Friday, December 13, 2013

Conditioning for 2014

After the seriousness of my last blog, I decided to a) find a happier note to post on b) post a bit sooner than I have in the past. Maybe I can keep this trend going!!

Come the end of every year, there's a lot of reflection on the successes and failures of the previous season. There also comes a lot of planning for the coming season, new goals, and new ideas. As such, a few of my goals for the up coming season are to produce more quality sale horses with a solid competition record, get to a CCI*, and develop my riders to each move up a level confidently!

I should mention here that I am BEYOND lucky to have a heated farm to work out of, so there is less chance of me missing rides due to in climate weather, but please keep that sort of thing in consideration with your personal schedule. If you miss a day, don't skip a work out. That's why I never put things to a Monday-Sunday schedule, it's always Day 1-7.

How pretty is this?? I'm quite lucky. For more information on my new facility, check out http://infinitysporthorse.com/facility or http://www.paddockhillsequestrian.com


As we head into our "training time" here in the Midwest, much of what we work on in the next three months sets the tone for our success in the next year. Your horses base of fitness is the best thing you can possibly do for them, so in light of that I decided I'd put some of my conditioning/training plans and goals on here, and try and track them every few weeks, so you can see the progression that my horses at different levels are making each month. I will also make note of their TPR (Temperature, Pulse and Respiration). Currently, I have 5 horses in my program, as well as a few lesson horses that I'm looking to keep more fit. Here is a start with Jag and Qui's training/conditioning program for the next month!



Man in Black "Jag" - 5 yr old Preliminary OTTB gelding. My goal for him for 3 months out is to be jumping around some local jumper shows at 3'-3'6 divisions, as well as schooling comfortably at 2nd level dressage. He will see his first event in either late March or early April.  Jag is currently still on his vacation from River Glen, though I sat on him for the first time yesterday for a 20 minute walk/hack session just to stretch his legs and remind him that he knows how to be ridden. He has two more weeks of pretty much just sitting in the field (he lives out 24/7 during his vacations so we can best let him grow and stretch his legs, and be as relaxed and normal as possible) looking pretty before he'll start back to work. When he does, we will do a week of 40 -80 minutes of just straight walking, briskly. I will try and do most of my walks around our trails so I can utilize the snow as well, make him work a bit harder, and some of that work will also include road walking as well to strengthen his tendons back up. Then real work will start up, all prefaced by 20 minutes of walking and finishing with 10 minutes of walking:

Day 1: 20 minutes trotting long and low.
Day 2: Light dressage school with circles, long and low canters off his back. No longer than 25 minutes.
Day 3: 20 minute trot set, include trot poles scattered through the arena
Day 4: Dressage
Day 5: Hack

Week 2/3

Day 1: 25 minute trot set
Day 2: Dressage school
Day 3: Hack
Day 4: Light jump school, with xs and low cavaletti, canter poles working on foot work
Day 5: Dressage

Week 4

Day 1: 25 minute trot set
Day 2: Dressage
Day 3: Hack
Day 4: Grid work
Day 5: 25 minute trot set with Dressage
Day 6: Pole work (canter/trot poles)
                                                                                                                                               



Millenium Qui "Qui" or Red Horse - Qui had 2 weeks off following Heritage Park, and then 4 weeks of very light rights just to keep him working as he's the type of horse that doesn't do well physically in a full vacation. He does best in a consistent schedule so too much of a change can stress him out. I'm just beginning to put him back to full work now that we're all settled in the new barn. His goal for 3 months is to be ready to ready to compete at Training Level, as well as actively competing in jumper shows this winter. He is already at least "partially" fit but because my goal for him after last season was improved relaxation and strength, he has different aims from his conditioning. He also will spend a lot of time walking to relax.

Week 1

Day 1: 25 minutes trotting long and low (yet forward)
Day 2: Trot Pole work while incorporating dressage
Day 3: Hack
Day 4: 25 minute trot set with Dressage
Day 5: Hack

Week 2/3

Day 1: 25 minute trot set long and low (yet forward)
Day 2: Dressage (includes trot poles and canter poles)
Day 3: Hack
Day 4: Jump work over little cavalettis and low verticals with 9' placement poles on both sides all trotted or walked.
Day 5: 25 minute trot set with Dressage

Week 4

Day 1: 30 minute trot set long and low
Day 2: Dressage - Lots of transitions up and down, improve straightness, simple lateral work
Day 3: Hack
Day 4: Jump School - Grid work (bounces, bending lines, adjustablity)
Day 5: Hack
Day 6: Course work at 2'










Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Learning To Sit (the trot, on the couch, or the beach or wherever else you might be)

I've been a big follower of Denny Emerson's page on Facebook for the last year, and one post really hit home for me a few months ago, about learning to sit the trot. You know what his advice was? Practice. Over, and over and over again. On any and every horse that you ride, every ride, for as long as you can, as well as you can. Some of my horses that I ride naturally have a more swinging trot that seems to pull you into the saddle, and makes it MUCH easier to sit. Red Horse (Qui) is one of those horses. I'm working hard to develop his strength through his back. To do this, I've focused on a lot of long and low work, and while he's in this lower frame he's not allowed to just meander. I look to really PUSH him into this lower frame so he truly engages that hind end. That's really what develops those haunch and back muscles. When he's at his best, his trot is absolutely unbelievable. It pulls you RIGHT in, and he just floats across the ground. I don't even have to work to sit his trot. The hardest thing for him is to relax through his back though. He can be a bit of a worrier, so most of ride the first part of my ride is spent on getting him to take that deep breath and relax that back so he can really move. We do circles, we spiral in and out, we walk for the first 15 minutes, we do LOTS of transitions, anything to not let him to lock that back against me.

Fancy.... from his first time in water this summer :) 


It's interesting that I spend SO much time working on getting him to relax, slow his mind down, and improve his focus, yet I'm pretty positive I can't think of the last time that I actually sat down and relaxed, let alone if I'd know what day it is if you asked me. I struggle with relaxing, sitting still, focusing.... Unless I'm actually riding. Here's a bit of a story about working to over come some of these things to put your best foot forward.

The Tuesday after Heritage Park, after a great show, I decided Jag was JUST reaching his peak for the season, having only started in August, and decided to head down to River Glen to run the Prelim down there, along with my working student who was running Training. That same evening, I got some devastating news of the very untimely death of a family member that  prodded me to take a week away from riding and teaching to be with those I love. Thankfully Kayla was able to keep Jag going on the lunge and with trot sets for me to keep him fit. I came back a bit the week after, though my head was very much still not in the game, I'll fully admit. It was then that I started to think about withdrawing because of everything, but as I've mentioned in past posts, it's quite hard to justify loosing the entry fee to myself, so I told myself I'd suck it up and just deal with it, so I could coach Kayla as well.

