Thursday, July 22, 2010


The majority of us will say to our teachers and coaches."I bet you're sick of telling me that so much.When am I going to learn?"We are so quick to blame ourselves and head out on that self destruct,confidence sapping stage.

The self destruct stage is a very very familiar one to me.There are many days I do not even want to get into the saddle for fear of drifting away from my goals rather than towards them.Things can quickly multiply into my convincing myself I should give it up.

But something makes me want to go back out there and DO IT AGAIN. So I do. Over and over again. It usually comes right eventually. Practice practice practice. Barby is my body guard. I have her with me whenever I really feel like I am in a mess. She has seen enough now that her eye is getting pretty sharp. She watches all my lessons. We CONSTANTLY watch videos and I show her pictures of riders and horses I want to emulate.The shape of everything is so important.So we work it out.

I am staging a personal comeback from my latest crash in Virginia last May. Peter Pan had done a lovely dressage test at the one star level, leaving him in a very good position.I made several very very big mistakes that day. My horse was having a VERY hard time with stabling and had managed to kick off both hind shoes, step on the clips and have a really rough night. It was very touch and go that we were even going to be able to compete on the Saturday. But a sleepless night and lots of hard work got us to the start box the next day. (I always say eventing is like going to war)Battling sore feet was a big enemy.

I think I put the possibility of " making the magazine" a bit before sensible riding. Peter felt well enough for me to put my foot on the gas peddle. I angled a nice hay rack jump and whacked it and crashed. I thought the time was going to be very hard to make. I was wrong about that. I did not need to hotshot it to that hay rack. I had a fairly bad crash resulting in six weeks out of the saddle.

Hindsight is always 20/20. Maybe this maybe that. Maybe it was the feet. Maybe I was greedy. Maybe it was bad luck.

Thankfully Peter bombed off and was no worse for wear. I finished the event on my darling Harry and went home one sore dog.

Now I am back riding and have been given the green light to go again with strict instructions not to fall off. GREAT. No pressure or anything.....I am obviously very keen to get back moving along as I am playing the qualification game. Another blog topic. I have huge goals with my devils. But the main thing is to RIDE WELL with these wonderful horses and climb the ladder sensibly.

When coming back from injury there are many stages.

First one has to get past the pain stage. The Ohhhh Ahhhhh make you pass out thing when you press to hard or stretch too far. Let pain be your guide I always say. It will stop you quick enough.

Once you can get past that and you start to get fit again. A different kind of pain sets in more like aching. That's just screaming muscles. We can ignore them a bit , stretch them out and get on with it. There's usually a bit of excess fatigue but the urgency to ride and get back going again wipes that out for me.

Then comes confidence. Well I don't want to mess it up again. The what if's.One has to push through pain and one has to really push through the lack of confidence stage.. Last year after having broken my leg jumping a corner I had real "corneritis" in the beginning.Ten thousand corners later I'm out of that stage..

Dressage hurt at first. I thought ugh.... Can't stand to sit the trot. Vertical impact. But it is Ok now.I am out of that stage.Down transitions were scary.

Peter Pan was almost un- rideable at the beginning. He actually made me feel he had the best of me with his bucking. I came very close to hiring a cowboy. He has settled now. Thank god he is out of that stage!

My first jumping school was conservative. "Good, no pain I thought."

My first cross country school was dodgy. I rode like a mouse and choked a lot. No can do at the level I intend to ride at. Answer......Jump more fences later on. Not all at once. I needed more work at that stage.

I watch DVDs constantly. Mary king and Apache Sauce are big favs of mine. I see Pickles in him and that is a great memory for me. Of course there are zillions more but I like Mary cause she loves her horses and the game the way I do. Very simple. And I see Pickles over and over..God how we miss him. The Dvds seem to enable me to see balance and how the other riders manage the jumps before them. Watching them repeatedly almost makes me feel as if I am riding .

