Monday, December 27, 2010

chrissy in the snow.3gp

This is what chrissy sent me when I was trying to get out to the barn to ride!! Ha ha

Sunday, December 26, 2010

ps you can check out heathers website at


I will admit I am a bit of a skeptic when it comes to chiropractor's,acupuncture, massage therapy, horse communicators, herbal supplements, magnetic this and that's, cleansing the ora of the barn, aroma therapy to cure ulcers and most things we are driven to when looking for a reason/excuse why our training is not working.... sometimes we just need to get better.

But I also have to admit I have been wrong once or twice in my life ;) Sometimes I sit back and ask myself am I sticking to my guns and being tough or am I just being close minded and stubborn. I also find it less expensive to spend 20 more minutes in the dressage ring convincing myself Im making a difference then to fork out $100's to someone else to fix my problem ( hmm maybe im a bit of a control freak!)

Every now and then you learn a lesson the hard way. I really think my stubbornness with one horse in particular landed me with a broken arm and a relationship with the horse that could not be pinned back together. I have laid awake at night feeling guilt about not picking up on the signs that this horse was so clearly giving me. It seemed my training was actually making him more sensitive and irritable then helping him understand and even enjoy his work. I proceeded to take all the blame on my shoulders and school him more but with this came so much more frustration on both our parts. I had trained a multitude of horses without encountering this type of resistance but didn't stop to think maybe there is something else going on I stubbornly though I can fix this.

Eventually he just clean bucked me off and broke my arm. I look back and see so many signs of things that could have been helped. If I had just reached out to a massage therapist or even a chiropractor and accepted the possibly that this horses attitude may be that he was uncomfortable in his body we might have had a much better relationship. But he lost trust in me and I acquired to much baggage with him to be productive. The horse has since moved on to another professional whom I respect a lot and I know the best thing I did for the horse was to let my pride go, move him on and promise not to make the same mistake again.

I have recently bought a lovely athletic mare who is very green but is a born eventer! A few weeks ago I noticed some similar attitude issues the old horse had shown me in the early stages of training. Eager to not make the same mistakes again it took me less than a week to start looking outside myself for a solution. I started with changing her saddle which seemed to help. Then I actually rode her on bute for two days which is one of the best ways to find out if your horse has an attitude or actually in some pain ( its cheaper than a vet telling you the same thing).. Well she returned to "stella bella" instead of "hella stella" on the bute. I quickly asked Dana ( my barn owner) about her massage therapist, Heather Akers.

I had seen some amazing differences in some of Dana's horses that Heather had worked on. When Heather came to work on Stella I told her my issues with the her and told her I honestly am not a total believer in these types of treatments . I also told her that Stella was mine so I simply can not afford something on the idea "it cant hurt".. I have to know its helping then I will find the money. After Heather worked on Stella she said " well she is stubborn, but I got some good releases but nothing major. Ride her tomorrow and see if there is a difference if not there is probably not a lot I can do for you." Heather won points right away by not trying to sell me ten more sessions before I would feel a difference and after my initial attitude Im sure Heather was a bit tenitive in telling me to expect great things :) I can honestly say Stella was amazing my next ride. She was a little tentative almost waiting for something t hurt or be tough but when she found it easy she carried on like a champ and used her " athletic ability" in a productive manner instead of making me worried about keeping my nose in one piece!

What I found after Heather worked on two of my horses is where I thought the problem was in the back or hind end she actually found a lot of issues in the shoulders. When she worked out the "junk" in the shoulders the other issues seemed like much less trouble. I took this knowledge with me into the ring today on a young horse that I have been having problems "keeping the engine" going.. I couldn't figure out if he was just lazy, stubborn, unmotivated or simply didnt get it. I changed my focus to his shoulders in the flat work and after about 10 min its like I unlocked his whole body and everything was so easy and clearly made sense! I was so excited I literally said out loud " I love you Heather Akers!"

There are things to be learned everywhere and you just have to be willing to try new things and maybe make a mistake but learn from it. You might find your massage therapist being the best dressage trainer you have had all season! I gotta go I have the horse communicator on line 1! Just kidding ... sorta :)

Saturday, December 25, 2010


Christmas haircut!

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Merry Christmas!

For the last several years I have spent christmas with my horses and this year is no different. As long as I can remember I have loved spending the day doing the horses in the am and then carrying on to whom ever is hosting all the "stray's" for dinner! Some of my best christmas's were at the O'Conners where every working student,groom, rider, family member of any of those were welcome to a feast! I have hosted christmas's at my farm, eaten with landlords, neighbors etc.. It always amazes me how many people open their family's doors. To me christmas really is the more the merrier and every added person, dog,horse, kid adds some more color to the day. Chrissy and I did the barn this morning and now zeppo and I are off to my boyfriends farm to help clip a horse ( he does not get the day off)then back to finish up my barn then a short walk to Dana's (owns my farm) to spend christmas with
her 2 kids, husband,parents, the guys that work in the barn 4 dogs,2 turtles,1 guinea pig,4 chickens,some type of mouse,1 hamster and a turkey ( I don't think the turkey is a pet ;) ) .. Now that's some color! My family is on both sides of the country. My dad and brother are in california and my mom and jim are in NC. I will see everyone sometime between now and the new year but after having a "horse daughter" for 29 years they know christmas is spent with the horses. They used to come visit but I'm not shy in handing out pitchforks so now I get the invites to see them and leave the horses behind! Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! Xx