Thankfully Kayla and Stacey were there to make me laugh... :) 


As I headed down to TN, I spent the 12 hour trip working to get my mental state together. So much of my head was still back in Chicago, I knew it was going to be a really tough weekend to stay focused, and to really get the best of my horse. Part of me was nervous that he wasn't fit enough, that I hadn't prepped him enough, typical nerves exasperated by feeling very torn about whether I should be trying to enjoy myself, the guilt...


As I tacked up for my dressage test, I sat down for 15 minutes and told myself in a firm voice to relax, and just focus on my test. I went through it over and over again, I focused on exactly what I wanted from Jag, and what exercises worked best to get the best work out of him, and how I was going to spend each minute of my warm up. I got on, and followed my own plan to the absolute minute. Never once did I allow my mind to wander from anything but the exercises I was looking to accomplish. I dropped my score 4 points from the weekend before, and as the same judge judged all 3 prelim divisions I would have sat in the top 3 in any of the divisions, making me quite thrilled with how well Jag did, and how easily I could cut even more points from my score. Show jumping wasn't my best performance but my horse proved how much he's already grown at the level and skipped right around the biggest course we've seen to date.

Remembering so much of why we love our horses is for their healing power. I can't tell you how much time in the last month or two I've spent crying into his neck. 


When I walked the cross country course I'll admit I cried twice, that I felt like I shouldn't be there at all, that I was wrong, that it was too big and technical for so early in Jag's prelim career, that I hadn't done enough to prep him, all the self doubt came out all at once. So I walked it a few more times. It got better. When I tacked up the next day, my only focus was to give my horse the most confident ride I could produce. It didn't matter if we had 20 time penalties, it didn't matter about anything else but finishing my season on a high note for Jag, and feeling like he was confident in the level. And wouldn't you know it he dragged me around the course, feeling 110% confident to every single line, no fliers, no nervous chips, no misses at all. He showed me that for all of my stress and worry, and with 2 weeks of me basically leaving him to be lunged and trotted, that he knew his job. Have I mentioned how blessed I am to have this horse in my life?

This one is about the size of a queen bed ... 


The biggest thing I always stress to my students is the need for an excellent fitness base (thank you Katie for instilling that in me). ALL of my horses spend at least one day a week only trotting for 25-35 minutes, long and low, usually over hills. Jag has only gone on 2 gallop sets, and at all three of his Prelims he returned to his resting heart rate in under 3 minutes of coming off course in three very different climates. Fitness is about strenght, it's about endurance, and it's about one day a week where the horse can just mentally relax. I generally do my trots out in a field, but I ask for nothing more than for them to be either long and low, or simply just relaxed. No leg yields, no big bending, nothing complicated. But most horses hold this fitness extremely well, and once you have established a good base, it's there for the long term. It's the same thing in your training. If your horse has a strong base of support in their training, there is no need during competition season to overly pound them over jump after jump at height. Jag didn't even jump to height once before his last show.
Find any and every reason to be happy. Even though I didn't win, and dropped placing for running so slow, I was happy that I was able to put things aside and enjoy the ride on my lovely horse. 


And what I learned too is that there are times when us as riders need to take time to just sit. I needed to learn that just because I'm not spending 7 days a week 18 hours a day in the barn doesn't mean I'm not working hard. I needed to learn to work smarter, not harder. I was spending time doing needless things, wasting time at the barn because I felt the need to look busy so that clients would see me as hard working. I don't sleep much as it is, so I always felt if I wasn't working, that I was loosing ground on everything. And you know what suffered? Everything in my life. I realized with the passing of my loved one that I didn't want to get to the top at the expense of anything else. I wanted to have a life, a family, a boyfriend, friends. I wanted to have mornings that I slept in, days that I went to the museum. Weekends where I went skiing, or to a movie. I don't want to get rich (in any career) at the expense of these things. I want every time I   Yet again, I felt that at 24 I should at least be running around CCI** if I wanted to call myself a professional. Or selling a horse a week. Must spend more time working. What I really needed to do was to spend more time being a better person, marketing more efficiently, working the horses more efficiently, and being better about time management so that I could get the most out of each day, not just look busy. And I needed to enjoy my rides a bit more. I needed to learn to sit.


Oh dear... Me and Isabel (one of my clients) actually got all dressed up and went out like real people!! 


So in the 6 weeks that Jag gets off this season, as I have moved into a new farm (yay!! Check it out at http://infinitysporthorse.com/facility) and as I take on new clients, new horses, and new responsibilities, I've made myself really stick to a schedule. I've made myself take days off, be home at certain times when in the past I would simply beg for forgiveness about running late or missing appointments. I have made sure that those close to me, both at home and at the barn, truly understand how thankful I am for their support, of which I have been thankful to have so much of in the last few months. Every time we go through hardships in our lives, we should remember not to spend too much time being sad, but how we can use these experiences to make ourselves better. This Thanksgiving I went out, cuddled with my ponies, then headed back home to spend the day relaxing with family and friends (and making entirely too many truffles :)

The boyfriend and I. He's put up with quite a lot in 8 years :) 


As riders, when you give your horse much needed vacation time every year, make sure that you use it to relax a bit too, and know that you aren't what is causing your horse stress. And enjoy every moment of your life. Big or little. Enjoy your loved ones. Spend more time smiling, and less time stressing. Hug more, and truly enjoy each of your rides on your horses, and realized how blessed we are to have these animals in our lives. Sometimes we need to practice sitting. On a couch, or on a beach, or with our family.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Nothing but time


At 24, I've aged out of Young Riders quite some time ago. The U-25 program through USEA requires a qualifying CCI** which my horse won't even be old enough for until 2015, when coincidentally I WILL be 25, turning 26. This year Jag is only 5, and ages into Prelim (and a CIC** but not an Intermediate, you figure that one out...). Him and I are in a bit of a strange place with it all. Being a professional, there is a constant push to prove yourself against the best, have the young horses at the YEH Championships, be winning the FEI events, and climb up through the levels with as many horses as you can, as quickly as you can. It seems no one (read clients or sponsors) will take you seriously until you're a ** rider, or at least that's often the illusion. So riders pay to run as many events as they can to get their qualifiers, travel around the country, and run their horses hard to get to the elusive "Upper Levels". One ** horse looks a lot better on the record than 3-4 training level horses. Its also the chase for the multiple rides. Every professional wants to be running around like Buck Davidson jumping from one horse to the next, just to say that they have that "string" of horses. A lot of it comes down to having the money to be able to compete, fund the ever increasing prices of competitions (specifically FEI events) and the money to fund yourself to the top while hoping people notice your rise on up there. And then you look at the odds of one horse being able to go through the levels, stay sound and competitive, and fancy enough to get you noticed. So you try and bring up two, which we know is just ever so affordable... It's quite the racket if you ask me.

Fair Hill CCI2* winner Allie Blyskal and Sparrow's Nio. Photo by Jenni Autry. 
How can you not be jealous?? 

