course the horses rear to get away from him when they are in the corner! But I didn’t want the stall to be a place of tension for Douwe so I backed him up into a corner of the indoor arena. Then I asked him to lift with my hand and whip, rewarding the slightest inclination towards lifting his head, a leg, anything upwards…..It took at least a week for him to even think of lifting both front feet off the ground but only by inches. This was back in December 2012. I kept at it and he started to develop what I like to call his “bunny-hop” where he would do a tiny rear multiple times. I was able to get him to rear on the ground eventually with no tack on and then I tried it under saddle. I put him in the same corner of the arena each time…that was his rearing corner. I had spent enough time on the ground that he knew my cue…. I would say “Annnnddd…UP!” Problem was that after awhile he started to rear on the “And” instead of the “Up”! Oh well! At least he was doing what I asked for.
Fast forward to my time here in Tallahassee, FL. I was trying to teach him to lift higher but I wasn’t sure how to go about it. What was making it so difficult for Douwe was that he would push off from his front feet and not transfer his weight to his hind end. He does the same thing schooling piaffe, he tries to get croup-high and avoids tucking under his pelvis. We did a clinic with trick trainer Heidi Herriott and she gave me a few suggestions to try with him. We put on some side-reins to give him some pressure and she tried to teach him the way she does with her horses. Douwe got confused, evading the situation by jumping away from her. He is a little head shy and I don’t use my whip up by his head which she did slightly so he didn’t understand that. I was hesitant to use side-reins on a daily basis because I think that could be dangerous in the wrong circumstance. So I just kept at it a little longer, doing it the same way I had been, getting the bunny-hops. Then one day I thought about the piaffe and how I needed to lift his withers up so he could sit more on the hind. I started to use my spur a little forward towards the girth which made him lift his back better. He got confused at first and I had to keep asking him to stay on the spot so he realized he wasn’t being asked to go forward but instead he needed to go up. I started to incorporate the piaffe-in-hand with the rear-in-hand back and forth together so he would think of lifting the front feet up in the piaffe. His rear started to become better balanced because he was thinking more about the hind end and wasn’t able to push off the front legs.
After doing this for about a week or two, on and off we had a successful breakthrough today with the rear. I was able to gently use the spurs and he lifted higher then he has ever gone before! Granted, it still is a low rear in comparison to other horses but I am so happy to see his progress and feel that his balance has greatly improved. This work is also helping his canter collection and balance for the flying changes. Training Douwe “outside the box” has been so important to his progress. Everything I have taught Douwe has been a learning experience, he is unlike any other horse I have trained or probably will train again. He has come into my life to be my tutor, he has opened my eyes to the awareness I must have when working with any horse. You must listen completely and think creatively about how to reach each individual animal. Here is a short video clip of him working today, I am so excited and proud!
While I am here in Tallahassee I have been fortunate to meet and work with Kimberly Chason of Chason Photos. She is an excellent photographer and lives close to Southern Oaks Equestrian Center. We did a photo shoot for my SandraB. Designs products using myself and Marsha as models. I was very happy with the new pictures of the “Leap of Faith” tee shirts that Marsha wore. She modeled with a student’s horse named McGregor and what a ham he is, he keeps his ears pricked forward the entire time and stands like a perfect gentleman. Here are some of my favorite shots from that day and you can see more throughout my website, www.sandrabdesigns.com
I had the great pleasure of teaching at Gale Wolfe’s facility in Big Flats, NY this past weekend. Gale wanted help with her 21 year old Friesian mare Beike in her flying changes. Beike is a special individual with a lot of personality. I rode her on Thursday to get a feel for how she goes and to try the flying changes. Gale wanted to see if I could get her to do some tempi changes that were clean in the hind end. Beike was very well behaved and we were able to accomplish our task with clean single changes and even a line of four tempis that were clean as well. Beike loves her mother (Gale) and I could tell she was a little wary of me riding her and tried to slow down and stop when she would get close to Gale on the rail. It certainly is true that once you form a relationship with a mare they will be loyal to you! I could feel immediately at the walk that Beiki was tighter through the left side of her neck and a little stiffer in the left rein. I used some counter yielding exercises to help her loosen up more through the shoulders and played with the timing of my whip on her left hip to help her stay through in the hind end during the changes. Gale likes to hold her whip in the right hand only so I had her ride with two whips to get the feel of keeping it in her left hand without feeling like she was lost without the whip in the right hand. We also practiced more release on the inside rein and how to move the shoulders better in that direction for a cleaner flying change. The video shown below is Gale riding on the third day, working on suppling exercises, flying changes and piaffe/passage. Beike was a bit tired on this day but very focused and had some lovely changes at the beginning. She started to weaken at the canter and was late on the right change so we played around with some piaffe/passage and ended there. I had a wonderful weekend working with Gale and her students, I gave private lessons and taught an 8 horse quadrille class on Friday night. Gale is a representative for the Ansur saddles and let me try all the different models. I particularly liked the Carleton for it’s comfort and shape. I rode Gale’s Friesian gelding Amos in the different saddles, he was a lovely horse, I wish I could have taken him home with me!! Thank you Gale for your hospitality!
