Integrity and Greed

The ideas of integrity and greed have been on my mind quite a bit lately. In this business, it is very easy to lose your integrity in the pursuit of your goals and dreams. It’s just as easy to get greedy with your clients and/or horses.

Two sayings come to mind on this topic for me:

"Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should."

AND

“Character is what you do when you think no one is watching.”

Our sport and livelihood is arguably too unregulated. Short of physically abusing a child or straight up neglecting a horse to death, there is very little legal consequence for questionable ethical behavior. Thus it is up to the individual to create their own set of morals and ethics by which to abide.

I recently had a nice discussion with a student about integrity. I believe that your integrity is the only thing that you can really claim as your own in this life. People can gossip, but at the end of the day, your integrity is your own. The choices you make define who you are as a person. This is not to say that you will always make the “right” choice but that you will try to do right by whomever you need in order to set things as right as possible. While the road to success can be slowed down by maintaining your ethics and morals, in the long run you will have created a much more stable network with a happier group of clients and horses.

We also owe it to our horses to ride them with integrity and not get greedy with what we ask. Bless their kind souls, many will give and give until they have nothing left. We must be stewards of their care. This doesn’t mean that we should just feed them and pet them and never ask them to work; it means that we need to listen to them in their subtle ways to make sure they’re ready to move up when we are. The kinder the animal, the more we need to protect them from overuse.

Clients also have a responsibility to support and seek out others who conduct their business and lives with integrity. We all vote with our money and we all own a little bit of the responsibility towards creating a better environment for ourselves and our horses.

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So Many Shows

The winter season of 2016-2017 was brutal and set us back months in being able to get out and show. Since September, we have been on the road a lot trying to make up for lost time.

We've attended the wonderful schooling show at Paso Robles Horse Park twice. It's always such a fun experience and everyone did well and learned a ton. I've posted photos to the Facebook Page.

Kiva and I also attempted our first Prelim event at Woodside in October and finished third. This mare continues to impress me and I've really enjoyed our developing partnership this year. I'm so sad that the show season is coming to a close but am looking forward to continuing our progress in January.

Preliminary Dressage at Woodside

Preliminary Cross Country at Woodside

Preliminary Stadium at Woodside

Training with the Dragon

Sometimes in order to be successful, you need to redefine what success means to you. Had you told me a year ago that I would be considering running a Prelim level event, I would have told you to up your medication because you were crazy.

In February, we jumped our first XC jumps together. Bec sent me out to jump some BN level jumps and I thought I was going to vomit. At the show in April, I almost quit before starting. In May, I spent two days after looking at the course and dreading the sunken road. In June, I stressed over hills, drops, and tables at a place we had never been. In August, the nerves hit me moments before starting cross country. In September, Kiva fell asleep in the start box and we tackled some tough questions mostly gracefully. I didn't feel like I was going to vomit when I got done.

And here we are, preparing to take the plunge onto the Prelim track at Woodside in two weeks.

Kiva and I finished qualifying for Prelim last weekend. Looking back at our show record, I realized that we have brought home a 3rd, 2nd, and most recently, a 1st at Training Level out of four that we have completed (we would have placed on the other one but silly me can't read a watch properly). While I don't put much stock in placings (although winning is always much better than losing), we met my other goals which were to show at three different facilities, one of which we've never schooled. We also scored lower than a 30 in two of our dressage tests. I find that absolutely amazing since a year ago she didn't know how to walk without jigging and couldn't pick up the canter without a lot of extra commentary.

Is it terrifying to think we can continue down this eventing path? Absolutely. But somehow it feels like we've been training for this for our whole lives. As Molly said best: The eventing life chose you.

As the internet memes say: If your dreams don't scare you, then they're not big enough.

Opening the Door

Horses suck.

I love them, but they suck.

They're innately talented and showing us the path to our dreams and then abruptly changing course with a stumble, a kick, a fall, or some other incredibly ridiculous injury. They encourage us to set goals and then make us modify plans.

Horses teach you that in your darkest moment to look for and walk through the open door.

Sometimes the seemingly worst tragedy will launch you into a situation of unparalleled opportunity IF you're willing to open the door.

And sometimes one moment, one split second decision, can literally change your life forever.

Just keep looking for those open doors.


I could spend hours sharing stories about how a tragedy turned into a success. When I was a junior, my horse came up lame before medal finals. The only other horse in the barn to ride was a green but kind five year old. Our expectations were very low for the coming show but the experience was worth going. We won a few medal classes and then ended fourth in the final. Two years later after a couple unfortunate medical incidences, he was gifted to me by a generous man who saw how hard I worked with my difficult animals. That horse and I went on to compete through college in many medal finals, schooled to the upper levels of dressage, took me out on a cross country field for the first time, and trail rode all over Los Angeles.

 Howard's second medal finals.

Howard's second medal finals.

 A great amount of time was spent doing this on Howard.

A great amount of time was spent doing this on Howard.


After a couple difficult accidents with one of my horses, my confidence had taken a big hit. I decided to take on Kiva, not because she was easy, but because she was brave. Fast forward a couple years, and I decided to make a long drive to Los Angeles to clinic with Eddie Macken. The clinic was...interesting. She was quite ill-behaved and because of this, I made friends with another rider who was also on the other most ill-behaved animal at the clinic. Even though we were struggling, I really liked his horse's attitude. He was so kind and willing and had an adorable personality.

Six months later, his life changed and he gifted him to me. Stephanie was looking for a new horse and was brave enough to take him on. He was difficult and I not-so-fondly remember spending two hours one day trying to get him to canter three poles on the ground without adding a lot of unnecessary theatrics.

