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The Eloquent Equine

Special No. 2

Ontario Has Talent Supporting Dressage Youth

Training Tips Boosting Test scores with Accuracy!

Natural Dressage


Living the Dressage life, in the Ring & at Home

Center Stage th wi

Julie Watchorn

The Magic in Playing with your Horse


|Justin Ridgewell | Crawford Equestrian | |Jensen Equestrian | Stirling Hill Farm |




Contents 04

In the Loop



17 21

Current Events and News from the Dressage Community.

Living the Dressage Life, at home and in the ring

Hot Topics Helmets, Olympic Qualifications and more.

Ontario Has Talent Supporting the training of Ontario Youth Dressage Riders

23 The Art of Natural Dressage The Magic in playing with your horse

Stage 27 Center Elite Canadian Dressage Rider Julie Watchorn

Essentials 31 The How to employ accuracy for better training and higher marks in your dressage test

Businesses 36 Featured Justin Ridgewell, Crawford Equestrian, Jensen Equestrian, Stirling Hill Farm

The Eloquent Equine Special Edition No. 2 Dressage Editor-in-Chief | Krista Rivet Creative Director | Samantha Wild // Contributors // Tia Culley, Stephanie Jensen, Justin Ridgewell, Stephanie Crawford, Julie Watchorn, Krista Rivet, Gabriele Sutton (Ontario Has Talent)

Advertising, Submissions & General Inquiries | theeloqentequine@gmail.com Website | www.theeloquentequine.webs.com Email | theeloquentequine@gmail.com Facebook | /TheEloquentEquine Twitter | @EloquentEquine Subscriptions | Free - Available through Issuu The Eloquent Equine is a quarterly publication, producing four full issues a year plus a number of special editions. Reproduction of any material from this issue in whole or part is strictly prohibited. The Eloquent Equine welcomes all submissions and suggestions, feel free to email us.

On the Cover The Cover Star of this Issue is Tia Culley and her horse Jose. Here shown participating in a Dressage show at Palgrave (CAN). You can learn more about how Tia overcame difficulties in training Jose in her article “The Art of Natural Dressage� (Page 23). You can also find more pictures of Tia and Jose at Palgrave in our Spotlight Gallery (Page 11)

Editor’s Desk


pring has finally sprung, and before long it’ll be summer. The grass is growing greener by the day and the cold grasp of winter is finally receding into memory. As summer draws closer so does the start of show season (for some it may have already arrived), and many are getting prepared for that fateful ride down the center line. For riders in the discipline, or even the casual enthusiast, we’ve got a great issue ready for you! Jam packed with stuff to help you get your daily Dressage fix. We’ve got some great photos to share with you this issue, from Dressage riders Justin Ridgewell, Tia Culley, and Stephanie Jensen. They’ve given us a peak in the Dressage world as they see it, both in the ring and at home. Are you curious about some of the changing trends in the Dressage world? Why not check out my consideration of the current trends and hot topics, from changes in competition helmet policies to the proposed FEI Olympic Qualification procedures, and what it might mean for North American Riders. You can also add your opinion to these tough questions by sending us your comments or joining the discussion on our Facebook page! I also had the luxury of interviewing some great individuals from the Ontario Dressage world, including Elite Canadian Dressage rider Julie Watchorn, and Gabriele Sutton of Ontario Has Talent. If you haven’t heard of Ontario Has Talent, make sure to check out our feature on this great Organization. Also make sure you pop on over to their Facebook page to see all the upcoming events they have planned. Ms. Sutton and the rest of the board are doing great things to help support the next generation of Ontario Dressage Riders. Also, make sure to check out our Featured section, showcasing some great Dressage businesses - offering sales, training, and coaching services. Don’t forget to check out our Facebook and Twitter pages for fun facts, and up to date information on upcoming issues. Plus a sneak peek or two on stuff we’ve got in the works! While there why not drop us a like (or a follow), to stay in touch and get news as it happens. If you like this issue let us know, I love getting reader feedback. As an editor I want to know what worked, what didn’t, and what you’d like to see in a future issue. Thanks for reading!

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In the Loop Local News & Events What’s coming up in the Dressage World Denim & Diamonds Ontario Has Talent will be holding a dinner and silent auction at the Cornerstone Spring into Dressage show on June 1st, 2013. More information can be found by visiting the Ontario has Talent Facebook page.

Dressage Symposium Ontario Has Talent has rescheduled its Dressage Symposium to June 29th30th. The Symposium will be held at Oakcrest Farms in Stouffville, ON (CAN), and will feature Olympian Ashley Holzer, and FEI 5* Judge Elizabeth McMullen. Rider and Auditor forms can be found and downloaded from the Ontario Has Talent Website and Facebook Page. More information can be found on the Ontario Has Talent Facebook Page

In other news Toronto Horse Day On Saturday June 1st, 2013 the OEF will be hosting Toronto Horse Day at Exhibition Place. It is a free event with a variety of exhibitions and displays, all to promote horses and the equestrian sport in Ontario. Further information is available on the OEF website.

In Memoriam Canadian Dressage Rider Jon Costin passed suddenly on May 7th, at the age of 44. He was a well-respected Dressage professional whose career highlights included the 2001 World Young Horse Championships in Verdeen, and being short listed for the World Equestrian Games in 2006. He owned and operated Jon Costin Dressage Inc, near Toronto, where he provided coaching and training services. A funeral mass was held on Tuesday May 14th in Freelton, ON. Riders who planned on being in attendance were asked to wear show clothes to honour Jon.

