Hocus Pocus- and the article is done!


caitlyn3As a writer it’s flattering to be asked to write an article or a piece to help promote a horse show, horse event or horse related charity.  It’s especially exciting when the show is located here in the Atlanta area and will attract top riders as it’s the first CDI3* to be held in Georgia.  As much as I would like to say I penned the following piece for the GDCTA newsletter, I instead made the brilliant decision to delegate it to one of my young riders that is also an aspiring writer, Caitlyn Bennett!!!

In addition to being a dedicated eventer Caitlyn has written several pieces for the GDCTA newsletter and is also a talented fiction writer.  She gets inspiration from her adventures with her self started Mustang,  Hocus Pocus, and the rest of the gang of barn rats at North Atlanta Equestrian Center in Cartersville, Georgia.

Much thanks to Caitlyn for helping me meet a deadline and writing an article that is as much fun as she is!!  If any of my other students, or any other readers, young or otherwise would like to submit a horse related writing of any genre to be considered for my blog please feel free to contact me at tangodressage@yahoo.com.

Caitlyn and Hocus Pocus will be at the show April 7-10 with many other students from Tango Dressage so come on out and meet us and enjoy some top riding- and some of the other Olympic hopefuls too!!!

Official show information can be reached here!

Caitlyn and Hocus

The Following was written for the GDCTA by Caitlyn Bennett, 13 years old:


Have you ever wondered what it would be like to compete on the same grounds at the same time as Olympic hopefuls? Well, here’s your opportunity. The Greater Atlanta Dressage Southern (GADS) horse show is held the same weekend as the prestigious CDI3*, the last qualifier for the 2016 Summer Olympics.


The CDI3* will take place April 7-10 at the Georgia International Horse Park in Conyers, with the GADS show starting on the 8th and ending the 10th. GADS provides a great opportunity for riders of all levels to be able compete, watch Olympic hopefuls, and meet the “best of the best,” who will possibly represent our country in Rio this summer.


Having the CDI3* at the park that Atlanta built for the 1996 Olympics and being where those athletes competed is special in itself, but it is a really big deal because this is the first time the event will be held in Georgia. Even better, they chose GDCTA to host it!


Why is it so important that you go? By participating in GADS I and II ( both USDF recognized dressage shows) and by being a spectator or competitor for the CDI3*, you are part of history in the making when GDCTA brings CDI3* to the Peach State.


The CDI3* is free to watch. The GADS shows will open on February 15, 2016 with a closing date of March 16th. Slots will fill up fast, so what are you waiting for?  Join all of your GDCTA a friends and get yourself and your mount registered for GADS I and II and come watch and/or compete in the CDI3* and show your love for U.S. Dressage in Georgia.


Besides, who wouldn’t want to take advantage of putting on your best show clothes and posing next to your horse as you prepare to participate in GADS I and II, and then posting something like this to your social media channel of choice: “We’ve made it to the Olympic qualifiers in Atlanta.  Wish you were here!”

The Passing of a King

Tears flow as I write a tribute that I know can never measure up to the great horse King owned by my dear friend Kim Abernathy. King passed away last week at the age of 25.

I’ve started and then erased this post many times now as the words I put down just feel flat compared to the respect I sincerely have for a horse that has touched and changed the lives of so many people.

I’ll try instead with an open letter to King.himself.

Dear King,

I hope wherever you are you are as happy as you have made so many people while you were here with us. Kim’s facebook page is full of posts with pictures of you from people that have loved you and learned from you for so many years. You were a loyal friend to Kim and helped her become the amazing teacher she is today. You gave Lauren your all and gave her the foundation to be the beautiful rider and trainer that she has become. As you grew older you patiently and lovingly helped countless kids learn not only to ride but how to love and respect animals in a way that people can’t teach them. Please know that you were truly a King among horses and everyone that had the pleasure to have known you is richer for it. Rest peacefully my friend.

Much love- Suzanne


Make them earn their Check…a dressage blog

Promise this is the last previous dressage blog I will run- please feel free to comment on any of the posts! that’s my favorite part- generally the comments are better than my posts!

Tango Dressage

Reading the responses and postings from adult amateur riders compels me to address a common misunderstanding between instructor and instructee.  In a fellow blogger’s comment section I referenced the different psyches involved with teaching teenagers and teaching adults. (see comments)  This generated some discussion on why adults may have specific concerns.  Alas,  I too am an adult and have indeed suffered injuries from riding.  I however, seem to believe more in some adults than they believe in themselves.  This is usually illustrated when we first meet and are setting long-term goals.  Almost invariably if I ask a teenager what they would like to accomplish they say “I want to ride in the Olympics.”  Lofty goals indeed.  We then discuss what kind of dedication is involved in reaching that kind of commitment.  When I ask an adult with seemingly the same ambition and enthusiasm the identical question I usually get a somewhat…

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2010 in review

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 10,000 times in 2010. That’s about 24 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 47 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 50 posts. There were 95 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 133mb. That’s about 2 pictures per week.

