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Many students have asked me over the years “What is Dressage?”

Painting by Janey Belozer

The following exerpt by Dr. Thomas Ritter is one of the best descriptions of what “Classical Dressage” is supposed to be. Not what modern-day dressage has become. At its heart, Classical Dressage is the quest to attain the highest level of mental & physical communication between horse and rider. To witness the sheer beauty of horse & rider uniting as one seamless pair is to witness what heaven will be like!  R. Smith

From a historical and practical point of view, the purpose of Classical Dressage was to train a horse to be safe, reliable, obedient, and comfortable to ride under all circumstances. Horses also needed to stay sound for many years – for economic as well as ethical reasons, since good horses were always expensive and often hard to find, and because the training takes a very long time.
From a philosophical point of view, Classical Dressage is about training the horse purely for the joy of training – l’art pour l’art. In addition, it should benefit the horse’s well-being. Anything in the training of the horse, that is not in the best interests of the horse’s soundness, happiness, and spirituality is not classical. Classical Dressage is not about the spectacular airs, such as the levade or capriole, or the piaffe and passage, however beautiful and inspiring those are. It is instead about the day-to-day work of the horse. It is the “chopping wood and carrying water” of the equestrian disciplines.

At the heart of Classical Dressage is the spirit of establishing a connection with the horse. The horse is not a vehicle, either literally as a means for transportation, or figuratively, as a vehicle for success, prestige, and power. The horse is a living, breathing, and FEELING being, and it is of the utmost importance, in the training, to connect with this essence. This connection involves a careful balance between trust and respect. It would be idealistic to think one could achieve this simply through indiscriminate kindness to the horse, but if such kindness and softness are not balanced by sensible boundaries, the horse will never learn either respect or trust. Both go hand in hand. One is not possible without the other. The horse thrives in an environment of love, fairness, and consistency. It is the human’s responsibility to provide fair and consistent boundaries in the horse’s life. The horse, just like a child, can sense when he is treated with love and respect. He will accept any justified reprimand and even outright strictness, without losing his interest and love for the human, if it is fairly executed and balanced by reward and love. On the other hand, if the horse is treated without love and respect, he will withdraw in order to protect himself, and either become afraid or angry. It is our responsibility, as the caretakers and trainers of our horse, to see that his spiritual and psychological needs are met. If we are to train the horse in the spirit of Classical Dressage, this cannot be ignored, and the horse cannot be treated merely as livestock or assets.

True classical training is gymnastic training. It can even become physical therapy. It preserves and prolongs (and in some cases, even restores) the soundness of the horse. Classical training does not teach the dressage movements as tricks without the necessary gymnastic preparation. It ensures that each movement is learned and executed in such a way that the horse uses his body economically and efficiently by minimizing friction and wear and tear through balance and suppleness. In classical dressage, movements are not an end in themselves, but they are gymnastic tools that make specific muscle groups stronger and more supple. Such an approach to training as gymnasticization continually improves the horse’s balance, suppleness, and straightness, which results in smoother gaits, less jarring, less bracing and resistance, and consequently greater soundness and longevity.  Read More…

In developing the ELS “Seamless Riding” Balanced Seat Program I found myself in a dilemma. Most adult humans I enrolled as students had physical and mental (fear-based) challenges. In order for the student to fully realize their potential as a rider, these challenges needed to be addressed first .  It was and still is my intent to prepare riders with the pre-requisite mental & physical knowledge needed to achieve any discipline of riding they may choose. It is through physical & mental awareness that this is achieved. I believe that the vertical balanced-seat, long-leg position of dressage & western is the primary position to learn to ride properly in the motion of the horses’ movements.  Additionally, it is my passionate intent to educate humans “about” horses. How they think, feel & learn. Only then can a human truly connect with their horse to achieve the level of partnership desired.  R. Smith

IMG_0321Well, true to good form, our Merlin entered fooling the likes of “his” welcoming committee. For 10 hours “we” thought Trinity…….but…. Merlin emerged with a few parts we missed in the aftermath and excitement of his delivery into the world.  A special thanks to ALL the wonderful welcoming committee at 2:22am Saturday April 26th.  Nicole (who has always wanted to see a baby horse born), Tina (your calving experience served you well), Chuck (who assisted as mid-hubby), Jaqui (who’s beautiful photos and love at getting to the birth so fast is commendable!), Alec (who has a “knightly crush on Presence–;), Aunia (who was stellar at being available no matter what time) and of course I ambled in after Merlin took his first steps. Thanks Tina for recording it!  if I missed someone it was fatigue and unintentional. Saturday lessons became a blurrrr! For all of us!