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“Show me your horse & I’ll tell you who you are.”

-Old English Proverb

Photographer| Justin Ridgewell


Photo | J. Ridgewell

Photo | J. Ridgewell

Photo | J. Ridgewell

Photo | J. Ridgewell

Photo | J. Ridgewell

Photo | J. Ridgewell

Photo | J. Ridgewell

“And indeed, a horse whom bears himself proudly is a thing of such beauty and astonishment that he attracts the eyes of all beholders. No one will tire of looking at him as long as he will display himself in his splendour.�


Photo Credit| Tia Culley 11 The Eloquent Equine

Photo | T. Culley

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Photo | T. Culley

Stephanie Jensen aboard her Grand Prix Mount SJE Addiction

Photographer| Linda Todd 15 The Eloquent Equine

Photo | Linda Todd

Hot Topics Proposed Olympic Changes


n March 2013 the North American equestrian community, and particularly Canada, were shocked and dismayed upon hearing of the proposed changes to the Olympic Qualification procedures, specifically the effects on the Eventing and Dressage qualification system. The matter was to be put under consideration at the FEI Sports Forum, in Switzerland, on April 8-9th. The first proposal put forth by the FEI, which is widely accepted by the equestrian community, is the harmonization of the number of riders for each team. For Dressage riders, this proposed change is a benefit. This proposal would mean that each discipline is allowed a team of 4 riders, with 3 scores counting (allowing 1 drop score). This would be an improvement from the 2012 London Olympics, where Dressage teams were made up of only 3 riders with no drop score. This proposed shift will mean that the number of Dressage riders will increase to 60 (from the previous 50), while the number of Event riders will decrease to 65 (from the previous 75 in 2012). The number of Jumpers remains the same (75 riders). At the FEI Sports Forum a consensus was reached regarding this quota shift, and the proposal is now being brought forward to the IOC. The issue that raised concern amongst Dressage and Event riders was the proposed changes to the Olympic Qualifying system. The reason is simple, the proposed changes would mean that the United States and Canada, depending on their

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results at the World Equestrian Games and the Pan American Games, could be in direct competition for a spot at the Olympics. For Dressage riders, the proposed changes mean that in order to qualify for the 2016 Olympics, the United States and Canada must finish in the top four at the World Equestrian Games (WEG) in Normandy, or win at the Pan American games, as there will only be a single spot remaining. Here’s how the proposed changes for Dressage Team qualifications break down: • Eleven Teams will directly qualify (No change from previous qualification procedures)

1. Brazil, as host nation, is automatically allocated a team place, if this place is not used the place will be allocated to the highest ranked team (From Pan Am) not already qualified

2. 4 best ranked teams from 2014 WEG (this is up from 3 in 2012) – excluding the team qualified above

3. 3 best ranked teams from the 2015 European Championships, from FEI Olympic groups A (North Western Europe), B (South Western Europe), and C (Central & Eastern Europe, Central Asia) – excluding those qualified above

4. 1 team place from the best ranked teams from group D (North America) and E (Central and South America), from the results of Pan Am Games (taking into account the automatic qualification of the Host)

5. 1 best ranked team from Group F

6. 1 best ranked team from Group F or G or C (only Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan) from an FEI approved special qualification event Equine Canada strongly resisted the proposed changes, and in response sent a message to the Pan American Equestrian Confederation stating that they are firmly against any proposal to change the number of countries able to qualify for the Olympics. The full statement issued by EC can be found HERE. In the letter, Equine Canada points out that the Americas represent over 30% of all of the FEI member countries in the world, and that it has the highest growth in FEI level competitions among the regions. Equine Canada also stipulates that the proposed changes do not meet the universality requirement, or the geographic diversification requirement of the Olympic Games. Furthermore, the proposal does not meet the Olympic Performance requirements of having the best nations of the world represented. There is still time to finalize the proposal for qualification system changes prior to the FEI General Assembly in November. The complete Qualifications System Proposal Document can be found on the FEI Sports Forum website, HERE.

(Africa & Middle East) or G (South East Asia, Oceania) from WEG 2014 – if they have not already qualified, if not allocated this slot will be added to #2 (meaning the 5 best teams at WEG qualify)

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Helmets in the Ring


he sleek black top hat has for many years been a staple of Dressage show attire, and seems itself an icon of the sport. But recent changes on national and international levels have seen some riders retiring their top hats in place of a helmet. While helmets have been mandatory in Show jumping and Cross Country for some time, it is only recently that some countries have made a push to encourage Dressage riders to also don some protective head gear. As of January of this year the FEI released a revised policy regarding helmets in the Dressage ring at FEI sanctioned competitions. The new policy states that while riding on show grounds helmets are mandatory, with exceptions. Individuals 18 years and older, who are showing on horses aged 7 and over, are currently allowed to compete without a helmet. This exception only applies to riders competing in the ring or warming up prior to their test. While these rules apply to FEI sanctioned competitions, some countries have made the push to make helmets mandatory at national level competitions. Helmets became mandatory, as of the first of April 2013, for all riders at United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) sanctioned events, including the Grand Prix. In 2011 Equine Canada (EC) made the wearing of helmets in national Dressage competitions mandatory for riders competing at Fourth level or below. Like the FEI policy, riders 18 and older, competing in FEI level tests or Prix St. George and above are an exception to this rule. In 2012 British Dressage decided to adapt their national rules to match current FEI policies, making it mandatory for riders under the age of 18, and in Young Horse classes, to wear an approved safety helmet in competition.

