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Welcome to Our Education Page!

More information will be added as it becomes available

Training Gems from Melonie Kessler,
USEF "S" judge

Schooling Show Guidelines

The Dressage Collection

Recommended Reading

The Best of Both Worlds
by Katrin Silva

NMDA Education Fund "Mini" Grant Application is now available. These small grants are easy to apply for, open to any age of member or nonmember, and can be applied towards NMDA educational events.
The requirements are an interest in furthering dressage education with NMDA, a certain amount of volunteer hours, and submittal of application. Grants are good for 2 years. Click below for application & more information.

Region 5 GMOs -

I hope that you all had a wonderful holiday season and are ready to take on a new year! The Dressage Foundation (TDF) would like to invite you and your members to sign up for a NEW and FREE educational opportunity called TDF's OP-ED (OPportunity for EDucation). This will be a monthly e-newsletter that will provide educational articles from prominent and respected dressage professionals.

We'd love for you to help us get your members signed up and ask that you forward this information to them or include it in your next email/newsletter. It's easy to sign up! Just visit our website for information: www.dressagefoundation.org/op-ed/

Please let me know if you have any questions.
Jenny Johnson
Executive Director


The Dressage Foundation
1314 'O' Street, Suite 305
Lincoln, Nebraska 68508
(402) 434-8585
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This is a short essay by Hector Carmona that we received from Dorie Vlatten Schmidt. She will be sending us more of these.

Forward Thinking

Horses should not only be able to gather themselves but also extend themselves. For all of these exercises we need forward thinking and the rationale for the current tempo. There is range of motion within the horse. No fancy exercises, only more active and the giving of the hands and the horse will grow. It is the basis of the foundation of training which is to allow the horse's basic steps in the 3 gaits to come out as if without the rider. The rider should not hinder but instead allow. The result will be a more up-tempo achieving better articulation of the horse's joints. The thinking should be forward but not at the expense of lightness in the rider's hands. Within the ride, whether uphill or more towards long and low, it should develop without tension or heaviness. We should understand the horse's basic and natural steps and allow the horse to relax into them. My approach: comfort for the horse within what nature provided. Your horse shall become more beautiful and prouder if the rider allows for movement without restraint.

Hector Carmona, Jr.

By Rudolf Vlatten

Successful trainers often refer to the importance of the horse's happiness. Riders must remember that the horses' emotions are not influenced by an occasional carrot or by the rider's exuberance after a good ride in the ring.

It is important not to treat a horse as a human friend who will understand periods of separation, silence and excuse our frailties. The horse's happiness depends on the daily routine and the environment. Most important is the balance of demand and reward in the training period. We must be patient, repetition must be measured and reward must be frequent with every sign of progress.

Treated with balanced requests during training sessions and relaxed rides around the property or in the country, the horse will be happy. It will show signs of joy that make a "good ride" brilliant.

Positive Training: Creating the spark and enthusiasm from within your horse.
By Hector Carmona

Many times in retraining a horse ultimately it is the ingredient of enthusiasm that is missing and the only way to attain it is with forward riding. Get away from the exercises you are performing and get back to them once you have attained the spark. Then the exercises will have the true purpose of development.

During the stage of forward riding reduce the length of the ride to roughly the 15-20 minutes with the goal being a little cluck cluck from the voice and to have all the eagerness that is available. In order to do this first we must get the balance so he is not on the forehand. It is not hard to do. The neck needs to be with the poll as the highest point. You need to feel his center of gravity become located more under you and more to the quarters. For this to be successful both the rider and the horse must be awake. Horses will respond; they are good souls. This attitude should be there from the onset; otherwise we only warm-up inefficiently without preparing the horse for the possibilities. And so between you and your horse it is building the fire.

Energy: without it what is there? The goal needs to be finding where the edge is and going beyond it. Once you know where the edge is then all you need to do is back off a little bit. The horse?s mind will guide you. All this needs to be done in short bursts and not sustained ones. Think and act as if you are training him for the thoroughbred races and put dressage on the backburner. Excitement from you and him is the task at hand.

