Inspiring Video of Sandra Beaulieu and her Horses created by Ash Equine Productions

"Horses give me the opportunity
to develop my trust in life
and tap into the creative
powers of my soul."

                               - Sandra Beaulieu

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.

This video also won the Art - Mini category at the Equus Film Festival in 2018!

Watch Sandra Beaulieu ride her Friesian Horse BRIDLELESS with WINGS! Video has over 131,000 views!

“Until you spread your wings you will have no idea how far you can fly.”
                                                      - Anonymous

This is one of my favorite videos of Douwe and I performing together. This was the first time we performed BRIDLELESS with the wings. These particular wings are taken from the art of bellydancing, referred to as the Wings of Isis. This particular video was featured on the popular website LittleThings.com and currently has over 138,000 views! I am honored that they featured my video and that I can help inspire others to perform with their horses. Enjoy!

Related Blog Posts:

30 Success Quotes for Equestrians - Inspiring Horse Quotes to Motivate You in Your Riding

When I was younger, I used to stay up all night writing in my journal, pondering my goals for the new year. My lists were very long! Then I would wake up the next day and try to have the "perfect day", ride all my horses, eat healthy, write in my journal, etc... Over the years I have realized that consistency is more important than striving for "perfect days". There will be many ups and downs, many goals that will be reached and some that need to be stored on the shelf for another day. I am very lucky to earn a living with horses and work with amazing students and professionals. It is my purpose to teach and inspire others to be creative with their horses and benefit from my experiences. 

I hope this collection of quotes inspires you to take action towards your goals. Most of the images feature my horse Douwe the Amazing Friesian and my Art on Horseback partner Rovandio

This year take action and learn trick training, dressage, bitless, bridleless, and more!  click here

This year take action and learn trick training, dressage, bitless, bridleless, and more! click here

Tired of sitting on the sidelines? Create your dream freestyle this year!  click here

Tired of sitting on the sidelines? Create your dream freestyle this year! click here

This year take action and learn trick training, dressage, bitless, bridleless, and more!  click here

This year take action and learn trick training, dressage, bitless, bridleless, and more! click here

Dreaming of a fantasy photo shoot with your horse?  click here

Dreaming of a fantasy photo shoot with your horse? click here

Learn how to plan a fantasy photo shoot with your horse.  click here.

Learn how to plan a fantasy photo shoot with your horse. click here.

Learn how to design your very own musical freestyle.  click here

Learn how to design your very own musical freestyle. click here

Follow Douwe the Amazing Friesian on Facebook.  click here

Follow Douwe the Amazing Friesian on Facebook. click here

Follow Douwe the Amazing Friesian on Facebook.  click here

Follow Douwe the Amazing Friesian on Facebook. click here

Learn how to create a dressage musical freestyle.  Click here.

Learn how to create a dressage musical freestyle. Click here.

Learn how to ride bitless and teach your horse amazing tricks this year!  click here

Learn how to ride bitless and teach your horse amazing tricks this year! click here

Learn how to turn your horse into a unicorn.  click here

Learn how to turn your horse into a unicorn. click here

Learn how to plan a fantasy photo shoot with your horse.  click here

Learn how to plan a fantasy photo shoot with your horse. click here

Learn how to plan a fantasy photo shoot with your horse.  click here

Learn how to plan a fantasy photo shoot with your horse. click here

Learn how to train your horse to do tricks for your photo shoot.  click here

Learn how to train your horse to do tricks for your photo shoot. click here

Learn how to incorporate liberty training with your horse.  click here

Learn how to incorporate liberty training with your horse. click here

Learn how to ride your horse bridleless.  click here

Learn how to ride your horse bridleless. click here

Connect with your horse on a deeper level.  click here

Connect with your horse on a deeper level. click here

Learn how to create a dressage musical freestyle.  Click here.

Learn how to create a dressage musical freestyle. Click here.

Follow Douwe the amazing friesian on facebook.  click here

Follow Douwe the amazing friesian on facebook. click here

Learn how to ride your horse bridleless.  click here

Learn how to ride your horse bridleless. click here

Learn how sandra trains and performs with her horses.  click here

Learn how sandra trains and performs with her horses. click here

Learn how to connect with your horse at a deeper level.  click here

Learn how to connect with your horse at a deeper level. click here

Learn how to ride your horse bridleless.  click here

Learn how to ride your horse bridleless. click here

Learn dressage online from sandra beaulieu - a usdf bronze and silver medalist.  click here

Learn dressage online from sandra beaulieu - a usdf bronze and silver medalist. click here

Learn how to have fun with your horse with trick training.  click here

Learn how to have fun with your horse with trick training. click here

Learn how to train your horse tricks.  click here

Learn how to train your horse tricks. click here

Is this your year to shine? take your relationship with your horse to the next level.  click here

Is this your year to shine? take your relationship with your horse to the next level. click here

Add some sparkle to your horse...my best tips for DIY Mane, Tail, and Hooves ...  click here

Add some sparkle to your horse...my best tips for DIY Mane, Tail, and Hooves ... click here

Learn more about dressage, trick, and liberty training with Sandra... click here.

Learn more about dressage, trick, and liberty training with Sandra...click here.

Learn more about dressage, trick, and liberty training with Sandra... click here.

Learn more about dressage, trick, and liberty training with Sandra...click here.

Follow Sandra on Pinterest

Watch Sandra and Douwe perform Amazing Trick & Liberty Moves in the Friesian Breed Demo at Equine Affaire 2017

Sounds of thunder hit the ground,
feathers flying all around,
Friesian black and Friesian bold,
giant spirit, gentle soul.