Thanks to the ELS Community for the love and understanding you have for allowing Presence some peace over the weekend. She is recovering like a champ.  Also, a great Thanks to Connie and Chuck of Immortal Farms who lovingly breed and train these wonderful Warlanders into quiet, respectful partners and stayed available and supportive through the pregnancy and beyond! My journey with Presence  and Merlin has just begun. Thanks to Lee Palmer for guiding us through the imprinting process, although duty called her elsewhere, she was with us in spirit.

Take a look at the Miracle of Life “Merlin is Born”:!5168&authkey=!AINnaBXdcjGFJM0&ithint=folder%2c

Presence is as good a mama as one could hope. Both are doing well after a bit of a nuisancIMG_3574e of IV Therapy as precaution for Presence. She retained some placenta a bit long but is now doing great thanks to the vigilance of Megan McCracken @ Rainland Farms Equine Clinic. We are so happy Merlin is rambunctious, friendly, bold, fearless, and healthy! Oh…and yes, he is gorgeous. Stay tuned for the adventures of the first ALL Parelli born baby and what “magical” feats this equine has in store for us. He is truly becoming Merlin the Gray!




IMG_1090IMG_3323Well, time is flying…our cute little Merlin is growing faster than a weed!  Here he is over the past month. Halter training and other important tasks…like staying close to mom going in and out of the stable…for example…From his first days out to a month later annoying his mother!



IMG_032120140501_151221Halter training is so fun when you have Lee Palmer teaching! I feel so blessed to have such a wonderful trainer helping Merlin develop into a nice young gentle horse…he is a bit big for his britches!


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Lessons for kids ages 3 to 18; summer camps for 8 to 12 year olds; and a youth (9-18) Horsemanship-to-Leadership Course in Equine Care, Leadership & Responsibility.


Infused with Natural Horsemanship techniques, ELS offers riding and groundwork lessons to adults as well as special courses in varying equine topics.


ELS is proud to offer a variety of Special Programs, for example; certified Natural Horsemanship training, education courses, including, Horse Ownership & Responsibility Program, and Rail-to-Trail training. Horse Ownership & Responsibility, and Rail-to-Trail.


Our large park-like field and our friendly staff and horses provide a unique venue for company meetings and motivational, charity and kid events such as Girl & Boy Scout activities with horses.


Based on Natural Horsemanship techniques we provide horse training, behavioral help, and confidence training. We also offer excellent boarding, rehabilitation services and vacation care.

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New Arena 300 feet long!!

Although we will miss Donnell, David and Nate, we have outgrown the Horse Haven at Bear Creek property.  We will be moving to the new facility over several months in phases that will cause the least amount of disruption to the horses.

The facility is big enough for more human-herd members!

More photos coming. If you have not already volunteered for the move, sign-up at the barn.

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  • The new Equine Life Solution Website will be launched in January!
  • New Logo by Heidi Page:

Can anyone guess who modeled for the horse head???

  • Facebook page for ELS clients is up and will be taking photos, comments, etc. in January.
  • Blog updates weekly! I promise!

Congratulations Ellen H. as Gracie’s new partner! I am sure she will be trail ready by June!

"Gracie" (Tennessee Walker)

  • Congratulations Deb H. and Erin T. on the lease of “Samson!!”  Deb H. is on a lease-purchase program with Sammy if they make a good team by March. Yeah!!

    "Samson" the handsome!









