Get Well Soon, Whisper

Dear Whisper,

We will miss you and Monica in London.

May you dance gleefully through your recovery!


Rider Nutrition: What’s in the Hamper?

Mom taught us to pack lunches. The grammar school did not have a cafeteria, and we lived too far to walk home for lunch, so we carried lunch boxes including a thermos of soup, a sandwich, a piece of fruit, maybe a cookie. And a nickel with which to buy a pint carton of milk. When we were tall enough to operate at the kitchen countertop, we participated in the lunch box assembly line, cleaning the lunch pails and thermoses, making the sandwiches and wrapping them.

To weekend Pony Club meetings, we would also take lunches. And as Young Entry into the hunting field, we carried sandwich cases and flasks on our saddles.

Now, still and ever a horseman in motion, I pack a hamper. In summer, the contents are a litre of water, a litre of Tonic Water (human muscles need quinine to prevent cramping in extreme heat–read the label to avoid unwanted additives), salt pills (learned that in Pony Club!) and Fruit Sandwiches and Gazpacho. Eating utensils  and a hand washing kit…the fingernail brush is essential. Carrots, one for me and several for the horses.

Fruit Sandwiches are an assembly of the best bread I can buy, crunchy peanut butter on one slice, Nutella on the other, a pealed julienned banana, and another fruit.  In cooler weather, I sprinkle a little cinnamon in between the layers,  before closing and wrapping. Recent weeks, the local peaches have been plentiful, California raspberries at a dollar a pint are irresistible. Michigan blueberries are plump. So the second fruit varies, but the banana is essential for potassium, also for the muscles

At about 500 calories per sandwich, the nutritional values are excellent, if and only if you read the labels of the peanut butter jar and bread loaf wrapping. If you take the time to do the shopping, you can minimize the “food-like substances” health risks and maximize the “real food” nutritional values. I discovered recently that the brand of peanut butter I had been buying for a couple of years contains hydrogenated vegetable oils THAT’s not food. . Should have known there was some reason it was on sale. Changed brands.

The bread I buy contains 12 grains!   and raisin juice and brown sugar (which is NOT refined sugar, it’s ok). It’s store brand and so popular that grocer cannot keep it on the shelves. So when I see it, I buy several loaves, and freeze it. These are the grains that are the foundation of the nutrition pyramid. So I want ALL of them, everyday.

Gazpacho need not be cooked. You can run it through a food processor to make it less chunky. But I hate to clean the food processor, and I can sharpen a knife. My version is rustic, more like a cold summer vegetable stew. The amounts of the ingredients van vary according to what’s available. I mean, who cares whether this batch tastes a little more like yellow pepper than green pepper?


Cucumber, Red Bell Pepper, Orange Bell Pepper, Yellow Bell Pepper, Green Bell Pepper, Red onion, Plum or Romano Tomatoes

Olive Oil, Ground Sea Salt, Ground Black Pepper, Vegetable Juice


Long sharp knife,  LARGE Stainless steel or glass mixing bowl,  Cutting board

Food processor (optional)


Cucumber first: Wash it.Cucumbers are coated with a wax to preserve them through transit and market. Yuck. But the best of the nutrients are in the skins. So, rather than peel them,  put a few drops of liquid dish detergent on your fingertips, and under the sink faucet, scrub the ‘wax’ away with your hand, until the water no longer beads on the cucumber skin. Then, with your longest, sharpest knife, section the cucumber, stem to stern, opening and exposing the seed core. With the back of the knife, scrape the seeds into the refuse container. Then dice, finely, and sweep into the mixing bowl.

Now, clean trim,  de-seed, and dice, finely, the peppers, and tomatoes, and sweep each into the bowl, grind a littel sea salt over each layer. The salt brings the juices out tf the vegetables, so the flavor exchange begins immediately.

Drizzle olive oil over all the ingredients in the bowl…two, three, four ounces, then toss all the ingredients together. I like to leave this on the counter for an hour or so, before adding the vegetable juice. Not too much vegetable juice, you can always add more later.

Vegetable juice? My neighborhood market sells a plastic bottles store brand including tomato, carrot, green pepper and celery juices. If yours does not you can opt for that famous 8 Vegetable Juice brand.

Cover the bowl with ANYTHING BUT ALUMINUM FOIL, and refrigerate overnight, 24-48 hours is better.

