Posted in Dressage, Featured Rider

Emily and Goose – Journey to the National Dressage Pony Cup

I recently wrote about the connections I have made with riders from across the world via Instagram, one such rider is Emily Grimstead. The first thing you will undoubtedly notice when you scroll through Emily’s feed is her spunky, spotty pony Goosebumps or Goose for short. 


Emily and Goose recently returned from a very successful trip to the National Dressage Pony Cup, where they competed in the USDF Training Level and musical freestyle classes.

Despite growing up with a horsey mother, it took Emily a few years to overcome her fear of horses and start riding at the age of 10, “I think I was just nervous about riding something so high off the ground. I was a timid rider for a long time. I’ve always been more comfortable on smaller horses and ponies”.  

During her years as a rider Emily has tried her hand at most equestrian sports from showing her first horse, Cory a purebred Arabian (who is now 30!) to Western pleasure to hunter/jumpers and found dressage accidentally. “There was a dressage clinic at the camp on Valentine’s Day in 2015 and I just fell in love with the sport! Now, I could never go back to a different discipline. Dressage is just so fun and challenging; there is just so much to learn!”

Although Goose, now 17, keeps Emily on her toes as he continues to come up with new ‘tricks’, he has come a long way from the dangerous pony that Cindy Bellis-Jones rescued from slaughter. Cindy said, “There are just ponies that through no fault of their own have travelled down the wrong path and find themselves in a bad situation. They come in all colors, but share a common denominator of needing a helping hand to get back to a better place. Goose was one of those ponies. I tried to look past the surface and instead see what the pony really was. Goose needed a purpose. That is what I saw. His color, although quite neat, really didn’t influence my decision [to save him]. He would have travelled back to my farm in any color.”

Goose when he was purchased by Emily’s mum
The first meeting between Emily and Goose happened by chance, as he was agisted at the barn where Emily was riding.  Although she didn’t ride him at the time, it was love at first sight, “He just had the sweetest personality!” When the owners put the barn and horses up for sale some years later, Emily’s mother, who teaches begginer riding lessons at a Girl Scout camp, purchased him with the intention of using him in the program. However, this wasn’t quite the right job for Goose who true to his pony nature would be naughty and quite difficult for the young riders to manage. So Emily took him on as her own project, and he flourished with the consistency of one rider. 

The journey from rescue pony to Breed Champion at Pony Cup was not without some bumps in the road. At their first competition together, Emily recalls, “Goose was so naughty that he had to be led into the arena by my husband! We also had some serious trailering issues that we had to work through to get him there.”

Emily and Goose at their first competition
Emily discovered the National Dressage Pony Cup when investigating what opportunities existed for adults who ride dressage ponies. With this goal in mind Emily went from being a weekend rider to working hard and riding about five days per week. She says that “The prospect of going [to the National Pony Cup] really motivated me to push harder as an equestrian and to try to be a better rider”.

For Emily the highlight of her time at the Pony Cup was receiving the high point Appaloosa pony breed award at the competitor’s dinner. “It was a complete surprise and I am so thankful. Having Goosebumps win a beautiful champion neck sash was just a dream come true!”

Emily and Goose competing at the National Dressage Pony Cup
I asked Emily what she has learned during her journey and her response could not have been more perfect, “Have patience. Correct training takes a lot of time and it is just as strange and difficult for our horses to learn new things as it is for us as riders. I feel like it has taken over two years just to get to a place where a lot of other riders start out. But accomplishing a goal on a pony that you trained yourself? There is no better feeling!”

Posted in Nutrition and Fitness

The other equestrian athlete

As I watched Nonie fall asleep under the therapytic touch of our incredible equine body worker Penny, I couldn’t help but giggle. While my horse gets fairly regular tune ups to keep her supple and fit, I have never had a massage.

You’ll often here equestrians joke that their horses diet has been analysed and balanced through the latest high tech computer program, while they grab McDonald’s on the way home from the barn. 