A turn out accident left Kiva laid up for quite a while and Stephanie was out due to pregnancy. I decided that the B team was now the A team and spent the year riding and showing him. We went from being terrified to do the 1.0m to confidently jumping around the 1.25m. In the same year, he took another amateur rider around the .90m and ended Second and Fourth in the classics at Menlo.

Now he packs around beginners and competes with Stephanie and Lauren in the under 1.0m jumpers.

 Kingston's first 1.0m round with me.

Kingston's first 1.0m round with me.

 Kingston taking Stephanie around their first show together.

Kingston taking Stephanie around their first show together.

David O'Connor Clinic

A spot opened up in the David O'Connor clinic last week so I jumped at the chance to join the Training Level Cross Country section. I was pretty intimidated being with some eventing veterans but was looking forward to taking a formal cross country lesson.

Just so I wasn't out of the loop, I watched the Intermediate section of the stadium jumping and part of the Training group's stadium lesson. It was interesting to hear him say basically all the same things I've learned over the years about keeping the horse straight to the jumps and working on adjustability and ridability.

He spent quite a bit of time discussing spooky horses. Most upper level horses are a bit spooky which is what makes them careful. He talked about picking a very specific point (like a light pole or fence post) and riding the horses directly towards that marker. He said that the horse is welcome to look all they want, but they cannot leave the line. It's definitely a trick I plan on using with my spooky ones.

For the cross country lesson, I introduced myself as a slowly converting jumper rider who still has some confidence issues on the cross country course. He chuckled and we had a nice, brief discussion about the differences between jumpers and eventers.

The lesson was very helpful. He went over different positions and how to correctly ride different types of fences. He had us work on dropping our reins four strides away from the training drop into the water (this obstacle made me sick to my stomach in March).

And then he told us to hop over the Prelim drop into the water. At first I thought he was joking and when I saw Gina pick up the reins to go do it, I got pretty nervous. David assured me that it was just a jump. Well yes, the front is just a jump - it's the four and a half foot drop into a lake on the backside that's concerning!

But when David says jump, you ask how high...or rather, how far down.

I might have squeaked a little the first time but my super dragon mare jumped it without much thought. He smirked and said "see, it's just a jump." Mhmm...

I would have been completely content ending the lesson on that but we were not so lucky. We moved over to the sunken road and practiced jumping combinations up and down the banks with stadium jumps.

All-in-all it was an excellent and positive experience. I'm so glad that I was able to take the dropped spot in the clinic and learn more about how to properly ride the jumps in the field.

It amazes me how much confidence my horse and I have gained in just a few short months. It's a true testament to the value of a good partnership and solid training. I love having a partner who is so game to go and do whatever I ask her to do.

My other favorite thing David said was "I've never seen a horse go cross country with its ears back before." Well, I haven't met too many horses quite like Kiva either.

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So I Guess We Are Doing This New Thing Now

Kiva and I, along with some Webb friends, traveled down the 101 to Shepherd Ranch in Santa Ynez for an event last weekend. This was to be our second Training and our first time riding a course that we had never seen.

I was amazed by the course in two ways; first, there was a lot of terrain which we are not used to tackling; and second, I need to hike more often.

Kiva put in a lovely dressage test. We still have plenty to work on but she's come a long way from her "bouncy" test in April at Twin. We led the division after dressage.

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I struggled with my pace on cross-country due to the winding course and hills. She gave me a little scare at fence four where she dropped her back end a little soon only to realize she hadn't cleared the jump and twisted her way over it. I was proud of her for being clever but terrified and almost pulled up. She cantered willingly away from the jump so I figured she was probably okay. The rest of the course went fairly smoothly, even conquering questions we'd never seen before.

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I felt so rusty in our stadium round! It's been over a year since I've competed at any respectable level in the Hunter/Jumper shows and our stadium round definitely felt that way. I'm looking forward to getting her a little more fit so we can go back to our roots!

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All-in-all, it was a beautiful and fun weekend. I think I'm starting to enjoy this eventing thing and Kiva seems to agree!

 

 

 

And Now For Something Completely Different

I have had the privilege throughout my riding career of working with some very difficult animals. I've found that creativity is inversely proportional to wealth in this world and I've become quite inventive. I'd love to say that this is because I'm super smart in all things horses but the reality is that I'm just not afraid to look for answers to questions almost anywhere.

And with this in mind, we loaded up Gemma and Anneliese and I headed out to Corning for a clinic with Buck Brannaman. It wasn't my first introduction into his techniques but I did learn quite a bit sitting and watching the great variety of horses in the arena.

The three day clinic was basically an overview of his techniques to engage a horse's mind and body. Buck has a good sense of humor and quite a few good one-liners. I was eager to try them at home and if you've noticed me spinning horses in circles, just know that Buck made me do it!

His techniques are interesting insomuchas they are simple and not based upon punishment or tiring the horse out. He establishes a light contact through one rein stops which encourages a suppling of the neck and the movement of the haunches. He also utilizes small circles and serpentines to get the horse to follow its nose. Once proficient, he then asks the horse to move its shoulders in a light manner. Then he teaches them to back on a circle. The entirety of the exercises are performed in a bend but not from forcing the horse into bending.

Multiple things are being accomplished in the process. The first is the horse becomes more supple. The second is that the horse starts to lighten in its response to the aids. The third is that it mentally engages the horse so that the horse is listening to the rider and not focusing on the rest of the world.

It requires a great amount of patience and time. He shared stories of how much time he has spent on certain situations in order to accomplish his goals with the horse.

