The Best Stories You May Have Missed in 2021

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Jody and her Saddlebred George.  Photo by Meghan Benge

By Chelsey Burris

2021 was a busy year, and in all the craziness, you may have missed some great content on YourDressage!  Here are a few stories, videos, and photo galleries that may have flown under your radar the last twelve months.  Which is your favorite?  Let us know in the comments below!

Pixel Perfect

Sam and Pixel

“Pixel taught me the coveted passage and generously shared all his fancy moves to make me look good in demonstrations, ‘riding with finesse — so easy, even a blind woman can do it!’” In this inspiring YourDressage exclusive, a blind Region 5 rider shares how a very special rescue Arabian turned into her heart horse.  Read it here.

Great Learners Make Great Riders

Looking to improve your riding? Open your mind to become a great learner! From studying why movements matter to learning about the Pyramid of Training, adult amateur Sally O’Dwyer shares some of her best tips for keeping a learning mindset in and out of the saddle. Read on here.

5 Highlights from the 2020 Tokyo Olympics 

Team USA celebrates winning the silver medal. Left to right: Adrienne Lyle, Steffen Peters, and Sabine Schut-Kery. Photo by Diana De Rosa

It was an exciting and historic week for the US Olympic Dressage Team of Adrienne Lyle and Salvino, Steffen Peters and Suppenkasper, and Sabine Schut-Kery and Sanceo! Check out 5 of our favorite moments from the Tokyo Olympics in this YourDressage exclusive



The Pyramid of Training

One of the weekly features on YourDressage is a video.  These often contain valuable training tips, advice from the pros, and clips from USDF events across the country.  In this video, Kathy Rowse and Bill McMullin address the importance of the USDF Pyramid of Training from a judge’s and trainer’s perspectives.  The excerpt is from the USDF Virtual Education Series, Tips for Improving Scores with Kathy Rowse and Bill McMullin

I’m Your Huckleberry

Kathryn with Groot

When USDF L Graduate Kathryn Butt bought a raffle ticket to benefit abused horses, she had no intention of winning. At the time, she was battling breast cancer and had just had a mastectomy the week before. However, when her number was drawn, she came home with a flashy Mustang named Groot, and the pair are now working toward his dressage debut. Read their story of the cosmic forces at work to bring them together.

Reflections of a First Year Dressage Competitor 

Lori enjoying her first year of showing as a dressage rider

From lifelong dressage enthusiasts to those who are brand new to our sport, on YourDressage, we welcome all levels of riders and horse-lovers to be a part of our community!  In this story, Lori LaFave shares about how she had always loved horses. Coming from a family who couldn’t afford riding lessons, she didn’t start riding in earnest until her 20s. Fast forward 30 years, and she decided to give dressage a try. Read her takeaways from her first year of being a dressage competitor.

Dramatic Flair

Photo by Caitlin Demura Photography

Every week on YourDressage, we share a Photo of the Week.  These photos from the dressage community highlight competitions, Arts Contest entries, and the beauty of our sport.  This gorgeous photo is “Dramatic Flair” taken and submitted by Caitlin Demura Photography.

Do you have a creative, artistic, or beautiful picture you’d like to share? Submit it to yourdressage@gmail.com for your chance to be featured on YourDressage!

Sam’s Place

Sam with his forever family.  Photo by Amy Flemming Waters Photography.

The healing power of horses! “I love this horse so much, and to see my daughter building this type of relationship with him is amazing. Her years of being able to have that special ‘girl and her horse’ relationship is so short. I know very well how important this kind of relationship with a horse is to Lilian’s development as an adult.” In this very special story, a mother shares how adopting an American Saddlebred helped to heal her family as they were recovering from the trauma of her husband’s murder. Read their story.

Challenges and Rewards for Older Riders

Bert Blikslager and his Century Club ride. The combined age of rider and horse is at 100 years old! (Rebekah Van Goor photo)

Are you a rider of a certain age? Although it can pose its challenges, it is so rewarding to continue spending time with your beloved horse. Nancy Stone shares great information and resources for senior riders, to keep you happy, balanced, and pain-free in the saddle for years to come!  Read on here.

Persevering Through the Storm

Glamorous no more! The VIP tent was shredded by the wind.

