Sandra Beaulieu Painting on Horseback

"In the zen of the moment
living, breathing art
brush stroke upon brush stroke
hoofbeat upon hoofbeat.
The horse forms the artist
the artist forms the horse
flowing, living, breathing art."

                              -Bethanne Ragaglia

Two years ago I was inspired with an idea... a way to combine my two passions, dressage & art. I wondered if it was possible to create a painting from the back of a horse. Hard work, creativity and patience brought my dream into reality! It is so amazing to see the results of a vision come to life. I hope that my journey will inspire others to follow their dreams. This video was made by a small group of amazing interns at the Innovation Center run by the University of Maine. Thank you to Matthew Bullard, Christine Le, Courtney Norman and Jacob Pelkey for their hard work and enthusiasm!

Related Art on Horseback Videos:

Painting for Have a Heart Fundraiser to benefit Triple R Horse Rescue: To learn more about this painting, click here.

Creating a commissioned painting, "Nicole's Dream". To request a commission, email: beginthedance@gmail.com

Originals and more information available at ArtonHorseback.com

(or click the image below)

Sandra Beaulieu Performs at Open House for Elysium Sport Ponies

We had such a wonderful day at Elysium Sport Ponies open house this past Sunday on June 15th. Elysium is owned by Laurie & Elisha Harvey in Atkinson, ME. The facility includes an indoor arena with attached stalls. It is well set-up and clean with a lot of natural light in the stalls and the arena. Douwe and Rovandio really liked the open stalls so they could visit with each other and see everything that was going on. The demos started in the afternoon followed by a wonderful bar-b-que later in the day.

I rode Rovandio with Lydia Rose Spencer dancing and we did our "Music Box" routine. We added more color to our costumes and glitter to the pedestal to help it stand out more. Rovy was impatient to start but once the music began he was really focused. He loves to have a job! His flying changes were better today and he had a really high rear at the end.

For my final ride I rode Douwe in our "Wings of Isis" routine. Today was the first time I tried doing the routine without a bridle and he was fantastic! He even did his flying changes! Good boy! This was such a fun ride, he was with me the entire time, relaxed and enjoyed performing.

Rovandio and Douwe also did their "Liberty Dance" routine again and today Douwe really wanted to stay on the pedestal. At the Safe Haven demo he really wanted to roll and was distracted away from the pedestal but at Elysium that's all he wanted to do!! He is so funny!

You can see more photos from the event on the Elysium Sport Ponies Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/ElysiumSportPonies

Amazing Oat Tarts made by Oats Any Time

I had to share these amazing oat tarts made by my friend Lisa Giulianelli who owns Oats Any Time (OAT). I met Lisa through the Top Gun Entrepeneur Program this winter and she is so nice, positive and fun to be around.

O.A.T. Fruit Filled Crumb Tarts contain 12g of Protein, 45g of Whole Grains and are a good source of Soluble Fiber, Omega-3 fatty acids, Vitamin E, Magnesium & Selenium. These all aid in Healthy Hearts, Lower Cholesterol, and Weight Control and Help Prevent and Control Type II Diabetes. 

 "My favorite is the apple cinnamon flavor!!" -Douwe

"My favorite is the apple cinnamon flavor!!" -Douwe

My personal favorites are the strawberry and blueberry flavors! I am hungry just thinking about them! One oat tart is like having a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast!

Lisa uses only the highest quality nutritional ingredients; Gluten Free Steel Cut Oats grown with “pedigreed” seed stock and tested with an R5 ELISA gluten test to ensure the absence of gluten. Whole Almonds loaded with vitamins, minerals, fiber and protein. Pure Macadamia Nut Oil, both delicious and healthful, is 80% monounsaturated and free from trans-fat and cholesterol. “Nothing But Fruit” filling. 

I am addicted to these oat tarts and Douwe loves them too! Lisa gave me some extra tarts for Douwe...here he is eating one for the first time!