Today I jumped again. I had Pickles and Apache Sauce there with me and I was very pleased with the way things went.I had my flow back.I am not yet ready to ride to the stage I was at before the crash ,but I am getting closer. I am two weeks out from my first competition. I chose to downgrade a level from where I was just to make sure I can manage all the parts of a competition with confidence and balance.There are so many stages at a horse trial. Then I am entered back at the Intermediate level again, aiming for two star.

We are on go....Harry is not a great fan of the heat. But he is hanging in there. Stay tuned and remember to hang in there when you are in a "rough" stage. The good ones are well worth it.Push through the bad for the good.It will come.

Sunday, July 4, 2010


Riding is a three way street around here.There is the horse. We must listen to him/her as much as we want him/her to listen to us. There is the rider.The rider has CHOSEN to ride the horse. Years ago Jummy Wofford (excellent teacher and very experienced horseman) said, "it is better to make a decision and have it be the wrong one than to make no decision at all."In other words do something rather than nothing on the horses back. THINK......MAKE IT UP IF YOU HAVE TO!But try not to do NOTHING. The horse is looking for guidance too.

The third person is the teacher.The teacher can HOPEFULLY recognize and read the horse and the rider. The teacher is not there to judge or form personal opinions.The teacher is not there to say their personal likes and dislikes ,unless they pertain to safety or a mechanical application.

It is easy to see when a horse doesn't like something. It is easy to see when it is confused,unhappy,in pain ,lacking confidence,balance or knowledge.They make it clear that the "flow ain't there".

This teacher makes it clear when there is a no flow situation. Stop,wait, let's discuss this or that.No,not like that,like this. Ok, now that's good. DID YOU FEEL THAT? DO YOU UNDERSTAND THAT NOW? Good DO IT AGAIN.OVER AND OVER AND OVER AGAIN.we practice this walking in the field as well as jumping big fences. you do not have to be doing anything grand to ride well(safely) all the time.

The rider usually shows the teacher they understand with a big smile or sigh of relief. "he did it...I did it!' type reaction, often referred to as light bulb moments.

It is not always smooth and easy around here.We all fall off. We get too hot. We are all tired. We are all stressed about money. Most of us have some degree of pain that runs through our bodies 24-7. But we WANT TO RIDE. Riding is not easy. Nor is it the safest of games we choose to play. So we make many many sacrifices to do this.

If the horse is unhappy , we try endlessly to try and access, and decide how to make things better. He tells us, we must listen and then go to work to make life better. When the horse is happy ,everybody is happy.......

I wish riders would do the same. Sometimes they do. Communication is the key. I KNOW I lost YEARS AND YEARS of my riding career by not being open with my instructors. I went home after YEARS of lessons thinking I just wasn't good enough. I thought for years I would never get better. And I digressed. I got worse.I spent hours and years thinking my teachers didn't like me.


I lost my confidence many many times. Yet I wanted to ride. I wanted to get better. I didn't want to give up.Something drove me. I was ashamed to ask questions!

I have learned I have to be around teachers that are going to allow me to speak up and say I don't get it. I don't feel it. What did you mean by that? I have had teachers say to me at the 4 star level.......How can you ask me that and ride at Rolex? You should know that(referring to how to better ride a shoulder in)The teacher made me feel like a jerk and I withdrew. I went backwards not forwards. I wasted time in self pity and loathing. And I wasted my horses time, legs and life too.....

Teachers have different styles. Lord knows mine is quite graphic. I use very unorthodox language. I want people to SEE in their minds what I am talking about. There a few terms I wish to bring up here."Fairy Riding",the" Helpless Housewife,""crumpling" or the famous" fat lady position."What do you think of when I use the term"life Support?"or "C 4?"I do not mean the explosive.

