Every month I will share some of my thoughts with you about training, stable management, health management, competing or current developments in dressage. Do you have a subject you would like to hear my opinion or vision about? Please let me know!
January 8th, 2020 - Training is more than only riding
As soon as you take your horse out of the stall or the pasture your training starts. I truly believe you will become a better dressage rider when you spend time with your horse besides the riding part. Not only will you get to know your horse better, he will also get to know you better. There is no better feeling than you trusting your horse completely and your horse trusting you equally! In the video I added you can see how Action waits for me to get ready and start the training ride. Here are some tips to get to know your horse better and to understand each other better:
1. Spend time with your horse!
And saying this I mean spending time besides riding. Go brush him extra long, look up some soft massage techniques on the internet to help your horse relax, take him for a walk or a bike ride (tip for the Dutch people I guess..) or just simply longe him by a halter and work on how your horse reacts to your voice.
2. Be consistent!
Make sure you have the same boundaries every day. Nothing is as confusing to an animal than not knowing what is allowed and what isn't because it changes every day. Being consistent doesn't mean you have to act detached or strict. Just make sure you know what behaviour you will tolerate and what behaviour is unacceptable to you.
3. Positive reinforcement!
Animals learn fast by positive reinforcement plus they will like working with you. Is your horse behaving the way you want him to? Make sure he knows, by giving him a treat or just by petting him. Does he show behaviour you don't prefer? Ignoring it works best (in this case I am not talking about dangerous situations like kicking, biting etc.). Being patient is the key.
4. Trust your horse!
Help your horse building his own confidence. In the video of Action you can see he is standing in the middle of the arena by himself, waiting for me to get ready. The first time I tried walking away from him I only walked off a couple steps and came back fast. Every week I went a little further away. Give him that feeling that you trust him and don't be scared when it doesn't go as planned right away.
5. Have fun together!
I can actually give you this tip in every blog I write. Having fun with your horse should be the most important aspect in everything you do with him. Don't get frustrated with your horse, everybody has good and less good days, at the end we are all riding horses because we like it. Let's make it enjoyable for them as well :)
Check out the video of Action on my Facebook page! It shows how he patiently waits for me to clear the arena before we start our training ride. You will find the link to the Facebook post HERE. Any questions or suggestions?
December 9th, 2019 - 4 tips for aspiring dressage rider
These tips might sound predictable and a bit cliche, but I have trained with and talked to many great dressage riders and they all told me the same.. There must be some truth in it then, right? I love to share these tips with you and I hope it makes you think about maybe you can improve yourself.
1. Take as much lessons as you can! Even Olympic dressage riders still have a trainer working with them multiple times a week. It doesn’t matter how good you are, those extra eyes from the ground will see things you don’t see or feel. Besides that, two people always know more than 1. Most important of course, is finding a good dressage trainer.
2. Enjoy! No dressage rider will be great without enjoying working with their horse. It is the bond between the horse and the rider that will make them great. Don’t rush your horse his training, take time to make him stronger and have fun together.
3. Have a good training schedule and stable management. If you want to succeed at riding competitions make sure you figure out a training schedule that works for your horse, discuss this with you trainer. And of course make sure your horse gets enough free time in the paddock/pasture and you feed him a proper diet. The diet depends on how heavy the trainings are, how old the horse is, how big he is etc. If you are not sure you feed your horse a proper diet, always ask your vet to check on it.
4. Make it as relaxed as possible for your horse. If you want to make it to a high level with your horse you need to be careful with him. Horses are very vulnerable, not only for visible injuries but also for invisible injuries. Stress can cause a lot of damage and besides that it doesn’t look harmonious in the arena. Take your time for a proper warming up at the competition, give your horse time to relax.
Do you feel like you need help getting a better dressage rider? I would love to help you on your journey! Everybody is welcome, no matter what level you ride, as long as you are willing to learn.
November 25th, 2019 - 5 tips to improve shoulder-in
Shoulder-in is a good exercise to stretch your horse, make him stronger in the hind quarters and it can also help to straighten your horse. Besides that it makes it easier to ride other exercises when you can control the shoulders. Think about half passes, pirouettes and flying changes for example.
Before I start with the 5 tips it is important to know a proper shoulder-in is ridden with enough bending on the inside. If your horse doesn’t bend enough you basically ride side passes instead of shoulder-in. You want a good shoulder-in ridden on three tracks where the outside hind leg and the inside foreleg move in their own track.
