I hope you enjoy this creative video put together by my talented friend Ashley Mancuso of Ash Equine Productions. Everything in my life is intertwined, the dressage, liberty training, performing, and Art on Horseback. Each avenue offers a unique way for me to connect with my horses and explore my creativity. I hope that my journey can inspire others to pursue their dreams, no matter how different they might seem. Please connect with me (email at firstname.lastname@example.org or Facebook), I would love to hear how you are using creativity with your horses. Enjoy!Read More
Lacking inspiration? This post shares inspiring quotes about Dressage Musical Freestyle. Get inspired to Dance with your Horse. Feel free to share with your friends, family, and audience on your social media accounts, Facebook page, Instagram, and Pinterest.Read More
Lacking inspiration? Perhaps you need a little push in the right direction. This post shares 27 success quotes for EQUESTRIANS. Feel free to share with your friends, family, and audience on your social media accounts, Facebook page, Instagram, and Pinterest.Read More
Sounds of thunder hit the ground,
feathers flying all around,
Friesian black and Friesian bold,
giant spirit, gentle soul.
Here are some highlights of Douwe's performance in the Friesian Breed Demo at the Equine Affaire. Here are some highlights of our performance in the Friesian Breed Demos at the Equine Affaire. I decided to try something different with Douwe this year, working him in-hand rather than riding him. It was a great training opportunity for us to work on focus and relaxation in a high-energy environment. Enjoy! Thank you to our sponsors Adams Horse & Pet Supplies for my ROMFH black breeches, you can't see them but I love wearing them while I perform! Enjoy!
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This classic quote will always be relevant, to any horse lover. This lovely photo was taken by Kimberly Chason (Chason Photos & Art) of my Friesian gelding Douwe. My custom dress was made by Rhonda Kirkpatrick in Dover-Foxcroft, Maine. Douwe's custom medieval tack was made by Lisa Oberman (El Sueno Espanol).
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When you dance, your purpose is not to
get to a certain place on the floor.
It's to enjoy each step along the way.
- Wayne Dyer
After a long hiatus from the dressage competition arena, I decided it would be fun to work on my USDF Freestyle Bronze Bar with Douwe and Rovandio. To earn this award, the rider needs two freestyle scores (above 65%) at First level, two scores at Second level, and two scores at Third level from recognized shows. Douwe earned both of our First Level scores and Rovandio earned both of our Second Level scores in one weekend! I am so proud of them, they seemed to enjoy themselves and I did too! Last week I shared Douwe's First Level Musical Freestyle inspired by the TV show Outlander (click here to watch). Here is Rovandio's Second Level Freestyle with recognizable music played by a pop violin band named Escala. I found them on Spotify and loved their renditions of Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir", The Verve's "Bittersweet Symphony", and Karl Jenkin's "Palladio". Enjoy!
Inspired to create your own musical freestyle? Enter your email below for my FREE downloads including a Musical Freestyle Checklist to keep you on track and Blank Choreography Pages to sketch your routines. You can also learn more about my Custom Freestyle Design and Freestyle Workshops. Click here.
Thank you Adam's Horse Supplies!
My new sponsors Adam's Horse Supplies generously outfitted me with new Ariat show boots, a Goode Rider show shirt, Toklat saddle pads, a ThinLine pad for Douwe, and a Micklem bridle for Rovandio for our freestyle debut.
Adam's is located in Winthrop, ME but has an excellent selection online and they offer incredible sales and discounts.
We dance for laughter,
we dance for tears,
we dance for madness,
we dance for fears,
we dance for hopes,
we dance for screams,
we are the dancers,
we create the dreams.
After a long hiatus from the dressage competition arena, I decided it would be fun to work on my USDF Freestyle Bronze Bar with Douwe and Rovandio. To earn this award, the rider needs two freestyle scores (above 65%) at First level, two scores at Second level, and two scores at Third level from recognized shows. Douwe earned both of our First Level scores and Rovandio earned both of our Second Level scores in one weekend! I am so proud of them, they seemed to enjoy themselves and I did too! If you watch the TV series Outlander you will recognize the music, the tempo and drama of the music really go with Douwe's stride. Enjoy!
Are you inspired to start working on your First Level musical freestyle?
My "how-to" e-book will take you through the creation process of your very own freestyle.
- 10 Fully Choreographed Test Patterns! Just Add Music!
- 37 pages of choreography!
- 7 Online Resources to help you find freestyle music.
- Creative freestyle questionnaire to help get your creative juices flowing!
- Freestyle checklist to help you stay on track.