The busiest day of the year was January 31st with 150 views. The most popular post that day was Sweep your Cares Away…..

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were facebook.com, suzannekingdressage.com, equineink.com, blogger.com, and iamthesprinklerbandit.blogspot.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for dressage blog, dressage blogs, lisa wilcox, ron smeets, and lisa wilcox dressage.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.


Sweep your Cares Away…. January 2010


About me December 2009


Say What? May 2010


Keep the helmet, ditch the Tux… March 2010


Meet Mr. Smeets…. March 2010

Don’t let the Ads fool you…..

1 Connemara + 2 shows = 1 Bronze Medal


Almost everyone in the dressage community can tell you the bloodlines of the horses winning in topsport dressage.  Breeding  programs in the United States have become increasingly popular and successful.  Almost every page in dressage magazines boasts advertisements of well-bred, super athletic, descendents of top scoring dressage horses.   If the price is right it is even possible to purchase a clone of one of these world-renowned athletes.  With the availability of these super athletes burgeoning every year there are only two questions left to answer.  Can I afford him?  Can I ride him?

While it is true that to place successfully in dressage, a warmblood of quality breeding is the most obvious choice; however, to show successfully or to ride successfully, a top-bred warmblood is not the only option.  In fact, depending on the experience and athleticism of the rider, a big, fancy moving horse can be intimidating and frustrating.  This is fantastic for the professional that needs a horse to compete, but can be heartbreaking for the amateur that would really like to participate in more than just paying the bills.

This is not to dissuade riders from purchasing warmbloods, I am a big fan and, in fact own a Contango baby myself.  This is instead to encourage owners of other breeds to continue in their pursuit of dressage, and to encourage prospective buyers not to rule out other breeds when selecting a suitable horse.   Whether you have chosen dressage for competition or just to enjoy the ride, most all breeds can be successful and fun.

As the sport evolves the trend is moving towards the lighter boned, more elastic warmbloods that produce extravagant gaits.  This is evidenced with horses like Totilis, a big moving warmblood that is setting world record dressage scores.   While some fault his gaits, there is no denying he is influencing what is considered “popular” in dressage today.   In order to refine the once heavier warmbloods breeders have skillfully introduced bloodlines of more “hot-blooded” horses.  The result of this selective breeding is horses that display much more fluid, dramatic gaits; however, with these extravagant gaits comes the hotter nature of the lines that are bred in.

As an instructor of riders of all levels I would rather teach a person how to improve the gaits, and master riding on a horse that they are physically and mentally capable of handling.  If that horse is a warmblood that’s great, it makes showing a lot easier.  If it’s an Andalusian, Connemara, Thoroughbred, Appendix, Quarter Horse, Appaloosa, POA, Arab, whatever, bring it on.  Don’t let the advertisements scare you, when you can improve the gaits of any horse and promote the relaxation that the old-style warmbloods are known for, you are in the running.  See you at the score board!

That sounds Farrier…

Some of the most interesting barn conversation I have ever had has come from farriers.  I could write a whole series of blog posts on farriers I have known and the stories they have told but I wouldn’t want to be excluded from future stories, they’re too great!  Both horses had to be shod yesterday so Farrier and I had a long time to talk.  As horse professionals in the same community the experiences we have with different horses, owners, vets, barn owners and other members of the community parallel each other. 

We were talking about toe clips and side clips and the effect of each on different shaped hooves and he recounted a telephone conversation he had with a young farrier that had called him to ask a few questions about shoeing.  The young fellow had asked how he felt about toe clips, and the response was that he would have to see a picture of the hooves in question.  The question was, of course, hypothetical so the young farrier asked “just on the average, everyday horse”.  This is once again, an unanswerable question as the “everyday horse” varies widely depending on the individual’s clients and even among those clients the hooves will not be the same.

This is a question that mirrors one that I think about in the training process from time to time, especially when it comes to training horses that have come to a trainer with previous baggage or are horses non-traditional to the discipline in which they are being trained.  Many strict classicists write that there is one way to correctly train.  I am not disputing any of these techniques, they are all proven effective.   It is presumed in most writings, I believe, that the horse has been started correctly and that it is of an “everyday type of horse” that the author is used to seeing.  It would be difficult to write a book addressing every type of previous training issue or every approach for different breed types, but I contend that horses must be treated as individuals, and a classical approach should be the desired standard but allowances must be made for the individual.