Then dish it out. In the very hottest part of summer, I’ll put a helping in a little plastic container, and put that in the freezer overnight.  Then take it out and put it in the hamper. It will defrost and be icily refreshing come  picnic time.

For a gourmet presentation, serve in glass bowls, garnish with celery, parsley, or cilantro leaves, offer a wedge of lemon or lime, crusty bread, dry white cheese. Here’s the aftermath of last night’s supper, to which I added about a cup of vegetable juice before covering and refrigerating for later refreshment:

Olympic Dress Rehearsal

It’s  hot and dry, here, near the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri. Too hot to even think about getting dressed to test, much less to ask our horses for such exuberant exhibition. Trail rides and frequent showers suffice to keep our minds, bodies and souls intact.

But in rain sodden Gloustershire, in the west of England, the Brits decided to give their least experienced Olympic aspirant a dress rehearsal. Charlotte Dujardin and Vallegro’s  at Hartpury College, July 7 2012, scored a well deserved 90.65.  Evidencing excellence in every element of the Training Scale, plus near synchronization to the musical medley, compels inclusion of their test  in this collection.

World Class Warm-up II: Reiner Klimke

June 19, 2012 Following the Olympic Dressage Team and Individual selection process these recent weeks has been both fascinating and frustrating. Fascinating because it is happening everywhere, all over the world, and have been televised, live-streamed, filmed and web loaded by dedicated videographers. Frustrating because it is nigh on impossible to see all the rides of Olympic aspirants, all over the world. Even more frustrating because dedicated videographers and TV film crews focus, quite understandably, on the test rectangle itself, rather that the warm-up areas. It is the warm-up areas from which there is so much more to learn.

Although Dressage seems so temporal, if not downright urgent in an Olympic, or even World Equestrian Games year, it’s wise to remember that Dressage is timeless; the more things change, the more horses and humans remain the same.

Reiner Kilmke’s(1936-1999) horsemanship is timeless. His 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Gold medal victory, including one tempis, passage, piaffe, and extended trot with Ahlerich is iconic:

The man and horse had so captivated the imaginations of American horsemen, that we wanted more. He was invited to ride for the Madison Square Garden audience of the 1987 National Horse Show, and our good fortune was that he accepted.

Seven years he later he was back in Los Angeles, contesting the WorldCup with Biotop.

And the next year he rode Biotop at Aachen, where he was filmed in trot exercises the day before the Grand Prix. Studying this film illuminates so many aspects of excellence:

Many thanks to Bill Woods for making the effort to digitize his analog films, narrate and web-load Klimke’s and Biotop’s exercises.

WorldClass Warm-ups include Long&Low, EVERYDAY

Free Translation Widget

In recent months of sizzling summer-extreme heat and drought, here near the Confluence- I’ve watched innumerable videos of 2011 Aachen, The European Dressage Championships, and several other European Dressage shows, and have been inspired by such good riders, more as a matter of  ‘who knows, rather than who’s news.’

While the US Young and Developing Dressage Horse Championships and US National Grand Prix and Intermediare Championships were in process the last few weeks, at Wayne and Gladstone, I resorted frequently to live stream and a variety of news sources to glean new insight into progress by US competitors toward the ideals of Dressage.  For the tests themselves, internet videos provide excellent vantage points, typically better than being there.  And when I see one test performance clipped, I seek, and often find,  more videos of the same performance, recorded from other vantage points.

What I miss by not actually being there, is that I don’t see the warm-ups preceding the tests, as one can, if situated  cleverly at contest venues.

So over time I have surfed avidly for film clips of warm-ups by riders I admire, and who moments thereafter received high marks from FEI Judges. I have found few, alas, very few.  My current favorites of warm up clips, is Steffen Peters (US) and Ravel at 2009 Aachen, where they won the Grand Prix, Grand Prix Special, and Grand Prix FreeStyle. warming-up  for the Grand Prix Special which is, you may know is THE TEST of shortest duration, requiring the highest degree of collection for sustained  for the longest duration of any of the FEI TESTS.

