Tuesday, February 24, 2015

JR/YR Clinic with Jeremy Steinberg

We traveled down to the beautiful Shannondale Farms in Alpharetta, GA to audit the Region 3 JR/YR Clinic with Jeremy Steinberg. Extremely talented riders and horses were in attendance and Jeremy was a wealth of knowledge, improving everyone's rides by the end of the weekend.

I felt Jeremy focused a lot on quality of gaits and how to improve them. He went on to explain that every movement starts with the gait...so the quality of the movement can only be as good as the gait was going into the movement. I think that's really important to remember as we ride and train our horses.

He was also quick to identify any weakness in the horse, and gave good exercises on how to strengthen them. An example was several riders were struggling with their canter pirouettes. Focusing not as much on the pirouette, but strengthening the hind end and quality of the gait by asking the horse keep the "jump" in the canter while doing haunches in on a circle. This keeps strain and stress down on tendons and ligaments while strengthening the horse and subsequently improving the pirouette.

I was pleasantly surprised to see everything from Pony Riders through Grand Prix Young Riders. All rode very intelligently, classically, and compassionately. Wonderful role models for up and coming riders in Dressage.

Faith and I both took a lot home from the clinic and are looking forward to the next one. We were also able to get much needed insight on what we should be doing for Faith. We were given the information to get her on the list as an Emerging Dressage Athlete which then starts her on the pipeline. Hopefully she will be riding in the next clinic!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Shameless Plug For My Daughter's Blog

My daughter loves to write and has started her own blog. Lots of fun, especially if you know any young girls who would like to follow and read her posts.

Chasing Pony Dreams

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

JJ Tate Clinic

My daughter Faith rode the first weekend in December with JJ Tate. She was really nervous wanting to do really well. It's the first time I've ever seen her truly nervous, she's usually cool as a cucumber for all her shows, lessons...everything. WAY more chill than mom!

The clinic was outstanding as always. We were so lucky as a horse community to get her twice this year. I learned a ton by watching other riders and their horses and listening to how to fix little problems, improve certain areas, and how to think through problems. You certainly do not have to ride with JJ to learn something from her clinics.

My trainer brought Pilgrim 1 of the 2 days to just see how things were going since coming back from a month with JJ. They were really happy with his progress and have homework of introducing the double bridle and getting ready for flying changes so they can do 3rd level. So exciting.

Faith rode both days. Both her rides went exceptionally well. JJ nicknamed her "kid pro" which I found out later was JJ's nickname as a kid. JJ asked Faith if she would like to come ride ponies for her and told her to come to Florida for awhile this winter, Faith was floating away on cloud 9. So now we are waiting to get through the holidays, but then we go into planning stages for next year, including a trip to Florida.

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas from my family (both people and furry) to yours! I hope everyone has a wonderful and safe holiday. I've been riding like crazy, even in the rain, so I can hopefully take a few days off and to spend with relaxing at home with everyone.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Tough Post, We miss you Johnny

So this post has taken entirely too long to write, but mainly because it was too hard to talk about. I'm going to keep it brief since it is still hard to think about.

After several months of treatment for his seizures Johnny appeared to be seizure free. Faith even took him for a ride. She had been looking forward to getting back on him, little did we know that it was to be there last ride together. Only two weeks after taking him off the medication his seizures violently returned. We had to make one of the hardest decisions I've ever had to make with my horses...to put him down. It didn't seem fair, he was so young, so sweet.

Faith was so brave, wanting to stay with him until the end. I was so sad for her, yet so proud of her all at the same time. I'm sure there is lots more I could say...but I just can't. Instead, here are a few pictures of our beautiful boy. I hope he's running free in the big pasture in the sky, pain free, fat and happy. He leaves a huge whole in our hearts that will be impossible to fill.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Halloween

We've had a cold front move in here and it's going to be a cold, wet one here. Not that we are too worried about it. For the first time since the kids were born we are not trick or treating! Today I am hauling horses out to the local show series' Finals. Tonight we will be schooling horses, braiding, and all the hectic last minute show prep.

This week has been a bit crazy with picking up and hauling in a horse that is coming in for training for the next 3 months, teaching lessons, riding our horses, cleaning tack, washing and packing show clothes, and packing trailers. Plus I am a notorious over packer...like if I could take the entire barn I probably would.

