…Showing in the USA #2

You have established a training base in southern California, your horse has arrived at the destination all is well. Your horse will need a few days to  adjust to the climate and change in hay.

Bathe and clip your horse and find the appropriate sheet/blanket/fly mask combination for the weather in the desert. We feed “Safe Choice”, a Purina product.  It is an American based brand, but was difficult to find locally.  Once the jumpers were competing at Thermal, the brand was brought in.   Don’t assume that you can find the same brands of horse feed here as at home.  Make sure you contact the local feed store to find if they will bring in a supply of any specialty feed you may require.

Ask about all the barn and arena rules.  These may be different than at your home barn. Be polite and respectful and always clean up after yourself and your horse. You are a guest boarder and remember you would like to be welcomed back. Other riders are a great source of information on where to find tack shops, boot repair, veterinary advice, farriers, showing etc.

Personal accomodation becomes a matter of choice.  I have an RV, and as long as there is a place to park near the barn, I am home.  There are condos, hotel resorts (suites) or rental units available locally.

Now that you and your horse have arrived safely and settled in, it’s time to start riding.





CalgaryDressage…Help in Half Pass

I’m preparing for my first show of the season here in Thermal. My coach, Jewels Vysniauskas, has been so very patient with us. I don’t know how many times she has had to say “Kim, widen your hands” or “Kim you need to ride with more leg”. I have a degree in Kinesiololgy and also a degree in Education and she needs to remind me of basics day in day out.  I told Jewels that she is a saint for being so patient with her students.

I coach Academy students at home and I realize we all need help. Dressage is a dynamic, cooperative process between horse and rider. I tend to think so hard about what I’m doing from a technical aspect, that it can block out the feel you have from the horse. This is like riding blind. There is no feedback.  When there is no feedback, we just try harder, get stiff and carry on, even though the horse is saying “Wait….way too much information”. The horse goes into “fight or flight mode” and you have difficulties with stiffness or resistance. Usually the horse gets blamed for this, even though the rider causes it in the first place.

My half pass experience yesterday began like this. Jewels set us up beautifully with exercises to make the half pass flow. My horse is not a big lateral mover, but he is quite capable when I don’t over ride. I finally found “the sweet spot” for correct flexion. I found the correct mix of leg and hand, if only for a moment.  A moment in time is good enough to achieve the feeling and to be able to mind map it as a way point in my brain’s GPS.  I know I can go back to that feel tomorrow or the next day of training.

We pack up for the Del Mar show on Sunday and will train in San Diego for the week before the show.



Calgary Dressage…..Made it to Vegas Jan. 25th, 2013

I’m on my quest to ride, train and compete in Southern California.  So far, my husband Bob and friend Robbie Broatch have made it to Los Vegas from Calgary in just over 24 hours.  The going was slow through Montana with wind and blowing snow on Route 89.  I’m  very glad I decided not to pull a horse trailer on that route.  It was scenic, but way too windy to drive a horse trailer. I suggest going through Lethbridge south on the interstate.  It would still be windy, cold, with poor visibility at times.

Roderick was shipped professionally to our training destination in Thermal last week.  My coach, Jewels Vysniauskas, and barn buddy, Crystal are already in Thermal and have taken care of Roddie until I can get there. I cannot thank them enough for the important role they have played in being there for us. I could have never shipped Roderick there without having a dedicated ground crew waiting for him.

The logistics of this trip have been mindbogling.  I’ve had to organize my teaching schedule and have the support of my employer to achieve this goal.  My husband has been on side from the start. My daughter is behind me. The motorhome (The Muther Ship) has run beautifully.

Is this the way to travel and show in Southern California?  I’m not sure yet.  Diesel is expensive, the cost of the RV park service has got to be added in and the added travel time needs to be taken into account.  I’m just wondering if flying down and renting a park model motor home or condo, and a car,  would be more cost effective.  I will research this and report back in my blog. Just so you know I ride a motorcycle and plan to commute to and from the barn on a TW200 motorcycle.
This bike is mounted on our back bumper of the motor home.

I write this blog from Las Vegas, and it’s raining now.  We pulled into the campground at Circus Circus right on the strip.  Bob had trouble getting the hot water heater going and that has taken him a while to fix.  Now all is well.  That is what happens swith a motor home that you set up for the first time. It takes a while to understand all the quirks.  I will be on my own in California so I need to be able to trouble shoot all systems related to this rig on wheels.

Can’t wait to get to get to the destination, even though we are in Los Vegas….

Calgary Area Dressage….Riding Academy at Kestrel Ridge Farm


Jewels Vysniauskis riding in Aachen
Jewels Vysniauskis is Head Trainer at Kestrel Ridge Farm

Thinking of trying dressage?  Kestrel Ridge Farm has a Riding Academy for beginning riders or those new to the sport of dressage.

There are opportunities to cross train with grid work, jumping and  riding trails but dressage basics are at the heart of the program.

Kestrel Ridge Farm is one of the few facilities that offers dressage training on school horses.  Check out the website.

