dressage competition

dressage, dressage competition, show bridle

Much More Than Bits of Leather

Last month, my friend Patty asked for my address, saying she was going to send me something. Perhaps a birthday card, I thought.

We hadn’t seen each other in years, but used to ride with the same instructor in Ridgefield, WA. She’d since moved to Hawaii and I’d moved to Bend, OR. I was surprised to hear from her.

Days later, a box arrived on the front porch.  My husband, Al, put it in the kitchen without saying anything. He didn’t realize it was important. I found the box before bed and opened it.

Inside were the pieces of a bridle: headstall, brow band, crown piece, and reins, all carefully wrapped. Patty had included a note. It was her show bridle and she wanted me to have it.

My husband, Al, saw bits of leather with buckles and a bit. I saw so much more.

Trying on Micah's new bridle for size. (I haven't attached the matching reins yet.)

Trying on Micah’s new bridle for size. I haven’t attached the matching reins yet but doesn’t he look handsome? !

Patty had purchased Zarewitsch (Zar) as a Second Level schoolmaster. At the time, most of my friends and I were riding what you might (generously) call Training Level horses: green and naughty, with little appreciation for the principles of dressage.

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dressage barns, dressage competition, dressage queens, snow cones, Upper level dressage

Our Barn is so Cool

Every barn has a personality of its own. Some are competitive. Some are casual. Some are completely insane.

I somehow lucked into a barn that is just right, offering a positive attitude and complete acceptance of where you are or are not on the ‘competitive continuum.’

That means that whether or not you show isn’t important and, if you do show, the level at which you show is just right: whether you’re just starting out or competing at an upper level.

I admit to having Upper Level Envy, a documented medical condition wherein you really, really want to do passage, tempi changes, and other awesome moves — but in this barn I don’t feel looked down upon by those with greater ability. If they roll their eyes as I careen around the arena, they do so discreetly. I try not to get in their way.

One of my favorite barn personalities is Knox. He just turned two.


His mom, Jessie, does an incredible job of balancing motherhood, roller derby, and a love of horses, while dressing herself and Knox quite stylishly (note the hat).  Both of her horses accept it as perfectly normal to walk nicely in hand, following a baby stroller.

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dressage competition, dressage pet peeve, dressage spectators, equestrian

Short Dressage Show Rant

It’s time for me to share my #1 horse show pet peeve: Spectators Who Critique Rides

[Begin Rant]

Dressage looks easy from the sidelines but it’s actually a horribly exacting sport involving a 1,000 pound herbivore with a flight instinct.


Spectators who critique rides from the sidelines do everyone a disservice. Most disturbing are spectators who don’t compete themselves. If you’re not brave enough to be in the show ring yourself, your comments are unfair, unwanted, and unkind.

Most of us know enough dressage lingo to sound knowledgeable. It’s easy to say someone needs more outside rein, a more secure seat, or more tactful hands — but to have the presence  of mind to accomplish these things in a stressful environment is something else.

From the sidelines, it looks as if each test moves in slow motion — as if the rider has plenty of time to make corrections. One might assume, from a ringside seat, that there’s MORE than enough time to half-halt, balance the horse, finesse the bend, or whatever else the rider needs to do.

Perhaps that’s true for professionals. As for the rest of us, we wish! Transitions happen quickly — lightning-fast. The judge rings the bell for you to go in, and the next thing you know your reader is calling, “X, halt salute.” You’re done and it’s all a blur. You’re still gasping for air. You didn’t have time to correct mistakes, you simply had time to make them. Or so it feels.

If you’re an expert rider, have pity for the less fortunate — they are struggling. If you’re not an expert, don’t pretend to be. You may be dissing the rider in front of you within earshot of their friends and family. That’s tacky! While you’re using the tone of a knowledgeable critique, what you’re really doing is a put down.

If you can ride better than that poor soul in the ring, do it. If you can’t, acknowledge the time, effort, and courage it takes to compete and give them a hearty round of applause for all of that.

Dressage is a lovely sport. Let’s keep it that way.

[End Rant]

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Central Oregon Dressage Classic, dressage competition, dressage show, natalie perry dressage

Testing 1, 2, 3

This weekend I filled the role of horse show announcer at the Central Oregon Dressage Classic. It took a circuitous route to get there.

Several months ago I mentioned in passing that I’d announced for Fort Vancouver Dressage several times. You have to be organized, but it’s otherwise a pretty easy job and you get to watch all the rides.

At the time, I didn’t know my friend, Tina, well enough to understand that Tina is a Communications Expert. Within three days, Tina had let it be known that I had Announcing Experience.

I hadn’t realized how far and wide Tina’s ‘reach’ is. If Tina was an advertising campaign, she’d be highly successful.

Within just a few days, Mari, assistant trainer at our barn (Natalie Perry Dressage) said, “We need to talk.” I assumed I was in trouble and had killed a horse or broken a serious barn rule. I held my breath, waiting for Mari to continue. Would I have to find a new barn?

“We need an announcer for our June show,” Mari said. She is president of Central Oregon’s dressage chapter and an expert volunteer rustler. I was so relieved I hadn’t killed a horse, I would’ve said ‘Yes!’ to almost anything.

Which is why I spent the day in the announcer’s booth at Brasada Ranch. Here’s a photo of my headquarters.


The first 20 minutes of day 1 were a bit rough, as those of with walkie-talkies figured out who we were and what we were supposed to be doing. We couldn’t see one another and had to learn to transmit vital information such as Rider #1 is moving toward the indoor; Rider #3 is in warmup; Rider #2 is nowhere to be seen, and so on. With time, we developed our own code and rhythm.

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