                          
 -Bethanne Ragaglia

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!

Join Sandra's New Online Coaching Group!

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Watch Sandra and Rovandio perform as Pirates in the Andalusian Demo at Equine Affaire 2017

Noble Andalusians
bred to be a partner
through centuries of care
generous hearts and brilliant minds
make a lovely dancing pair.

                          
 -Bethanne Ragaglia

Here are some highlights of our performance in the IALHA (Andalusians and Lusitanos) Breed Demo at the Equine Affaire. Rovandio was wonderful as usual, he loves to perform! Make sure you watch his dramatic ending! Thank you to our sponsors Adams Horse & Pet Supplies for my beautiful Ariat Volante Boots and to El Sueno Espanol for adding more rosettes to our custom bitless bridle. Enjoy!

Join Sandra's New Online Coaching Group!

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Sandra Beaulieu - Ambassador for Adams Horse Supplies

I am proud to announce that I have a new partnership with Adams Horse Supplies, a tack shop located in Winthrop, ME. I am officially a part of their team as a sponsored professional. They have an extensive online catalog with an amazing selection of high-quality, top name brands, and generous sales and promotions.  

They recently outfitted me for a USDF dressage show with Ariat dressage boots (Volant model), a ThinLine pad for Douwe, a Goode Rider show shirt, and Toklat Originals saddle pads. They have also provided grooming supplies and accessories for my horses from companies like Cowboy Magic, Mountain Horse, Equine Couture, and more!

The staff at Adam's Horse Supplies has been very supportive and I enjoy working with them. They are all knowledgeable horse professionals, with the experience to help their customers choose the right products for their needs. I look forward to working with them and promoting their amazing brand.

Who They Are

Adams Horse and Pet Supplies is a woman-owned business, run by a staff of local Maine riders and pet lovers who want to bring high-quality products and pet foods to their customers. They test and use everything they sell so they can educate their customers and help them choose the products that are right for them and their pets. They are a small town business with small town values and can't wait to make you part of their family!  

 

Create Your Own Training Level Musical Freestyle! Sample Videos of Good Choreography & Music Selection

Create Your Own Training Level Musical Freestyle! Sample Videos of Good Choreography & Music Selection

Have you always wanted to ride a musical freestyle? Getting started at Training Level is a great way to get your feet wet and learn how the entire process works. 

In this post, I have shared some examples of Training Level musical freestyles and reasons why they are good, from a judge's perspective…

Read More

Arghh! Sandra and Rovandio Perform Together as Pirates!

"Not all treasure is silver and gold, Mate."

-Captain Jack Sparrow

The video below is of Rovandio and I debuting our latest routine, "Pirates", at Elysium Sport Ponies in Atkinson, ME. I had an idea for Rovy to perform the Spanish walk to Captain Jack Sparrow's drunken sailor music from the movie, Pirates of the Caribbean, and the rest of the routine developed from there. I definitely wanted to include Rovy saying pirate lines, so that is where you see him perform the "Argh!". At the end of our performance, I handed out "gold doubloons" for the kids in the audience and Rovy adored the pats and attention! Enjoy!

Beautiful Dancer SAILS with Andalusian Horse

"When I dance, the sun sails safely through the night;
When I dance, the future is formed by my feet;
When I dance, the stars move through the heavens;
When I dance, Venus shimmers the desert;
When I dance, dust becomes silver, stones are made of gold!"
Cosi Fabian
 

This video was shot back in 2013. I am riding Rovandio (Andalusian/Lipizzan gelding) bitless with my good friend, and dancer, Lydia Rose Spencer. The footage is from Isaac Royal Farm in Dover-Foxcroft, Maine, a picturesque setting. The video was created by Alan Dillingham, the director I worked with on the indie film Essential Realism, Frost Bite and a short film called Invasion. It was a COLD and WINDY day but Rovandio was excellent. I was planning to ride Douwe but he wasn't quite himself so Rovy filled in and was superb. Only one day to practice with Lydia dancing and he figured it out in a snap. Make sure you see the part where Lydia defies gravity in her split leaps at the 2 minute mark! Enjoy!

How To Teach Your Horse To Stand On A Pedestal

Elisha Harvey on her young horse Finn. He was a quick learner and loved the pedestal! This photo was taken only a few days after his first time standing on the pedestal.

Elisha Harvey on her young horse Finn. He was a quick learner and loved the pedestal! This photo was taken only a few days after his first time standing on the pedestal.

I taught a trick training clinic at Elysium Sport Ponies in Atkinson, ME and one of the popular exercises we did with each horse was to begin working with the pedestal. The pedestal can be a lot of fun and is a great exercise to work on throughout the winter months when it is too cold to ride. I learned how to work with the pedestal with help from the following trainers: Heidi Herriott, Cohn Livingston, and Allen Pogue (by video). As with all training methods there are slightly different ways to approach the process. If one approach isn't working for your horse try to think creatively, the best training happens when you listen to your horse and try out a variety of techniques.

What are the benefits of working with a pedestal?

  • Helps your horse learn to "step-up" which can greatly increase confidence for trailer loading.
  • Gives your horse more self-awareness and better sense of balance.
  • Gives the horse a target and a place to go where he feels more secure.
  • It can help you develop a better relationship with your horse, playing with the pedestal and using it as a reward in liberty work.
  • Helps desensitize the horse for agility, trail classes, and working equitation where they will need to cross a bridge and work with other obstacles.
  • It's fun!!! For both you and the horse!

