Monthly Archives: November 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!



Happy Thanksgiving Day!


Be sure to stop by next Wednesday for a chance to win Mary Pat Hyland’s new book In the Shadow of the Onion Domes.


Have a great holiday.



Photo credit: <a href=””>ewan traveler</a> via <a href=””>photopin</a&gt; <a href=””>cc</a&gt;

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Dressage For The Average Rider


International level dressage is wonderful to watch and attracts large audiences who delight in the dancing and skipping horses doing intricate figures. But as enjoyable as it is to observe, it’s even more fun to do. Of course at the high levels, the riders are full-time professionals and the horses worth millions of dollars. That doesn’t stop thousands of average horses and riders from joining the fun.

Dressage is the French word for training and refers to the basic training all horses should have. It’s not limited to English riding; the principles apply to Western too. In fact, you often see demonstrations of Western dressage.  The aim is to develop a relaxed, attentive, supple horse that responds effortlessly.

One of the nice things about dressage is it is an absorbing activity that you can do alone without being part of a team—although a trainer is vitally important. You can compete if you want, but the training pyramid provides levels to achieve and can give you a sense of accomplishment without having to show. It takes years to move up the levels, so there is always more to learn and accomplish. This feature is probably why dressage has become so popular with educated, professional women. They like something that requires concentration, dedication and measurable goals.

palominoYou can do dressage with any horse but one with the correct conformation and native ability will make it easier to advance up the levels. You want one with a good mind, a willing disposition and the physical ability to do what you ask. A horse specifically bred for dressage (usually a warmblood) can be pricey, but you can also find ones with a lot of talent in other breeds. Off-the-track Thoroughbreds often are good choices because of their work ethic and athleticism. My OTTB mare Glory was quite talented and trained to Third Level.

One way to verify how far you’ve come in your training is to compete. The U.S. Dressage Federation defines a series of “tests” at five advancing levels, starting with Training and culminating in Fourth Level. (The international level tests are overseen by FEI (Federation Equestre International) Each level has four tests that list the series of movements required at different spots in the dressage court. At non-championship shows usually one judge sits at the long end of the arena and gives a number score for how well each movement was performed and also comments on how it could be improved. Once you have achieved acceptable scores at one level, you can go on to the next. (Unless you are extremely dedicated and put in a lot of time, you usually advance one level per year.)

Here is a video of a Training level, Test 1 ride.

Compare it to this Second level test.

In addition to the basic tests, you can also compete in a Freestyle at each level. This is a performance set to music where you demonstrate all the required moves for that level, but with your own choreography. Watching horses do the same moves over and over at the lower levels is only interesting to other dressage riders, but audiences of all kinds love the Freestyles.

Here is a video of an Amateur Adult Rider doing a delightful freestyle.;fref=nf

Categories: animals, dressage, dressage competition, Horses, Olympics, riding, Thoroughbreds, training horses, U.S. Dressage Federation, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

A Wedding in the Redwoods



My older daughter got married two weekends ago in a lovely ceremony in a California redwood forest. Some people expressed an interest when I mentioned it so I thought I’d tell a little about it. I’m afraid I was too busy to take pictures, so I only have a few my husband managed.

Wedding party

Instead of a church or any other formal venue, my daughter and her guy chose to have their wedding at a unique B&B where they’ve often stayed. It was the second marriage for both so they did it their own way. CJ had eloped the first time and wanted a real wedding complete with a gown and being given away by her father. Joe chose to wear a nice suit but no tie. Their attendants were their three daughters. And instead of a wedding cake, which she dislikes, CJ made brownies, cookies and tiny cheesecakes.




The original plan was to have the dinner and dancing outdoors on a large lawn and Joe strung lights around the area. Unfortunately, rain suddenly threatened (and actually did arrive–the first time the B&B ever had rain for a wedding) so everything was moved to the covered porch area. We all helped set up the tables and decorate. Our younger daughter who is a fantastic artist directed things and did a wonderful job.




Entry & stage2

Luckily the rain stopped by noon and the ceremony was able to go as planned. The bridal party stood on the porch and the guests gathered on the lawn to watch. The B&B’s little white dog decided to join the party, to everyone’s delight. And half way through the sun came out to smile on the couple. After pictures on the lawn we all adjourned to the wrap-around porch and a delicious catered meal.


First dance - making use of blanket

First dance – making use of blanket



The wedding was small–family and close friends–about 50 people in all. A very congenial group and lots of fun.

Dancing followed on the deck. Because of the possibility of inclement weather, CJ and Joe had chosen microfleece lap blankets as wedding favors. By evening, most of the people on the porch and deck were making good use of them. A lot of the guests were staying at a nearby B&B so the party didn’ t end early.

A somewhat unconventional wedding that fit the newlyweds perfectly.

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Horses As Healers


horse and childAs I mentioned last week, the heroine of my upcoming book Forearmed is a child psychologist who uses horses to work with her troubled clients. Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy is a new and growing field and I thought I’d tell you a little about it today. Mostly I’m going to give you links to some interesting sites, rather than repeat the information given there.

Because horses are prey animals and super sensitive to their environment, they are also ultra aware of the humans around them. My horses can tell instantly what kind of mood I’m in and react accordingly. If I’m upset, and depending on their personality, they can be standoffish until I calm down. If I’m sad and unhappy they may be more lovey and stay close. And interestingly my moods usually shift quite quickly under their influence. I’ve always said that my horses keep me sane (though others may debate that).

Therapists are beginning to use this equine sensitivity to help troubled patients, particularly children and teens. Horses can tell them a lot about what is going on with their clients and help the kids approach the world differently. I’ve helped out at a local clinic and found it fascinating.

Here are links to sites that can tell you a lot more about EFP.

And here’s one that shows how horses can help heal grief.


photo credit: <a href=””>Beverly & Pack</a> via <a href=””>photopin</a&gt; <a href=””>cc</a&gt;
Categories: animals, children, Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy, healing, Horses, psychotherapy, troubled teens, Uncategorized, using horses to heal | Tags: , , , , , | 17 Comments

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