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Helmets are mandatory for all Para Dressage riders, at all levels of competition. According to FEI policy, riders who fail to wear a protective helmet when required will be notified by an official. A yellow card will be issued to the athlete if, after being notified, they fail to wear protective head gear. While it’s a continuing discussion, and a debate that will likely rage for some time, their is a growing number of Dressage riders reaching for their helmets in place of that sleek black top hat. Many high level competitors, including 2012 Olympic Gold Medallist Charlotte Dujardin, have donned the helmet in the show ring, perhaps demonstrating that sometimes safety has to trump tradition. One of the Helmet Safety Campaign Visuals put out by the FEI

There also campaigns, like Riders4Helmets, which are currently working to promote knowledge about the importance of helmets in all equestrian activities. You can learn more about Riders4Helmets by visiting their website. Even the FEI has launched a targeted campaign to promote the new helmet rules in place, as well as to promote helmet safety in general. They have even made FEI Helmet Rule widgets that individuals can download and place on their site. For more information about the FEI Helmet rule policy, campaign, and widgets, you can visit the FEI website, or find their widgets HERE.

Weigh In

Got comments? Why not join in on the discussion! Email comments to theeloquentequine@gmail.com Or join the discussion on Facebook.

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Ontario Has Talent

Supporting the Next Generation of Dressage Riders


ne thing riders know is that their sport is an expensive one. The combined cost of training, horse keeping, and competition fees can often leave you feeling depressed and discouraged. Having access to some of the top riders in the disciplines is often the dream of many, and one Ontario program is making this dream a reality. Ontario Has Talent allows Dressage youth the chance to improve their skills by having a change to train with some of the top athletes in the sport, all at a reduced cost. Founded by Gabriele Sutton and Nathalie Lawson, Ontario Has Talent seeks to relieve some of the stress of raising money for competition and training for Ontario youth Dressage Riders. Both horse show moms, they sought to support Ontario Dressage youth by forming a group that enables young riders to receive continuing education in Dressage, while also forming a vehicle that will create funds to support young rider training and development. While similar programs have been done before, Ontario Has Talent was formed with the goal to provide a structured program to support Ontario Dressage riders. The current program, the Frostbite Series, allows youth access over the winter months to training, through organized clinics with various Olympic Dressage riders, Short Listed A riders, or “O� Judges. All of the clinics held by Ontario Has Talent are offered at a reduced cost to the riders involved. The clinicians donate their time, and pass on their expertise to the younger generation. Though as 2012 drew to a close the program became faced with a challenge, there were more riders looking to participate then they simply had room for. So as of 2013, Ontario Has Talent made the decision to expand

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its offerings. The new program divides riders into two levels, gold or silver, and officially commenced this spring. The ‘Gold’ level is designed for all Youth riders that are prepared to declare in 2013 or are at a minimum riding level of FEI Junior. This category also includes all 4,5, and 6 year old horses that are prepared to show in the FEI Young horse classes. The ‘Silver’ level is for all Youth riders that are considered ‘up and coming’ and are working towards reaching the next level in their riding. Though now that the summer is fast approaching, Ontario Has Talent will shift its focus to the show grounds. Clinics will cease until the fall, as most riders are now busy employing their skills on the show grounds. Ontario Has Talent will be holding fundraising events at various shows over the summer months, to help raise money to support upcoming events and riders. Some of the past events held have included clinics with various Dressage professionals, including Cindy Ishoy, Jon Costin, Belinda Trussel, Julie Watchorn, Cara Whitham, Tim Dvorak, and Diane Creech. In December of 2012 they also held a High Tea and Fashion show to raise funds to support EC Youth Riders. Recent fundraising events have also included a bake sale at the KLDA Dressage show in early May, as well as a sale of custom bumper stickers at the Equivents CDI3*/Y/J EC Gold & Silver Show held at Angelstone, May 17-19th. Upcoming events include a Dressage Symposium with Olympian Ashley Holzer and FEI 5* Dressage Olympian Judge Ms. Elizabeth McMullen, which will be held at The Royal Canadian Riding Academy (RCRA) on June 29th-30th. Current updates on upcoming events and fundraisers can be found by visiting the Ontario Has Talent Facebook page.

The ultimate goal of Ontario has Talent is to develop an Ontario based program where all riders, not just Young Riders, can benefit financially. There is also the hope that the program may one day become nationwide. Ms. Sutton states that she hopes that all riders who participate in the program come away with a strong sense of camaraderie. The program brings together, into one venue, a group of like-minded individuals with similar goals, allowing riders to connect and network with other Dressage riders. The program also serves as a chance for riders to not only receive a high level of continuing education to help further their training, but to reduce the stress of trying to find funding to support that training. Most of all, Ms. Sutton emphasizes that this program is a team effort. It is thanks to the parents who help the program run, who donate food, and organize transport, that Ontario Has Talent is what it is today. Ontario Has Talent stands not only as a program to help support the training of Ontario Dressage riders, but to create one venue where Ontario youth, as well as the Equine High Performance community, can come together and celebrate the sport of Dressage.

// Contact Information // Website | Ontario Has Talent Facebook | Ontario Has Talent

The Art of

Natural Dressage

The Magic in Playing with your Horse!


ith the aid of specialized bridles, bits, spurs and whips, it is all too easy to forget that dressage is a sport that enhances the horse’s natural movement. It has become apparent that many riders now feel it is easier to force the horse into a frame and ‘muscle’ them around the required movements in the test rather than taking the time to understand what they are asking from their teammate.