Costume Update on the film FALCYYR

I wanted to give everyone an update on the film FALCYYR that Douwe and I will be acting in this summer. Right now the director Ahura Z. Diliiza is working on my costume for my part as Artemis, Goddess of the Hunt. I bought a beautiful new corset and he is adding some armor to it as well as improving upon my bow, arrows, quiver and bracer from the film Essential Realism that we did last fall. I am also excited to announce that Lisa Oberman of El Sueno Espanol is making a custom bitless bridle and breastcollar for us to use in the film. Lisa made the beautiful bridle and breastcollar that I used in Essential Realism for Douwe, click here to see photos from that film shoot. The new set will be made of brown leather with gold medallions to match my new costume. I am also getting a custom pair of breeches from the fabulous Sonya Bergstrom of Aanstadt-Das Breeches. She is making something really special for me, I can't wait to show you photos when they arrive! Please check out her breeches on Etsy, click here. Filming will begin in a few weeks for me and then the scenes with the horses will be later in the summer.

Check out FALCYYR on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Falcyyr/245021428904719

 My new steampunk style corset. He will be adding some armor-like pieces and other details so I am more of a warrior goddess.

My new steampunk style corset. He will be adding some armor-like pieces and other details so I am more of a warrior goddess.

 My newly improved bracers, quiver, arrows, bow and headdress.

My newly improved bracers, quiver, arrows, bow and headdress.

 Director Ahura Z. Diliiza putting the final touches on my new bow.

Director Ahura Z. Diliiza putting the final touches on my new bow.

 Handmade piece from one of the Valkyrie costumes.

Handmade piece from one of the Valkyrie costumes.

Art on Horseback - First Day Painting on Horseback!

What an exciting day! In 2012 I was inspired with an idea- a way to combine my two passions, dressage & art, into one. The first painting from horseback day I wanted to get Rovandio, a Lipizzan/Andalusian gelding owned by my mother-in-law, used to the hanging canvas, the table of paints, and the idea of going back and forth in front of the canvas. In addition to basic walk, trot, and canter I also use the piaffe and rein-back to work on the canvas. Rovandio is well-suited for this project because he is compact, smooth to ride, and sensitive. My Friesian gelding, Douwe's stride is too big and he isn't fine-tuned enough for me to do this.

I will be starting my first real painting soon and will be taking plenty of photos & video of the process to share with everyone. I am so excited to bring my vision into reality!

 Practicing my brushstrokes while Rovandio does the piaffe.

Practicing my brushstrokes while Rovandio does the piaffe.

 Working on my technique with Rovandio at the Spanish walk.

Working on my technique with Rovandio at the Spanish walk.

 Done for our first day!!! Can't wait for my next painting session!

Done for our first day!!! Can't wait for my next painting session!

Rovandio and Douwe Perform Together at Safe Haven Farm

To dance is to be out of yourself.
Larger, more beautiful, more powerful.
~Agnes De Mille

 

I am so pleased to share this video because it was Rovandio's first time performing away from home and the first time for all three of us to perform a liberty routine! Rovy was SUCH a good boy, relaxed, focused and loved the audience. Douwe did really well but had a few moments where he decided to do his own thing! But that is the challenge with liberty training and performing, I have to follow Douwe's lead as much as create the routine myself and be ready to adjust at a moment's notice. I can't wait to try it again! Enjoy!

Sandra Beaulieu Performs at Safe Haven Farm with Douwe and Rovandio

 Rovandio & Douwe. Photo taken by Kim Stone.

Rovandio & Douwe. Photo taken by Kim Stone.

What a wonderful first outing of the year! Douwe, Rovandio and I traveled to Safe Haven Farm in Durham, ME for their annual open house. There was a full schedule of great horses and riders from the area including jumping demos, sidesaddle dressage, cowboy mounted shooting, jousting, and much more. I rode Rovandio with my good friend Lydia Rose dancing in our first routine and then did a liberty ride with Douwe and Rovandio. This was Rovandio's first overnight trip away from home and he was wonderful. He was a little nervous and unsettled in his stall but when he got out in front of the audience he was 100% focused and relaxed. Last year the demos were in the large outside arena but the weather forced the riders and audience into the smaller indoor. We practice in a fairly small indoor arena at home anyway so the space wasn't an issue. The only hard part was that there was no warm-up and I only had a couple minutes to get on Rovy, do a few rounds of trot and canter and then start. I wasn't able to practice any of our harder movements so we could have done a much better job in the routine. But I was SOOO pleased at how relaxed Rovy was and how much he loved performing. There was absolutely NO tension in him at all, he knew what we were supposed to be doing and he watched Lydia dancing as well.