I love bunnies ,butterflies, cuddly puppies, Easter dresses , flowers. When I think of those things I see visions of soft pinks and blues dancing around in my head. Vivaldi pops into the soundtrack. Perhaps even the occasional angel and maybe a fairy or two. I see fairies as lighter than air little people that do kind things and live in a happy, soft kind place. I have never thought of the nasty horrible connotation that refers to ones sexual preference. That goes to the dark place. Bad music and dark colors......... Black.......

I do not look at riding as a a sport practiced in the land of the bunnies. My job is safety first. The music changes from Vivaldi to Heavy Metal. When dealing with a horse or pony, one has to be ready for anything. Like going to war. When one trains for war,,,,it is hard work. To sharpen ones reaction time.....often the exercises are difficult and hard.One has to endure mental and physical discomfort occasionally to get though to the other side. Survival first.......Learn to clean and hold your gun. Shoot to kill.....You never get a second chance to make a first impression.....

The fat lady position does not mean I think you are fat. The fairy ride does not mean I think you are gay. The helpless housewife.........well I have seen a few and they are not safe on horses. I even call men helpless housewives.. They get it!

I called a GREAT friend of mine Mrs. Tomato Face once and that did not go over well. She was VERY VERY hot and her face was red and I was laughing. I said a girl had wimpy wrists once. I did not think she was a wimp! That took three years to get past that one........She never rode with me again because I was so insulting......Now we can laugh.....I tell one of my best students right now that she leaves the classroom and goes back to California (and she is a blond,housewife). Come back,come back from California.....You are about to JUMP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH.

Ok you get it. So if EVER EVER EVER I offend any of you. Come get me. COMMUNICATE. If you don't feel well.......COMMUNICATE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I t is FAR BETTER to SAY WHAT YOU Think than leave hurt or upset.

PLEASE COMMUNICATE! We can do this...

PS I do not like Heavy Metal and far prefer Bunny Music..................................Kick on silly wabbit

Friday, July 2, 2010

Message From God

Lord knows I talk enough during the lessons to drive people crazy.I often feel like an incessant mosquito, buzzing buzzing around in my riders brains, trying to get them to react to various situations.

It is difficult to listen and FEEL at the same time.Very often, one trys so hard while riding to get a FEEL that they can't see or hear anything. It is easy to bump into a jump standard in the ring. It is easy to miss a jump . Mud puddles can come out of nowhere and cause your horse to spook and catch one WAY off guard. I call this "riding blind."

It is easy to "go blind" with fear. When one's horse grabs the bit and starts to speed up, pull, or "get bigger". It is easy to forget what to do to REGAIN control and then confidence. That is all we are trying to do. It is the same out in the cross country field, hunt field, show jumping ring, even the dressage ring.

TIMING is another hard thing to learn right up there with FEELING!!!!! How much is enough and when do you do it and HOW DO YOU DO IT?

A great way to learn all this is by practicing, making mistakes, having problems and getting through to the other side. The aha moments. Sometimes God steps in. He shows up a lot in the open spaces. He says........You had BETTER find your balance. You had BETTER sit back. You had BETTER learn how to balance and control your horses step.... OR ELSE I WILL RAISE YOUR PULSE TILL YOU GET IT.

Of course this is all relative and should be thoroughly discussed with the rider beforehand. A great lady said to me today....."Oh,,, this is what I am supposed to be doing everyday!"I need to ride better!!!!Oh hallelujah . She got it! "YES ,,,EVERYDAY ,EVERY TIME YOU RIDE!!!!!" Thanks be to God. A real light bulb moment. Great fun and that's what teaching is about.

My lady went from fairy riding with a minimum of control and confidence, to clearly owning her ride and getting her young horse downhill into the water jump. She knew what to do when her horse said no. Even though I had loaded her guns with at least an hours worth of discussion about position and the application of the aids, it was a higher power that went down that hill into the water with her......She was safe.....And she was BEAMING at the end of her ride.

It is so much fun to see people transform from helpless housewives that ride blind into functioning riders with a real purpose.Yippee, another score at Paradise today.Thank God!