Dressage training and competition….where are the Men?

Tom Dvorak & Viva's Salieri
Tom Dvorak & Viva's Salieri

All equestrian sports invite men and women to compete as equals. Dressage training and competition is a level playing field for both sexes. This is a rare opportunity in sport.

In the Calgary Alberta area, and accross North America, the number of male dressagers have declined over the last 20 years. One reason for the loss of male competitors in dressage could be that our sport was part of training at military and police academies. Years ago, these institutions were exclusively male.

There are more men riding in high adrenalin jumping, and combined events, but the basis of equestrianism is still dressage. If you can’t sit and half-halt, and the horse has no idea of what you want, how are you going to be successful? This is probably why dressage taining was drilled at riding schools in the past. The male equestrians that think Dressage is easy, I sincerely hope we make it look that way. That is our goal, complete harmony, effortless transitions, engagement, all manner of perfection in sport.

Training with a male barn buddy has helped me improve as a rider. He’s shown me to view competition as more of an opportunity rather than a test to pass. He’s set an example of work ethic and focus which I hope to follow. I have observed by watching him that strength and determination is an asset, but knowing when to give, and be patient is just as important in dressage. Male dressagers bring an “X” factor to Dressage that is hard to articulate.

Click Here for an interesting article on the subject from Dressage Today Magazine.

Canadian Dressage Team – 4th, 5th and 6th place

Tom Dvorak & Viva's Salieri
Tom Dvorak & Viva's Salieri

Guadalajara, Mexico – Canadian Dressage Team members Tom Dvorak of Hillsburgh, ON, Tina Irwin of Stouffville, ON, and Crystal Kroetch of Calgary, AB, placed fourth, fifth and sixth respectively in the Individual Dressage Final
held Wednesday, October 19, at the XVI Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico.


Tina Irwin & Winston
Tina Irwin & Winston

Canada’s youngest team member, 30-year-old Irwin, was the first to enter the arena at the Guadalajara Country Club.  Riding Winston, a 14-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding owned by Mary Ellen Horgan, Irwin performed to a medley of popular songs from the 80’s, including ‘What a Feeling’ from Flashdance and ‘Life Is Life’ by Noah and the Whale.  Winston showed his maturity and consistency with a flawless and expressive performance that earned a score of 77.225% for Irwin. “Winston was amazing, and I was totally thrilled,” said Irwin, who was making her major games debut.  “It was my personal best score.  We definitely peaked at the right time.  It was also fantastic to ride to my music, which was produced by long-time sponsors and supporters Lewis Manné and Wendy Watson of Zap Productions.”Combined with her Intermediaire I score of 70.842% from the first half of the individual competition on Monday, Irwin’s average score of 74.034% moved her up five places, from tenth after the Intermediaire I, to fifth.

Tina Irwin & Winston
Tina Irwin & Winston

Next in for Canada was Kroetch, 54, riding her own 10-year-old
Hannoverian gelding Lymrix.  Kroetch’s difficult choreography included a canter pirouette immediately following the initial halt, and a serpentine of two tempi  changes.  Her score of 76.325% placed her sixth in the Freestyle.  Having  finished ninth in the Intermediaire I two days earlier with a score of 71%,  Kroetch improved on her ultimate placing, with an average score from the two  tests of 73.663%, and seventh place overall.



Dvorak, 46, was the second last rider in the arena, competing
immediately after the eventual silver medalist, Heather Blitz of the United
States on Paragon, and the gold medalist Steffen Peters, also of the United
States, on Weltino’s Magic.  Dvorak rode Viva’s Salieri, a 10-year-old
Canadian-bred Hannoverian stallion, to a dynamic Spanish guitar themed program
that included four canter pirouettes and tempi changes on curved lines for added
difficulty.  An impressive score of 77.300% placed Dvorak fourth in the

Combined with his fourth place result of 73.079% in the Intermediaire
I, Dvorak finished fourth overall with an average score of 75.190%.  Even more
impressive, Viva’s Salieri is a Canadian-bred horse, having been bred by owners
Augustin and Christine Walch of W. Charlot Farms in Stratford, ON.

For Dvorak, the results in Guadalajara were reminiscent of the 2007
Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where he also placed fourth
individually, having also claimed a team silver medal.

The Canadian riders had high praise for the support they received
from Team Chef d’Equipe Gina Smith of Brockville, ON, and Team Technical Leader
Markus Gribbe of Germany.

“It’s great to be a part of our team’s wonderful results and to be able to help,” said Smith,
who was a member of Canada’s bronze medal team at the 1988 Seoul

Following the Prix St. Georges test held October 16, Canada won the
team silver medal and, in doing so, achieved their goal of qualifying a team for
the 2012 London Olympics.  Unfortunately, under Pan American Games rules, only
three riders per nation may advance to the Individual Final.  Although the
fourth member of the Canadian Dressage Team, 48-year-old Roberta Byng-Morris of
Godmanchester, QC, was unable to compete on the final day, she placed
16th individually in her major games debut with her 12-year-old
Hannoverian gelding Reiki Tyme.