- Tia Culley

It was only through pure chance that I discovered how effective natural dressage can be. One winter Jose slipped on the ice and injured muscles in his back. The vet had prescribed at minimum, six weeks of stall rest and hand walking. I knew my horse was naturally playful, however and the idea of him having to walk around the indoor arena for hours on end would only make him more bored. This is I for one, admit that I used to be one when I decided to simply ‘play’ with of those riders. Although I was never Jose. forceful within my training, I had also been told by numerous coaches that What is Natural Dressage? my horse, Jose, was too lazy, and Natural Dressage is the art of training needed to be bullied more into his classical dressage movements at movements. I was thus equipped with liberty. This means that it is training rowel spurs and a dressage whip to without the use of pressure, tools or help me in my battles. any kind of force that make the horse submit to the rider. It is therefore a I can tell any reader that this method method of training which works to rarely works in the long-term. Even empower the horse and is based though I was able to get Jose to perform solely on the notion of positivity and well, our battles became increasingly the pleasure of having both the horse more dangerous. My gentle giant and rider learn from each other in a started bolting, rearing and bucking harmonious approach. during our training sessions. It was obvious that he resented being ridden I have experienced many benefits from and even on the ground he became using this method of training. The sour, reluctant to come to the fence loose work provides an opportunity and even threatened to bite me on for the rider to listen and learn occasion. about their horse; whether they are

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out-going and playful or quiet and reserved in character, how they respond to the tone of your voice, and what they find fun and interesting. This knowledge will help the horse and rider establish a stronger relationship of trust and understanding, which, in-turn, will greatly improve the ridden relationship as well. The ground work also allows the horse an opportunity to develop a natural rhythm in their gaits without their balance being disturbed by the weight or movements from a rider. I would highly recommend regular natural dressage training sessions for horses that are green, underdeveloped or recovering from an injury.


Just as every person is different, so too is every horse.


will know when this happens) you will have the solid foundation to then start training all other moves within dressageeven bowing and the levade with some practice!

Just as every person is different, so too is every horse, therefore, there is no strict schedule or guide that you have to follow with this training method. There is however, one crucial objective that every rider must achieve before training at liberty can work. The rider must prove to their horse that they are interesting enough to be played with!

The rider must remember that the horse, at all times, is the teacher. When your horse is free, without any tools to capture his attention, and only minimal food rewards, you will need to keep him interested through your personal qualities only. Only once this relationship has been established can you start trying other exercises together. Your challenge is to essentially inspire your horse to work with you and to do that, they must first learn that being with you and moving with you can be totally voluntary.

Your Horse is Your Teacher

Be Patient and Positive

Helpful Exercises and Advice

The first and most important exercise is for the rider. The rider must learn to stop demanding and rather, become more interesting and fun for the horse. On the occasion, this can prove to be a rather challenging task, but once you have succeeded (and you

Liberty training can be challenging in the beginning. Your horse may choose to ignore you and walk away at anytime, and this is completely acceptable. Try to keep in mind that your horse is expecting you to demand something of them, so of course they will at first be reluctant to believe that your relationship has

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changed. My best advice is, in the beginning, be patient and positive with your horse. When watching a dominant horse within a herd, if they are calm, the herd is calm. The minute that the leader appears stressed, it shows that there is a potential for danger and the entire herd will become tense. The same goes for natural dressage, if the rider remains calm and patient within their leadership, the horse will eventually learn to trust and become more confident around them. In the first few sessions, be prepared to let go of your inhibitions. When you’re in the arena with your horse, entertain yourself. Walk and run around, and stand in random places. When your horse acknowledges your presence, reward them verbally or give them a pat if they are close, and then continue with what you were doing before. When your horse comes over, give them lots of positive encouragement. Soon your horse will learn that it can be fun to spend time with you.

Respect the New Relationship As soon as your horse actively wants to be with you and learn from you, you need to be very careful with this new relationship. I had to significantly alter my views on training because as soon as I asked Jose to do a lot within a short period of time, he quickly became bored and stopped playing along.

Follow the Leader Once you can maintain your horse’s trust and attention you are ready to start playing around and adding in movements. The horse/ rider relationship is much like a conversation between two humans. In a conversation with someone that you are listening to, you will most likely look at them, nod, and change your expressions in synchrony with theirs. But whereas many humans are good at doing this in conversations with each other, we often forget it when we are interacting with our horses. Horses naturally become very curious when they notice that someone is attentive to the micro-changes in their behaviour and in-turn, most will start

It is all too easy to forget that dressage is a sport that enhances the horse’s natural movement.

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backing-up, all other movements can develop easily with time and practice. reacting to your behaviours too. You can encourage this by setting up situations that make it easier for your horse, like standing in front of them and moving to the side. If your horse is already paying attention he will most likely step in the same direction. If you reward them at just the right moment, they will learn that reacting to you is a positive thing for them to do and they will start doing it more often. Try to make your actions slow and clear so that you can see at what point your horse starts to react. It also gives your horse time to think and does not break the connection of communication. With Jose, I found it helpful to play lots of games at this stage. His favourite was tug-of-war and tag with the lead rope. I would run until he caught up with me and took the lead rope from my hand and then I would chase him until I could grab hold of the rope (a very tiring game for me!). When your horse has learned that it is a good idea to react to your movements, actions like backing-up become very easy to ask for. This is easiest facing your horse, keeping your eyes focused on the point of their body that you want to move backwards and slowly moving your hips towards them. Remember to remain positive; as soon as your horse takes one step backwards, reward them so they know that was what you wanted. As soon as your horse learns the aid for