Anneliese and Gemma did a great job. I was very proud of how hard they both tried. I think it was an eye-opening experience for everyone.

Words of wisdom:

"A mare is as she has always been in season, just more so."

"Learn how to ride with integrity while you're doing something."

"No one has ever helped a troubled horse by pulling on two reins."

"Want your horse to live a good life? Get them good mentally."

"If a horse is dull to the leg, he will never be light to the hand. If a horse is light to the leg it's not a guarantee he will be light to the hand; possible but not a guarantee."

"You have to figure out what happened before what happened, happened."

 

Practice Bravery

"A bold rider is a good rider. Beezie Madden. Whatever problem confronts her, she doesn’t have temper, she doesn’t have excitement, but she practices boldness. Leslie Burr Howard, at the Lake Placid show before the Atlanta Olympics–it was raining, and she was in the preliminary jumper division. It was a few months before the Olympics and I said “Leslie, what are you doing riding that horse? It’s raining, it’s muddy, it’s up and down that Lake Placid hill.” She said, “George, I’m practicing my guts.” Yes, Leslie was practicing her guts. I admire her practicing her guts because we have to practice guts. I always had to practice guts. I used to go with him (Frank Chapot) in the back of the bleachers in Wiesbaden, Germany, and I said, “Frank, I can’t do this. I can’t jump those jumps.” He said, “George, you got good horses, we’re over here. You’ve got to do it.” I always had to practice guts." ~ George Morris

We had a very good week of getting to practice our bravery. Thanks to the Daniel Stewart clinic Webb hosted a couple weeks ago, we had some extra skills to go into our new adventures over the weekend.

One of Daniel's mental skills tasks was to come up with a song that inspires bravery and confidence. Lauren, being the sarcastic teenager she is, came up with the dark, yet hilarious, song "Stayin' Alive" with a mantra of PSAT (Please Stay Alive Today). While incredibly dark, it helped everyone through the weekend conquer their nerves and ride well. Lauren and Kathryn who showed were giggling at some point on their courses which warranted comments from other trainers that they looked like they were having so much fun. Both rode incredibly well for their first show of the season and we have some good homework for the coming month.

 Kathryn and Landon in their first 1.0m class together.

Kathryn and Landon in their first 1.0m class together.

 Lauren practicing Daniel's "power pose".

Lauren practicing Daniel's "power pose".

After a long weekend of showing, we took Fiora and Kiva back out on the cross country course to prepare for the event at the end of the month. My working student, Molly, is new to riding Fiora and is brand new to cross country but the two of them got along great out there! Nothing brings a trainer more joy than watching the horses they've trained be good for others. Both confidently tacked the BN course with some Novice options.

 Fiora and Molly. Photo (c) Nicole Fava

Fiora and Molly. Photo (c) Nicole Fava

 Fiora and Molly preparing for BN in May. Photo (c) Nicole Fava

Fiora and Molly preparing for BN in May. Photo (c) Nicole Fava

Kiva and I are also new to this whole cross country life. WIth only a handful of schools out in the field, we are learning to tackle the terrain and questions asked at Training Level. I hate down banks and on this Training course, the downbank goes into the water. Needless to say, I really had to dig deep to jump off the bank into the water. I haven't had to do things out of my comfort zone before starting to event so I was incredibly proud for mustering the guts to jump off the bank!

 Our first down bank. EEK! Photo (c) Nicole Fava

Our first down bank. EEK! Photo (c) Nicole Fava

 Learning to find the middle of the narrow jumps. Photo (c) Nicole Fava

Learning to find the middle of the narrow jumps. Photo (c) Nicole Fava

 Don't think, just do. Photo (c) Nicole Fava

Don't think, just do. Photo (c) Nicole Fava

Why Webb?

Last week in preparation for the impending rainstorm, we opted to move Kingston from his paddock to a vacant one on higher ground. As we were moving him and all his effects, the stall's previous occupant, a teen girl, was doing the same. I watched her figure out how to move cumbersome mats, remove and add shelving, and just generally be self-sufficient about moving what needed to be moved, all at at dusk and never with a complaint. The task was a puzzle and an adventure and she utilized her friends for help.

At Webb, I've watched teen girls hitch trailers and load thousand pound animals and all of their things into trailers so they could go on a trail ride or travel to an event. I've witnessed girls and young adults problem solve with nothing but duct tape and bailing twine. I've seen team work and creativeness in solving problems. I've observed organic mentorship that breeds confidence and inventiveness in young adults.

Webb provides a community that cuts across trainer loyalties and differing disciplines. Failures and successes are often felt by those who don't share the same instructor. We talk and witness different disciplines daily and questions are always encouraged. Compliments are not kept secret from anyone and hard work is always acknowledged.

So while your car may never be clean nor properly aligned ever again and sometimes your child might come home with a rope burn or an injury, know that when you drop your child off at Webb, he or she is getting more than just a riding lesson. Your child is getting an experience of a lifetime - one that will help create a tenacious, creative, and self-sufficient individual. In my opinion, it's money and time very well spent.

 Horses also instill a healthy sense of humor.

Horses also instill a healthy sense of humor.

Paso Robles Year End Show

We had an absolutely delightful time at the new Paso Robles Horse Park last weekend. It's a great venue, with excellent courses, and good footing. Kate, Amy, and Lauren all performed very well and showed a great amount of progress throughout the year.  

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Let's Show Fall Festival 2016

I've failed to pst about a few of the events we attended over the summer. As summers generally go, it was busy and fun. I was a little better about posting on Facebook (including pictures!).

