Tag Archives: dressage competition

Celebrate the Small Wins

There I was, stood looking at the results board, whilst she grinned from ear to ear, chattering away with her entourage, she had every right to be celebrating her victory … again!!!

I don’t really know her well, just know her name really from being at the top of the leader board and I may have taken a peek at her facebook page, so I didn’t have to celebrate with her, a mumbled ‘well done’ with a touch on the arm was sufficient.  Turning away with a heavy sigh, I could feel the weight of defeat heavy against my chest. It had happened again, just like before, I bombed out!  There has to be a silver lining in it all, right?

If I was going to fail at every competition, then it was time to stop and take a moment to celebrate the small wins.  Not the red rosette, the 70%+ score, or the Regional Qualification, no.  Instead, I’m talking about celebrating the small stuff; the little things that most brush off as no big deal or not good enough, particularly when the goal is to be competitive.  I’m talking about actively looking for the wins and celebrating them.  Here are some small win examples from my last outing: Continue reading Celebrate the Small Wins


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

NOVICE TEST – 5 Questions for the Novice Dressage Rider

2015A New Year often brings new ambitions, reinvigoration of our aspirations and thoughts about how we will make the most of the very precious time we spend with our horses.

Some of you will be thinking about competing, possibly for the first time or with a new horse or maybe like me, you are thinking that 2015 will bring you opportunities you have been working towards.

With this in mind I have been looking to the requirements of the Novice Dressage Test and the essence of what the judge is looking for.  I have compiled a check list of 5 questions you might want to consider and which will hopefully help you to focus on what is important.

The Novice DressageTest

It is all about the horse’s way of going and obedience.  The judge is looking to see if you are on the right track with your training and by asking yourself these 5 questions, but more importantly, by being honest with your answers, you will be able to assess for yourself, before you even enter the competition arena if your work at home is up to standard.

Novice DressageSo, ask yourself … Continue reading NOVICE TEST – 5 Questions for the Novice Dressage Rider

Dressage Competition – Test Pilot

Hi Folks,

I haven’t given you much to work with lately and I apologise profusely, I am busy finalising the book and doing the illustrations.  I just wanted to drop you a brief line to say that the Dressage Competition for the Test Pilots is closed and they have been selected.  Now all I need to do is contact with the winners.

I will reveal all next week.  How exciting!

Dressage CompetitionIn the meantime, if you have any specific problems that you need help with right now, feel free to drop me a line either by email or just in the comments below and I’ll get working on some more tips for the blog for you.

Have a good weekend all.

Patricia – The Dressage Tipster


The Crystal System Book – Test Pilot Competition


The Crystal System Book is well under way and it’s time to introduce you to Amanda Crowley and her horse Mistress Polly.  They are my Crystal System ‘Test Pilots’.

In early June, Amanda Crowley wrote to me from the ‘About the Authors’ page of my blog site, having subscribed to The Crystal System.

Sitting HorseIt’s Sunday morning. Sun is shining (woo hoo!) and I am messing about on my iPad (again) looking for something new, enlightening, exciting to help me start my journey with my newly acquired friend and I have found you!! And I am excited. I am not a natural in the saddle although I have been riding for years and I have faced the same questions time after time “Why can’t I do it?” “What am I doing wrong?” “It can’t be that complicated.” Followed by “Failure. I am just not good enough and don’t deserve to be up here in the first place.” So, I did a really stupid thing and went off to a racehorse rescue and acquired my beautiful thoroughbred mare, Polly. She is never going to be a diva because I am not talented enough but she is better than me and I am determined to get her to a decent level because a) she deserves it and b) I need to prove it myself. I can’t wait to see if The Crystal System can help me get there.”

At this time I was pretty well entrenched in writing The Crystal System book and I felt like Amanda had been sent to me from above.  Absolutely perfect; just what I needed – a rider who is disillusioned, frustrated and is actively looking for a way forward and seems to be excited by my method.  So I emailed her and asked if she and her horse would be willing to be my ‘test pilots’ for the book.  I was delighted that she agreed.

I sent Amanda the first 5 chapters, followed by two chapters at a time up to the 13th and final chapter of the first draft.  I am sharing with you her critique of the book because she has given me loads of feedback and helped me to mould the content by adding and taking away as we went along.  I am doing this because the book is now with the publisher as a first draft and I am looking for a couple of other ‘test pilots’ to work through The Crystal System and give me an honest and open critique so that I can get it ready for market.   So I’ve decided to do a mini competition on the blog for my subscribers.

This is what Amanda has to say …

“The first positive dressage coaching/training book I have read. I should be feeling down and depressed and a failure but I am feeling uplifted and driven because finally, someone else has put their hand up and said what I have been feeling – nearly everything strikes a chord. I thought I could ride – every issue I have ever had with my horses has always been their fault – not mine – I am the human being and you are the horse and you should be doing what I tell you.  Problem is, the horse speaks Russian and I was speaking Chinese – communication breakdown. And, oh how I wish this book had been written 30 years ago!!

