Trainer Confessions: Stop Complaining, We Have Better Things To Do

This is an anonymous post from a guest writer.  We asked Trainers what they would write if they could share whatever they wanted without worrying about social media backlash or stereotyping.  This article does not (necessarily) represent the beliefs of Austin Eventing.  Here are their thoughts.  Thank you for the outpouring of support for this blog idea.

Trainer rants, so here I go:)

  1. Negative, competitive, critical people who gossip and create drama without knowing facts.
  2. Horse people who have chips on their shoulder because of other’s success or money.
  3. Parents who are overly competitive and who fail to see the big picture and the true meaning of the sport.

I have been there with the chip on my shoulder because of the money involved this sport.  I have students who can spend almost nothing on a horse and some that can spend more than I can make in year.  Also, some get to do one recognized show a season and others get to show and clinic all year.

I get free or green ones and enjoy bringing them up.  I sold my grandmothers antiques and silver to pay for my daughter to do shows.  But you can’t have a chip on your shoulder.  We must encourage everyone in this wonderful sport no matter where they are financially or what their competition level.

I hate the negativity and criticism I hear.

My daughter’s best friends got to go to Europe and import several horses while she got free off the track or green horses but they supported each other and will forever be best friends!  They put the horses first, loved them and cherished the time spent with them.  The highs, lows, heartache and success is all the same. We must respect each other at every level.

Every horse needs to be treated as an individual as does each student.  I have students that my biggest accomplishment with them is overcoming some kind of anxiety or fear.  Some are highly competitive and want to do Young Riders.  I have an adult that never even wants to show and doesn’t even ride much but her horse is like family.  For me, being in the barn with the horses is my therapy!  I don’t even like to let others feed for me!   I LOVE caring for them!  I love giving ottb’s a new job, finding a rescue pony a loving home, finding a perfect match for a student, and teaching patience because it is about a relationship and partnership and trust.  It is about teaching classical principles of riding and not cheating and rushing to get results.

It’s not about the money at all, it’s a lifestyle that I choose.  I started teaching about 10 years ago when the owner of a barn where we were boarding at the time needed help with the up-down lessons.  No one cared until my coaching business grew and my lunge line students started to become accomplished little riders.  Then the criticism started coming.  Ugh!  This is an entirely different rant, haha!

The life lessons that come out of this sport are another part of what drives me to teach and not just ride. The horses can change lives and I love getting to be a part of that.  In a selfish world when we can show our students how to put our horses needs and well being before our own is a priceless lesson to teach.  After your ride take care of your horse first, pull out of a show if you think something is not right, take your time, do the groundwork, do your homework, feed the best, don’t cut corners!  Horsemanship first is the most valuable lesson I can model, followed by sportsmanship while being a team player in an individual sport!

The horses come first!  Skip a few shows if they need something!   I love teaching, I love the light bulb moments, I love the horses.

Enough with the negative, critical, judgmental horse people already.  Do your best with what you have and enjoy the enormous privilege of working with these amazing animals and wonderful people who should be united by a shared passion.

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Trainer Confessions: Thoughts that won’t go away.

I finally decided to write a Trainer Confession.  This is not from a guest writer.  Please ignore all grammatical errors. 

This industry can be exceptionally challenging.

That sentiment seems to be universally accepted.

My question is: does it need to be this way?  We all begin this career path for the love of horses, the passion of our sport, the addiction to our adrenaline rush… for many reasons true to ourselves (except for money).  I am fairly confident that no one choose to be an equine professional for a sense of financial stability and an emerging portfolio.

We all “need” certain basics to be met, therefore a business model is created.  The problem seems to be that equestrian professionals are awful business people.  Maybe this is the basic and most fundamental problem with our profession.

We love our horses and our clients; we love our sport and helping, developing and seeing progress with our clients and our horses.  We occasionally put on an extra training session or give a free lesson because we know we can make a difference.  We do it for the horses.   We do it to see our clients progress.  We remember we couldn’t have afforded full training either so we try to work it out for them.  Then we realize we need to pay our bills as well.