- Blank arena diagram pages for you to take notes and draw your own choreography.
- Rules to remember, arena & sound requirements, copyright laws and more!
"Tale as old as time.
True as it can be.
Barely even friends,
Then somebody bends-
- Lyrics from Beauty & The Beast
My relationship with Douwe has certainly had its ups and its downs. It took many years before he trusted me and
started to enjoy his training. This song holds a lot of meaning for me in regards to our relationship. Douwe was angry and depressed when I first bought him, and over the years has become the goofiest horse I know with a huge personality! It just took some time to uncover what was already there, and to shed his past.
This video was taken at the Riding to the Top Therapeutic Riding Center in Windham, ME. This routine was very emotional for me; I was fighting back tears as we performed because Douwe was so in-tune with me.
This was our first time performing this new routine and it brought laughter and tears to the audience as well.
Don't miss Douwe's "singing" debut at the 4 minute mark!
I love this quote by Jensen Siaw. Sometimes you just need to ignore all the negative voices, especially the ones in your head, and just go for it!
I love this quote, it reminds me to trust my intuition and remember that life truly is magical. Our relationship with our horse, a snowflake, a sunset, all of these things are special. The feelings we keep hidden, the skills and talents we possess, it's time to share them with the world. Please share this image and leave a comment below, what are you hiding?
"Reach high, for stars lie hidden in your soul.
Dream deep, for every dream precedes the goal."
- Mother Theresa
I was very proud of Douwe's performance in the Coliseum. He can get excited with larger audiences but he focused well and stole the show with his kisses, smiles, and wiggles. We also rode in the Mallory South building and he did well, but was not as relaxed. There isn't a proper warmup for the Mallory South building and waiting outside on the pavement isn't ideal for the horses to stay relaxed. I would like to extend a big THANK YOU to Danielle Barrasso for organizing the breed demos and for letting me stable with her in C-Barn. Enjoy this video of Douwe in the Friesian breed demos!
I love watching the Outlander TV series and adore the soundtrack. The songs are dramatic, beautiful, and have a light-hearted quality that fits Douwe's personality really well. Douwe injured his knee a month before this event and I barely had a chance to ride him the week of the show. I brought Rovandio with us as a backup and ended up performing both of them and they felt great. I tend to be more creative on a deadline so I found myself putting together a brand new routine just days before the show, editing the music and pulling together a costume from my collection. I am so happy with how the routine turned out and Douwe really enjoyed himself. We even popped in a few tempi changes even though we haven't practiced those in months! The music gives me goosebumps to ride to and I am looking forward to the next time I can perform this routine.
Douwe has taught me so much about building trust with a horse that has a difficult background. He was depressed, grumpy, and uninterested in bonding with me when I first bought him. He had many homes and I don't think he ever had a "person" for himself. It took years before he would call to me in the pasture, enjoy his grooming sessions, and look to me for leadership. Developing trust is not easy but certainly an essential ingredient for a special partnership.This special photo was taken by Karen Morang at the FHANA Keuring event that we performed at in Somers, CT. I had just taken the bridle off to begin the bridleless part of our new "Outlander" routine. Scroll down to watch the video.
Here is the video of our performance at Shallowbrook Equestrian Center in Somers, CT.
Putting together a creative photo shoot with your horse can be a lot of fun but it also takes time and imagination! This particular idea took me two years to complete from start to finish. By the time my custom cape was ready the snow was all gone so I had to wait another year. I had to keep a close eye on the weather and wait for the perfect conditions, fresh snow on the ground, light snowfall in the air, no wind and decent temps (it was about 25 degrees the day of the shoot). It was worth the wait!
I was inspired to try this shoot while browsing through Pinterest. My favorite photos were taken in the winter and I knew the dramatic color contrast would look great on Douwe, my Friesian. I have saved over 6,000 images to my Costume Inspiration board on Pinterest. If you are looking for costume ideas definitely check out my board! Click here.
The Red Cape: The most important costume piece! I searched around on Etsy to see what was on sale but my only choice was to have one custom made. I wanted it to have extra length so that when I rode the horse it almost hit the ground. Luckily, I know an amazing seamstress who lives locally in Dover-Foxcroft, ME. Her name is Rhonda Kirkpatrick. You can contact her at: email@example.com. She found a great pattern for a monk's hood and cape that draped nicely over the shoulders. We had a hard time finding fabric because the red wool isn't readily available certain times of the year. I eventually found EXACTLY what I needed at Marden's, they had one roll left of this beautiful red wool AND matching cotton fabric for a liner! I was so excited! Lucky for me it was a fraction of the cost...I can't remember what I paid for it but I know that it was more than 50% off. Click on an image below to open a slideshow. The wool is gorgeous but keep in mind that it is quite HEAVY. It isn't always easy to manage but stays draped over the horse very well in motion.
