Thursday, April 6, 2017

This blog is made for blogging.....

Its been a little quiet here on the blog.  Okay, two years, too quiet.  Its high time I got back to sharing experiences and life's little and big moments.  So get on the crazy train, and stay tuned for more!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Don't get too comfortable!

It's amazing how quickly a year can fly by. Clearly I have been remiss in updating the blog and it would be impossible to pick up where I left off as it would take the better part of a day (month) to type and a few hours to read.  I'm sure I will write that book someday, just not today.

As a coach it is unbelievably rewarding to witness students, who have worked tirelessly, and trained daily, reach a seemingly insurmountable goal. As a trainer it is a joy to feel the horses we train exude confidence and answer questions with calm fleet of foot, and quiet professionalism.  As a rider it is a wonderful feeling to approach cross country day respectfully but with easiness, and relaxed confidence.  Right up until it's not.

This weekend at Flying Cross Horse Trial in Ky, I went on this little roller coaster ride.  It began with a top five dressage score in a competitive Preliminary division, and took me to the top of the hill with one of only four double clear rounds stadium, rocketing us into first. Turn after turn I saw friends having wonderful rides, and Jessica Hart turn in her first double clear stadium round on a horse we have been working tirelessly with to sharpen over the painted poles. What an incredible moment!

At the start of the day today I felt strangely calm and was chit chatting with a friend as I prepared for cross country.  This would be our 6th Prelim, and I felt confident and prepared, even though there were a few questions Captain and I had never seen before. I felt I had a great plan and was going to ride for the time as the ground was great after having rained a fair amount earlier in the week.  As I arrived into the warm up I realized I left my bridle number on my halter, and a friend of mine offered to go get it.  I joked that I was getting my screw ups out of the way now... Oh how wrong that would prove to be.  We started out and in typical fashion; Captain was a bit squirrelly and I just worked on keeping him between my aids and settling him into a rhythm, jumping the first few jumps out of stride.  I turned on the heat after the third element for a good gallop up a hill to the first real question, a bounce bank down with a half dozen strides over a canoe into the water, jumping out a bank and one stride to another canoe.  Captain was great and we had another long gallop after which I started tightening up my lines and approaches.  He handled it well and we cruised around the rest of the course, even conquering our first Irish Bank.  I crossed the finish and checked my watch- only one second over time! I was thrilled.  I had given myself a goal to come in with 5 time penalties or less, and this would  give us only .4!  Jessica and I were celebrating as we walked down the lane, smothering Captain with pats and "good boy!"s when the Technical Delegate pulled up. I got a lump in my throat and thought uh oh what happened- was I going too fast- was I about to get a yellow card- a hundred things flashed through my head. A serious look crossed her face. " Number 6.  I need to talk to you. Did you know you were eliminated?" I gasped and put my hands on my head "oh my gosh. No! What did I do?" I was in complete disbelief.  "You jumped Training fence 2 instead of Prelim fence 2, I'm so sorry" she said with a pained look.  How could I have done that? How did I do that? I almost started to walk away but stopped and thanked her profusely for allowing me to finish the course.  I explained he was a young horse that I was trying to get mileage on, and that I very much appreciated her generosity letting me complete.  I was just stupefied. I let my wonderful, amazing horse down by making a stupid mistake because I was too relaxed. The worst part is that I had done this once previously and vowed to never do it again. I had come up with a process to avoid that mistake, and in my cool comfort had failed to follow my self made rules. The roller coaster had come flying down the hill jolting to a halt, and I can honestly say at that moment I felt so, so, small. I decided no matter what, Captain had to know what a truly exceptional animal he was, despite my shortcomings. He was so proud of himself... We have this ritual that when I finish riding and have pulled off his tack he gets a "Paddock Cake" ( a natural horse treat with a peppermint pressed in it) and he was smiling through his forelock with his big Irish ears waiting for his cookie, telling me what a good boy he was. And he was right. There is nothing like looking a horse in the eye that KNOWS how special he is, and what a good job he did for you. It's indescribable other than to say it makes you smile and my eyes well up with tears every time. I put my head on his forehead and made a silent promise to be better, and to never be so "comfortable" again.

I can relish in the fact that Jess finished on her dressage score winning second place in the Training Rider Division. I can be thrilled that I have a stunning animal who will try his heart out for me, and handle new questions with poise and strength. I can promise that I will never again have such a relaxed nature, abandoning my mental training and letting my guard down.