Photo Credit Emily Cole – to be clear there is nothing wrong with cupcakes or McDonalds

Nonie works through a range of exercises five to six days per week aimed at optimising her suppleness, physical fitness and building strength. I other the other hand participate in non horse related exercise on a sporadic basis.

Our horses are athletes and we care for them accordingly. Us as riders? Historically we have forgotten that we are the other equestrian athlete. But there is a rising awareness in the broader equine community about the importance of rider fitness and nutrition. As a dietitian this fills me with equal parts excitement and dread. Optimising fitness and nutrition can offer advantages in the competition arena. Although I dare say that the nutrition side of things looks very different than many would expect. That is to say that for a sport such a horse riding extreme measures do not need to be taken and the results may not be visible.


My fear is that this message has been contorted into something that it was never meant to be. We live in a society where our cultural obsession with thinness has seeped into our understanding of health and our perception of what an athlete should look like. But you cannot possibly determine a persons health, fitness or athletic ability by looking at them. I fear that for some riders their pursuit of becoming the best athlete they can be is a facade for their desire to meet society’s ridiculous beauty ideals, and all to often they themselves may not realise this.

I want to open up the conversation about body image within the equestrian community, I want to talk about the myth that you have to look a certain way to be a good rider and I do want to share some no nonsense nutrition information with the aim of improving performance NOT manipulating and controlling your body. 

Posted in Equestrian Fashion, Product Review

Super Staples – Samshield Helmet Review

As one of my favourite instagramers @joful_dressage once asked, “Is it wrong to love an inanimate object”? Well I am not sure that she ever had that question answered, but I do know that I am in love with my new Samshield.

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As anyone who knows me will attest, this is nothing short of a miracle. My life as an equestrian has been made somewhat less comfortable by my oddly shaped head coupled with my inability to find a helmet which works with this. I guess this is somewhat ironic as I am a huge advocate for wearing helmets, each and every time, all riders swing their leg over a horse.

The year before last, thinking I was onto a winner I handed over an ungodly amount of money only to find out a few months later that the helmet would no longer be ‘competition legal’ after December 2016 due to the updated safety standards in Europe. Early in 2017, I proceed to buy a second helmet of the same brand after being assured that the design had not changed. But alas it had changed rather significantly and no longer fit my head. So the search for my ‘Cinderella helmet’ began once again. It was on my recent trip down south that I found my perfect match – helmet wise that is!

Here’s what makes the Samshield is such a great helmet.

  1. Light weight. One of the first things that you will notice when you pick this helmet up is just how light it is. You could be forgiven for forgetting it is on your head.
  2. Ventilation. The first couple of rides I had in my Samshield were really windy days, the sensation of air swirling around was somewhat bizarre. However after a few weeks riding in this helmet, including a few mid afternoon rides, and removing my helmet without my hair being plastered to my head with sweat was rather refreshing. I know that moving into summer in a much cooler helmet will make riding a lot more pleasant. But don’t worry if you live in a colder climate, there is a warm liner option too!
  3. Elegance. In matters of style I’ll take elegance and simplicity over flash any day of the week, as such it is no surprise that The Samshield is right down my alley. All of the Samshield helmets have beautiful lines, from the line over the top of the helmet, to the harness of the helmet.
  4. Velcro chin strap. This is a feature that I initially thought looked a bit odd, but having ridden in this helmet for a few weeks, I realise that this feature is nothing short of genius. If I had a dollar for every time I had to tighten the chin strap on any other helmet, I’d be rich! Hmm not quite… Nonetheless, I love the fact that the strap holding the helmet on my head does not budge!
  5. Countless options for customisation. While I went with the Navy Shadowmatt sans Swarovski crystals, a quick browse of the My Samshield page highlights just how many options there are to customise these already beautiful helmets. http://www.samshield.com/configurator/

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It’s safe to say the next helmet I buy will be a Samshield.

