Bras, Biomechanics and Blue Ribbons! We’ve got clinics, we’ve got show results, we’ve got AWESOME new lesson deals! And we’ve got it all in our August newsletter. Check it out, and then hit “subscribe” to receive it directly to your inbox! https://conta.cc/3QvaHbo
Hi everyone. I’m here, I’m alive, I’m doing fine. You haven’t heard from me via blog or Snippet in a while, and whenever that happens, I inevitably get a few sweet messages about “are you ok?! what’s going on?!” So: yes, I’m ok. The horses are great.
I’ve been radio silent for a few reasons. One is that nothing’s going on; our show season is set up such that we get a big long break from mid-July to the end of August, and so my horses get to go on Summer Vacation. Puck and Elvis are both on light work, doing lots of walking, letting their bodies have a break before the Autumn push. The babies are going, but the babies are just that – babies – so their day to day experience just isn’t all that exciting.
Which doesn’t mean that I’m not focused, nor does it mean they’re not making progress. Puck and I are on a bending jihad. I always think about self-carriage with Elvis, but I had a little epiphany last week about trying to ride him 3-and-1, where both curb reins end up in one hand, and then I just have the one snaffle rein in the other; its really let me think about how he answers the half halt in a cool way.
The babies are doing their thing. Maddie went to two horse shows this summer, and behaved splendidly both times, so now I get to put my energy into training; however, she’s 17.3, so I’m not feeling in an overwhelming hurry to accomplish anything. We work on throughness, and she has graduated in my esteem to earning her own equipment, so she sees my wonderful bit fitter friend Stephanie Brown-Beamer of Horse by Horse, to maximize her comfort. (The rule at my house is that you don’t your own gear until I’m sure you’re staying.)
One who’s still in hand-me-downs is four-year-old Velcro, though I must say, I don’t think he’s going anywhere either; he’s endlessly kind but man, he has a mind at work! He’s super smart, very easy to engage with, and is doing great. He had a minor medical procedure this Spring – why I could afford him – and he’s doing great, but between the time off for that and the long trip from Kansas and growing to be an absolutely giant four year old, he arrived on my doorstep quite thin, and it took a long time to add enough calories to him to even think about getting to work. So we’ve just introduced exciting things like turning, but he’s going to be wicked, wicked cool.
Baby Lala, the one I’ve owned from a foal, is now 3, and is working smartly under saddle in Pennsylvania with my wonderful friend and student Abe Pugh. She is also giant, at least 17.1 at 3 years old, so none of us are feeling a burning desire to push on her any harder (honestly, what is there to do except walk, trot, canter, and steer a 3-year-old anyway?), so she trundles along, and will do so all winter, with the idea of coming home to me Spring of next year, when we’re home from FL.
I’m riding some wonderful horses for clients too, including Rowan, a 7-year-old Irish Draught owned by Mary Ewing. I’ve not experienced many drafts, but if they’re all like Rowan, then we should all ride drafts. He’s remarkably agile, he’s terribly smart, and he smoked around at his first horse show, including beating Maddie one day, which is hard to do!
I’m also in that time of year where I’m teaching clinics like a madman, at least two a month if not three, and I’m very VERY excited that we have Starling internet access now at the farm, so I am teaching virtual lessons all across the country (and even internationally!), with easy sign up via our e-scheduling website, instead of my having to sprint back to my house in town in order to teach them. You can sign up for one here, if you’d like!
I tried my hand at taking a family vacation, and I’m predictably terrible at them. My garden is going gangbusters. Nike, the world’s best Pibble, had surgery in the spring to fix yet another busted cruciate ligament, but he’s recovered well; Georgia, NOT the world’s best Pibble, was a remarkably gentle nursemaid, which was actually quite cute, and maybe earned her a few points in my book (though she pooped in the car the other day, so net-net…)
My knee is feeling great after having it injected with PRP, so I am now all the more a fan of good veterinary care. Summer vegetables are wonderful, but summer cocktails are even better. I am still waiting on my wedding photos. And that’s all the news from the home front! I hope you all are staying cool and making progress. Thanks for checking on me!