What type of pedestal should you use?

I bought an aluminum pedestal with a round shape for performing. Douwe learned on this type of pedestal and it was easier to roll around and lighter to carry to shows. The wooden pedestals are much heavier but are more preferable to use at the beginning. A large, square pedestal (around 36" x 36") or a rectangular shape (around 24"x 42") works really well for a beginner horse. If you are interested in purchasing a pedestal please scroll to the bottom of this post for more information. You can also purchase instructions on how to make a pedestal at Allen Pogue's website. Click here: http://www.imagineahorse.com/store-shop-pay/pedestals/

How do you begin?

  • Safe Space: Make sure that you are in a safe training area, an indoor arena, a roundpen, or a paddock that has good fencing. If you have a horse that gets scared easily you will want to be in a safe, relaxing space. However, do not put the pedestal in a stall...you need to have enough space for the horse to move around and for you to move out of the way quickly if the horse spooks or loses his balance.
  • Exercise First: Work with your horse first so that he is calm (riding, lunging, free lunging).  It will be difficult to teach your horse to stand on the pedestal if they have been in a stall all day with no exercise!
  • De-Sensitize: Lead your horse near the pedestal and see how they react, if your horse is really spooky it may take a few days for them to adjust to this new object in their space. If you can leave the pedestal in the ring while you ride that is also helpful for them to adjust. If your horse is really confident and walks right up to it let them sniff it and touch it with their nose. Sometimes I will throw a treat onto the pedestal for the first time so the horse is encouraged to sniff it.
  • First Steps: When your horse is relaxed and interested in the pedestal you can attempt the first "step-up". Some horses will step onto it with no issues, just stay to the side as if you were leading the horse onto a trailer. Do Not Stand In Front of Them! The first time a horse stands on the pedestal they might lose their balance and fall towards you. Make sure to keep your space! When the horse steps onto the pedestal you will ask them to "whoa", using whatever cue you would normally use. If your horse is hesitant you can ask a helper to hold the lead line while you pick up one front foot and "place" it on the pedestal. Oftentimes just setting the toe onto the pedestal is enough to give them confidence. Once their toe is on the pedestal ask the horse to step forward using the lead line. Usually they will transfer weight into that foot on the pedestal and bring up the second foot. 
  • Straightness Using the Wall: If your horse tends to wiggle from side to side around the pedestal you can try placing it against the wall. This will help the horse stay straight, blocking the right shoulder from moving away. Just be careful that the horse doesn't push into you on the left side, make sure that you have determined boundaries with your horse so that they don't crowd into your space. I usually have a dressage whip to lightly touch the shoulder if they want to fall in. You will need the whip to help teach the hind legs to step up as the horse gets more advanced.
  • Always Back Off: You can allow your horse to walk off the pedestal by going forward but this can make it more difficult to get the horse up with all four feet. Every time I ask my horse to get off the pedestal I say "Back" and have him step off the pedestal going backwards. If you imagine that there is a wall in front of the pedestal this will help. However, be careful not to restrict your horse by holding tightly with the lead line, keep it loose and let him find his balance as much as you can. Practice getting off the pedestal multiple times so that the horse starts to anticipate backing off instead of going forwards. Having a verbal "back" cue is helpful when you are riding as well, especially if you are bridleless.
  • All Four Feet: Once your horse is relaxed and confident with the front feet you can start encouraging him/her to step closer to the pedestal with the hind feet using the whip. Lightly tickle the hind end and when they step closer to the pedestal reward them with your voice or a treat. It is important that they get their hind feet really close to the pedestal before they step onto it. This is where a larger pedestal comes in handy. If you have a large pedestal it will be easier for the horse to step onto it with all four feet. You will have the space to walk them up onto the pedestal and tell them to "whoa" once all four feet are up. Continue to back them off using your verbal "back" cue. When that is fairly easy you can decrease the size of the pedestal and the horse will have an easier time figuring it out. If you only have a smaller pedestal to work with it will take more timing and co-ordination on your part. You will be managing the forward energy of the hind end with your whip/voice while keeping the front legs in place with your body/voice/lead line. I would recommend that you seek professional help if your horse finds this part difficult.
Working with Thor, a Haflinger cross at Elysium Sport Ponies in Atkinson, ME. He was proud of himself!

Working with Thor, a Haflinger cross at Elysium Sport Ponies in Atkinson, ME. He was proud of himself!

Good boy! Elisha Harvey (owner/instructor/trainer at Elysium Sport Ponies in Atkinson, ME) having a successful training session with Finn.

Good boy! Elisha Harvey (owner/instructor/trainer at Elysium Sport Ponies in Atkinson, ME) having a successful training session with Finn.

Yay! First day learning how to stand on the pedestal. Finn is very smart and well balanced so he was able to do all four feet on the first day!

Yay! First day learning how to stand on the pedestal. Finn is very smart and well balanced so he was able to do all four feet on the first day!

Working with the younger girls and their school horses. Quigley found it easy to stand with his front feet but he has arthritis in the hind end so that was as far as he went for the day. 

Working with the younger girls and their school horses. Quigley found it easy to stand with his front feet but he has arthritis in the hind end so that was as far as he went for the day. 

Join Sandra's New Online Coaching Group!