Later that afternoon I found out I had won the Christine Brown award, for sportsmanship and love of eventing.  I am so humbled and hope that I can somehow live up to her stellar example.  Thank you to Mary Lowry and all the staff and volunteers for hosting this wonderful event on such a beautiful property. The courses were superior, and Captain and I will be back... Maybe Christine can give us a little help from above and hit me upside the head the next time I go to jump a black number instead of a green one.

Til next time,give your horse a kiss on the nose,  look him in the eye, and tell him how truly wonderful he is.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Buenos Noches SOLD!

Buenos Noches, better known as "Goodman", owned by Angela Hambrick has been sold to Michelle Moeller of Wisconsin!  We have had the most amazing journey with this horse, and I have learned so much from him and all the opportunities that have come my way from riding such a special guy.
Six years ago I would never have thought that we would be competing at Devon or starting his FEI career in the Prix St George, but this is the little horse that could.  Everytime we thought maybe "this was it" he proved us wrong and stepped up his game.   Goodman is a giver.  He tries and tries and was a joy to ride, even during his big "ta-da" moments.  His sweet character and funny personality will be greatly missed, and it will be a hard thing to go to the show without my stalwart friend.   He has been everywhere with us from Florida to Aiken to Traverse City, and we will have many fun memories to cherish.  I want to thank Angela for her constant support and belief in this horse, and trusting me with his care and training.  It has been an immeasurable gift that I will hold close to my heart always.
We wish Michelle and her trainer Megan much success and many more magical moments with Goodman.  We will surely miss him!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Eventing in Amish Country!

This weekend took us to the South Farm Horse Trial, where they were celebrating 19 years of hosting USEA rated events!  I must say that Chris Gable and Sarah Greer had the farm looking more beautiful than ever!  New split rail fence lined the field near the road, the stadium jumps were all freshly painted (my favorite was the yellow and blue striped one- I also need to find out the secret to their perfectly painted poles!) and many new cross country fences adorned the beautifully decorated and laid out course.  The organization of this event was flawless with close to 200 starters, right down to the efforts to keep the warm ups and footing safe for all the competitors.  The last two events here they have moved the stadium course to their newly improved ENORMOUS sand arena instead of jumping off the grass, and after such wet weather it was WONDERFUL to not be worried about the footing...what a difference!

Dressage was uneventful, with Captain and I scoring a 35.9 in Training A  to put us in 8th in a large and very competitive division that included some serious campaigners with upper level horses making comebacks (Catana Deskins and SkyWalker, Victoria Frey and After Midnight, Helen Rutter and Push the Light), as well as a few upper level riders with younger horses coming up the ranks like Kyle Smith, Marina Bortmas, Kara Andrew and Kelly Sult.  My student Jessica Hart and her awesome mare Zophie put in a great test to start them out on top of the leaderboard in the Training B division with a 33 at her first crack moving up to this level!  This was also a very competitive division of 14 starters consisting of Adult Amateurs and professionals. 
Cross country proved to ensure this was not a dressage competition, as the course had some excellent technical questions that required positive forward riding over the nicely flowing course.  Captain started well, settling into a fairly good rhythm and jumped the first four fences nicely out  of a steady gallop.  Approaching 5ab an offset rolltop to a skinny on two or three strides depending on how you rode the line, I had him compact and on a good direct line for two strides.  He jumped in beautifully, took a stride, and then uncharacteristically darted out to the left before the skinny.  I didn't have a prayer of saving it so we circled around and jumped the whole element again without a problem. What I was even more surprised to find out was how much it shook him up, as it took me until about fence 11 to get him settled and a bit more confident.  He did well through the coffin and through the back of the course until the new picnic table, which caused problems for more than a few riders and horses at the top of the hill on the stretch toward home, and thankfully his athleticism got us out of a bit of trouble, but rattled his confidence again.  I took the option to circle again before the corner to calm him down, and again before and after the water, to give him time and opportunity to feel positive as these were the last four jumps on course.  Afterwards,  I think it felt surreal as I was a bit shocked at how much he got shook up due to the fact that he is usually a very keen, brave, forward cross country horse, and was questioning myself as to if I did the right thing.  We racked up quite a few time penalties with the stop and added circles, but looking back, I feel good about trusting my instincts as this is a sensitive young horse, and making it a training opportunity seemed like the right thing to do.  Fortunately Jessica faired much better, and all her hard work paid off with no jump penalties and only 3 time penalties to make for a stellar first round at Training.
Sunday brought Stadium, and our horses jumped out of their fur, putting in two beautiful rounds, and giving Jessica the win at her first Training level event with Zophie!  She reminded me that she won her very first BN, her first N and now her first Training!  What an amazing accomplishment!  Jessica is a very dedicated student and has put a lot of time, training, sweat, and done ALOT of homework, to attain these results, and she really deserves it!  This is a fantastic partnership, and I can't wait to see what these two do the rest of the season!  Captain was outstanding, and I will post some pictures as soon as I can. 
All in all we had a great event, and it looks like its time for me to go cross country schooling!  Congratulations to all the winners, and thanks again to Sarah, Chris, and all the volunteers for all their hard work and making South Farm our favorite event of the year!
Ta Ta for now!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The best job in the world...