This year after Florida, I had such a different prospective on the upper levels and the events. I watched them more closely, and to be honest, quite enviously. Why couldn't my  last mare have been more of an upper level type that I could be running Fair Hill CCI** this year with her against people I had competed her against? It's so easy to find yourself to be sitting at home, refreshing the Live Scores, and being completely jealous of those riders who made it there. For me, I blamed the fact that I was sitting on a rambunctious 4 year old OTTB instead of a ** horse on the fact that I didn't have the money to get to the upper levels. That I had to try and beg, borrow and bleed my way through each show, counting my pennies just to save for the 7 shows I can generally swing in a season. I spent a solid 2 days in and around Fair Hill weekend complaining to anyone that would listen to me (and I apologize to those of you who did...) that if I simply had more money, I could compete more and get up the levels sooner. Whining that by now, if I was REALLY a professional, I would have been to a ** already. Clearly rational thinking at it's finest on my part.... (rolls eyes).

This is how I made myself feel better. Thank goodness for my new sponsor Body by Vi... 

In the midst of this bit of a mental weekend, I kept questioning why people would want to work with me when I hadn't "accomplished anything of note" or why people would send their horses to me when I wasn't "proven". Self doubt is something that I think is CONSTANTLY prevalent in competitive riders, and especially as you go through the levels, look to expand your business, gain new clients, ect. You will always hit a point of self doubt, self ridicule, and frustrations. If we are complacent with our selves and our riding, we won't push ourselves to make necessary improvements. We'll allow ourselves to grow mediocre, and not hold ourselves to the standards that make good riders GREAT. What we can't do however, is hold ourselves to someone else's standard of great. I was spending so much time worrying about others and where I wasn't, that I was forgetting where I was, and what I had. I needed to remind myself of the qualities I brought to the table to clients, sponsors and horses.



Thanks to this epiphany (and to my friends who helped me see it....) I realized I needed to adjust where my current program was at. I needed more organization, more discipline in my rides, more structure through my entire business. For someone who is about as naturally organized as a tree frog, this is clearly a struggling point for me. I spend probably 3-4 hours a day in the car between barns, try and ride anywhere from 3-10 horses in a day, teach as many lessons as I can, and sleep sometimes too. Sometimes my jump days where shortened by the fact that you can only get on and off your horse so many times, and I'm told it's probably not always a good idea to jump on my own. Who knew? Instead of spending time working on fundamentals of footwork, distances ect, often I just jumped to height so I could really utilize that jump school in my mind. To me, if I was going Prelim, I should jump prelim height at least once every jump school right? Wrong. Maybe I should do two jump schools that week, one of 1' high jumps that I am perfect to every time, and one on 2' high fences focusing on my changes and adjust ability.

Working keeping Qui less overly enthusiastic, with better footwork and quality


I really reevaluated my goals. Jag is 5, and had just run his first Prelim, albeit to me with moderate success. I asked myself what I wanted to accomplish. I wanted a really solid dressage test, a clean cross country round with no "misses", and a clean Show Jump round. Not that I wanted to win, not that I wanted to qualify for a CIC* by the end of the year like I'd originally told myself, not that I wanted him running Intermidiate by Summer 2014. I realized I have nothing but time. Time to make my horses the best that they can be. To be more tough on myself in my schoolings. I needed to be more percise in my transitions, not just on dressage day, but on jump day. My jump schools needed to be more focused on the quality of the approach, take off, and my position. No jumping ahead. No leaving long. No missed changes. My lines needed to be more precise in my practice so that it became more natural. My cross country schools needed to be more focused on my course work. I needed to learn to gallop to the fences with quality, and balance, consistently.

Normally this line might have stressed me out being a very upright skinny to a bending line to another airy, upright skinny. Jag felt as confident through this line as he did through a grid of xs. 


My focus needs to be on quality if I'm going to prove myself to my clients. I've said this before and I say it again. I want people to watch me run my horses around the courses and go wow, that's how it's done. I want my horses to find their courses easy, always. I want them to always be overly prepared, with the correct tools from day 1. So that is the standard that I am holding myself to. Not to being a CCI** rider. That will come when I have continuously brought up horses that have the tools that they need to succeed. The ends will follow the preparation. The months of sweat and hard work for truly quality horses of every price and talent level. It's something I've always expected of my riders, and it's something I will continue to preach. Results follow when you continue to hold yourself accountable.

You will always have days of self doubt, self frustrations when rides don't go as well as you hope, when you feel like you've let others down. Use these doubts not to bring yourself down, but to push yourself to a higher standard than you have in the past. Push yourself to be the best rider you can be, every ride.

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Trials and Tribulations of bringing along talented horses (The Black Horse Chronicle)

I am fortunate to work with a variety of horses each year, generally ranging from unbroke 3  year olds to well brought along horses with their particular quirks well installed. With the huge jump in the popularity of OTTBs (yay!!) I am also seeing a new influx of these in my program as well, from newly retired to restarted and retrained ones looking for a continued education. Each horse that comes in, requires a different approach towards finding success. Generally with youngsters I'm just starting, 30 days in we're generally walking, trotting, and cantering along and going on short adventures around the farm fairly confidently, with some limited off farm adventures for exposure. Some horses reach this point at just 1 week of actual "work" and others take 2-3 weeks. I'm working with a filly right now that has reminded me about the value of trusting your opinion and feeling on this sort of thing. The owner's I'm sure would have loved me to be on a bit sooner, instead of still lunging and clambering around her like a monkey, but to me she's always been a bit hard to keep focused past 20 minutes of work, and I can tell under her smart demeanor that there's a fragile little youngster that would frazzle with too much pressure. So I've kept it simple and stupid, always ending with a small progress and huge praise. Perfect example is the first time I sat on her, I didn't even consider actually asking her to walk. I was satisfied with just sitting there. The next time, I walked a small circle. Time after, we trotted figure 8s. 

Baby Olympics

To some this seems a bit painfully slow, but every time she has easily built upon our foundation, has never once offered to kickout, buck, rear, bolt, resist, ext. Everything has been very easy, and I'd venture to say boring for her. The other day I took her on a short walk around the property, and I was about halfway around my intended track when I could feel the end of our attention span starting to wane quickly. Instead of pushing her past the point of no return, I simply made a circle, halted her and hoped off. She doesn't know that wasn't my intended plan, nor did we face any unintended back lash of a short attention span. Will there be a day where I decided to push her through it? Yes. Do I miss anything in her training until that point? Not in my experience. If we let the horses learn at their own pace, I find that they continue to progress quietly and consistently, without the stress. They progress at their own rate, when they're ready, and you know it's never a FORCED reaction. I never want a horse I'm working with to feel that they are doing something (cantering, jumping, leg yields ext) because they are afraid of the reaction I will have if they're confused. I want it to be the next logical step for them, for it to make sense, and to be an easy step for them to progress to. 

