Monday, March 21, 2011

Blah Blah Blog is Moving!

Well since we are moving barns and the girls are moving houses it just makes sense that this blog should find a new home as well! Last week Chronicle of the Horse asked me to join there established crew of bloggers. I'm really excited and flattered to become a fixture on such a well established site.

Please check out for the latest blog. In the next few days there will be a direct link from my website to the landing page where future blogs will be posted. Thank you all so much for your interest!


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Life is a highway....

I wake up... someone is moving in my bed... wait someone is moving in the bed NEXT to the bed I'm in, that is somewhat of a relief... at least someone is not in my bed, that would be awkward since I'm having trouble recalling the previous night ( Tik is in Florida, I am sure of that .. so no one else should actually be in my bed).. but still who is in the bed next to my bed and where am I actually?

This is what a lot of Event riders/ Rock stars (joke) wake up thinking during the hectic season. The feeling normally subsides within 30 seconds and the reality of the hotel, trailer, friends house or friend of a friends house that you are crashing at sets in. Now that the immediate sense of danger has subsided you are reminded that hitting snooze one more time would be pleasent(unless its cross country morning!!).

Back to who is moving in the bed beside the bed that I am in? ..... It would be Canadian WEG rider Rebecca Howard. Rebecca(my "sister"), good friend Jessi Hargrave and I have just returned from a successful DerbyCross in Florida. We are all crashing at my apartment at the Carlton Arms in Ocala. I look at the alarm and it says 2:45am meaning I have 15 min and then I am headed from the sunny south back to what still is freezing NJ. Rebecca is staying down for a few more days for Canadian training sessions. We all said our goodbyes the night before over margaritas because that is a lot more enjoyable than 3am bad coffee!

Meg and Sara left the night before to get the new barn organized and beat the shipper home. I stayed behind to get 6 horses on the commercial van and then carried on with the dogs and 2 horses to Middleburg,VA. I needed to pick up another horse and break up the 22 hour trip (the dogs are cute but not great conversationalist). The barn we had rented in NJ was a new farm that sounded like it might be a good fit. I couldn't find a spare 2 days in the Florida stint to schedule a trip to NJ to do a pre-screen, so we were working on blind faith. The owners of the property were incredibly kind and very realistic about the fact that it might work and it might not. And so a little over 48 hours after the Sinead Halpin Equestrian Team left Florida I realized ... oh no.. this is not going to work.

As most horse people know, the horses find a home and get fed before the people! So with that in mind, me being the organized and responsible boss I am had not found a place for my girls to live. I did not want to rent a home for them if I was not sure if the barn was going to work. I gave them the keys to my house and called friends, owners, vets , horsemen.... Brendan and Wendy Furlong to see if they had any housing ideas. They kindly took me in to stay as their guest while the girls stayed in my house ( they have been feeding me too well, im never moving out :) )The farm we are at now is lovely and the owners have been fantastic but it is not the perfect match.

I can say that today is the first time I have even been able to write anything down about what has been going on because it has been such an overwhelming experience. Rebecca ( the gal sleeping in the bed next to mine) could, for example, analyze the price of a bale of hay for 3 hours and it used to drive me insane: " its a bale of hay just buy it!".
and I know I would drive her crazy with my " come on it will work it self out, sometimes you gotta just take a risk Rebecca!" personality.

She normally would just look at me as she does, with that look - I'm sure most big sisters give their naive younger sibling without saying a word but the look says " I love you but you silly, silly girl". At 2:45 am when I realized Rebecca was the one moving in the bed next to mine I had no idea I was about to learn the lesson she had known for quite sometime...When you put a horse in your barn, a person in the position of an employee, buy a bale of hay ... the "buck" stops with you so make sure you have a damn good explanation of why you chose the barn, hired the girl and bought the hay!


