Quick tips and facts about the new 2011 Freestyle USDF requirements!

June 27, 2011

Quick tips and facts about the new Freestyle requirements!

1. There is a maximum time limit but NO minimum time. Maximum time limit for all USDF freestyles is 5 minutes. Your time begins when your horse moves off after the entry salute and ends at the final salute.
2. One point will be deducted from the total artistic score for exceeding the time limit.
3. Movements done above your level will be penalized by a four point deduction from the technical score for each “clearly forbidden”
movement done
4. The rider will enter the arena within 45 sec of the signal from the judge and within 20 seconds of the start of the music or will be eliminated.
5. Halt and salute are now judged at the beginning and end of a freestyle. The halt with a salute must be facing “c”.
6. In the First Level Freestyle, posting will be allowed.
7. In the First Level Freestyle, turn on the haunches in walk (and canter) are NOT ALLOWED.
8. In the First Level Freestyle, Walk-Canter-Walk and Halt-Canter-Halt ARE ALLOWED.
9. In all of the USDF freestyle, the gaits, impulsion and submission are scored as part of your technical execution. They do not have a coefficient like they do in a regular test.

These are just the highlights- if you would like to print the requirements to YOUR test, please sign up for the news letter at my site!


Did you think bringing your dressage horse to Florida for the winter was impossible? Think again

August 23, 2010

I have VERY exciting news for you! I have purchased a farm in Wellington, Florida to be able to continue to give my clients and horses the best possible training facility and “home away from home” as possible. I’ve been working on this special project since last April, and it’s finally done.

I am going to be offering a special rate for the first season of operation at our new facility, as well as offering month to month full care and training for those who can not afford the full season. After talking to numerous people about their needs and budgets, I have found over the years that a lot of you would love to take the opportunity to come to Fl for training. But due to the traditional billing of seasonal stalls, it’s just not feasible.

Of course, stall priority will be given to those horses who would like a stall for the entire season. But I am determined to offer training and full care at an affordable price for those who would like only 2 or 3 months instead of the entire season. I feel that this is a service that has been overlooked in Wellington .

I have a rate sheet and information available if you are interested in joining us at this wonderful facility.

We will be offering many educational opportunities in addition to the traditional lessons and training. I’ll be bringing a school horse for those who want that extra ride or who don’t have a horse of your own just yet.

Other trainers and disciplines are welcome!

If you’re interested in joining us, give me a call or drop me an email at Vibaek@aol.com or 561 346 4859

P.S. Because of the fantastic location (6 min to WEF, 13 min to White Fences, 14 min to Jim Brandon) and the superior amenities for horses and riders, there are only limited stalls left. So give me a call soon!

Come and join us at Poulsen Dressage South! Ruth

Do you know the difference between movements, figures and patterns when riding dressage?

July 19, 2010

Many dressage riders ask me about the choreography of their freestyle pattern.
One of the confusions surrounding a freestyle pattern is what is
allowed and what is forbidden at a certain level. Before you can begin
to build a pattern you need to know the difference between movements
and figures so that you don’t try something that is on the “forbidden”
list at your level.

What is the difference between movements, figures and patterns?

According to the USDF rule book, dressage movements are leg yields, rein-back,
shoulder-in, travers, renvers, turn on haunches, half-pass (trot or canter), flying
change, pirouette (walk or canter), piaffe, and
• Test Movements: All of the elements that are scored in one box on a dressage test sheet.
• Figures: Geometrical component of a dressage test such as circle,
change of rein, and figure-of-eight. Many people use the word “figure”
interchangeably with “movement” which is incorrect.
• Patterns: Geometric design formed in the arena when movements, figures and transitions are combined.

Still Confused?
Think of it this way. If you are creating a first level freestyle, you must
include leg yields in both directions as a movement. The leg yield
itself, is a movement. Where and how you do the leg yield is a figure.
For example, you could do a leg yield from the center line to the wall,
or you could do a zig zag creating a more difficult figure and pattern
with the leg yield.

Here is another example. Counter canter is not a required component in a first level freestyle, however, it is
clearly allowed. Therefore, you can ride a counter canter in any figure
to increase the level of difficulty of your choreography and pattern.

