We are so proud of student Ali Brock who has been selected to the US Olympic Dressage Team for the Rio Olympics riding Claudine and Fritz Kundrun's stallion Rosevelt. Ali is a longtime student of Michael and we are thrilled that her hard work and dedication has paid off in the greatest of honors. Her selection is well deserved and we are looking forward to seeing Ali shine in Rio this summer!
Our Grand Prix horse Urbanus made an impressive comeback to Grand Prix after developing a mystery lameness. His rehabilitation was featured in an article by Amber Heintzberger in Dressage Today magazine, along with Verdades, who will represent the USA in Rio this summer, and Cindy Sydnor's young mare Fresca.
Read the article HERE
Hilona ("Bella") is a 2012 KWPN mare (Uphill X Kennedy)
Hinde Ceroon (Julia) 4-year-old Dutch mare (Charmeur X Oscar)
We have been steadily developing a pipeline of young horses in our training program over the past few years, and are finally beginning to see the fruits of our labors paying off. Every year Vera brings a few foals over from Holland, with the idea that we will have young horses of every age and stage in our program. Currently our two 2012 mares have relocated to our main barn and are ready to get started under saddle. The younger horses, foaled in 2013-2015, are still living in our young horse barn at the back of the farm, which has a cozy indoor space as well as ample turnout on good footing with their friends. All of these horses are growing steadily into our future dressage stars.
Click on the photo to see more images
We had a lot of fun at Sussex last week! Vera won the Grand Prix on Urbanus, who is looking stronger all the time. She's really excited for the upcoming competition season. Justin showed Aconto and in two rides earned his USDF Gold Medal; this is very exciting news for Justin, and pretty impressive for Aconto, who just helped Avery Hogan earn her Gold Medal too! Jillian Kirkpatrick is gaining valuable experience in the Grand Prix ring, and Maureen Goge won both the Intermediate 1 classes and is ready to move her horse Seamus up to Grand Prix next season!
Recently our working student Avery Hogan achieved a lofty goal for American dressage riders: her USDF Gold Medal. Riding Aconto, 22-year-old Avery achieved her final qualifying score at Red Tail Farm in Bedminster, NJ.
Originally from Austin, TX, Avery attended Stetson University in Florida, down the road from the Poulin Family, and worked and trained for them through college. She’d always wanted to jump, so she moved to Wellington so she could do jumping and dressage, and Michael Poulin recommended she look up Michael Barisone. She came to Barisone Dressage in 2012, and had had her horse Incognito less than two months when she qualified for the NAJYRC. Avery has been going great guns since joining our crew, and now balances working at the barn and riding with studying Marketing full-time online at Penn State University.
Last February Avery earned her real estate license and she is planning to specialize in equestrian realty in Wellington.” It would be fun and it’s a good market in Wellington, and the jumping and dressage worlds are so active there; there are a lot of people who need places to live.”
Avery doesn’t currently own her own dressage horse, but has two jumpers and trains with Margie Engel for show jumping. She is considering finding a dressage horse to do the Brentina Cup, but alternatively she might buy a young horse to bring along herself.
Aconto is a horse that Nancy Binter owned originally; she and Michael rode him and trained him up the levels, before Michael’s sister Susan’s husband started riding him, having never ridden before, and got his gold medal in just three years! They planned to sell the horse and Avery leased him last September, showing in Wellington during the winter. “I had one I-1 score from Incognito and I got one Grand Prix score,” says Avery. “Michael helped me a lot with the horse, and now they might lease him to another rider to go for another gold medal!”
Avery says that the biggest challenge she faced in learning how to ride Grand Prix was putting it all together in the show ring. “I could everything at home, but whenever you run through the test at home you train on the horse and make everything better and better, but once you get in the ring you have to trust your training and just ride the horse. The biggest problem I was having was I was still training in the competition ring – so the test wasn’t smooth and I’d create a lot of irregularities in the passage and the passage/piaffe transitions.”
