Be yourself; Everyone else is already taken.— Oscar Wilde.
This is the first post on my new blog. I’m just getting this new blog going, so stay tuned for more. Subscribe below to get notified when I post new updates.
Be yourself; Everyone else is already taken.— Oscar Wilde.
This is the first post on my new blog. I’m just getting this new blog going, so stay tuned for more. Subscribe below to get notified when I post new updates.
Happy new year everyone! I hope you all had a wonderful festive season, and the fresh new year is bringing new motivation to get back in the saddle, and chipping away at your goals for 2021.
As a coach and rider, I often find myself getting a little obsessed and pedantic about the most basic little things, but as we all know, really nailing the basics lays a solid foundation for our future training and competition success.
Everytime we sit on a horse and give an aid, we are training the horse. The horse does not know what is a correct answer, nor does it really care, all it looks for is the response it gave, that made us leave it alone. Repeat that enough times, consistently, and voila!, the horse learns the pattern and response. This can be a good or a bad thing!
One of the biggest issues I come across, are aids that lack clarity, consistency and a clear outcome. This results in the horse becoming dull or confused about what it is meant to be doing, and we start to see all sorts of evasions.
I try to keep things as simple as possible, and live by the rule that there are only 5 core aids the horse needs to know. These are stop/slow down, turn and yield from a rein aid, and go quicker or yield to a leg aid. Of course there are many variations in the way these are applied, and as the training progresses they are combined and refined, but at the root of it all, the basic response is always the same.
When we start to see evasions creep in, you can pretty much guarantee, in the absence of any major rider imbalances, that it is the understanding of one of these most basic responses that is failing.
Peeling it all back to the most basic level, and addressing the gaps in the understanding, will then usually see the horse and rider continue to progress in a much more correct and reliable manner. These corrections must be precise, with good timing, and most importantly, heard and understood.
In order to do this though, the rider must be absolutely strict and consistent in how they ask, what they are expecting and what attempt they will accept. You cannot ask in 27 different ways for a response, accept 23 different half assed variations of the correct answer, and expect the horse to learn and the training to stick!
Horses are very black and white, and as much as we like to label them with our human emotions, they just aren’t wired that way. Their goal is to be left in peace, and we should always train with the aim of fulfilling this goal for them, through clear and concise aids. That is where real self carraige and lightness starts to happen, and the horse is able to gain confidence in its body, understanding, and not to mention, its rider!
Long time between posts! Life has been a bit out of control the last 6 months, but on the eve of my 40th birthday, i feel inspired and ready to start writing again, and reflect on some of the biggest lessons i have learnt this year. It will be pretty self indulgent, but i am pretty damn proud of the growth i have had as a person in the last 12 months, and excited for the next stage of my life. 😊
It has certainly been one of the most bizarre and uncertain years that most of us will probably see in our lifetime, and for me it has brought quite a mixed bag. I have experienced some incredible lows, but also some amazing highs, and while it is easy to get drawn into self pity and sadness, i did try to focus on staying happy and positive.
I failed at this. A lot. 🙈
My brain wanted to be kind of like Joy from the movie Inside Out. Block all the other “negative” emotions, put on a brave face and carry on. I am such a positive and upbeat person usually, so i really struggled to cope with the whole range of emotions i was feeling. Once i started to accept them though, and let myself really feel and own them, i was able to take control and started to see a light at the end of the tunnel and pull my way out of the funk i was in. Lesson learnt.
I have met some fantastic people this year, and while some of the best have inspired me to be totally and unequivocally true to myself, others have taught me to trust my gut instinct and to always trust actions over words. I realised that i had been trying to fill my cup from outside sources, and when i began to learn to do it from within, i began to create a very peaceful and secure sense of self. This empowered me to take control of my life, relationships and trust in that what is meant for me will not pass me by. I spent a lot of years of my life very shut down and emotionally void, so it has been wonderful to dig deeper into my own soul and realise i possess far more emotional intelligence than i ever thought possible. After writing that, i realise how much that goes hand in hand with my previous paragraph. 🙄 Lesson learnt.
For many years, i sacrificed a lot of my own happiness and friendships, to appease and pander to someone else’s insecurities. I was always such a sociable person, and after catching up with some old friends a few weeks back, it hit me like a tonne of bricks, just how much of myself i had lost over the years. I am so blessed to now have an amazing group of women in my life, who i love to death and am proud to call my friends. I keep my circle small, but i know every one of them is in my corner, no matter what life throws at me, and i absolutely cherish that. I will never, and they certainly won’t let me, get myself into that situation again.❤ Lesson learnt.