 

 

 

Posted in Dressage, Training

A lesson in simplicity

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When the opportunity to train with Aussie icon Brett Parbery lined up with the Easter long weekend, I knew I wanted to be there. I’ve been a long-time fan of Brett Parbery, having watched him on horses such as Victory Salute and Aber Halo 29. Brett lives and trains in New South Wales Australia, but regularly competes in Europe. Last year he was one of six Australian’s competing for a place on the Australian Olympic Dressage Team, this is no small feat for someone based in Australia.

On Good Friday, my co-pilot Steve and I embarked on the 12 hour drive from Mackay to the Sunshine Coast and arrived at ‘Riverlyn’ which would be Nonie’s home for the next week at about 7pm that night. With my first lesson scheduled for Saturday afternoon, Mum had kindly arranged for Nonie to have a massage (which just so happens to be one of her favourite things), to help relieve the strain of the previous days lengthy journey.

My coach Dani hosted the clinic at her beautiful property on the Sunshine Coast Hinterland. You enter the stunning property via a solid wooden gate edged by a sparsely wooded area. The pure white sand arena overlooks a gentle valley and one of the properties two dams.

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When the horse and rider combination prior to me finished their lesson and Brett looked down at his list and called my name, I have to admit I nearly fan girled out. Nearly! But what struck me almost immediately about Brett was his relaxed and down to earth manner. We got stuck straight in with Brett asking, “What would you like to work on today?” I explained that we had recently started work on the flying changes, but that I also felt that Nonie would benefit from increased mobility through her shoulders. To me, it was the lack of mobility that had been contributing to some difficulty in the lateral movements especially the canter half pass. It was at this point that Brett asked me the question I dread, “What aids do you use to move the shoulders?” Now I am not sure why, but at this point my mind went almost entirely blank and I stuttered out some answer about how I use the outside rein and leg to guard the shoulders. Brett went on to explain that our hands and shoulders control the horses shoulders, while our legs control he quarters – of course this was not new to me. A coach, Linda Van Den Bosch, who happens to be a very successful western trainer and rider, that I have worked closely with previously has drilled this into me.

Given that I was well warmed up Brett had us go straight into canter and we began to look at straightness in the canter. The exercise was simple, I visualised a box around Nonie and myself, and my job was to ensure that Nonie stayed straight within this box and bring her back into it if she strayed outside the box, but to leave her alone once she was inside it. Almost instantly I felt Nonie soften and compress, the canter was easier to sit but still felt active. We then took this feeling down the long side and asked for some gentle shoulder fore, and our line fell apart. Brett reminded me that it was my responsibility to keep her barrel on the line with my leg – we are still working on this one.

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The next step was to begin using half halts to collect the canter, while the overall use of my position in the half halt was similar to what my coach Dani had taught me, Brett had me think about the half halt starting from between my shoulder blades and lightening my seat. I was surprised and delighted when I felt Nonie’s frame and stride compact and her back lift up underneath my seat.

Over the course of the two lessons we had a look at the flying changes, whilst I have felt these become much easier to ride as I allow myself to relax mentally, they are not there yet. Brett gave me some home work for these. The first and most important thing was to ensure that at all times Nonie stays on my line, at my rhythm and tempo, no exceptions. If she alters from either of these I need to ‘abort’ the change and bring her back to my line/rhythm/tempo. He also highlighted that the flying changes are just a simple change without the walk transition and that our aid for the flying change should have the same amount of pressure/lightness as that for a walk canter. It sounds obvious now that it is written down, but at the time the simplicity of this statement felt like a revolution.

Brett showed me a few different exercises  to improve the preparation for the changes, including riding a line from the long side across to the centreline and taking her across to the new flexion all the while focusing on maintaining my canter. I instantly saw how helpful this exercise would be in improving the changes.

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While Nonie and I have ridden in Dani’s arena a number of times, this particular weekend Nonie found something greatly offensive in the bottom corner. On day one we largely ignored this, however when she continued to spook and run away from it on the second day, Brett brought us back to the walk asking if Nonie often spooked. Brett explained, that there are two aspects to a spook, speed and line and if we can control those two things we can control the spook. When Nonie began to speed up and come away from the long side of the arena in her spook we brought her back to walk and then made her halt in front of the spot that she found particularly offensive. After doing this a few times I began to feel Nonie relax and we were then able to ride straight past the spot without issue.

