Hocus Pocus- and the article is done!

 

caitlyn3As a writer it’s flattering to be asked to write an article or a piece to help promote a horse show, horse event or horse related charity.  It’s especially exciting when the show is located here in the Atlanta area and will attract top riders as it’s the first CDI3* to be held in Georgia.  As much as I would like to say I penned the following piece for the GDCTA newsletter, I instead made the brilliant decision to delegate it to one of my young riders that is also an aspiring writer, Caitlyn Bennett!!!

In addition to being a dedicated eventer Caitlyn has written several pieces for the GDCTA newsletter and is also a talented fiction writer.  She gets inspiration from her adventures with her self started Mustang,  Hocus Pocus, and the rest of the gang of barn rats at North Atlanta Equestrian Center in Cartersville, Georgia.

Much thanks to Caitlyn for helping me meet a deadline and writing an article that is as much fun as she is!!  If any of my other students, or any other readers, young or otherwise would like to submit a horse related writing of any genre to be considered for my blog please feel free to contact me at tangodressage@yahoo.com.

Caitlyn and Hocus Pocus will be at the show April 7-10 with many other students from Tango Dressage so come on out and meet us and enjoy some top riding- and some of the other Olympic hopefuls too!!!

Official show information can be reached here!

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Caitlyn and Hocus

The Following was written for the GDCTA by Caitlyn Bennett, 13 years old:

 

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to compete on the same grounds at the same time as Olympic hopefuls? Well, here’s your opportunity. The Greater Atlanta Dressage Southern (GADS) horse show is held the same weekend as the prestigious CDI3*, the last qualifier for the 2016 Summer Olympics.

 

The CDI3* will take place April 7-10 at the Georgia International Horse Park in Conyers, with the GADS show starting on the 8th and ending the 10th. GADS provides a great opportunity for riders of all levels to be able compete, watch Olympic hopefuls, and meet the “best of the best,” who will possibly represent our country in Rio this summer.

 

Having the CDI3* at the park that Atlanta built for the 1996 Olympics and being where those athletes competed is special in itself, but it is a really big deal because this is the first time the event will be held in Georgia. Even better, they chose GDCTA to host it!

 

Why is it so important that you go? By participating in GADS I and II ( both USDF recognized dressage shows) and by being a spectator or competitor for the CDI3*, you are part of history in the making when GDCTA brings CDI3* to the Peach State.

 

The CDI3* is free to watch. The GADS shows will open on February 15, 2016 with a closing date of March 16th. Slots will fill up fast, so what are you waiting for?  Join all of your GDCTA a friends and get yourself and your mount registered for GADS I and II and come watch and/or compete in the CDI3* and show your love for U.S. Dressage in Georgia.

 

Besides, who wouldn’t want to take advantage of putting on your best show clothes and posing next to your horse as you prepare to participate in GADS I and II, and then posting something like this to your social media channel of choice: “We’ve made it to the Olympic qualifiers in Atlanta.  Wish you were here!”

Oh, Atlanta….

“Oh, Atlanta, I hear you callin’
I’m comin’ back to you one fine day…..”    Ralph Micks

 

 

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Click to check out local magazine Atlanta Horse Connections

 

 

In 1995 I traveled to Atlanta to audit a Charles DeKunffy clinic hosted in Alpharetta, Georgia.  As I wound my way around the charming towns of Roswell, Milton and Alpharetta I knew that I had found the place I wanted to live.  Within a year my horse Sy and I moved from South Carolina and found ourselves living in the place I consider “home”.

Home has always been an elusive concept for me as I was raised in the Air Force and lived in three different countries and four different states before I graduated high school.  I loved every one of these places and the horses, barns and friends that I met along the way.  From riding gymkhana and jumping ponies with Andrea in England to beginning dressage and show jumping with the German kids at the stately riding center in Zweibrucken, Germany, Europe began my love for all things horsey.

Lucky enough to land at Sand and Spur Riding Club on Eglin Air Force Base in Fort Walton Beach, Florida I met an amazing family of people that shaped my life.  The friends I met there are second to none.  I consider the times at workday, riding in the bay, and club horse shows some of the best times I will ever have.  Unfortunately due to the nature of the military the people that aligned in that magical period of time have since scattered across the globe.

South Carolina and Longcreek Equestrian Center introduced me to Scott Peterson who unknowingly converted me to a dressage only rider.  It is here that I found my path to my career in horses.  I met Sabrena (of Better So Dressage Blog) a friend that encourages me when I’m down and shares my passion for dressage. I wouldn’t trade any of these places or experiences for anything in the world.  They are what made me the trainer I am today.  But it is in Georgia that I will always feel most at home.

