…And Then What Happened At The Big Show

By |2021-09-12T08:52:43-04:00September 9th, 2021|COTH Posts|

I’ve been home from the U.S. Dressage Festival of Champions for a week, and this is the first time I’ve had five minutes to actually sit down and write about it. I am so grateful to my awesome team for letting me sneak away for a week, and for letting my head be 100 percent in the zone while I was there and for the week or two before. But the penance for that, of course, is now being screamingly behind in my office work, up to my eyeballs in lessons and riding, and generally being a bit insane.

But I’ll pay that toll every time, because the big shows are where the magic is.

Read the rest at The Chronicle of the Horse!

What Happens At Home Before The Big Show

By |2021-09-12T08:54:59-04:00August 10th, 2021|COTH Posts|

Huzzah! I’m qualified for the U.S. Dressage Festival of Champions. I’ll ride The Elvis Syndicate’s wonderful Guernsey Elvis in the Developing Grand Prix Championship, for 8- to 10-year-old horses at the Grand Prix level. It’s a big deal, and it was my big goal for the year. Mission: accomplished.

But now that I’m qualified, I have to, you know, go.

I’m in the middle of a four-week gap between my last outing and the championships, and I’m making the most of that time to get Elvis and I as ready as possible. He had a little downtime after that show in July, the last in a long slog of competitions. I’ve spent this entire spring and summer addressing his fitness. As I’ve mentioned before, Elvis isn’t a super hot horse by nature, so I’ve needed to make a concentrated effort to increase his conditioning. By the time we leave for the Festival of Champions, being held Aug. 24-29 at Lamplight Equestrian Center in Wayne, Illinois, he’ll be walking five days a week for north of 40 minutes, up and down my Virginia hills, in addition to his daily dressage work.

But there’s more than just dressage, and even more than just fitness, involved in successfully getting down centerline at a big show. Here’s what I’m up to this month.

Read the rest at The Chronicle of the Horse!

A Week In Their Words

By |2021-07-26T14:29:29-04:00July 26th, 2021|COTH Posts|

Elvis, 6:30 a.m.: Sigh. Another week of excellence. Lauren arrives around 6:15 every morning, gets her things organized, and then grabs me. Obviously she starts with me because she likes to start her day on a high note with the Greatest Horse in the Universe.

Today, Lauren makes me loose in my back and sharp to her leg and hand. Tuesdays I always feel a little asleep at the switch—what can I say, I like my Monday day off—and I like to pretend like I’m untrained, just to keep her on her toes.

Puck, 7:15 a.m.: Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy, it’s Tuesday!! Another great week of adventure!! Mom always rides Elvis first, which is OK, because I like everyone. But then she rides ME, and it’s so great because it’s nice to feel like one of the big boys.

There was a period of time where Mom rode me last. She said it was because she had to talk herself into it. I don’t know what that means! But here we are, together, my favorite person and me. I’m pretty much the same every day, so Mom will probably do some work on bending and canter work today.

Read the rest at The Chronicle of the Horse!

Reiten Lernt Man Durch Kehren

By |2021-07-14T07:52:52-04:00July 14th, 2021|COTH Posts|

Working students come and working students go. It’s the nature of the business, and as much as it stresses me out, I expect it. It’s a job that young people keep for a little while to build a resume, to work their way up to other things. I get it. I did the same thing.

It’s also a job that separates the wheat from the chaff. It’s physical. It’s exhausting. It’s tedious and dirty, and it’s got long hours, and it doesn’t lead itself to a huge social circle outside of the barn, so making friends in a new part of the world can scare some people. Every trainer has a story about hiring some bright young thing only to have them get completely overwhelmed by the job and last only a handful of days.

Summertime is a popular start time for working students, and all over the country young people are graduating from high school or college and making their way to someone’s farm, moving in their stuff and preparing for tomorrow’s full day of work. Here’s a little advice on how to stick it out the awkward early days.

Read the rest at The Chronicle of the Horse!

Pick & Shovel Work

By |2021-07-04T16:28:27-04:00June 22nd, 2021|COTH Posts|

I’ve made many FEI dressage horses, most of them out of horses who were complete and utter ding-dongs as children but reformed enough by middle age to be able to do the top-level work on a combination of training and adrenaline. I’ve never really had to think about horse fitness before. But Elvis and Helio are really pleasant, agreeable fellows. They’re not nutty. And they’re not hot. So with Elvis’ Grand Prix debut, and Helio’s rapid approach to that level, I’ve realized that I need a lot more gas in their collective tanks to execute that level of work, with aplomb, and on a hot competition Sunday.

