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 :) !


How much is an extra axel really worth

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Day 3... Success!

Alarm clock... zeppo(my dog) is taking up more than half of my single bed in the carlton arms. My phone comes to life.. boyfriend text ( he starts work at 5am so text begin early)... email from pnut in NZ ( they are in the middle of the day when we are in the middle of the night)... facebook message from someone in Aiken curious if I need I am there and need my horses acupunctured?....text message from a student curious about putting her horse on dream horse or equine now..... Snooze or Dismiss..... Dismiss.....brush teeth .. cup of tea.... blackberry messenger from Megan... " are you on your way Tate has some fill in his hind legs".... " I'm five minutes away"- me....7:15am ... today started like any other day......

Today I had my last training session with Mark at 9am and thank god we got to jump! I have only had a few jump schools with Tate since Boekelo and the focus has been more on single fences than course work. When horses get to the advanced level every jump counts. Meaning that I want my horse to last as long as possible so I plan every jump and what I want that jump to accomplish. I don't waste my horses legs trying to improve "my eye" or "my position" or to "try it one more time to be sure".. every jump counts. I knew today I would be putting some jumps together and was eager but also not entirely sure where Tate's confidence stood after his trip abroad.

So I arrived at the barn and looked at Tate's legs which to me are like the back of my own palm.. but Megan being good at her job and new to Tate was aware that there was a change and quickly informed me. We trotted Tate up and as I had assumed he moved perfectly but just had some fill from a hard work out and a night in the stall. I then put on the kettle, sat down on the Haygain ( which not only removes all mold spores from hay and pretty much eliminates respiratory issues caused by mold, dust and other allergens... but also makes a warm seat in the morning!) and discussed with Meg the plan for the day with the other 11 horses in the barn other than Tate ...

I went over for my lesson and I was greeted with the pleasant surprise that Karen's lesson on Mandiba was running late. I got to watch most of this flat lesson which not many people are lucky enough to do at 9 am on a Saturday morning. Tate felt great through our whole lesson and fortunately there is not much to discuss. He jumped like a million bucks and the main topic of conversation was the possibility of double studding him on the outside of his shoes for Kentucky and possibly Burghley in the fall... I like that conversation....

After my lesson I got on a young horse that proceeded to try and drop me in the field about 20 times and then my phone started making those familiar sounds.... you are only as good as your last ride.. for about 15 minutes I was a four star rider on the track to the Olympic games... that was fun... then back to reality and back to the balance of it all ... which makes those 15 minutes of High Performance so so sweet.....

I have come away from these sessions a better horseman, communicator and hopefully competitor. I am looking forward to the next few weeks where I can put what I have learned into practice and then start this whole thing over again! xx

Friday, February 4, 2011

Day 2 We have a plan

My day started with an email from my friend P-Nut in New Zealand wishing me the best of luck and letting me know she was supporting me 100%, that was followed by an ever supportive facebook post from Patricia at Ecogold (Patricia is the one who has urged me to keep up with my blogs and promised me people actually do read them!) and several phone calls, texts and responses to yesterdays blog. It is a really great feeling to have everyone from close friends and family to people I have not yet met connecting in some way to the little stories I have to tell. So thank you to everyone for sticking by me even when things are not so hot!
On to today's session....

Today started with a meeting with the USOC. The USOC( United States Olympic Committee) provides Olympic sports with a sports psychologist, a strength and conditioning coach and a nutritionist. Eventers have not really taken advantage of this, but with the theme of trying to modernize our sport the USOC's goals to make us more well rounded athletes fits hand and glove with these training sessions. So my morning started with a chat with the sports psych. ironic after yesterdays mental struggles!

The first thing we discussed was that I tend to over analyze in the dressage arena and lose my perspective on my priority. Sean and I made a plan to find a "technical neutral zone" basically when I feel my mind starting to go in an unproductive way on the flat I change my focus to something technical that I can rely on. For me this is sinking down in my heels, shoulder blades down and back, heavy elbows and look around the ring ( not over focus on my horses head!).. Then once I have achieved a technical neutral to focus on something in the future about to happen like a movement or the goal I am working toward.. for example if the trot is feeling "not right" focus on the trot I need for a canter transition. This plan I feel will work really well to keep me positive and forward thinking. The other thing that Sean said that kept repeating in my head was "to be aggressive you must be relaxed" I used that all day on my horses anytime one got tense or difficult I thought relax first then my timing was much better.

When going into my lesson today I felt like I had much more of a plan. I had watched the videos from yesterday so I knew what Mark was after and I had a good sports psych. chat so had a bit of a mental game ready for action if things got complicated. The beginning of the lesson went well we started in a great place and got right to work ( not one comment on stiff arms or bad hands YES!) toward the end of the lesson we got into a bit of a ... beating my head against a wall.. moment. The Captain was trying to get me to collect the canter but the way he was asking me to do it was not making sense in my head and certainly not in the french princess's (tate). I eventually stopped and pretty much said "I don't understand what your asking me to do" to which he responded " I know you can do this" to which I said " I know I can do it as long as I know what I am supposed to be doing".. here was a moment that got a little uncomfortable but sometimes this feeling leads to great things which today it did....