(A new GPS test, written by the FEI, at the behest of the IOC, and much to the chagrin of the International Dressage Riders Club, for the purpose of entertaining network television viewers of London 2012, will be used from October 1, 2011 through December 31, 2012. I just read the new test. Containing all the same movements as the ‘normal’ GPS test, it is even shorter- more compact, and requires more muscular stamina. I think it an unnecessarily difficult means of testing against the ideal. Causing me to wonder, for our horses’ sakes, how to get television production under control. )

A view of Steffen Peters preparing Ravel for their 2009 Aachen Grand Prix Special triumph: ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….



And here’s what I see…from zero to 1:26 Steffen is loosening and promoting Ravel’s engagement  by posting vigorously, emphatically rising as vertically as possible, canting forward only by the inclination of his head and the visor or his cap. When he touches the saddle, he barely pats it. But he does pat it, to which the horse reacts by opening his thoracic spines upward.  Steffen opens the inside of Ravel by counter flexing and eliciting one stride of counter shoulder fore before riding each corner as a quarter volte. In this posture, for this horse’s degree of development, a quarter volte is three or four strides, rather than two, as in collection. Again counter flexing a stride before beginning a circle, he then ‘drives on,’ forward and down, asking for increased engagement into even contact, including, for the purpose of this exercise, the contact of the rider’s passively tense calf with horse’s latissimus dorsi, through saddle.

Contact with the rider’s hands, held wide apart as the rider’s hips, well below the horse’s withers, and therefore sensed by the horse from the rider’s hips, rather than from the rider’s elbows as when the riders hands but a hand’s width apart and just above the horse’s withers, is through the snaffle rein to the corner of the horse’s mouth and through the curb rein only by the weight of the curb rein and bit felt by the horse at its poll. The “drive on” is effected by the rider’s posting momentum including the projection of his center forward and the flexion of the rider’s calf each time rider rises with the horse’s inside leg. The rider’s hand senses to coming of throughness from behind and gives to permit forward energy flow, effecting repeated ‘half-forwards’  The horse’s posture is horizontal, weight distributed evenly fore and aft. Tail swinging indicates lack of spinal tension. Neck long, open and low, to poll below withers, flopping ears! Facial profile inside the vertical and moving toward the vertical as the exercise proceeds. Corner of horses mouth between point of horse’s shoulder and horse’s elbow.

Steffen executes the exercise as I find it is written in classical literature. This is how it is done. The first 86 seconds of this tape is the answer not only to “what is long and low?” but the current probe “How long and low is TOO long and low?” This tape exemplifies the limits.

In the very next seconds, and onward, Steffen administers exercises he has programmed to ready for the soon to be performed test. And there is vastly more to be learned, not the least of which is the relationship between half-pass and passage, by and for  those who have moved closer to this level of  development. About the rest of the tape I may write later, if only for the crystallization of my own thoughts. I chose to not edit, to not curtail, the tape because I did not want to remove any available context.

But back to long and low, everyday long and low:

What we don’t see in this clip is what preceded the administration of the exercise. Reasonable surmise is that he enjoyed a 10 minute walk ‘trail ride,’ mounted, from stable to the group warm up ring, where among other contestants, he continued to loosen with longitudinal and lateral exercises at trot and canter, awaiting his ten minutes of exclusive use of the private warm-up court penultimate to entrance to the test arena. And may have entered the private court at collected canter, just before the video starts. Such sequential build-up to performance is rarely, if ever afforded at lesser than International Championships venues.  Nonetheless, the first 1:26 of this clip is relevant to the work of all of our horses, at every stage of their progressions. Large circles, with the best possible contact,  long and low, emphasizing maintenance of rhythm and tempo and promoting engagement, is, early on, the lesson itself, for a horse in field school. It is valuable therapy for a horse coming out of rehabilitation. And it is essential preparation for a day’s lesson, or for test performance.

For advancing medium level horses, and further developing advanced horses, this exercise is included not only in warm-up, but also warm-down. As such horses tend to become too strong, it is best to leave the day on a soft, light note, making it easier to resume the next ride with softness and lightness.

Oh, almost forgot! I couldn’t find a clip of Ravel’s 2009 Aachen GPS, but here’s one of his triumph in the Freestyle, preceded, I imagine by a similar, if not identical warm-up.

Local Motion: Cavalia is HERE!