I have always been very responsible with my horses care and my ultimate goal is to never have them be aware of my daily stress (Currently: trying to find a farm with suitable footing, adequate ride out, bathrooms for clients, safe fencing, a washer/dryer for boots and pads, manure removal, housing for staff on and on.. I could use some gastro gaurd!)...With that

I can happily say I have found a great barn for the horses and we will be moving on Friday. We will also be signing a lease on Friday for the girls house, I will be moving back to my house on Sunday. A week from today Meg, Tate, King, Zeppo, Baloo, myself and Ian will start packing again to spend two weeks in NC for Southern Pines and the Fork. (megan needs gastro guard too)

Lesson learned ... as the President of my business, It is up to me to make sure that the destination of my horses and staff is organized to ensure everyones happienss. - Being the president of my business means more than planning the eventing calendar and letting everything else fall in to place. I realize my girls are troopers and have stepped up to help me considerably and thank god the horses are more concerned with eating the grass in the fields then (The cost of a bale of hay - you could draw from earlier statement to tie it all together)! I am not going to dwell on the fact that I "should have" organized this all better, that is a given. But as Ralph Hill says "you gotta put money in the bank" and this experience added a good amount to the account of lessons learned!

"Life is a highway and I want to ride it all night long
if your going my way i want to drive it all night long"
Tom Cochran

PS- MANOIR DE CARNEVILLE (aka tater) and SINEAD HALPIN are now entered at ROLEX KENTUCKY THREE DAY EVENT ( just as a side note )

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The truth about curry combs.....

Dont worry I was never a huge fan or actually very interested in curry combs, but I hold nothing against anyone who likes curry combs.... so therefore I will not be blogging about curry combs(sorry to disappoint) but just thought I would start with a neutral topic... ;)

I am actually going to talk about one of the best lessons I have had in Florida this winter and that was by Karen O'Connor. At OCET as a rider you tend to gravitate toward either DOC or KOC and stick with that individual as your prime coach. It is a team effort and Karen and David provide team support but as far as individual lessons it gets confusing if your always switching trainers.

I first sat on the lawn at pristine Stone Hall Farm in Middleburg,Va 9 years ago. This is where I met the Legend David O'Connor. I was at first intimidated by "who he was" but we quickly settled into conversation when he asked a few questions and did not weigh the conversation down with promises of what OCET produces, its team strategies or what would be expected of me being "part of the team". He simply asked me a little bit about my life, my history in eventing and what my goals were. I was coming from a very aggressive overbearing situation and the calmness of this man helped me settle down. I had become a bit of a paranoid reactive person in the years leading up to my transition to OCET and David seemed like someone who would think before he speaks which was a new concept for me.

When I met Karen I was instantly attracted to her amazingly quick Wit, her sense of humor and all in all magnetic personality... I really want this person to like me. With Karen I felt I had 5 seconds to make a good impression or any impression because her attention span is short almost like kid looking for something that sparks. Karen has a lot to do, so make your point weather its a joke ( she will laugh), needing some help ( she will help), ask a question( she will answer)... but you got 5 seconds. This was a lot of pressure for me when I first arrived due to the fact I was already pretty fragile from previous situations so I felt more comfortable around David, I knew he was thinking alot but he didn't say it.. I could handle that.

For the past 9 years David and Karen have both been huge influences to my career and life in general( which in horses your career is your life). This winter has been great to actually be able to base my business next to theirs for a few months. I feel like the standard of not only riding but horsemanship, hospitality and training is above and beyond. When I first arrived I became aware that I have been coasting a bit on the training side and my horses need to be more broke. In realizing that I took a lot of lessons with different people, rode my horses on the flat for what seemed like 72 hours a day 8 days a week, and all in all got myself completely confused. I was not in the habit of asking Karen for help because David had always been my primary go to but thank god Karen noticed the Sparks coming from the top arena Thursday of last week...

I borrowed a leather bit from KOC to try on Tate to see if I could actually get him to accept the bit ( something Mark, David, Gunner and Myself have become obsessed with ... obsession is never a good thing) I put the bit on him and rode him low ( like mark says) not working, rode him above the bit ( like gunner says) not working, go lateral, go medium, shorten, lenghten, transitions, sit taller, post the trot, canter........ hold back tears....look up here come Karen and Max. "How is that working for ya" Karen yells (referring to the bit) I just look up and shrugging my shoulders I say " I don't know" Karen looks at me confused for about a millisecond and sees right through me and says " you have too many voices in your head don't you" here is when a tear or two slip out ..... " If anyone knows anything about too many voices in their head its me" Karen says and Max gives a big laugh.