Whether you are talking about hooves, horses or students a philosophy or program must have a sound and proven structure.  But the professional must be able to see the client as an individual, with a history of its own, in order to determine if inherent or learned traits must be addressed in a manner that humanely directs them back to the classical structure.    The goal is the same, the path must always be humane but the history, conformation, or psyche of the hoof, horse or client must be taken into consideration if a classical result is to be achieved.

The Bandit Strikes…

Hopefully, when reading these blogs you are clicking on the title line so that the comments from other posters are visible.  Frequently, the comments are better reading than the blog!   I encourage everyone to feel free to post their perspectives, as I believe everyone posting, no matter the experience level, can add to the discussion and hopefully a better understanding of every barn’s integral players can be established. 

Yesterday’s blog dealt with my observations that one must trust their trainer in order to progress (for more detail see post No Used Cars Here….    I thought this post generated some great replies from riders of different backgrounds.  Several of these came from fellow bloggers and each of them are appreciated.  Please read the comments they supplied at the end of the above referenced blog.  (One was my Mom so she might be biased!)  Each one has a great comment with a twist from their own experiences.  This is what makes this style of journaling so eye-opening.  If I posed these questions only to the number of people I see in a day, I don’t believe the responses would be as candid or as varied.

The comments come from riders and trainers of all backgrounds.  Sabrena is a talented dressage coach, and great friend,  in Columbia, South Carolina.  Many of the comments were from blogs I read daily.   The Literary Horse is now one of my favorite authors, her posts are hilarious and when she comments on other’s posts her perspectives are original!  Retired Racehorse is another name I love to see comment.  Natalie is a champion for the Thoroughbred.  She loves the breed and her background is extremely varied so she has a lot of experience to draw from.  Sprinkler Bandit is a student chronicling her experiences backing her six-year old Oldenburg mare.  All of these blogs are so well done they give me a lot to aspire to!  Thank you guys for encouraging me.   Each one of their responses have inspired blog topics for me, and today I will use Sprinkler Bandit’s comment, and my response, as a blog, as I believe the point she addresses is one that others may feel and relate to.  Here is her comment and my reply.

SprinklerBandit Says:
February 19, 2010 at 6:35 am

I think the “now” issue has to be balanced, however. We have a duty to our horses to educate ourselves about them. Otherwise, a well meaning rider who responds “now” to an incompetent trainer may find him/herself in a much worse situation than they ever were before.

So, I agree, as long as the trainer is trustworthy. That said, if I was uncertain as to whether or not I trusted a trainer, I’d audit a lesson or clinic before signing up for instruction.

And my Reply:

I am so glad you posted this as I think it gets to the root of the problem.   A relationship between a trainer and a student is like any other relationship.  A trainer must first observe the student, over a period of time, and evaluate their abilities.  An experienced instructor will never ask the student to perform an exercise or give an aid that they do not already know the student is capable of executing, and the horse is mentally and physically able to comply with.  In my case, if a horse is not schooled in an exercise I will ride it myself and teach the horse as the student observes.  This gives the horse the foundation so when the student applies the aids, the horse has an idea of what action is needed.  It is never good training, or good for the student’s or horse’s confidence to be asked to perform something they are not capable of.  I saw a lawyer show on TV once that put it best.  The lawyer said “Never ask a question you don’t already know the answer to”.  Knowing that the rider and horse are at the point in their education to succeed in an exercise is something a good trainer must be able to assess.  Neither horse nor rider  should ever be overfaced.

The breakdown in trust is probably a result of the lack of certification needed to instruct riding.  I believe even yoga teachers must certify, but not people teaching other people on large animals.  This is why you are correct in that when looking for a trainer you should find one that has been teaching, and producing quality riders for a reasonable length of time.  There should be a resume’ of sorts, that will give a substantial history of their riding and teaching experience.  It is easy to make an impressive website with no real content.  Don’t be afraid to ask for references.  A good teacher would love to have you talk to a few of their clients.  And, as you stated, watching clinics and asking to sit in on the trainer’s other student’s lessons are good ideas.  Once you begin training with an instructor, you should feel challenged, but not afraid. 

Then, once they have earned that trust, let them do their job and you will find that your goals are easier to reach.  Thanks again for posting- I think you brought up a point that many people, that may be afraid to ask,  might like answered!  🙂