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natalie perry dressage

dressage, dressage lessons, dressage training, Turn on the Haunches

Dressage for Dummies: Turn on the Haunches

“Dressage for Dummies” has yet to be written, despite the serious need!


The ‘For Dummies’ book series includes a mind-boggling range of topics, including dating, the internet, law, and nearly every sport under the sun. Every sport except dressage, that is.
After today’s lesson, where we labored through the Turn on the Haunches, I was prepared to write the book myself.
For reasons I can’t fathom (perhaps because I am a dummy), I find Turn on the Haunches to be a serious mental challenge. I’ll think I have it, then lose it.
When I gave it an attempt today, Natalie said, “That’s turn on the forehand.”
“Ack.”
I tried again.
“That’s turn around the middle,” she said. A new movement, yet to be documented.
“Ack.”
Natalie broke it down for me in this way. On a fairly small circle, with the horse walking, put him in a haunches in position. No problem.
Now make the circle smaller, asking the shoulders to move over as you ask the hind legs to keep moving in response to your legs. Your outside rein asks the shoulders to move to the inside of the circle. Your horse is moving his shoulders around the circle, as opposed to moving forward.
I found this to be very helpful, although my mind spins trying to comprehend the logistics of what’s going where/when. I also get dizzy really quickly.
When I suggested the horse needed a break, Natalie said, “This is really easy for him. He could do this all day.”
Ok, I couldn’t.
I came home and watched a few YouTube videos of Turn on the Haunches to put a visual image of the movement into my brain. Here’s hoping it sticks.
Clearly Dressage for Dummies hasn’t been written because it’s a more complex subject than dating, the internet, or law. Alas.

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Dressage Necessities: Determination & Guidance

I’ve noticed that a lot of Determination is required to convince a 1,000 pound herbivore that Dressage is more fun than grazing in a pasture. Perhaps you’ve noticed the same.
Yet, Determination alone does not a Dressage rider make. If that were true we would not need trainers.

The Dressage Training Pyramid for Mere Mortals


What we need first and foremost is Guidance. Without Guidance, we are likely to practice making mistakes and creating bad habits with Determination. I am guilty of this and have successfully taught my horse numerous bad habits. I shudder to think of how thoroughly I could un-train my horse without a trainer.
Talent would be a lovely thing to add into the mix but that’s beyond my control. I am who I am and have to work with that, just as I have to work with my horse’s strengths and weaknesses.
Fortunately, my horse is a Very Nice Guy. He is, however, smart enough to realize when I am asleep at the wheel and is quite amenable to taking charge when offered the opportunity.
Most recently, we had a disagreement as to who owned the outside shoulder. I had been focusing on other issues (ok, nodding off) and let him get away with owning the outside shoulder about 100 too-many-times.
In last week’s lesson, things came to a head and a mighty battle ensued. Micah had the weight advantage and — with a great deal of Equine Determination said — “No, I own this shoulder and this rein.”
Thank goodness this was during a lesson and my trainer stepped in with Guidance. I could have flailed along on my own trying to match Micah’s Determination but without correcting the primary issue. (Me.)
Even with Guidance, I suffered mightily to correct the problem. It had gone on just a little too long. My Determination was a poor match to Micah’s superior strength.Fortunately my trainer channeled into me some of her inner fortitude along with Guidance. I prevailed just enough to get the correction drilled into my head and Micah’s.
I started my next ride knowing that if I did nothing else, I had to get this right.
Micah knew, as horses often do, that the game was up. Our improvement was measurable.
It’s been a good week. And if I do nothing else, I will employ my Outside Rein with diligence. Because now I have Determination, Guidance, and a distinct desire to avoid going backwards on this issue.
May your week be just as full of successful moments. Happy riding!

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Remembering to Ride the Outside of the Horse

In today’s lesson I had a complete brain fade: I forgot to ride the outside of the horse.

Just a reminder that every horse has two sides & you need to ride both of them!

Just a reminder that every horse has two sides & you need to ride both of them!