Last week, we took three to the Fall Festival.

In Kate's first rated show, she rocked the little jumpers and ended Reserve Champion in the .80m Jumpers. Aria can be a little spooky and as the week went on, Kate rode better and Aria calmed down. They ended on a lovely .85m round on Sunday.

We recently passed the one year anniversary of welcoming Frenchie and the Dollente's into the family. It's been a rocky learning experience but Amy has grown exponentially as a rider in the last year. At the beginning of the summer, the .70m were a bit harrowing and Amy finished at this show in the .85m jumpers very nicely. It's nice to see when hard work pays off.

We haven't had the opportunity to show Aspie since summer so we started him in the 2'6" Hunters. After winning a Modified 2'9" Amateur Hunter round out of a large class, he continued to put down nice performances in the AA 3' hunters. He even dabbled a round in the jumpers where he had a little bit of a pleasant shock!

We did have a little excitement over the weekend when Amy had a miscommunication with Frenchie and they failed to agree on a take-off spot. Frenchie knocked down the whole jump. Amy expertly rode through his subsequent peace-out gallop without stirrups. The pair returned to jump the jump and the rest of the course very nicely. Amy's ability to stay calm under difficult circumstances is always impressive. Not to mention even though she's 5'2" she sticks like glue!

The Benefits of Riding Lessons, Leasing, Ownership, and Horse Showing

You write the check for this month’s riding lessons and try hard not to think about the number. It always seems high for the amount of time your child spends with the horses. Sometimes you start to wonder if it’s worth it since it’s pretty clear there will be no college scholarships or financial return for these efforts. What is your child really getting out of his or her riding lessons?

At the barn, real life skills are being taught and learned in a relatively safe space. While there are still risks of broken bones and concussions, the skills of responsibility, inward reflection, perseverance, confidence, and humility are being developed regularly. If your child is passionate about riding, and it is a sport which you can afford, the lessons learned can provide your child with life-long advantageous skills.

There are many sports and activities that can teach many of the skills outlined below. This is not even close to a full list of benefits to riding, leasing and owning. There are many other aspects of riding (trail riding, riding bareback, ground work, etc) that all help contribute to the growth and maturation of our children. Suffice it to say, being a horseman is a life-altering experience and one that comes with more benefits than draw-backs.

Benefits of Riding Lessons

Riding provides a unique “head fake” - a space where real life skills are practiced and improved.

~ Your child is learning how to communicate, negotiate, and compromise with others. Horses communicate through body language and ill-applied force never works in achieving an outcome. Your child is learning how to work with another being with ulterior motives to attain a goal.

~ Your child is learning how to think and react logically under pressure. How often in life do you get to practice having to concentrate and think through a problem while your physical well-being literally depends on your ability to control your emotions and think through a problem? Frequently in riding horses, their basic nature takes hold and they become uncontrollable. Your child is learning how to handle his or her emotions to diffuse a situation.

~ Your child is learning how to accept critique and apply changes. A coachable child makes for an employable adult. Being able to recognize shortcomings while acknowledging strengths to improve oneself is an incredible skill that lasts a life time.

~ Your child is learning how to control his or her body. Since horses operate on reading body language, your child must learn how to control his or her physical motions as to elicit the intended response. Failure to do so can often result in undesirable outcomes.

~ Your child is learning how to control his or her emotions. There’s a saying that the only emotions that belong in the saddle are a sense of humor and patience. Emotional outbursts of anger or frustration will never get you what you want when it comes to horses and your child is learning how to maintain a cool head while trying to solve a problem.

Generally, lesson students are limited in how far they will be allowed to progress due to the taxing nature of the sport on the horses. If your child wishes to learn more, then the next step is leasing or purchasing a horse.

Benefits of Leasing a Horse

Once your child has learned the basics of riding and has a desire to learn more, your instructor may suggest leasing a horse as the next step in ownership responsibility. The benefits of leasing over just riding lessons is multi-fold.

~ Your child is learning how to connect to a single being on a deeper level. Riding lessons are great but generally your child will be changing horses frequently. This doesn’t allow for a connection of trust to form. When your child leases, he or she can learn to develop a relationship with a horse that is built on trust. This also means that your child will be responsible for maintaining the horse’s trust over a longer term.

~ Your child is learning how to be responsible for another being. A big part of trust is knowing that you can depend on the other party to be fair and kind. When your child leases, he or she becomes more responsible for the health and well-being of his or her horse. He or she learns that chores happen regardless of the weather. This responsibility carries over into other aspects of life as he or she learns how to be responsible for his or her actions.

Leasing requires some commitment but not as much as owning. Generally, your child will be limited by the horse’s owner in what he or she will be allowed to do with the horse.

Benefits of Owning a Horse

The next step in horsemanship is owning a horse. This is the ultimate level of responsibility in horse care.

~ Your child is learning how to achieve short-term and long-term goals. When your child owns a horse, his or her dreams become tangibly obtainable. His or her success now depends on how much effort he or she is willing to put into his or her skills.

~ Your child is learning how to properly train and develop an athlete. In owning a horse, your child becomes responsible for its well-being which includes learning how to properly train, feed, and prepare the horse in order to achieve your child’s goals.

~ Your child is learning how to develop a deeper connection and commitment to another being. Things will not always go well and when you own a horse, it becomes very difficult to give up and walk away. When you own a horse, your child is forced to learn about perseverance and learns how to work through problems instead of walking away.