For fear of excluding any one of the hundreds of friends, trainers and students I have known in Atlanta I won’t name any names but Atlanta is the place I will return to when my duties in South Carolina are complete.  In addition to the huge community of riders, Atlanta has hundreds of amazing barns to meet the needs of all. Most of all it is the supportive nature of the people I have met there that keeps drawing me back.  Atlanta has seen the best of me and the worst of me, I have made lifelong friends and I have made some big mistakes but somehow that all becomes part of the fold and the focus on horses keeps bringing us back together.

I wish I had the words to better express how I feel but I guess I can’t top the great Ray Charles….

Georgia, Georgia
The whole day through
(The whole day through)
Just an old sweet song
Keeps Georgia on my mind
(Georgia on my mind)

I said a Georgia, Georgia
A song of you
Comes as sweet and clear
As moonlight through the pines

Other arms reach out to me
Other eyes smile tenderly
Still in the peaceful dreams I see
The road leads back to you

I said, Georgia, oh Georgia
No peace I find
Just an old sweet song
Keeps Georgia on my mind

Other arms reach out to me
Other eyes smile tenderly
Still in peaceful dreams I see
The road leads back to you

Oh Georgia, Georgia
No peace, no peace I find
Just an old, sweet song
Keeps Georgia on my mind
(Georgia on my mind)

I said, just an old sweet song
Keeps Georgia on my mind – Ray Charles

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Doesn’t Matter

Me and Jim Dorsett after my fall
Me and Jim Dorsett after my fall

Admittedly it took me smashing both my legs and spending a year in a wheelchair before I felt empathy for fearful riders.  Although I knew all the catch phrases to try and teach someone that was afraid,- “he’s not going to do anything”, “nothing’s going to happen”, “doesn’t matter”, I really didn’t understand that it was a physical problem to be frightened, not a mental one.

It’s easy to stand on the ground when someone is fearful and logically explain why they have nothing to fear, or even what to do if they experience loss of control.  These are things most people can understand and conceptualize, however; when a person has been hurt, or just has a fear of being hurt no logical understanding overrides the blast of adrenaline that shoots through their body causing a cold sweat to break out on their forehead.

If you are trying to teach, or help someone that has this fear, understand that they want to get through it or they wouldn’t be there.  If possible get on the horse first and show them how quietly he goes around the arena without spooking or falling.  Sometimes it’s helpful when the rider is on the horse to get them talking about something else in their life, maybe their family or their job, to distract them from the situation for a minute.  This will keep them from over analyzing their ride.  Put a grab strap on the saddle or a stirrup leather around the horse’s neck for them to grab if they feel the need to.  If they become overwhelmed with fear and feel like they must get off the horse try to be supportive and understanding, even if you have never felt this way yourself.  Everything doesn’t have to be conquered in one day.

If you are a rider that has experienced a bad fall or is fearful for some other reason, realize you are not alone.  Many people feel fear and express it as anger or frustration.  Don’t be embarrassed to talk to your trainer about your fears.  This will save a lot of time and confusion if the fear is getting in the way of training.  Never feel “less than” because you are afraid.  Eventually most everyone gets to experience this most unpleasant of feelings.

It took a long time after I began riding again to feel confident enough to train a horse again as opposed to just sitting there fear struck.  Fear can be overcome but it never goes away completely once it  becomes a part of your psyche.  If you have a bad day just spend the time on the ground with your horse and don’t let one uncomfortable feeling keep you from what you love. Get back in the saddle tomorrow, it will be a better day.  I promise.

 

 

Check the Frequency

“If you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration.” ~ Nikola Tesla

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Whether you’re looking for a new horse or just lucky enough for the opportunity to ride many different horses it is important for a rider to gauge the “frequency” or energy level of the horse to be ridden.  People with a lot of experience or particularly good feel do this, on a subconscious level, by sensing tension in the horse’s body and observing body language and facial expressions that indicate the horse’s reaction to the rider or environment.  A misjudgment of the frequency can not only make for a bad ride but can be dangerous to the horse and rider as well.

Like the horse, a rider carries an innate level of energy.  A particularly fearful, or frenetic rider carries what I would describe as a high frequency. This type of rider generally does well on a lazier, or low frequency horse.  With little effort the lazy horse moves more forward when paired with the high frequency rider.  This same rider on a high frequency or hot blooded horse causes chaos and runs the risk of being out of control.

Similarly the low frequency rider, one that is not easily rattled and carries themselves with a sense of calm, is best suited for the high frequency horse.  The pairing of the low frequency rider on a low frequency horse generally makes for a painfully sluggish and boring ride.  This rider lends a calming effect to the high frequency horse, pulling the frequency down to a ridable level.  To be able to successfully ride all types of horses a rider must be able to control and alter their own frequency level.