Example three.
Let’s say you are riding a second level freestyle. You know the technical
requirements include free walk, shoulder in both directions, travers
and/or renvers at trot, medium trot, 10 meter circles in canter, simple
changes of lead and medium canter. You feel that you can do some of
these movements and figures in a harder sequence than is required at
second level. Can you do this? YES. The USDF rules under the artistic
requirements say: “Any figures, patterns, combination, or transitions
composed of elements permitted in the declared level are permitted.
There are no limitations on shape or combination of figures, even if the resulting configuration is found in higher levels.”
That means you are allowed to create a pattern or figure that includes known
allowed movements (such as shoulder-in) in any form or difficulty that
you choose. This will increase your artistic degree of difficulty

For example. Even though the shoulder-in in all second level tests is shown on the track you may show shoulder-in on the
center line, or anywhere else. You may even combine one shoulder in
left followed by a should-in right. This would be considered a combination of figures and is allowed.

You are welcome to write and ask me about your own freestyle pattern!
Next month we will go over more examples of figures, movements and requirements for particular levels.There will be an ongoing monthly article about freestyles and choreography on my free monthly news letter if you would like to sign up. www.ruthhoganpoulsen.com

How to safely pull a loose horse shoe.

May 6, 2010

How to Pull a Loose Shoe

What You’ll Need

From Left to Right

  • Crease nail pullers
  • Pull-offs
  • Hammer
  • Clench Cutter
  • Rasp
  • You kneed at LEAST two of these tools. I personally like the crease nail pullers and the pull-offs.

How To Do It

  • Step 1. Pick up your horse’s hoof. If you can get a grip on them, pull the nail heads out with the crease nail puller. (Be sure to discard the nails in a safe place, where they won’t be stepped on.)
  • Step 2. Loosen the shoe heels by slipping the shoe puller’s jaws between the shoe and the buttress of the hoof’s heel. Push the tool’s handle inward and forward. (It’s important that you don’t pry outward this could rip off a substantial chunk of the hoof wall.)
  • Step 3. After you’ve loosened both heels, pry the shoe’s toe loose in the same manner. Keep your other hand on the toe of the hoof to stabilize the hoof.
  • Step 4. Repeat this motion wherever the shoe is still nailed, until it comes off. If any nails remain in the hoof wall, pull them out with the shoe pullers.
  • Step 5. Apply a hoof boot or cover the hoof and soul with a protective material: Center the padding over the sole, bringing the edges up around the hoof wall. Secure it there with the elastic bandage; cover the bandage with strips of duct tape to keep the hoof edges from wearing through.
  • Step 6. Confine your horse and schedule a farrier visit today.

The Incredible Shrinking Leg. Horseback riding position issues solved!

May 6, 2010

The incredible shrinking leg.

I have been doing a bunch of seat and leg position analysis riding lessons lately and this is what I have discovered about the correlation of the pelvis, lower leg and losing your stirrups.

Does this happen to you?

  • Do you lose your stirrups in the sitting trot?
  • Does your horse slow down in the sitting trot or when you work without stirrups?
  • Does your knee come out over the front of the saddle when you are in the sitting trot or canter?
  • Does it seem that the more you use your leg the slower your horse goes?
  • Do you tip over in your upper body no matter how hard you try to bring your shoulders back?
  • Is your bum smacking the saddle in the canter rather than sliding along your tack?
  • Is it hard or impossible to go into a standing or 2-point position and keep your balance?
  • Is it just impossible to keep your heels down below the stirrup bar?
  • No matter how hard to try, you keep losing your stirrups?

All of these issues could be related.

  1. Pelvis not in neutral position.
  2. Gripping or pinching with your knee.

Here’s why.

When your pelvis is NOT in NEUTRAL, it can’t work as a spring or joint to follow your horse’s movement.  Most of the time with the problems described above, the pelvis is in a too closed or tight position and in order to keep your balance, you feel that you have to pinch with your knee to stay put in the saddle. This causes problems.