~ Your child is learning about budgeting, both time and money. Horses are a commitment and require delegating time and financial resources responsibly. Your child becomes responsible for finding someone to exercise his or her horse on the days he or she can not. Your child is learning what things cost and how to allocate resources responsibly.

~ Your child has a safe place to go every day. If your child is at the barn then he or she is not at the mall. Your child is doing something physical and productive.

~ Your child has been accepted into the sorority of horse owners. If you stick a handful of horse people in a room, they can talk for hours. Your child will one day most likely get a job because he or she is involved in horses. It’s something unique and riveting that peeks the interest of many, including non-equestrians.

Benefits of Showing a Horse

Horse showing can be a difficult expense to swallow. Besides using horse showing as a measure of progress in skills, it provides quite a few other life lessons as well.

~ Your child is learning how to perform. Showing is essentially a job interview, over and over and over again. You dress up, perform your best and most likely alone, praise and critique your performance, and wait to be rated. It requires incredible confidence as well as self-reflection.

~ Your child is learning how to prepare. Preparation happens over months at home and requires the discipline to practice things that are not pleasant. Preparation also includes learning how to properly school your horse in order to peek at the right time. In the real world, this is similar to taking exams or preparing presentations.

~ Your child is learning how to set appropriate goals and obtain goals. Horse showing is a fantastic way of measuring your child’s skill improvements over a long time. It’s an easy benchmark by which to compare past and current performance. Horse shows are like exams to measure your skills and how well you can answer questions posed by someone other than your regular trainer.

~ Your child is learning how to lose. Learning how to win is easy but learning how to pick yourself up when you don’t is even harder. In showing you will lose more than you will ever win and being able to maintain a positive outlook in the face of losing is incredibly important. Your child is also learning

~ Your child is learning how to measure success not by ribbons but by progress made. There will always be someone better and someone worse than you are right now at any given activity. The important lesson your child is learning is to keep trying harder to obtain his or her goals.

~ Your child is learning how to be happy for others while experiencing setbacks of his or her own. Learning to be happy for others while things are not going your way is an incredible life skill of optimism and good sportsmanship. Knowing that one day the roles will be reversed also teaches humility and good sportsmanship skills.

 Sometimes the most interesting thing at a horse show isn't the horses at all.

Sometimes the most interesting thing at a horse show isn't the horses at all.

Summer Riding Reminders

As we start to feel the heat of summer, it’s important to up our horsemanship skills to make sure our equine partners are feeling their best!

1) Avoid riding in the heat of the day (2pm to 5pm) when possible, especially if the weather has changed drastically.

2) Make sure your horse has been properly cooled down before putting him/her away. His/her breathing should return to normal and nostrils should not be flaring.

3) Sweaty horses should be hosed off to remove salt build up and to cool them down. If you see white foam, keep hosing.

4) TACK MUST BE KEPT CLEAN! Dirty tack and create sores at the girth and head and makes your saddle stiff (yes you must clean UNDER your saddle). Dirty bits cause mouth sores. Make sure you get all the white grime off your leather every day. Keep saddle pads clean to avoid rubbing under the saddle.

5) Horses that are sweating a lot should have electrolytes added to their daily grain. A salt lick should be available to them at all times as well.

6) Watch for rain rot associated with areas that accumulate sweat and water. Rain rot or scratches most likely occur in the following places: front and back of back legs, on top of the hock, saddle area, rump, under the belly towards the hind legs, on the tips of the ears, on the face below the browband, on the cheekbones, and under the jaw. Fungus looks like patches of dirt but when rubbed, the hair will fall out in clumps. In addition to being uncomfortable for the horse, it can lead to infection and possibly lameness in certain areas.

For those who lease through the lesson program - the camp children will not take proper care of your horse so please make sure that you are paying attention to their health and wellness.

For those who lease or own privately, please do not make me come up with consequences for failing to care for your horse properly! Our friends work very hard for us and the least we can do is show them we care by keeping them healthy over the summer.

Happy Riding!

Woodside Spring Preview 2016

Every once in a while, Plan B turns out to be much better than Plan A. :)

We were slotted to attend the JK Presents Schooling show a couple weekends prior to the rated Woodside show but weather had other plans. Torrential downpours on Saturday and Saturday night left the arenas looking closer to swamps than riding rings so management decided to cancel the Sunday festivities.

I was desperate to get Dorna and Stephanie into the show ring and get Lauren and Jaime back there as well so we decided to school the warm up days at Woodside and then enter the rated show. I was incredibly pleased with the outcome.

Dorna and Toffee started their partnership just a few months ago and I've kind of thrown them into the deep end (knowing Toffee is the absolute best life preserver). From not showing and barely jumping courses at the beginning of the year, these two rocked around the .70m jumpers for two 2nds, a 3rd, a 4th, and a 6th.

Stephanie has been waiting for three years to have the opportunity to show. Originally I had planned to show Kingston but he wasn't quite ready for the season to start with me so Stephanie took the ride. After a quick warm up on Thursday, she entered the .70m jumpers as well. For their first time together in the show arena (after almost a year-long hiatus from riding) you would have never known it. By Sunday, the two looked like a perfect pair and brought home an assortment of ribbons ranging from 2nd to 8th.

Lauren has been working really hard all winter with Cloud to increase his strength and fitness. The efforts paid off with strong placings in the .80m and the .90m jumpers. Super rides kept her in the ribbons for most of the weekend.

Jaime had the opportunity to show Aspie at a rated show for the first time as well. After I had the chance to school him around the Baby Greens on Wednesday, Jaime piloted Aspie around the Modified Child/Adult 2'9" Hunters. Some rusty mistakes kept her out of the ribbons for a few classes but ended with a 3rd out of a large and competitive class. This young gentleman has come a long way in a year and I'm looking forward to seeing him in the 3' ring this summer!