I find this is EXPONENTIALLY more important when you're working with a naturally talented horse, or a horse that is inclined to be nervous. For Jag, my main competition horse, things have always come fairly easily (except mounting... details...). He never "actually" raised, only trained at the track for two years. He came to me at 4, sat outside for 3 months chilling out, and then I spent another 3 months gaining his trust enough to actually be able to get on him without him having a meltdown and running. To this day, I still don't even bother trying to use a mounting block. It's his thing and to be honest, it's not worth the stress it causes him. He lets me get on him from the ground without so much as a tail swish, which is a HUGE improvement. To give you a quick back ground, as a track horse I knew he'd been ridden at SOME point. They had workout times for him online, so I did a week of lunging work, laid across him from the mounting block, banged around on him, nothing phased him. Then I used the mounting block, and while he seemed a bit nervous, I waited for him to relax before putting my foot in the stirrup. No problem there. Then I swung over. BIG problem there. I've had horses bolt a bit before, so I was a bit prepared, but the problem with such an athletic horse? He's got an INSANE amount of push off that back end... So near broken neck #1. After a few months of work with a western saddle, some sand filled jeans as my mock person, and lots of patience later, I hopped on with no problem. So then we got to work on the "real riding".

He looks so quiet and easy going.... oops

 He was trotting cross rails a week going under saddle, and won his first starter mini event 60 days under saddle with a 27 on his Beginner novice dressage test, and a clear SJ and XC round. His first cross country school ever he hopped over a little ditch, dropped off a little bank, just like we were on a trail ride. Our first recognized event was less than 90 days actually under saddle and he cantered around beginner novice nearly on the buckle. He finished a very respectable 5th, mainly because that canter seemed so wonderful, I never even thought to check my watch... Oops. He didn't know any better. He cantered right into the water, handled the terrain and the environment with more ease than my two training level rides that weekend. He just didn't miss. So I threw him out in a field for the remainder of the year. He was 4, 16.2 at the butt and 16 hh at the withers. To say he was growing would be a gross understatement. 5 months went by, where I got caught up in my other sale horses, getting ready to leave for Florida to work for Katie, and the holidays. I planned to be gone through February, so I figured I'd pick him back up then. By the end of December though, I had sold 3 of the 4 horses I was planning to bring down with me, and was left with an empty slot on my trailer as of December 30th. So the poor feral black horse got pulled out of the field and tossed in the trailer, mane down to his shoulders, fuzzy as a peach, and as out of shape as could be. 


Progress! From first ride, to first BN, to First Training back 

Within 2 months of being in Florida, we got him back in shape, ran him one novice, promptly bumped him up to training where he again cantered around one of the hardest training's I've seen without so much as a blink of the eye. When he did it again two weeks later, I knew it wasn't a fluke. Katie and I planned out the next few shows, with a moveup to Prelim in the line of sight. Unfortunately, he's a horse. So those plans changed. During a late night storm he got spooked and clocked himself in the knee resulting in a small bone chip and a few more months to sit in a field. I finished my time in Florida, went to Rolex, and left him down south and took up a sale horse. Around the 4th of July, I had an opening back up in my stalls, had the vet do a quick X- ray, and with his Ok, I brought him back up home. I had missed him terribly, and was ready to get back to work. After 2 weeks back to work, and having him going better than he'd gone all winter, I came out to a 2 legged horse. What????? 2 weeks and a NASTY abscess (with a horse that won't let you soak his foot unless he's being hand fed....) later, we were back to work. 3 weeks after that, we headed off to our first event back at Catalpa Corners. His dressage was entirely average, much to my own fault of playing a bit too cautious. But his cross country?? Oh his cross country. He started off a bit wild, but then settled in better than I've ever felt him run. Just did not miss. His Show jumping was more of the same, jumped beautifully around a twisty course, and only missed on the where I rode horribly to, to finish in 8th of 22 competitors.  

Cross Country at Catalpa. Relaxed, happy, adjustable and brave. 


After Catalpa, I decided to really work on my dressage to make us competitive. He's a lovely moving horse, and is capable of excellent work if I ask for it. It was also very convenient that my original dressage coach, Wendy Sanders, had moved back to the area :) so off to Wendy Boot camp we went. She coached us the Friday before Silverwood, and we made some HUGE progress getting him to step up and carry his better quality work. It paid off well on Saturday when I went in and had one of my best tests to date, and secured the top spot. His cross country run was a bit... too bold. With no terrain at Silverwood, he found everything to be a bit easy, and was jumping very enthusiastically over the top of everything, dragging me around the course to finish fast and clear. Our showjumping on Sunday morning was clear, though not quite our best round as I was the first in the ring and let my nerves get the better of me a bit, but it was a very influential course with only two clear rounds, so I was thrilled with him all the same. It was all together a brilliant weekend, and winning from start to finish with an 8 pt lead isn't bad either. After only 4 training runs, the minimum for a Preliminary move up, I had a hard choice before me. Move him up, or sit at training for a few more shows for mileage? He'd found training level so easy, and been so adjustable on course, that after another jump school I decided to bump him up to Preliminary at Dunnabeck HT two weeks later. 

Starting to look like a REAL horse.

The big week arrived, and as I hopped on him on Tuesday before hand, I felt like I was riding down the side of the Grand Canyon... What?? My 5 year old hit another growth spurt. Excellent. Wendy even asked what was wrong with him this week. Ugh, great timing baby horse. But he still schooled well so off we went. I planned to take the whole weekend slow and easy, and let him figure out his way around this move up. Our dressage warm up was beautiful, thanks totally to Carrie Meehan for her advice from the ground that I couldn't quite bring into the ring myself, but still was a good enough effort for 3rd of 9, even with a swap in our counter canter, putting us two points out of first. Go Jaggle. The Cross Country course looked big, but very doable. So we warmed up well, though I'm still working on finding his ideal warm up for cross country to get him a bit more focused for the first few fences on course. As we watched the first rider on course, she had an unfortunate slip and fall at the first water combination. So I stopped watching. As I headed onto course, I knew for sure I was going to let him take his time, no matter what, and let him focus on his footing. I didn't want to have a silly slip myself. So off we went. The first fence went well. 2nd fence, he realized it got a bit bigger than training, and I could feel him hold off just a bit. The 3rd fence was a big upright white fence, and I wanted to take it a bit more like a show jump fence. He got behind my leg and we definitely struggled over that one a bit. The 4th fence was a off set one stride with a jump judge that had a beautiful rainbow colored umbrella that Jag just couldn't quite get his eye off. He again, was still a bit behind my leg and we jumped in and sucked WAY back, walking out over the out fence. Yes, I said WALKED out over a Prelim combination. UGH. 5 was a flier that went much better thankfully, and 6 was a double bank up to a skinny he took beautifully, and 7 was a MAX height, up right pile of logs he jumped beautifully. Finally, he was feeling comfortable at the new height. Now we were on the sight of the first fall. He jumped the first log of the 4 stride bending line beautifully, and then I took way too much away in my fear of slipping, essentially stopping him at the down bank into the water. I circled through the water on the back side, letting him get a better view of the combination, took the first log again and rode more forward and soft to the drop and wouldn't you know it? He hopped right in like pro. Up the hill we galloped to a crazy zig zag brush fence. Found my perfect line, and then I saw the jump judges in front of it.... Uh oh. Hold on course. No idea where. So we sat on the hill, making circles, working on keeping him relaxed but focused. After about 10 minutes, we were on our way again. He jumped the question perfectly, galloped onto the next off set two stride hanging logs, and NAILED the line, really galloping into my hands and exactly where I asked him to jump. Much better than our first combination... Then up the next hill to a gallop house, up another hill, JUST to be held again on course. Dang. Still no idea what was going on. So kept him walking again  this time for about 15 minutes. Then we were green lighted again. This was a bit of a difficult hold, as we didn't have a warm up fence, just back to work over a max height Prelim house straight down a dark hill. Nothing like hitting the ground running. So after a HUGE leap off, we galloped down hill to the the next water combination, which was a few strides into water to a pier, 4 or 5 strides to a max height bank up to a "duck blind". He came right around the corner, saw all the people and the combination, slowed to a bit of a trot into the water, and I pulled him up at the pier, let him take a look, circled around and attacked it. Could I have really gotten aggressive and probably gotten him over on the first attempt? Yes. Would it have been worth his confidence? No. He jumped foot perfect through the combination on the 2nd attempt and on our way. Two fences later was a half coffin with a skinny chevron down a hill to a bending line 5' shallow ditch. He was quite comfortable at this point, and was jumping around beautifully. We finished the course easily from that point on. I was absolutely thrilled to finish, let alone as well as he did. Shortly after, I found out that I was only one of 3 to actually get through the 2nd water combination. Wow. Here's a video of our ride through the combination of dread... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a-sMDlniuz0
Glad we took the time to get a more confident approach.


