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charlotte dujardin

canter, Charlotte Dujardin, dressage, horses, natalie perry dressage

You’ve Gotta Have Go

The art of dressage is continually realizing you don’t really know what you thought you knew. Or you don’t understand it thoroughly.

So has it been with my coming to terms with the basic premise: You’ve gotta have go.

Leann Johnston and HS Black Magic have go – beautiful forward movement. Magic is owned by Tina Billings.

How many trainers have tried to get this idea through my head? Too many to count.

Yes, even at the walk, you’ve gotta have go. HS Black Magic, owned by Tina Billlings, ridden by Leann Johnston.

Happily, last week’s lesson brought a breakthrough. Here’s what happened.
Micah and I were working on the canter/walk transition. Mine tend to be either a) abrupt or b) sloppy. I pointed this out, as if perhaps Natalie hadn’t noticed. She laughed, agreeing that this would be good to work on.
My tendency has been to immediately start asking for a shorter, more compressed canter, then ask for the down transition. There’s a major problem with this approach.
“You have to have him going forward before you can get the collection,” Natalie reminded me.
Something clicked. The week before we’d worked on 10 meter circles at the canter — which was terrifically helpful. “Really feel like you’re sitting him down,” Natalie said.
This meant that I had to really ride — as in a) steer, b) drive Micah forward with my legs, c) sit deep in the saddle, and d) guide the shoulder around the circle using outside rein and leg.
This was really challenging at first — especially with Natalie standing at the edge of the circle saying, “Go in front of me.”
I was strongly motivated not to run over my trainer.
The great thing was, this really engaged Micah’s hind end, giving me the sense of forward power I need to feel before asking for a great canter/walk. In short, you’ve gotta have Go before you can ask for collection.
A voice in my head hearkened back to the Charlotte Dujardin symposium we attended two years ago. Charlotte’s primary emphasis to riders of all levels was on what she called The Go Button. Wheels churned and clicked in my brain. Rusty memories arose … all with the same message. Without Go, you have nothing.

HS Black Magic shows off a gorgeous hind end – ably ridden by Leann Johnston, owned by Tina Billings

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Charlotte Dujardin, dressage, engaged seat, equicube

My Kingdom for a Good Seat

For an equestrian, a good seat and hands are two of the most difficult and elusive pursuits of the sport. It’s one of the reasons why riding is a lifelong pursuit.

Fantasy hour: me and Charlotte Dujardin (world's best seat) riding in the same universe. Photos by Andrew Martin

Fantasy hour: me and Charlotte Dujardin (world’s best seat) riding in the same universe. Photos by Andrew Martin


Regarding my seat, my trainer had me return to the use of the Evil Dread Equicube this week. This is actually a fantastic and effective product but it does make you feel completely inept as you adjust to using it.
I hadn’t used the Equicube for several months, so picking it up again felt awkward and foreign. I had a heck of a time turning to the left. The Equicube forces you to use your legs and body to turn — as opposed to flailing about with your arms. Rather than squawk at me about my position, my trainer simply handed me the cube. Uh, oh.
Within minutes, I could feel how much I’d been moving my arms and shoulders.The weight of the cube forces you to bring your elbows in to your sides while using your core to stabilize yourself. I was also reminded to sit back on my bum and connect my shoulders together. The benefits are many and prompt.
The cube (and my trainer) helped me to identify my evil dread position errors and move toward correcting them. In my case, canter work to the left is the demon that haunts me. This week I learned that my left leg slides forward in the left lead canter, throwing off my position, my effectiveness, and my horse. I’m trying to balance frustration (aagghhh) and determination.
We did make progress this week and I was cheered by a surprise compliment today, when my friend Nichole uttered these magic words: “You have a really good seat. You look like you’re glued into the saddle.”
These words melt my heart. If I was going to get a tattoo, this would be the phrase I would choose. I keep playing these words over in my mind and letting a warm glow (not unlike the effect of a shot of tequila) encompass me.
If my friend watched my riding more closely, she’d see those fall-apart moments when my riding starts to come undone — since there is still much work to be done. Still, I’m going to cherish this compliment and use it to inspire and encourage myself to do better.
Be sure to look over your own progress and give yourself an atta boy for the good work you’ve done. While you’re at it, give support and encouragement to the people you ride with. Just as horses respond to a kind word, so do we. (And, if you get the chance to try an Equicube, do it!)