As always, it's such a pleasure getting to take everyone to horse shows. The energy is always positive, even when things are not going as planned. Until next time...

Venturing Out

In preparation for the winter, I decided to give myself and the horses a break from jumping and focus on flatwork. Since we're not making a bid for the 2016 Olympics in Rio, I thought it best to give myself and the horses a little break from jumping.

After having such a great dressage test at the October Event at Woodside I decided to focus my attention with Fiora towards the dressage world. She's very comfortable to sit at both the trot and canter (and pretty to look at too!) so I thought why not, let's give it a go! 

The weather was in our favor and we had a couple of beautiful weeks to prepare. The weather on the day of the show could not have been better. Yarra Yarra Ranch hosted a very nice and small affair that was very inviting. Fiora settled quite well into the quiet environment and was a good sport through both of our tests.

Our First Level Test 1 was somewhat underpowered. She hadn't been in the covered arena and I was going for a quiet and uneventful test. The judge gave great feedback and a fair score at 63.3%.

After reading the First Level Test 1 report card, I made sure to increase her impulsion for the Second Level Test 1. The increase in impulsion made for much better gaits but slightly worse transitions. Again the judge gave great feedback and a score of 63.4%.

All in all, it was a great experience for the both of us. We're looking forward to finding time in our calendar to pursue a bit of a career in the dressage court in addition to her already long list of activities.


Goals Worksheet

Alright everyone, time to do some homework! I promise it won't be too painful - it just requires you to do some reflection and planning.

Below is your Goals Worksheet! For my students, if this is not received by January 10th, your stirrups will be held hostage until such time as the ransom is paid. =D

 

GOALS WORKSHEET

Name: ­­______________________________

In 2015, I accomplished the following goals:

1)    __________________________________________________________________

2)    __________________________________________________________________

3)    __________________________________________________________________

In 2016, I hope to accomplish the following goals:

1)    __________________________________________________________________

2)    __________________________________________________________________

3)    __________________________________________________________________

In two to four years, I hope to accomplish the following goals:

1)    __________________________________________________________________

2)    __________________________________________________________________

3)    __________________________________________________________________

One or two of my favorite memories from 2015 were:

1)    __________________________________________________________________

2)    __________________________________________________________________

This year, I’d like my ‘annual extra’ (one habit that you’d like to improve such as cleaning tack after every ride, running up stirrups immediately after dismounting every time, etc) to be:

1)    __________________________________________________________________

 

Year End Reflections and New Beginnings

Almost anyone who has been present in my life this year knows what a roller coaster it has been. Despite best efforts, my clientele and horse numbers were halved close to the beginning of the year. My little jumper who had been doing so well ended up being laid up for the entire year from a turn out accident. Various other events left me feeling very defeated before summer. My entire plan for 2015 was picked up in a tornado, torn apart, and distributed all over the place.

As horse trainers, we often equate success with numbers: the number of horses in the barn, the number of ribbons on the wall, the number of people knocking at the door. It’s really the only quantitative device we have in the industry. Customer and horse satisfaction are much more subjective and difficult to put on a piece of paper. So being in this position really knocked my confidence and made me question my career choices.

I’ve never been one to give up. I’m stubborn. I like to think tenacity and stubbornness are two sides of the same coin. After having a particularly tough month in April, I turned my attention towards the remaining students and horses and tried to come up with a new plan for the year.

The upside to downsizing is the ability to really focus on my students and horses. While the bank account may take a hit, the breathing room allowed for more insightful lessons and time spent with the horses.

On a wild whim, I entered an event for the first time ever and completed a Beginner Novice Three Day Event on my mare who usually does the hunters. It was terrifying, stressful, and I hate to admit it, rewarding. It’s something I would have never done if my main mare had been sound. Slowing down gave me a chance to make room for new adventures. This winter I plan to focus more on dressage with her and see where we can get.

We focused on Kingston. His owner spent the show season on the sidelines while she was pregnant so Kathryn S and Madeline took over the ride. With some tack adjustments and training, he blossomed. He showed at Almaden and Menlo, Paso Robles, Murieta, and LA. With me, we started in the 1.0m and ended in the 1.25m. We learned a lot and best of all, had a great time. Kathryn S had a great summer and ended with super ribbons at Almaden and Menlo. We got to do the Horse & Hound Class with Kathryn B at Menlo and had so much fun.

As for the others: I had a chance to focus on finding Amy and her mom a new horse. Thanks to Katie King we brought Frenchie home and he’s been a great match so far. We’ve gotten Ana and Kathryn B back into full work with new and exciting goals. Aspie has really settled into his training and is ready for his new career. Melanie won a medal final at the JK Presents final show on Fiora and has made considerable progress on her all year. Comedy grew up this year and has turned into the horse I always knew he would eventually be. My jumper mare, Kiva, is starting back to work. The riders who lease horses through Webb all made huge strides as well and met some of their goals.

And as for next year…

I hesitate to make any solid plans or goals but I'd love to continue with Kingston and hopefully Kiva in the jumper arenas. I'm hoping to show Fiora in some dressage shows and possibly attempt another event. One of the hardest things, I think, with horses is having goals but remaining incredibly flexible. I try to remind myself that any positive experience with horses, no matter the discipline or direction, makes anyone a better and more rounded horse person. Flexibility, positivity, and persistence are better measures of success than ribbons on the wall or the number of horses in the stalls.