As every horse responds differently there are no specific directions on how to continue. My best advice is to have fun with it, learn what your horse likes to do and go from there! Natural dressage drastically changed my relationship with Jose for the better. Within a few months, my spurs and whip had disappeared completely and Jose was responding to my aids better than ever before. Where I was once afraid to even leave the arena, I was now taking my horse out for bareback hacks in the fields! Overall our understanding and trust with each other improved significantly. Natural dressage can significantly benefit any horse and rider relationship. It encourages a better understanding between the two entities and proves to be a fantastic training method for developing dressage movements from the ground. With only a positive attitude and loads of patience it is unfathomable how far natural dressage can take you. So get out there and go have fun with your horse!

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Center Stage with Julie


Elite Canadian Dressage Rider

Julie aboard Dobble Tyme (Photo: Supplied by J. Watchorn)


ulie Watchorn didn’t always ride Dressage, though with a family history of riding, it would seem as if it was in her blood. Currently an accomplished FEI Dressage Rider, she currently works and rides out of her home, Stirling Hill Farm, in Schomberg ON (CAN). She was kind enough to let us pick her brain for a few minutes to find out what she’s currently up to, what some of her most memorable riding moments are, and what inspires her to continue riding in the Dressage world.

Julie & Dobble Tyme at NAYJRC (Photo: ©Phelps Photos; supplied by J. Watchorn)

What inspired you to pursue a career with horses? Have you always ridden Dressage? JW: I have always loved horses, but

Julie & Quintesse at NAYJRC (Photo: ©Phelps Photos; supplied by J. Watchorn)

I started riding when I was six with my cousins Lisa and Tim Stanton. They are Reiners who own and train Quarter Horses (Stoneridge Farm). In the beginning I primarily rode English Equitation, and did some jumping at farms like Cornerstone Equestrian. I then moved to England, and while living there purchased Quintesse in Germany as a Jumper. My riding in England was more Dressage based, with more flat lessons, and ultimately my coach converted me to Dressage. I jumped in with both feet, and Quintesse was such a try hard, willing to do whatever I asked, so I was able to successfully convert her from a Jumper to a Dressage horse. My mom also used to ride, so riding is very much in the family.

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What do you consider your greatest riding achievements so far? JW: I really enjoyed the Young Rider experience. I achieved a silver and bronze medal at the North American Junior/Young Rider Championships (NAYJRC) and was also invited to the first ever FEI Young Rider World Cup in Germany where I came 11th overall.

What are your plans for the future? JW: I currently have two young horses that I am working with, Diamond Tyme and Debonair Tyme. I would like to try and qualify one of them for The Pan American Games in 2015. Long term goals would be to be part of the World Equestrian Games (WEG) team or the Olympic Team.

What inspires/helps you work through those tough riding moments that can sometimes seem unsurpassable? JW: The horse itself. It’s like a puzzle you are trying to put together; the reward comes when it all finally clicks together. My support system of my mother and father, who are always there for me, also helps. My mom is at the barn everyday with me; to be my eyes on the ground. Also my coach Evi Strasser, she has trained numerous horses up the ranks so her knowledge is invaluable.

Do you have a favourite riding moment? JW: I have a few.

Dobble Tyme (Photo: ©Phelps Photos; supplied by J. Watchorn)

I won a bronze medal at FEI Young Riders with Dobble Tyme in the Freestyle. It was one of those moments where everything just clicked, it was the type of music that changed when you needed it to, and the Jumpers and Eventers had come over to watch and were cheering me on. It is a ride I will never forget. Lorraine McDonald even wrote on my test sheet that I was dancing out there. Another favourite moment would be my Intermediare Freestyle with Quintesse at Blainville under the lights. The crowd was nice, the atmosphere was great, and again everything just clicked. Joan McCartney was so excited; she came over to me and told me she had given me a couple of nines. I still have the test sheet from that class, I’m so proud of it, I scored over 70%.

What is your advice to aspiring riders looking to make their mark in the dressage community? JW: Be a part of the FEI pony, Junior, and Young Rider divisions. They not only teach you to go for a goal, but you get to be a part of a group of likeminded individuals, and it allows you to develop lifelong friendships with your team mates. I am still friends with many of the people I was team mates with when I competed in Young Riders.

You can learn more about Julie by visiting her website:

Stirling Hill Farm

Julie & Quintesse at the FEI Young Rider World Cup in Germany (Photo: Supplied by J. Watchorn)

Left: Leah Wilson, Alex Duncan, and Julie Watchorn (Photo: ŠPhelps Photos; supplied by J. Watchorn) Right: Julie & Dobble Tyme (Photo: ŠPhelps Photos; supplied by J. Watchorn)

Julie aboard Quintesse (Photo: Supplied by J. Watchorn)

The Essentials How to employ accuracy for better training and higher marks in your dressage test!


his article addresses some of the nitty-gritty details of what it takes to put together a really solid dressage test. In a word, it comes down to accuracy! Why is accuracy important? Well for one thing, it is part of your score for each movement. Even if the quality of gait is exceptional, you can lose points for having asymmetrical circles, cut corners, overshot centerlines, etc; even if they increase the difficulty of the movement (i.e. a circle that is too small). Why is this the case? It is because accuracy is actually very important from a training standpoint. Riding accurate figures means that you are training your horse to move symmetrically on the left and right rein. If you do not pay attention to your figures in training, your horse is more likely to develop unevenly; for example, he will tend to make his circles too small on one rein and too large on the other. On the flip side, if you pay attention and ride accurate figures, you will challenge your horse and yourself on your weak side, developing more even suppleness left and right, which will affect the straightness of your work down the line. This can ultimately affect your horse’s soundness as you move into challenging collected work. Today, we are going to focus on improving your accuracy in three areas: Corners, circles, and transitions.

