The Way We Think About Dressage Is Depressing

I know that there are two sides to every story and whilst I have very clear, definitive views of my own, I am able to empathise with other viewpoints and put myself in other people’s shoes.  I will always listen to a reasoned arguments.

DressageSo when it comes to the classical versus competition dressage debate I try to reserve judgement, I really do, although I have to confess to being a little impatient on the matter with a sigh and a roll of the eyes usually overtaking my demeanour involuntarily.

It took all of five minutes for me to catch sight of my first derogatory facebook post on the truly remarkable footage of our magnificent Team GB’s performance at the Rio Olympics.

You see there are those that liken Sir Carl’s (oh, yes count me in on that campaign) training methods to classical principles favourably.

“That is not classical, what are you seeing that is classical?” asked the keyboard warrior together with a full-on lecture about how competition dressage horses can never be trained classically.  On these occasions, if my interest is sufficiently piqued, I will click through to have a little look at the profile of the person in order to assess the likelihood that they might have some credentials to back up their argument.  Sadly and certainly, unsurprisingly on this occasion this post came from someone who appears to be in a league of their own when it comes to equestrianism – ’nuff said.


It bought to mind a so called ‘classical trainer’ I encountered a couple of years ago who had their client balancing a whip on her index finger for 10 minutes and admonished her much confused client for looking at the horse with a negative vibe!  I digress, because the reason I think that the way we think about dressage is so depressing came from a post I saw where someone was berating a fellow equestrian for pointing out that something wasn’t quite right about a combination riding at the Olympics.  “They are at the Olympics for goodness sake, I’d like to see you get there”.

DressageSadly, I recognised myself in the haranguing equestrian. I am in the habit of judging people’s opinions based on their ability to actually execute some level of dressage and am struggling to waver from this belief.  I still think that this is a reasonable thing.

Thankfully, we are fortunate enough to live in a democracy.  Hallelujah to that!

I am a fan of and we are all entitled to free speech.  Everyone has a right to express their opinion, or indeed ask a question … “what are you seeing that is classical?”  Shouldn’t matter a jot if they have achieved success themselves or not.  However, there is a fine line between free speech and hate speech.  I have seen the mark overstepped in social media, where the concept of the keyboard warrior (never write anything you wouldn’t say to someone’s face or discuss with them) overtakes and healthy debate turns into something which causes hurt or pain.  This can never be acceptable or hide behind the rights of a democratic people.

“Some people’s idea of free speech is that they are free to say what they like, but if anyone says anything back, that is an outrage” – Winston Churchill

“If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear” – George Orwell

“I do not agree with what you say but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it” – Voltaire

My personal favourite …

“I love free speech, I also love ignore, mute, block and unfriend” – Anonymous

In the sport of dressage we are aiming for perfection.  A row of 10’s for harmony between rider and horse which is virtually impossible, right?

Charlotte Dujardin riding Valegro – Grand Prix Freestyle Rio 2016Cp6zG21WYAAog94


Negative critique is the bedrock of good Dressage Training

Without it you cannot get out of your comfort zone and motivate yourself sufficiently to achieve your goals.  Fact is, the equestrian who points out that a combination doesn’t quite have things right is absolutely correct, that is if that combination isn’t our golden duo!

Social media is wonderful, it connects us all and as a result we have all become much more educated.  There is nothing you can’t find on the information highway; we have access to all sorts of people we may not ordinarily to choose to spend time with.  We are often given opinions which ordinarily we would not seek.  Diversity in terms of training methods and opinions abound.

So many of us have experienced the expertise we do not need from the armchair trainer at the yard.  This phenomenon has intensified in social media and yes, the way we think about dressage is depressing, but only because of those who are way too keen to jump in with their self-important diatribe.  It does not have to be this way.

Next time a keyboard warrior gets you riled try to remember their right to free speech (and don’t forget yours) and that no one is achieving perfection in our sport; even team Hester who demonstrate that competition horses can be trained on classical lines, lost points.  Improvement should be sought and can be found in everything.  Negative critique can, and often is, useful.Focus  Just be kind in its delivery.  Makes it all a little less depressing.