Fourteen years ago, I could never have imagined how quickly the tiny newborn I held in my arms would become the most fascinating young man I have ever known.  I very clearly remember that day and evening prior where I spent the entire Saturday walking at the mall because I was two days overdue and felt huge.  That night when I went for a walk with my husband and we saw a doe and fawn on our evening sojourn we knew it was a sign of things to come, and come they did.  By eight o clock that night my contractions had started and around 11 pm we headed to the hospital as they were very close together.  We hung out for a little while to be monitored, and I'll never forget my husband reciting the entire Ghostbusters script as we walked around the Atrium of the hospital, talking me through my contractions. Ultimately we went home where I tried fruitlessly to sleep.  By 11:30 am we were back on our way to the hospital and Jake was born at 2:10pm on a Sunday...fittingly it was Father's Day that year. 
As each day goes by he changes so rapidly that its hard to see it happen, and I constantly feel like I am missing "it".  There are so many memories of him being a little kid up till now, but a favorite one of mine is Easter mornings.  When Jake was very little (3 or so) he LOVED finding the eggs the Easter Bunny would hide. It wasn't so much finding the eggs, as it was shaking them once he found them.  He would find a couple, and then shake them like maracas, not even opening them to see the M&Ms inside.  He just liked to hear the sound.  I recall him sitting in a rocker all by himself at my parents house, just shaking those eggs and BEAMING from ear to ear.  I have a picture of it on one of our end tables in the living room...Jake in his pjs, shaking those eggs and just grinning. 
Now that he is older, I just love listening to him talk; hearing his thought processes, sense of humor, and all the great little quips he comes up with like magic.  He is an amazingly kind young man, and I can't believe that this is the same little baby we brought home.  Time really does fly.  Jakob, you have brought so much joy, love, and laughter into our hearts. We love you dearly, and although I wish I could keep you forever, I look forward to seeing you grow for many years to come...just try not to do it too quickly. You gave ME the best present on your first birth day, the job of being your Mom. 
Happy Birthday to you, the greatest joy and gift of my life.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Dressage at Grand Haven

We spent the weekend at Grand Haven Stable in Jefferson, OH competing three of our dressage horses.  It was a touchy start as we had to scratch three before the show even started (we were originally taking 6) for various reasons, and Mary had some car trouble, but we made it and buckled down for some early mornings.