 Good boy Douwe! Photo taken by Annette Begin Masselli.

Good boy Douwe! Photo taken by Annette Begin Masselli.

In my second routine I rode Rovandio with Douwe at liberty in the arena. This was the first time I have shown any of our liberty training in public. I have had such a fun winter working these two horses together and every day they come up with new moves and teach me how to stay in the moment. Rovy was so relaxed that I was able to use my bareback pad on him (I am also riding him in a Dr. Cook Bitless Bridle). I prefer riding him in the bareback pad because I can feel his movements and keep his back swinging. Douwe was a really good boy except that he wanted to roll so he was a bit distracted...in hindsight I should have just let him roll at the beginning and then he might have focused better! But I knew that he would be happy to lay down so I was able to put that into the routine even though I hadn't planned on it. Most of the moves I hoped to show involved Douwe going on the pedestal which he usually LOVES to do but today he wanted to roll instead. Haha so you never know what you are going to get!! I want to thank Jennifer Poulin-Novaria for having her open house each spring and giving local riders the opportunity to perform for the local community.

Rovandio's First Time off the Farm!

Rovandio (aka Rovy) is owned by my mother-in-law, Bethanne Ragaglia. She has owned him since he was young and never needed to trailer him anywhere. This year (2014) I wanted to start taking him to shows with my Friesian gelding, Douwe, and using him for exhibitions. I wanted to make sure that he wouldn't be overwhelmed by the trailer or develop anxiety over the trailering process. My good friend, Elisha Harvey, trailered Douwe and Rovy to her barn, Elysium Sport Ponies, a few miles down the road from where Douwe and Rovy live, for me to see how Rovy would react to being off the property. With grass in his hay net and Douwe by his side we made the short trek to Elysium.

Rovy was a little excited when he unloaded but settled in like he had lived there forever! I was amazed at how well-behaved he was. I wasn't planning to do much with the horses, other than to let them free in the ring and take the time to relax, but within 5 minutes they were ready to do something. We practiced our routine where I ride Rovy and Douwe is at liberty. Elisha and Bethanne took some photos for me; her indoor ring has a lot of light so we were able to get some good shots. It was such a wonderful experience!

Douwe & Rovandio, Winter Training

To keep things fun and interesting this winter I did a lot of liberty and trick training with Douwe and Rovandio throughout the cold winter months. They are both incredibly smart but Douwe is scary smart! He loves learning new tricks and performing them on his own. When I finally brought the pedestal back to the barn this winter Douwe went and got on it all by himself, he owns that pedestal!

 Douwe and Rovy sharing the pedestal while Douwe gives me a gives me a big smile.

Douwe and Rovy sharing the pedestal while Douwe gives me a gives me a big smile.

I also rode him with a bareback pad all winter so I could practice my sitting trot and really feel what was going on underneath me. Douwe seems the happiest when there is the least amount of tack involved, bitless, bridleless, bareback, and at liberty. Inspired by other performers that I enjoy like Guy McLean and Frederic Pignon I started riding Rovandio with Douwe at liberty. Mostly I wanted to ride them together so it would be more fun and I could spend more time with each of them. They live together so they are very well behaved. Douwe is the boss but Rovy has become more confident with him over time. Here is a video of them after only a few days...they did a great job!

As the months progressed we started to figure out some new moves to perform together. I swear the horses make up most of the interesting ones! Douwe is an interesting horse because he likes to be the boss and basically set the stage for the routine. I have to be clever to feel what type of movement Douwe might try next and then offer that voice command so it is "my idea". I really feel like the three of us create this spontaneous dance every time we work together. It is so much fun to just let go and be creative in the precense of these dramatic animals. They love the recognition and take pride in their work.