I had a discussion earlier in the day with David trying to figure out a way to communicate better and understand things quicker with Mark. He basically said you have to figure out a common vocabulary so that when you get to the ring at Kentucky you guys are not talking a different language. One of the hard things about these sessions is that you have only a few days to develop a relationship with the person you will be counting on to help you at some of the most important competitions in your life. So today The Captain and I had a bit of a communication block but we worked through it. After talking for a second about the theory behind what Mark wanted me to do I applied some of my own education on a way to make it easier for a resistant horse to collect. Bingo I went haunches in when Mark wanted me to collect this made sense to Tate, Mark said " That's it, you got it" then I explained what I was doing to "get it" and he applied his theory to why the haunches in was helping and the steps that needed to come next to get the "tool" of collecting more true in days to come. Huge learning moment not only in collecting the canter but communicating with the captain!

So I feel on day two I have a plan...I have some mental games to work on to help keep my focus well directed, I am trying to lay a communication foundation between the Captain and I so I can take full advantage of all the knowledge he has to offer, and my nutritionist says i need a multi-vitamin!

Jumping tomorrow... I ll try and get some pictures ... thanks again for the support!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Frustrated in a Field

I have not posted in a bit because we have been going at a rapid pace since hitting Florida. Things have been going great and the first event has come and gone with most of the horses performing well for their first outing but today I had a very frustrating day.

Today started our winter training sessions with Captain Mark Philips. I have been very fortunate for the last few years and have maintained a spot on the listed horse and rider combinations that benefit from funded lessons, recieving some training grants and last year was able to travel to Holland to compete. As we all know potential is easy to sell but at some point you gotta perform!

After Holland I was dropped from High Performance to Developing Rider due to a less than good show jumping round at Boekelo. It took me a bit to wrap my head around the decision due to the fact that I feel my horse is better than that one show jump round.. But that being said I just need to be better and not give anyone a reason not to put me on a list. So I kept my mouth shut and have been more than dedicated to fill the gaps in Tates training.... no excuses.

Since being in florida I have taken a few lessons with David who promptly told me my hands are technically not good now and that with Tate I need to keep his frame up, get him to take the bit and "sit at the end of the reins" . Tate is incredibly difficult to get to take a contact he tends to curl and sit right behind the bit... This makes communticating in the dressage ring like bad cell phone reception and you are trying to get your point across when you know only every other word is getting through. So in attempts to get my hands more steady to encourage Tate to take the rein I have been riding with a dressage whip held horizontally in both hands and with a very short rein. I felt like things were going very well or at least headed in the right direction until today...

Upon trotting into the ring today with the Captain his first comments were to put tate lower, to lenghthen my reins and that my arms are now incredibly stiff. Since starting tate back this winter I have been looking forward to the sessions to prove how much Tate and I had improved .. this was not going to happen today. Seems while trying to keep my hands still my whole arm has become stiff and in riding Tate so "up" I have lost some ability to have him push from behind.. While trying to figure out exactly what my priority should be in the beggining of the lesson I was slow to react and the captain was quick to point out that by the time he has to tell me to do something its already three strides to late. Frustration is setting in....

By the end of the lesson things started to click I got my prioritys straight, my arms bent and my horse pushing through. I stopped and expressed to Mark that I felt I needed a more concrete plan with Tates warm up. We always get somewhere at the end of the lesson but the begining always feels inconsistant, like the conversation is always changing. He promplty told me "the conversation will always change but the feeling should be the same". With that I came home and watched clips from last years training sessions and this years and realized that Tate is a completley different and better horse than last year. When uping your game and pushing yourself slightly out of your comfort zone one tends to feel as though they are actually regressing. Last year I remember not being able to complete a half pass the full lenth of the arena. Mark l said "it doesnt have to be perfect, get two good steps then move on" reconizing Tates greeness. Today I got in trouble because Tates shoulder fell in about a half an inch in the half pass that was accomplished in half of the arena. Mark asked if I felt it I said " a little bit" he responded " there is no such thing as a little bit, do it again".

The "conversation" is changing but my "feeling" of being hungry to win and desperate to improve is the same and sometimes frustrating. Today I left the ring near tears. Tonight I am willing tomorrow to come so I can do it better. I am also trying to keep some perspective so that I dont waste energy being frustrated but accept that to improve one must keep pushing outside of their comfort zone. So cheers to being uncomfortable and to good cell phone reception! xx

Friday, January 21, 2011

Made it!!

Well we finally made it down to Ocala after quite the journey. Turns out the day we were planning on leaving the weather decided to dump 12 inches of snow on NJ, making it pretty much impossible to get out on schedule. I also had another small thing to figure out,, a truck ,,, being that mine was sitting broken down in North Carolina. My very kind mother lent me her car to get back from NC when my truck died. So I needed to figure out how to get 8 horses in the van and on the road, borrow a truck to pull my trailer, get someone to drive my moms car to NC , not to mention packing up the barn, the house,2 dogs,1 groom/manager,1 working student and 1 student who kindly offer to drive the car all in themiddle of one of the biggest snow storms of the season.... But when the sunny south is calling your name you get on the weather channel , find a break in the weather and press the pedal on the right!