Let GoThe book takes you through the whole gambit of emotions – from the “Yes, we can do it” to the “Who are you kidding”.  The first downer was the brutal realisation that I can’t actually ride at all and the book points out many, many reasons why; lack of focus, vision, commitment, fitness, drive, co-ordination, position, wanting it all now – instant results. It will take an extremely strong and motivated individual to look at themselves and admit it.  But I have admit it and it feels good.

I watch others around me battling with their horses in the school trying to carry out this movement or that movement and the horse refusing point blank and now I know why.  They can’t ride either!! But it’s not about them. I have stopped trying to live up to unrealistic expectations – this is, after all my hobby and my release but there is no reason why I should not ride well and give both myself and my horse a pleasing experience every time I ride. I am not a talented rider but we can achieve something.  I am sure of that!!

The book hits right at the core of the thing almost straight away – don’t do it if you don’t want to – be happy with what you’ve got if that’s your bag but if you do want it, be prepared to put in the work.  Take your time, have a goal but only one you can achieve, have a plan to reach your goal. Be realistic about the time you have with your horse and what you can achieve in that time.

The book truly is a self-help guide – you will achieve so much if you take each tiny little piece and work on that. The mistake I made was getting so excited about the whole thing that I tried to cram everything into every session with my horse – disaster – then the feeling of “I knew it wouldn’t work.” Then the eureka moment “of course it’s not working, you are trying to teach her to speak a language that you can’t speak yourself yet”. So, I took a step back … learned a word … taught it to her then moved on to the next one.  I am not going to get quick results with Polly as she is an older horse being re-trained and I am an older rider being re-trained!!  And we are still learning words – I have yet to move on to whole sentences!!

The one thing which made such a huge amount of difference for me personally which I took into my training sessions from the start  was the tip to relax the lower jaw. Wow!! I had no idea I was clenching my jaw but that one thing releases the tension in the neck and shoulders which in turn helps the elbows to lie quietly by the sides.

Novice HorseI have become a novice rider and it actually feels nice!! I am learning again but I am learning the right way. When something goes wrong now, I don’t get cross and frustrated. I take a deep breath and think about what the reasons might be – what have I done – and nearly every time I can pinpoint the problem and it’s never down to my horse.

Dressage has always had me transfixed. How on earth can a rider make a horse do that? It looks so easy and effortless and of course, I can ride, so I can make my horse do that. Yeh right!! I want to change though – I want my little horse to be a happy and healthy little mare and to enjoy her work. I don’t want her to dislike me being up there.  I want to be in tune with her. I want her to listen and I want to hear what she’s saying. If I can achieve that, even if I never ride another dressage test, I will be happy.  Can I learn to ride dressage? Of course I can!!

I have to admit to being pretty taken aback at Amanda’s review.  Got quite emosh!  Now, I await the feedback from the publishers whilst I begin the illustrations, which I am really looking forward to doing.  I am developing a cartoon character called ‘Crystal’ who is modelled on our amazing Lusitano mare Sintra and I can’t wait to introduce you to her.  ‘Crystal’ will give tips and demonstrate my thoughts throughout the book and bring a little humour to the mix.

Dressage CompetitionHere’s the deal.  If you would like to be part of The Crystal System journey and get the first draft of the book absolutely free so that you can work through it and give me feedback for my target audience, email me on help@likecrystal.com and let me know WHY YOU WOULD MAKE A GOOD TEST PILOT.  The book is aimed at all levels of rider.

  • If you are just setting out in Dressage, The Crystal System is absolutely the best place to start
  • If you have already started but are struggling to progress, this book is a must!
  • If you are already competing successfully, The Crystal System will help you evaluate the effectiveness of your riding and give you plenty of strategies for your continued success
  • If you are a trainer The Crystal System will guide you through the process of analysis of your methods so that you can take only the best of it forward.

There really is something for everyone.  To be a test pilot you need to be riding regularly; be willing to follow the program; be sure that you are happy for me to go public with your views and be a subscriber to The Crystal System Blog.  You have until the last day of August 2014 to let me have the reasons why you would make a good test pilot, I will then choose at least two riders and announce the winners in early September.Excited Horse

Ooooo, how exciting!

So looking forward to hearing from you but most of all to helping you progress your dressage dream.

Good luck

Patricia – The Dressage Tipster


More about The Crystal System Launch … A blog about a blog  /  One is an Author


Fighting Competition Demons – Guest Post for Dressage Hafl

It’s always nice to make contact with fellow bloggers, so when Tanja from www.dressagehafl.com got in touch and asked for assistance with competition demons it was pretty timely as I had already planned to write a piece on the subject, having been asked by another rider for advice.

