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!”

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

frequency

 

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.

Moving past Perfect…

Lynn and Luna enjoy a ride by the Lake

I could write about….no, that’s stupid. Oh, I could explain how……no, everybody knows that already. Oh, I know, I could write…..no, that idea sucks. That has been my inner dialogue every time I sit down to blog for the past six months. I wish I could blame my absence on the weather or my busy schedule, but why lie? I have fallen victim to the same enemy of progress that I try to discourage my clients from entertaining, perfectionism.

Don’t get me wrong, anyone who knows me knows I’m far from perfect! When it comes to writing, whether it’s a college paper or my little blog I become paralyzed with fear that my work will not measure up. I see this same self-destructive behavior become problematic in many of my client’s riding. For fear of not doing an exercise properly the first time, they never attempt it at all.

En route to lessons this same self-doubt creeps up on me if I let it. What if I can’t live up to my client’s expectations? What if my instruction falls flat or fails to inspire? Perhaps somebody else could explain things more creatively or clearly. This almost always alleviates itself as soon as the lesson begins and the dialogue between instructor, horse and rider begins to flow, The details work themselves out and it becomes clear that it is not the over complicated, esoteric explanations or the grandiosity of the upper level movements that make a good lesson. It’s the quiet, subtle exchanges that occur only between the rider and the horse that matter.

As frequently happens when self-doubt becomes overwhelming to me my students unknowingly become my teachers. Last week while driving to teach a dedicated adult amateur rider I found myself fretting about what I would present as a lesson. We have been chipping away at the lateral exercises and because she is so dedicated to her riding and her horse I desperately wanted to help her feel confident and confirmed in her lateral work, exercises that are complex in nature and require a patient communication between the horse and rider.

I arrived at the barn after spending the drive over mentally preparing for my lesson with Lynn. I was determined to dazzle her with lofty explanations of the communication needed for her to properly execute jaw dropping shoulder-in and breathtaking renvers. My perfectionism was in overdrive and my anxiety about presenting the perfect lesson was building. When I determinedly walked into the barn I noticed that Lynn was wearing a radiant smile. She explained that for the first time ever her sometimes aloof mare, Luna, had cantered up to greet her in the pasture. Her excitement from that one interaction from her horse was nearly palpable. My anxieties melted away as I realized that riding, like life, is defined by the small things. Sure, great lateral work is nice to have but no lofty speech or complicated footwork can offer the undefinable joy experienced during the quiet moments understood only between the horse and rider.

With luck my writing self can learn something from my riding self. Tell the perfectionism to back off and just keep writing. Every ride isn’t perfect and every blog post won’t be awe-inspiring, but hopefully, if I keep moving towards the big things the small things will make it all worthwhile.