Professionals' Corner
He Dances with Horses
From the University of Maryland Outlook
Extracurricular Section
February 5, 2002 Issue

During his career at the university, chemistry professor Jack Moore has spent a lot of time and used a great deal of patience teaching his students. To get them to perform, he often has to ride their backs. Literally.

A dressage enthusiast, Moore spends his free time on horseback teaching four-legged students what is sometimes referred to as horse dancing. Dressage deals with training horses to maneuver in certain ways. The sport, which is popular in Europe, originated in the military, European cavalry and the circus.

Describing dressage as an "intellectual" sport, Moore says he sees similarities between teaching his four-legged students and his two-legged ones. "It's [similar] to dealing with a grad student in chemistry. It's very slow and requires a level of patience and consistency." Moore has certainly proven that he has patience. He spent 10 years training a horse for competition. The process of training horses can be so lengthy because the horse has to develop athletic courage, muscle and balance, Moore says. The horse also has to be flexible and be able to handle maneuvers such as moving sideways. He and the horse he worked with for so long placed in the Colonel Bengt Lundquist Memorial Championships, a popular finals contest that draws people from all over the East Coast.

Moore has also placed in several local and national competitions over the past 25 years. Those competitions find him donning the sport's official uniformÛa coat with tails, britches, black boots, a black top hat and whip. He's in his element.

"It's an art form," he says of dressage. "It's like dancing."

Contrary to what observers of dressage may think, the sport is very physically demanding, Moore says. "It's very good exercise. People think the horse is doing all the work, not so. At the end of training I'm soaked. Some days I think I'm working harder than the horse." Training a horse is a combination of balance and using pressure with your legs and buttocks. Most people think that the hands are used a great deal to control a horse, Moore says but the hands are rarely used.

Moore, who grew up in Pittsburgh, was not exposed to horses during his young life. He became drawn to dressage because he was looking for an activity to allow him to spend more time with his children. To get started, he attended dressage competitions, studied with instructors and watched other riders. His daughter Victoria excelled at it and competed in jumping competitions.

"It's the perfect sport to take all of your time and money," he quips. He rides almost everyday, but has come up with a strategy that allows him to spend time training the horse and not cleaning up after it. He drives from his home in College Park to Montgomery County where his horses live. "I commute to the horse rather than the other way around."

Moore has long-range plans for his sport. Upon retiring from the university, he said he might teach the sport to others. He recently purchased a young Oldenburg horse that he is preparing for competition, so he has plenty to do beyond office hours.

Cynthia Barnes Leslie
Interview with Marjorie Davis, Dressage Judge and Trainer
Marjorie competing on Isolde,
a Trakehner mare owned by Tewksbury Manor.
Photo by Nancy Fine.
What led you toward a career in dressage? How long have you been riding, and how much of that time have you concentrated specifically on dressage?

I rode a lot at a very young age, but unfortunately my parents were never the Pony Club types, so I had to wait until I was in college to do some eventing and get a job with horses. I got really serious about dressage in the early 80's when I was a student at Westmoreland Davis Equestrian Institute (Morven Park), under Raul de Leon.

How did you become a student of Felicitas von Neumann-Cosel? Can you summarize one overarching point that you have learned from working with her?

The first time I saw Felicitas ride, I knew I wanted to apprentice with her. It was during my last year at Morven Park, so the timing worked out great.

The most important concept that I learned from Felicitas is that the horse can only be in self-carriage if he's absolutely straight. Without that, you can't achieve the overall balance that produces suspension in the stride.

What does it mean to be an "r" judge? Of judging dressage shows, training horses, and teaching, which do you find the most challenging? Which is the most fun?

A judge is a kind of spokesperson for dressage by their evaluation of what going right and what's wrong with a horse's training. For me, that's a huge responsibility! It's often difficult to be truthful and tactful at the same time.

Showing is fun because it provides a break from the routine schedule, but I like training horses the most. I really enjoy getting to know each horse as an individual, and trying to figure out what approach works best. I love the barn, the equipment, the endless conversations about technique, and the pursuit of riding better every day!

I notice with you a calm and firm way with horses along with a very strong work ethic. I personally appreciate the way that you do not "yell" as many instructors do. Do you attribute this demeanor to your personality and individual style, and/or is it a conscious choice in training and teaching?

I'm pretty sensitive myself and don't ride well when I'm overwhelmed with criticism, so I probably teach out of that perspective. Some people like action, some people need explanation-I try to make the lesson appropriate to the rider's personality and fitness level.

What is the biggest misconception about dressage that you hear?

Possibly the idea concerning impulsion. Many riders push the horse to go faster in an effort to create more engagement in the hindquarters, but the stride is forced into flatness, and the balance gets stuck on the forehand. Genuine impulsion develops out of the right tempo for that individual horse, neither tense nor sluggish.

If you weren't working with horses at all, what do you think you would be doing?

I can't say for sure, but a job that has predictable hours sounds pretty good sometimes! But seriously, I don't think that there's anything that I'd rather work so hard at doing than this.
Anne Kursinski's Riding and Jumping Clinic
by Anne Kursinski
This month's Professionals' Corner features excerpts from Anne Kursinski's Riding and Jumping Clinic : A Step-by-Step Course for Winning in the Hunter and Jumper Rings (Doubleday: U.S. $30.00/Canada $39.95).