So, to see another great post in my series of Real Life Rider issues click through to …

Dressage Half

Patricia – The Dressage Tipster



VariationWhat is variation ?

It is “a change or slight difference in condition, amount, or level, typically within certain limits.”

Everyone knows that there are 3 recognised gaits in dressage – walk, trot and canter.  But we also have variations within these gaits – medium, free, collected and extended walk; working, medium, collected and extended trot and canter.

It is the phrase ‘within certain limits‘ that you must hold in your mind when training variations within the gaits.  You need a holistic approach to teaching your horse variations because, whilst the lengthening and shortening of your horses steps is important, this element (the length of the steps) is only important in relation to the overall outline or frame; elevation of the steps; raising of the forehand and neck and lowering of the croup.

All these elements are thoroughly interconnected and should be considered as the ‘certain limits‘ you must set yourself.  So, you would not set out to simply lengthen the stride when beginning in with the working to medium trot, you would set out to lengthen the frame, encourage more power from behind, raise the forehand and so on.  This is an important point for you to get into your head, because too many people send the front legs flicking out without engagement of the hind quarters and the way you approach the training will set you up for success.

Developing your horses ability to vary the gaits relies on your ability to do your transitions well and this in turn relies on your ability to recognise the absolute purity of the footfall within each gait, consistent tempo and regularity of the rhythm at all times – especailly throughout the transition.

Trot on

Products showing the ‘Trot On’ image can be purchased at …Zazzle/Kelli Swan

Here’s what to do …

Continue reading V – IS FOR VARIATION

Coveting the Red Rosette by Creative Equine

wpe2cce869_06My dear Dressage fans, today I have a treat for you!

Trudi Dempsey of Creative Equine Training has created this guest blog specially for The Crystal System.  It’s a topic that quite simply I have not considered before …. read on


The activity or condition of striving to gain or win something by defeating or establishing superiority over others

When Patricia kindly invited me to guest blog she mentioned that it would be good to pick a subject that engendered lively debate! To be honest I’m not really someone who goes out of their way to stir things. I’ve signed petitions protesting about rollkur, against the appalling conditions that horses endure when travelling to slaughter across Europe, the right to compete in bitless bridles etc and I’ve written of the sadness I feel when seeing lost souls hauling the front end in with draw reins and other dreadful devices but these topics are hardly likely to engender any form of debate at The Crystal System let alone lively debate! They are a done deal, we all agree, yay! So what to spout about, what can I whip up any kind of frenzy about? As always when blogging the subject has been knocking about in the depths of my consciousness for some time but I’ve been pushing it deeper to avoid jumping off my comfy fence!

Continue reading Coveting the Red Rosette by Creative Equine


Very few trainers give real weight to their pupils understanding and focusing on the collective marks.  My view is that if you pay lip service to this as an ‘also ran’ you will not have a full understanding of the aims of your test.

The collective marks allow the judge to give an overall score for their perception of how you and your horse performed THROUGHOUT THE TEST.  It is their opinion as to how you as a combination conducted yourselves and the overall impression you left them with as the test progressed.

This post is the first in a series that will explore how you can make the most of your collective marks.  For those of you that know the scoring and how it works I apologise but I must start with scoring so that everyone understands what they are aiming for.

Each Judge will allot 1-10 points for each section of the collective marks. These points are directly related to the key below:

Scale of Marks

  • 10 Excellent
  • 09 Very Good
  • 08 Good
  • 07 Fairly Good
  • 06 Satisfactory
  • 05 Sufficient
  • 04 Insufficient
  • 03 Fairly Bad
  • 02 Bad
  • 01 Very Bad
  • 0 Not Executed

At the lower levels collective marks are assigned for the following:

  • Paces and Regularity
  • Submission
  • Impulsion
  • Riders Position and Seat
  • Balance

In the event of a tie, the horse with the higher collective marks takes the higher placing.  If the total of the collective marks is also equal the horses are given the same placing and grading points in accordance with that percentage.

So, with this in mind it is really important that you know that throughout your test you are being marked not only for execution of the movement but also, the horses paces, submission, impulsion and your own riders position and seat.

It is not something that will just happen.  You need to work on these areas and really maximise your collective points.

The next post in the series will look at Paces and Regularity, but within that there are, of course, 3 paces – walk, trot and canter.  In the meantime, here’s an alternative way of scoring which may make more sense …

Dressage Scoring

The collective marks in a test can mean the difference between winning and not winning.   But for me that is not the aim of the game, for me the collective marks are about feedback on the very basics of your training and what you should concentrate on MOST OF ALL when you get your test sheet.

Have fun!

Patricia – The Dressage Tipster