A Beautiful Clasp: I wanted a beautiful, gold clasp at the neck to match the accents on my corset. After searching through JoAnn Fabric, ACMoore and online I was unable to find an actual clasp that would be large enough and strong enough to hold up that amount of fabric. What I did find were these plastic accessories in the clearance section at Hobby Lobby that were only .99 cents each! I used a gold Sharpie marker to doll them up and Rhonda sewed them onto the cape to look like a clasp! Voila!
Black Leather Gloves: On a whim I stopped at Goodwill and found the most perfect pair of gloves!!! Soft black leather, insulated, just the right size, and long!!! They were perfect!
Steampunk Corset: I already owned this corset and I knew that I would use it for this shoot. I originally bought this online at www.corset-story.com to wear in the indie film Essential Realism. They have an amazing selection of corsets and I currently own three from their website. This corset is steel boned, making it harder to get into, you will need someone to lace you up! The less expensive plastic boning is more flexible but may not have the look you want.
White Blouse: My mother-in-law Bethanne is always finding unique costume pieces at Goodwill and gave me this beautiful blouse. It has a ruffled neckline, perfect to wear with the corset. I am always on the lookout for tops that have a unique neckline to wear with corsets.
Black Skirt: I bought this gypsy skirt online at www.moondancebellydance.com. I have 4 of these 25 yard skirts and use them all the time. They come in one size with a drawstring so it is very adjustable. You will need a circle skirt to cover your legs and your horse. I did not wear an underskirt in this photo shoot but I should have because I ripped it while I was walking around in the snow, the fabric is pretty gauzy and light. They have a wide variety of colors on their website.
Fur Belt: This piece of fur is actually a shrug that I bought for a previous winter photo shoot. It is meant to sit over your shoulders. It fit perfectly around my hips and added a nice touch! I bought it at JCPenney in their accessory aisle.
Hair & Makeup
I experimented with rag curlers for this shoot because I didn't want to spend hours curling my hair. I cut 1 x 8" strips out of an old tee shirt and used a pencil to help roll them up (I found instructions on Pinterest). Unfortunately the curls fell out slightly because of the snow/dampness. For makeup I did a basic smokey eye and red lipstick.
Click here for a blog post on How to use Rag Curlers:
Bridle: I used a custom bitless bridle made for me by Lisa Oberman of El Sueno Espanol. She originally made this for the indie film Essential Realism. I wanted something simple but the accents on the bridle look great for this style of photograph. Click here to visit her Facebook page to see some of her amazing creations!
Because this photo shoot was so dependent on the weather I needed someone that could be ready at the last minute. My best friend Lydia Rose Spencer lives at Isaac Royal Farm where we did the photo shoot (her mother owns the facility). She used a Canon 60D camera with a 18-135mm lens.
Please take a moment to visit her website http://lydiarosefineart.com/ and her Lydia Rose Art Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/LydiaRoseArt?fref=ts to see her amazing collection of equine art.
Is That a Real Raven? While we were in the process of the shoot both Lydia and I remembered a photo we saw on Pinterest with a girl on a horse and a Falcon in her hand. We tried multiple poses with me holding my hand out, pretending to look at a bird. Lydia did an AMAZING job creating these images and just about everyone thought the raven was real!
I hope you have enjoyed this blog post! Please share your photos and videos with me so that I can see what you have come up with!
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Download the First Chapter of my new Fantasy Photo Shoots E-Book today!
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I have dealt with show anxiety for many years and still feel the butterflies before each performance. I had MANY goals growing up, I wanted to be an Olympic rider and an Olympic judge! I put a LOT of pressure on myself and had high expectations. I was always riding for scores and focused on that particular percentage whether is was a 60% for a USDF Medal or a 65% for the USEF "r" Judges Program. That pressure caused me to CHOKE and FREEZE UP. I got very tight, held my breath, and was not in the moment with my horse. This caused my horses to be tense, resistant, and lose all the connection that I had schooling at home. After earning my scores for my USDF Silver Medal and the USEF "r" Judges Program I was burnt out.