 Douwe practicing how to lay down on a rug.

Douwe practicing how to lay down on a rug.

I have also been doing some new tricks with Douwe, he has learned how to give kisses really well and to pick up things. Douwe loves to use his mouth and he has BIG lips so it was a little touch and go at first for him to give kisses. But he is so smart, he picked it up in no time and now I just make the kiss noise and he gently gives me a kiss. Such a cutie. Rovy is getting better at the smile but hasn't started the kiss yet. We have a demo coming up in a few weeks and I am hoping to perform with the two of them for the first time! This will be Rovy's first time off the property,  my first time performing a liberty routine and their first time performing together. A lot of firsts! I will share photos and videos for sure.

Silver Lining Herbs Kidney Support Supplement

I wanted to share a wonderful product that I have been giving Douwe to help with his kidney issues. When I discovered that Douwe was experiencing discomfort related to his kidneys, I went searching online for supplements that might help with detox and kidney support. I was fortunate to find Silver Lining Herbs and their Kidney Support #37 supplement. This company produces high quality herbal supplements with years of experience and a long list of veterinarian recommendations. Here is the product description from the website:

Kidneys are another area where today's horses are put under extreme stress with a chemical environment. The kidneys primary function is to cleanse the blood and produce urine, which excrete wastes; due to the critical and body-encompassing nature of this job, improvement in kidney function will help restore and relieve a wide range of systems and symptoms. #37 Kidney Support helps maintain optimal kidney function, and may be beneficial in:

  • General bladder and kidney issues
  • Bone issues, such as calcium deposits, spurs, navicular etc
  • Behavior issues such as general crankiness, poor haulers, general discomfort
  • Performance issues such as avoiding hard stops and turns
  • Fluid retention, "stocking up" in lower legs
  • Looking at sides, abnormally frequent lying down, acting colicky but won't roll
  • Mineral buildup in kidneys
  • Muscle degeneration
  • Soreness in back, joints or feet, or tight muscles
  • Tendon, ligament or joint issues
  • Toe pointing
  • Won't relax, especially while being ridden

Active Ingredients: A proprietary blend of Marshmallow, Uva Ursi, Barberry, Garlic, Kelp, Parsley, Dandelion, Chamomile, Hydrangea and Juniper.

I bought the 60 day supply bag and am currently going through bag #2. Douwe's second saliva test showed that his kidneys are healing and that he is not experiencing discomfort anymore. When I contacted the company they recommended 1-2 bags but said that most horses do not need to stay on the supplement, it is meant to detox and heal the kidneys but isn't always needed once the process is complete. I have definitely noticed a big difference in Douwe's attitude and how he feels under saddle. I highly recommend this company and specifically this product.

Sandra & Douwe Cast in a new Film, FALCYYR!

I am excited to announce that Douwe and I have been cast in another Maine film called FALCYYR. My character is Artemis, Goddess of the Hunt. Filming will begin this May in Standish, ME. I met the director, Ahura Diliiza on the set of Frost Bite, a film directed by Alan Dillingham. I was cast as a news reporter in a scene with Ahura, in which he played one of the main characters. Douwe will also be in some of the scenes that will be filmed during the summer months. I am looking forward to practicing my acting skills, learning some sword fighting, wearing some great costumes and of course...riding my beautiful horse in another film!

Plot Outline (taken from the Falcyyr Facebook page):
Five women are chosen by the Fates at the request of Odin (the Great All-Father of the Nordic gods) to be trained, empowered and transformed into legendary beings known as Valkyrie. These four women are chosen from different time periods and backgrounds as the gods are not limited by time and space. Each of them are plucked moments before the time of their demise and given a choice to serve Asgard and therefore the world of Earth, or be placed back within the grasp of oblivion. Once transformed they will save the earth from an aggressive alien race that views humanity as a source of food.

Please take a moment to like the Falcyyr movie page on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Falcyyr/245021428904719

You can also visit their website with photos and blog posts from last year's filming. http://falcyyrmovie.com/

 The director Ahura, shown in the photo, will be playing Thor the God of Thunder in this film. They have done some filing over the past few years and hope to finish by fall of this year, 2014.

