Welcome to the dressage spot, a place for the young (or young at heart) dressage riders wanting to gain information on the sport of dressage, training tips, equine health care, maintenance and fun!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013


Saturday, for the first time in weeks I felt a bit better! All the therapy, rest, massages, and great advice from so many friends and family started to pay off. Britta you have magic hands and I personally cannot WAIT until you move here. I think a week or two more and I may be able to be back in the saddle. I do not want to push it as young as I am I don’t want forty years regretting not taking the time to fully heal. Sjapoer and I have a lot of work to do to be ready for the spring season with this big set-back.

So I am using my time this weekend to rewrite and update my long term strategic plan for USEF. I have my update conference call Tuesday afternoon and I want to be prepared. I know I have mentioned the LTSP in my blog and interviews before. For those of you who are new readers, it is a way for everyone to guide their training by establishing both short and long term training goals. For the youth riders selected to participate USEF and Jeremy Steinberg discuss the goals with you and check on your progress. It is kind of a way for them to stay connected and help if they can to bring us along in our dressage goals. But I encourage everyone to incorporate the tenants of the program into your riding and your life.

In essence you have to break down your goals. If you want to be at a certain place in 5 years, in 3 years or next year then what do you need to work on this month, in the next three months to get there? What can you do? What can your trainer do? What can your parents do? What can you not do? What are some of your biggest obstacles? How might those obstacles be addressed? For example, do you need an outside clinic? Do you need to do outside core training (like me).

Anyway, I am working on my update now because these last few weeks of injury have changed my goals slightly and given me some new things to add to my plan. Also I have to adjust for going to EDAP’s RDHMW in January, so all of those have to be rewritten.

I have also been using this time to get ready for the holidays. This is the time to thank everyone who supports all your riding endeavors all year. My family likes to make gifts. They may seem cheesy and perhaps not as flashy and expensive as some types of gifts; but they take time. Time today seems to be the most valuable commodity there is. So I was taught that taking time, using your own hands to make something; putting in your individuality, your creativity and your thought made the present more valuable than anything from Macy’s. So think about your list. Don’t forget all the people that work at the barn, the vet’s office, the farrier, and all the dozens of people that keep you and your horse healthy and happy all year. My family also takes plates of baked goods to the firehouse and the police station to thank them for their work. As a kid I thought this was so cool. I even got a tour of the fire trucks once.

You might have seen the pictures on FB; Sjapoer got some gifts from Ms. Lochhead and Mr. Kearney at Gatorade! When they heard about Sjapoer’s dehydration at NAYRC and how we couldn’t get him to drink anything but Gatorade they jumped right in to help him with his Gatorade thirst in the future. Finally, he has a bucket worthy of his size! Thanks again and I’ll keep you updated on his adventures as I promised.

Finally, I wanted to say to everyone have an amazing Thanksgiving! Although I may not get to see my family this year I wanted to share some of my traditions with you. That way even if we don’t get to do them maybe you can. Every year my mom cuts out a bunch of fall leaves from construction paper. They are so colorful, like the fall paintings nature has made outside. They are red, orange, amber, brown, golden and so many hues. We go outside on a walk the day before and look for a downed branch. When we lived on the ranch this was easier. Now we go to the park. We always find the most interesting branches. This makes every year’s tree unique. We put the branch in a bottle or vase with stones to weight it down. We take yarn and a hole punch and put a hole and tie a string on each of the leaves. Then everyone writes on their leaves what they are thankful for. We hang them on the ‘thankful tree.’ After dinner while we are all digesting and stalling before pie and coffee we read the leaves and we have to guess who wrote each leaf. It is really fun and also a great way to include guests in the festivities. They feel like family right away. Another one we do is over the Thanksgiving holiday we make Christmas paper chains of red and green paper alternating. On each ‘link’ of chain we write the names of someone (horses, dogs and other animals count of course) we love and wish a merry Christmas. We make the number of links equal to the days until Christmas. Then every day we open one chain like a calendar count down. We read the name on the link and we make sure on that day to somehow show our love for them on ‘their day.’ It is a really neat way to take time over the holidays to remember what we have to celebrate and to slow down for a minute or two every day. I miss those traditions as I get older and as I am living away from home.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Going stir-crazy!