How does one come to terms with the desire to educate, inspire and pay ones bills?  Too many turn to nickle-and-diming their clientele.   All of a sudden, what started out as a noble pursuit evolves into a time-sucking financial drain.  Are you clients learning?  Yes.  Are you paying your bills?  No.   The panic starts edging in.  All of a sudden your clients can’t go to other trainers/clinicians for lessons.  They might leave.  That would be bad.  How will you buy hay this month without that horse in training?

From there, they must buy the most expensive imported, overly trained, 3* reject they can.  Clearly, the commission is important and they need to win BN to validate your training ability and thus continue to create new clientele for your business.   And so it goes.

Now you become certain that no one can train as well as you do, knows as much as you do, nor has as strong of a training program as you  do… so the bad mouthing begins.  A neighboring program obviously is intensely flawed.  A local trainer clearly doesn’t treat their horses right, and didn’t you hear that so-and-so blah blah blahs.

All of this comes down to insecurity and an awful business plan.  I believe that if trainers (or other equine industry professionals) started out with a better business model, many of the glitches along the way would be avoided.  It’s about being honest with yourself, your goals, and your clientele.  Communicate, educate, and work hard.  If you want to build an empire, do it.  If you want to be an upper level rider, get it!  If you want to dominate the 2 foot jumpers, go for it!  Just be honest with what those goals require and above all be honest with each other.   Realize that you are surrounded by other equine professionals that are also struggling with their goals and desperately trying to figure out how to make this crazy game work.    Reach out to those professionals instead of shooting them down.  Accept the fact that your goals might change with a stone bruise and having a support network around you might be beneficial.

Admittedly, I am a hopeless romantic and have been called naive in the past.  That’s fine.  I am confident in my business and marketing.  I am not afraid to ask for help and I genuinely believe that helping each other goes a helluva lot further than tearing each other down.

I just think this industry doesn’t have to be so challenging, but it’s up to us to change the paradigm.

{steps off podium}

 

Rider Recap: Ride-A-Whaaaat?

Thank you to Austin Eventer Lisa H. for her recap of this weekend!

 

For a month or so Lisa Bauman has been planning to co-host a Ride-A-Test with a local facility in Manor, called Rolling Ridge Stable, judged by Bobbie Paulk.  Up until last Monday, I hadn’t planned on participating, just watching,  but that all changed when I got asked “Do you want to take my spot in the Ride-A-Test?”  In my brain I was thinking “crap…dressage…supposed to have rain all week…crap… new test to learn…crap” but all that came out was  “Sure! What test were you riding?”…“Beginner Novice A”…“Great!” as I frantically googled USEA Beginner Novice A  to see what I had just agreed to. For most eventers, I would assume that the Beginner Novice A test could be ridden in their sleep. For me though, it would be the second dressage test I had ever ridden. I was relieved see that it was just 4 circles and a cross-the-diagonal and done.

Due to the rain, Jennifer, the owner of Rolling Ridge allowed our group to come over on Friday afternoon. This gave all of us a chance to unwind the horses after being stuck in stall for four days and get them used to the indoor arena and covered dressage arena. This was the 5th time Ellis and I had been off property since I got him a year and a half ago but each time he has relaxed more quickly. I have learned however that I never go anywhere with him without a tube of ulcerguard. I’d rather play it safe than sorry. By the time I was ready to tack up, he had already rolled and was quite proud of the mess he had become. Quick groom turned long, we tacked up and walked into the indoor arena. It was dark with a lot of new horses and a lot of strange sounds. Mounting he was calm(ish) but I decided to take my time and walk him around the indoor for a bit. After jumping out of his skin as a person stood from a chair, as another came out from a door, as a cat wandered across the middle, and a four-wheeler parked near the entrance, he started to calm down. We were able to get a good long ride in both arenas which he seemed to accept pretty well.  Once done, I untacked, gave him a bath, and fed him dinner which he promptly started eating. Yup,  he really didn’t care where he was as long is there is food (a boy after my own heart).