Show Jumping was my absolute best round to date, without any question. He came out on Sunday feeling like a million dollars. He cantered right to the base of every fence, jumping with quality, not just his typical scope. The combination I pushed more than I needed to resulting in two silly rails, but over all it was a relaxed course that felt no different than a novice course would have felt to me. We finished 2nd, and while not a perfect weekend, I was over the moon with how my little black horse preformed. We had some things to work on, but over all I felt he was VERY ready for the move up. Everything has always come natural to him, so I think he was a bit taken a back by actually needing to try a little bit again, but it wasn't anything he wasn't more than capable of handling. So I'll take the next month, school him a bit more up to height, and we'll head back to Heritage ready to take names. After that, he'll take a much needed two month vacation before we start to prep for a trip down South!! 

I was quite proud of my special guy.



Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Mental Obstacle Course of Riding



I'm a competitive person by nature, always have been, and if my parents are any indication, always will be. Growing up, I was a tri-sport athlete, an honors student, and rode 6 days a week while working off lessons at the barn. My family supported me in every way they could, but more than weekly lessons and some board was out of our budget. In every sport, I tended to find myself in more leadership roles, where I'd always encourage everyone to focus on doing their best, not to get frustrated, and to simply shake off the mistakes. Why, oh why can't we listen to our own advice??? One missed serve in volleyball and I'd start swearing, get down on myself, and totally affect the next play, and the play after... A great serve? Rally the whole team, get excited, make great saves. Needless to say I was a highly inconsistent player at best... Good days I could compete with the best of them, bad days I should have just gotten off the court. Even track, I'd find myself in my own head, worried about an old injury or about proving the coaches picked the right person to run. I was a natural athlete, but NOT a natural competitor. Finally my sophomore year of high school and varsity track (after a particularly embarrassing mistake on my part), my coach sat me down and handed me a meditation CD. He told me to get out of my head, focus on what I needed to accomplish, and bring ONLY that to the line. I lived with that CD in  my disc man for 2 years. In those two years, I set 3 school records, qualified in two events for State, won 4 different invitationals and finally was doing more than just preaching to Choir. I was preforming as well as I was practicing, and learning to let go of the external stresses.

My Zen Meditation Pose

Now to bring that over to my horses. Seems easy enough right? As someone with a limited budget, I've always had to pick and choose my show schedule. Shows were always very limited, and in that respect, a BIG deal to me.  I love to compete, love the thrill of the chase, the adrenaline rush, the whole lot of it. My problem, is that when I go to shows, I am already worried. To me, it's THIS show. There's no, well if we don't have a great run, there's always next week. If I was lucky, there was always next month. Horse not quite dragging me to the jump that day? Well I'm not going to throw away $300 because Star just wasn't feeling it today. Suck it up and kick on. Dressage was and is a constant lesson in preparation, ring time, and learning how much space you have in the sand box. Learning to manipulate those precious minutes before your test to REALLY get your horse ready for the ring. When you compete often, you learn a routine that works for you and your horse, you learn what doesn't work for your horse. 3 times in a year is hard to figure out how your horse likes to be prepared. Or so I told myself for a long time.

With this mentality, I always felt "behind" the competitors that could afford to be out competing every weekend, practicing their test in the ring, and they always seemed less affected by the environment of the show. I'd get all nervous that I wanted to make it worth the money we spent to get there, make my coaches proud of all the work I'd done, and I'd proceed to go in and panic.  I caused myself constantly to go in to the ring with a bitter taste in my mouth of being nervous, rushed, and woefully unprepared, even when this was far from the case. I was always measuring myself against the next rider. Was my horse as fancy? Should I be competing higher already? Was my jacket fancy enough? My stall set up right? WAY too many things to actually think about putting in MY horses best test to OUR ability.

How I felt doing Dressage (ok so this is one of my old students and a dear friend, but still one of my all time favorite pictures. This was actually a great jump, not that you can tell from here... haha)

To say this produced a few years of less than stellar results would be an understatement. I did one thing though in hind sight. I'd get so mad at myself about a poor dressage test, that I'd go out on cross country with a determination to go clear and fast, and move up from there. I was focused on this goal. And wouldn't you know it, I CONSISTENTLY produced clear, fast (ok often TOO fast) cross country rounds, on just about any horse I was on. This also came from a no excuses way of thinking that even on a bad day, I wasn't just going to be able to afford to retire. We were going to get through it. I rode with a determination, a clear plan, and heart. This gave me the confidence to start really thinking of myself as a cross country rider, and that again, pushed me to continue to get those results. Positive mental attitude, positive results. Negative, distracted, blaming attitude for dressage? Not so much. Stadium again, I'd blame my saddle, or my horse, or the course, or this or that. I just never came in with the same ride I'd warm up with . I'd panic and simply worry about trying to go clean, instead of riding the course.

A throw back to my first Prelim. Dressage wasn't pretty, but man did we get around cross country! We produced the only double clear round that day, and moved from 11th to 4th. 

A few years ago, I was given the opportunity to show strictly dressage, and I competed through 2nd level. I learned to over prepare my horse for the level. Showing 1st level? Your horse should be starting to think about 3rd. You should not be barely scraping through those 1st level movements. The more over prepared my horse was, and the better I learned to use the sand box, those results started to fall over in to my eventing. My training horses were fit enough to run preliminary, jumping prelim combinations, and training began to look and feel easy to them. I started producing consistent scores, while not always brilliant, at least I was no longer all over the board. I knew what my horses SHOULD feel like before I get in the ring, and was beginning to replicate my warm up in the ring, and ride the horse, not the test.