The director Ahura, shown in the photo, will be playing Thor the God of Thunder in this film. They have done some filing over the past few years and hope to finish by fall of this year, 2014.

Teaching a Friesian Horse How to Rear

Ever since I bought my Friesian gelding, Douwe, I had hopes of teaching him performance movements to use in exhibitions, such as lay down, bow, rear, and Spanish walk. After four years of persistence, and a lot of patience, he is beginning to understand what I am asking of him.

When I started teaching Douwe how to rear in December of 2012, he was confused and the normal way of asking wasn't working; he was just shutting down. I taught my Andalusian/Lipizzan gelding, Rovandio, to rear simply by lifting his head with the lead line and tapping him on the chest with my whip. I would reward him for a small lift of his shoulders and after a few days, he fully understood what was expected and enjoyed performing the rear. Douwe, on the other hand, would lean into the whip, trying to perform the Spanish walk, because that was all he knew. He is not naturally a vertical-moving horse. 

Some trainers will teach a horse to rear in a stall by backing the horse into a corner until they can not go any further, and instead lift their front legs. That reminded me of equine dentist experiences and how horses will rear to avoid him when they are in the corner! I didn't want the stall to be a place of tension for Douwe so instead, I backed him into a corner of the indoor arena. I then asked for him to lift with a hand and whip motion, rewarding the slightest inclination towards lifting his head, leg, or anything vertically. It took about a week for him to think of lifting both front feet off the ground, and even then he only gave a couple of inches.

I persevered with his training and he eventually developed what I fondly call his "bunny-hop"- a tiny rear performed multiple times. Eventually, he progressed to a rear with no tack on and then I tried it under saddle. I used the same corner of the arena each time we practiced (that was his "rearing corner"), and that way he knew what to expect. I had developed a vocal cue: "Annnnddd...UP!", which worked well, only he started anticipating and would rear on the "And" instead of the "Up"! At least he was doing what I asked for.

Fast forward to 2013 in Tallahassee, FL. I wanted Douwe to lift higher in the rear but I wasn't sure how to go about it. The difficulty lay in his avoidance of transferring his weight to his hind end, and instead pushing off his front legs. He would do the same thing when schooling piaffe, and avoid tucking his pelvis under and engaging his abdominal muscles. I started to use my spur towards the girth when asking for piaffe, which better cued him to lift his back. I then started to incorporate the piaffe-in-hand with the rear-in-hand, back and forth between the two, so he would think of lifting his front feet up in the piaffe. His rear started to become more balanced because he was thinking more about engaging his hind end and wasn't pushing off his front legs.

After a week or two, we had a successful breakthrough with the rear. I was able to gently use the spurs and he lifted higher then he has ever gone before! I am so happy to see his progress and feel that his balance has greatly improved. This work is also helping his canter collection and balance for the flying changes. Everything I have taught Douwe has been a learning experience; he is unlike any other horse I have trained. He has come into my life to be my tutor and he has opened my eyes to the awareness I must have when working with any horse. You must listen to the horse completely and think creatively about how to reach each individual animal. Here is a short video clip of Douwe working in the rear. I am so excited and proud!

Sandra Beaulieu - Training Journal for Friesian Gelding, Gryphon - Difficulty Picking Up Right Lead in Canter

Gryphon:

Gryphon is a 9-year-old Friesian gelding that is trained in the walk, trot, and canter and basic leg-yielding and has been ridden a lot on trails. I rode Gryphon while he lived in Maine and my friend, Marsha Hartford-Saap, has been working with him since his new owner purchased him. Like most Friesians, he is behind the leg aid and has trouble connecting in his top-line. Marsha has improved his connection and he is able to trot forward, feeling through in his back.

Day One

Biggest issue: 

Picking up the right lead in the canter. He needs a lot of help to coordinate his body for this transition.

To help him get the right lead:

1) When he tried to pick up the left lead, I made very clear half-halts with the rein and my seat to help give him a compelling reason to not take the wrong lead.