Jill Lukens a student of mine, kindly showed up at my barn at 12pm on Wednesday to follow me down to NC to drop off the car. Dana Callinan ( my barn owner) lent me her truck so we put two horses and equipment in my trailer and headed south when there was a break in the weather, around 2 pm. Megan and Sarah stayed behind to meet the shipper who was coming at 7pm to pick up the remaining 8 horses. Jill and I got to the fork around 2 am and quickly dropped off the car to my mom who woke up long enough to give us some snacks for the remaining 10 hours and we were off again. We arrived to our farm in Ocala around 11:00am after a straight 21 hours driving. We were welcomed by a beautiful 21 stall barn backing onto the O'Connors amazing facility and not a bit of snow in sight! We quickly organized the equipment and prepared the stalls for the horses that would be arriving later in the afternoon. We then ran to get the key to the apartment before the office at the Carlton Arms closed. As soon as I sat down to sign the lease the shippers called and said that the horses would be arriving in less than an hour. Thankfully the ladies at the apartment gave me the keys and without even seeing the apartment we were back to the barn to greet the horses ( we at this point had been up around 30 hours.. things were getting fuzzy). The horses all traveled fantastic and I was so excited to see all of them. Its amazing how difficult it is to just send your "kids" off with strangers for such a long journey.. but the guys at Meadow Brook horse transport were amazing and took great care of all the horses.
Jill and I got everyone out in the fields at least for an hour while we organized blankets and grain.We got everyone tucked in bed around 7pm then we managed to crawl into our apartment, order pizza and pass out! Megan and Sara had gotten on the road around 4 am Thursday to head to Ocala and very kindly offered to stop by the barn and check on the horses to make sure everyone was happy and healthy after there long journey.Then next morning we all ventured out to the barn at 8 am with coffee in our hands,sunscreen in our bags and smiles on our faces ready to start the 2011 season in Ocala, Florida!!!

Huge Shout out to Jill who some how managed to get into the truck Friday night and drive 20 more hours back to NJ! Thanks to Meadow Brook for getting my horses south in fine form and to my girls Meg and Sara fro working about 2 days straight with great attitudes!!... and to my mom for the snacks and car :)

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

In an eventing barn especially being a young professional saying "no" is rarely an option. To make it to the top networking is important and to survive financially teaching is vital. Fortunately I like people and I enjoy teaching. But the only way Im able to keep my horses and clients happy is to have above average help. Someone that can think on their feet, make good decisions, work a very long day, be personable to the clients,love the horses and be able to put up with me! It is vital that when Im away from the barn I am confident that the horses are being managed properly or else I can not pay attention to what im doing. I am sad to say that chrissy, my right hand lady has left to pursue another path. I have been so lucky to have her for the last year and I wish her all the happiness in the world! She knows I am her number one fan and will be here if she ever needs me. I also feel like I have someone out there that loves and supports my horses and I even if she is not right here in the barn.
I know the life of a groom is a very difficult one and it takes such a particular person. Every barn is different. Some yards run where the Professional and Groom have no personal relationship it is just a job, some professionals do it all themselves, some that have working students, stall muckers,moms or dads that help. Some barns run 7 am till 4pm no matter what, some run 6am - god knows when, some 5 day weeks some 7 day weeks. All I know is every barn is different in how they handle there staff. I have been very lucky with help. I had my first working student when I was about 21 and we both slept in my goose neck trailer ( with no living just a mattress) and took showers in the barn. Things have changed a bit since and I have over trial and tribulation come up with whats important to me with the work dynamic in my barn.
1. Horses have to be happy, Clients need to be happy, my help needs to be happy and I need to be happy. Communication, hard work, success, sleep, laughter and cups of tea help keep everyone fresh and enjoying the day. Unfortunately it is hard sometimes its hard to achieve all these things when you have a lame horse,no money, a 57 score in a training dressage test, its to hot or its to cold, the footings bad, there are to many horses and not enough fields, there are not enough horses to pay for the fields, your truck has blown up, that one person in the indoor never looks where their going, you dont have an indoor... all these things are why being a groom is even harder because you have to deal with the rider that is dealing with these things and be in a good mood!
I am lucky to say Megan kep ( formally Doug Paynes head girl) has agreed to come on board and take Chrissy's role. Megan and I have been friends since she moved to NJ. She got thrown into the deep end pretty quickly in her first year grooming. She had to learn at rapid pace while traveling to Holland, having up to 8 horses at 1 day competitions, cope with Dougs rapidly growing business and figure out her own personal role and goals in the sport of eventing. She and Doug finished on good terms and I think megans out of the box thinking, problem solving mentality and genuine love of the horses will be a great match for my operation.
oh yes and RIP my Red Truck it has been laid to rest in Norwood,NC after a long battle with... Everything !!
I loved you 2010 but Im excited to get to know you 2011!