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How to Stay Motivated to Ride in the Winter Time, Ideas & Online Resources

I have lived in Maine my entire life and can relate to everyone out there who struggles with motivation in the winter. The ice, the snow, the below freezing temperatures, the frozen bits, the frozen fingers and toes!!!! Riding in the winter is certainly not for the faint of heart! However, the winter training season can also be a great opportunity for you to take your riding to the next level. Here are some ideas and online resources that I have used over the years that I hope will keep you going on those 10 degree days (or colder!) where you really want to ride but are frustrated and tired of winter.

Education

The winter months are the PERFECT time for continuing your education. If there aren't any clinics in your area don't worry! I have included a few online resources that I have devoured in the past.

Clinics: Look at your region and find out if there are any dressage instructors that will be teaching nearby. You can learn just as much or more auditing a clinic than even riding in one. By watching all the different riders and horses you can take away volumes of information to apply to your horse. Remember to bring your notebook to take notes and have a comfortable chair!

Online Training:
DressageClinic.com: This website is perfect if you don't want to miss all the big events happening in the dressage world. They post full videos of national symposiums and events like the USDF Convention, Global Dressage Forum and the NEDA Symposium. Watch clinics with all the top trainers and Olympic riders like Ashley Holzer, Ingrid Klimke and many more. Their monthly membership is $39.95 but if you pay for 3, 6, or 12 months at a time you can get that price down to $24.95 a month. Click here to visit their website: www.dressageclinic.com

DressageTrainingOnline.com: Imagine if you could visit the barns of Olympic riders and watch them school their horses and teach lessons.......this website lets you do just that! They have over a 1,000 videos to browse through and add 10 new videos every month. Their membership fee is currently $28.80 a month and it is certainly worth it to watch world class riders and their horses. They have also added an Evaluate My Ride feature where you can submit your own video and have it critiqued by the trainer or judge of your choice. Click here to visit their website: www.dressagetrainingonline.com

Working Student or Riding Vacation: If you can take off a few weeks or a few months why not try a working student opportunity somewhere warm! I have been a working student in Wellington, Fl for international dressage judge Gabriel Armando and I have also taken a dressage riding vacation in Portugal before under George Malleroni. Both experiences were incredibly valuable in shaping the rider I am today. My visit to Portugal boosted my work ethic and showed me what it took to become a great rider (riding over 7 horses a day!) and my experience in Wellington opened my eyes to the behind the scenes. I was able to visit training barns of Olympic riders and watch them train and teach.

Work with Me (Sandra Beaulieu): I have a new (December 2017) coaching group online where you can learn how to improve your dressage, teach your horse tricks, learn liberty and in-hand exercises, and upload short video clips of you and your horse for review. Behind-the-scenes access to schooling sessions, lessons, and performances. This opportunity is $9.99/month, with three new videos added weekly! Click here to learn more about my positive, creative style of training. 

Playtime

The winter months are a great time to relax and play with your horse. Have you been wanting to try some liberty training or teach your horse tricks? I first began riding Rovandio with Douwe at liberty because of the weather. It was too cold outside to take the time to ride both so I just put them in the ring together and started experimenting. That blossomed into a new performance routine for us and a new language between me and my horse. Here are some trick training resources I have used to help me get started:

Allen Pogue: Allen has a variety of trick and liberty training videos that can help you teach your horse how to lay down, bow, work on the pedestal and much more. He also sells props like bean bags to teach your horse to sit, pedestals, and balls for your horse to play with. Click here to check out his website: www.imagineahorse.com

Heidi Herriott I met Heidi when I was teaching at Southern Oaks Equestrian Center in Tallahassee, FL. She has been the head trainer at Arabian Nights and has her own tv show called Horse Trix TV. She showed me how to teach Douwe to smile, pick up objects and we also worked on spanish walk and rear. She has a variety of YouTube videos to help you get started and she also teaches clinics. Click here to visit her website: www.heidiharriott.com
 

Photoshoot

Photograph taken by Lydia Rose Spencer

Photograph taken by Lydia Rose Spencer

Have you ever wanted to do a winter photo shoot? It can be challenging but well worth it! I have done a few winter photo shoots over the years and my best advice is to LAYER! You have to get creative with layering so that you can wear a fun costume but not freeze to death! Using hand and toe warmers and bringing spare blankets and large jackets out to the site will help you enjoy the photo shoot and have fun. Waiting for the perfect snowfall can be frustrating and you have to be sure there is no ice under the snow. If you want to read more about photo shoot I did last year with a beautiful red cape click here.

I hope these ideas and resources help inspire you to stay motivated this winter. I would love to hear from you! Please leave a comment below or email me any questions at beginthedance@gmail.com. How do you keep motivated in the winter? Do you have any other ideas that might be helpful to others that are struggling?

Join Sandra's New Online Coaching Group!

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10 Strategies to Lessen Show & Performance Anxiety for Horseback Riders

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.

2. Focus! 
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.

4. Familiarize:
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!

7. Smile!
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 beginthedance@gmail.com. Thank you for reading! Have fun at your next show or performance!

Begin the Dance - Dancing Quote

Dancing can reveal all the mystery that music conceals.
— Charles Baudelaire

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. 

Video:

Pinterest:

Begin the Dance - Fantasy Quote

"We don't create a fantasy world to escape reality, we create it to be able to stay."

-Lynda Barry

I can relate to this quote because I love to daydream and play fantasy dress-up with my horse. This photo was taken of Douwe on the set of Essential Realism, an indie film that we acted in a few years ago. I played the part of Queen's head archer riding a beautiful, black unicorn. The film is not yet finished but I will certainly share information when it is ready!

