Latest News at Helicon Farm
Helicon Farm has lost one its longtime residents in the beautiful gelding Andiamo (Andric/Ginger/Grundstein). Andiamo was 17 hands, but slender, elegant and leggy. He had a sweeping trot that was airy and light. He was orphaned at just month old and adopted as yearling by his owner for life, Susan Morgan. My heart goes out to his owner Susan, his best horse friend Cortege and to all of us at Helicon who enjoyed this friendly, quirky character. Thank you to the devoted crew at ESMS who did all they could to help Andiamo, but a congenital digestive issue made a miracle impossible this time.
Summer time is a good time for a hiatus from showing, but my students finished the season on a high note. Andrea and Dylan made their Prix St. Georges debut with great scores in the mid sixties in Oklahoma! The Fort Worth Dressage Club put on a nice schooling show at beautiful Willow Draw. I am really proud of Libby Afflerbach and Doc and Theresa Sheehy and Ory dominating training level with scores in the 70s!! Kate Zielke and Bella also had a great first show together with two solid tests. It was Kate's first show since childhood and she did a super job with sensitive Bella. Emily Kutz young Andalusian Don Tango made First level debut with a mid sixties test and he behaved like an old campaigner.
Figlio and I have big news! We made our Prix St Georges debut at the Platinum Classic in Houston and got scores of 66 and 65%! We finished 2nd and 3rd in our big open classes. I am so proud and excited about this wonderful horse. We also finished the last scores for my USDF Silver Medal!
I am also proud of Emily Kutz making her third level debut at the DDC show and earning a score towards her bronze!
Susan Morgan's Rubicon made his recognized show debut this June in Tyler. We were keeping expectations modest but Roo did great for his first time and got lots of 7s. He's finally growing up!
I have been having a lot of fun riding Trina Gilchrist's gorgeous FEI horses while she travels with her husband. Pati Pierucci will soon be here in Texas as the full time trainer and instructor at Trina's! Pati is a positive person with a ton of experience up to Grand Prix from Wellington to Devon.
I am very pleased to welcome Theresa Sheehy and her handsome gelding Oryol to Helicon Farm. Oryol is by the imported Russian stallion Otshag who descends from Hanoverian lines. Look for this talented pair in the showring soon.
Sherry Sheffield is an old friend returning to the farm. She is leasing the wonderful Lusitano gelding Tazo, owned by Sarah Pickering.
Javier Ortiz is a new clinician visiting Helicon Farm. Javier is an enthusiastic instructor and has fantastic exercises and images that make a big difference!
After a year of working to become a team, Figlio and I have launched our show career together! The super tough "O" for Olympic Judge Axel Steiner rewarded us with a 65% at Fourth Level Test 2 at our first recognized show of the season! At our next show (Tyler) we scored a 68% at Fourth level test 3! Figlio is a great character and he tries his best in the show ring.
To date, I have taken 26 youngsters out for their debut show, and counting! This spring Rubicon (owned by Susan Morgan) started his career at the Dallas Dressage Club's February show. We started at First level, scoring 63 and 64. Don Tango, an Andalusian gelding owned by Emily Kutz, made his first show at Curragh. Tango had a great very first test with a score of 66.89
My students are having a great spring too. Big kudos to Andrea Galbraith and her Andalusian Stallion Dylan for a fabulous debut at Fourth Level scoring 64.8 at 4-3!!!! Emily Kutz moved up to third level with her wonderful Irish Sporthorse Ping and plan to show recognized this summer.
I am delighted to welcome Kate ZIelke to Helicon. She is the proud new owner of our beautiful Andalusian x Bella. I am thrilled, because Kate is a lovely, kind rider and horse woman, and Bella gets to stay here at Helicon!
Welcome also to Florentina. This fancy black 16-2 hand mare by Fidertanz has big talent. She would make a great FEI project for a trainer who seeks potential on a tight budget. I am lusting after this mare myself! She is so sensitive and light on her feet!
Tyler is my favorite place to show, with spacious arenas set into the pastoral countryside! This September show, I went with Frisbee and Figlio.