The Canadian Dressage Team was assisted at the Pan American Games by
Team Veterinarian Dr. Alan Manning.  The Canadian Equestrian Team is supported
at the Pan American Games by Team Leader Kerri McGregor of Newmarket, ON, and
Assistant Team Leader Tina Collins of Loretto, ON.

Pan American Games – Final Individual Dressage Results:

Gold:      Steffen Peters                United
States                    Weltino’s Magic

Silver     Heather Blitz                 United
States                    Paragon                           81.917%

Bronze   Marisa Featherling        United States
Big Tyme                           77.545%

4.            Tom Dvorak                  Hillsburgh,
ON                 Viva’s Salieri                           75.190%

5.            Tina Irwin                      Stouffville,
ON                 Winston                           74.034%

6.            Crystal Kroetch             Calgary,
AB                      Lymrix                           73.66%

For more information on the 2011 Pan American Games, held every four years, please


Pan-Am Games Dressage Update…..

Pan American Games 2011
Crystal & Lymyrix at Pan American Games

– Following the first day of individual dressage competition at the XVI Pan American Games, Tom Dvorak, 46, of Hillsburgh, ON, sits in fourth place, just over one percentage point behind third placed Marisa Featherling of the United States.

Riding Viva’s Salieri, a 10-year-old Canadian-bred Hannoverian stallion, Dvorak received a score of 73.079% in the FEI Intermediaire I test, which forms the first half of the individual medal competition. On Sunday, October 16, Dvorak led Canada to a Team Silver medal as well as a berth for the 2012 London Olympic Games.

All four members of the Canadian Dressage Team contested the Intermediaire I with excellent results. Calgary’s Crystal Kroetch, 54, rode her 10-year-old Hannoverian gelding Lymrix to a ninth place finish with a score of 71%.

The Canadian team’s youngest member, Tina Irwin, 30, of Stouffville, ON, finished close behind in tenth with a score of 70.842% riding Mary Ellen Horgan’s Winston, a 14-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding.

Roberta Byng-Morris, 48, of Godmanchester, QC, was the Canadian rider to make the biggest leap up the leaderboard, moving from 25th in the team competition to 16th in the Intermediaire I with a score of 66.947% riding her 12-year-old Hannoverian gelding, Reiki Tyme.

The top 15 competitors from the Intermediaire I test qualify for the Individual Freestyle, after which the individual medals will be awarded. However, as a maximum of three competitors per nation are allowed to contest the Individual Freestyle, Dvorak, Kroetch and Irwin will be Canada’s three representatives.

Delighted with his results to date with Viva’s Salieri, Dvorak is hoping for even more in the Individual Freestyle to Music on Wednesday afternoon. “I love riding the freestyle,” said Dvorak following Monday’s competition. “My freestyle is technically difficult and the music really suits my horse. I’m really pleased with my horse and I know we are in the ball game, which is very exciting.” Dvorak’s horse, Viva’s Salieri, is owned by its breeder, Augustin Walch, and his wife, Christine, who travelled to Mexico to watch their horse compete for Canada. “I’m always very happy to see Tom with my horse,” commented Augustin Walch of Stratford, ON. “Tom and his wife, Ellen, have always done the best for the horse since he was four years old.”

Kroetch also improved both her score and her placing from the team competition to Monday’s individual competition, and has every intention of moving even further up the standings in the Freestyle. “My horse just gets better and better in the ring,” she said. “I have wonderful music and a technically difficult program. If I can keep it together with no mistakes, I believe we can still improve on our placing.”

Canadian Dressage Team Chef d’Equipe Gina Smith of Brockville, ON, and Team Technical Leader Markus Gribbe of Germany have been thrilled with the Canadian results in both the team and individual competitions. “They have achieved exactly what we came here to do,” said Smith, a 1988 Olympic Team Bronze Medalist. “The atmosphere among the team is wonderful. It’s really been a pleasure to watch everyone come together and achieve these results.” The Intermediaire Freestyle to Music, by far the most popular spectator event of the Pan Am Games Dressage competition, will commence at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, October 19, at the sold-out stadium at the Guadalajara Country Club.

2011 Pan American Games Dressage Results – Intermediaire I – October 17, 2011

  1.  1. Steffen Peters/Weltino’s Magic (USA) – 78.079%
  2. 2. Heather Blitz/Paragon (USA) – 77.184%
  3. 3. Marisa Featherling/Big Tyme (USA) – 74.316%
  4. 4. Tom Dvorak/Viva’s Salieri (CAN) – 73.079%
  5. 5. Bernadette Pujals/Iusa Rolex (MEX) – 72.605%9.

9.Crystal Kroetch/Lymrix (CAN) – 71.000%

10. Tina Irwin/Winston (CAN) – 70.842%

16. Roberta Byng-Morris/Reiki Tyme (CAN) – 66.947%

For more information on the 2011 Pan American Games, held every four years, please visit