How do you resonate with this quote? Do you live in a fantasy world? Go to Renaissance faires? Collect costumes? If you do then we would certainly get along!! Leave a comment below so I can meet my fellow fantasy friends! Please feel free to share this image, especially on Pinterest.

Developing a Musical Freestyle for the 2015 Pan Am Games with EquiChord and Julio Mendoza

I came across an interesting video on YouTube of Julio Mendoza practicing his Pan Am Games freestyle with a GoPro camera. I contacted his freestyle designer, Equichord, to learn more and ended up having a wonderful chat with Cece Maddlone.... She is very knowledgeable and passionate about designing musical freestyles. She took the time to write an article, giving us a behind-the-scenes look at the creation process for Julio's freestyle. Thank you so much CeCe! Enjoy the article!

Developing a Musical Freestyle for the 2015 Pan Am Games with EquiChord
by Frank and CeCe Maddlone

INTRODUCTION
It is always exciting when we get the opportunity to work with dedicated and talented professionals who take the freestyle process seriously. Julio Mendoza is one of those professionals. Our overall goal is to create premium quality freestyles. This means creating a design that demands the highest in technical accuracy, musicality, and appeal; not only from the riding side, but the artistic side as well. There is as high a level of technical demands for the rider on the artistic side as there is on the riding side. We have developed our own intensive and hands-on process that is designed to help the rider achieve that goal. Once a rider has established a solid foundation in the technique, they are then free to add the dynamics of emotion and performance to the ride. In the end, that is what we want to create, and audiences want to see. Ultimately, achieving this takes a commitment of time and attention on the part of the rider. The best way to show how we approach this undertaking is to run through the entire process. Julio’s freestyle journey to the 2015 Pan Am Games with Chardonnay is a  perfect example of how we work.

FALL 2014
Julio and Jessica Mendoza called upon EquiChord, as they were excited to have several new horses for whom they wanted to develop freestyles - seven, to be exact. All the horses were of very high quality, ranging from First Level to Intermediare 1. They were also a wonderful array of breeds and personalities ranging from Friesians toOldenburgs. One in particular was a huge focus of our attention - a 2005 Oldenburg chestnut gelding named Chardonnay. Julio had set a goal of qualifying for the 2015 Pan Am Games. In order to achieve this, he had to compile his qualifying scores by the end of May - to include a freestyle score. For us, this was a definite challenge. Since we strongly believe in having plenty of time to practice and perfect each freestyle, regardless of the level, our time was already rapidly ticking away.

DECEMBER 2014
When we first met with Julio and Jessica to discuss their horse, they brought us a video from a recent clinic. Chardonnay (or Chardy, as he is known by his family and fans) was a new acquisition for Julio, and he was just starting to work with him. Chardy was beautiful, and you could certainly see that he was extremely talented and expressive. However, he was very uneven - so much so that his trot was extremely difficult to match to a steady BPM. There was no consistent rhythm, and there was lack of flexion to the right due to a former shoulder injury. Needless to say, we were a bit worried. Without rhythm, you cannot have the fundamentals of dressage or music. The Mendoza’s expressed that they wanted to use music that was more contemporary and easily recognizable. This always makes things even more challenging for us, because even though contemporary music is fun, much of it can be pretty uneventful since it is mostly a collection of loops with a vocal track. And, since we are limited to using only a few vocals throughout the course of a freestyle, contemporary music minus the underlying vocal tracks can sound more like muzak, or just a collection of never-ending loops. We put together a couple of samples for them, based on what we saw as possible fits, and passed along our recommendations. In our mind, once Chardy became more even and correct, he was going to develop into a lighter horse with a good staccato movement. Therefore, overly heavy or driving music would certainly overwhelm him. Chardy is also a very sensitive horse, so we wanted to ensure that he didn’t overreact to the music and become tense. Certain tonalities do not resonate well with some horses, so these considerations are always a part of the selection process. Jessica and Julio liked two of the roughs we put together, and together we ultimately decided on one. However, our choice was only a part of the selection process; we had to see if Chardy would respond positively to it.

JANUARY - 6.5 MONTHS TO THE PAN AM GAMES
We went to Julio’s farm to work with Chardy, and to get some insights on a few other horses. As we played the different pieces of music, we were looking for selections that would help Chardy find his rhythm. Julio had already made progress with him, and his cadence (i.e. how each footfall evenly matches the music’s rhythm) was improving. One of the selections we had on hand was a medley of U2’s music. We were all very excited to see how Chardy found his rhythm when we played the track! It was settled; that would be his music.

OUR TO DO LIST:
1. Finish the music and choreographic design
2. Run through it again in person to ensure the moves worked
3. Give Julio the music, the choreographic counts, and a voiceover so he may
practice the freestyle when off the horse.

FEBRUARY - 5.5 MONTHS TO THE PAN AM GAMES
Due to the scarcity of approved CDIs in our area, Julio needed to travel to Florida to get his qualifying scores. This gave us under a month to pull everything together. With his attention focused on acquiring the scores needed for qualifying, the freestyle fell into a lower priority level on the practice list. To make matters more challenging, Julio’s facilities back home did not have a regulation size indoor arena. So this made practicing the freestyle that much more difficult once he returned home. To help alleviate these challenges, Julio transported Chardy to a friend’s farm to use their indoor arena to practice. At this stage of the process, we still had not run through the entire test. It was truly amazing to see the progress Chardy was making. His gaits were stronger, and far more supple and rhythmic. However, he still was unable to consistently run through the freestyle. For us, this meant that we were not quite certain if the freestyle needed to be modified, or even worked. Since Chardy was still having problems rhythmical matching the steps, we couldn’t accurately count out the movements to the music. Based on what we had initially recorded, Chardy would need more counts than average to complete the movements. We had to go back to the studio and find a musically correct way to accommodate his odd sets of beats. As a result, we felt that it wouldn’t be prudent for Julio to try and show the freestyle while in Florida. Instead, we suggested that he afford Chardy more time to find himself. Once Julio had him where he needed him to be, we could introduce the freestyle again. However, time was a component that we had little of.