I’m incredibly grateful to my barn family for the trust they bestow upon me and the incredible sportsmanship and horsemanship they always demonstrate. They are always so unbelievably supportive of one another even in their own time of difficulties. I could not ask for a better group of students, parents, and horses with whom to spend my days. Thank you a thousand times over!

Onward and Upward to 2016!

 Stephanie's Kingston in the 1.25m Jumpers

Stephanie's Kingston in the 1.25m Jumpers

Halloween Show @ Rancho Murieta

It has been quite the month!  

Last week we took Kingston, Toffee, and Fiora to the Let's Show Halloween Championship. This is our third year attending and it just gets more fun each time. 

This year course designer, Meghan Rawlins, gave everyone a run for their money. She asked a lot of tough questions in her courses which challenged both riders and horses. It was the first time I've ever jumped Kingston inside and he was a bit of a different ride. Riding in a smaller closed space requires the horses to be more broke and on the aids since there is less room for correction. We ended the week on a very nice (and clean) 1.20m round after some tack malfunction and a cut on his heel bulb from over-reaching. His heart never ceases to amaze me and I feel so lucky that we get to work with him.

Amy and Toffee did a great job as always. Little mistakes in each round kept her out of the ribbons for some of the week (big classes and tough courses) but she made a great effort with a great attitude. She even managed to finish a course with one stirrup after Toffee spooked hard at the photographer. I admire her stick! 

Fiora put down clean rounds in the 1.0m and the .95m but her more huntery pace kept her out of the ribbons. In her defense, I haven't been schooling her much at that height since we've been working on making her a 2'6" machine for Melanie. We had originally brought her for Melanie to show in the low hunters but Melanie decided to fracture her arm instead on Tuesday morning. A bit disappointing but Melanie will be back in the game shortly, just in time for winter!

I had originally planned to take Kingston in the 1.25m Mini Prix on Friday night but after his heel bulb injury on Wednesday, I decided to wait and see what the course looked like before entering. The course designer set up a very technical, big, and difficult track and I decided it was best to sit this one out. I don't know if I've ever been happier with a decision in my riding life. We watched multiple horses and riders crash and struggle around the sixteen fence course. The victors ended up being riders with their 1.50m mounts dropping down to school at the 1.25m height.

The upside to the Mini Prix was that we got to sit and watch the good, bad, and ugly. Usually at the Grand Prix height, most riders are very competent and it's rare to see any major mistakes. It was great being able to open up a dialogue during the class about what each rider was doing correctly or incorrectly and how that would affect the next step in their course. I think it was a great learning experience for those watching intently, but I was really glad not to be a part of the demonstration!

 Mini Prix casualty...rail snapped in half after the horse landed in the oxer. =/

Mini Prix casualty...rail snapped in half after the horse landed in the oxer. =/


We also participated in the Halloween Costume Contest! Amy dressed Toffee up as a reindeer and boy were they cute! Toffee was none too pleased, however, about the other costumes, including the horse dressed as an airplane with smoke coming out the back. Kingston and I went as Captain America!

 Amy and Toffee

Amy and Toffee

More Horse Shows?

We're in the end-of-the-season push to get our final showing done before we hunker down for winter. This weekend we drove back to the Paso Robles Horse Park for their delightful schooling show.

This time we brought one of the Webb sale horses, Fargo, for Dannielle and me to ride and school a bit at the show. He exceeded my expectations and walked into the arena with no prep and marched around better than a lot of older horses. There were some green moments but he handled the whole thing like a champ. He competed in the .70m and .80m, as well as a small hunter round. This horse is going to be a super star and I can't wait to see how he ends up.

 Fargo and Sarah in the .70m.

Fargo and Sarah in the .70m.

Amy has been working super hard over the last few months and it really showed at this event. Great decisions and thoughtful riding allowed her to play for the first time in the .85m jumpers. She did not disappoint! Toffee jumped better in the .85m than in anything else during the weekend which is a testament to great riding. It's such a treat as an instructor to start seeing students make thoughtful decisions about their courses.

 Amy managing to hang onto that round jump!

Amy managing to hang onto that round jump!

Fiora has been showing a lot and I almost left her at home this weekend. I decided at the last minute to bring her along just for a couple more rounds of practice before the Halloween show. She trucked around the .95m better than she's ever felt and loved it! I should have ridden her at a bigger height but was so happy with her performance I didn't want to push it.

 Classic form at all times.

Classic form at all times.

And then there was Kingston. Every day I'm grateful that Stephanie trusted me on this one and that she was in a position to take him on. Every single ride is better than the last and his trust in our program has made him into one happy character. There's nothing more fun that getting to watch (or ride!) a horse that absolutely lives for the job that they're doing. We ended on a second in the $500 Jumper Jackpot due to a silly hind toe drag over a vertical. We have some homework to do this week.

 Luck is where preparation meets opportunity.

Luck is where preparation meets opportunity.

 This is what a happy horse looks like after a job well done.

This is what a happy horse looks like after a job well done.

You Don't Know Until You Try

You won’t get if you don’t ask and you don’t know until you try.

As an equestrian professional on a budget, I’ve found that success comes in being adaptable. When my equitation prospect failed out of jumping school, I found myself in an upper level dressage barn for a couple years. When my young jumper needed a break, I decided to focus on the ex-Grand Prix horse who has turned out to be super and also trying to take my slightly spooky hunter in a three day event.

Trust me, I thought I lost my marbles too.