" What do you see when you see William( Fox-Pitt) do a test" Karen asks walking beside me her on Mandiba myself on Tate. I think about this for a second we both agree, normally the frame is a bit low but the horses are accurate and look happy, not brilliant movers, they don't blow you away with words like, bold, powerful, magnificent, just happy well trained horses. She says "the judges love it". I have been trying to push Tate to some "next level" when I'm not even sure I have established the level I am at. Karen proceeds to tell me of experiences she has has where yes the coach has been right in telling her things such as Teddy's neck is too short but at the time it "was what it was" and it would be the goal for the "next year" to get him to reach for the bit. "Just be accurate, work through the movements with a happy horse, you have to do that before you can ask for more."

I went to Pine Top a few days later with this in mind. Tate was wound up! But I did not let him change the conversation. Goal: to have a soft happy horse - not brilliant and powerful just consistent. With the exception of Tate being too happy and jumping up in the air squealing ( giving us two 3's) He grew in his gaits and was confident throughout the whole test, all I had to do was take the pressure off and he grew. We got a 29 in the test even with the two 3's and Tate got a 9 on his gates. Timing is everything and there is a time for pressure and a time to just establish a foundation for that pressure. I called Karen right up and thanked her for her words... I got her attention without intention for five minutes and that five minutes will influence me as a rider/coach and person for as long as im lucky enough to work with horses.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

PRO stands for a better sport!!

I was really disappointed a few days ago when reading some comments on Eventing Nation in response to Will Faudree's support of PRO.

PRO is an organization that was put together by Professionals to better the Sport we not only make a living at but are also incredibly passionate about. Our simple idea was to build the sport by promoting its strengths... showcasing Top Professionals that demonstrate not only excellent ability in the tack but the ability to reach out to to people beyond the small world that is Three Day Eventing.

The reason we want to attract outside people to join the "CLUB" the club being "Eventing" not just "Professionals" is for many reasons. First to attract prize money. This prize money attracts spectators which in turn sets a high standard for the Events that the Organizers can afford to provide. That standard will be reflected in a promotable venue but also put an emphasis on good footing for our precious horses and ensure a high level of safety in that of course design and building. This affects not just the Professional but the adult amature, the young rider, the weekend warrior and every member of the club. This emphasis on safety also encourages a higher level of training and knowledge which also effects all levels of the sport. To be direct we can not invite outside people to view our sport and display poor riding, poor horsemanship and in worst case scenario a preventable accident involving horse or rider. This is where PRO comes in...

I have a healthy amount of ego that allows me to believe in myself and what I do, but I am certainly aware of my weaknesses. Yes PRO does have ego. We sat down a few years ago and looked at our sport and said how can we make this thing that we believe in and are good at grow. In this conversation we did not sit down and pat each other on the back we said "We are crap at reaching out to the general public, we are crap at taking a shower at the end of a long day and going out and socializing with people that could help our sport grow,we are crap at promoting ourselves and our sport, we are great at complaining to the organizers, complaining to the USEA, we are great at working long hours that are self serving in that we are just growing our own individual business and not actually working together to grow our sport. WE ARE GOOD AT WHAT WE DO, WE ARE HARD WORKERS, WE ARE HORSE LOVERS, WE ARE CHARISMATIC, WE ARE DETERMINED, WE ARE DRIVEN, WE ARE EVENTERS so we developed PRO to use the PRO's to PROmote EVENTING!

PRO has done some amazing things in the past two years. Free course walks, bringing prize money to events to help the organizers ( I realize this is at the top level but the intention is to have a trickle down effect), We have created a format to promote safe riding in young rider training divisions and offered free training for a week with Professionals for the winners, We have joined a group that connects athletes to charities.. PRO has joined up with Operation Home front as a group ( this being a charity that helps the families of the military.. since that is our sports foundation), we have also as individuals joined with athletes for hope.. which helps us in our hometowns to connect with charities that are special to us, there are several other things that we have done and several things we have on our agenda to keep improving not only events but education on all levels.

I understand that the name PRO insinuates it is an organization only for Professional Riders but that name is there to set a tone, not define the group. The tone is intended for the person outside the sport looking in. If PRO Tour is put on a program it assumes a certain high standard. The standard also implies that the organization is "RUN" by people very well educated and immersed in the sport this does not limit the voices in the organization. I was genuinely shocked at some of the reactions to the name of this organization. I assumed due to the fact that all Eventers, at all levels, are so intertwined that the intent of the naming the organization "PRO" would be obvious not offencive to those whom assumed they were not included in this PROgression of the sport. But you know what they say about people that "Assume" ... and i am guilty of assuming as well as certain others.