MARCH - 4.5 MONTHS TO THE PAN AM GAMES
During this month, Julio competed Chardonnay to Florida. In the meantime, we took this opportunity to work on the music and anticipate the changes that may need to happen in the choreography. We devised several plans to help support Chardy through the music, while ensuring that Julio had what he needed to perform the movements technically correct.

APRIL - 3.5 MONTHS TO THE PAN AM GAMES
Practice #1
The weather was nice enough to practice outside in the beautiful regulation-sized arena. Chardy was also getting better and better during this time. However, he seemed to be developing some tension during the freestyle. Frank and I were worried that the music may be causing the tension, and suggested that we might want to try something different since time was running out. Julio wanted to work through the music, so he began playing the music for Chardy in the barn every night. Julio also noted that he might be causing the tension himself, as he had not had enough time to listen to the music and voiceover files in earnest, or really focus on learning the test. There was just so much time in each day, and Julio and Jessica were extremely careful not to overwork Chardy. We asked Julio to ride through the test without the music; to perform the movements in a way that he felt was the most comfortable, and to do them as technically perfect as possible. We filmed the ride and took the tape back to the studio to score the music underneath it.

OUR TO DO LIST:
1. We make some more tweaks to the choreography and the music.
2. We sent Julio a new count sheet and the video with adjusted music so he could see (as well as hear) the cues and where each should fall matching his ride. We were happily surprised to see that it fit almost perfectly - and Julio needed to see that. All that was needed was enough practice time so that both horse and rider could feel confident in what they were doing. At this stage, they needed to trust each other and the music.

Practice #2
BEST EVER!!! Almost perfect. We ran through it once and stopped.
1. We mastered and EQ’ed the music with the new adjustments, then formatted it and sent them the digital copies so they could generate the CDs.

MAY - 2.5 MONTHS TO THE PAN AM GAMES
During this time, Julio had to go to Canada to do two sets of shows in order to get his scores. Time was running out. This was it. He had to perform his freestyle.

FIRST SHOW:
Chardy’s freestyle came in 5th in an international field of riders!! The highest artistic score was a 77% and Chardy received a 75%!!!! Riders and officials complimented the Mendozas on their music.

SECOND SHOW:
RESERVE CHAMPION!! This is what we needed to see. Julio was going to the Games.

JUNE - 1.5 MONTHS TO THE PAN AM GAMES
Julio had a very busy and tight show, clinic, and training schedule this month. They booked a practice session for one of Julio’s rare open slots. Although the Canadian trip was very successful, there were still some sections of the freestyle where we needed to work on the timing. During the next practice session, we worked solely on nailing the timing with the cues. It was hard to believe that this was the same horse we saw in January. Now, he was happy, strong, supple, and right on in every movement. His technique was getting solid, and we could now begin working in earnest on the nuances and performance components of the freestyle so it will shine.

LOCAL SHOW
CHAMPION!!!!

JULY - 10 DAYS BEFORE THEY LEAVE FOR CANADA
Because Chardy had come so far, his movements, timing, and rhythm had changed dramatically. Once again, we had to adjust the music. He was able to enter and exit compulsory movements more quickly, cleaner, and with greater precision. This meant that we had to edit out the additional music we had inserted earlier in the process. He no longer needed it, as it was causing Julio to hold him back in order to stay with the cues. That simply could not happen. He needed to flow fluidly from one movement to the next without having to alter the horse’s rhythm or frame.

FINAL PRACTICE BEFORE PAN AM’s
We couldn’t practice with Chardy because something wasn’t right. We were all very worried. It seemed to be just a bit of tightness, so the chiropractor came out to confirm the observation. This meant that Julio would not be able to ride to the new music before
he showed it at the Pan Am Games. This was truly nerve-racking. Instead, we sat down with Julio to count through the entire test over and over again. Frank recorded another voiceover for Julio; this time in Spanish, so that Julio could have both English and Spanish versions to listen to. Julio said he was going to listen to it in the truck all the way up to Canada.

THE GAMES
Chardy did the best all-around test of his life. In a field of international competitors, during the first year when the Pan Am Games were now brought up to Olympic standards, Julio ended up 17th in the freestyles. That was amazing!!!

IN CONCLUSION
Anky van Grunsven was, undoubtedly, the best at putting together winning freestyles. She once said that she would never show her freestyle until it had been practiced at least 200 times. In the grand scheme of things, that amounted to a year’s worth of work that she would tuck away under her belt before showing. We only had the opportunity to work with Julio a handful of times, and with a horse that was just coming into his own. The music and choreography were constantly changing to adjust to the developing horse, and all within time and space limitations. Despite it all, Julio and Chardy worked extremely hard, listened to our input and, in the end, rode a performance that was truly
the stuff of dreams.

What an awesome article and interview, it really shows the dedication and time commitment that goes into a freestyle of that level. I encourage you to connect with Equichord and the Mendozas on Facebook and visit their websites. The links are down below. Please let me know your thoughts by posting a comment and/or question here on the blog or you can email me at beginthedance@gmail.com.