As Goodman's rides were all in the 8 o'clock hour, we enjoyed three beautiful sunrises hacking him before sunup so that he would be relaxed and loose for his classes.  It was all worth it when he scored a 67 the second day placing third, and a 67 and change on the last day winning the class in the FEI Prix St. George!  We were so excited because this little horse just continues to surprise and amaze us!  We have a lot to work on still and the test had several mistakes (we did a lead change into the halt when I tried to get straighter!) and mistakes in the threes, but he got "7's" on his canter pirouettes! The collection and engagement for that movement is very hard and nerve wracking for him, and he kept his cool and allowed me to ride one step at a time.  I took a picture of him in his stall sleeping the day before, and it looked like he was dreaming about the pirouettes. 
His owner Angela Hambrick was very excited to see him being competitive at this level.  She had fun reminiscing with me about when she first bought him as a hunter and he had been ridden in draw reins so much that you couldn't see his neck...she joked that it was like riding the headless horse!  We can definitely see Goodman's head now, and I am so thrilled to be a part of the journey of this horse with her.  The best part of my job is seeing an owner truly enjoy their horse's progression through the highs and lows of getting to the upper levels, and revel in their horse's accomplishments and new found confidence.
Speaking of enjoying new found confidence, Angela herself competed her own In a New York Minute this weekend at Training Level. She came in second the first day and then won her last two classes at Training level, one with a 73.57!  It's fun to have her on a horse competing and not just watching.  York is also a repurposed hunter, who at nearly 18h, is quite a presence in the ring!  She got her qualifiers for regionals, so it looks like we will be making a trip to Chicago with at least two horses!
I also had the opportunity to compete a mare named Panglossian for her owner Sanae Tanebe at 2nd and 3rd level this weekend.  "Leggs" has been with us for nearly five years, teaching her owners the finer points of dressage, and recently Sanae had made the difficult decision to sell her.  We thought it would be a good idea to get a few scores at a bit higher level than Training, and Leggs did not disappoint us!  At Second Level she came in second with a 64% and fourth on a 62%, and then won the Third level test 1 on a 66%!  She has not competed at this level for probably four years, and it was a joy to see her get better and better over the course of the weekend.  This little girl LOVES to horseshow, and really turns it on when she goes in the ring.  Sanae and her daughter Utako had never seen her compete at this level, so I think it was fun for them to see what their little horse could do!  Check out her winning ride below!  She is a 12 year old Rhinelander mare, that is truly a diamond in the rough, and some lucky person will be very successful competing her in the future!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Fear Factor

Recently some of my clients and I have been discussing the "Fear Factor" that some of them have in their riding.  I find that adult amateurs have a way of putting ALOT of pressure on themselves to succeed or perform better than their current ability or that they believe their ability is less than what their actual performance indicates.  Enter Fear.  For some its Fear of Failure at a horse show or perhaps it is Fear of Spooking, Fear of getting the wrong canter lead, the list goes on and on.  As a coach I try to be the best mentor, cheerleader, and sometimes psychologist I can, but ultimately it is up to each rider to make the choice to overcome their fears or not.  Check out this outstanding article on how to overcome "problems" and emotions that hang over like a dark cloud paralyzing our progress, and then MAKE the CHOICE!

Originally published on USEA tip of the month
By, Daniel Stewart
"This is a wonderful question. Our horses mean the world to us so we need to make sure that the time we spend with them is as enjoyable and fulfilling as possible. Regardless of whether you're competitive or recreational, this should be one of your most important goals because you can really only achieve true greatness doing things you love and enjoy. Sadly, if you're not enjoying yourself you'll probably struggle riding to your true potential.  
To create this kind of enjoyment it often helps to know the various mindsets that lead to it. If you know them - and can adopt them - the positive emotions you create (e.g. self-belief, confidence, enjoyment) will chase the black clouds away.
  • Abundance vs Scarcity Mindset- Instead of telling yourself what you don't have, or what you're not good at (what's scarce), tell yourself what you do have and what you are good at (what you have in abundance). Rather than always trying to get what you'd love, remind yourself to also love what you've already got.
  • Solution vs Problem Mindset- Instead of focusing on problems, teach yourself to find their solutions. It's true that problems can create black clouds, but finding their solutions is a sure way to clear them away. Teach yourself to see problems as learning opportunities (not missed opportunities) by focusing on the solutions rather than the problems.
  • Present vs Past/Future Mindsets- Instead of allowing your mind to focus on negative past experiences or the pressure of future outcomes (e.g. standings or placings) keep your mind locked in the present. One way to do this is to set performance show goals like "balance my corners and landings." If you focus on doing these things while showing you'll increase the chance of succeeding in the present rather than worrying about whether it'll happen in the future.
  • Belief vs Fear Driven Mindsets- Instead of focusing on what you're afraid of (e.g. losing, forgetting your test, pulling a rail), teach yourself to focus on what you believe you can make happen. Rather than being afraid of the kinds of things that might happen, become the kind of rider who goes out there and makes things happen!
Riding - like life - is all about making choices. When given the choice to choose who you'll become as a rider, always choose to focus on the great things you can do in the present, the many skills you have in abundancesolutions rather than their problems and the belief that you can make great things happen rather than simply being afraid of the kinds of things that might happen.
In the end, the love of the horse and of our sport, and the enjoyment we feel while riding comes down to always remembering that: 
Emotions Shouldn't Get The Best Of You...
They Should Get The Best Out Of You!"