There are many factors to consider when looking for a coach. The person must be a good personality fit and offer lessons and coaching in a style that suits your learning type. They need to be logistically convenient, either in a location that’s easy for you to get to, or with technology that makes virtual coaching possible. But at the end of the day, the most important thing is that they can do the job you need them to do: bring horses up to the level you want your horse brought up to, and bring humans up to the level you want to be brought up to.
To pick a coach, you’ll want to watch them teach and ride, speak to their students, ask for references. But you can also use technology to do a little dressage credit-checking. So let’s talk about how to verify a trainer’s credentials.
Read the rest at The Chronicle of the Horse!
Technology is all over the horse world now – new and better vet diagnostics and treatments, virtual lessons, wearables; you name it, and someone’s trying to make it, or improve it, with modern tech. Here at Sprieser Sporthorse we use all sorts of great tech to make our lives run easier, and here are a few of my favorite things this year.
In The Barn: Horse Report System
We run a HUGE program, with as many as 24 horses in full training at any particular time, some long term and some short, and in two locations – Virginia and Florida. It’s a huge amount of cats to herd, and so having all our horse health records in one spot, accessible from anywhere in the world, is critical. But we’ve used every barn management system in existence and found them all to have problems and challenges.
Then we were introduced last year to Horse Report System. Initial set up of each horse takes time, of course, but not nearly as much time as other systems have taken us. And once the horse is in the system, it’s a breeze. We can bulk-add appointments like vaccines and dewormer, make notes about what vet work was done to each horse and when with just a few clicks, and not only upload receipts and vet notes but also search them by keyword.
And there’s SO many functionalities, way more than we use in our program. Users can make notes on each horse’s workouts, upload test or show results, even see a horse or stable’s activity in calendar form (a great way for looking at the big picture!)
We just love it, and there’s a 30-day free trial you can take advantage of. We use HRS all the time, especially because it’s a great way to organize our documents, like our before and after photos, as well as the docs we need at horse shows like coggins and vaccination reports. Speaking of…
At The Shows: Horse Show Office
COVID made us all turn to online-only show entry systems. That’s great, but the systems that are unwieldy or, even worse, charge a substantial fee to use them? Utter nonsense. Kevin Bradbury’s Horse Show Office is by far the best option I’ve used to enter recognized shows. I don’t need to have an account set up; I can just enter my horse’s USDF number and I’m halfway home. Uploading coggins, signature pages, etc is a breeze. And I’ve yet to pay a fee, probably because I can pay by e-check or PayPal rather than having to use a credit card (and forcing a 3% fee on someone).
From show management’s perspective, I’m told by the best organizers in the business that HSO is also vastly superior to anything else out there, and I’m sure it’s a relief for organizers to be able to just use one company, rather than accept entries on one system and then put out show results on another.
I hope that all our local shows (hint hint) consider switching over to HSO. It’s a much, MUCH easier experience for everyone around, and I’m sure they’d appreciate more complete entries… wink wink, nudge nudge.
In The Arena: Pivo
COVID also made me get serious about virtual lessons, both offering them and taking them. We’re challenged in the more rural parts of the world by the speed of our internet access, but that wasn’t my initial problem: I’d put a thousand bucks into a certain VERY expensive French system that I couldn’t get to work in my arena, with beacons and watches and all sorts of moving parts that didn’t seem to want to reliably talk to one another. I tried FaceTime, which is easy enough, but just not designed for that purpose, so the quality can get janky.
I’d owned a Pivo for a while to try and record my rides, and sometimes it’s a champion and sometimes it’s not (my Pivo was obsessed with a palm tree in Florida that really does not look anything like a horse, and sometimes it would pull an Exorcist in front of the arena mirrors and spin around). But I had someone ask to be taught a virtual lesson via their Pivo… and a love affair was born.