Work 15-20 minutes with the breaks included with no segment lasting more than 5 minutes more or less. Praise him plenty as he begins to awaken up and takes the bit from his quarters. This is done with light seat positioning from the rider and positively no sitting trot. But remember this will not work if he is on the forehand so you must change his center of gravity first before going only more forward.

When the spark and enthusiasm is within the horse and you can feel it even before mounting then it's time for the next phase of education in positive training. Your horse will be grateful and happy for the joy you are presenting him. Without joy there is no real dressage and there never will be true beauty.

Life Force Energy
By Hector Carmona JR.

Energy is so crucial in our daily lives. In addition to helping us make sense of the entire universe, the story of our lives revolves around how to harness and understand this energy and the relationship of how its philosophy and mechanics work. This living force or energy is the same for dressage horse and if harnessed there is unimaginable grace and power in the flow of energy. And within the different exercises it is that Life Force Energy that is transformed from one form to another.

It is for this very reason that Modern Dressage, with its shortened necks and neck manipulations as a form of elasticizing the horse makes no sense and goes contrary to every principle known with the rest of Life. Instead it locks the poll and the horse is unable to turn its head left or right. It prevents the aids and impulsion to go through, creating stiffness in other parts of the body as well as numbness and tension in the mind.

The neck belongs to the horse in its entirety with a soft poll to allow for a swinging back and for the hind-legs to step under the center of gravity. The idea is the harnessing of energy in the partnership with the horse and not of submissiveness and dominance. We need to get back to riding the horse from the hind-legs where the energy is found to the front, where the energy is harnessed.

For more information about Hector Carmona visit

Rolf A. Vlatten M.D.

When your test calls for an extended trot on the diagonal you must prepare your horse on the short side. Try to engage your horse a little more; ride well through the corner with the inside leg firmly on the horse and the outside rein giving support and balance. After the corner the horse should be straightened and a half halt should precede the first extended stride.

Once the horse executes the extention you must move your hands a little forward to permit the neck to stretch and to give more freedom of the shoulder. Keep the rhythm in you hands. Watch that your horse does not fall on the forehand or start running. Give a half halt when crossing the center line to avoid these problems.

Riding Begins and Ends With the Upper Body
By Hector Carmona JR.

Riding begins and ends for the most part in the upper body from the hips to the shoulders. The horse picks up on it so readily because of its simplicity. The straight hip-shoulder line always remains the same whether full seat, half-seat or jumping position with the only changes being: body to the front open door and forward, right shoulder forward into the half-pass left, upper body back half-halt and so on.

This allows for the hands to be free and to ride in looped reins after every little signal. The goal is to ride through the body only, without hands and rein weight. It is just like having a dog on a leash and going for a walk, run or better yet bike ride. Zero weight on the leash is the only way for it to be pleasant and successful. In riding, it's the same. The beauty of it is that it takes all the mystery out of the exercises.

The focus needs to be from the hips to the shoulders and keeping a straight line whether positioning that part of the body to the front of the vertical or on the vertical or behind the vertical depending on the forward, the quiet, and the bringing back of the horse.

In order to develop upper body riding, the rider must release the legs and hands fully and use them only when necessary and then release them again. It is through the release that the body will become as it should and play its role of riding in the most subtle way. The end result will be light and harmonious riding with the horse moving freely as if without the rider.

Dressage riders must be quick-thinkers and problem solvers
Melonie Kessler
USEF "S" Dressage Judge

I instruct my students to break down their difficulties and have them quickly tell me what they need to do as a correction. Many times riders feel over whelmed with the fact that their figures and movements aren't maintaining quality. I encourage them to think in terms of gradual improvement. Instead of riding for perfection, I have them ride to do better.