Looks like a busy weekend! I am schooling a client's new horse in some flat classes, Faith is schooling Heather's pony over a few fence classes, Dwight is showing in the Ranch Division, and we've got 12 students showing! Hopefully we can stay warm...I may also need a drink. 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Riding with Fear

Fear, to some extent we all have it. Whether it's "show nerves", being embarrassed or judged by others, fear of spooking, or just fear of falling off, we all deal with it while riding. Some of us more than others. Ahhh, to be 13 again and galloping fearlessly through the open fields. Instead, now I tend to think of all the things that can go wrong. I've found that as I get older fear has become a more dominant aspect of my rides. I'm sure several factors play into it:

  • I don't bounce as good as I used to
  • I have to be able to take care of my kids
  • I can't afford to lose income due to being injured
But for me, one of the most important-
  • Previous accidents still present in my mind
Pilgrim flipped over on top of me a few years ago. I got on at the mounting block, he started to quickly walk off (a bad habit he has) before I even got settled. I asked him whoa and I immediately felt him get tense and then we were scrambling backwards, and before I knew it we were flipping over. While it certainly hurt and I had some minor injuries: bruises and a pretty good concussion; I was lucky and walked away relatively unscathed. At least I thought so, that was until my next ride. I quickly realized the damage was quite severe. My accident had completely destroyed my confidence in my riding and my trust in my partner.

Every ride became an internal battle. Every moment of tension or loss of contact during my ride would send me into a panic. It's not that I was doing something wrong, I wasn't doing ANYTHING! If you gave me a quiz, I could tell you exactly what I SHOULD be doing to correct the moment, but my body no longer listened and often completely shut down. The rational side of my brain screams "SEND HIM FORWARD!" but I found myself freezing in fear, often just halting and trying to start over....typically making the problem in the ride worse.

Pretty quickly my fear carried over to every horse I would ride and soon they were figuring out how easily it was to intimidate me. My fear was getting worse instead of better and I found myself wondering if I was going to be able to continue riding at all. How could something I love doing so much cause so much fear? How was I going to fix it?

I don't think I "fixed" my fear, but I was able to get it under control. I am now back to being a confident rider/trainer even with problem horses. I still have moments of fear in my ride, but I've learned to work through them. So for anyone suffering from fear while riding, here are some tips from someone who knows exactly where you are coming from.

Identify your fear
    The first step to overcoming your fear is figuring out what you are afraid of. Before you even get on your horse, sit down and write what you think may happen during your ride. What situation might occur, what is the worst case scenario? Be specific, "I'm afraid of getting hurt" is too vague. "I'm afraid my horse will spook, bolt, and I won't be able to get him under control" is narrowing it down. Some fear may not be physical, but emotional. "I'm afraid of losing at the show", or "I won't ride well and will be embarrassed in front of my friends/trainer/family/etc". All of these fears are normal, common, and important to recognize.

Babysitters are your friend
     Finding a trainer or a friend with a bombproof mount or schoolmaster to tote you around for awhile can do wonders for your confidence. If your fear is of getting injured, a solid mount will help you slowly build your confidence back up in your riding ability with each uneventful, quiet ride you have. If your fear is more emotional, having a solid schoolmaster that allows you to focus on your position, riding correctly, or learning a new movement on a horse who already knows them, will certainly help you prepare for getting back on your own mount. Don't underestimate the benefits of a lunge lesson as well. These can be instrumental in improving balance, gaining confidence, and conquering fear.

Finding an understanding and encouraging trainer is priceless
     I can not stress this enough. I was lucky enough to have a trainer who not only understood my fear, but has helped me every step of the way to get through it. It's a difficult balance of finding someone who is not judgmental, pushes you when you need it, and let's you quit when you need to. A rare find, and if you find one, don't let them go! A good trainer is not only your coach, but often your therapist, friend, and confidant. It's a must that they are someone you feel comfortable with, since the will inevitably see you both at your best and more importantly at your worst.

Find little ways to pump yourself up or relax
    Playing music before or during your ride, doing yoga, go kickboxing, hand inspirational posters of George Morris yelling at you, have family and friends come cheer your on....whatever is your thing, do it! Find ways to make you feel strong and excited about your rides again.

Find fear reducers
    Identify things that help reduce your fears. Riding in a group, lunging before you ride, avoid riding on windy days or in poor weather. Even dropping down a level at competitions can help relieve some anxiety. You are the expert on your fear and only you can know what will help. Don't consider it silly or superstitious if it benefits you and your horse.

Set goals
    We all use short term and long term goals for many things in our lives, including our riding. sing them to help overcome fears should be no exception. Set little, easily achieved goals for your short term and check them off as your accomplish them. Set long term goals for your riding that will help keep you on track.

Whether your riding fears are show related, performing a specific move, fear of getting injured, or just a general fear of failing, know that you are not alone. It's a long road of recovery, and to some extent there will always be fear....but, every time you share one of those wonderful moments of perfection on your horse, you know that it is all worth it!