And I realized I don’t know how to do that. So I fumbled along for a while, and then I got some help from one of the best in the world.

Allow me to explain.

Read the rest at The Chronicle of the Horse!

The Show Season Puzzle

By |2021-07-04T16:25:09-04:00June 3rd, 2021|COTH Posts|

I like showing, but I’m not a maniac.

I don’t personally feel like there’s anything to be achieved by taking the same group of horses to two shows every month; I think training is done at home, and I think that I’m more likely to win at the show if I’ve logged sufficient training. That’s just how I do it—not how everyone does it, nor is it the only way it can be done—but it works for me.

What I really like is the puzzle of it all: how to plan a season, which shows to go to and when, to make for peak performances from my horses. And then there’s also the question of what to do in between those shows, how to give my horses sufficient down time so they can catch their breath and let their tired bodies recuperate, but also build condition, strength and new skills.

Read the rest at The Chronicle of the Horse!

Fear Is A Funny Thing

By |2021-07-04T16:21:53-04:00April 16th, 2021|COTH Posts|

Fear is something I see every day. Not so much in myself (more on that in a sec), but as a teacher of amateur people, many of whom either aren’t young or started riding as adults or both. It’s been a companion of mine throughout my teaching career, and it was one I didn’t really understand in the beginning.

Flash back to about age 26: I was on a client horse, a normally quiet and civilized one. I was in my indoor, and I closed my leg and my seat at the same time to close him up a bit. Instead of doing that, he stood straight up on his hind legs. I did not fall off. He landed, I drove on, and he never did it again. But for the first time in my life, when I looked at his belly button in my arena mirror, I was flooded with fear.

Read the rest at The Chronicle of the Horse!

Getting By With A Little Help From My Friends

By |2021-07-04T16:18:18-04:00March 30th, 2021|COTH Posts|

Elvis is really cool, guys. He’s keen but relatively unemotional. He’s athletic, but he’s also efficient. His default answer is yes. There’s a heck of a lot to like.

He also was weird about the whip when he came to me, and he had a bit of a misunderstanding about what piaffe was all about, so it took some time to get him confident enough to accept a new approach. And then, about a year ago, he started letting us in, and over the course of the summer it started becoming a re-creatable phenomenon, first in hand, then from the tack. And then we hit a bit of a plateau, which isn’t unusual. And a year in the life of a horse learning to piaffe is such a tiny amount of time.

But I just felt stuck and lost. Ali Brock, my amazing coach, kept telling me that I was on the path, and that it was improving, but I really wanted someone else to feel what I was feeling from the tack, and Ali is pregnant and not riding right now.

Read the rest at The Chronicle of the Horse!

The Young Horse Search

By |2021-07-04T16:15:34-04:00February 18th, 2021|COTH Posts|

You’ve got the space in your barn, you’ve saved up a reasonable budget, and your current string is all old enough and civilized enough that it’s time to begin again. The search is on for a young horse.

You start with the obvious sources: breeders and trainers of young horses. You make your phone calls. You watch videos. You talk to the riders. You know what you’re looking for, the qualities you like and don’t like, the bloodlines you’ve been successful with before, your height requirements, what you will and will not tolerate. You want good feet. You want good X-rays, including neck and back. The veterinary bar is high because if, in a few years, you identify that the horse isn’t going to be what you need it to be, it has to be sellable to someone else. That pre-purchase exam is going to run you $3,500, give or take, so you factor that in, and off you go.

Read the rest at The Chronicle of the Horse!

Rolling Along in 2021

By |2021-07-04T16:12:06-04:00February 8th, 2021|COTH Posts|

Greetings from Wellington. Things are going well. That’s a scary sentence to write, because a) things can go Extremely Not Well at the drop of a hat on a myriad of fronts, but also b) deadly virus killing people and careers and livelihoods makes me sound like I’m fiddling while Rome burns, talking about how nicely my ponies are going. I acknowledge how lucky I am to be able to work out of doors. I am wildly grateful for my head being able to stay above water—only just, at times in the last year, but still above—during a time that has been so phenomenally difficult for so many.

The rough times of my own life in 2017 and 2018 certainly helped instill in me a substantial crust, one I’ve called upon for the last 12 months more than once. One thing I learned in my own hard years was to find the joy in the little things and in the good times, and fortunately, in my own stable, those small things aren’t hard to find.

Read the rest at The Chronicle of the Horse!

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