Bang for your buck-wise, it’s the superior system. The compression algorithm of the video quality is just as good as the more expensive systems, but set up is SO much easier (just put the thing on your tripod, click in your phone, press a few buttons and you’re good to go). And whereas sometimes in just recording a video the Pivo can get lost in the woods (or the mirrors, or the palm trees), when teaching a lesson via Pivo, the instructor can take over the robot and control it. I had a lesson with Ali at the last show, in the warmup arena, with multiple horses in the space, and she just took over the robot so she could follow me with it herself. Amazing! And it’s just $150 – WAY better than anything else on the market doing the same thing.
Now if only we could invent some tech to remind me to half halt more and to stop doing that weird thing I do with my right foot!
COVID-19 changed my world in many ways—like it changed everyone’s world—but one of them was in expanding my personal comfort in buying horses sight unseen. I knew this was a thing people did, but until 2020, I really couldn’t have imagined doing it myself.
And then the world shut down, and traveling became a major hassle, and it all happened at a time when I was looking at young horses. So when, after a couple of cocktails, Maddie appeared on my Instagram feed, I discovered that buying a green-broke 4-year-old from someone I trusted was less scary, for me personally, than getting on a plane unvaccinated (at the time; I’ve since gotten the jabs).
Since then, I’ve not only bought one more for myself, but I’ve also helped others do the same. I worked with my extraordinary veterinarian and friend, Dr. Cricket Russillo, to do so. As we toasted to the successful purchase of my new creature, Nightwatch, a 4-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Hennessey—Fantazia, Pandorra) bred in the U.S. by Marina Parris-Woodhead, Cricket and I found ourselves chatting about the experience. “Someone should really write something about this,” she said, “about how to buy a horse sight unseen in a way that is wise both from a training and from a veterinary perspective.” So let’s get to it!
Read the rest at The Chronicle of the Horse!
When even the bartender says your wedding is the most fun he’s ever worked, your wedding was really, really fun. And I’m leaving glowing Google reviews for all of our stellar cast of vendors, but that didn’t feel like enough. So here’s the whole scoop on everyone who made our day so magical!
When Ravi proposed in December 2020, our first action item was to hire a wedding planner. We interviewed several, but Jessica Maskell endeared herself to me with the following two lines. First, “Lauren, you’re a dressage trainer, Ravi’s an engineer, and you have 18 months to do this. You’ll be fine.” Second, “My job is to make sure everything gets done and that the groom and his groomsmen don’t get too drunk too early.” She was the (wo)man for the job.
Even better, Jessica came with a +1: her husband, Mark, is a DJ. Mark handled our needs with aplomb, including some great Indian music picked by Ravi’s family, and lit the space beautifully.
Speaking of the space: next up was picking our venue. I really liked 6 Pastures from the photos, but Ravi – bless him – was in charge of the search, because I was already in Florida. But then my distinctly indoorsy fella called and said that hands down, no questions asked, beautiful pastoral 6 Pastures was our space. Their reclaimed hay barn was both exquisite AND sufficiently large to hold both our ceremony and our reception, so we were safe from foul weather AND with great airflow for COVID safety. And the bridal suite, where my bridesmaids and I got ready for the day, is stunning.
Then it was on to catering. We tried one caterer – perfectly reasonable rubber-chicken party food – and Ravi, a guy who eats to live, declared them satisfactory. “Lauren,” he said, “when have you ever been to a wedding where you remembered the food after?” But I live to eat, and we already had an appointment with Downtown Catering on the books, so off we went. And thank goodness, because Therese makes meals that aren’t just checking a box – it was a restaurant-quality experience. Fresh ingredients, beautifully prepared. The food was a joy, and their organization of all our other reception related details like rentals and bartenders was swift and easy.
Not to be outdone, Smiley’s Ice Cream capped the night. Ravi is an ice cream devotee, and the look on our guests faces when the ice cream truck pulled up… gold. Plus, let me tell you, taste testing ice cream to narrow down which flavors we wanted Smiley’s to bring? Not the worst hour of my life!