The 2021 FEI North American Youth Championships (NAYC) brought the action – and also some mayhem when a huge storm swept through on the eve of the dressage competition! From the destruction of the storm to the shining stars of tomorrow, read this recap of the competition, exclusively on YourDressage!

Splash of Color

Submitted by Kathy C. – We have show pics but I thought this better highlights coloration. CCS Silinde, a 2009 KNN Knabstrupper mare. Showing 2nd & schooling 3rd level with her amateur owner/rider.

YourDressage isn’t just about great stories and informative videos – we also love to share photo galleries submitted by our readers and followers.  YourDressage is a community and we want you to be part of it!  December was “Splash of Color” month on YourDressage, dedicated to horses who stand out in the show ring and in the barn with unique and beautiful coats.  See some of the gorgeous eye-catching horses shared by our social media followers in one of the galleries here

My George & Me: The Story of a Grand Prix Saddlebred 

Jody and George. Photo by Meghan Benge

“My George (I’m really his) has taught me how to become a Grand Prix rider at 62 years young….” October was all about Saddlebreds on YourDressage, as we celebrated them as our Breed of the Month.  In this story, lifelong American Saddlebred lover Jody Swimmer shares about her heart horse George, and their adventures through the levels together.  Read it here.

The Little Cart Horse That Could

Michele and Kashmire Knight show off some of their accomplishments

From pulling carts in the Amish country in Region 1 to the centerline at the US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan®, adult amateur Michele Omranshares the story of Kashmire Knight otherwise known as the little cart horse that could.  She shares, “He’s the coolest horse I have ever met.” Read about their adventures here.

Exercise for Flying Changes

Working on flying lead changes with your horse?  In this clip from the 2020 Adequan®/USDF FEI-Level Trainers Conference, Lars Petersen teaches an exercise for training flying lead changes. 

5 Unforgettable Moments at Finals

Sally O’Dwyer at Finals. Photo by Chelsey Burris

2021 marked the biggest US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan® EVER!! From the new Junior/Young Rider division, to amazing freestyles, to adult amateurs shining, check out 5 unforgettable moments from this year’s competition that we are sure to be talking about for years to come here.

Iron Cleat & an Iron Will

Cleat all grown up and shining in the dressage ring

Life wasn’t easy for a young Region 2Quarter Horse. Iron Cleat had medical and conformational problems growing up, and there were concerns he would never be sound. But thanks to a great team, a little luck, and dressage training to teach him how to carry himself correctly, he has grown into a happy, award-winning, and most importantly, sound and healthy horse. Trainer Nicole Trapp shares his story here.

5 Tips to Stay Focused at Competitions

Photo by Andrea Waxler Kaplen entry in the 2015 USDF Arts Contest

Need help keeping your eyes on the prize? Olympians David Marcus and Allison Brock spoke to young professionals at the 2020 USDF/USEF Young Rider Graduate Program about how they stay focused at competitions. As competitors on the biggest stage in the world, both had some surprisingly simple suggestions for how they manage their nerves.  Read on here.

We Are Not Dead, We Are Just Old

The older generation can be a valuable resource for any barn

“Please imagine what you will do when you are my age (83), can hardly walk around, but want to ride or be around horses and share your knowledge with anyone who wants to learn. To be part of a barn, wanted, and needed; what a wonderful world it would be. What a waste to have me sitting home on my rocking chair, when I could be at the barn doing something, teaching somebody something, or helping in some way…” In this story, Barb Margulies, a horse-loving equestrian from Region 8, shares how the older generation can be a valuable resource for any barn. Read her story.

Adrenaline Rush

Adrenaline Rush and Suzannah on a victory lap

It doesn’t matter where you start your dressage journey! In this YourDressage exclusive, Region 3’s Suzannah Rogers shares about her meteoric rise from “a grass hayfield in the middle of nowhere in South Carolina” to the top levels in the sport with her Haflinger pony, Adrenaline Rush.  Read on here.

Cinderellas’ Gloves

Courtney Anderson aboard Blue.  Photo by Rachel Spaid Photography

A tale as old as time… “it all started with a Facebook post.” Only, this isn’t one of those social media horror stories. This is a social media fairy tale – Cinderellas’ Gloves. Read the remarkable story about how a pair of gloves brought two para equestrians into each others’ lives, sparking a friendship unlike any other.