Finally, I carried a lot of guilt for a long time about breaking my family apart, mostly because i was worried about the impact it would have on our son. He is a sensitive soul, and even though he gets a bit overwhelmed with life sometimes (don’t we all?!), he shows me everyday what a kind, thoughtful young man he is becoming. Don’t get me wrong, we have our moments, but i have come to realise that a lot of his behaviour is often a cry for attention. This became obvious the last few months, when i was out working my ass off, trying to pay off a massive vet bill, and my mum spent a lot of time looking after him. His behaviour started to deteriorate, and he was getting just a bit too cheeky and defiant for my liking. At first i got mad, then i started to think a bit more objectively about things. I had really spent next to no quality down time with him in months, so i made the decision to put the effort in and make the time. We have been going to the movies, riding motorbikes, going on lunch dates, going swimming, playing with our foal, and just generally hanging out. He has been absolutely magic since and it has been really lovely to reconnect.
So much of what i do for work is being able to see and understand what isn’t being said, so it was pretty cool to be able to apply this to my child. Lesson learnt.
So congratulations, you have made it to the end of this epic highlight reel of my life in my 40th year!
It could have looked a lot diffrent than it does now, if i didn’t find the courage to choose me over all else. I have come so far, but i know i am only just scratching the surface of everything life has in store for me, and that excites me a lot.
Now here’s to surviving my 40th Birthday party at a brewery this Saturday night!!! 😂😂😂
I hope you all have a fabulous festive season.
p.s. I promise my next post will be horse related. ;p
I have a confession to make. I have a new man in my life, and I am a little bit in love. He isn’t my usual type. He is shorter than I would usually go for, with red hair, pixie ears and exotic good looks.
His name is Bazzy, and he is an 8yo purebred arabian gelding.
Bazzy’s back story is an incredibly sad one, but fortunately for him, he found his forever human in Hollie, who has given the poor boy the opportunity to come back from the brink of death, and go on to live the happy and healthy life he deserves.
Bazzy has had an illustrious show career, starting as a youngster. His exquisite looks saw him notch up wins in hand and under saddle at all the big arabian shows, including an Australian championship.
Unfortunately for Bazzy, like so many horses, he became a means to an end, and the sheer greed and desire for that almighty piece of ribbon around his neck, saw him crippled, almost to the point of no return.
When he stepped off the truck at his new home almost 2 yeas ago, he was a shadow of his former self. He had suffered a fall on a treadmill, hadn’t been found for 30 minutes, and had extensive injuries and scar tissue to his body. He was also suffering from impaction colic, a chronic kidney infection and laminitis, and his mouth was full of ulcers, from his teeth being neglected, and he had a massive abscess on his wither, from an ill fitting rug, which hadn’t been removed in months. All of this and only 6 years old!
The fact he survived the long trip to his new home was nothing short of a miracle, but it would be the first step on his road to recovery, with someone who was willing to give him the quality of life he so very much deserves.
I started working with Bazzy and Hollie a bit over a year ago. The first time i saw him, i was struck by what a beautiful creature he was, followed closely by how broken he was.
Bazzy has the most gorgeous and endearing nature, and he steals the hearts of everyone who meets him. To see a horse, who had given so much to those who were meant to look after him, so broken was heartbreaking. He had terrible tension and anxiety in his body and mind, and a funny snatchy action in his hind end, caused by extensive scar tissue and his inability to make his legs do what he knew they needed to do.
Bazzy always tries so hard to do the right thing, and seeing him struggling so much made me very determined to help him. He is by far the most broken and challenging horse I have worked with, but by far the most rewarding.
Hollie has done an outstanding job with his rehabilitation, making sure he has the utmost best care taken of him, and has nursed him back to good health. We are very careful to listen to the horse, and respect his limitations, and let him set the pace with what he can cope with, but still challenging him enough to strengthen and rebuild his body.
Work commitments for Hollie have meant that Bazzy has come to stay with me for a while, and apart from being a little afraid of the world, he is enjoying the routine and varied types of work he is getting each day.
I love doing inhand work with my horses, and Bazzy has taken to it like a duck to water. The first day, he marched onto the arena, stood up and posed like a show horse. I thanked him very much for the pretty pose, then explained to him that we were going to be lowering his neck and stretching the topline and introducing a bit of shoulder in to help supple his body. After he realised what he had to do, he completely released and stretched his nose down to the ground, and the relief in his face and body was obvious.