Michael told Avery she needed to trust her training and just ride the horse, and trust that he’d do what they had been doing in training. “It was a lot smoother,” she recalls. “You don’t want to score below a six on anything when you’re trying to get your gold medal! That was a big lesson and it translates to jumping and anything else you do in competition. That’s what Michael was trying to teach me the whole time: that I can’t disrupt the movement. I think I just relaxed and took Michael’s advice and trusted the training process and the preparation.”
Aconto is a 16-year-old, 17.2hh Holsteiner gelding. At 5’4” Avery is on the small side for such a big horse. “I didn’t necessarily look that little on him because I sit tall, but he was a lot to learn how to keep together,” she says. “That’s the biggest horse I’ve ever ridden and I had to learn how to keep him together through all the movements.”
She explains, “With the big stride you have to plan ahead and you can’t let him get strung out. It’s like a death sentence to let him get strung out because there’s no room to get him back together! Now even if I ride a smaller horse, I’ve had to learn through trial by fire that you have to keep the horse together every movement, even every stride, using the half-halts to keep him collected and organized. He has such a big stride, in the tempi changes you can run out of room really easily.”
Since Aconto has 'been there and done that', and Avery had help from Michael, Vera and Justin, Avery’s job was to learn to ride the horse, not train him. This made it possible for her to focus on her own riding skills as she learned the ins and outs of Grand Prix competition.
“He has really good training and it’s nice and efficient to ride a horse that’s trained so well. Michael also knows how to ride him and knows what he likes – everyone who’s ridden him was able to tell me what the horse likes. Justin has also shown Aconto and he really helped me learn the feel of the horse; he’d get on the horse first and then I could get the feeling of how the horse should feel. Vera and Michael both helped me a lot, it was really a team effort. Justin had been riding the horse and putting me in the ring towards the end and I’m really grateful for all his help.”
Working student Alana Brewster Bernhardt’s family has long been acquainted with the dressage trainers Michael and Vera Barisone, so it was a natural choice to look to Barisone Dressage as she strives to improve her riding.
Alana, 23, moved to New Jersey from her home in Upstate New York last November, living in the barn apartment with the other working students. She brought along her 6-year-old horse Quinlan, a branded Oldenburg bred by Nancy Holowesko of Crosiadore; whose sire is Quaterback and his damline is Akzent II. Previously Alana has also worked with trainers Debra Lochner, Susan Barisone, (Michael’s sister), and Sue Laurentis.
“My mother rode with Michael and Susan a bit when she was young, and Susan was in my parents’ wedding,” she explains. “I did eventing, hunters and Pony Club and started focusing on dressage while I was at Mount Holyoke, where I majored in Philosophy and Sociology and wrote my thesis on dressage. It’s been a big theme in my life!”
Alana says there’s really no typical working day at Barisone Dressage. “Things change when Michael and Vera are away at clinics, but generally we get up and feed horses and turn them out, and make sure Michael and Vera have a horse ready if they need one, and take care of the horses after they ride.”
While she likes to use a curry comb with magnets before tacking up and again after the horses have been ridden, things are pretty straightforward as far as the caretaking of the horses. “We pretty much believe in good nutrition and good care and making sure they get adequate turnout,” she says. “We bring them in at night to monitor them but give them as much turnout as possible during the day; young horses especially are turned out on grass.”
As far as riding, she says, “Typically we ride our own horses and might warm up a horse for Michael and Vera, walking them and stretching them. My time here is pretty unrivaled as far as instruction time on your own horse. Michael and his assistant trainer Justin spend a lot of one on one time with us. There are four girls and all of us have had our horses since they were born – one since the horse was a yearling – so we all know their quirks, and Michael and Justin have taken the time to get to know our horses as well and really work with us. That’s unique to this working student position.”
Alana’s plan is to go to Florida again as a working student and get some training on her horse, and in the fall of 2016 she plans to enter law school.