Ellis

The next morning when I got there, Ellis was just hanging out watching everything that was going on. I was lucky enough to get the first ride-a-test time in the morning,  after a couple people had some lessons with Bobby. This was my first ride-a-test and when I asked someone if we were supposed to warm up before starting, I got a quick laugh and “I thought I knew, but now I’m not sure… You should go ask.” That right there was more nerve racking than actually riding the test I think. For some reason, when I take clinics, it feels like the instructors are so much higher than I am, and to ask a silly question like “should I be warmed up?” feels like a question far beneath them. But I had no idea so off I went asking. Bobby was quite nice and answered and off I went to go tack up. My warm up consisted of lots of circles, remembering to sit back, head up, hands up (I felt like I could have had a serving tray on my arms), keep the tempo, slow down, what test was I riding again… Oh yeah Beginner Novice- A… where was I supposed to transition between canter and trot? B- all i remember is B…Crap… sit back. Breath. Time to go. I still couldn’t remember where I was supposed to transition… So i just hoped that we could make it right at B.

The first test wasn’t nerve rattling at all (note heavy sarcasm). I think at a normal show it’s a little easier to ignore the audience because I have no idea who they are, but this time I knew every pair of eyeballs staring at me. My trainers, my teammates, my husband. Nope- not nerve racking at all. Bell Rings- Enter at A- Remember to turn left- not right. Trot a circle- sit up- hands… they do something… I forgot… keep turning. Ok now canter, I have to be cantering at A and do a circle… Oh yay! I got the correct lead…. I still can’t remember where I was supposed to transition to trot…B… Just do it at b…. Trot… don’t run…no, it’s not time to canter again…now we walk…no,not canter, walk. And repeat. Trot. Canter.Trot. Centerline. Halt. Salute. Get judged.

Ellis 2

To be honest, by this time my brain was a bit fried. I tried my hardest to hear every word Bobby said. We mainly talked about getting him more in balance; Getting him more round- which I have been really working hard at, and getting his hind end more engaged. She also wanted to get his tongue to stick out less (I don’t think this will ever really go away… and honestly I don’t know if I want it to totally. Its part of his personality). All of this would be helped by working on my half-halts and working on him accepting the bit rather than hanging on it. The one tip she gave me that was like a light bulb for me was a way for accept the bit by, as she put it, “getting it out of his way”. Simply give one rein, than the other. So simple. Something that made sense to me. And something that he really responded to. I also needed to work on slowing my post to show him down while keeping the same power (a concept I am still trying to grasp). After working on all this for about 10 minutes, off I went again to ride the test again. This time, while my geometry was off due to concentrating on hand and body stuff,  our tempo and roundness were much improved. When we finished, she noted that the Ellis was much improved and the test was much nicer. It reflected in my score too. Mostly all 6’s, 6.5, and a  7! I’ll take that all day long for our second/third dressage test ever.

As I untacked, my husband came over and of course I asked what he thought. He was honest, which I really appreciated. He said that many of her comments were quite accurate and that there was a vast improvement between the first ride and the second. There were a couple subjective things like circle size that he didn’t know about but he said it looked good. I love the honesty and the support.

After putting pony away, I got to watch most of the other riders ride their tests. Sometimes it feels like Ellis and I am the only one’s struggling with issues, but it was nice to see that I’m not, that we are all in this together, just at different points. And to see how quickly we all made such a great improvement with just a couple minor tweaks to our riding was great. Every ride-a-test I watched I came out with another nugget of information, or food-for-thought that will help me when I ride. It was a fantastic experience for myself and a great team building opportunity for everyone.

Ellis 3

 

Trainer Confessions: The Quiet Moments

This is an anonymous post from a guest writer.  We asked Trainers what they would write if they could share whatever they wanted without worrying about social media backlash or stereotyping.  This article does not (necessarily) represent the beliefs of Austin Eventing.  Here are their thoughts.  Thank you for the outpouring of support for this blog idea.

I have spent a great deal of time over the past several months (years) thinking, talking, and writing about rider responsibility and the relationship between the rider and the horse.  I have been annoyed by parents standing over me and second guessing me.  I have been reading Denny Emerson’s posts on Facebook and have bemoaned the downfall of our sport, I have been irritated with people pouring money into to the sport to win ribbons, I have been callous, I have been cynical.   