Related posts
You’ve Gotta Have Go
June 28, 2017
My Show Ring Moment
January 12, 2016
The Walk to Poo Transition, An Open Letter to Charlotte Dujardin
October 12, 2015
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You’ve Gotta Have Go
June 28, 2017
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January 21, 2016
The Walk to Poo Transition, An Open Letter to Charlotte Dujardin
October 12, 2015
Charlotte Dujardin, dressage, dressage competition

The Walk to Poo Transition, An Open Letter to Charlotte Dujardin

Dear Charlotte –
I thoroughly enjoyed your October 3rd and 4th symposium in Sherwood, OR and faithfully worked on improving my horse’s ‘go’ button, per your advice. We had several jolly ‘yee haw’ rides down the long-side, thanks to you. Our rides at home have been much more forward!
What we failed to school was the walk to poo under saddle transition.

No subtle leg aid here! Photo by Andrew Martin

No subtle leg aid here! Photo by Andrew Martin


Part way into my First Level, Test Two class this weekend, my lovely horse decided nature simply couldn’t wait any longer. He came to an unasked-for halt, groaned in satisfaction, and left a large pile of manure at “M”.
I do recall you saying that it’s a typical male thing, only being able to do one thing at a time. You also mentioned that if you ride with a whip at home and then drop it before entering the show ring, bad things can happen.
This was one of those moments.
I hope you’ll enjoy the photo of my Pony Club-quality kick. No subtle leg aid here.
Fortunately, I brought my sense of humor with me to the show. Miraculously, we got a second place ribbon and this lovely comment from the judge, “It happens to all of us 🙂 “
Best regards,
Lauren Davis Baker
A fan

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June 28, 2017
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dressage

What I Couldn’t Afford at the Charlotte Dujardin Symposium

I used up this month’s disposable income by attending the Charlotte Dujardin Symposium held in Sherwood, OR on October 4th & 5th. As expected, Charlotte Dujardin was inspiring, entertaining, funny, and passionate about training. We came home with great training ideas replanted in our heads and lots of quirky British phrases to back it up. (More on that in an upcoming post.)
However, as a rider on a budget, the symposium left me feeling somewhat impoverished. The quality of the horses was jaw-dropping — can’t afford that. The riders were fantastic, too — no amount of lessons are going to get me to that level of riding within this lifetime.
And then there were the vendor tents. The following photos will give you an idea of what I mean by ‘beyond my reach.’

Deniro boots with Samshield helmets. The boots were gorgeous and surprisingly only $1k to $1.5k. The helmets, on the other hand, started at $1,100 and went way up. That bling really protects your head!

Deniro boot with Samshield helmets. The boots were surprisingly only $1k to $1.5k. The helmets started at $1,100 and went up. That bling really protects your head!


$400 riding britches. Your butt sparkles when you ride.

$400 riding britches. Your butt sparkles when you ride.


$185 Judi bell boots with rhinestones. Really???

$185 Judi bell boots with rhinestones. Really???


Finally, there was the VIP lunch. For $30, I have to ask organizer Scott Hayes “Where’s the Chardonnay?”
Where's the Chardonnay?  $30 sandwich and salad on a paper plate.

Where’s the Chardonnay? $30 sandwich and salad on a paper plate.

Really, Scott, $30 for a sandwich, green salad, pasta salad, and soft drinks? The symposium was terrific but our VIP table included chairs, coffee, tea, and water. Everyone wants to make a profit, but please tax the woman buying the $185.00 rhinestone-encrusted bell boots. She can afford it.

Related posts
You’ve Gotta Have Go
June 28, 2017
My Kingdom for a Good Seat
January 21, 2016
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January 12, 2016
Charlotte Dujardin, dressage, dressage judges, dressage training, United States Dressage Federation

Judge’s Remark: Rider, Wise Up!

Dressage judges are just a little too cryptic. I know they’re trying not to discourage novices from the sport entirely, but I’d be o.k. if they were a little more direct.

A comment such as, “Rider should take up tennis” might be a bit too direct.

However, I’ve spent a month trying to decipher this judge’s comment: “Horse needs to be more responsive.” This makes it sounds as if the horse is at fault, so I read this comment to my horse. He sniffed at it and failed to respond.

Actually, Micah is responding exactly as he’s been taught. I’ve taught him that I’ll fiddle-fart around for quite some time, content with a modest response. (I am generally pleased with any horse that doesn’t try to kill me, so one that listens to me most of the time is a pure dream.)

IMG_0450

Rather than remarking “Horse needs to be more responsive,” the judge should have come directly to the point.  “Rider needs to wise up,” would have been appropriate, as would “Use less leg and insist on a prompt response. Use less hand and more seat. You are working way too hard up there, girlfriend.”

Continue reading…

Related posts
You’ve Gotta Have Go
June 28, 2017
My Kingdom for a Good Seat
January 21, 2016
My Show Ring Moment
January 12, 2016