Patricia – The Dressage Tipster


5 Olympic Values That Shape What I Do

As we travel life’s arduous road, our life experiences help us shape and develop the core values we hold dear.  They mature into a set of principles which we deem significant and refer to time and time again, because we consider them worthy, useful and important to us.

There are so many fabulously inspirational stories coming out of the Rio Olympics; stories of how athletes have overcome great strife to achieve their dreams of becoming an Olympian.

Here are the Top 5 OLYMPIC VALUES that shape my daily decisions …Rio 2016

1. Question Everything you Know

There are no bad horses, only horses that have learnt unhealthy behaviour through bad handling, either through cruelty or ignorance; horses that have been damaged by incorrect training or horses expressing their discomfort or pain through the only way communication method they have – behaviour.Olympic Values

Continue reading 5 Olympic Values That Shape What I Do

The Ultimate Guide to Canter to Trot Transitions

Riding good canter to trot transitions is a joy and a skill.   In my experience the upwards transitions are the joy and the downwards transitions are the where the real skill lies!

I want to, nay need to, share with you my ‘eureka moment’ I had only this week whilst working on improving the quality of our canter to trot transitions.  Those confounded downward transitions can be tricky, can’t they?Trot Transitions

I do not wish to patronise you guys, so, I guess you know that the energy should come from behind and that preparation is key.  Is there really any point in me saying you should practice! I really hope not.  But I have billed this post as the ultimate guide, so I feel a gentle reminder is in order.

Essential requirements prior to the transition are: Continue reading The Ultimate Guide to Canter to Trot Transitions

Para Dressage – I can, I will, End of Story

Para Dressage Rider, Johanne Picken looks back and updates us on the progress of her dream.

Some of you will remember back in November 2013 when I introduced Johanne Picken to you.  My blog post, called ‘As Long as you have Passion, You are Unstoppable’ created quite a reaction due to the struggles Johanne had overcome simply to be in the saddle.  I caught up with Johanne again recently.  Here’s her memories of where she was back then …

“When I first embarked on my dressage journey, I felt quite alone when it came to any problems I encountered. Being on a tight budget, I couldn’t afford regular lessons, so was left trawling the likes of YouTube and various forums to glean any info I could that would help. Thought the information is out there, in various formats, I found that a lot of it was contradictory, and some of the methods used made me feel rather uncomfortable.  Then I discovered The Crystal System.Direction

I stumbled across The Crystal System blog whilst searching the interweb for help on how my position was affecting my horse’s way of going.  The relief I felt when I found Patricia’s blog was tangible, it was one of those ‘Eureka’ moments! I read posts from others, who struggled with similar issues, and Patricia’s replies to the questions posed were both informative and, as the name suggests, easy to follow, unlike so many other jargon-filled ‘self help’ guides. I particularly enjoy Patricia’s sense of humour, an absolute must for anyone who is involved with horses.

The Crystal System has helped me to better understand, not only my horses and their training, but also myself. I know that I’m not alone with my struggles, and I know I can always count on Patricia and The Crystal System to be there in times of need!”

We had a catch up earlier in the year Johanne stated … Continue reading Para Dressage – I can, I will, End of Story

What Rio 2016 Olympics Means For Dressage

Rio 2016Did you know that our beloved sport is under threat as an Olympic sport, as are all the equestrian disciplines?   Imagine that, just as Team GB get up there as a force to be reckoned with in Olympic Dressage they pull the rug from under us!

I don’t think so, certainly not if we can help it. Thankfully there is something we CAN do to help.

For over 100 years we have been part of the Olympic program but along with other long standing, traditional sports such as Archery, Judo, Shooting, Fencing etc., they are being closely monitored by the International Olympic Committee whilst the Games in Rio’s Maracanã Stadium in South America are underway.

The ‘powers that be’ will be monitoring just how much interest there is in each of these sports, how widespread the fan base is and how much social interaction we equestrians participate in. This monitoring is so important to the future of equestrianism at the Olympics that the FEI and British Equestrian Federation have created two campaigns for you to interact with.

Rio 2016#JoinTheJourney was started by the BEF so that fans can be a part of getting the teams to Rio, their time there and when they return.