On our way to qualifying for regionals, as well as winning high point. Forgive my hunt cap. 


To me it is still a battle, every day, to not let myself compare myself, my horses, or my business to others. Some people will always have more money, more natural talent, fancier horses, and more business sense than I do. But at the end of the day, that can't matter. I have to come into the barn each day with a clear, determined plan of how to accomplish MY goals for that day, month and year. I have to bring my horses along at MY pace, not worry about being the youngest rider to go to the Olympics, or to score the lowest dressage test ever to get on Eventing Nation. Do I want to be recognized for my hard work? Who doesn't?? I was on cloud 9 the first time I saw my name in a magazine under a little headway that said Silverwood and listed me as 2nd place. I taped that on my fridge for months... But now I keep tabs on my personal accomplishments, and make myself proud. A year and a half ago, I couldn't even get ON Jag, and two weeks ago he finished his 3rd training (and only 5th recognized show ever) with only a rail to his dressage score. Will we be in a magazine for the results? No. Will I be on Eventing Nation's Got Talent? Probably not. Did I cry calling my Dad to tell him about how proud I was of my little ChinChilla?? You better believe I did.
From first ride, to first BN, to his latest Training. What a special horse he's become in a little over a year. 

 I always tell others that my goal is not to make it onto the Olympic team. No matter what I do, I can't guarantee that because in Eventing, a committee decides that. Look at Shinead Halpin and Alison Springer, arguably the best two women riders in our country right now, with top 3 placings at WORLD class events. Both passed over for the Olympic Team. What more could they have done? When I am consistently producing results, I won't be able to be ignored. If I am consistently winning, I won't be able to be ignored. I just have to focus on producing the best results I can produce, not worry about beating someone else's scores. Will there be shows that you felt you laid down a 20 test and the judge sees a 40 test? Absolutely. Come back 4 more times with that test, and judges will notice.

Always remember, we all fight our own battles. Even the most talented riders have skeletons in their closets, as do the fanciest horses.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Finding Your Inner Zen

I don't know about you, but I'm particularly guilty of trying to fit 36 hours into a 24 hour day. This is sometimes a bit inevitable, as I currently have a part time job Bartending in downtown Chicago in addition to a full sales business with 8 horses currently in my program. And I'm trying to show my personal horse in my spare time... So I inevitably try and squeeze in whatever I can, whenever I can. For those of you like me, trying to get the most out of your day, here's a lesson on trying to ride rushed or stressed.

Just last week, after finishing a 10 hour hauling trip for a client, I really needed (or so I thought) to school up two of my horses before a show, so around 9:30 at night I hopped on the first one. This was my first mistake as I was QUITE exhausted, grumpy after dealing with crazies on the road, and really quite ready to be home. So to say my patience with my mare wasn't where it should be is an understatement. I got easily frustrated with her lazy canter depart, which was MUCH more a result of my crummy preparation than her not listening, and I then made my second mistake of the night. I kept going and decided to school her over some fences, despite having a terrible warmup on the flat, with a serious lack of straightness. And wouldn't you know? She didn't jump very straight either. 




Bad Quality Warmup Results


Much Better once I slowed down and focused more on straightness and quality.


My first blog on here was about really focusing on what you write in your horses book of training. And here I was writing a bunch of jibberish. Ugh, Bad Shannon. 


About how well I felt I was riding

So at this point in my ride, I had already been on for 30 minutes of terrible riding on my behalf, (we all have those daysa), and I decided to take a deep cleansing breath, smile, and spend 5 minutes walking around working on a lovely stretchy walk. Then I picked her up, did two beautiful walk/trot/walk transitions off the rail and incredibly straight, made a HUGE deal of her, and hopped off. Was it the perfect ride I was hoping for? Absolutely not. However, at a certain point as riders we need to learn to cut our losses for the day, accomplish one very positive thing, and get off.

 Our horses don't know we're having a bad day, all they can feel is your frustration and nothing is more cruel than letting them believe that it's their fault. There are days when we need to realize as much as we'd love to get on and ride off into the sunset, let it wipe away the stress of the day, that maybe it's not going to go so smoothly. Maybe our lovely mare has had a bad day too and doesn't particularly want to ride in the direction of the sun. Will you be able to laugh it off and fix the problem slowly? Or are you going to loose it and try and kick and pull her all the way down that road? Sometimes the ride will only add to our stress. Those are the days to spend 45 minutes grooming, going over every inch with a fine tooth comb, clean your tack, scrub your buckets, take your horse for a hand graze, and let simply being there at the barn take away the stress.  Never get on your horse if there's a chance that you're going to pick a fight that never needed to happen.




"There are only two emotions that belong in

the saddle; one is a sense of humor and the

other is patience." - Unknown


With this in mind as well, I find so many riders that fall into a "forced" schedule. I understand the need for structure in a training program, especially for upper level type horses. But this should never be at the expense of quality. I have had riders come for a jump lesson on jump day and get bent out of shape that I never let them do more than a ground rail that day because their horse wasn't going well enough to jump. If it's your jump day, and your horse isn't going straight, relaxed and forward on the flat, you have no business pointing it down a line. Make that day a flat day, and fix the issue so the next day, you can have a quality jump school with a straight horse. I should have NEVER jumped my mare that day, but let myself get caught up the "schedule". She knows how to jump, I'm not going to train her any fancy new tricks in one day, especially not if I didn't already have her going correctly on the flat.


Ah well, she went on to win almost all of her classes at our schooling show the next day, so thankfully I didn't do TOO much damage O_o.

I'd like to do a shout out to my sponsors, County Saddlery of Illinois, Turning Point Design Custom Bonnets, Genuine Ranch Brand, ISellTack.com, and Cavalor for their continued support of my business, and my clients for continuing to believe in me and my training! Looking forward to my next show here in a couple weeks!! And as always, please check out my website for a list of Sales Horses available, or to inquire about lessons, training, or consignment. 





Friday, July 12, 2013

The Dressage Experiment - part 1

I will preface this blog with the thought that I am NOT a dressage queen. I love jumping in any and all forms. Dressage does not come naturally to me. I feel that people who typically do well in dressage are more relaxed, methodical, and meticulous people. I'm a color outside the lines in a wild and erratic fashion kinda girl myself. For years, I would simply freeze after I left a beautiful warm up and trot circles around and around until the judge blew the whistle, and then I would complete my test in record time. My dressage coach growing up probably has more than her fair share of gray hairs form these experience. I have manage to end up in the top ribbons in years past due to generally clear rounds from saintly horses at break neck speeds. 