2) I used my voice to say "No," when he got the wrong lead and highly praised him when he got the correct lead.

3) After cantering on the correct lead for a few strides, I would ask him to halt, and then I fed him a treat so he would start to have positive associations with this lead.

4) I "unbalanced" him by counter-bending and thinking of physically pushing him onto the inside shoulder at the right moment.

He successfully picked up the right lead about 1/3 of the time and he started to understand the "game". I wanted him to have fun and look forward to his training sessions. I believe his difficulty lies in his having formed a bad habit and his lack of coordination. Most young horses have a difficult lead to pick up, much like people are right- or left-handed.

Day Two

Today, Gryphon had plenty of energy and I hardly had to use my leg or whip aids to keep the impulsion. I asked for leg-yields from the center line to the rail, followed by shoulder-in. I asked for canter once on his good (left) lead before trying the difficult lead. On the left, he lifted beautifully from the walk and showed an improvement in his engagement and uphill jump.

  • Moving to the right, he anticipated the canter transition and tried to pick up the left lead. I half-halted strongly and used my voice.
  • I asked again, and again he anticipated and attempted to pick up the left lead. I repeated my actions.
  • I then asked for the walk and re-grouped.
  • In the walk, I counter-flexed him and shifted my weight to the outside to push the energy towards his inside shoulder.
  • From there, he jumped into the correct lead and continued to get the correct lead every time afterwards. Each time I asked, I straightened him a little more, until he had the correct bend and was not "falling into" the lead, but lifting correctly into it.

Day Three

Day 3 of Gryphon’s training was gloomy. He felt a bit tired from our previous rides and a little stiff in his body. We worked on basic trot and canter work. He picked up the correct lead to the right without a fuss.

  • I added: half-pass in the walk to our routine, performing simple half-turns towards the rail and then asking him to step over with his haunches. Gryphon is responsive to the leg for other lateral work so he could perform legitimate half-pass steps to either direction. I also taught Connie (Gryphon's owner) the aids for the turn-on-the-haunches. The aids are almost identical to the half-pass, so this will give her a way to practice the aids to eventually ask for half-pass.

I also asked Gryphon to bow at the end and he was so good that he went down so far he got sand on his forehead!

Day Four

This day was interesting. Gryphon had gone out to the pasture with my Friesian gelding, Douwe, for the day and it seemed to bring out his "alpha" attitude. During the session, Gryphon was distracted and constantly looking around. On a positive note, he was energetic! I asked for half-pass at the trot, since he had the impulsion, and he performed nice steps tracking to the right.

  • I added: simple changes in the canter using a large figure-eight. This would help fine-tune his leads and make sure that he is balancing and listening to the rider’s aids. When I asked him for the left lead, he volunteered his difficult lead, and instead of transitioning to the walk I pushed him to keep cantering and then asked him for counter-canter. He held the lead beautifully with no tension or resistance.

To end the session, I asked for piaffe in-hand and it seems Gryphon will learn the piaffe fairly quickly. He had a few engaged strides and he is beginning to figure out how to connect his body. Connie is doing an awesome job riding Gryphon and is learning balancing techniques for herself and her horse that will help improve their relationship.

Day Five

Today was a fun day! I did a few new things with Gryphon today- riding with my veil and riding him bareback.

I started the session with softening work, and he was feeling energetic so I had to really remind him to keep his hind end underneath him when he went forward. He is such a funny horse; now he just wants to take the right lead no matter what direction he is going and I had to work much harder to get the left lead. The clear message to not pick up the left lead and the praises and treats for getting the correct lead really changed things for Gryphon. So today I asked for more cantering on the left lead, and gave him the same rewards as the right lead, to balance him out.

  • At the end of our session, I rode with my belly dance veil. I put a knot in the reins so they weren't too long and just did simple trot with transitions while I held the veil up high behind me. Gryphon did great, but the fabric spooked some of the other horses in the arena! I also rode Gryphon bareback at the trot and canter- what fun!

For a 9-year-old horse that has had chronic issues, Gryphon is doing wonderful!