A Tale of Tails

Big kisses for Bob. Photo by Emily Souza

“In two weeks, I will celebrate 6 years sober. I am in awe of that. I hope I never stop looking at the gifts that every single new day brings with extreme gratitude…” Read the inspiring story from Region 7 rider Elyse Hart as part of our equestrian mental health series here.

No Limits for Shrimp

Shrimp as a foal at the rescue facility


November was all about Thoroughbreds on YourDressage, as we celebrated them as our Breed of the Month.  In this sweet story, read about Shrimp, a foal surrendered to a rescue at just 5 days old, who has made many believers in the Thoroughbred heart!  “I love to tell people, ‘THIS is what a rescue looks like.’ He is the best partner I’ve ever had, and he can’t wait to climb into his bridle, whether it’s a beautiful horse show morning or a 14° night in our indoor at home, whether we’re hacking around the farm or I’m sitting my almost two-year old daughter on him for a pony ride.  I could not be luckier that fate sent him my way.” Read on here.

Flexibility

Throughout the year on YourDressage, we share “Words of the Week” featuring dressage world terms and their definitions.  Among those shared in 2021 was “Flexibility”.  You may hear this word a lot in your training, but do you know its definition, and another term that can be used to describe it?  Find out here.  

Dressage on the Last Frontier

Rosa Meehan aboard Yana practicing lateral work along a winter road. Photo by Jane Tibbetts

Dressage riders in Alaska have the same goals and aspirations as those in the lower 48 states, but face far different challenges before they head down centerline. From moose making guest appearances at dressage shows, to dealing with the frigid temperatures, Region 6’s Rosa Meehan shares what it’s like living in the north here.



My Grand Prix Horse, My Granddaughter’s Best Friend

Regina’s granddaughter adores her dressage partner, Ernie.

This heartwarming story comes from Region 8 rider Regina Cristo. She shares about her Grand Prix competition mount Ernie, a Hanoverian who doubles as her granddaughter’s best friend.  “He goes from his work with me to being a perfect lead-line horse for her.  You can’t ask for much more than that in a horse.  It’s incredibly fun!”  Read on here.

5 Ways to Shut Up Your Inner Critic

Sally O’Dwyer with an important reminder to all of us!


Does your inner critic ever rear its ugly head? As dressage riders, our desires to achieve and compete in a challenging sport can lead us to frustration and self-criticism. Check out some tips from Sally O’Dwyer on how to silence that little voice that tries to tell you that you’re not good enough here.

USDF Flashback 1970s Bodo Hangen

Bodo Hangen:This photo is from the 1970s and is presented in an historical context. USDF strongly recommends all riders wear protective headgear when mounted.

We flashback to the 1970s, and take a look at some vintage dressage photos and articles from Lamplight about Bodo Hangen. Check them out here.  Thanks to Karen Knapp for sharing them with us! 

USDF is always looking for vintage dressage photos. You can submit yours to yourdressage@usdf.org for your chance to have your photos featured in one of our throwbacks!

Sleep and Memory Retention

You spend a third of your life doing it, so it must be important. Sleep is vital to athletes and their performance. In this clip from Dr. Sandy Venneman’s Sleep for Success Featured Education Presentation at the 2020 Adequan®/USDF Virtual Convention, learn about the importance of sleep hygiene and how to be better prepared for success in your dressage test. 

To Fall in Love with a Giant

Tanya and Nash

Dressage partners come in all shapes and sizes!  Region 6 adult amateur Tanya Robacker shares her story about falling in love with a mighty American Shire, and learning that there is much more to these huge horses than pulling when he became her dressage partner. This story was part of our celebration of Draft Horses in August.  Read it here.

The Board of Governors General Assembly (BOG) at the virtual convention.

Whether you attend every year, or have never been before, there is no denying that the Adequan®/USDF Annual Convention is the premier event that affects many facets of dressage each year.  From regional meetings, to open forums, to education sessions, and USDF governance, here are a few of the trending topics and takeaways from the 2021 event.

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