Peace in Nowhereland

By |2022-11-01T14:43:09-04:00November 1st, 2022|COTH Posts|

Hello. It’s October. You haven’t heard from me since the end of August. I’m fine; nothing’s happened of note. I’m just… nowhere.

The hours are long right now. I’m pulling long days and longer weekends. And as an extrovert who recharges by socializing with others, having no time to do so has left me feeling a bit gray. Nothing serious. No one’s dying. I’m old enough and wise enough to know that this will end, and that’s a comfort. But I’m just nowhere.

Read the rest at The Chronicle of the Horse!

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When A Trainer Says They’ve Done It, Check Them Out

By |2022-06-26T17:25:04-04:00June 26th, 2022|COTH Posts|

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!

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How To Buy Sight Unseen, No Cocktails Required

By |2022-06-05T08:49:30-04:00May 17th, 2022|COTH Posts|

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!

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Have Empathy In The Face Of The Hardest Choice

By |2022-04-20T05:05:22-04:00April 18th, 2022|COTH Posts|

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!

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The Ugh of Starting Anew

By |2022-03-23T18:18:21-04:00March 23rd, 2022|COTH Posts|

Man oh man, 2021 had some cool things in store for me. The trio of horses I’d spent years developing, The Elvis Syndicate’s Guernsey Elvis, my mom’s Helio, and my own Gretzky, are all 2011 babies, so they were all 10, all touching on the Grand Prix things, all really solid in their understanding of The Rules on life and dressage and the program.

Elvis showed it first, and Helio after that, and Puck is really close. And they’re not only extraordinary athletes, but they’re all known quantities to me; they’ve been my friends and partners for so long that we speak the same shorthand, and our work together is productive and efficient and based on a deep mutual friendship and trust.

Now it’s 2022, and I’ve made Helio and Puck into such good horses that it’s time for them to move on. The choice to sell both was a bear, but Helio’s job was to be for my mom, and they just didn’t click. For Puck, my brilliant little weirdo whose greatest days are yet to come, I can’t justify the push into the international ring when I’m bearing the total cost myself, and when Elvis is equally extraordinary but with expenses I get help paying. Helio’s sale was quick and efficient, to a wonderful rider who’s a part of my circle, and so he’ll stay in my life. I’m now embarking on the journey with Puck to find his next tall, hungry human; he’ll require the right person, but he’s gorgeous and powerful and beautifully educated and has been well cared for. His next lucky person will find him soon enough.

And I’ll be starting over.

… ugh.

Read the rest at The Chronicle of the Horse!

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Value, Cost And The Art Of Pricing A Horse

By |2022-03-02T05:06:37-05:00March 2nd, 2022|COTH Posts|

Pics Of You photo

The reality of life with horses is that, while it would be lovely to have every horse that comes into your life be The One, selling horses from time to time is an inevitability—certainly for those who do this for a living and for many who don’t as well. Maybe the horse is not going to be what you need them to be, or maybe you’ve taken him as far as you can go together, and the horse is ready for his next person, or maybe it’s just not a good marriage.

Whatever the reason, your first step is to determine a price tag. How do you determine what a horse should cost?

Read the rest at The Chronicle of the Horse!

Designing A Show Season

By |2022-01-21T05:32:07-05:00January 18th, 2022|COTH Posts|

Joanna Jodko photo.

It’s the beginning of a new year, and for those of us with horses, it means thinking about what we’d like to achieve with them and mapping out how to get there. Show calendars are online, and I put together a schedule for where my group of riders might go to show. There’s qualifying criteria for the various regional and national-level championships, including lists of shows for those championships that are dedicated qualifying events. And there’s the long, hard look in the mirror about where a horse or rider is at this moment and what reasonable progress might occur between now and that first show, to set a realistic goal for the season. Here’s how we do it at my house.

Read the rest at The Chronicle of the Horse!

The Florida Set-Up

By |2022-01-05T14:18:30-05:00January 4th, 2022|COTH Posts|

I took you all through the insanity of the past few months in my last blog. Now join me on the past few weeks: our trip to our winter location outside Wellington, Florida.

This is, I believe, my 10th consecutive winter in Welly-World, so I’m not a rookie. But this year is different on a few fronts. While we’ve taken more horses every year, this is the first year where we’ve had so many going—and so few left behind—that we decided to close my Virginia operation down. This required a lot of shuffling, to get our handful of non-Florida-bound horses to their winter gigs, and a little creativity with my staff and where they were going.

This year is also different because it is the first at a new facility for us: Perfect Cadence, bought this spring by amazing longtime clients and friends. It’ll be amazing; they’re committed to turning the farm into a world-class facility with a covered arena, substantial turnout, a hacking path around the whole facility and more. The problem? Between all the challenges of getting plans approved by Palm Beach County and an HOA under normal circumstances, plus the joys of building during a global health crisis, we are pretty much nowhere. We have the existing farm, which is perfectly lovely, but we’ve never been there before, so everything will be a first-time experience.

But we have a plan. First, the great exit, in stages.

Read the rest at The Chronicle of the Horse!

The End-of-Year Sprint

By |2021-12-27T05:18:22-05:00December 7th, 2021|COTH Posts|

Folks, it’s crazy time. Autumn is always a little nuts, but… well, let me show you.

Let us begin in OCTOBER. Activities include the GAIG/USEF Regional Championships (amazing and educational); a clinic at my farm with my fantastic friend and biomechanics expert Suzanne Galdun (amazing); and attending the U.S. Para-Dressage National Championships (educational).

My assistant trainer, who is newly engaged, gives me her notice—a surprise, since we’d originally planned on her departure after Florida— leaving me scrambling. It’s OK; I’m at my best with my back against a wall. And sometimes the universe hands you what you need: Three days later I’ve hired Sam, who’s both a beautiful and experienced rider, and while she’s never taught before, she’s got the right temperament and intellect for the job. And I like teaching, so I’ll teach her how to teach.

It remains a good thing I’m at my best with my back against the wall, because I also get fantastically unloaded off a young horse and earn myself my first concussion. Naturally, I do not tell anyone and just casually teach in sunglasses for the next few days. The timing is good because everyone hits pause on their lessons this time of year. I’m fine. Everything’s fine.

Read the rest at The Chronicle of the Horse!

Learning Lessons, Keeping Perspective At The U.S. Dressage Finals

By |2021-11-17T05:11:26-05:00November 16th, 2021|COTH Posts|

The U.S. Dressage Finals is one of my favorite shows, for a few reasons. It’s a big-deal show, at a fantastic venue. The team that runs it is the All-Stars, the best of the nation’s various show management companies all coming together. It’s a great way to get the young horses some mileage in a big environment, and success here is a nice feather in your marketing cap. But none of those are the biggest reason I love the U.S. Dressage Finals. Let me explain.

Read the rest at The Chronicle of the Horse!

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