The thing that really stood out to me from these lessons was the importance of simplicity. As the saying goes, “Any darn fool can make something complex, it takes a genius to make something simple”. He explained to me how all of the higher level movements, even piaffe is simply a combination of lower level aids applied in a new sequence. I learnt so much during these lessons, it was worth every kilometre of the drive and I cannot wait until Brett comes back up to Queensland.

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Unit next time, happy riding. xo

Posted in Dressage, Training

Flying Changes and Mind Games

Toward the end of last year, Nonie and I started work on the changes. Flying changes!!! Being deemed ready to ride this brand new movement felt like a huge accomplishment, it felt like we had arrived! Having now started them, I can’t help but feel that my initial eagerness belied my naivety. I have come to understand that the changes are a challenge which require strength, relaxation and timing. There is an additional layer of challenge because you either complete one or you don’t. Sure there are varying levels of excellence within this movement however learning to ride the changes is vastly different from other skills where you are able to gradually develop them. For instance, when beginning shoulder in you may feel a glimmer of brilliance before it slips through your fingers, you continue to build upon that feeling until suddenly you can ride a whole long side in shoulder in.
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The changes started well under the watchful and analytical eye of our coach Dani Keogh, but when we started to work on them on our own it was a different story. We would warm up well and progress on to school the flying changes. After achieving maybe one or two each way that were fine Nonie would brace against me, take over and speed off. Maybe because she is an exuberant horse, or more likely this was the natural result of me asking with a far bigger aid than required. So I would go home and read articles, watch videos and find a new exercise to try. I would try it a couple of times with success but then Nonie would again take over.
The reason we were struggling with the changes wasn’t necessarily that my position is weak or because Nonie’s canter needed more jump and strength (although in some respects it does), rather it was because whenever tension would enter in the canter work, particularly on the right rein Nonie would push in through her her right shoulder allowing her to brace against me and avoid my aids. Ironically this is the exact issue that Dani had spent a large chunk of time working on with us in our last lesson. Who’d have guessed!
It’s not the first time that I have learnt a lesson in this way where I’ve been told something a million times and then suddenly the lesson clicks and the light bulb goes off! Eureka, we have understanding! I suspect a few factors play into this. I belive that timing is essential and that in order to deeply understand a lesson, we must be in a place were mentally we are ready for it. On the other, it may have more to do with hearing the lesson explained in a way that makes sense. You know how 4+5 equal 9 but 3+6 also equal 9. Or maybe it’s a combination of all of these things.
So I took  a few steps back to focus on the prerequisites for a good change such as the transitions, the balance, the tempo control and keeping her wrapped around my inside leg, and only occasionally asking for a change. This approach did help to create some progress. However I sensed that my mind was also holding me back. This sense came more from past experiences of my mind having got in the way than a true understanding of exactly what was happening at that point in time.
I suspected that a phone call to my performance  and mindset coach Danielle Pooles from Dressage Plus would be helpful. So that was exactly what I did. I have sought Dani’s assistance previously with great success. Anyone who has ridden dressage knows that it takes a great deal of athletic ability, but it equally requires great strength of mind and the ability to remain clear headed under pressure. When learning a new movement or in other situations where our equine partner may be unsure, it is up to us as the rider, to step up and be the leader, and gently guiding our horse to understanding.
Talking through the difficulties I was having with Dani helped me to figure out exactly what was going on, bracing against Nonie, holding tension in my thighs and my mind going blank at the vital moment I needed to ask for the change. We then worked out a strategy, including breathing at critical moments to help manage these issues. I got to try the strategy out the very next day and low and behold I was excited about the prospect of riding the changes rather than being nervous about how she would respond. We only got a quick ride in due to me leaving work late but we managed a calm easy change on each rein, no more speeding up into the change no more barreling down into the reins after the change no more excessive use of aids.
The changes are not yet perfect, but they are certainly improving and at the end of the day that’s all you can ask for. Little improvements each day add up to big changes in the long term (pardon the pun!). This experience has reinforced for me the importance of mindset. Riding is as much a mind game as it is an athletic pursuit.
Until next time, happy riding! x AP
Posted in Dressage, training aid