We also have been doing a lot of polework in the walk, both in hand and under saddle. Poor Bazzy is a little freaked out by my black and white poles, and I have to explain to him each day that they will not eat him, but the work is really helping him to increase the range of motion of his joints, improve his confidence and teach him to cover more ground. We can now do 4 in a row, in perfect rhythm, and will be starting trot poles this week.
The preparation work we have been doing, with the inhand work and poles, has paid huge dividends under saddle for Bazzy. Since the beginning, he has been very tight in the back, panics about the contact, and has been very stuck in the right hind leg. He has had a lot of trouble bending and turning that way, where he has to engage it and carry more, and also in the left lead canter, where he has to push off the ground from it. He is now able to lengthen his topline and follow the curved lines with his body, with very little tension and the ground cover of the paces is improving out of sight.
Bazzy still has a long way to go in his rehabilitation, but the improvements he has made thus far are nothing short of astounding. He is an absolute credit to Hollie’s care and determination to give him the life he deserves, and his giving nature and refusal to give up, makes everyone around him want to try that little bit harder for him.
I look forward to continuing his story in the coming weeks. 🙂
After all these weeks of uncertainty, it is fantastic to finally start to see a light at the end of the tunnel!
While a lot of people have been making the most of their netflix subscriptions during social distancing, it would seem horse riders have been hitting the training hard and not giving up on smashing those 2020 goals. I have never been so busy coaching in my life!
It has actually been a pretty fun time, and I have been taking the opportunity to really challenge riders to take their training up a level, and aim for those few extra marks per movement. Whether it is improved accuracy in the tests, improved quality of the paces in the movements, or really just nailing those transitions, these small corrections all add up. One extra mark per movement adds up to 10% over the course of a dressage test. Going from a 60% to a 70% seems a lot more achievable when you think of it that way!
On the home front, Banjo has been trying his hand at some speed bumps on the arena. I don’t think he is ever going to be a jumper of any particular talent, but it is certainly fun giving him new little challenges. He has worked out that he has to get from one side to the other, and kind of be airbourne in the middle. His style is a little bit dressage horse meets grasshopper, but he has a good attitude and never says no. He has been having a few teething issues lately, so he is now going to have a little well earned rest, while his teeth settle down, and most probably continue to drive me insane with the silly crap he does in the paddock!
In some other exciting news, this weekend I will have the very beautiful Bazzy come to stay for a few weeks. He is an absolutely stunning horse, but he is very broken and has been incredibly let down by the humans in his life. I will share some of his background and talk about the rehab work his wonderful new owner and I have been working on with him next week. He is a very special boy, so can’t wait for that one!
Happy riding everyone, and hopefully it won’t be too long before we are scoring 9’s on the centreline once again!
Hey everyone! Long time between posts, I know. Truth be told, I have been lacking a bit of mojo lately, and struggling to come up with a topic, so I apologise if this post is a bit like an episode of Seinfeld. 😝
What a strange world we are all existing in at the moment! The freedom and liberties we once took for granted have flown out the window, and so many people have had their lives turned upside down and livelihoods decimated. I always try to look on the bright side of life, and even though things really are a bit shit at the moment, we can be very proud of the fact that the Australian people have largely pulled together to fight this virus, and avoided the devastation that so many countries have been experiencing. The good news is, life will eventually return to normal, and hopefully people will face the future with a little more appreciation and gratitude for just how good life really is in this beautiful country. 🙂
On a more personal note, one of the things i have been struggling with the most at the moment is the loss of routine in my day. Some excellent advice I was once given, was when things feel like they are out of control, focus on something that is absolutely in my control, get a foothold and go from there. For me, that has been focussing on working my horses more often. I am not entirely sure that Tommy and Banjo agree this is a good thing, but it has really helped me re-centre myself, and rediscover my motivation in a lot of areas i could feel it fading.
Anyway, I hope you are all getting some quality time in the saddle, and looking forward to returning to the competition arena as much as i am. Even more so, I am looking forward to spending time with my fabulous friends, and having some sort of social life again. I miss them more than anything i think!
Stay safe, healthy, and enjoy your riding.
The weekend saw Tommy and I head off to Pittsworth Show, for a crack at the 1.00m and 1.10m showjumping classes. It was Tommy’s first full on ag show, so i wasn’t sure what to expect from him, but despite dump trucks and bobcats in the warm up arena, the woodchop right next to our ring, a giant purple jumping castle about 10 m from the arena fence and all the other sights and sounds of a country ag show, he was calm, focussed and did two really good rounds, with just a couple of rails.