  • There are some leased ponies in stockings to be announced after Christmas!  Shhh! It’s a surprise!
  • Mini-classes offered the last week of December. Sign-up and learn alot!
  • Heidi and Ebony will be moving back in Jan 1, 2011!! Welcome back Ebony (and Heidi too)!!     🙂
  • Hunter-Jumper Prep Program (TBA)
  • New Programs for Summer TBA soon!
  • Camp 2011 for 8-12 year olds will open for enrollment in February. The 2 weeks are already part full. We are adding an additional week this year. Dates TBA.

That is all for now! I will post additional information this week about the mini-classes and the January “Horse Ownership” Class series.

Regards & keep horsin’ around!


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I have been remiss in writing the Blog due to the unexpected increase in business over the past several months. An update:
  • July & August Equine Explorers Camp was so fun the 2011 year is almost full. We may have to add another week!  Poor Hillary!

Horsin' Around at Camp ELS

  • Barn Buddies and Equine Explorers


  • Sept. 25th Fundraiser was a huge success. We raised over $2,000.00 from pony rides and games! Treehouse Foundation was so happy! Thanks to all the volunteers and staff at ELS that made this event such a huge success! Mongo’s in Clearview catered the event with the best BBQ.  The Whiskey girls taught Line Dancing in the arena. It was hilarious!
  • The November Turkey Ride raised $1,100.00 for local family Thanksgiving dinners!
  • First 2010 Winter Snow Day! Horses love the snow!

"Rosie" enjoying the snow

Jasmine "human-whispering"

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The copy warned the Little Blind Text, that where it came from it would have been rewritten a thousand times and everything that was left from its origin would be the word “and” and the Little Blind Text should turn around and return to its own, safe country. But nothing the copy said could convince her and so it didn’t take long until a few insidious Copy Writers ambushed her, made her drunk with Longe and Parole and dragged her into their agency, where they abused her for their projects again and again. And if she hasn’t been rewritten, then they are still using her.Far far away, behind the word mountains, far from the countries Vokalia and Consonantia, there live the blind texts. Separated they live in Bookmarksgrove right at the coast of the Semantics, a large language ocean. A small river named Duden flows by their place and supplies it with the necessary regelialia. It is a paradisematic country, in which roasted parts of sentences fly into your mouth. Even the all-powerful Pointing has no control about the blind texts it is an almost unorthographic life One day however a small line of blind text by the name of Lorem Ipsum decided to leave for the far World of Grammar.



I cannot Thank enough the countless volunteers that dedicated their time and financial resources to make this Event so successful. Putting any Event together is a daunting task, but it’s the volunteers who make it happen. THANKS TO All OF YOU!!!        

I would also like to thank the following outstanding vendors who partnered with us and generously donated gifts for the silent auction to help us elevate this community Event to a whole new level!   There are so many great places, I will  have to Blog several times!    

Thank you Christopher & Shannon.  Owners of Mongo’s Restaurant located 5 minutes from HHABC in Clearview. What a feast! BBQ Ribs-with incredible sauce-, Veggie Skewers with mouthwatering sauces, Burgers and of course, my favorite, the Filet Mignon Sliders !!!! Yummy!! What a treat to have them cater our event and help us raise money for our charities.      

   Year after year restaurants try to capture the powerfully tempting convergence of casual, delectable, and economical dining.  Yet it has eluded all who have tried; until now –  Mongos is the exceptional dining experience that has perfected satisfaction of the palette, the pocketbook, and the patrons.         

Stop by their restaurant and say hi to Christopher and Shannon and tell them you enjoyed the food at HHABC.  They cater small and large events.   Way to go & thanks for putting a bright spot in Clearview for the rest of us!     

16510 Wa-9 SE Ste 101        

(360) 668-4433        


Vic Hanging out with Dante “Black Forest” stallion    

Thank you Vic and Ursula of Black Forest Stables, Inc. DBA Black Forest Saddles.  This fabulous stable and saddle maker is owned and operated by Ursula and Vic Sivitilli, of Black Diamond, Washington. They import and breed the rare breed of horses known as the Black Forest Draft Horses from Germany. “We first came upon treeless saddles after importing our mid-size Black Forest Draft horses into the USA”.     


Ursula & Dante  

Call Them toll-free1-888-227-5621 Or email them at     

These saddles are the ones we use in the HHABC school. They are comfortable for horses and humans alike. Come try one out, and you’ll be singin’ “Back in the Saddle Again.”    