When I bought Douwe in 2008 I decided to follow my heart and to focus on my horse, not myself. I went to shows that I thought would be fun and easy for him and showed below the level we were schooling. Douwe was undefeated at Training Level and earned many awards through the Northeast Friesian Horse Club. This experience helped boost my confidence and give me hope. With Douwe my aspirations are more artistic in nature, performing and training him in liberty and bridleless. I have found that performing is more natural to me than showing because I can make mistakes and the audience won't really know, as opposed to a judge that looks for every fault. Performing, to me, is based on the positive and showing is based on the negative.
Here are 10 strategies I have used to lessen my show and performance anxiety. I hope they will help you this show season!
1. Get Organized!
The stress of showing and performing really comes down to detailed preparation and last minute details. Usually, we are so wrapped up in our own lives that we forget to think ahead to all the things we could take care of ahead of time to make the showing experience go as smoothly as possible. I have multiple checklists that I use...one for early preparation (months in advance, hotels, trailer details-check tires, etc) the week before (packing, cleaning tack, preparing my music, etc), the night before (schooling at the venue, grooming, etc), and the day of. Planning out your day with a priority list is very helpful so you can stay on track.
It helps me to focus on ONE thing at a time when I am getting ready. Instead of letting your mind wander ahead to your test/routine and thinking of everything that could go wrong, try your best to focus on what is right in front of you. Braiding your horse, cleaning your tack, bathing, tacking up, etc. When something pops into your head that you may have forgotten just WRITE IT DOWN so you can get back to the job at hand. I used to keep a piece of paper and a pen in my pocket but now I use the notes app on my IPhone. I even included simple things like breakfast and hair/makeup which helped me plan my show day so I gave myself plenty of prep time in the morning.
3. Change Perspective:
Take a moment to visualize the show/performance experience from your horse's perspective. What do you think your horse will get upset, tense, or excited about? If you know the trailer ride will be full of stress you will want to put extra attention towards the morning preparation so your horse will not be waiting on the trailer while you finish packing. Think about the stall situation, are the stalls open to the other horses? Will you need a stall guard (or two!). If you have never been to the showgrounds make sure to email or call ahead to see what the stalls are like. You may arrive and find out that there are no eye hooks to put up your stall guard or that your horse will be stabled where he cannot see other horses. Do you have certain care routines that you do with your horse like carrot stretches or hand grazing? Try to fit those into your show day to help keep your horse relaxed. Make sure to pack your therapeutic products, Back on Track, ice boots, and liniment. I use Rescue Remedy (a Bach homeopathic remedy) to help minimize my stress and the horse (yes it works for both people and horses!). I also pack Arnica pills to help with muscle soreness from stress and physical exertion.
Most dressage shows will allow riders to hand walk or school in the show arena the day before but will block it off after they prepare and drag it at night. If there is an opportunity even just to lead your horse around the outside of the ring it will really help, especially with a spooky horse. Arrive early and take your time letting your horse look around and see the judge's booth, the flowers, and the gait to enter the ring. This will give you an indication as to how your horse might react the next day. If the showgrounds has a long walk between the stabling, the warm-up ring, and the show ring you will want to time yourself the day before so you can time your preparation just right.
5. Calming & Relaxing Exercises:
Deep breathing, yoga stretches, and simple loosening exercises during warm-up are very helpful. Play some calm music on your phone or listen to it while you are tacking up. Anything that helps slow down your mind and your heartbeat is helpful. I find that simple yoga stretches and warm-up exercises work best for me. If I sit still and try to focus on my breathing my mind gets racing. I used to try visualizing my dressage test in the morning but found that I became tense and anxious just thinking about it. Experiment with different techniques to find what works the best for you. I also give myself a solid 10 minutes to just get on my horse and walk, letting his movement loosen my hips and slowing down my breathing.
6. Focus on the Judge/Audience:
When you are performing the audience has no idea what you are planning to do. Use that to your advantage and when things go wrong just smile and pretend that was supposed to happen. Of course there are things the audience will know isn't mean to happen, like spooking, bucking, or resistance. However, the audience will usually sympathize with you as long as you don't get upset, use force, or make it look like you are having a hard time. That will make the audience tense and want to look away. During a competition the same advice doesn't apply but try to think of ways to make the judge's job easier and more enjoyable. Make a great first impression with good grooming and turnout, tell the judge "Good Morning!" or tell them your name and number to help the scribe check the test. Say something so the judge can hear your voice (be confident and cheerful) and feel your positive energy! The judge would love to see you perform your best so if something goes wrong it does not help to dwell on it. Think ahead to the next movement and forget about the moves that already happened. Instead of thinking that the judge is mean-spirited, imagine that she is your personal cheerleader, silently willing you to do your best. That is what I do when I am judging!