This all started in purchasing a horse park pass for the year. The Woodside Horse Park is like a play ground for horse people. There’s something to do all over the place. It’s great for a whole variety of reasons and it’s so close that schooling is something that we can do frequently. My little mare loves water so we started our practice around the water, jumping in and out over the little logs and then a couple of the jumps. The first few times I was so nervous not knowing how she’d respond since she can be a little shifty at times. She almost always jumps but sometimes it's from a standstill and her athletic little body can launch you. Turns out, she actually likes cantering in open spaces and splashing through the water. You don't know until you try...

With the help, support, and encouragement from the eventers at the barn, I made the bold decision on the day entries were due to sign up to do Beginner Novice. In hindsight, Novice probably would have been easier but I didn’t want the height of the jumps to be even a thought in our minds. I was already venturing into unknown territory and I figured it was easier to take the height out of the equation. As it was, neither she nor I had ever done an event and I wanted to have the best chance at having a successful first outing.

I also didn’t know how she would be hauling in and not stabling. In the hunters, we usually have to prep quite a bit, but we’ve been working on hauling her places and then riding. She was super quiet on dressage day. It was nice and warm and the whole property had a very low-key feeling to it. She responded and was very quiet in our dressage test. It’s been a long time since I’ve done a dressage test and I forgot how nit-picky I can be while riding the test. It’s four or five minutes of thinking ahead while reflecting on the last movement, while riding what’s underneath you and remembering where you’re going. I’m grateful for my extensive ballet training when I was younger because memorizing courses and patterns has always been easy for me. I rode a very conservative test in which she was slightly underpowered and a tad over the bit but it was a peaceful first dressage test for Fiora. We scored a 28.8 (71.2 in dressage terms) but of course I forgot to pick up the test paper after. Hunter/Jumper rider error number one.

The second day we rode in the morning. It was a little colder and the big guns were out jumping their cross country. I left Fiora in the trailer to go walk the course and came back to her attempting to put a hole through the floor. Once I unloaded her she was insane. Her mind was completely blown by the horses on course and she was rearing while tied to the trailer (something I’ve never ever seen her do before!). The thought crossed my mind that today might be the day I’m going to die. I threw her on the lunge and she trotted around quietly and peaceful like nothing was the matter. Took her back to the trailer and tied her to the side so she couldn’t see the field and she was much better after that. I started breathing again.

The stadium round was pretty simple. Bending five, line in seven, bending in seven, line in five, roll back to a two stride. I got her a little deep into a small vertical and she rolled the rail out of the cups but jumped everything else just fine. It definitely wasn’t a half-seat hunter ride, and she looked at the jumps a little, but a little leg sent her right over.

The third day I thought I was going to vomit. I was useless at the barn in the morning while doing my chores because I was so nervous. I got to the horse park really early just in case she was going to pull the stunts she did the day before. Of course she didn’t so we had a bit of time to just hang out and enjoy the sun. Gearing up to go cross country felt like suiting up for war: boots, bell boots, pads, breast collar, numbers everywhere, vest, in-case-of-death armband, watch, whip, gloves, helmet, spurs. No wonder these eventers have beautifully large trailers to keep all this stuff in!

The warm up arena was pretty tame and I was infinitely thankful for this fact. I imagined loose horses, bolting riders, and other insanity. She can be a little funny about traffic but she handled herself really well. She was really backed off to the first crossrail which had me a little worried but her confidence grew the more she jumped. On my way down to the start box I thought I was going to vomit. I always get nervous before doing something new but haven’t ever actually vomited yet. I fiddled with my watch to get my mind off the feeling. She was so eerily quiet that it concerned me but she perked up once we got going.

The first three fences she gave me a big “wait, what did you sign us up for?” I thought for a half a second she was going to stop at fence three because she had gotten her eye on another jump we had to ride past and was staring at the jump judge. I sat down and prepared to use the crop but she popped over it and kept going (there is some benefit to riding stoppers early in your riding career, you learn how to sit back and use a stick in the air when need be). She actually dragged me around most of the course. After fence four and five she started to get the idea and leapt into the water and didn’t really look hard at anything else.

At minute marker four, we had only been on course for three minutes so I had to slow her waaayyyyy down. I hadn’t even been asking her to gallop, I had just let her canter at her own pace. I knew we’d have an issue at the ditch so I tried to accommodate for that. Sure enough she cantered up to the ditch, looked hard at it, and just planted her feet. It’s funny because she’s okay with jumping a jump and then cantering to the ditch. There’s just something about cantering the ditch and then up to a jump. I couldn’t get her over from the standstill so we circled and she jumped over it the second time without hesitation. We collected cantered our way through the water and over the last two jumps and still finished about fifteen seconds under optimum.

We ended 9th in the division. No complaints here - I just wanted to come home in one piece with a sound horse and complete the whole thing. I knew the ditch was going to be a bit tricky but in her defense, it's the third time she's seen one. I learned a lot about my little mare and a little bit more about a whole new aspect of the horse world. I can’t say that I’ll be switching disciplines but it is fun to be a little more versatile. This way when you have a horse that isn’t working out in one field, you can be a little quicker to find them a career in another.

The outpouring of support and help from all the people at the barn was truly amazing. Big thanks to Haley for helping me school and lending me equipment. Huge thanks to Alex for braving the wind and cold to show me how to walk the cross country course and for all the little tips and tricks. Thanks to Dannielle for being my escort/babysitter on day one and Tori for braiding. And thanks to Kathryn for flying home from Arizona to help and watch her old horse and trainer do something incredibly out of character (although I know she was just there for her entertainment).

And now back to hunterland...

 Tired but happy little mare after her gallop.

Tired but happy little mare after her gallop.