High above Chouteau's Pond...For weeks, I’ve been watching the development of Cavalia Village while traversing the Poplar Steet Bridge. Even when only the White Big Top was erect between the Bridge and the carriage horse stable, I was drawn to stop and focus on it’s graceful presence on Chouteau’s Pond, Downtown St. Louis. My anticipation of Cavalia’s St Louis premiere had been building.
Cavalia's White Big Top in St. Louis

So when Cavalia invited Dressage Underground to the photo-op arrival of the horses themselves, I thought “Pourquoi -non?”  Dusted off my rusty photo-journalist self, and organized yesterday to include this picnic on Chouteau’s Pond.

Arriving early,  I was acknowledged with a nod and smile from a happy groundskeeper, and upon donning equipment and opening the trar door, surprised to be greeted by a gracious voice intoning “Are you media?…here to greet the horses’ arrival” “Mais, oui, madame” I replied, and was directed around a muraled security enclosure to the meeting point at the box office.  First to arrive, and greeted once more, I asked to have a respectful look about, and was able to peer through the parted curtains of the performance tent, one of the two exercise tents, the hospitality and staff cafeteria enclosures. Approaching a plexiglass double casement in the curtain wall of the stable tent…”Le Habitat,” I had heard the assembly crew call it…I stopped to read the sign,

and while peering around it, I heard a friendly, French inflected voice “One P.M.”
“I can wait” I said, catching M. Valcour’s grin, as he opened and passed through the portal, and strode in to himself be greeted by the huge gray head of vaulting horse, with whom he stopped to exchange pleasantries. Junior, it seems, had arrived at 10A, had been showered, but not yet shaven, and was eagerly awaiting the arrival of his people.

Media had gathered and were being greeted by M. Pacquette when I returned to the meet point.   Looking up to see two twelve horse transports in tandem approaching The Poplar, and knowing they would exit at 6th, I prepared for

Soon a ramp was down and the sisal carpet rolled out for ‘the artists.’ As human cast and crew greeted one another, the scene unfurling was delightfully and factually narrated by Fairland Ferguson,  who trick and roman rides in the show.


When all of these 25 of the 49 horses were safely “en habitat” we were invited in to have a look around…
and observe preparations for their first sand box frolics in St Louis.  Drawn to the cluster of Iberian grays who dance dressage, I found myself engaged by the graceful motions Tatiana Daviaud, tacking her partner, Goloso. Addressing her in my schoolboy French, she agreed to express her obvious passion for dressage.
When I stopped the film, I became aware, once again, of the presence of M. Valcour, who offered to provide this translation to English:

‘’ In respect to movement, we work to promote balance and agility with a focus on flexibility and relaxation for all of the horses. With these different elements in place, we ensure that the horses feel ready, mentally and physically, to take the stage and turn it into their very own playground each night.. ‘’

Soon, we were ushered  onward past the tack room.. a container with double overhead doors that can be loaded on and off an over-the-road flat bed, and placed in the perimeter of the stable tent. As I paused to snap it, Roman rider Chad Dyson asked whether I wanted him “out of the picture.” “Au contraire, bon homme,I want you IN the picture.”

And onto the river sand footing of a warm-up tent, where we were introduced to several of the horses and riders, including Head Trainer Gregory Molina, and his four graceful accomplices of this concentric circle synchronization.
And got to see Fairland and Chad find their footings on the backs of their Roman pairs.

If I hadn’t “heard” the voice of the schoolmaster calling “HAY,” I ‘d have made a nuisance of myself there in Cavalia Village, the rest of the afternoon. But artists deserve creative privacy.

And Dressage Underground is to return.

2012 Winter Digest: Progressing bitless…..

While many sunchasers danced with their horses in milder climes, it was the Finns who managed a breakthrough experiment in testing bitless, by staging a juried exhibition before a large audience for The Tunne Hevonen Dressage Challenge at the Helsinki Horse Fair.

Whether the LG-bridle was required for the test, or favored by the riders is unclear. And whether exercise bandages were required, or only permitted, I also do not know. But all the stills and videos I’ve seen are LG-bridles and bandaged. For this exhibition performance, just like everyday exercises, why not?

What I like most about this mode is that the rider’s dynamic positions more nearly approach the ideal than they might if performing the same movements in snaffle or full bridles, especially that transitions are influenced by the riders’ backs.