Just the simple act of smiling can change the chemicals in your brain. Even if you have to force it!! Just do it! Especially going down that centerline. Being a dressage judge I know the difference in how I judge a rider that looks highly stressed and one that looks like they are enjoying themselves. A smile puts the judge at ease and lets them focus on the other aspects of your ride. If your face is scrunched up or you look like you are about to cry it will only distract the judge, making them feel tense and negative and that could affect your scores. One cute thing my Mom used to do for me was put a smiley face sticker on the top of my horse's bridle, on the poll. I could see the smiley face when I looked at my horse's head and it reminded me to smile! Thanks Mom!
8. Expect Mistakes:
Please accept that your dressage test or performance routine will not be perfect. Perfect is not real. Obsessing over every little detail not being just right will take you out of the moment and the true enjoyment will be lost. Staying focused on your horse will help you move on from a mistake and enjoy the rest of your routine. Remember that EVERYONE makes many, many mistakes in every ride. I am sure every Olympic rider can recall an embarrassing experience where their horse left the dressage ring or bucked them off in front of an audience. S**t happens!!! That's life, what more can I say?
9. Healthy Diet:
This is very difficult to stick with at a horse show. I can relate! Every best intention usually goes down the drain on the second day. That cooler you packed with healthy food is now luke warm or completely gone! I have found that healthy snack bars (Kind Bars are my favorite!) and flavored seltzer waters (because it is more fun than plain water!) are the easiest things for me to stock up on before a show. When you start to feel shaky it could be low blood sugar. Watch out for heat exhaustion at shows as well, it is so easy to get over focused on your dressage test and forget to drink any water. Put on that show coat on a 90 degree day and I can guarantee you will have problems focusing in your dressage test! Avoid sugar and caffeine the best you can, particularly right before your ride. The caffeine will get your heart racing and the sugar will not sustain your energy.
10. Practice In Your Show Clothes/Costume:
This is a common mistake that I have fallen for many times, especially showing. For instance, I would save my fancy dressage boots for a show but they felt slippery when I rode because I was used to suede half chaps. Or my white show breeches were not full seat and I felt like I was sliding around in my saddle without my sheepskin seat cover. The same is true for your horse's tack, make sure you have ridden in your saddle pad at least once to be sure it fits well and won't slide back and make sure to ride in your show bridle the week before so your horse has a chance to adjust. All of these little details make a difference. You need to feel confident in your show clothes/costume to perform at your best!
Here is a helpful video on a common performance anxiety trait called Choking. He includes two additional strategies, "De-escalate the Situation" and how to use a "Holistic Cue Word".
If you have had problems with show and performance anxiety please let me know what strategies, tips and tricks you have used in the past. Please leave a comment below or you can email me with questions/comments at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for reading! Have fun at your next show or performance!
This photo was taken in Florida at Southern Oaks Equestrian Center. I am riding Gryphon, a Friesian gelding that I had in training. He is very sweet and I had a great time working with him. He was really fun to ride bareback with a smooth stride and a round barrel.
"Other dancers may be on the floor
Dear, but my eyes will see only you
Only you have that magic technique
When we sway I go weak
I go weak..."
- lyrics from Sway by the Pussycat Dolls
This video was taken at the Elysium Sport Ponies Open House November, 2015. I was SO happy with this routine! As some of you know, I was injured the week before and wasn't able to practice. I decided last minute to ride to the song "Sway", one of my favorite songs that I performed to with Rovandio at the Equine Affaire last year. I knew the transitions of the music inside and out, and it has a fun, playful vibe. Enjoy our dance routine and please share with anyone else that would appreciate it. Thanks!
This beautiful photo was taken of me and Douwe by Kimberly Chason a few years ago. We were staying at Southern Oaks Equestrian Center in Tallahassee, FL owned by my friend Marsha Sapp. Kimberly is an amazing photographer and works with some of her photos to create a piece of art that can be purchased as a print or on canvas.
This quote is so simple and yet so true! Have you ever watched a dancer without music? Or enjoyed great music without feeling the desire to dance? Probably not! I cannot listen to music without imagining a horse moving with it, what movement would we perform, what would be the perfect gait or tempo? I am sure you are the same! This photo was taken at an open house performance at Safe Haven Farm in Durham, ME a few years ago. I am riding Douwe with dancer Lydia Rose Spencer. Her split leaps are amazing aren't they!? I love the fan veils she incorporated into that routine. I have included a video clip of that routine down below. Please feel free to save and share this quote/image and make sure to follow me on Pinterest where I have a board for Inspiring Horse Quotes.