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!

caitlyn2
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!”

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.

2010 in review

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 10,000 times in 2010. That’s about 24 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 47 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 50 posts. There were 95 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 133mb. That’s about 2 pictures per week.

The busiest day of the year was January 31st with 150 views. The most popular post that day was Sweep your Cares Away…..

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were facebook.com, suzannekingdressage.com, equineink.com, blogger.com, and iamthesprinklerbandit.blogspot.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for dressage blog, dressage blogs, lisa wilcox, ron smeets, and lisa wilcox dressage.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

Sweep your Cares Away…. January 2010
8 comments

2

About me December 2009

3

Say What? May 2010
21 comments

4

Keep the helmet, ditch the Tux… March 2010
16 comments

5

Meet Mr. Smeets…. March 2010
6 comments

Say What?

Scott Peterson communicates with his horse before the show!

One of the challenges in teaching dressage lies in formulating analogies and phrases to evoke the proper “feeling” between the horse and rider.  On the technical side this includes teaching the mechanics of the movements, the relationship of the aids between the rider and horse,  and the systematic use of the training scale.  More imagination is required on the abstract side, as one must describe  feelings.  Elasticity, forwardness, throughness and many other dressage terms have either different definitions in the real world, or no  application whatsoever.

Many times word selection is pivotal in eliciting the right response from the rider, both physically and emotionally.  This obsession with word choice causes some clients annoyance as I use their questions and interpretations of their rides as indicators of their understanding of the training concepts and of their relationship with the horse.  An example that comes readily to mind is the common malady, “he keeps throwing his head up!”  Although visually this is true, the rider’s choice to focus on the horse’s head leads me to conclude that the rider does not understand that the horse’s head is not the problem, the problem is losing engagement and dropping the back, the head tossing is merely a symptom of this problem.  When focusing on the horse’s head position the rider will usually correct the head tossing with the reins.  This correction is temporary however, as the problem itself has been left unaddressed.  By asking the rider to think and speak in terms of the horse’s back, as opposed the head, it increases the likelihood that he will take the steps necessary to correct the source of the problem, and not patch it up for a few strides with force.

“He keeps drifting out!”  Another clue to a misunderstanding.  If the horse is drifting, breaking stride, speeding up, slowing down or any other deviance from the rider’s intent it is not “his” fault.  If he is doing it, it is likely that the rider is inadvertently asking him to do it.  Pointing out this word choice problem is not one of my more popular speeches.  It almost always merits an exasperated sigh and “you know what I mean”.  The problem here is that, yes, I know the rider is trying to convey the nature of the error, however the words selected indicate that the rider believes the horse is responsible for the failure of the exercise.  The same observation worded “I’m doing something that keeps allowing him to break or asking him to break” is more indicative that the rider is taking responsibility for the error, thus making correcting it a possibility.

A client of mine, a young rider that rehabilitates traumatized horses, used to describe resistance by the horse as “fighting”.  Although I know that she is not using the word literally, or in any way being unkind to the horse, I stop her explanation every time the word fighting is included.  It is important to me, as the trainer, that the relationship between the rider and the horse is one of teaching and understanding.  If the rider feels that the horse is malevolent as opposed to confused then the course of action will be disciplinary instead of instructive.  The word fighting indicates a combative stance with the horse that is not helpful in the training process.  It is the responsibility of the instructor to ascertain the rider’s understanding of the training relationship.  To assume an understanding, in spite of terminology to the contrary, can be a mistake the horse must pay for.

After each lesson use your own words to convey your understanding of the concepts addressed by your trainer.  Your explanation may illuminate misunderstandings that  prevent you from being  the partner your horse deserves.

Taken out of Reference….

On occasion I receive calls from prospective  schools or employers wishing to verify the integrity of  a current or previous student that has me listed as a personal reference.  These calls are usually unremarkable, a few sentences verifying how long I’ve known the applicant and a couple of obligatory questions regarding their work ethic.  Earlier this week I received one of these reference check calls regarding a student I have known for ten years, Lindsay Hildebrandt.  The business owner calling me was Linda Miller from Elkhorn Ranch in Montana.   Ms Miller’s warm sense of humor and sincere desire to hire the right person for her ranch made this call anything but unremarkable.

I have never been to Elkhorn Ranch but have many times thought I would like to take a summer off from teaching and spend it as a guide, or wrangler, taking people out on horseback treks through mountain passes, and enjoying horses without the pressures of daily commutes or the underlying intensity of competition training.  Unfortunately, however, Ms. Miller didn’t call to ask me out to Montana to be a wrangler for the summer, but instead to find out if I thought Lindsay Hildebrandt might be right for the job.  “You would be crazy not to hire her”, was my initial reaction, and I stand by it still.

Elkhorn Ranch, Montana

I assured Linda that Lindsay was nothing if not determined and hard-working.  Anyone that has ever met Lindsay’s horse, Prophet, can testify to that.  As charming and talented as Prophet is, I have never met a more challenging or difficult horse to train and Lindsay has persevered on him through the years, training him as a showjumper.  I’m sure there won’t be any horses at Elkhorn like Prophet, but if Linda needs any help with training horses for the trails, she’s getting her money’s worth with Lindsay.