Tip 1: Rising trot instead of sitting trot
Make it easier for yourself and your horse by starting in rising trot. This way you can really focus on the exercise shoulder-in instead of paying attention to your horse being collected enough to be comfortable in sitting trot. Once you feel both shoulder-in and sitting trot are going well enough you can try combine these two.
Tip 2: Bend your horse both inside and outside
Make sure you can bend your horse both left and right while following the track and repeat this when you change hand. This is the start of making sure you have enough bending to make it to shoulder-in. Keep the legs in line and only bend the horse in the neckline. When you feel you can easily bend your horse, without losing impulsion and without the horses being heavy in your hand you are ready for the next step.
Tip 3: Use the corner and control the shoulders
Don’t start shoulder-in at the letter after the corner but start riding shoulder-in in the corner. Bend your horse in the corner and as soon as you ride out of the corner place the shoulders in. Keep your inside leg on the girth and place your hands towards the inside of the arena. Turn your upper body to the inside of the arena as well and stay straight in your lower body.
Tip 4: Start with a couple steps
It is better to be happy with 5 good steps and go from there than force your horse into 30 steps of shoulder-in while he loses impulsion, bending and/or balance.
Tip 5: Don’t go to fast
When your horse is still learning shoulder-in don’t go to fast. Give him time to find his balance and go from there. This doesn’t mean he is allowed to be ‘lazy’. He should still respond quick to your leg and be active in his movement, but be aware it takes a couple steps to get to a perfect shoulder-in.
Do you have any questions about how to improve shoulder-in? Or would you like to schedule a trial lesson and see what we can do to perfect your horse in shoulder-in? Feel free to contact me!
November 18th, 2019 - How to sharpen up your (lazy) dressage horse
In this blog I would like to share some exercises that may help you sharpen up your horse while training. The word 'lazy' is written in parentheses because a lot of dressage riders who feel like their horse should react quicker to instructions actually don't have a lazy horse. Being consistence and being clear to your horse while training is very important, otherwise you might have created a 'lazy' horse yourself.
1. Transitions - start counting steps!
This might feel like an obvious answer but you can give it a little twist. Start counting the steps your horse is making in between transitions. For example you want him to take 10 steps in trot, 12 steps in canter, 10 steps in trot etc. You continue doing this for a couple times and than change it up to a different amount of steps or a transition to walk. This exercise does not only make your horse more sharp but also yourself. Especially when you also compete this might be very useful to practice. In tests you have to do specific exercises at specific places in the arena. It is easy to always choose the easy way while training but training towards a competition requires some differences sometimes.
2. Be fast and short
Every time you ask your horse to do something, whether you do this with your hand or your leg; be fast and short! Don't push your leg in his belly and leave it there. Touch him fast and short and when he reacts you relax your leg. Does your horse not immediately respond? Repeat it. The brain of a horse only reacts to impulses, that explains why it is way more effective to be fast and short when you ask your horse to do something, this way his brains keep getting activated every time.
3. Bring variation in your training
This isn't necessarily a specific exercise... but this is so important! To keep your horse happy and sharp make sure he doesn't get bored. Find out what variation works for your horse, maybe a little jump every now and then or a longing session. Personally; Action and I always enjoy riding the trails as a variation!
Do you have any questions about how to sharpen up your horse? Or would you like to schedule a trial lesson and see how we can make your horse a little more sharp in training? Feel free to contact me!
November 9th, 2019 - Stomach ulcers, you don't want your horse to deal with this!
Everybody who knows me and Action also know about our struggles with stomach ulcers in the past. I can truly say I am THE ambassador when it comes to stable management and prevention of stomach ulcers. On the background you see a pic of Action when he lost over 200 lbs due to stomach ulcers. We came a long way (2 years!) to full recovery. Prevention is the key! The most important tips I give horse riders are:
1. Hay: always and everywhere.
Your horse needs to have access to hay 24 hours a day! Different than the human body, the body of horses produce gastric acids 24/7. The only way to neutralize the acids is by making sure the stomach is never empty. When the stomach is empty the acids affect the stomach lining which causes ulcers. For Action the best solution is to give him both hay on the floor and fill some hay nets.
2. Avoid stressful situations.
This is especially difficult when you ride competitions. The best advice I have: don't chance your normal routine because it is a competition day & get your own nerves under control. You are your horse his leader, if you can't be calm how can your horse be calm? For me working with a sports psychologist was a huge help!