Equestrian Staples – Whips

Those who know me know that when it comes to my horse no reasonable expense is spared, and really when it comes to your horse pretty much everything is reasonable, right?
One thing I have never been able to bring myself to spend much money on however is the humble dressage whip. After all how much difference can there be between a run of the mill $15 whip and a $100 whip?  Especially when for some unknown reason my whips seem to continually go walk about. This would become expensive very quickly indeed.
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Anyway recently my one remaining whip began to unravel, literally, and I decided to bite the bullet purchase a Fleck Whip.  I have previously heard rave reviews about how well balanced the Fleck whips are, but I had always been quietly skeptical.
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My attempt at repairing my whip with electrical tape and bailing twine (aka the most important tools in a equestrian girls tool kit)
After a quick browse online I decided upon the plain black ‘My Whip’ which seemed reasonably priced at just under thirty dollars. At this price I figured I could justify two, that way I could keep one on hand for daily use and another in my car for when I travel.
Other than the great price, there are two things that I really like about this whip. The first is the nice grippy handle, which still manages to be light. The second is the amount of ‘bounce’ in the whip itself. In contrast to the brittle feeling of the cheaper whips I have used in the past the Fleck whip has a much more supple and soft feel. I think this possibly gives Nonie a softer aid, however I’m not so sure she would agree.
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For those of you who just can’t go past a good bit of bling never fear, there are plenty of sparkly options too!
Hopefully my new whips won’t get lost any time soon, but if they do I certainly only replace them with  a Fleck whip.
Unit next time happy riding! xAP
Posted in Entertainment

Great Equestrian Reads

Ok, confession time, I am a total bookworm. Or at least I am now that I have wrestled my way out from under the mountain of text books and journal articles that were common place during the days of my undergraduate degree. Since I was a young child I have relished in the experience of being transported to another world just by simply picking up a book.
Confession number two is probably unsurprising, but I never quite grew out of the ‘pony mad’ stage, so of course I love nothing more than to bury myself in a good equine read. Sadly well written equestrian novels are few and far between, particularly if you have already read your way through the classics by the likes of Pullein-Thompson sisters.
Since I have done the leg work, I thought I would share a few of my favourite reads with you. Where many other equine novels fall short, these novels excel, they place the horses and the riding front and centre of the plots. They are also far from your average, 12 yo child with a big dream, stumbles across an outrageously talented and conveniently cheap horse, who just also happens to be wild and untrainable, for anyone except that 12yo child that is. And best of all these titles are available on Amazone for Kindle, which means no waiting!

1. The Dressage Chronicles by Karen McGoldrick
The Dressage Chronicles accounts the journey of young and optimistic Lizzy who quits a sensible desk job in order to pursue her passion whilst working for her idol Margot Fanning. This series is exceptional in the way that the writer describes the daily struggles of working with horses, the accidents and mistakes and the occasional triumphs.

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2. The Eventing Trilogy by Caroline Akrill
In the Eventing Trilogy we meet Elaine, who stumbles into the world of eventing through a combination of luck and hard work. The novels follow her journey from working for the eccentric and broke Fane sisters to training in one of the countries elite eventing programs. Originally written in the early 1980’s, these books allow you to slip in the world of eventing and hunting in England, with just a suspicion of romance.

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3. Ride Every Stride by Amy Maltman
What is perhaps most unexpected about this novel is the way the story begins. Jed is a young man at the lowest point of his life when he secures a job as a groom at an elite barn in Canada. While his hard dedication and determination ultimately see him become head trainer, don’t be mistaken, this is no Cinderella story.

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4. The Eventing Series by Natalie Keller Reinert
Jules Thornton loves her horses and the sport of eventing and has raw unharnessed talent, but her bad luck and financial woes might just be her undoing. She is a character who can’t help but get in her own way and you’ll be rooting for her to succeed every step of the way.

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Happy Reading!

Posted in Dressage, Training

I’ll be a good rider when…

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‘I’ll be a good rider when…’ This is a game I used to play a few years ago and it’s about as useful as its companion game ‘If only…’ At that time the script in my head was ‘I’ll be a good rider when I am competing at elementary level’. For quite some time, on three horses, travers had been my Achilles heel and in my mind at least, being able to compete at this level represented overcoming this seemingly insurmountable challenge. But, when Nonie and I actually got to that level, something switched for me. It was as if someone had flicked a light on and I understood that it no longer meant as much to me as it had before. Not only did I realise that riding or competing at a particular level would never make me feel as though I had achieved the coveted status of being a ‘good rider’, I also learned something far more important about myself and my beloved sport.

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I realised that what was more important to me as the love that I have developed for learning the intricacies of the sport of dressage and growing the bond with my treasured mare.  Having embraced the feeling of discomfort that comes with learning a new skill, opened the door to something more. It enabled me to appreciate the brilliance that arises when a new movement clicks, or the feeling you get when you find that new gear within a pace. Best of all I now know that things only feel better as Nonie and I both gain strength and learn to relax within the work. Its been exciting to learn that as we continue to challenge ourselves, with a little patience and persistence these improvements we will continue unlocking bigger and better feelings. As I have let go of the stress of needing to be at a certain level in order to be ‘good enough’ it has created room for Nonie and I to develop a stronger relationship, the value of which cannot be underestimated.

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Posted in Dressage, Training

Daring to Suck

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Daring to suck… It’s a seemingly bizarre concept that resonated deeply with me. I was listening to one of my favourite podcast’s (check it out here http://summerinnanen.com/frr-37) when I stumbled across this idea.

So what does ‘daring to suck’ actually mean? In a nutshell, it means giving something a go even if there is a possibility of not pulling it off, not getting the outcome you were after, or failing. For me, daring to suck is an action which is in direct opposition to fearing failure. Why is this important? As someone who identifies as having perfectionistic tendencies, I can see how my fear of failure has held me back at times. Whether it be something as simple as not riding that movement that is tricky and feels super uncomfortable or not entering that competition because you might make a mistake. Looking back, I can also see that my fear of failure kept me competing at prelim/novice level for way longer than was altogether necessary. I wanted everything to be perfect when I took the step up to prelim. This is a real problem because life is not perfect, particularly when you add a horse into the mix.

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Over the last two years, I feel that I have become much better at embracing imperfection. Here are some things that I feel have helped me along in this journey:

Understand why things feel uncomfortable. For me one of the most useful things in understanding this was understanding the four stages of learning: unconscious incompetence (that is we don’t know anything about what we cannot yet do), conscious incompetence (we know what we can’t do), conscious incompetence (we know the skills needed and we can use them but a high degree of concentration is required) and finally unconscious incompetence (we are able to apply the skills effectively with little conscious effort being required). Sure, there are times when something that is normally effortless becomes incredibly hard, but for the most part discomfort comes about when we are learning a new skill. I’ve found it particularly useful to link discomfort in my riding with the understanding that I am learning something new, or strengthening a skill.

Push yourself to do things which are uncomfortable, but not unsafe. Many of you will be familiar with the concept of the ‘comfort zone’, the ‘growth’ or ‘stretch zone’ and the oft forgotten ‘danger’ or ‘panic zone’. While there is a need to push ourselves to doing things which are beyond our established skills, we need to be mindful that we do not push too far and create a dangerous situation. In doing this having a coach who knows your level of skill and can push you is invaluable. Get to know what it feels like when you are working within the growth zone, for me things feel uncomfortable, challenging and requires a lot more conscious effort, but it never feels unsafe.