Tonight, I went to dinner with three of my most favorite persons.  These are my “horse moms;” their kids have moved on from horseback riding in various ways, yet we make an effort to get together at least every other month.  We are always the last people to leave the restaurant.  My face usually hurts from laughing so hard, and I always get into my car after dinner with a huge smile on my face.   Tonight, as I was leaving the restaurant, I paused before starting my car.   You know this pause, the one where your breath catches and the quiet taps you on the shoulder, the one where time stops to allow you to gather memory.  It was one of those moments that I cannot quite adequately categorize, it was a stillness in time: when my student finally finished a clean novice cross country round and I couldn’t stop crying, or that Friday evening when I held my student’s hand as we stepped into the trailer after it detached from the truck on I-40 to find her unharmed horse waiting for us, or the morning I knelt next to an amazing student as she held her dying horse.  These moments have carved spaces in my soul that will never be erased.  Not ever.  Tonight I was reminded that these moments have connected me to people that I will never lose, not ever.  

At my wedding some years ago, my father stood up and remarked that I was always very driven when it came to horses.  This was an annoyance to him, because clearly he thought I should play tennis or water ski.  He made a joke about the former, then paused for a moment and said that over the years he has had patients come to his clinic and say, “are you [insert anonymous trainer’s name] dad?”  He said that it made him so proud, to be my dad.  He then glanced down and laughed quietly, that’s how I knew it was important to him.  The thing is, I always felt the same way- people would ask me if I was [insert anonymous trainer’s dad’s name] daughter.  I was so proud to be his daughter.  My father values relationships, he honors relationships.  That is the part of horseback riding that he gets.  When we were trying to figure out a guest list for the wedding, he told me how wonderful it was that I had so many close family members as a result of riding horses.  He doesn’t know how to be around a horse, but he understands something essential that I have forgotten lately- it is about the people who stand beside you in this sport.  The people walking next to you at dusk on the Friday evening course walk, the mom who clutches your arm as her daughter leaves the start box, the dad who tries to quickly dry his tears when his daughter crosses the finish line, the friends who bring you a beer at the end of a long day of competition.  The people who become your family.  

As I drove home from dinner tonight, I could hear my father reminding me what this is about; the same way I often see my old horse watching me, reminding me of my footfalls.  I am very driven with regard to the relationship between and horse and rider.  What I forget is that I am blessed with   the human relationships that come along with the horses.  My horse friends have pulled me from the depths of self-doubt and have held my hand during the lowest moments of life.  They have put up with my ridiculousness.  They have listened to my rants and respected my reasonable plans.  They have forgiven me.  If my husband and I are ever blessed with children of our own, I will do my best to honor the model my students’ parents have set before me.  My horse friends are people I might never have known.  In fact, I wouldn’t be writing this without the support (prodding) from an outstanding individual who has encouraged me to write, which is something I love to do but have neglected in my life.  Would I know this individual if I were not involved with horses?  No.  Nor would I have been smiling and laughing for three hours at a restaurant tonight.  To be fair, maybe I would have been smiling and laughing about other matters, but don’t we all agree that conversing/commiserating about horses over wine is second to none?  

So, rather than my usual cynical ranting, there is this: the quiet space where the relationship between horse and rider gives you pause, but even more so, the moments where you are smiling/laughing uncontrollably because the people you love have reminded you what it is to be loved.  

Selling Arvo

I have been procrastinating writing this blog post for longer than I care to admit.  Even though many of you have an idea that this has already happened, formally announcing it makes it that much more definitive.

It is with the greatest of honors that I share as of this month, I have officially sold Arvo aka “Giving You The Business” to McKenna Anson.

I could not have hoped for a more perfect match and seeing the two of them cruising around is so ridiculously fabulous, I cannot even begin to describe it.

So why would this be hard to write?   Arvo was not for sale, until McKenna sat on him one day.

I realize that as a trainer it is part of my job to train and sell horses but every now and then… every now and then you have your horse of a life time.

Arvo is one of those horses.

I literally owe my eventing career to this horse.  This saddlebred.  Even as I finally committed to writing this, I have no idea how to begin to express my admiration to this horse, my partner, my friend.

I bought Arvo as am 8 month old from Audrey Miles in Wisconsin.  Yes, I intentionally bought a saddlebred to event with.  He has been my travel partner, camping buddy, XC machine, competition horse, friend, sanity, and inspiration for 9 years.

