Calgary – The Princess Principle

Dressage, from the French verb, dressager, “to train” has a reputation for elitism.  After all, the sport is based on highly trained cavalry manouvers shown at court before kings and queens.
Dressage is a tough sportThe “princess principle” embodies the entilted few who have the means to compete a made horse, sometimes observed showing at a level above capacity. These riders as seen with an entourage of support personel rivaled only by minor celebrities and reality T.V. stars.

I stand firm in my conviction that those of us who tirelessly train our own horses in the classical style, manage their health, feed and turnout sacrifice as warriors of our sport. We save enough to buy a young prospect then fight to accumulate funds supporting years of training, boarding and care before we can step into the show ring.

Dressage warriors are their own grooms, personal managers, stable hands, veterinary technicians, tackers and cool out riders. Those with the embedded “princess principle” will never know the sacrifice and joy the rest of us experience.  Warriors are absolutely willing to take on all of these roles and responsibilities. That’s how tough it is to get to Grand Prix. The difference between the warrior and the princess is the personal cost, the self sacrifice and what riders must give up to gain in the years it takes to train a Dressage horse. There is pride in being a warrior rather than a princess.

So not a princess

Calgary Dressage prepares for the Mane Event in Red Deer April 26 – 28, 2013


Tom Dvorak at Mane Event 2013 in Red Deer
Tom Dvorak

The Mane Event, Equine Education & Trade Fair at Westerner Park in Red Deer, April 26 – 28, 2013 is pleased to announce our jumping/equitation clinician and dressage clinicians for this year are:

George Morris  and Tom Dvorak

If you would like to participate in their sessions or simply audit please visit for details or call (250) 578-7518 for Dressager’s Log II

Working to win
Working to win

Helpful exercises for me and Roderick: (maybe you too)

1. Warm up – longitudinal stretch…forward and downward.  You should be able to keep your horses nose where you want it.

2.Warm up – Flexion take to be able to give.  Ride serpentines.

3. Walk squares with 1/4 turns at each corner.  Add leg yield out the 1/4 turn to make the square.

4. 1/4 Turns on the forehand at every second corner. Repeat everything in both directions.

5. In trot, shoulder in to renvers and back to shoulder in…go medium trot if you loose impulsion, repeat.

6. Shoulder in on the long side to 10 m circle..hit the track in travers then straighten and go medium. Repeat.

7. Canter work..trot canter transitions. Canter to almost trot and canter on. Medium canter to collected canter on a 20 m circle.

8. Within a 20 meter circle, 10 meter circle to simple change.  10 Meter circle to flying change. Don’t drill

9. On centerline go shoulder in, to half pass to medium trot…do a turn on the haunches and repeat the other way.

10. Counter canter loops.  Canter – walk – counter canter – walk – canter.  Try serpentines with changes on the center line. Dressager’s Log…Kim Cox

Watch my back
Hindsight is 20/20

Roderick is a 12 year old Dutch Warmblood gelding, imported KWPN (Ferro X Dance-O-War XX).  He has awesome presence and potential.  I am truly fortunate that he is my equine partner.

 To achieve our goals, as a team I must target “suppleness”. General suppleness, in the jaw, poll, through the back and in lateral work. 

This means both of us have work to do.  It is not just me working on Roderick. I need to continually ask more from myself as a Dressager, softer aids, ask and allow the horse to respond, don’t nag with the aids, insist when I must, help Roderick stay balanced, and give him the confidence he needs to achieve at the higher levels. 

I wanted to show third level this year, but some elements, like changes and half pass need confirmation before we move up. Dressage friends told  me to go ahead, show at third level and let the changes and half-pass develop over the year.  Experience tells me that this time I won’t rush, and we’ll stick to the plan, confirming  our training to succeed in the long term.

My goal is to ride Roderick to Prix St. George.  When  Roderick is consulted on this decision, he  snorts in agreement.  However, Roderick, like  most horses, doesn’t keep a calendar in his stall, so fails to see the reason for “getting geared up” for the start of the show season.  Let’s say we are a work in progress.

My Plan:

1. Increase my focus on feel and response.

2. Be consistent in asking and my aids.

3. Ask and allow.

4. Take flexion in order to give.

5. Balance my horse before each transition and in circles.

No more Top Hats Allowed in National Level Tests!

A great Poster
Freestyles Rule

Equine Canada/Dressage Canada have issued a late rule change that as of May 1st, 2011, only competitors above 4th level will be allowed to wear Top Hats in Canadian Competitions.  All others must wear a safety approved helmet with harness when mounted on the show grounds. Failure to comply will cause the rider to be eliminated from the show.

Any Comments?

Here is a copy of the new rule as of March 23rd, 2011:

ARTICLE E 4.0 SAFETY HEADGEAR [effective May 1, 2011]

1. ASTM/SEI or BSI approved headgear must be worn by all riders

showing Fourth Level and below, regardless of age, when mounted on

the competition grounds at EC Bronze, Silver and Gold competitions.

2. ASTM/SEI or BSI approved headgear must be worn by all noncompeting

riders mounted on horses entered in classes at Fourth Level

or below in EC Bronze, Silver and Gold competitions.

3. All riders of any age while on non-competing horses must wear

protective headgear at all times while mounted on the competition


4. The penalty for contravening 4.0.1 is elimination.

5. Non-competing riders who contravene 4.0.2 and/or 4.0.3 will be

instructed to dismount until wearing an ASTM/SEI or BSI approved


Note: At the tack check which follows the test, the steward may ask the

rider to dismount so that the helmet may be inspected for the ASTM/SEI or

BSI label.

My comment is that I will miss wearing my Top Hat until I can ride in the FEI classes. It’s unfortunate that this elegant piece of our attire will no longer be visible at the higher national levels of our sport.  I acknowlege the inherent risks of riding, but always felt that once you reached third level, you were secure enough in your training to make a personal decision as to the head gear appropriate for your level of showing. Equine Canada (Dressage Canada)’s position is to: ensure our safety and protect against liability.  I thought that is why we signed waivers to compete at  shows. 

How to Remember Letters Around the Dressage Arena…

I hope this helps Calgary Alberta area dressage riders.

20 x 60m
Dressage Competition Arena

I’ve come up with a way to remember the letter positions around the Dressage arena.

Starting with A and going clockwise around the ring:

  • A-All
  • K-Kings
  • V-Visit
  • E-Each
  • S-Special
  • H-Horse
  • C-Cantering
  • M-Merrily
  • R-‘Round
  • B-Beautiful
  • P-Pastures
  • F-Free

I understand that the original Dressage letters were abbreviated names of  a King’s horses, whose stalls surrounded the indoor riding school at court. That would explain why Dressage letters are not in alphabetical order. Does anyone have any other information on the origin of Dressage letter placement? Send a comment.

First Level Requirements….Tips

Calgary Alberta area show season begins next month with the Carrots & Cocktails Series at Anderson Ranch.  If you choose to move up to 1st Level classes from training level be aware that the expectation is “to confirm that the horse, in addition to the requirements of Training Level, has developed thrust (pushing power) and achieved a degree of  balance and throughness.”

Your horse needs to move forward through the elements of the First Level tests.  Use corners to balance your horse and ask for more roundness in the frame.  Throughness is characterized by the horses pushing power working through your horse, making him light in your hand and round on the bit.  Keep transitions smooth by taking the time to plan and prepare.  Required elements come more quickly in the tests as you progress up the levels.  Make sure you memorize you tests and plan how to ride each element. If you rely on a reader, you won’t have time to prepare for transitions.  “A horse goes how he’s ridden”, use the test elements to your best advantage by knowing what comes next and how to help your horse.