Thank you Preservation Kitchen owned by Susan & Gary Southwick near downtown Bothell on old Bothell Way.     


Beautiful Preservation Kitchen Restaurant    

Preservation Kitchen preserves the traditions of regional eating and drinking, our local history, and old-fashioned hospitality.   “We believe that sharing a good meal with friends and family is one of the best ways to spend your time, and that expensive prices, white table cloths and pretentious wine lists are not necessary to achieve a great dining experience.  Our menu, which contains seasonal, locally produced, and sustainable ingredients whenever possible, is flexible and affordable enough for a four-course special occasion dinner, or a glass of wine and some house-cured olives on a Tuesday night”.      

What a great place for groups or intimate dining in their private cozy rooms upstairs.     


Thanks to Kevin Downey, owner of Grazie Ristorante in Canyon Park.     

You’ll find everyone at Grazie Ristorante – both the Southcenter and Canyon Park locations – to be friendly and welcoming, with the most knowledgeable staff anywhere. You’ll experience Italian food made with authentic recipes and ingredients just like you were dining in Italy. Only at Grazie Ristorante will you receive five-star service at family prices.    

Grazie Ristorante was born in November of 1987.  Owner Kevin Downey, with years of experience working in the restaurant industry, took his love of the business and created a unique Italian dining experience, more authentic than any in the Puget Sound area.    

This is also a fave eat-out. I love Italian food, and the service rocks! They are so warm and friendly. Even when a “herd” of us show up smelling like “eau de barn cologne” from Ralph (you-know-who)!    


May 22 Event Display    

Thanks to Kelly and Jason Hampton owners of Party Design.    

Party Design is local, privately owned and operated by Kelly and Jason Hampton, founded upon our passion of designing and hosting parties and our very real desire for people to have an extraordinary experience. We take pleasure in creating fabulous themed extravaganzas, making invitations, fun guest favors, perfectly staged decorations and pairing it with excellent food, beverages and entertainment.    

What a cool party gift giveaway at the auction. The quality of your display said it all. You guys really know how to throw a “party!”    

Call: (425) 232-3837    


Who is this “Sweet Pea?”    



Thank you Barbara Ritzie from Ritzie Photography.  I am so impressed with your work. You are able to capture not just one but two personalities of the same horse.  I am sooo impressed with gifted artists of film and canvas! Thanks for your enthususiasm and knowledge. I LOVE your work!    

To contact Barbara:    

Phone: 425.314.0600    

Well, that’s all for tonight folks! I am still recovering.  If you students are lucky, my voice won’t return for several more days! Hahaha! You Wish!    

I will be posting the donation stats for the Event along with more pictures shortly.  Weighing the food is a huge feat.  Thanks to Donnell for all her hard work on the Event and putting up with the Tasmanian Devil (me, of course)!To be continued…

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If you have any time to donate on Saturday, May 22, we need YOU!  Come help us help our local community (see post below). We need teens, adults and kids (with parents) to assist with games, pony rides, collecting food and more. Email robyn@horsehavenatbearcreek if you are interested. We will assign jobs and keep you posted. We are looking forward to another successful Event with your help.

Tell all your friends to come support our charities and have fun too! Please request flyers to distribute at work and at local stores and coffee shops. This was so succsessful last time, we had a great turnout!

Other help/items we need from anyone:

  • If you have donatable clean, gently used or antique items to donate to the junktique sale, bring to HHABC at your lesson time after May 10 and we will donate all proceeds.
  • If you want to have Garage sale space to sell items on your own, a goodwill donation will be appreciated (HHABC clients only).
  • If you want to promote your business or you would like to sell items you make, a goodwill donation is appreciated.
  • Tack sale items will be consigned and a 20% fee added if we sell items for you, You may sell tack at your garage sale space as well (HHABC clients only).
  • Items to donate for raffle or silent auction will be greatly appreciated.
  • Other brilliant ideas welcome!

So get your stuff out that needs to go! We will be accepting items starting May 10 at HHABC Ranch.

Sign up to volunteer (any amount of time is appreciated).

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