This is where it all started:

While building his career as a successful eventer, of course we had some fun along the way in the off season…

As our eventing skills improved, thankfully so did our videography skills.  Our taste in music, however, remains questionable.  Who doesn’t love camping with their equine partner?

Occasionally we were somewhat serious…

It’s all about the adventures we had together.

Mckenna, I can think of no one else I would rather hand the reins over to.   (Even if you have him in pink saddle pads now)   All I ask is that I get to keep the ride on him for the occasional game of soccer.   🙂

With my deepest love and admiration,

Lisa

Trainer Confessions: Horse Show Rants

This is an anonymous post from a guest writer.  We asked Trainers what they would write if they could share whatever they wanted without worrying about social media backlash or stereotyping.  This article does not (necessarily) represent the beliefs of Austin Eventing.  Here are their thoughts.  Thank you for the outpouring of support for this blog idea.

As show season approaches, I find myself looking forward to the busy weekends while at the same time dreading the inevitable moments where I will have to restrain myself from strangling my students.

Without a doubt, there will be one (or five) student(s) who will get to the show on Friday and try to cram months worth of training into the Friday ride in an effort to have a decent dressage test the next day.  I will hear all about how the horse won’t work through the corners appropriately and/or won’t track straight down the long side.  I will remind my student that for the past 3-6 months I have been stressing the need to ride accurate corners and focus on straightness through the horse’s body, only to have the student pout and go on to complain that she can’t do a decent canter transition, as if this is a new thing.  If you can’t get a decent canter transition at home, what do you expect when you come to the show?  Was the decent canter transition supposed to magically appear the day of your dressage test?  While we are at it, haven’t I told you 52,000 times that riding around with your elbows out like a chicken doesn’t really facilitate elastic contact with a straight line from the elbow to the bit?  Are you just NOW realizing that you actually can’t pull your horse’s head down?  Did you sustain a head injury before the horse show and is that why you seem surprised by the fact that your horse is going around exactly as you have prepared him to perform? I could go on and on here about all of the things I will either say or want to say at the shows this season, so I decided to make a list:

  •         Oh, you are surprised that you forgot your dressage test?  Is it possibly because you tried to memorize it 10 minutes before your ride time?
  •         You seem confused about why you can’t execute a straight path down center line with a decent halt.  Let me clear it up for you.  It is because you never actually practice tracking straight down center line and completing a correct halt.  Working on this once a week in lessons isn’t enough.  I guess riding around aimlessly when you ride on your own isn’t really helping, is it?
  •         About the jump on cross country when your horse ran out to the right….no, he didn’t do that as a calculated move to piss you off, he did it because you were pulling him to the right and had no leg and you were leaning forward.  So congratulations, he did as you asked.
  • I am sorry you are so tired after cross country because you spend most of your time on the couch when not riding, but seriously, take care of your damn horse and don’t even let me catch you handing the horse off to your mother.
  • You seem flustered because you didn’t get a good warm up.  Can it possibly be because you seem to be incapable of waking up early and actually getting to the horse show at a decent time to prepare?
  • You forgot your show jumping course?  I wonder if it is because you either a) couldn’t get up early enough to walk the course with the rest of our group, or b) were too tired after having ridden that you skipped out on the late afternoon/evening course walk.  Go the gym, lazy teenager.
  • You are looking really swell with your unkempt hair flying about as you go into the dressage ring.  I also really admire the unclipped tail and half ass braids.  Did I also mention that I really liked the look you were sporting during the Friday schooling ride?  Your untucked, ratty t-shirt and Dublin or Dubarry boots rather than appropriate riding boots really completed the presentation.  I additionally enjoyed seeing bits of shavings in your horse’s tail.
  • You didn’t get a ribbon?  That’s strange.  I wonder if it is because you ride maybe twice a week at best?
  • Why did you get so many rails in stadium?  It might be because you rode around  with half of your body on your horse’s head while at the same time gunning your horse at every fence?  I am just guessing here.