Equichord Music on Facebook
Equichord News on Facebook
Equichord Website
Mendoza Dressage on Facebook
Mendoza Dressage Website

Creative Process for "Wings of Isis" Bridleless Routine - Music, Costume, Choroegraphy, & More!

I absolutely love performing with my horse. It is such a satisfying experience to take an idea or be inspired to create something unique and make it a reality. My "Wings of Isis" routine with Douwe is one of those ideas that has taken years to develop. I wanted to share our journey to hopefully inspire you to pursue that creative freestyle  you have been dreaming of. It may take some time but in the end it is worth it!

Inspiration

I have always loved to dance! In 2007 I started taking bellydance classes and fell in love with the veil and fabric wings called the Wings of Isis. I taught classes for a few years and our local dance troupe performed locally. From the very beginning I wondered if I could ride a horse with the wings and began to experiment. I purchased my silver wings from www.moondancebellydance.com, they come in a variety of sizes and colors.

Costume

I went with a Pegasus/Greek goddess theme. I found a Greek goddess dress at the Halloween store for under $65 and have added a lot of details to it over time. I bought silver wings from www.moondancebellydance.com and also used an aqua blue petal skirt that I purchased from them as well to add in some color. The dress had gold trim on it so I covered it with a variety of silver sequin trim from Jo-Ann Fabric and added some aqua blue ribbon to match the petal skirt. I am wearing a white satin circle skirt underneath the dress to cover my legs/saddle. I had this made for me by a local seamstress. For the finishing touches I found a matching headband and some really sparkly diamond earrings at the mall. I braid my hair the night before to give it that wavy look. 

Music 

This was a difficult ride to find music for...I searched and searched on iTunes for something that would accent my arm movements with the wings, have a  walk entrance, a smooth ending (no sharp halts) and also be dramatic for the horse. The music I finally chose is called "Ulysses" from Cirque Du Soleil. The music lets me highlight the movement of the wings and has transitions that give me space to re-organize if the horse is getting quick or tense. 

Choreography

My routine is fairly simple and leaves a lot of wiggle room. Essentially, my only goal is to match the musical transitions (particularly to and from the canter), to show simple serpentines at the trot and flying changes at the canter. I want to match my arm movements to the music at the trot and try to remain quiet in my body and always smiling! 

From the Beginning

The first horse I performed with the fabric wings was Vienna, a Lipizzan mare owned by my close friend Lydia Spencer. After losing Max and Vanidor in 2008 she was very kind to let me ride Vienna for shows and performing. The first day I rode Vienna with the wings I had to have someone lead me around the ring at a walk. She was a little suspicious of the fabric tickling her flanks! It took about a week of walking and slow trot with a ground person until she was relaxed with the wings and after that she was wonderful. I steered Vienna by using very thin cables clipped to the bit that went through a "belt" on my dress and then out to my hands. When I turned my upper body I was able to cue her with the reins. She was very light and sensitive to the aids so this system worked really well for her. Douwe on the other hand is big and stiff in comparison so when I tried the same thing with him the cables/clips/belt kept falling apart! On the other hand he was very good with the wings from day 1...he never spooked or seemed bothered by the fabric floating on top of him.

Here is a video of me performing with Vienna in the Isaac Royal Equestrian Theater back in 2007. She was a really good girl, performing flying changes and prompt transitions. I made the simple bridle and sidereins with clothes line rope you can purchase at the hardware store.

Discovering a New Way...

After some experimentation I found out that Douwe is really good at whip-steering. I started using the wings for steering, the same way you would train a horse to steer by using whips (not by hitting them of course but by holding the whip out to the side so they can see it peripherally and turn away from it). In the beginning I rode Douwe with a regular bridle and handmade sidereins (the same clothes line but spray painted black to blend in). 

The Power of a Dream

When I had the idea to ride with the dancing wings my dream was to eventually ride bridleless.
It took 7 years from the first ride on Vienna (summer 2008), training Douwe in Florida (winter 2010) and then performing bridleless in the summer of 2014.

I wanted to give you an idea of the timeline to help inspire you to keep plugging away at your goals...if you are persistent they really can come true!
 
I encourage you to follow your dreams no matter what they are...being creative is one of the most satisfying things you can do. This video was taken at Elysium Sport Ponies in Atkinson, ME at their open house. This was the first time I performed with Douwe bridleless and he was super! His flying changes need more work but overall he was relaxed, focused and I really enjoyed our ride together.

I would love to hear from you about what inspires you...maybe you have an idea for a freestyle or exhibition ride that you have begun to work on. If you have any questions or comments please post them down below or email me at beginthedance@gmail.com Thank you for taking the time to read my blog and watch the videos!

Friesian Horse BRIDLELESS and at LIBERTY, Shining Bright Like a DIAMOND!

"So shine bright, tonight you and I
We're beautiful like diamonds in the sky
Eye to eye, so alive
We're beautiful like diamonds in the sky."

                                        -Rihanna (lyrics to Diamond song)

This routine was performed at Safe Haven Farm in Durham, ME in 2015. They have an annual open house that I have performed at many times. This year was special because it was Douwe's birthday on the day of the show. He turned 14 and I wanted to honor the 6 years we have had together. I consider him my "diamond in the rough" so I decided to go all-out with glitter and sparkle! We did a bridleless and liberty routine, performing new liberty moves we have been working on. It will take time to perfect performing together, but I am having a blast thinking of creative new ways to dance with my horse. Please share this video if your horse shines bright like a diamond. Enjoy!