#TwoHearts is the FEI’s campaign and it has a fantastic sentiment.  Rio 2016It represents the special bond between horse and rider which makes our sport so wonderful.

Lets Show ‘Em We Care …

Continue reading What Rio 2016 Olympics Means For Dressage


Haunches in, haunches out, quarters in, quarters out, travers, renvers – strip back the technical terms and what you are aiming for is the ability to move your horse’s quarters left or right (with bend through the horse’s body). Getting to the heart of the matter will dispel any fears you have about cracking on with this type of work, because the sooner you do, the sooner your horse will benefit from these straightforward exercises.



The function of this work is to get the horse’s rear to rotate inward and bend around your inside leg.  Often riders simply move the outside leg back and thereby move the quarters to the inside in an effort to achieve haunches in.   However, if your inside seat and leg is not clearly part of the given aids, your horse will have nothing to use as a point of reference for the bend and simply swing the body in or out stiffly.  This movement is something quite different to travers or renvers and will not help your horse’s suppleness and athletic ability; it looks wrong and will not pull in the points in competition. Continue reading LATERAL WORK: Travers

Why The Half Pass Cannot Be Improved

half passThere are many elements to the half pass which can go wrong but the good news is that 90% of the issues can be dealt with really easily.  The solution to many half pass issues is energy.  It is essential that you create sufficient energy in your horse for him to flow across the arena without labouring.  Fact is, it is simply not worth beginning a half pass if your horse’s gait is not energetic as you enter the movement, it will fade, become stuttery, lose bend and just be a ‘puffed up’ leg yield.  It is crucial there is no loss of rhythm, tempo or impulsion throughout the movement and this can only be achieved if your horse is forward and energetic.

It is the impulsion that allows you to maintain the momentum and rhythm throughout the movement.

The problem is that the half pass cannot be improved as you execute it.

Continue reading Why The Half Pass Cannot Be Improved


I’d like to bet that the majority of aspiring dressage riders enjoy their riding.  Yet how often do you see a smile on the face of a rider whilst training?   The answer, in my experience, is not often.


Crystal System DressageA very simple and hugely beneficial tip is to relax the lower part of your face; smile from the inside.  By doing so, your face will soften, your eyes will relax, so will your jaw and it will help you to relax your shoulders and arms.

Continue reading SMILE FROM THE INSIDE

Blue Chip Feed – Competition Give Away

Gotta love those generous guys at Blue Chip Feed, following the success of their All Star Academy series on Horse and County TV – a mixture of Big Brother, The Apprentice and Pony Club involving 8 contestants going head-to-head in various equine and media related tasks to find the eventual winner, Rhi-Lee Jones they are running a competition in which one person on Facebook / Instagram / Twitter will win over £290.00 worth of products.

Mahoosive contratulations to Rhi-Lee.

Blue Chip Feed

Hop over to the Blue Chip Feed Facebook Page and give it a go!  Just gotta like and share.

Continue reading Blue Chip Feed – Competition Give Away

Pick Me Up

 A little PICK ME UP

Problems and set-backs in your riding are inevitable. When everything seems to be going wrong, practice asking these questions of yourself to give you a quick and easy ‘pick you up’:

 “How far have I come?”       

During a recent training session I kept dropping my inside hand in the canter a centimetre, maybe two.  It was having a detrimental effect on my horse’s ability to stay on the circle.  To Pick Me UpMark this kind of problem is like a beacon flashing at him, to him it looks like I’m dragging her round with the inside hand and he said so!  I got a little uptight about the whole thing so ‘skulked’ off after the session to reminded myself that there was a time when I couldn’t canter more than 2 circles without collapsing in an exhausted, purple faced heap and my circles were what I now call squircles (squarish circles), egg shaped or worse I couldn’t actually get my horse onto a circle without actually dragging her round with the inside rein.  (I am ashamed to confess)Embarrassed Smiley

It’s all relative, when things are going wrong, it’s hard to recognise what is going right. It’s easy to screen out the good things and only focus on the bad things. Remind yourself that some things are going right. Purposely look for the positive, even if it is something very small. Continue reading Pick Me Up

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