The Big Picture

... of creating happy athletes:

First Priority

Harmony between horse and rider The safety, comfort, and happiness of the horse as an individual.

Second Priority

Helping the horse recover from the burden of carrying our weight so he can move with healthy biomechanics.

Third Priority

Progressive Gymnastics that lead to suppleness, straightness, and carrying power

Areas of Focus

  • Partnership
  • Communication
  • Biomechanics
  • Gymnastics
  • Ridermanship


  • Precision & Play
  • Happy Athlete Training Scale
  • Trust Your Instincts.

Mental Emotional Physical Focus

The Best of Both Worlds

Dressage Naturally is a bridge between the natural horsemanship and dressage worlds. 'Dressage' and 'Natural Horsemanship' bring up different images for different people.

Here's how I see it: 

  • Dressage primarily focuses on gymnastics, and the physical development of the horse.
  • Natural Horsemanship primarily focuses on the partnership and the mental/emotional development of the horse.
  • As horsemen, we need to take the whole horse into account.
  • With the combined information of Dressage and Natural Horsemanship, we have a greater understanding of the mental, emotional, and physical aspects of the horse.

The truth is always in the middle.

Enjoy ... The Dressage Queen and Natural Horseman

What We Can All Agree On

Dressage done in partnership is not such a strange dream. Read this excerpt from the Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI) rule book:

Article 401, The Object Of Dressage: The object of dressage is the development of the horse into a happy athlete through harmonious education resulting in a horse that is calm, loose, supple and flexible, but also confident, attentive and keen, thus achieving perfect understanding with his rider.

Who could argue with that? If people from dressage and natural horsemanship circles will stop criticizing each other, they just might notice that they both want the same thing.

The Heart of the DN Happy Athlete formula is:
Partnership, Communication, Biomechanics, Gymnastics & Ridermanship


Partnership and communication

Understand our horses' world so we can keep them safe and happy in our world.

  • Have a fierce sense of responsibility to each individual horse.
  • Allow them the most natural living experience that we can (freedom to move 24/7, barefoot is the ideal goal, opportunities for socializing with other horses, exposure to variety, forage-based diet).

Partnership means we act like partners, not predators. We need to get our own act together so we can arrive to our horse as calm, centered, authentic, light-hearted, and focused beings.


Horses really do want to understand what the heck we are talking to them about! We need to value the quality of the communication as the priority.


We owe it to our horses to help them recover from the burden of carrying our weight.

Karen and Solana

Healthy biomechanics is not about putting a horse in a shape or position that we think looks good. It is a process of working with the horse's movement dynamic to help him find the place where he feels balanced and can move with greater freedom, power and ease.


This is the progressive development of the horse's suppleness, straightness, and engagement. The basics of gymnastic training can be used to benefit any horse.

  • The goal of the movements should be to achieve balance.
  • Advanced gymnastics then challenge and test that balance.
  • Forcing a horse to advance gymnastically at the expense of the object of dressage is hurtful.


It is our responsibility as the rider to hold ourselves to a greater standard than we hold our horses. Great leaders and communicators always look to themselves first when there is confusion or lack of clear direction.

The Heart of the DN Happy Athlete formula is:
Precision and Play

Precision arrives out of the possibilities that play creates.

A playful attitude will create an openness to learning. Allow for the inevitable lack of perfection that comes with the process.

Students and horses can benefit from feeling free to experiment rather than paralyzed by the fear of being 'wrong'. However, the ability to be precise in riding specific movements will yield the best gymnastic results.


DNTrainingScale 325wThe Heart of the DN happy athlete formula is:
The Happy Athlete Training Scale

If you are happy, then it will be easier to find harmony with your horse.

From a place of harmony you will better be able to communicate with him.

Some of the things you can communicate about are techniques that can lead to dressage.

Spend more time being happy than doing actual dressage. The alternative is to do a lot of dressage, and rarely be happy ... And that doesn't sound like any fun at all.

The Heart of the DN Happy Athlete formula is: 
Trusting Your Instincts

The biggest breakthroughs with students come from helping them trust their own instincts. Balance, Harmony, Rhythm, Elasticity, etc. feel good. Harmonious and clear communication is unmistakable.

If students get stuck in their heads wondering if they are 'right' or 'wrong' they stop feeling what the horse is really telling them, and they stop being able to respond to the horse in the moment.

Having a clear picture and trusting your instincts will give you the ability to respond well and make better decisions.

Let's love what we do, have fun doing it, and help our horse feel the same!