I am so proud of Frisbee! We competed in just one test, but he was uphill and light for nearly the whole 4th level test, and earned over a 65 %... (64.85 after they deducted for his rider's navigation error. Aack!). I raised him from birth, and he is a handsome horse with nice gaits.. but his loooong body, breathing issues (Grade IV roarer), and neurologic weakness from an EPM infection, have made moving up the levels a hefty challenge. Fortunately Frisbee has a heart as big as Texas. Now, finally... we have SELF-carriage!!! Thank you Pati Pierucci for giving me some great tools to help Frisbee!
I also took the new guy Figlio as a noncompete. He schooled so well on Friday I decided to dive in with a class on Saturday. I've never practiced a test on him and Figlio is just 8 years old, but he has already campaigned in the FEI 6-year-old tests. This boy showed me he knows when it's time to show! He grew another hand as we went around the arena and gave me such a thrill. We scored a 65% at 3rd-3 with a some misteps and mis-cues that we can smooth out as we learn each others' language. Even with the rough spots, Figlio proved he has a spirit that is 100% in for the partnership.
Finali is still here and progressing in her training. How is it possible that I still have this marvelous mare for sale? Doesn't everyone want a quality horse that is easy to ride, easy to show, easy to sit, easy to hack, and quiet and confident? She is also nice-moving, talented and safe .... so come for a test ride! She is a registered Hanoverian with the lines of Florestan, Brentano II and Wolkentanz! She is never marish and offers the bonus value of being able to make more lovely Hanoverians!
Dior, my miracle mare who survived surgery to remove a massive tumor in her head (!) while pregnant (!!) is quietly progressing in her work, despite not getting the attention she deserves. She is a rare daughter of De Niro! A few of my students are discovering what a treat it is to ride this talented mare.
My dear friend Connie stopped by to give me the ribbons her dreamboat mare Capella and I won together a few years ago. Those were such fun times. I miss them both.
Thank you to Mary Louise for the opportunity to help her and her lovely Dutch gelding Maximillion. It's been a lot of fun to see this horse and rider get unstuck and moving forward. Max is a super character with some quality upper level training in his past.
Another pretty new face is Yeager. This beautiful Hanoverian son of Rotspon is getting back in shape. He is so balanced and light. His owner Vanessa is a lucky woman to learn dressage with him.
A month with Irina Bourykina's Hanoverian gelding Romancino flew past. He is just three but already impressive with his wonderful mind and gaits. He was bred by Walkabout Station by Romancero out of Donnacina (by Donnerhall)! Roma is back home but I will continue to work with them. Irina has a goal to make his debut at the DDC show in November!
Other horses here for training include Hanoverians Rubicon, Andiamo and Finali, Lusitano Vencedor, Andalusians Bella and Don Tango.
I have just finished the educational part of the "L" program. Next is practice judging and testing. The "L" is for Learner judge, and this a fantastic learning experience, whether you are a trainer, competitor, instructor or aspiring judge.
Tyler Spring Dressage Show
I took Finali (check out her sale page) and Bobbie Socks to the Tyler Dressage Show in April and both girls rocked! Taking two chestnut mares together to a show is tempting fate, but these two girls have cool nerves. No mare drama! Both girls came through with great scores too. Finali's first show ever... and she scored 68 and 69 at Training level and 67 at First level! It was a glorious feeling to be back in the show ring on Bobbie Socks. She scored a 69.8 at First level, even with a couple bobbles! Her Second level debut felt amazing, and we got a 67.78 from Natalie Lamping.
Tip of the Month for August
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!
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
2019 Calendar of Events
for Helicon Farm
Pati Pierucci clinic
Dallas Schooling Show - Athens
FWDC Show in Glen Rose
Texas Classic Dressage Show at Tyler
Platinum Classic - Houston
Dallas Dressage Show - Athens
FWDC Dressage Schooling Show
Central Plains Dressage - Oklahoma
Texas Classic Dressage Show at Tyler
Dressage at Devon
Nov 2 -3
Yellow Rose USDF Show
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!
Andiamo and Cortege July 2019