Corners Riding great corners gives you many advantages in a dressage test. For one thing, it gives you more time to prepare for upcoming movements. You can get an extra two or three strides in a good corner compared to a corner that was cut. Be sure to figure out the ideal depth of corner for you and your horse; this will depend on the size and suppleness

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- Stephanie Crawford

of your horse, and his level of training. If you try to ride too deep, you may disrupt the rhythm, balance and frame. However, most people ride their corners too shallow. If you are riding even a training level test, you are expected to be able to do a balanced turn onto the centerline in trot. This is equivalent to riding a half 10 meter circle. Granted that you can indeed ride a balanced turn onto the centreline, you are already capable of riding a ¼ 10 meter circle in each corner. When you are practicing, don’t sell yourself short on reaping the benefits of this simple gymnastic exercise. Get in the habit of making each corner the beginning of a 10 meter circle (or deeper), and when you are in the show ring it will pay dividends. (Fig. A)

Transitions If you haven’t already, check out the scoring distribution of the dressage test you are practicing. If you are riding CADORA or Equine Canada tests, you will notice that you get a lot of separate marks, just for the quality of your transitions. This is another instance where important training principles are emphasized in dressage test scoring. The goal of our training is to develop a horse that is submissive to the aids, and who increasingly engages, activates and lowers his hind end in his work. The more upward and downward transitions you incorporate into your training, the more you are working toward that long term goal, and it will really show in your test scores.



Fig. A

Circles (a.k.a. Geometry lesson)

If you are new to the dressage world, or want to improve your scores on your figures, this section is for you. If you do not ride in a standard sized ring, or don’t know the size of your ring, make sure you find out so you know the size and shape of the figures you are riding. If you get the chance, try to practice in the size of ring you will be showing in. For training or first level, the ring may be either 40m or 60m long – find out ahead from the show organizer. The following descriptions and figures are based on a 20X40 meter ring.

The Art of the Round Circle 20 meter circles span the entire width of the arena. If you are riding your circle at A or C (Fig. D), you will touch the track for ONE STRIDE at three points: Points 1 and 3: On the track, 10 meters down the long side (which is 4 meters past the corner letter) on each long side. Point 2: The middle of the short side at A or C. Point 4: On the centre line, directly between E and B (or 20 meters down the long side if you are in a 20m X 60 m ring). If you are riding a 20 meter circle starting at E or B, you have two imaginary points on the centreline to touch: the 10 meter point between X and A, and the 10 meter point between X and C. Keep in mind that if you are in a 20 X 60m ring, you will still be 10 meters from X when you cross the centre line, but you

The Eloquent Equine 32

{ Tips for producing good transitions in the show ring

• When you are in a dressage test, you are required to do transitions in certain spots, whereas during your training at home you may be more likely to do them when it feels right. At home, try making your transitions at certain points to create a testlike situation. A good exercise is to practice walktrot transitions around the outside of the ring, changing gait at each letter (i.e. walk at M, trot at C, walk at H, trot at B, etc). You may be surprised at the level of challenge this adds! • During your test, focus on giving your horse a lot of preparation (i.e. half-halts) so that your transitions are not too abrupt or unbalanced. This requires thinking two movements ahead of where you are in your test, one of the hardest things about test riding! Some of the training level tests allow transitions to occur between two letters (i.e. “between H and C, develop working canter”) – don’t let this fool you into thinking that you can wait for that first letter to come before you start preparing you horse for the transition! • Remember that your horse may react a little differently in the show ring then at home. If he is a little hot, try to keep a soft hand and take advantage of his forward energy, but be sure to give him even more preparation for the downward transitions than you would at home. • Remember that the judge is looking for harmony as well as accuracy, so use your judgment. You are more likely to be rewarded for a nice transition that was a little late, than a hollow, tense and abrupt transition at the letter. A good transition a little off the marker could receive a 7, but a bad transition at the marker can not.

are now 20 meters from A and C. For 10 and 15 meter circles, note that it is very important to have a good feel for where the quarter-line is. That’s the line that runs straight between the centre line and long side, 5 meters from each.

20 m 15 m 10 m 5m

The bottom line is, if you don’t

make it to these landmark points, your circle is going to be too small, too large, or irregularly shaped. If you spend more than one stride at each point, your circle will not be round. Either way, if the judge notices, you will lose points even though your horse may be going nicely. This is because the judge has to assume that you were unable to communicate effectively to your horse about where he should go. On the flip side, even if your horse is not as extravagant as the one you warmed up with, you can gain valuable points by showing good harmony and submission through the accuracy of your figures.