As I was writing the above words I started thinking about the rest of it all- like the time after the last ride on Saturday when everyone gathers together for happy hour (happy hour starts at 3:00, right?), or the cross country course walk at twilight on Friday, when the weekend still glitters with possibility and no one is throwing a fit after a bad test/cross country run/unfortunate stadium round.  I am reminded that I will never cease to be taken aback when a student reaches down to hug her horse with a huge smile after completing a phase of competition.  I am reminded of the time I was running like a maniac after a student on cross country, trying to watch every jump, tears streaming down my face because she finally finished her first double clear novice cross country course.  I still remember how it felt to kneel down at the end of that course as she crossed the finish line, that quiet moment.  Time pausing to give me a chance to shape the feeling to memory.  I remember standing up again to jump up and down with my student’s mother, our faces smeared with dirt and tears.  I remember what I said to my student: I am so proud of you.  I am so proud of you

May I Introduce…

As we prepare for the Fall Season (world domination) here at Austin Eventing, there are exciting times on hand.  After much searching and consideration, I would like to formally announce Becca Speer as our new assistant.

Though new to Austin Eventing, Becca is not new to teaching, bringing her passion and experience to our program; her Pony Club foundation is already making a difference with our newer riders!

While I am thrilled to be working with a person with such high integrity and well defined work ethic, I am equally pleased of her interest in furthering her education.  This week Becca will be attending the ICP (instructor Candidate Program) beginning her journey to become a USEA certified instructor.  In addition to the ICP program, Becca shares my ‘nerdiness’.  We both continue to plot how to become better, stronger, and more well rounded in our equestrian pursuits.  It is a very exciting time for both of us!  I don’t even want to tell you about the books and flash cards.  ahem.

Becca XC

What does this mean for Austin Eventing??

Quite simply, as we continue to build the foundation for our eventual world domination, we can focus on additions to our program at Manor Equestrian Center.   Of course this means more availability for lessons, horses in training etc. but it also means we can continue to bring more clinics and slowly add schooling shows and such.   Which, of course, just means we are one step closer to world domination.  Notice a trend??  eh??

Keep an eye out for Becca and  her two lovely horses!  You will be seeing a lot of them at up coming horse trials and clinics.

Welcome to the team, Becca!

We also very much appreciate your sense of humor, which is why I thought you would approve of this photo.

Trainer Confessions: Disenchanted

This is an anonymous post from a guest writer.  We asked Trainers what they would write if they could share whatever they wanted without worrying about social media backlash or stereotyping.  This article does not (necessarily) represent the beliefs of Austin Eventing.  Here are their thoughts.  Thank you for the outpouring of support for this blog idea.

My trainer confession is this: lately, more often than not, I don’t want to be a trainer.  I don’t know how to word this in a polite or politically correct way, so I will just put it out there- over the past several years, it seems more and more apparent that you must have a great deal of money to get ahead in this sport, even for the kids at the lower levels.  I am not saying that kids with ample financial resources aren’t working their tails off, and I don’t want to make an excuse for mediocrity or lack of progress by whining and/or blaming a lack of financial support; it just seems that it is becoming increasingly more difficult to believe that hard work really does pay off.  Having a hard time improving scores in dressage?  Dropping too many rails in stadium?  Stopping at ditches on cross country?  Anxious to hurry up and move up through the levels?   Buy an easier ride with fancy movement, preferably one imported with experience at the upper levels.   Whatever happened to dedication to the training process, rider responsibility, and more importantly, dedication to the horse? Beyond this, in the past year or so it has additionally become apparent that my students who attend public schools are placed at a disadvantage due to not being able to miss school as easily; i.e., they haven’t been able to attend clinics starting on Friday morning because they can’t miss school, or they can’t do early summer pony club camps because they are making up snow days into mid June while the private schools are out by the end of May.  To offer a specific example, a private school in my own town provides resources for “cyber school” on snow days while the public schools do not have such resources and as a result the private schools are able to avoid making up snow days. I would like to add something here about wealth inequality, but I fear the repercussions. More importantly, I digress from the topic of my trainer confession.