  • When you pinch with your knee, your whole leg actually draws upward away from gravity (the ground) and shortens your contact with the seat in the saddle. (Remember that your seat is where you sit, and the upper thigh all the way down to the top of your boot.) The less length of leg you have around your horse, the less stable you are.
  • When you pinch with your knee, (which also closes your thigh) it actually gives an aid for your horse to slow down.  Your upper leg should close for downward transitions, and your lower leg should close for upward transitions. What should your horse think when all of your leg is closed? This is why when you grip harder in the sitting trot to try and stay balanced, your horse slows down.
  • By now it’s a catch 22 because the slower he goes, the more you are squeezing to try and speed him up and yet the more you squeeze the slower he goes!  You are squeezing yourself right off the top of the horse. (Like squeezing toothpaste out of a tube).
  • Pinching with your knees with a closed pelvis also inhibits your body weight from dropping into your heels where it should be.  With a pinched knee, you stop the ability of your weight to actually get to you heels. It’s like putting a stopper at your knee like a stopper in the bath tub.  Gravity cannot pull your weight down to your heels, because the stopper at your knee has blocking the weight from going down to your heels like the water out of a bathtub.
  • This also leads to losing your stirrups.  When you leg is not as long as possible, your weight cannot be allowed down to the stirrup bar.  When your weight is not down around the stirrup bar, the heel comes up and you lose your stirrup.

So there you have it… get your pelvis into neutral, and elongate your thigh and you will solve many problems.   For more information and solutions for improving your riding position go to www.programyourposition.com

The better your horse behaves for your farrier, the better job your farrier can do.

January 17, 2010

The better your horse behaves for your farrier, the better job your farrier can do.

Let’s face it.  No one wants to have to pick out a hoof or look at an injured hoof when a horse is behaving badly. Neither does your farrier.  It’s hard enough to keep your own feet out of the way and not get stepped on a good day. Imagine what your farrier has to cope with as he wrestles around with tools and nails, deals with a nervous owner, or dodges the barn dog running underfoot to grab a snack of hoof, and on top of that, your horse is bouncing around from side to side.

Your horse’s safety and your farrier’s safety depend of your horse’s behavior.  We all know that sometimes horses do misbehave, become afraid, or jump around. But if your horse chronically misbehaves while being shod, you need to work with him to resolve this issue.  Daily handling of your horse and his feet is the best solution to helping your horse behave for the farrier.

Is your horse misbehaving due to pain, fear, prior mismanagement, or lack of education?  The solution depends on what’s bothering your horse. Here are some tips to help you determine why your horse is misbehaving.

1.      If your horse stands perfectly for 3 out of 4 feet and the fourth foot is always a problem, you may have a pain issue.  The leg that’s having the trouble isn’t necessarily the leg that’s in pain. Sometimes the painful foot or leg is the one that’s on the ground bearing weight. On the other hand, if it’s a flexion or mobility issue, the leg that you want to pick up might be painful.  If that’s the case, talking to the vet may be in order.

2.      If fear or anticipation of pain is the problem, first you need to calm your horse. Then both you and your farrier need to be patient.  Usually a horse that is patiently handled will gain trust in both the handler and the farrier in a short time. As long as you can determine the cause of his fear and avoid it, your horse should return to his confident self in no time. For example, maybe he’s afraid because he sees or smells the smoke from a hot shoe, the sound of the grinder, having been stuck with a high nail from the last shoeing, or been scared by a running dog while on the cross ties.

3.      If your horse had been mismanaged during prior shoeing or trimming, he should be dealt with as a horse with fear issues. You must be patient and repeatedly build his confidence. Both you and your farrier should have a system so your horse gains confidence with each lift of the hoof.

4.      Lack of education is just that–lack of education. Your horse shouldn’t be punished if you haven’t taught him how to behave!  It’s your responsibility to teach your horse what’s expected of him and how to behave for the farrier.  Daily handling, picking up feet, cross tying, and standing still make everyone’s life easier.  Do your homework.  If you acquire a young horse or a horse that hasn’t had proper handling, be sure to work with the horse before the farrier comes for the first time!

5.  Sometimes your horse may behave better when you’re not there. Ask your farrier what he prefers. I know from experience that when I’m present, my own mare pays more attention to me than to the farrier. That makes his job significantly harder.  Instead of focusing on the farrier, she pays attention to me (usually begging for a treat). As a result, she doesn’t focus on her job of picking up her feet and standing still for him.  I respectfully let him shoe my mare when I’m not there, knowing that she’ll behave better for him that way.

Tips For All Horse Owners From An International Farrier-Bo Poulsen us/dk

October 31, 2009

November’s Five Farrier Tips- Top Five tips of the month that every horse owner needs to know about their horse, horse shoes and hoof care.