This ride, by Julia Alfthan-Kilpeläinen and her 17-year old Swedish warmblood gelding Chirocco (by Chirlon x Castello), was the jury’s favorite:

The judges also liked, as do I, the ride of Maria-Kristina Virta and her 20-year old Finnish warmblood gelding Conquistador S (by Matador) in which at 2:10 is evident lavish saliva. Bitless.

Winter Digest 2012: Hiroshi Hoketsu, Septuagenarian Olympian

March 2-4, 2012, Hiroshi Hoketsu of Japan and 15 year old mare, Whisper 115 was scored 69.064 in the Grand Prix for Special and 72.533 in the Olympic Grand Prix Special at Vidauban, France, by nine judges from so many countries.

With these scores, Hoketsu and Whisper qualified for both the April 2012 Dressage World Cup Finals, ‘s-Hertogenbosch, Netherlands, and London 2012 Summer Olympics.

Hoketsu, competed in the 1964 Olympics in ShowJumping, went to the Los Angeles ’84 Olympics as an Alternate, but did not compete, and to Seoul ’88 Olympics, where he was prevented from competing by quarantine restriction.

If directed by the Japanese Olympic Committee to London, he will ride for his nation as an Individual, but also for the entire  Asia-Oceania FEI Region, of which he is representationally singular.

With Whisper, Hoketsu contested the 2007 Kapsavar World Cup

Aachen CHIO World Cup 2009


And the World Equestrian Games Kentucky 2010

So what’s the fuss? Why are a multitude of sports and general interest media…print, internet, radio and television ALL attending to this Dressage minutiae? Well, Hiroshi Hoketsu was born March 28, 1941. And so, will soon observe momentarily, if at all, his 71st birthday, while preparing for ‘s-Hertogenbosch.

Ride on, Hiro!

Quadrille: Who’s Having the MOST Fun?

I noticed this film in December, and enjoyed it. Yesterday a reading rider encouraged me to include it in this burgeoning collection of “bests”. I agree with her; it does belong here.

To save your having to read all the comments to the video: So far, anyone’s best guess as to WHO the horses and riders are, is this list…which includes thirteen pairs, rather than twelve, suggesting that the troupe included an alternate in the case one pair was unable to perform on the ocassion.

1. Dr Reiner Klimke – Ahlerich 2. Gabriela Grillo – Osander 3. Herbret Krug – Muscadeur 4. Ingeborg Fisher – Gran Chaco 5. Tilman Meyer zu Erpen – Tristan 6. Madeleine Winter – Chagall 7. Herbert Rehbein – Rex the Blacky 8. Karin Rehbin – Marschall 9. Jean Bemelmans – Angelino 10. Monica Theodorescu – Lexicon 11. Johann Hinnemann – Genius 12. Ruth Klimke – Pascal 13. Heike Kemmer – Lotus.


2012 Winter Digest: To be one in motion with a horse……

Among the presenters at the 2011 Global Dressage Forum was Alizee Froment, CDI Grand Prix competitor and Chef of the French Pony Dressage Team, who discussed and demonstrated bitless riding.

Having gone on record that I recommend testing all the way through Grand Prix in a snaffle bit at US national meets, as is done in Great Britain,  I’ve also wondered about a separate…might it be called “Masters?” …division in which horses are tested, only at Prix St George and above, in a bitless headcollar. I actually do not object to bits, or bits and bridoons. I simply think that riders seats and tact would improve, and the intrinsic qualities of our horses’ motion would be enhanced, if the bridoon were not added, ever. And that riders would be able to achieve a quality of contact surpassing contact through a bit by riding with bitless head-collars. Because riders would get, from bitless riding, feedback from the motion of their horses that would improve their seats and tact. (I do not consider mechanical hackamores or bosals or hinged cavessons to be bitless headcollars.)

So I was frustrated that I did not find a transcript of  the discussion of bitless riding or a film of Alizee Froment’s demonstration at the GDF.

Only to be delighted to receive this video in New Year’s greetings from a German DressageUnderground participant.

Which caused me to surf a bit and find a video of the same horse doing the same exercises bitless but under saddle.

And a video of the same horse and rider combination being tested under rules three years prior.

I have very much enjoyed comparing the three videos and although I am administering gymnastic exercises with saddles and snaffles this winter, I think my own seat and tact may have notched up from watching these films.

%d bloggers like this: