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.