As they ride the long side they tell me what they feel is needed fundamentally to improve. Impulsion, straightness, steadying the tempo etc. On the short side they make their corrections. The next long side they ride having isolated the main problem. The idea is to quickly use the tools the instructor has given them and do "better" each long side. They must be quick to assess and correct. The fundamentals are the key to achieving the lightness and harmony we all seek to perform the exercises with ease both for us and our horses.

Remember the fundamentals are in the training scale. No matter what sport you engage in or what level you have achieved, the key to success is a strong understanding and ability to perform the "basics".

I encourage all riders to take the responsibility of knowing the fundamentals of our sport and to develop their skills in explaining them to their partners.

The Horse's Breath
by Hector Carmona

Every type of horse, regardless of breed and confirmation needs to be allowed to find itself through the richness and depth of its deepest breath. The conscientious rider needs to be seeking, searching and achieving this kind of deep breath. Without this breath, the foundation of training will always be lacking both physically and mentally. The arrival of this breath occurs when the horse is able to accomplish the full and complete stretch. The proper tempo becomes obviously evident, and the musculature well lubricated in its movement of all body parts. There are no restrictions or limitations. It is a state of all resistance and tension of body and mind releasing and letting go.

There is no denying when this state is achieved. The horse will breathe in, inhaling at its deepest and fullest lung capacity and then breathe out letting out a clearly audible long exhale from its mouth and nose. And this will repeat itself until the horse has completely released any and all holding back from prisons of the mind and body that may have existed. This letting go needs to be learned and understood by the horse in order to achieve a state of completeness within itself of no holding back.

This breath enables the horse to be stress free, all tension is released, and the horse becomes serene in the harmony within itself. There are other types of breaths but without the ability to achieve the deepest breath the others will also be lacking as well as all other aspects of training. This is not an esoteric concept as all horses regardless of breed and confirmation are able to achieve this state and all riders are more than capable of guiding the horse to this breath if you follow the horse's lead.

In having retrained more than enough Thoroughbreds straight off the track with the bolting deep in their psyche in a split second as well as the panic stricken warmbloods who have learned to fight for their own preservation, the horses guided and steered me to finding and actualizing this type of breath. While trying to stay alive and in survival mode, I came across this process during the rides, then afterwards with an anatomical eye understanding the horse's vertebrae. It is not mysterious or complicated at all.

If this breath settled the most disturbed and troubled of minds into relaxation and focus while moving actively it is then the basis of all training for all horses. The horse expels with it and through it lets you know it's ready to move on. Without this breath, the riding has not yet begun. Picture the horse loose becoming totally captivated by external stimuli, after its run it looks and takes its deepest breath. Energy remains, but there is a level of composure within him. In training, it's the same. All dressage movements are based on the horse at play and with its breathing it needs to be thought of in the same way. The Deep Breath is the basis from which the real training begins as it does resonate with all of its being. Every rider does possess the innate ability to allow the horse to find its deepest breath.

What Really is classical?
by Hector Carmona

What really is classical? Is it a certain time period and/or a method of training? When the FEI came into existence and dressage became an Olympic sport, many horses were trained with a stiff or hollow back. It is safe to say that the majority were. All the history books indicate this fact. If prior to that, in the classical system, horses were trained giving the back, why was this not carried over? I don't know. The back started to gain popular attention in the late 50's and early 60's, but still many winning horses were not "over the back." I don't think we have nailed it yet. We began to, but then it got twisted. This all comes down to proper stretching of the horse. And I don't think it has been clearly defined as of yet and understood. Either the horses are strung out, or they are shortened in the neck. There needs to be a conference stating proper stretching and putting it in the rule book. I do believe one day the rule book will be relevant again. This proper stretching will have the scientific evidence behind it. We are at that point in time today. All of the information is available; it only needs to be compiled. That's not hard to do. We have healthy minds in the business looking at things objectively where the welfare of the horse is the most important criteria. We are coming close to arriving at this point. In many ways, it is evident with the ongoing battle to end Rollkur/LDR. We are ripping apart theories and then joining together to rebuild proper training techniques. I guess that's how we humans need to operate.