Merry Christmas!!!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Dreams of Palm Trees

I remember my first trip south like it was yesterday when actually it was about 10 years ago!!( that just shocked me hang on need a second.... ok) This was when I was 19 and was a working student for Stuart Black. I stayed in a luxurious RV with 3 other workers. Maya slept on the couch, Erika slept on the hanging bed over the drivers seat, Mel had an actual bed in the back and I slept on the table that turned into a bed fit for a midget. After the first week we stopped apologizing to each other for running into one another bc it was just a given if ya move your gonna hit someone. It became completely normal to be brushing your teeth in your flip flops bc "something" was leaking causing there to be an inch of water on the shag carpeted floor and it was easy to ignore what ever the "prehistoric teradactyl skeeter" was that was buzzing around your head. We were all troopers and laughed more than we cried, rode a lot of horses and lived on laffy taffys, little debbie cakes and coffee( maybe that was just me living on the gas station diet ... o'well!).. That was my first Florida experience and I find my self here 10 years later (Whoa need another second...... ok ) in the role of Professional Rider trying to organize the trip south for my horses, my students, my employees, my dog and whatever animals decide to make the trip with us ( I have had a few strays show up in the tack room of the trailer a few hours down the road!)

The hardest thing about the move south is first finding a barn that you can rent for 2-3 months, this is not an ideal situation for anyone who is leasing the property. Then to find housing for not only yourself but your help and your dogs, your helps dogs , working students, students coming for a week, someone willing to rent you a place knowing you are a horse person( we don't have the cleanest reputation) and that you will only be there a few months. Next is transporting all the beast and everything that goes with them .... a lot of times including jumps. Unless your lucky enough to own two of everything, there is only so much packing that can happen before the last moment. So christmas cheer easily turn's into packing fear! With all this being said I will say these are good stesses to have in tough times like these. Whenever I feel like I just cant get things in order I just look at my horses, my black and white dog, all the people in my life and the holiday cheer comes right back and I proceed to stress about christmas shopping, like a normal person!

I have gone to Aiken for the past two years and before that I was in England. First I do not recommend going to England for the winter ;) But Aiken I do really like. It is a charming town, the events are plentiful and very close to most horse farms and its fairly affordable.

The winter is a time that I like to sharpen up my tools. For a few months I can be competing, watching and talking on a day to day basis with other Professionals. At home in NJ I love being a bit secluded from mainstream Eventing but I do crave knowledge on how everyone else is "doing it". Going south is a bit of "me" time where I can take lessons and observe the rest of the eventing world. This year I find myself wanting to go back to my "roots" with some of my nice young horses and also fine tune my top horse Tate. This leads me back to Florida. I have rented a barn bordering David and Karen O'Connors facility and that feels like home to me. I have some very nice young horses I feel could really benefit from the solid foundation work the O'Connors put on there youngsters. I also am a short drive from Wellington where I plan on making several trips to work with Katie Prudant for Tate and my show jumping.

There was once a wealthy buisness man who was asked what would you do if you lost all your money? He responded " I would borrow $1000 and hang out with millionairs for a month and then I would be a millionair again" Surround yourself with people you admire and aspire to be and you will be. For me this winter being with OCET again will be my loaned $1000.

I have put a lot of thought into doing what is best for the horses, my buisness and myself this winter. It is hard when having a horse like Tate not to just leave all the others behind and take him to wellington to train with the top dressage and jumper trainers 24/7. When you have a nice horse people have opinions and I have been told on more than one occation Wellington would be the route to go. Its also hard not to go to Aiken where the training sessions will be and I can compete every other day for 4 weeks straight. But I truly think it is all a balance.

I think working with the tops in all the disciplines is very important.. in moderation. I think competing at many events is important.. in moderation. I also think putting a focus on my program as a whole keeping all of my horses and students in sight is important for keeping the balance needed to be successful for more than just a moment. I also think that balance will complement and help Tate so much more than being too intense, then I lose my perspective. So for me this year Ocala seems to be the center of balance for the needs of my horses this winter. I also plan on only being gone for around 6 weeks due to many of my students who can not head south for the winter and need a consistent coach in the picture. I am very fortunate to be in the situation I am in with all of these wonderful things to manage. Now I look very fondly back on the RV days and I realize how all the funny and less than spoiled moments are helping keep things on track.. in 10 years from now ( whoaa......) who knows what ill be writting about!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Monday, December 13, 2010

Fireside chats

I have just returned from the annual convention in Arizona and as always the meetings are normally interesting, the bar is normally entertaining but the "fireside chats" are inspiring.