Fig. C

Even if the quality of gait is exceptional, you can lose points for having asymmetrical circles

15 m


10 m m Fig. D

Homework Use pylons or similar markers just to the inside of the track you intend to ride on, marking the four points of your circle. If you find you are drifting away from the markers on the open sides of you circle, double up your pylons so you are riding through two, with one on each side of your desired path. This seemingly simple exercise can really tell you when your horse wants to fall in or out, and the act of setting out the pattern will ensure that you understand the pattern that you are going to be riding. This is a great exercise for serpentines, loops off the wall, and even centrelines. The Eloquent Equine 34

Extra tips for accurate test riding 1. At the letter: When a test says that something is to be done at a certain letter (which is basically every movement!) it means when the rider’s body is at the letter. 2. Diagonals: When you ride a diagonal, keep the above in mind. Make sure you ride all the way around the first corner and your body is at the letter before turning off the track. Aim your horse’s nose to hit the track a meter before the letter at the end of the diagonal; that way your body will arrive to the track AT the letter, and you will avoid getting too deep, or having to cut, the far corner. 3. Circles: When you are riding a circle, keep in mind what the judge can and can’t see from C. If you make your circle a little “long” it can still appear to be the correct diameter, and perhaps be a little easier for you horse. If it is too “wide” it will be very obvious to the judge (Fig. B). 4. Centrelines: Riding a straight centerline takes PRACTICE. Excellent horses and riders throw marks down the toilet all the time for bad centrelines. You don’t have to be talented or have a fancy horse to get a 9 on your centre line. Figure out how to turn onto the centreline without over- or under-shooting, then ride nice and forward for straightness (horses are a bit like bicycles: the slower you go, the more wobbly they become!). Practicing centrelines is a great training tool as well – the turns and transitions will strengthen and supple your horse, and put him on the aids. 5. Keeping a clear head: Life and dressage tests are too short to dwell on the things that went wrong! Try to think of the upcoming movements and how to best guide your horse through them based on how he is feeling today. Instead of becoming frustrated, try to make the test a positive experience for your horse, so that he will be a willing, trusting partner for your next ride. Good luck!

35 The Eloquent Equine

Featured 37 Justin Ridgewell 39 Crawford Equestrian 41 Stirling Hill Farm 42 Jensen Equestrian

Justin Ridgewell Located just outside of Uxbridge at Foxfire Equestrian, Justin Ridgewell has ridden and worked with horses for over 20 years. Alongside pursuing his own career in Dressage, Justin offers freelance coaching and training services, offsite clinics, has applied for his ‘r’ judging status, and is currently sponsored by Shur Gain - Equine Nutrition.

A Bit About Me and my Horse(s)

- Justin Ridgewell


began my riding career at the age of nine just outside Windsor, ON (CAN). I earned riding lessons at a young age by working and volunteering at the Windsor Essex Therapeutic Riding Association. By the age of 11 I was competing in the hunter ring at local schooling shows in the Windsor/Essex area. Winning many awards, championships and trophies my interest in horses and riding was pushed into high gear. I purchased my first horse Dakoda, a young weanling colt, straight out of a field. Taking the time to gain Dakoda’s trust and building a strong relationship helped me when it came time to break the young colt myself. By the time I turned 18 I had taken over management of Meadowbrook Equestrian Center in McGregor, ON. After spending almost two years at Meadowbrook I packed my bags, put Dakoda on a trailer and headed off to Michigan for a summer of equestrian fun. Employed by Double JJ Ranch and Resort, I played the part of a wrangler for the next nine months until an unexpected phone call brought on an interesting opportunity.

On October 15, 2004 I once again packed my bags and headed eight hours north to Stouffville,ON where I was given a dream job for any horse enthusiast. I was granted the position of groom/working student to Canadian Olympian and World Equestrian team member Belinda Trussell at the beautiful Oakcrest Farms. I was coming from a hunter/jumper background so the thought of being a student of an Olympic dressage rider was extremely intimidating. I gave dressage a chance and in the end I have never looked back. It is highly addictive once you start. I went on to train, ride, and compete under the tutelage of Belinda. Oakcrest Farms and Belinda then merged with John MacPherson Equestrian to form what is now the current elite dressage training facility.

I worked for them for over 7 years as their working student and groom. I have travelled across Canada, the US and Europe alongside Belinda and John. The immense knowledge, patience and encouragement from both Belinda and John helped me to achieve my childhood goal of competing at the FEI level. I was given the chance to show Jacardo, a KWPN stallion, in my first Prix St George competition. Finishing 19th out of 27 riders with a 61% for my first time at that level was a breath of fresh air, especially since I was up against many of Canada’s professionals in the industry. I have had a lot of ring experience, competing horses at many dressage shows from training level to PSG and earning Championships along the way. In 2010 I was invited to ride in two fundraising quadrilles for “Polo for Heart” and the “World Equestrian Games send-off party”. I rode Konnor, a 16 year old warmblood gelding owned by Wendy Hoehne of Quasar Equestrian. I am currently schooling young training horses at home alongside coach and mentor John MacPherson. I am also bringing along a very talented 10 year old KWPN gelding named “Well Done” (Welly) who is owned by John. I have high hopes for Welly and myself in the next few years. My sights are set firmly on the FEI ring and the 2015 Pan American Games. Photo(s) | J. Ridgewell

The Eloquent Equine 38

Crawford Equestrian B

ased out of Waterloo, ON (CAN), Crawford Equestrian offers mobile training and coaching services. Owned and operated by Stephanie Crawford, Crawford Equestrian specializes in building strong foundations with dressage principles.

(Photo: Kelly Welsh, Supplied by S. Crawford)

The principles of systematic physical and mental development of the equine athlete, derived from classical horsemanship, are the bread and butter of every good training program, regardless of the discipline.