Anne Kursinski is a well-known international rider who has competed for the United States Equestrian Team since 1978. She has won Team Silver Medals in the 1988 and 1996 Summer Olympics and was the first American rider to win the Grand Prix of Italy. In 1988, Anne was voted AHSA Horsewoman of the Year.

Ms. Kursinski's philosophy can be summed up as follows:

1) Think positively
"Positive thinking involves your attitude toward your own performance ... Set reasonable goals, expect yourself to meet them ... And when you assess your progress, compare the performance you've just completed with your own earlier performance, not with anybody else's.

2) Be honest
"... honesty goes hand in hand with positive thinking ... be honest with yourself ... about your own and your horse's current level of education and fitness, and about the time, effort and money you are able to invest in your riding. Don't ignore shortcomings: identify them as factors you can recognize and deal with ..."

3) Be patient
"You must learn to think the way he does -- enough, at least, to present what you want him to learn in a way that lets him learn it. Take your time ... you and your horse each have tolerance levels ... Get to know the signs that tell you one of you is reaching a limit, and stop before you get there ... 'A smart person changes his mind; a fool never does.'"

4) Develop feeling
"At the most fundamental level 'feeling' is being constantly aware of your horse, of everything he's telling you ... there is a conversation going on ... you'll want to listen to it, and eventually you'll become a skilled participant." Ms. Kursinski further says, "The skills you'll develop in flat work -- straightness, lengthening and shortening, turning -- will be useful over fences as well. Remember, though, that my program is a structured one, so resolve to master flat work now, before you go on to jumping, because if you can't accomplish a movement on the flat, you won't be able to do it over fences, where every shortcoming you have becomes magnified, and where speed and continual changes in balance will complicate your efforts."

"Every time you ride, you talk and your horse talks. In some cases a real conversation goes on, while in others horse and rider talk past each other ... Your horse is constantly trying to talk to you with his eyes, ears, and body language, telling you he's happy or unhappy, relaxed or tense, confident or confused."

"What I've found consistently is that the one key ingredient for success is a thorough grounding in the basics of riding. Natural talent, no matter how great, can't make up for a lack of basic knowledge and skills -- but solid basics, combined with real desire and commitment, can make any rider a good rider."

Learn from one of the country's best and develop into the rider you've always wanted to become. This book should be one of the cornerstones of any equestrian library. It is well-written, clear, concise and easy to follow. Pick up a copy today!! (A limited number of autographed copies are available from The Loft.)

Thank you very much to Anne Kursinski for allowing The Loft at Meadowbrook to present the above quotations from her book.
Interview with Miranda Scott
Miranda Scott, Head Trainer at Meadowbrook Stables, Chevy Chase, Maryland, has returned to the area after working for the past year with two of the country's top professional riders, Lynne Little and Aaron Vale. Miranda grew up in the Washington area and first rode with Dale Crittenberger and competed in the Junior Division with Peter Foley. She attended Georgetown Day School and continued her education at Sarah Lawrence College where she was captain of the college's Intercollegiate Equestrian Team. During her career with the team, she was reserve High Point Rider for two years and High Point Rider for two years. Through Northwestern University, Miranda did graduate fieldwork studying the Navajo Nation in Chinle, Arizona. Miranda has travelled extensively including a visit to China a few years ago. She just recently returned from a trip to Mexico.

If you had to pick the key element that guides your relationship with horses and how you work with them, what would that be?
The constant spiritual challenge of communicating nonverbally with these wonderful creatures is the foundation of my riding. In order to develop this spirituality, I had to learn to listen to the cues and signals my horses sent me. I try to keep the lines of communication open and be sensitive to each animal's needs by listening to what is said.

Name the two most important attributes of a good horseman.
The most important attributes of a good horseman are: 1) to have patience with yourself and with your horses so that you can become aware of the animals' needs. Allowing frustration to take over your riding will damage whatever trust you have established; patience will allow you to develop a strong partnership; and 2) to pay attention to details. So often riding appears to be the end goal, but it shouldn't be. Knowing all aspects of horse care, whether wrapping, grooming, stabling or nutrition, will make you a more well-rounded, knowledgeable rider and, therefore, horseman.

What is the most valuable experience you had working with top riders, Lynne Little and Aaron Vale?
The experience I gained by riding 10-12 horses a day, from 2-year olds to retired Grand Prix horses, was the most valuable experience I had. There is nothing like riding that many horses each day to keep you fit and to improve your horsemanship. The only way to become a top rider is to ride lots of different horses as often as you can.

What was the highlight for you this year?
I had the privilege of riding in a Mini-Prix this past season. For me that was a very exciting opportunity to compete at an advanced level on a wonderful horse.

What are your goals as Head Trainer at Meadowbrook Stables?
My vision is to create a friendly, open environment where everyone feels comfortable and at home. Whether a rider is just beginning or competing at the A-show level, a supportive atmosphere is paramount to rider growth and development. I will continue to strive to create the appropriate setting so that each rider can achieve her best!

What is your best attribute as a trainer?
I think I am a good communicator -- at least I try to be! To be a good communicator, you have to be willing to listen and I try to listen to both the horses' needs and the riders' needs. I try to be supportive and encourage achievement at all levels. Ultimately, my job as head trainer at Meadowbrook is to foster a caring and committed attitude that results in good riders, good horsemen, and good people.

List the single most important piece of advice for young riders today.
Have fun!!
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