For years I did not attend the conventions because I honestly thought if I was going to take three or four days off in the winter,I was going to spend it in the bloody sun not talking about horses! My first convention was in New Orleans and two things came out of that convention for me, PRO ( the professional riders organization) and a hell of a good time on bourbon street. PRO was the result of several people getting together and throwing ideas around about how to improve the sport and PRO is now making huge strides in improving sponsors, education, event organization, prize money and overall awareness in Eventing. Arizona being my third convention I am still seeing my piers sitting around "pontificating" ways to help our sport improve. It is the color coated scheduled meetings that inspire the ideas from my idols, my friends and myself when we are sitting around the fire in the evening that keep me coming back for more.

When I walked into the hotel I was sent a text from my best friend/Canadian WEG rider Rebecca Howard to come out to the courtyard. On my way out I ran into old friends Clark and Jess Montgomery( Clark has just been named to the Developing Rider list with some exciting horses), Michael Pollard, Doug Payne and Buck Davidson. I said a quick hello and carried onto the table where Rebecca sat with Max C(karens head groom and long time friend), Cathy W(advanced rider and friend), Vix ( a loyal groom for OC's now turned profesional and close friend), Jan Byynne(no introduction need she is just great and endlessly inspiring) and Stephanie Goodman ( a Pro. and friend based in Idaho now that used to be in middleburg). Just then walked up David and Karen O'Connor with Eventing Nation John caddying their golf bag from the golf course. At this point I am thinking this is what the Convention is about. If someone could have taped the conversations happening even at just these two tables im sure books could be written ( maybe not ones we would allow written but a cross between Jilly Cooper and 101 jumping exercises!) The evenings to follow covered discussions of how to bridge the gap between Young Rider's and Developing Rider's, How to pick a charity to donate funds to, Syndicates, Picking the next coach and how to develop a team with more depth,honesty, humility, dealing with tragedy, dealing with success and all the amazing and devastating experiences that as horse people we are lucky enough to experience.
I was not overly impressed with Ollie Townends speech. I like Ollie and have had several experiences with him over the past few years in England,US and even Canada ( at the Royal last year) and all I will say is that I do not think someone should write a biography until they are old enough not only to have had experiences but to have enough age to have gained perspective. The same I think of the role as keynote speaker at the Convention. Ollie has had plenty of experiences but right now his perspective is enough to convey an entertaining story but not one with depth.. ill hang out with him at the bar any day that being said.
I am going to finish this blog with an excerpt from a book I have been reading called " The Fighters Mind" . It is a book on the psychology on MMA(mixed martial arts) fighters. The fighting sport is amazingly similar to eventing in the terms of one day you could be champion and the next day TKO! This bit I hold close to my heart after listening to the WEG recap and in the power of "investing in loss"
" Greatness in sports is born in the moment. It is situational. Its not inherent to the athlete with the most ability,or the most dominance, and its not just about the championship (though that added pressure is essential). It's about the pure moment,the transcendence of time and place, when an athlete or a team performs miraculously under the most intense pressure, against insurmountable odds. The situation rises out of sports but speaks to universal truths and emotions, an attainment of the divine, touched by grace ( indeed miraculous). The moment steps out of time,into history, it becomes important to everyone."
This quote may resignate more with the canadians than americans but to me it says that winning and greatness is not a "given" it is a rarity. I feel very disappointed in WEG's and even Hong Kong. I feel as Americans we presume we are great because we work hard and want "it" but so does everyone else. We have been humbled and humility will again lead to greatness because now we are ready to listen and learn. As Marylin Payne said at the convention " we did fine but we just need to get better" I look forward to London and hope to do my part and do as rapper/singer/song writer Lauren Hill sung "flip a negative into a positive picture" . I am so looking forward to the 2011 season there is a new hunger in the air and I expect great things from not only my country but myself.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Clinic Time!

I am just running out the door to Millis, MA home of Apple Knoll Farm and Adrienne Iorio. I am teaching a two day clinic there. Adrienne has competed at the 4 star level of the sport and now runs Apple Knoll teaching students, training and competing horses as well as running clinics and shows... not to mention Adrienne is the mother of 2! I'm excited to check out the farm I have heard great things.
This time of the year I tend to almost run around more than normal trying to spend time catching up on teaching, clinics and expanding on things that maybe a busy competition schedule does not allow time for.
Last month at Hart farm myself and friend/Sports Psychologist, Scottie Reeves ran a "mental game" clinic. The clinic involved Scottie watching warm up sessions taught by me and analyzed the students ability to learn and process information. We then sent them into a course simulating a show type situation and watched to see how they applied what they had learned. Each student then had a 30 min session with Scottie to discuss their ride. This was a first time thing for Scottie and I. It seemed to be very educational for all involved, including Scottie and myself!
Next Thursday I am off to the annual convention in Arizona which I am looking forward to. All the ponies are on fine form and Tate is back in walking action! Gotta get on the road Ciao Ciao :)