    So my sciatic nerve is still a problem.  This long term recovery thing is going to drive be bonkers.  I will admit that I have learned a few things about myself.  First, I despise being inside the house all day.  I feel anxious, jittery, and incomplete if I am not at the barn.  My soul needs its place of happiness, comfort and refilling.  Do you have a place like that?  For my mom I think it is the garden (or the library).  For my grandma; wherever her family is.  She wants to be with us and part of our lives.  I think it is neat how everyone has a different way to recharge and a different core thing that motivates them and is their focus.  I am lucky to have found mine so early and to be able to follow that path of satisfaction and contentment.
    Ok so maybe lying around is giving me too much time to think.  I have watched every movie on Netflix that I have any desire to ever see and then some.  I have played Sims until I have an entire life built for every one of my friends, family and perhaps every person I have ever met. 
    I have been to an Orthopedic Specialist, the ER doctor, a chiropractor and two therapists.  They all say the same thing; wait, don’t rush, core exercises and stay out of the saddle!  I can tell you 100% I am going to be the poster child for core development once I am healthy.  Lookout gym; I will be living to defeat you.  Hopefully, I will be healthy enough to have a few weeks to get ready for Bob’s EDAP morning work outs.  I have already been on the web for hours designing a new program.
  I had thought before that I was in good shape.  With riding so many hours, eating really healthy and working out I never imagined I was putting myself at any disadvantage with a lack of a certain area development.  I was worried and working on overall fitness.  This has always been really important to me and my family.  My dad is a bit of a health nut and when I was little he even had me watching my sodium intake and tried to get me hooked on cucumber water and all manner of things!  I have a strong core from riding and I love planks!  But the specialist tell me there are certain moves and very specific exercises that I should be doing twice a day to help extend my time in the saddle not only daily but long term in my life.  
    I am getting excited about seeing Genay soon maybe!  She may fly down to work on some projects we are coordinating.  I also want to give a quick shout out to my mom.  I hear your speeches for Native American History month are going great!  I wish I could have been there for the ones on Native Boarding schools and to meet the former President of the National Congress of American Indians. Miss you, and I am really sad I probably won’t see my family for Thanksgiving.  Yep, there are some big downsides to this riding life.  Sjapoer doesn’t know it is a holiday and he still needs to get ridden, especially because I need to get moving on training with my weeks off.  
   I shaved Sjapoer yesterday! I think I need to work on my barber skills. It took me 5 hours and I was covered head to toe in horse hair. I am hoping to get really good so I can help everyone out around the barn with their clipping too; so I’ll keep on it.  I must admit I stood a bit too long and my back hurts this morning.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Working on Image

Money! Money! Money! The more you dedicate your life to dressage or an equestrian lifestyle and the higher levels you ride the more the discussions turn around to money. As much as we try to open dressage to the mass public, one of the reasons it (and most equine sports) has an elitist name tag is the price tag! One of the ways we try to offset the increasing costs of competition is through sponsorships. The last few years this has become an increasing issue for me. I have gotten lots of input from many different and insightful individuals. For example, my dad is in sports marketing and has been since he left his athletic career. He has been with the Dallas Stars, the Texas Rangers, and is now with Legends Cowboys. This gives him a view from both sides of the sponsorship coin. My mom had several graduate classes on marketing and used to be on the sales end of the banking industry. My Uncle James (who I am waiting to hit up soon) studied sports and entertainment law before he started practicing real estate law. Jeremy my trainer is deeply embedded in sponsorships of his own from riding and training as is my friend Reese Koeffler-Stanfield. I have garnered advice from all of them. I also went to the recent owner’s task force meeting and got to hear some of the horse owner’s perspectives. I also talk to my riding friends who are working on this same issue and we try to bounce around ideas.

So what did I come up with over the last few years? First, remember that there are several layers of difficulty for young people to get sponsorships more than adults. First, the adults have a longer proven track record of success and a recognizable name than we do. Second, they are adult professionals who are more business minded. They have experience at this and we don’t. Sponsors aren’t worried that adults will get two or three years into a project and they will ‘change their career path.’ Historically, we all talk about how the 18-25 years are the black hole for most riders. At this age we go off to college, bounce around majors and careers, get married and start families. That often pulls promising riders out of our sport at least temporarily. So sponsors often want to wait until those years are over to solidify relationships. Third, we have different perceptions on things like social media and behavior than adults often do. They did not grow up using FB, twitter, snapchat and instagram. Corporations and industry leaders are older and fearful in some ways of our ‘openness.’ So remember who your audience is. The corporate leaders and owners are not 18. Their perceptions are different than ours. But you are asking them for help. That means it isn’t up to them to accommodate or accept you. It is up to you to accommodate, understand and except their perceptions. So you need to get strict with yourself. What image do you want to present to future sponsors. What image do you want to build for yourself as to your values and beliefs about not just dressage and riding but about behavior and attitude? If you want sponsors to know you are hardworking, dedicated and focused it would be unwise to post FB pictures and twitter messages that lead people to perceive that you are not. One picture speaks 1000 words. I daily see posts from fellow young people and adults that make me think; I wonder what my grandmother would think about that. I have chosen over the years to let people know that I am as cautious in person as I am online. If my mother would give me "that look" I don’t post it or chat about it. There is no need. If you think this long enough, it becomes natural not only in your online communication but your daily life. If you constantly think about the image you want to present. The person you want to be; you become that person in your actions.