Royal Vanidor, Lipizzan/Thoroughbred Performs with Bellydancer - 2008 Isaac Royal Equestrian Theater

"Forget your troubles and dance!"
                   -Bob Marley

I have fond memories of this routine- it was the first time that I performed with a dancer! My best friend, Lydia Rose Spencer is dancing. Lydia is also an amazing dressage rider and equine artist. I am riding Royal Vanidor, a Lipizzan/Thoroughbred cross gelding that was born and raised at Isaac Royal Farm in Dover-Foxcroft, ME. I started working with him as a weanling and trained him up through the dressage levels to Pre St. Georges before he died in 2008 due to a tragic vet error. It was devastating but at least I have some wonderful memories of the times we performed together. RIP sweet Vanidor, maybe someday we will dance together again!

Who are some inspiring horses from your past? Leave a comment below!

Ride Your Horse Bridleless, Safety Tips & Training Advice. Video Examples!

When I was young I always admired the other girls that just jumped up on their horses in the paddock and rode around without a care in the world (I've never been an incredibly brave rider). I was much more disciplined and just never played with my horses that way during my dressage training. There was a part of me that really wanted that relationship with a horse. The performances that would bring me to tears were always of horses and riders bareback and/or bridleless. The idea that "less is more" really inspired me. When I bought Douwe (my Friesian gelding), I let myself have an open mind and no expectations. It turned out, he LOVES to be ridden bridleless and to work at liberty and he has taught me so much that I would love to share my experiences with you.

Safety First!

For those of you who are like me, cautious and not overly risky, you will definitely need to prepare your horse, yourself, and your surroundings to start working bridleless. Make sure to wear a helmet and ride in a smaller, fully-enclosed space like a round pen. There are a few KEY things that need to be in place before you attempt your first ride without a bridle. They are:

  1. Independent Balance! To communicate clearly and effectively with your horse (with or without a bridle) you need to have good balance. You should be comfortable and confident at the walk, trot, and canter with NO STIRRUPS and with NO HANDS.
  2. A Trusting Relationship: I do not recommend riding an unfamiliar horse without a bridle or even your own horse if you do not already have a deep, long-standing relationship with them. If there have been circumstances in your past where your horse bolted, bucked, or reared and the two of you have not fully worked through those issues, I suggest you put more time into your relationship before beginning the bridleless process.
  3. A Solid WHOA! Make sure you practice the halt, a lot! Your horse needs to be responsive to your voice/seat cue (there is that clear communication) so that you can feel confident that your horse will stop whenever you ask. That is why I use treats when I ask Douwe to halt (he is a food-oriented fellow). I use my voice in the rolling r noise and he halts and gets a treat. This method is similar to clicker training except I am using my voice for the cue. 
  4. Bitless or Halter: See if you can ride in a bitless bridle or just a halter before you take the bridle off completely. Take as much time as you need to feel comfortable with these other options.

What techniques can you use?

I have learned a few different ways to ride a horse bridleless. You will probably know right away which method will work for your horse depending on his individual reactions.

Whip Steering: This is the method I used with Douwe. He seems most responsive having a visual guide for the turns. I have been using two whips and recently dropped down to just one. This technique will not work if your horse is scared/nervous of whips. Here is a video of Douwe performing bridleless in our "Wings of Isis" routine. You can see how I use the wings to help him steer. I was so pleased with his overall performance! He was a good boy!

Neckrope: You can teach your horse to "whoa" from the pressure of a neck rope. I have begun riding Rovandio bridleless using a neckrope because he prefers more input from me to help with his balance. Douwe would prefer that I just left him alone and not use anything related to pressure. To begin, I started riding Rovandio with a stirrup leather attached around his neck at the same time I was riding with the bridle. I incorporated halts from my voice/seat and added the pressure on the neck rope. Once he halted, I released the pressure and gave him a treat. You can use a variety of different "ropes", some horses react better to a stiffer rope and others something softer. This rider, Alizee Froment, is absolutely amazing! She is my current inspiration and when you watch this video you will see why. She starts off with a bitless bridle and then takes it off and does all the Grand Prix movements bridleless. She uses a simple neck rope. You will love this video!

Hand Signals: If you have an exceptionally obedient, sensitive horse you can teach them to move away from hand pressure. For example, you would rub/push your right hand forward onto the right side of the neck to ask him to turn left and vice versa. If your horse easily moves away from pressure this can be a good cue. Karen Rohlf uses some hand signals in this video with her wonderful horse, Monty.  You will enjoy watching this video because it shows the horse doing the same movements at liberty, under saddle and bridleless.

Seat & Leg: If your horse is completely tuned into your seat and legs (communication!) you can use these cues, along with your voice if needed. Some horses turn beautifully off the leg and weight aids, especially if they are well-balanced and highly trained. Douwe needs the visual motivation and Rovy needs more half-halts with the neck rope. This video of Stacy Westfall is a great example of just seat and leg aids. She performs their reining freestyle bareback and bridleless! Awesome job!

Please be safe and make sure you are not riding alone! If you have any questions or comments about riding bridleless please leave a comment below or send me an email at beginthedance@gmail.com. I would love to hear your stories about riding bridleless and if you have photos or videos, feel free to share!

Wearing this special shirt tells the world that you LOVE horses and you BELIEVE that riding is a Dance, not a push/pull sport that views the horse as a machine. YOU are a dancer at heart and wearing this shirt will INSPIRE others and remind you why you love the dance.