As I've gotten older, and started working with more and more horses, riders, and fabulous coaches, I've begun to really see the value in a quality dressage base (ESPECIALLY for jumping). One of my recent horses and I even ventured so far as to 2nd level with some mixed success, as most of it was trial and error on our own.Though I did manage to qualify for regionals at Training, 1st, and 2nd over our adventures. I've now set it as one of my goals to get my bronze medal over the next couple of years... Optimism right? Ideally on my OTTB or home started WB mare (2 scores down, 2 to go!) Excited to have found a fabulous coach in my area as well to help me realize these goals!  So now the real question: How does one do Dressage well when one is not necessarily on the nicest moving, flashiest, or talented of horses that simply waltzes around for us scoring 9's and 10s effortlessly?


Here's the place to start.... or... maybe not 


A few weeks ago, I got a call on a Thursday asking if I was interested in running a sale horse at Beginner Novice that weekend for a client. I love showing so that was a silly question. Polish the boots, grab the coat.... Off I go. That night, I sent a message to a good friend of mine Carrie Meehan (If you're in the MO/KS area, look her up, she's amazing) and asked her "How do I win Dressage?" She seems to do it a lot (actually, she just wins the whole event too, not just dressage. Her record includes multiple AEC wins at different levels on different horses) , so why not ask her?



Here was her response: 'People are always SO CONCERNED about keeping the horse round, but when you give the horse a solid unwavering connection with your hands, and think of just riding up and out, it does WONDERS for their movement. I focusing on making the horse stay in a happy place where he can't curl past my contact or go beyond it. Then i just ride the energy up and out, from the hind legs forward. I also hold my hands a bit higher than is comfortable...and think you're holding a tray full of glasses on your wrists. It wont like turn your fingers up...but THINKING it makes the perfect angle"


Simple right? I should be good for Grand Prix next week. But her message is a really good one. So often, people let their horses fall behind the vertical line of poll and nose, in the attempt to control the horses tempo with their hands (instead of their seat and their post rhythm) and try to make it "round", and at the expense of a swinging, relaxed back. The horse cannot achieve throughness and contact without first having a quiet and consistent rhythm and    relaxed back. One can't achieve that if they're swinging their horses head back and forth in an attempt to get them round, "wiggling the bit" or by holding their head to their chest ala Rolkur style. The best movement comes from a horse that is moving up and out (from behind, not from the forehand , a quiet rhythm with the rider continuously encouraging the horse to come up in the poll and into the bit, not onto and behind the bit.


The ACTUAL training scale



Here's a perfect example of me focusing too much on round and not enough on UP and into a connection. You can see that this results in a tight back, and a lack of reach from the hind end. 


Versus here where I've asked the horse to really come from behind and up to me, instead of letting him come down. I could even stand to have my hands up a bit more, and in front of me to better guide him. PS if anyone is looking for a LOVELY dressage horse, this horse is TOO cool. I rode him down in Florida this winter and he is available for sale down there through http://www.jsdressage.com/Sales.html


Best part about her advice (that I tried to follow to the best of my ability)? It worked. I managed to guide the mare (Parker) to a win in our class of 20! With a 29 to boot! It does help that this is one of the most talented horses I've had the pleasure to sit on, but really focusing on riding her up into the contact allowed her already stunning movement to really show through!


 



The result! (She is for sale by the way! This is a seriously cool horse... jumped around double clear and won on her first show out for the season! Can't beat that!)


So as I move forward on all of my horses, I have been really focusing on SLOWING down the rhythm so that the horses feet have time to keep up with the rest of their body, and a focus on up and out, opposed to allowing them to come down and in. I've also been working on pushing the hind legs up to the front shoe prints, to develop better drive from all my horses. This is not to say I don't work on "long and low" but when I do, it's with a forced attention to not allowing the horse to curl in on our stretch, but rather to reach out for those carrots... :)


Run fast my friends! And check out my current list of sales horses on my website, InfinitySportHorse.com

Friday, July 5, 2013

Courage For our Cowardly Lion

" The Suspicious Pony"

Meet Millennium Qui or "Qui" pronounced 'Key' - An 8 year old OTTB as of maybe a month ago now, purchased by one of my clients off of an East Coast Canter add as a horse for me to bring through the levels! This horse is going to be really, REALLY cool.... He easily has some of the most scope and best gaits of anything I have in my program right now. However, he is is what I like to call HIGHLY suspicious. Not spooky in the traditional turn and run philosophy that might have kept him alive in the wild, but more of the mentality that everything (and most everyone) is actually just out to get him. That pole? It's highly likely to spring up and grab him, so instead of simply trotting over it, he'll leap like his whole life depends on it. The X? After weaving back and forth nervously, we'll leave 2 strides out and tuck our hind end like it might try and grab him. Trail rides are a matter of a lot of puffing, a lot of stopping, some shaking, and many attempts to leap like a ballerina. Heaven help me if I needed to catch him in a rain storm, or if I tried to brush him too quickly. These resulted in terrified running around a paddock, broken cross ties, or more shaking. Now knowing he came from the track, and was a claims horse, tells you a few things. 1. There probably wasn't a lot of babying, treat giving, or cuddling. He was there to make his money, and go home. 2. Because of this, he really learned to fend for himself in any and all situations. Better safe than sorry mentality. He's brave, and he'll try, but because he knows his job. He hasn't had anyone he's truly wanted to work for, as there hasn't been much consistency in his life.


I mean, look at this trot after only 45 days under saddle!!

With this in mind, we begin the process of "retraining" and installing courage and confidence. I think this is something MANY horse and rider combinations struggle with, whether it's in the form of a stopper, a rearer, a bucker, a bolter, a biter, barn sourness, heard boundness, or extreme tension in dressage. These horses exhibit strong signs of lack of confidence in their person or "Alpha". Now I'm not hear to preach to you about how to get your horse to stand all four feet on a tree trunk, to bow down, or to ride around with a rope around it's neck and nothing else. But I am here to remind you that your horse is a heard animal. They should want to work for you, not out of fear or necessity, but because YOU ARE IN CHARGE. These are 1200+ lb animals that we work with on a daily basis, and in my world, there can't be a question of who's in charge. If they mow you down to get to the grass or to their stall, they don't have respect for you. When push comes to shove on cross country, you are disposable to them.They are going to be out for the self preservation. When we are on cross country, we ask them to do things that COMPLETELY disregard natural instinct, and I want my horses to trust me 110% when I ask them to blindly jump off a bank.

 Maybe this is a little harsh, but I've watched too many people baby their horses, and end up in a hospital when "Fluffy" just wanted a bit of grain and broke their foot. Respect starts from the ground up, from Day 1 to forever. Every day, you write in your horses book of training. In pen. Make every experience that you can a positive one in the right direction, towards the horse of your dreams. If you don't teach it them to behave, they won't learn. Does this mean beating them senseless over a mistake? ABSOLUTELY NOT. Does this mean correcting them when they're dancing in the cross ties and being firm about standing still? Yes. This means when you stop, they stop. If they walk past you, stop them and ask them to back up, and try again. There should not be a pulling game of your horse dragging you down the aisle every day. I expect my horses to stop without me even touching the lead rope. I expect them to stand in the wash rack nicely while being bathed. I expect personal space when we're walking around the grounds of a show. I expect them to get in a horse trailer with just me, no whips, no contraptions, and with little hassle every time.