On viewing my video (thanks Q3!), I could clearly see why he took the rails. I had held him for too long off a turn onto a combination, panicked when i saw a bad distance and chased. I got him too close and he didn’t have room to jump out of it. If I had of just softened and trusted him, he would no doubt have had a better chance of getting himself out of strife and leaving the rails up. Still so much to learn!!
Hindsight is a wonderful thing, and although some people may see it as a negative, I believe honest self analysis and reflection after every ride is a very important tool for every rider.
Nothing disappoints me more than hearing riders blame their horses, judges, external factors, other competitors etc etc for poor performance, when a lot of the time, it was pilot error. It is only natural to be disappointed when things don’t go to plan, but it is so important that the rider can look honestly at the whole picture, in order to improve for next time.
A useful self analysis tool I learnt years ago is a SWOT analysis. Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. It is a really good framework to constructively analyse training and performance, and identify changes for next time. This is a great idea after every ride and every competition, and keeping a training diary is an excellent way to monitor progress.
Being honest with ourselves and holding ourselves accountable, both in the saddle and out, can sometimes be a bitter pill to swallow, but without it we stop growing as a person and will find many areas in our lives at a standstill.
Own your training, own your preparation, own your performance, own your mistakes, take responsibility and work hard to improve. There will be no limit to what you can achieve!!
Happy riding………… 🙂
p.s. Video is in my media files, if anyone wants a look.
A common issue I encounter as a coach, are riders who have had a bad horse related accident, and are struggling to cope with their nerves and anxiety when they return to riding. I have never been a nervous rider, so although I could empathise with these riders, I guess I never entirely understood their headspace when in the saddle until I found myself in the same position.
Last year, Tommy fell on me out on the road, smashing my ankle into the bitumen. I had ridden him out along our road hundreds of times before, and this particular day he was being spooky and lost his footing. I recall the fall vividly, and in about 35 years of riding, it was my first broken bone, surgery and involuntary time out of the saddle.
I had no hesitation getting back on in the arena, once i was allowed to walk again, but when i started riding out again, I found myself getting overcome with nerves and fear, which took me totally by surprise and I found myself struggling to get a handle on it. My riding buddy neighbour must have thought I was a nut, my overreaction to small stuff, that would usually have never bothered me!
I have been working a lot on myself lately, just trying to be present and living in the moment, and not letting my thoughts about the past or future overtake my emotions, and this morning I had a major breakthrough.
I was out riding on my own along the road and consciously took the time to clear my mind and take in everything that was going on around me. The beautiful blue sky, the lush green grass growing on the sides of the road, the sound of Tommy’s shoes on the road, the birds chirping, the breeze blowing across my skin, and you know what? In letting myself take all that in, I totally relaxed and forgot about everything I had been finding myself getting anxious and worried over. Of course, because I was relaxed, so was Tommy, and I ended up having one of the nicest rides out I have had in a very long time.
The funniest thing is, after I had that wonderful ride, I took one of my jack russells, Daisy, down to our local sports fields for a walk and found the greatest joy in just watching her zoom around, enjoying her freedom, taking in all the sights and smells, and just loving life in general. Total inspiration, courtesy of a russ!
So, I am going to keep forging forward with this mentality, not sweating the small stuff, and letting myself truly appreciate and live in the moment. No more bad moods and taking it out on people i care about when I have a bad ride, no more stressing about what could happen when I ride out my front gate, and definitely no more worrying about things that are out of my control. Trust in fait and see what the universe brings my way. 🙂
The last couple of weeks have brought some much needed rain to the Lockyer Valley, and it is wonderful to see all the paddocks a glorious shade of bright green again!
Horse owners are rejoicing, because with it comes a reprieve from the enormous feed bills we have all been enduring for so long, and with the renewed landscape, has come a renewed level of motivation to get back in the saddle and get cracking on their 2020 riding goals.
As a coach, my client base is wide and varied, and no two horses, riders or lessons are ever the same. I often think about what issues i encounter the most when coaching, and one of the major ones i see all the time is a lack of body awareness from the rider.
I vividly remember listening to a session with Richard Weiss at the Queensland Dressage Festival years ago, and he summed it up perfectly when he said “The rider is a burden to the horse, and it is our responsibility as a rider to be the least burden possible”.
A burden. Love that word! But he is correct. Horses were not designed to carry the weight of a rider on their back, and if we do not sit and move with the horse in a seat perfectly balanced over the horse’s centre of gravity, then we start to see all sorts of compensatory responses from the horse.
More often than not, a rider is not aware when they are not sitting in a well aligned, correct upright seat, and when corrections are made, they feel strange and uncomfortable with their new alignment.