A talented artist, Lindsay has designed logos for me, given me drawings and paintings that I cherish and created a beautiful wire sculpture of my horse, Wango Tango.  Before the advent of blogs I recruited Lindsay and her best friend Amber to write and illustrate my first newsletter, Hot2Trot.  It was a lot of work for the kids but they did a great job!   If Linda is as sneaky as I am, Elkhorn may have some new signs and artwork before the summer is up!

Wire Sculpture of Wango Tango

I could go on and on about traits that make Lindsay a great candidate for Elkhorn Ranch but I’d rather let Lindsay update us herself.  She’s leaving in June and staying for the summer.  I have a great feeling about Linda, she seems like a genuine person that cares about her guests, her horses and her staff.  One day Nickel (Wango Tango) and I hope to make it out to Montana to meet her and her horses.

Lindsay, good luck at your job and have a great time.  You have been promoted from Hot2Trot illustrator to blogospondent for Tango Dressage!  Send us updates and photos from your trip and put in a good word for me, I’ll be a wrangler one day soon!

Click here to visit Elkhorn Ranch Homepage

Meet Mr. Smeets….

 

Ron helps Lauren with the connection

Ok, ok…It’s hard to think of a catchy title that rhymes with Smeets!  That’s what I have to work with however, as it was the second day of another great clinic with international rider and trainer Ron Smeets from The Netherlands.  Anyone that has visited my website, Tango Dressage, knows I am a big fan of Mr. Smeets.  He travels to the U.S. on a regular basis in order to  maintain a consistent training program.  I try to ride with Ron every opportunity I get, however, unable to ride this weekend I observed from the sidelines as several of my students took advantage of his expertise.

This is the forty-fifth post I have published on this blog and several times leading up to the weekend of the clinic I felt it would boost rider entries to post an article about Ron and previous clinics, however, these attempts remain unpublished as I have come to realize that if the intentions of my posts are anything other than my sincere feelings or opinions at the time of writing than they are nothing but advertisements and advertisements are always biased to favor the advertised.

Sincerity is the trait that I admire most in Ron’s professional dealings.  When you ride with Ron it is evident that he cares if you understand what he is trying to convey in the lesson.  This is not just true of upper-level or potential horse purchasing clients.  Ron routinely spends as much time and energy as is necessary to make sure even more novice riders understand and benefit from their ride, even if his lunch break or rest breaks are depleted by doing so.

The same sincerity that conveys concern for the rider’s education also puts the rider in the hot seat at times.  Don’t expect phony compliments or platitudes from Smeets.  His concern is with the education of the rider and the welfare of the horse and if a mistake is made and repeated, expect to hear about it until it is corrected!  He is never unkind or condescending but instead determines what a rider is capable of and pushes them to meet that mark.  It is a quality in a clinician that I greatly admire as so many clinicians I see under-challenge or placate riders, as they wish to maintain a loyal following, but platitudes do not make a Grand Prix rider.

This is the last day of Ron’s clinic and I look forward to riding with him when he returns in June.  His dressage knowledge and teaching style make him an excellent trainer.  His sincerity and candor make him an exceptional person.

Click here to visit Ron’s website R.S.D.H. in the Netherlands.  He has exceptional dressage horses for sale and is available for training at his new facility.

Keep the helmet, ditch the Tux…

 

“Dress is at all times a frivolous distinction, and excessive solicitude about it often destroys its own aim.”  Jane Austen

Understandably there has been a lot of controversy lately over the possibility of mandatory helmet rules for dressage competition.  Although personal safety should be an individual’s choice it is difficult to defend the decision of  not protecting one’s own head.

The main concern for not mandating helmets seems to lie in the fact that helmets are not as visually appealing when worn with the customary dressage attire, particularly the shadbelly jacket.  A top hat, which offers little to no protection at all, is far more appealing when wearing such an outfit.  Recently, as a possible alternative to helmets, companies have been designing “hard-hat” type top hats as they have for cowboy hats for western rider’s safety.  These hats, while safer to ride in, are bulky and clumsy, thus negating the point of having a visually appealing hat.

Although this suggestion may upset some classicists I believe it may be time to consider embracing the helmet and updating the attire.  Yes, that means quit competing in tuxedos.  Tuxedos are certainly classy outfits for weddings or the opera but not necessarily clothes that inspire athleticism.  Many other athletic events require helmets and  maintain a dignified but athletic turnout.  In addition to being visually compatible with safety gear, more athletic attire can be manufactured with fabrics that are more conducive to sports functionality.  Wearing a blazer and an Ascot with leather boots while participating in an athletic event in the deep South in September seems somehow non-sporty.

While I have a deep respect for tradition and believe that the principles of  riding and training should be passed from generation to generation, the time may have come to consider updating the attire of the modern equestrian.  Athletes in every sport benefit from advances in fabrics and modern technological design for comfort and performance, why not us?  If we want the rest of the world to respect our sport as an Olympic discipline we may have to suit up looking like the athletes that we are.