It used to be that eventing was the horse sport that was friendly to a kid like me; i.e., a kid whose parents begrudgingly purchased a cheap and inappropriately green OTTB for a 13 year old because there was only enough money for the kid to have one horse, and that horse had to last through middle school and high school.  Eventing offered somewhat of a level playing field, much more so than dressage shows or hunter/jumper shows.  There were often other inappropriately matched kids on green horses, or horses who weren’t “fancy” enough for pure dressage or hunters.  We all struggled together and small victories were meaningful, even monumental (wait, I actually stayed IN the dressage arena this time AND I only had two stops on cross country!).   Did I mention that I had one saddle for all three phases?  When my horse made it clear that he didn’t really enjoy cross country after many years of struggle, it was never an option for me to even think about getting a different horse. Instead, I focused more on dressage in my last few years before college and I was fortunate enough to borrow a friend’s horse for my B rating in pony club.  My horse was a privilege, he was my responsibility, he was my family.

I am increasingly disenchanted with this sport that has always been my passion in life.  I am disheartened as I watch hard working kids become discouraged for not being competitive enough at a high enough level; for not being able to attend every show and every clinic; for not getting to jump the heck out of their horses because they have to keep in mind what is best for the longevity of the horse; for not having a Devoucoux; for not having a second Devoucoux; for not having spent the winter in Ocala; for having to put school first; for having to earn money to help pay for the horse, the list could go on and on.  I realize I sound like a whiny child exclaiming, “it’s not fair!” and that life isn’t fair, but I worry that in the rush to compete and to advance through the levels we are losing sense of that which we should cherish the most- the relationship between horse and rider; the gift of a magnificent, forgiving animal waiting for you first thing in the morning or at the end of a long day.  When I see the shadow of gloom cross my student’s face as she notices her peer posting pictures on social media of blue ribbons and jumping 4’ twice a week,  I try to remind her to focus on the process and that the relationship she is building with her horse is more important than how high she jumps or when she gets to move up to the next level.  I hope she will hear me.

I hope she will remember the quiet moments; those late afternoons when the sky is almost silver and your horse knickers at you as he jogs toward you in the pasture, or a soft breath in the crook of your arm before you say good night, the feeling of weightlessness as you float across a diagonal or step into a sweeping canter. I want to tell my student that this is what matters. I hope she will hear me.

I have a vivid memory of saying farewell to my stubborn horse who strongly disliked cross country the afternoon before I left for college. I turned to walk away from the pasture gate and glanced back to see him watching me, as if he were memorizing the path of my footfalls. No matter what has happened in my life, horses have always brought me back to a peaceful place, where all is forgiven and I am reminded of how blessed I am to have had the honor of loving a horse.  As I review my own words, my trainer confession is this: I hope I will never lose sight of what my horse tried to teach me.

Eventing 101 Workshop: Conditioning

How amazing is it to have an entire group or riders that actually are willing and interested in sitting down for a group discussion of all things horses??!!  I was so proud of our group this morning, I can’t even tell you.  Pen and paper poised, I tortured these riders with big words and a (brief) lecture on equine physiology followed by (torturing) interval work.  I look forward to offering more workshops on concentrated subjects in the future.

For this workshop we focused on conditioning and understanding why it is important for our horses.   Though much more eloquently discussed during the discussion, here are the cliff notes from the lecture.

Focal point:  Heart, Blood, Lungs

Exciting, isn’t it??

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Heart

  • central pump
  • in thoracic cavity
    • in front of horses “elbow”

Blood

  • 10% of Horses weight
  • Volume of 40 liters at rest
  • Cells:
    • Red Blood Cells (RBC)
    • White Blood Cells ( WBC)
    • Platelets
  • Red Blood Cells
    • Manufactured in bone marrow
    • Contain Hemoglobin
    • Carry Oxygen around body
  • White Blood Cells
    • Manufactured in Spleen
    • Primary function is to fight infection
  • Platelets
    •  Manufactured in Bone Marrow
    • Primary Function is blood clotting

Cardiovascular Functions

  1. Stroke Volume
  2. Heart Rate
  3. Cardiac Output

Stroke Volume: amount of blood pumped at each systole

@ rest = 900 ml

@ max = 1200 ml

* 33% increase

Heart Rate: Number of beats per minute

Average resting Heart Rate (HR) Range= 25-50 bpm

Average HR = 35 bpm

Low resting heart rate is favorable.  Large heart with high stroke volume.

Why is it useful to know your horse’s resting HR?
Changes can indicate:  pain, sickness, excitement, fear

Take note is is challenging to take your horse’s resting heart rate, even walking out of the stall can increase it 10%.