Makeup artist Elzi Camacho came highly recommended by our venue, and did not disappoint. She was exceptionally organized, communicated with me beautifully, and made my entire bridal party feel like a collection of princesses. My Maid of Honor said it best – it was a little devastating to take the makeup off at the end of the night!
Our hair was done by my long-suffering friend Chelsea of Scarlett and Sage. Chelsea has been cutting my hair for almost 15 years, and in that I am perhaps not the girliest of girls, she’s had to endure a lot of dumb questions, including memorably “Can you teach me how to use a round brush?” when I was just shy of 30 years old. Chelsea did a stunning job on a range of hair lengths and types, and made us all feel amazing.
We did most of our own decor, picking up bits and pieces from online wedding resale groups. Out of a desire to be both thrifty and environmentally friendly, we used sola wood flowers from Southern Blooms Co., sola wood being a fast-growing marshy tree. Our bouquets will last a lifetime, and were also as beautiful at my wedding as they were the day they arrived (months in advance, so I could cross them off my list of worries early on!). Here’s a cool review of their environmental impact. And I was also thrifty with my jewelry, picking up some fun costume pieces at a craft fair in Palm Beach.
Last, but far from least, on the list: dresses. Our color theme was purple, and Azazie offered an incredible range of dresses all made from the same color, so I picked Regency and turned my bridesmaids loose to pick their own style, with ties and pocket squares for the groomsmen to match. But for my own dress, after visiting a few bridal boutiques to try on the traditional big fluffy white dress, I was feeling a little uninspired by it all.
Which is when I saw a post on a wedding resale group on Facebook by a bride who’d had her dress made by a woman looking to break into the bespoke dress business, and her rates were unbelievably comparable to store-bought designs. What caught my eye about this bride’s dress was that it was pink, and an idea was born: I wanted a lavender dress. Kirah of Mrs. Jones Bridal and I met first online, to talk about what I wanted, and then a few times in person while she made my dress first out of muslin material, to get the size and shape perfect. It took time (which was fine, we had it), but that was a comfort; I remember that in one of our early appointments, Kirah spent about 20 minutes completely rebuilding one shoulder of the muslin mockup, to make sure she got it right.
The end result was so much more stunning that I could ever have imagined, an honest-to-god show stopper, and certainly unlike anything I could have bought in a store. And for an extra bit of fun, Kirah asked me to do a photo shoot in it for marketing purposes, and let me say that if you ever have the opportunity to have your hair and your makeup done for a photo shoot in an item of clothing made for you, do it do it do it. I’ve never felt more beautiful in my life – and as someone with a lifetime of body image issues, that is really, truly saying something!
This top-shelf team of vendors, led by Jessica, made for a day that – please don’t mistake this for hyperbole – was truly seamless, beyond my wildest dreams. Ravi and I had the great joy of just being able to kick back and relax, and enjoy the company of our fantastic families and friends. If you’ve got some impending nuptials, I wish you an equally glorious day!
Eddie was never quite right. He was perfectly sound, with an exceptional pre-purchase exam. He was sweet and generally polite, and he took pressure well under saddle. But he was just a little weird, a little aloof. There were a few bizarre instances of explosive behavior (inevitably always with me in the tack, if someone was in the tack), but I found ways to justify them, and I figured out a system. But I never felt good about it. I never felt confident about it. And I figured the reason those explosive events made me panic was that I wasn’t good enough to do right by him.
It got so bad inside my head that I ended up seeking out therapy about it. Why, as an experienced rider and trainer, was this horse haunting me? Why couldn’t I get myself to a place where I trusted him? I cut my teeth on naughty. I’m pretty good at it. And this sweet-natured but complicated horse clearly didn’t want to be testy. I kept coming back to this: Horses aren’t evil; horses don’t set out to do harm. So I blamed myself.
Read the rest at The Chronicle of the Horse!