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Let go of the idea of perfection and give yourself permission to make mistakes. It doesn’t exist anywhere, let alone when you bring an animal with its own thoughts and feelings into the picture. Don’t be afraid to try new things, whether that is trying a different exercise, playing around with the timing of your aids or even seeking the input of a different coach. A few years ago, Nonie and I got to a stage where we could barely ride a 20m canter circle despite having compete successfully competed at novice and prelim. With limited access to dressage coaches in the area, we struggled along on our own for several months, rides would frequently end up with me in tears and questioning my ability as a rider. I eventually contacted one of the local western trainers who had a good reputation, and she helped Nonie and I make some changes that greatly improved our straightness, Nonie’s obedience and my confidence to lead Nonie. Her strategies were not classical dressage, but they worked.

The dressage coach that I train with now lives about 800km away, so we get her up to run clinics once every couple of months. In between clinics I am training on my own, which sometimes means that I have to use my knowledge and skills to figure things out on my own. Sometimes this means that I make mistakes or do things that don’t work, but I have learnt that this is much better than trying the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. And generally we get things to a point where they start to improve.

So join me in embracing imperfection. I’d love to hear about a time when fear of failure has held you back and how you have dared to suck!

Posted in Dressage, Training, Uncategorized

Rain Rain Go Away

As an equestrian, my relationship with rain one of love-hate. While I can accept that regular doses of rain are necessary, bringing with it wonderfully lush grass, providing respite from the oppressive humidity and filling up rain water tanks and bores, there are also several negatives associated with the rain. When summer starts and brings with it several days of seemingly endless rain my heart sinks a little. Here in North Queensland, we are currently in the thick of it, so I thought I would share some strategies which have enabled me to retain my sanity in the rain.

When the inability to ride in your rain soaked arena becomes an issue, the obvious recommendation is to build an indoor… Just kidding, clearly this is outside the budget of many equestrians. Having an arena which doesn’t drain well has forced me to become both more creative and make the best of a situation. I am lucky to have wide grassed verges around my agistment centre and regularly make use this area during the summer rain. Although, the area is not wide enough to ride a 10m circle comfortably, it is great for riding transitions within the pace and lateral work such as leg yields, shoulder in and travers.  I also like to make use of this time to do a little bare back riding, I find that this helps me to engage the correct muscles within my core as well as allowing greater feel of my horses back.

When the ground has reached a point of complete saturation and riding just isn’t an option there are still things that you can do to get that horsey fix. Some strategies you could try include:

– Reviewing what progress you have made towards your goals and setting new ones

– Reflecting on your most recent training sessions and considering any areas of your riding that require more attention

– Visualising aspects of your training on which you are getting stuck or that you want to improve upon

Working with Danielle Pooles a performance coach at Dressage Plus (http://dressageplus.com.au/) has helped me to develop these skills.

Now I love my mare dearly, but I do on occasion wish that her skin was not quite so sensitive. Sensitive skin combined with two and a half white socks, quickly growing grass and bucket loads of rain is a recipe for greasy heel. Obviously a stable where she could get high and dry would be the simplest solution but until I have my own property, I will have to settle for dreaming about my future barn. In the meantime, to prevent greasy heel, I use a combination of antibacterial washes (such as Malaseb), drying her heels and pasterns and then lathering them in Pottie’s cream. Despite my best efforts in the past, there have still been two occasions that I can vividly recall, where she has developed a mild case of greasy heel resulting in her normally elegant legs looking more like those belonging to an elephant from the hock down! Fortunately around 18months ago Mum stumbled across Mud Guards (http://www.mudguards4horses.com), which are a pleated canvas wrap (similar to gaiters that hikers wear) that fasten just above the fetlock, that help to keep the pastern and heel dry as well as keeping the sun off. I have used these over the last two ‘wet seasons’, they have saved me time, money, stress and best of all no more elephant legs!

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Nonie enjoying the fresh grass in her Mud Guards.

I hope these ideas help you to make it through to winter with the least amount of drama possible. If all else fails enjoying stomping in a few puddles and wait for the rain to pass!