It was an excellent lesson because I’m not about to forget that again soon. I’ll forget something else.
Here’s what happened. When Micah and I fall apart it’s usually to the left — we’re both weaker in that direction.
Today we started cantering to the left with Micah doing a superb job of ignoring my right (outside) rein and leg. Instead of asking with more emphasis, I forgot everything I’d learned and began hauling on the inside rein. The more I hauled, the worse things got.
“Something’s wrong,” I thought, but the answer was so obvious, I couldn’t see it.
Natalie had me bring Micah back down to a trot and do a leg yield from the right (ineffective) leg … just to get him listening. The bigger problem, however, was me — I simply forgot to ride the outside of the horse.
When Natalie had me do a small trot circle (which simply isn’t possible without moving the outside of the horse), things clicked in my fuzzy brain.
“I forgot to ride the outside of the horse!” I said. “How could I have forgotten something so obvious?!”
“We all do it from time to time,” Natalie said, laughing.
I respect and enjoy Natalie’s ability to laugh both at and with me. Plus, I need her to understand how deeply baffled I can be from time to time.
Shaking my head in wonder, I resumed riding the canter, this time remembering to influence both sides of the horse. Things improved instantly.
This is what I love about lessons. On my own, I would have wasted a lot of time and probably not resolved the problem. Which was me. Sure, my horse was trying to evade the outside aids but I have to give him credit for having a plan and sticking with it. If I’m not smart enough to ride him properly, he deserves to have an easy go of it.
I’m going to make a short list of the 10 most important things to remember in each and every ride. I’ll post it inside my tack locker and review it before tacking up. I’ll let you see it after I’ve drafted it up. You can contribute your own list of must-do’s. Together, we’ll fight brain fade and attempt to ride our horses more effectively, each and every ride.
Until then, happy riding!

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Micah Comes Back

We’ve been moving cautiously ever since Micah was injured in early April. We think he got cast in his stall but will never really know for certain what started the soreness in his back and hips. Whatever caused it, it was a game stopper.
Sice then we’ve done regular chiropractic and acupuncture treatments with Dr. Taryn Yates and faithfully followed a rehabilitation protocol set by Dr. Yates and our trainer, Natalie Perry.

Micah stretches and relaxes as Dr. Yates works on his back.

Micah stretches and relaxes as Dr. Yates works on his back.


This has required a lot of slow, patient work. In the meantime, my hopes of competing at Second Level this summer have been set aside. After the first few weeks of oh-so-dull hand walking and lunging, when we were given the go-ahead to cautiously start back to the walk/trot under saddle, I was delighted.
Micah now shows significant improvement and it looks like (fingers crossed), we are out of the woods. It is so much fun to begin asking for more and feeling Micah respond. He especially loves his stretchy trot work.
This experience has helped me to become much more aware of Micah’s back. When I ride him I’m feeling every step and movement of through his hips and spine. At the same time, I’ve also learned a lesson or two about my own well-being.
While riding up an especially long hill on my mountain bike yesterday, I felt my back tighten up. “Should I pull over and take a break?” I wondered. “Or just power through it?”
Throughout Micah’s recovery we’ve given him generous walk breaks and done more rising trot than sitting, all to avoid over-tiring his back. On several occasions he’s taken bad steps, been given a walk break, and recovered quickly enough to resume work once again.
Thinking this over as I made my way up the winding mountain bike trail, I decided to give myself the Micah treatment — pausing for a break off the bike before tackling the most strenuous part of the hill. Just like Micah, the tension in my back eased and I was able to finish the ride feeling good.
The experience reinforced two things for me — it gave me a better understanding of how paying attention to fatigue and responding with walk breaks and stretching can help my horse. I was also reminded to take as much care with my own back as with my horse’s. After all, we’re in this together.
I am much cheered by my horse’s progress. Perhaps he’ll be strong enough to show this fall. Regardless, nurturing his recovery has been rewarding in its own way — as well as a reminder to never take your horse’s or your own well-being for granted.
Happy riding!