  1. Many horses, depending on their career or lifestyle, don’t need shoes.  Consult your farrier and get his advice. He’ll decide if your horse needs shoes based on a number of factors. Your farrier should ask you some questions like the following to help you both decide what to do:
  • What kind and how much work is your horse doing?
  • What kind of footing do you ride on?
  • What is the footing in your horse’s turn-out like?
  • Do your horse’s feet chip short or grow long when barefoot?
  • What time of year is it that you are considering?
  • Does your horse have any tendon or ligament injuries?
  • Does your horse get abscesses or stone bruises easily?
  • Is your horse competing, and if so does he move better with or without shoes?
  • What is your budget?
  1. Get to know your horse’s feet inside and out.  Knowing your horse’s feet can save you time and money.  If something starts to change, like a new crack or change in shape, you should be aware of it right away.
  2. A change in your horse’s feet means a change in something else.  If you notice a change in your horse’s feet, you should look at management and other factors that could have changed such as diet, environment, a new farrier, illness, fever, stall cleanliness, lameness, or weather.
  3. You can avoid many situations where shoes are lost by changing the turn-out or management routine.  If your horse is coming in from the field more than twice a month with missing shoes, you need to change something.
  • Does your horse have on a good quality bell boot that fits correctly?
  • Are your pastures deep and muddy?
  • Are there any other horses in the field that your horse is not getting along with, causing them to run around inappropriately?
  • Is your horse being left out for too long and getting restless?
  • Are the shoes that are on your horse the right size, or are they too big, leaving too much steel out behind him to grab with a back foot?
  1. Not all shoes are created equal. The best shoe for one horse is not necessarily the best shoe for another horse. Every horse and every hoof is an individual. Some of the factors that your farrier should consider when picking out the right shoe for your horse are the shape of the hoof, the job of your horse, the type of footing you ride in, and your riding discipline.

What Dressage Judges Want To “hear” In Your Horse’s Musical Freestyle

October 30, 2009

When the judges are listening to your music, what are they listening for?

One of the most frequently asked questions I get is, “How do the judges evaluate my music?”

I’m going to go over the guidelines that are given to the judges so you can be on the same page as they are. In last month’s newsletter, I did an audio clip on what the judges are looking for. But so many of you have asked me to put it in print so here it is.

There are four categories that the judges must consider when listening to and watching your freestyle.  They are:


1. Suitability


2. Cohesiveness


3. Editing


4. Phrasing and dynamics


Let’s go over them one by one.


1. Suitability- The actual definition in the USDF rulebook says, “The music matches and expresses the horse and the gaits.”

What does this mean? “Matching the gaits” means that the music tempo or beats per minute (BPM) is the same as your horse’s down beat in the foot fall pattern of the walk, trot, and canter. (For the upper levels, it must also match piaffe and passage.)

The downbeat of the measure (the one you tap your toe to) should match the down beat of your horse’s gait. For example, in the canter the main down beat of the right lead would be the third beat, when the right front hits the ground.  If the judge can tap his toe to the music and it matches when the right front foot is hitting the ground in the right lead, then the tempo matches your horse’s gait.

Matching your horse’s “expression” can be a bit more  subjective although it’s very obvious when it does NOT match.  If you’re riding a big springy warmblood, then cute circus music is not appropriate.  On the flip side, a smaller, more average mover would look even more average if he had a large piece of music. Large music may draw wrong expectations from the judges because of the depth of the music.  Bigger music is not always better.

2. Cohesiveness is defined in the rulebook as, “Music that is linked by genre, theme or orchestration.” This means that the judges should easily be able to hear the connection between the pieces of music.

The music should sound as if it were one piece for all the selected gaits.  The link could be music of the same genre, like jazz or rock and roll, or the same instrument could be featured throughout the piece.

The link could also be music from TV shows, or a movie series.  In any case, the connection of the music should be obvious to more than just you.  You may think that the connection is apparent, but ask a few friends if they “get it” before you finalize your selection of music.

3. Editing is defined as “Music that has a smooth flow; there are no abrasive cuts, transition or fades.”  If you can hear a cut or clip in a piece of music, it’s not a good edit.

Remember that music has phrases. You should never cut or edit a piece of music in the middle of a phrase. It would be like leaving off the end of a sentence. You’d leave the judges hanging.

Imperceptible edits are seamless. Elements that play an important role in a good edit are pitch, key, and where the beats are in the measure.

4. Phrasing and dynamics-Phrasing is defined as “The way sequences of notes are grouped together to form units of melody; the expression of musical sentences.”