Stephanie and her mare Charizma (Photo: Supplied by S. Crawford)

39 The Eloquent Equine

Stephanie’s training and coaching services include groundwork, starting under saddle, behaviour modification, introduction to jumping, Dressage training (up to second level), and presentation of horses in competition. Stephanie’s first goal in training is to promote the long-term soundness of the horse’s body and mind. Coaching sessions are offered on your own horse, and are catered to your personal riding goals, with a focus on developing correct position, effective seat, and proper schooling methods. “My goal is to provide enjoyable sessions that improve understanding, confidence and performance through a systematic approach focused on correct basics and rider technique.” Stephanie has been involved with horses for almost twenty years, and has worked with some of the world’s best trainers and clinicians. Some of Stephanie’s career highlights include traveling to England to be a working student for Mary Wanless, an expert in biomechanics and sports psychology in

riding; as well as time working at Millar Brook Farm as a show jumping groom. She has participated in clinics with Arthur Kottas, and spent five years as an equine veterinary assistant. Stephanie enjoys working with all breeds, disciplines, and riders who are interested in learning good horsemanship and improving their skills. She believes that regardless of talent, experience, or individual limitations, every horse and rider can make tangible improvements through correct technique and a resourceful approach, therefore finding enjoyment in the pursuit. More information about services offered, including rates, can be found by visiting the Crawford Equestrian Website.

It is crucial at the beginning to spend time building the strength and confidence of the young horse so that it can be a good athlete and partner for many years.

“In the classical approach to riding, there is infinite room for improvement of technique and understanding. I am a proponent of finding satisfaction in the journey itself. Riding challenges us physically, mentally and emotionally, and the challenge never diminishes with experience acquired – new challenges continually arise, demanding increased precision, athleticism and comprehension (and often humbleness!). Although absolute perfection can never be attained, there are moments of perfection all along the way which continue to inspire.”

// Contact Information // Website | Crawford Equestrian Email | sandg@hotmail.com

Stirling Hill Farm S

ituated just 40 minutes North of Toronto (CAN), in Schomberg (ON), Stirling Hill Farm is home to Elite Canadian Dressage rider Julie Watchorn.

Julie aboard Quintesse (Photo: Supplied by J. Watchorn)

Above/Below: Stirling Hill Farm (Photo: Supplied by J. Watchorn)

// Contact Information //

Stirling Hill Farm is conveniently located, provides quality Dressage training, and prides itself on providing top notch care to all its inhabitants. Quality care is the pride of Stirling Hill Farms, and is reflected in the level of service and care staff provide to clients and their horses. Some of the highlights of the facility include a 20 stall barn, a 220’ x 80’ indoor arena, an outdoor arena, laundry facilities, heated tack room and viewing room, and a dedicated staff who is on site 24/7. Resident FEI rider Julie Watchorn is an accomplished Dressage rider, who achieved a silver and bronze medal at the North American Junior/Young Rider Championships (NAYJRC) and was also invited to the first ever FEI Young Rider World Cup in Germany. She is currently training two young horses, Debonair Tyme and Diamond Tyme, and is hoping to qualify one of them for the Pan American Games in 2015.

Website | Stirling Hill Farm Email | stirlinghillfarm@gmail.com Stirling Hill Farm also occasionally Facebook | Stirling Hill Farm offers for sale top quality sport horses. 41 The Eloquent Equine

Jensen Equestrian L

ocated in Blackstock, ON (CAN), just North of Toronto, Jensen Equestrian is home to Elite Canadian Dressage rider Stephanie Jensen. Stephanie is an experienced FEI Grand Prix Rider and Certified EC Level 2 Coach, who offers coaching, training, and sales.

Stephanie aboard SJE Addiction (Photo: Laura Ireland, Supplied by S. Jensen)

While she specializes in Dressage, Stephanie has trained riders from all disciplines, including Eventing, Hunter, Jumper, and Equitation. Whether you’re a casual rider or serious competitor, new to horses or well advanced, Stephanie is willing to work with you. Jensen Equestrian is conveniently located, central to Oshawa, Whitby, Port Perry, Bowmanville, Uxbridge, and Stouffville. Stephanie has been working with and around horses since she was a small child. In 1996 and 1997 she was part of the Young Rider team for Dressage, and went to the North American Young Rider Championships as part of the Ontario Team. In 1999 she first tried out for the Pan American games and in 2003 debuted in the Grand Prix with her horse Marzano. She currently competes at the Grand Prix Level with her horse SJE Addiction, while also training her up and coming FEI horses.

Jensen Equestrian also offers for sale a selection of sport horses, suitable for various disciplines. Stephanie offers only quality horses with exceptional temperament and // Contact Information // movements, and is dedicated to matching each rider with the right horse. Horses range in age and training, from high level mounts Website | Jensen Equestrian upcoming prospects. A list of horses Email | jensenequestrian@aol.com to currently for sale can be found on the Jensen Facebook | Jensen Equestrian Equestrian Website.

The Eloquent Equine 42

DON’T MISS ... Our Next Issue! Due out July 2013 The theme for Issue 4 is:

The Performance Horse Featuring: Tips for Feeding Your Performance Horse, Conformation Quick Tips, & Breed Profiles. ... and so much more!

Stay Tuned!

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The Eloquent Equine | Special No.2, Dressage  

The second Special Edition of The Eloquent Equine. This spring issue takes a look into the world of Dressage. It includes tips on how to imp...

The Eloquent Equine | Special No.2, Dressage  

The second Special Edition of The Eloquent Equine. This spring issue takes a look into the world of Dressage. It includes tips on how to imp...


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