I hate talking about problems but I love problem solving.I have trouble speaking to people that are so focused on everything that is wrong... If you are going to point out a problem to me then you better have enough time to sit down with me and figure out a solution. PRO is a group that is "run" by the "Harvard Graduates" but that is only so we have a well educated panel to give our organization some depth and a respectable voice. That voice comes from "all members and all levels" in the organization. So I suggest becoming part of the solution, get involved even if that means bringing specific problems to the table and sitting there with us while we figure out a solution.

My promise as an Executive Board Member of PRO is that if you get involved and use your voice in a room where problems have a chance to be solved and an idea has a chance of becoming a reality you will not be disappointed. "We" can all be in the "Club" of PROmoting positve change in Eventing.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Wizzard looking great my hands holding the reins fipped over in one of Anne's favorite training tools!

How much is an extra axel really worth

When deciding to go to Aiken or Florida, Florida's final winning point was due to its close proximity to Wellington. Wellington is where the best of the best show jumpers, dressage riders,polo players and sometimes the odd lucky Eventer spend the winter. This town leaves nothing to the imagination. As I drove down Appaloosa trail to have 3 lessons with renown show jumper Katie Prudant I realized I was in the Hollywood of Equestrians. I have to admit the barns that look like magnificent houses, the horses grazing on manicured front lawns, arenas dripping with the latest felt, rubber,silk and probably cashmere left me short of breath and a desperate for an open field. But none the less it is a breathtaking sight.

This year USET granted several listed riders with a $2000 grant for training. You basically need to spend it with a specialized approved instructor ( like Katie or Oded). Fortunately this year the grants were allocated to just the rider not horse and rider combination. I decided to spend my grant in one trip getting multiple lessons of different horses, so I could get more bang for my buck ( and there was some bucking!) This also kept me from over focusing on Tate. Tate had 3 rails down in Holland so obviously he needs some attention but looking at his over all performances he is quite a good show jumper. I want to make sure I keep that in mind so I don't go overboard in his show jump training. Over correcting can sometimes be as bad as no training at all, it can easily scare or make horses nervous leading to stops or other disobedience's (which we saw a bit of this year at WEG).

My lessons with Katie were great. She is a technician who analyzes and notices the smallest details. After my lessons I came back to Katie and asked her for her overall impression and what I need to work on in all my horses. She said Im to nice to my horses on the flat. This comment in itself proves the depth of her knowledge that not a comment was made on my jumping but my flat work. She said I need to put my horses in difficult places, work through the "tough times" with them to build a stronger relationship and make the job at the competition almost a relief. This brings me back to a comment David said to me several years ago..he said" Sinead I train hard enough that I can win on 75%. So if my horse is not perfect I still beat everyone in the class and when you have the rare day of 100% you win a gold medal".. thats pretty cool.

The next day I headed over to Anne Kurskinski's farm to have a lesson and show her a lovely show jumper I have for sale. As I trotted around on her manicured grass show jump field that backs on to the multi million dollar WEF show grounds and this 5 time Olympian walked out and said " Hey Sinead how is your season going" I though the $32 dollars I spent on having two extra axles on the highway was worth this. I struggled to find something witty and brilliant to say and wow her with my intellect and horsemanship but I just said " great how has your season been? " The cool thing is she then spent the next 10 min actually telling me how her season was going in detail.

Anne has no problem putting the jumps up which is great! Sometimes your flaws are easy to mask over an average size fence but when you are cantering down to 4 and 1/2 feet it highlights the slightest lean or shift in your position. I felt a bit green at the heights in the beginning but by the end of the lesson both Wizzard and I had improved immensely. I always love it at the end of the lesson when the instructor says "great that was fun" and that is what Anne gave me at the end of our ride.

Today I have training sessions with Mark Philips which I am excited about. Tate has improved quite a bit from our last sessions so im looking forward to the next step. Then we are headed to Rocking horse this weekend, Pine Top next weekend ( tates debut yay), DerbyCross the next weekend (, Back to New Jersey with everyone for two weeks after that, down to Southern Pines and the Fork for two weeks, Fairhill the next week, Then Rolex for the week.. and then and then and then... Katie said to me " you eventers work very well at speed you need to work on slowing down" so I guess Ill plan on working on slowing down sometime in May :) !