This means that a line of notes or measures are grouped together with a clear beginning and end, like a sentence.  You should almost feel like taking a breath at the end of a musical phrase much like you would at the end of a sentence.

Dynamics are the variations of the intensity of sound such as the changes in volume and intensity that would help define a change in a movement. For example, going from working trot to a lengthening, or a collected trot to half pass would be more enhanced with a clear, dynamic musical change.

The judges don’t want to guess when your lengthening was supposed to start. They want to hear a clear change in the music, volume, or intensity.


Hope this helps get you on the same “page” as the judges!  Ruth

Horseback riding to music… how it actually improves your riding skills.

October 19, 2009

I am amazed at how perfect music for a horse can improve and enhance a horse’s movement and the rider’s rhythm! When music fits the horse and rider, both the quality of the gaits and movements improve. The music enhances both the artistic aspect and the technical side of the ride… Because rhythm is maintained!
After years of studying the effects of music I learned a few things.

Studies show that music affects our physiology. Slow music slows the heartbeat and the breathing rate as well as brings down blood pressure. Faster music speeds up these same functions.

Listening to your favorite music is good for your cardiovascular system. Researchers have shown that joyful music has a healthy effect on blood vessel function.

Riding to music increases your endurance and feelings of well-being. Studies show that exercising to music improves endurance by 15% and improve the “feeling states” so, people derive much greater pleasure from exercise. (Those cool endorphins!!)

Many hospitals use music to treat patients with stress-related illnesses to stimulate the brain and relax the body.

Music affects both sides of your brain, so whether you are a left-brain logical thinker or a right-brain artistic thinker, music helps you ride better.

Even animals react differently to various types of music. Given a choice, rats will choose calm classical music over hard rock every time.

Music can also influence brainwaves. Faster beats make you more alert and slower beats help you relax.

Music creates a long-lasting change in brainwave activity. That means that music can bring lasting benefits to your state of mind, even after you’ve stopped listening.

Music filters out background noises so that you and your horse can concentrate better.

Music acts as an INTERNAL metronome to help you maintain a regular rhythm.

Music puts you in a more positive state of mind, helping to keep depression and anxiety at bay.

The bottom line is… it’s fun to ride to music!


Horse Farm in Vermont Showcases Dressage Training and Good Horsemanship

September 28, 2009

Working together

East Hill Farm in Plainfield, Vermont showcases the best dressage training and horsemanship around.   Founded in 1976, East Hill Farm is one of the oldest and well regarded equestrian and training facilities in the New England area. Training and teaching begins at the grass roots level at East Hill Farm, beginning with a very active 4-H club, childrens and pony lessons beginning at age 8.  Students of all ages learn the importance of good horsemanship at the beginning of their relationship with horses at East Hill Farm.

Ruth and Bo bought the farm from her parents and their partners several years ago and run the boarding facility with two full-time staff members and a group of working students. The clientele is primarily youngsters and adult amateurs with mounts that run the gamut from Appaloosas to Warmbloods.  East Hill Farm provides a number of unique and wonderful services to the equestrian community in New England.  Educational clinics, lessons, working student positions, young rider and JR. programs, adult amateur programs, quadrille riding, therapeutic and riding for the disabled, grooming and health care instruction, safety and handling lessons and super riding instruction are just a few of the services that East Hill Farm provides.

“It’s very much focused on dressage, but we also teach jumping,” Ruth details. “We pride ourselves on quality horsemanship. Everybody who comes here for lessons learns how to groom, tack up, clean tack – it’s good horsemanship that starts at the bottom because that’s where the sport begins.”

The Staff at East Hill Farm is part of the teams success.  Meghan Maurice and Melissa MacLaren are full-time barn managers. Meghan also teaches and Melissa is Ruth’s assistant. Caitlin Janus is also a full time staff member.   All three women are in their 20s and have been riding since they were eight years old. “All the kids that grew up riding here want to start working right out of high school, but my requirement is that they have to go away to college and graduate,” Ruth says. “They have to really make sure they know what they want to do.”

In her training program, Ruth creates a plan for each horse and rider. “The health and welfare, both physically and mentally, of my horses and riders, is very important,” Ruth notes. “I think it’s why I have clients who have been clients for more than a decade.”  In fact, some of the boarders and students have been present with one horse or another at East Hill Farm since the opening of the farm,  a testiment to the dedication of the wealfare and happiness of the horses and their owners.