Today I met Heidi Herriot, a 3rd generation professional horse trick trainer. Some of her career highlights include: Animal Planet’s Pet Star, Walt Disney World, Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus, NC State Championship Horse Show, Woman Luv Horses, Arabian Nights Dinner Theatre, Circus World Museum, Six Flags Parks, multiple state and county fairs, rodeos, horse shows and more. She has worked with Tom Turvey, Lynn Palm and Clinton Anderson among others. Today she worked with me and Douwe as well as Marsha and her mustang Cobra. It was pouring rain all day with thunder and lightning. We were able to ride a little in the morning but had to work under the roof of the grooming area after lunch. Heidi helped us polish up our aids for the spanish walk and play with the passage and rear. I picked her brain about new movements that I haven’t tried yet and liberty work that I want to incorporate in Douwe’s training. Douwe enjoyed the fun tricks like learning how to “smile”, “nod”, and picking up items with his mouth. She had some great advice for the bow on one knee, lay down and the stretching bow. We focused on the progression of training each movement and how to simplify the cues to the final product. Please check out her website for more information about clinics and videos. http://www.heidiherriott.com/
Manfred Lewis, Anne Margaret Meyers, Rebecca O'Connor, Sandra Beaulieu
This past weekend I attended the Georgia Dressage & Combined Training Association’s Annual Gala for their year-end awards. It was a lovely event held at the Marriott hotel. There were hundreds of people there, the biggest awards ceremony I have been to for any horse organization! I drove up to Anne Margaret’s stable Farm 1371 so that I could go with her and dressage trainer Manfred Lewis. I was able to enter my latest painting “Inspiration for a Dance” into the artist gallery and a few of my “Begin the Dance” Organic Cotton Tee Shirts into the Silent Auction. They had some beautiful artwork on display and a large room with so many items for the auction that I couldn’t look at them all! Here are a few photos from the event, Anne Margaret and I had a blast!
I have arrived in Madison, Georgia at my friend Anne Margaret’s new facility Farm 1371. Anne Margaret Meyers is one of my sponsored riders for SandraB. Designs. We did a photo shoot for my new “Andalusian Spirit” Organic Cotton Tee Shirt. Anne Margaret rode Onyx, a 5 year old PRE Andalusian gelding from Spain. He is a beautiful example for the “Andalusian Spirit” shirt. Here are a couple photos from our shoot.
Lydia and I were talking about doing a photo shoot in the snow this winter….since I am leaving this week we had to do it quick so I had Jesse Schwarcz come back to take photos for us. Of course it had to be extremely WINDY and cold but we are tough Mainer girls so we did it anyway!! I put those handwarmers in my little, thin gloves, fit a turtleneck under the corset and wore my thick winter breeches under my skirt. Lydia and I went shopping in Bangor to find some accessories and found some awesome fur shawls/hoods at JCPenney as well as jewelry. I wore an outfit inspired by a “snow queen” theme, blue and white corset with white shirt/fur, and blue skirt. Lydia was more rustic in a “red riding hood” inspired costume. She rode Valimar with a mixture of red/black/and brown costume pieces. We started with photos in the indoor arena, Jesse used the doorway silhouette for a lot of standing shots. I had Douwe rear in the doorway a bunch of times, hopefully she was able to get a good moment because he doesn’t go very high yet. We also did spanish walk going out the doorway and she sent me this as a sample from the shoot:
We went out into the big field and did a lot of trotting and cantering up the hill towards Jesse. That was when the wind picked up….and I mean PICKED UP!! It was an instant ice cream headache when you were face first into the wind and hard to see because the snow was getting blown around. BUT, the lighting was great and the wind will probably make for some wonderful effects with the snow. SO, it was definitely worth it! Here is a shot of Lydia and Valimar incorporating a red piece of fabric.
I am really looking forward to seeing the photos and I will certainly share them online. Please take a moment to visit Jesse’s website…she is very talented and fun to work with. She currently lives in Bangor, ME and travels a lot to take photos. She is also active on Facebook. www.jschwarczphotography.com