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.