Correcting the position takes a lot of time and conscious effort on the rider’s behalf, but once they nail it, the horse can move more freely underneath them, and a lot of the training issues the horse may have been having resolve as well.
Obviously working regularly with an experienced and knowledgable coach is one of the best ways to do this. Unfortunately though, most riders don’t have the coach there every time they ride, and therefore have to come up with a plan to be able to recreate the desired position when riding at home.
A set of eyes on the ground, be it husband/wife/neighbour/riding buddy/child/postman/etc can be ideal, and it doesn’t take much horsey knowledge to spot imbalances, once they know what they are looking for. Even get them to video you, so you can check for yourself.
What i love to do myself as a rider, is to take a very clear mental snapshot when things are going absolutely spot on. I start at the top of my head, and do a full top to bottom analysis. I then think about how it feels when it is perfect, and come up with some keywords that inspire me to find that feeling again once i am flying solo. Whenever I feel things going to pot when i am riding, i always go back to this visualisation, draw on my keywords, and usually i will find the root of the issue in my alignment.
Another way riders can help their riding stability, eveness and alignment, is to do work out of the saddle. I am a big fan of pilates, to strengthen my core, stabilise my centre, and keep my body strong and flexible. If you are lucky, you may even have an riding specialist equipilates coach nearby, who can tailor workouts to suit the needs of riders. 😉
At the end of the day, it is important that a rider treats themself as an athlete, and takes responsibility in maintaining a good level physical fitness and condition. We expect our horses to perform as a finely tuned athlete, and this is very difficult when one part of the equation is letting the team down!
Just some food for thought……….
Happy riding 🙂
On the weekend, I had the pleasure of attending the Equestrian Qld Annual Awards evening at the Victoria Park Golf Club in Brisbane. The venue was beautiful and it was wonderful to see so many supporters of our sport in attendance. Everyone looked so glamorous and, as always, it was a top night!
This year, Lockyer Equestrian Group was absolutely honoured to take home the title of Prydes Easifeed Equestrian Queensland Club of the Year. Much excitement!!!!!!!!
We are so blessed to have an absolutely amazing committee at LEGs. I firmly believe that the morale and attitude of a committee filters through to all levels of the membership, and we are so proud that our club is renowned for being fun, inclusive, supportive and professional.
Before joining the committee about 8 years ago, I am not proud to say i was quite critical of the way the club was run, and like a lot of people, thought i could do better. Fortunately, i decided to pull my head in, lead by example, and threw my hat in the ring for a committee position. I haven’t looked back!
I have served in various roles over the years, and recently accepted the role of president for the 5th consecutive year. I have gained so many life skills serving on the committee, met many new people, made some amazing friends, and had a lot of fun along the way.
We are all bound by a common thread, in that we love our horses, we love the sport, and we especially love our club.
Volunteering can be very hard work, but the rewards are immeasurable. It doesn’t necessarily have to be in a committee position. Anyone can put their hand up, and no matter how small the contribution, you can rest assured, it will be greatly appreciated.
Clubs and events cannot operate without volunteers, so please give it some consideration. You might just find it enriches your life in ways you never imagined. 🙂
My favourite event of the year is this weekend! We are off to the Equestrian Queensland Awards night on Saturday in Brisbane. It is a fantastic night out, celebrating excellence and achievement in our sport, and it is great to see everyone out of their riding gear and all glammed up. It is always a fabulous party!
We have a lot to celebrate this year, with 4 nominations for our close knit equestrian family.
Firstly, Lockyer Equestrian Group are finalists for Club of the Year, for the third year in a row. Our committee works so damn hard to make our club amazing for its members, so hopefully this is our year.
Then we have our BWC2* Championships, nominated by Dressage Qld, for Event of the Year. This is a mammoth event for our club, that takes months and months of preparation, blood, sweat and thankfully not too many tears, and we are absolutely honoured to be nominated by our sport sub-committee. I know our event director, K1, will be chugging prosecco from the bottle if we win that one!
Thirdly, my lovely student, Brooke, is up for Rising Star of the Year. I have taught Brooke since she was in primary school, and she is an incredibly switched on rider and a fierce competitor, so it would be lovely to see her name up in lights. 🙂
Lastly, I am a finalist for Coach of the Year. I am so excited about this, and I look forward to lining up against some of the best coaches in Queensland for the title!
I absolutely love doing what i do, and i am so blessed to have a wonderful group of riders who I regularly coach. To have them think my worthy of this nomination is an absolute honour, and I appreciate their support very much.
So, hopefully my next blog will be filled with all sorts of good news about our success, but regardless, we will no doubt have a spectacular night out and have plenty of stories to tell!