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Beyond Ribbons: The Unanticipated Training Opportunity

On June 11th and 12th our chapter hosted their annual recognized show. It was a hit. But as with any show, not every ride goes as anticipated.
Near the end of the weekend, I watched in admiration as my trainer, Natalie Perry, schooled a student as her horse refused to enter the show ring. The mare threatened to rear as the pair circled the arena, balking and turning sideways.
Natalie trotted gamely alongside, urging horse and rider forward, but the mare had her rider flummoxed and the pair opted out of their class.
IMG_2394
Undaunted, Natalie led horse and rider into the warm-up ring and put the mare back to work, reconstructing the rider’s shaken confidence as she did so. I was sympathetic — rearing is one of my least favorite things.
When the rider tried to dismount, Natalie said, “Oh, no you don’t.”
The mare had competed successfully in the morning, in an arena that was farther from the barn. Natalie suggested that the mare was hoping to return to her nearby stall. Regardless of the reason, she couldn’t get away with it.
The pair began moving forward again under Natalie’s supervision.
“Don’t take your feelings out on her,” Natalie said. “She’s being good now.”
Sage advice. Most of us know just how hard it is to set frustration and fear aside and simply ride the next moment. It’s easy to want to punish the horse.
I was reminded that, just like a dressage test, riding often asks us to let go of the moment that didn’t go well and focus on what we have in hand in the present.
Once the pair was going freely forward again, Natalie had her student exit and re-enter the warm-up arena several times. The mare balked initially but without much fight. Soon she was entering the ring and going back to work when asked.
As it was the end of the day, show management granted riders permission to school in the show rings after conclusion of the final class. Natalie jumped on the opportunity. The errant mare went straight from warm-up into the show ring and did some good work, without a fuss.
While Natalie had worked the entire weekend competing and coaching, she stuck with her student, making sure her rider had a renewed sense of confidence in her ability to work with the mare. In addition, the mare did not leave the show with an unwanted habit.
The coaching continued even after the mare finished her arena work.
“Walk her all over the show grounds before you get off and take her back to her stall,” Natalie said. “So she doesn’t think she gets to go back to her stall just because the work is done.”
While I enjoyed watching many beautiful rides over the course of the weekend, this ride was one of my favorites. If I could’ve handed out a blue ribbon for it, I would have been happy to reward this dedication to horse and rider. With horses, training needs to be more important than winning.

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Show Ring Ready with Natalie Perry

IMG_8916 (2)
It’s a blast to watch Natalie Perry of Natalie Perry Dressage compete. Her tact and patience is amazing. Baby horse misbehaves, Natalie smiles as if to say ‘What can you do?’ Trained horse wobbles a little and she firmly but gently gives the horse more support.
Natalie’s the first to admit and remind her students that horses are animals, after all. In a recent interview for Flying Changes magazine, Natalie said, “Not everything is going to go your way in the show ring. No matter how hard you practice at home, horses are animals after all. You can’t control everything.” I found this advice reassuring, as I prepare for my next schooling show, determined not to pressure myself into a form of insanity known as Show Nerves.
Natalie also gave this fantastic bit of advice, which I’m using to help me to intensify my focus … since I tend to ride with relatively low expectations (for myself and my horse) when I’m not preparing for a show. “You have to prepare your horse for the level of intensity you’re going to expect in the show ring,” Natalie said. “Otherwise, you’re going to frustrate your horse.” Summed up: it’s not fair to ride ride like a cowgirl six days a week, then expect a dressage horse on show day.
My prep work at home has included incorporating an exercise Natalie recommended, which she learned from Dutch trainer Barbara Koot. “Write down every moment of your test, including every half-halt, bend, and step of preparation you intend to ride,” Natalie said. “Read it until it becomes engrained.”
No matter what level you compete in, your behind-the-scenes work will make a difference in your self-confidence and quality of your ride.
To read the full article go to www.flyingchanges.com or see their October 2015 issue, hot off the press.
To learn more about Natalie Perry go to natalieperrydressage.com

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