Like most exercises, learning to alter your energy level begins in a contrived fashion; however, with time and practice this becomes second nature.  Using imagery and breathing techniques common to meditation, practice exhaling tension out of your body and relaxing your muscles consciously when your horse’s energy level rises, even if you are mentally anxious.  Expect that when you exaggerate your relaxation it will pull the frequency level of your horse down, closer to a level where communication can continue.  If your horse is lazy, a low frequency type, imagine an electric current vibrating through your body and mentally increase the voltage until you notice your horse reacting to your aids more promptly.

Whether it is learned or inherent in a rider, a relative gauge of frequency  is necessary for effective communication to be achieved.   Understand the frequency and master controlling it and you will positively increase the level of communication you share with your horse.  Better communication between you and your horse causes good vibrations.  Ohm…..

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Back! Back in the Saddle Again….

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Thanks Dad, for everything

 

Well, Back to the blog again anyway! It’s been quite a hiatus and I’ve missed my readers and fellow bloggers, but like true friendships a time lapse won’t matter.

I’m in a different state now, geographically anyway, and spend most of my day caring for my elderly father. Although it has altered the way my horse career operates I wouldn’t have it any other way. I am fortunate to have a career doing what I love because my family made the sacrifices necessary for a horse obsessed little girl. For that I will always be grateful.

This change in schedule has given me less time to teach, but more time to write and I’m hoping we can resume the conversations I have always appreciated with my old friends and hopefully some new ones too.

Sometimes it’s easier to sit than post….

It looks likes it’s going to be another blogging year.  My first attempt at blogging brought many unexpected results and events.  Some of the changes brought about feelings of pride and a sense of self-worth.  Other changes, while still enlightening,  forced reflection on aspects of dressage, or organized horse-sport in general,  that I had never before contemplated.  While I feel overloaded with ideas to blog about, my less naive side now worries that every story will read as either self-aggrandizing, cynical or sales pitchy.  When these feelings start making me avoid the vulnerability of writing this blog my new inspiration is to go back to the relationship between the rider and the horse, a relationship without angles or agendas.  Following is a letter from a student that I received about a year ago.  When the distractions of competition, politics and profits get me down, letters like this one, and others from students past bring me back to that concept of what “success” in the “horse industry” means to me.

This is published with permission from the author.  Thanks Jess, your unabashed sincerity humbles me.

Excerpt from an humble “expert”

“I hate writing, I love to have written.”  Dorothy Parker

Writing this blog, originally a writing exercise imposed upon me by my roommate, an avid birder that blogs daily at thebirdhousechick.com, has brought about many unexpected benefits and pleasures to my life.  While it sometimes seems like a chore to sit down and torture myself with self-doubt and criticism just to get three paragraphs completed, once it is finished I feel a sense of relief and am usually inspired for my next topic.

In addition to the cathartic experience of sharing issues that are dear to me I have met so many other bloggers, and many other riders that stumble across the writings and share their comments and insights. Some of them are professional trainers and many of them amateur riders that are passionate about their journey with riding.  Without the global reach of the world-wide web I would never have met these kindred souls that share my love of dressage or horses in general.  The comments and e-mail I receive as a result of my small blog have inspired me and made me feel part of a community in which I have never felt included.

It was a great surprise and admittedly a source of confusion when I received an e-mail from Frances Keller, an organizer from the historic and distinguished Dressage at Devon horse show.  The correspondence was an invitation to attend Devon as an “expert commentator” for the Prix St. George class held in the famous “Dixon Oval”.  My first response was that the e-mail must have been sent to me inadvertently so I replied to Ms. Keller to inquire why I had been included in the group of experts that featured top judges and top competitors from across the United States.  It seems she came across my website and blog while looking for Scott Peterson, a great trainer I have listed on my resume’.  After reading the site Ms. Keller invited me to be a commentator as she felt that some of the listeners may relate to my point of view as a contrast to the great judges they have scheduled to speak.  I am very humbled by the invitation and hope that her instincts prove correct.

Although I am nervous about the prospect of speaking to such a large audience without the time to edit and rewrite that I am afforded by writing a blog,  I am more afraid of “flinching out” on an opportunity to be included in such an esteemed panel at such a dignified event.  So Thursday I board the plane to face my fears and hopefully offer a perspective that remains true to myself and resounds with others.

If any of my fellow blogging friends, or others that follow the blog are going to be in attendance at Devon please let me know so we can finally meet.  I consider you all part of my journey and wouldn’t be included if it weren’t for your kind words and inspiration.

Check out the page of “experts” here.