I even expect my 3 yr old to stand nicely in the cross ties. Pictured is Miss The Logic, another OTTB sale horse in my program.

For Qui and his lack of trust, I spent a LOT of time in the first month working on getting him to move away from pressure on the ground, getting him to stand still for a few minutes at a time, getting him to stop when I stopped, to back up nicely on command. All of this was very hard for him to understand. He wanted to run me over, he wanted to run away, rear up, leave ext. I put him on a lunge line, grabbed a set of sturdy gloves, and pushed off everything else on my calendar. I wasn't in a hurry, and he needed to know that. I've learned that if I don't have the time to do things correctly (and completely) I don't have the time to work with that horse for the day. If you only have 20 minutes for a ride, don't ride. Groom them, work on ground manners, work on relaxation on the ground, make it simple and easy, so you don't start something you can't finish. Nothing is worse than not having the time to fix a problem that arises once you've started.

After 2 weeks, I really felt like Qui was relaxing in our day to day ground work, so I tossed a saddle on him. I wasn't exactly nice about it, maybe a bit surprising, but wouldn't you know it he stood like a brick. I took the saddle off, praised him like we just ran around Rolex, and put him back out for the day. He was like, Really? That's It? That's all I have to do is be good and you're done?? You know who showed up at the gait the next day? Without me standing in the middle watching him make laps around me at Mach 5? Qui. And guess who walked in quietly and started to work?

When we started working over poles, I started on the ground. Made it simple and easy to do the right thing. I made it hard for him to do the wrong thing. When he walked over it? He was THE best horse ever, and the issue was over and we moved on to something else. And then we went back to it again after a bit. I see some people represent over and over and over again right in a row, but to me this doesn't give your horse a chance to process that going over was the correct and easy answer. I did the same thing under saddle, walked him right up to it, let him stand in front of it for a minute, and then walk over. We did some dancing, and then a flying leap, but he went over like I asked. Try and  not let the horse walk past it or around it, as that's evasion of the question. Same thing with jumping. A run out is a rider error. A stop is a misunderstanding of the question. That we can fix. Once he quietly leaps over the pole, I make a big deal of him and go back to something that's easy for him, like a circle. Then after a few minutes, I re-approach the pole or jump. This time, it's a little less dramatic. Each time becomes less exciting, as he begins to trust I won't set him up for failure. Another big thing is make sure you are as out of the way as possible when working with a horse like this. If that means getting a belt or old stirrup leather as an "Emergency Grab Strap" do that. I jump my guys in a breast plate to make sure I have something to grab on to, and make sure that I don't fall onto their backs too soon on a big jump. Nothing hurts confidence more than grabbing their mouth to re balance your self. http://www.an-eventful-life.com.au/eventing-news/training-tips/neck-straps-are-not-just-beginners-says-william-fox-pitt If you don't trust me, trust WFP :) 


Slightly Over Dramatic



Nice and Relaxed, focus on the reward.


Much more relaxed.

With a horse like him, I also focus a lot on keeping it simple. Walk it until it's easy. Trot it until it's easy. Canter it until it's easy. Then add another element. Make sure at this stage that the exercise can always be broken down and simplified if they get nervous. 

Ok, enough from me for this week. Hope this helps for those working with horses lacking in confidence!!

UPDATE: 


Qui's first XC experience! Great to see our little Lion man out running and jumping! 


Saturday, June 29, 2013

I've never really been one to like talking about myself, however I do absolutely adore talking about my horses, all day, everyday, and at the risk of my boyfriend finally giving up all hope of a regular conversation about the weather... I'll give this blogging thing a try :) I currently run Infinity Sport Horse LLC, a small eventing sales and training barn based out the Chicago area. I split my time between two barns, Mowhawk Farms in Woodstock, IL where my competition horses are at, and Kendall Ridge in Yorkville, IL where my sales horses are located, and my home home in downtown Chicago. 
To many it may seem a bit crazy to spend nearly 3 hours in the car round trip, andto live in Chicago when my horses are based in the suburbs, but after a wonderful winter in Ocala, Florida working for 4* rider Katie Ruppel and grooming at some of the most elite events in the country (including Rolex!!! How crazy!) I came home and decided I truly wanted my cake and to eat it too... I did not want to get to the top of my sport, miss the Olympics by a poorly timed sprung shoe, and look back at my life and wonder, now what? Or what if? There was a great article not too long ago reflecting on much of this same thought process, and it really hit home to me. There are nights that I want to *gasp* put on makeup, a dress, and only mention horses through 3/4ths of my conversations! I want to know that if my horse needs three months off to recover from whatever injury, that I can take that time and travel the world, or lay on a beach, and not feel the need to rush him back just so I can chase more points and scores.
That being said, I also have ambitious goals. I want to be a 4* rider, I want to be the best that I possibly can be, and I dream of one day earning my pinque coat for representing the US. But I've set my goals as things that I can accomplish. It is too hard to set your goals for the Olympics, when your fate ultimately is not yours to decide, it is in the hands of the "committee" whomever they may be at the time. You can win, be a top placing rider (IE Alison and Shinead) and still not be selected. My goal is to simply be the best that I can be, and produce horses and riders to that same level. As I set out to accomplish this goal as an independently poor rider, I started a few years ago helping a few people sell horses. This is NOT a career choice for the faint of heart, I can say that, but I so love what I do and am currently blessed with an incredible string of 9 sales horses right now. I mainly deal in OTTBs, but at this point I also have 3 very incredible warmbloods and WB crosses as well. The hardest thing for me with sales horses is not wanting to keep each and every one of them.... Oops. I truly just love horses, and it is an incredible opportunity to be able to ride such a variety each and every day! I have a hard time riding all of them sometimes, as I treat each like my own, cuddling, petting, grazing, fussing..... What can I say? I always love the candid shots I get of them, and spend an inordinate amount of time laughing at some of their quirks. It does make selling them a bit easier in some respects, as I truly adore each one and wouldn't sell any of them if I could just find a money tree...
So I suppose the point of this blog will be to chronicle the highs and lows of bringing along my own sales program, competing, the training and the coaching I get, advice I see along the way, all while trying to reach the top of my sport and have a "real life" simultaneously....

My main goals right now are bringing along a quirky OTTB with mounting issues off a 4 month break back to training and ideally prelim this fall, a very lovely older OTTB (retired sound at 8 this spring) along to his first event ever, an through the levels for his wonderful owner, switching another OTTB from hunters to eventing (where she's much happier) and developing her strength and condition, another younger OTTB we found in a field to fatness and a new career, lovely young WB mare to a career in hunters or dressage, working with a clients QH to make him more brave and rideable, another WB cross to become very "childproof" and a last warmblood mare to being her stunning and wonderful self, no matter where we are! Phew! Each is very unique and wonderful, but each has their own hurdles to cross and I would love to chronicle their progress for you!!