“I’m looking at the University of Virginia, Seton Hall, NYU, Duke and Columbia,” she says, noting that her experiences as a working student have helped her in her pursuit of a law degree. “I think the ability to handle pressure and take constructive criticism is something lacking in a lot of young people,” she says. “Michael and Vera made it possible for me to spend two afternoons each week in a law office, which I found through a client of ours. The ability to network is also important to learn. Tuesday and Thursday afternoons I’m in Fairfield, NJ interning with a prosecuting attorney. He also does a lot of business litigation, which is what I’d like to specialize in, and apply it to equine law. I think you have to be more general than just horses but there are a lot of legal situations that are applicable mainly to horse people and other farming communities.”
While she is currently focused on training her horse, Alana does have plans to compete in Florida over the winter, and hopes to earn her USDF Bronze Medal with Quinlan.
Alana says that having several trainers available at Barisone Dressage has given her a well rounded education. “Justin is very accessible and has been crucial to helping me with my young horse, and often hops on,” she says. “Michael can really put the building blocks on all the way to the ground. I think Vera honestly has the best eye in the barn – she sees every detail – and she is especially good with seat and equitation work. If I’m having trouble figuring out something with my body and my seat, Vera’s the first person I go to.”
Barisone Dressage student Kymmy Pullen has been riding with Michael Barisone for a couple of years now. Previously she trained with him a few times a year as she was working for Silva Martin, but since starting her own business earlier this year she has been traveling to New Jersey to work with Michael on a weekly basis. Next year Kymmy plans to move her gelding Hot Date up to fourth level and her young horse, Sir Eastwood, up to second level and he will compete in the FEI 6-year-old tests. We caught up with Kymmy after her final lesson before everyone heads south for the winter:
“Michael really focuses on the basics. We’ve had lessons where we worked only on trot and canter circles, or we’ll make sure our transitions are perfect. Focusing on these really basic things can make riding the tests a piece of cake.
This past week he helped me teach my young horse flying changes. We were basically working on a simple canter circle, then we did a bunch of simple changes on the circle. We did counter canter and regular canter, changing the horse’s balance. We really drilled the basics and once we asked for the flying change it was easy. When I used the new outside leg and tapped him on the side, he jumped right into the flying change.
For the 6-year-old tests the changes have to be really smooth. He’s a hot horse and his changes can get a little frantic. He also needs to learn half-pass for the test, but he’s still young and I don’t want to drill it too much. He’s tried it a couple times and I know he can do them but we’re still focusing on make the basics better.
With my other horse, Hot Date, we started working on half-steps, the beginning of piaffe. We had struggled with simple walk-trot transitions; Hot Date wanted to canter out of the walk and Michael said this is a problem that we need to address now, or it will be a big problem later in his training. We worked a lot on straightness, because sometimes I bend him too much going into the canter. After he understood the transition I was able to send him forward into a big, fancy trot. It made a big difference just to get that transition.
We’re doing a lot of five-loop serpentine at the canter with a flying change at the center. That’s similar to the Developing Prix St. George test. I don’t want to push him too fast so I’m not sure if we’ll do that test this year, but in training he’s figuring out the balance and getting stronger, and learning the control necessary for the changes of direction and flying changes.
As far as my riding, Michael works a lot on my hands and trying to get me to carry them closer together and more still. My legs and feet are good but my hands get tense. I need to relax my arms without giving, so we work on that.
Michael’s wife Vera also watches my lessons and gives me pointers, which is amazing, it’s like two lessons in one! It’s so helpful because their styles are complimentary, it’s not confusing at all to have them both giving me advice. A lot of times she will see something in my position while he’s focusing on the horse, or vice/versa. Michael’s amazing, he was teaching me until about 8:15pm. I like his style and it seems to click really well, especially with my two horses.”
We are excited to be back at our farm in Florida for the winter, and gearing up for an exciting competition season. We believe in preparing our horses at home, rather than getting practice at the shows, so our preparations have been meticulous and every horse that competes this year will be ready to perform at its best. We have a wonderful group of adult amateurs whose experience spans the levels of dressage and we are also looking forward to helping them recognize their training and competition goals in the coming months.