Cardiac Output:  amount of blood pumped by heart each minute

Cardiac Output = Heart Rate x Stroke Volume

*Cardiovascular response to exercise

The fitter the horse, the faster the HR decline post exercise.

At rest 15 % of circulating blood is delivered to muscles.  This increases to about 85 % during strenuous exercise.

What are the effects of conditioning?

  • decrease HR and Cardiac Output
  • Increase ability to consume oxygen because of increases efficiency of cardiovascular system
  • increase ability of muscles to extract oxygen
  • increased capillarization: allows great contact between RBCs and muscle fibers

Respiratory System
Oxygen is consumed during aerobic metabolism

During exercise a horse’s Oxygen consumption increases 35% over it’s resting values

Fun Note:  Horses are obliged to breathe through their nose

Respiratory Rate: Number of breathes per minute

  • Range: 12-20 Breathes per minute
  • During exercise as high as 180 breathes/min
  • In canter/gallop respiratory rate is usually coupled with a 1:1 ratio

Aerobic v.  Anaerobic Metabolism

Reference to an old blog post HERE for a brief description.

Aerobic: Highly dependent on good blood supply to muscles and for removal of waste products

  • provides continuous energy supply for long periods of time

Anaerobic: Oxygen is not required and lactate is not produced as a waste product

  • Advantage:  immediately available when exercise starts
    • provides energy to support high intensity exercise
    • no toxic waste is released
  • Drawback: early onset of fatigue
    • Takes 3 mins if the horse rests completely for replenishment

Lactate: Toxic waste product of anaerobic lactic metabolism

Anaerobic Threshold : The intensity of exercise at which the blood lactate rises and onset of blood lactate accumulation

*See Conditioning Sport Horses by Hilary M. Clayton for further discussion about all of the above information.

These reasons are why we use INTERVAL TRAINING!!  Yay, JImmy Wofford.

What does this mean?

5″ @ 220 m/m w/2″i +

4″ @  400 m/m w/2″i

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At this stage in the discussion, I was starting to see the glaze fall over people’s eyes and their fingers have indents from writing so much!  I had everyone look up interval sets and discussed the theory of interval training with graphs, charts, and walking demonstrations on the carpet in the lounge at MEC.

Since this blog post is getting quite long as well, from this point in the workshop, everyone went and suited up, and rode the interval sets together!  Ohhhh the pain of 2 pointing!!!

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I’m impressed by everyone’s attention and eagerness to learn the stuff behind the methodology.  I very much look forward to the next workshop.  If you have any topics of concentration you would like to see presented, please let me know!

Ride on!

Rendez Update: 3 Months

A few of you have asked to have semi-regular updated about Rendez!  This little OTTB Rescue horse has a lot of love out there for him.

He has now been in training/rehab for about 3 month.  Winter was fairly awful here in Manor, Texas so it was a litte inconsistent couple months.  Rendez is just getting better and better.  As he fills out, he is slowly starting to lose that wide-eyed look and settling into his routine.

I decided to take him to the Deb Rosen Clinic at Meadowcreek Park.  He was quite game in dressage and SJ.  The train ended up being a bit of a sensory overload and he showed he athletic pedigree in full force and bucked me right off! HA!  As I was already riding with a hand injury, I though it best if I sit out XC with him and focus on my mare instead.  (GAH making grown up decisions!!)

Here are a few pics from the sandbox!

Looking fancaaaay!

He may be little, but he is mighty!

So even though I didn’t get a chance to school him XC, all in all we had a great weekend!

In the meantime, we are getting back to work at home and focusing on the all the basics so that he can get and stay confident.

We also added some work done my Karen Duker (referred by Julie Morgan).  Karen is currently living in California but came to Austin to do some TTouch and body wrapping and such.  That will be a post for another  day, but I was quite pleased witht he affect it had on Rendez.

I’m super excited that I think we are confidently working that buck out of him (I’m getting old and kinda hate hitting the deck) and building his confidence daily.   Did I mention this guy can jump???

Here is a quick video that McKenna (age 12) took AND edited of Mr. Rendez schooling at home!!  Enjoy!!

I can’t wait to get this guy out a bit more!!

Go TB!