Latest News at Helicon Farm
Welcome to Helicon Farm to Gayla Miles and her handsome German Warmblood Wolly. Both horse and rider are lovely characters and we're excited to have them join us..
Theresa Sheehy and Oryol have been hard at work all summer and are really looking terrific. We went to the Dallas Dressage Club Fall Show in Athens, where they put in four solid tests to finish as the Training Level Reserve Champions!
I am also really pleased to be able to help Andrea Galbraith McNeal and her Andalusian Stallion Dylan Casimoro. They had an incredible year! Andrea earned her USDF Silver Medal, and together they won the USDF Andalusian Prix St Georges Amateur Andalusian division for the nation! They also won the 4th level Championship at IALHA Nationals and were third at Prix St. Georges in Open! You have to see these two go. They are an amazing combination.
Dior Noir has been steadily making a comeback. She had been on the proverbial back burner after surgery to remove a tumor from her sinus that required cutting a door into her forehead. I rode her with Pati Pierucci and Pati fell in love! She urged me to make Dior a priority and Dior has risen like the phoenix she is! After a 5 year hiatus, two great shows this fall! The Dallas Dressage Club show in October was her third level debut. She improved every test to finish with a 67% and Third Level Champion. She now has the performance scores to complete her Hanoverian Premium mare status.
In November Figlio dei Fiori and I returned to the show ring at Haras in Houston. He was feeling amazing and won his class on Saturday with a 64% (it was a 66% but I had a blond moment and turned right rather than left... and found out the hard way that at FEI that is a 2% deduction!). The best part of the weekend is that he felt so effortlessly forward. The judge wrote "great energy," which is a huge accomplishment for us. .
Look at this amazing mare. No its not Dior! It's Florentina by Fidertanz. She is the most incredible mover! Anybody want to partner on her? I'd love love to keep her. She will take an ambitious rider to the top or produce TOP sport horses for the serious breeder.
Andiamo and Cortege July 2019
Tip of the Month for December
Dressage is all about engaging the hind end so that the horse steps deeper with the hind legs. To teach your horse to take deeper steps, try this exercise:
As you walk or trot down the long side ask the horse to move his haunches away from the rail by crossing the hind legs to make a leg yield step. When you feel him start to make some nice deep steps, ride forward and then turn onto a ten meter circle. Repeat a few times in each direction. This exercise will improve suppleness and have your horse reaching well under himself!
For clinic reports and other horse adventures, please visit my blog
More articles I have written for Dressage Today (with links).
Training the Happy Athlete with Jessica Jo Tate
2020 Calendar of Events
for Helicon Farm
Kathy Connelly Clinic
January 18-19 2020
Houston January Show
Dallas Warmup Show - Athens
FWDC Show in Glen Rose
Texas Classic Dressage Show at Tyler
Dressage at Devon
If your horse feels heavy in the bridle, push your hands forward as if meeting a wall. This engages your core and ensures that it's not you who is heavy!
Always make sure you follow the motion of the horse - seat follows the back and hands and arms follow the mouth. Even when you give aids, stay with this motion.
Feeling stuck? Maybe you have an outdated rule that is holding you back. Many riders are still loyal to instructions they received decades ago. It may have been relevant to your skill level then, or to that horse, or that moment or maybe it was just bad info. Be willing to let go of a "rule" and learn new ways!
Dressage is often described as the process of shifting the horse's weight back to the haunches. This unfortunately makes riders try to pull the horse back into collection. Instead, think of engaging the haunches forwards, so that the horse drives his hind end under the forehand.
Are you straight in the saddle? Crookedness issues will effect every communication you make with your horse. In addition to getting help from mirrors, your coach or ground person, consider trying a good chiropractor! Even Charlotte Dujardin depends on her physio to keep her straight!
"Speed is the Enemy of Impulsion" one of my instructors used to say.
So many times we chase our horses forward, when what they really need is time and balance to reach under with the hindlegs. Use half halts for balance and lateral work to develop the reach of the hindlegs. Then you will be able to produce those thrusty suspended strides that make dressage riders swoon!
We all want a forward dressage horse, but what does that really mean? Race horses are very fast, but they don't have the agility and suspension we want. In dressage "forwardness" is the ability of your horse to respond quickly and easily to your requests. A forward horse can go, stop or make a transition immediately from your first light aid.
Confused about how to create contact? Get your position stacked first, then gently take the slack out of the reins as you close your legs to send horse toward the bridle. When you shorten your reins, advance your hands down the reins toward the horse's mouth, so that you don't pull his head in and close his throat. Your arms should be adaptable to maintain a sympathetic connection. When your horse carries his neck, you will be able to carry your elbows softly bent and close to your body, so that a baby could nestle there without falling!
Do you have following hands? Are you sure? My very first dressage lesson was on the importance of following the horse's mouth with my hands. The problem with this lesson is that having a following seat is even more important. If your hands are moving a lot, it might be a symptom that your seat and the horse's back are not moving enough.
Try this, still your hands on the horse's withers as he canters, follow with your seat, and let his motion guide your elbows open and closed. You may be surprised how much the contact steadies. Now you have hands that are both quiet and following!
Are you one of those riders who tries really hard? You may be trying too much. Experiment with doing less. Trying can create stiffness and tension which makes it harder for the horse to move freely. For example a leg aid that gets stronger becomes gripping and squeezing, which blocks the horse's back from swinging. Sitting up too much causes the rider's spine to be too stiff. Rein aids can easily become too strong or too long. Try giving tiny rein aids without any expectation of a response. Your horse will probably ignore it, but if you relax the rein and ask again, you may be pleasantly surprised!