3. Social contact.
Remember your competition horse doesn't know he is a 'competition-horse'. Your horse is like every other horse too and they are born to live together, learn from eachother, play with eachother and look after eachother. This doesn't always mean your horse should be in a group, but he should at least be able to 'nose' and make physical contact with other horses.
4. Don't train your horse on an empty stomach.
Make sure your horse eats some hay before you saddle him for a training. When his stomach is not filled enough the gastric acids will splash up to the stomach linings and cause ulcers.
5. Don't feed your horse too much power food at once.
A maximum of 2.2 lbs at once is required.
Action and I went to the best clinic in The Netherlands to treat him for stomach ulcers. At first nothing seemed to be wrong with him and out of nowhere he was very sick. Not every horse shows when he or she is in pain. Studies showed over 66% of the competition horses are suffering from stomach ulcers. Prevention is ALWAYS better than cure. I am more than happy to tell you more about stomach ulcers, how to prevent them but also how we treated Action to cure him. Feel free to contact me!
November 2nd, 2019 - 5 tips to prevent competition stress
Many dressage riders experience stress when they have to compete with their horse. This often leads to a test with results lower than you can actually achieve. Of course stress is very personal, I could come up with a million tips but I chose these 5 because I believe these are very useful tips for everybody.
1. Make sure you be on time!
Be on time at the stables so you can prepare your horse and yourself in a calm way. When you are late and you have to hurry, quickly knot your horse and saddle him, your horse will feel the rush. Make sure you both start the warming-up and the competition with a proper preparation.
2. Learn your test!
Make sure you know your test 100%. Train parts of the test at home, know the lines in the test so it won't overtake you or your horse.
3. Set realistic goals!
Be realistic in what you and your horse can achieve. We all would like to ride a test like Charlotte Dujardin; but let's be honest: that doesn't happen over one night. Set goals like; this competition I want to focus on the trot part, or this competition I want to focus on flying changes. Also plan goals for the longer term; where do you want to be in 3 months? Is it reasonable? Make a plan to get there.
4. Every part of the test counts!
Every part of the test is worth points. And every part of the test counts! Did you mess up the extended trot? Still 29+ other parts to make it up! Don't give up when one or two parts don't work out as you wanted.
5. Don't compare yourself to other combinations!
When you arrive at your competition there is nothing you can change about your training anymore. Don't compare yourself to others; you arrived with a good preparation, you know what to focus on and you know what you and your horse are able to do. Sometimes others show up with great horses, but they can make mistakes too. Believe in your horse and you!
October 26th, 2019 - My favorite products!
Not every subject on my blog needs to be super serious. I really want to share some lighter stories too! This week; my favorite horse products!
1. Luc Childeric Saddle.
Okay, this is not really a 'product' but I have never had a better saddle than my Luc Childeric saddle. It is perfect in every way. The saddle is filled with foam instead of wool. So after a 10 minute warm up walk the saddle completely forms to the back of the horse. Another nice incidental is that you don't need a saddle maker to fill your saddle every 6 to 12 months. Besides all this the saddle has a single saddle flap which makes sure you are way closer to your horse and have a better feeling with your legs. For the people who want to know: this is a French saddle!
2. Myrhh Tincture.
Also not a common product but I wish some one had ever told me about this before I started using it a few years ago. Action is not very careful with himself (very annoying sometimes haha), he has a bad habbit of puting his mouth EVERYWHERE. So sometimes he has little wounds on his lips. Myrhh Tincture makes it heal way faster so you can go back to training sooner.
3. Tendon boots without fur.
I love the way it looks but I never used it for any of the horses I trained. The legs get way too warm when you train your horse which causes injuries to the tendons way faster. So I just use simple tendon boots, and only bandages for shows or photoshoots.
4. Roeckl gloves.
As long as I can remember I swear by the gloves from Roeckl. I love the way they fit, they last a long time, they're super fashionable and they have different models for winter and summer. Roeckl is originally from Germany so I hope there is a way I can still buy these in the US!
5. WHIS Instruction Set.
One of the best decisions I made was buying the WHIS Instruction Set. No more yelling in the arena, better focus and being able to coach students while they warm up just before their competition. Also good to now: the battery last a long time and you can easily charge the batteries.
Of course there are many more products I use on a daily base but these 5 products popped on my mind first. I am not getting sponsored by any of these brands and I bought these products with my own money. These are products I would recommend everybody!