Why is image so important? Sponsors spend hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars developing their own image. They will want your image to reflect or enhance theirs. This is why even industry greats like Michael Phelps and Tiger Woods have lost millions because of their behavior. More importantly they have lost respect and have tainted their lifelong athletic achievements. They dedicated and sacrificed decades and lost what to so long to build for a moment (or two) of stupidity. Once this is done it is hard to recover from. It is hard to change people’s perceptions of you once they are formed.

So part of my strategy is and will be that I am not only dedicated, hardworking and focused but loyal to my sponsors. For example, Schleese was the first company to sponsor me. They supported my goals and dreams before I had proof that I could achieve anything. In 2012 a few weeks before the Festival of Champions my saddle broke. I had purchased years before a used Schleese that I had been riding in for a long time. It had been lovingly used but had seen better days! Schleese jumped in and gave me a new saddle to use while they fixed my old one. It was phenomenal. It was like riding in a couch. It was their Infinity II which I still use. It has brought me two National and 6 North American medals. We have traveled a nice road together. Over the last two years many of the people at Schleese have emailed me to congratulate me personally. Any time I need a saddle pad, or anything I need they get it right out to me the next day. They have been helpful, supportive, loyal and professional. The values they have shown me that they have; reflect the ones that I hold important. So after NAYRC this year I contacted them about maybe increasing our commitment long term. I don’t want to be that girl who jumps from sponsor to sponsor depending on who offers me the most at the time. I want to be that girl who is loyal to her owners, her sponsors, her family, her horse, her trainer. Heck I moved from Texas to Washington my senior year on two weeks’ notice to train with Jeremy. Then after less than a year I put off a full ride to a private four year Jesuit school to follow him 1000’s of miles to California. I want to build long term dedicated relationships not only with my trainer but my sponsors and hopefully someday my owners.

So what happened with Schleese? Amazing things! They have a similar belief in developing relationships and loyalty. They feel they have been part of my story from the beginning and want to continue to be. They are changing in my Infinity II saddle (which I am going to miss) for the new Obrigado!!!!! I am so excited it feels like Christmas and my birthday at the same time. They are sending their local representative to measure Sjapoer and I. They are sending me Mr. Schleese’s new book "Suffering in Silence"; which I cannot wait to read. As soon as I get my butt in my new saddle I will let you know how it feels. Really, I have a bony butt and until I got my Infinity II I had trouble with my butt getting numb in the saddle. I used to have fairly bad back and hip problems. Regular chiropractor treatments, increasing exercises for the area and my Schleese helped with that! (Sounds like the topic of another blog).

So back to the point about sponsorships; I want to look back 40 years from now at my long dressage career and still have the Schleese symbol on my pads and their saddle on my horse. I want to share my memories over those forty years with the same people. We can grow and succeed together. I want my sponsors, trainers, vets, massage people, farriers and owners to know that about me. That is the product I want to sell. That is my brand.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Working on Professionalism

Well a lot of productivity this week. Piles of changes and learning going on! I first have to say thank you to all of the people who continue to support me in all my endeavors, not just riding. I think that everyone from the farrier to the sponsor becomes part of the development of who you become as an individual. I told you in my last blog that you have to find out who you are; that you have to ‘brand’ yourself and let those around you know what you stand for. Well you in part become who you are because of their input and advice in your life.

For example, I had several really important discussions with Jeremy this week. He really is helping me make the transition from a youth rider to an active participant in the future of the industry. There are many possible careers in the equine industry (of course mine veers toward riding) but professional is professional and it requires some changes to be accepted in the adult world. Anyway, so we talked about the move into a new market. We discussed how Southern California and Washington and Texas have subtle nuances. Here people could be ‘just in the area’ and stop in without notice; regularly. This could be a sponsor, an owner, another trainer or a potential client. So never ever come to the barn without your person already spotless; stud earrings only, hair up, and professional clothing choices. Absolutely no short shorts! I swear if he could, Jeremy would make it illegal to wear anything shorter than knee length! Hint to anyone attending his clinics: He is a perfectionist about you and your horse’s appearances. If you want to impress him be immaculate! Your horse should be able to be pulled out of his stall without notice and look spotless! If you want to be treated as a professional, you have to look like one. I guess this is true of most careers in life.

Jeremy did start me on this in Washington; it has just upped in amperage in CA. For example, when I first moved to Washington I was so impressed by Shauntel. Every day when I went to the barn she was so perfect; she never had a hair out of place. All of her polo wraps, pads and apparel matched every day! I started trying to emulate her at first just because it was impressively cool. Then I began to realize the benefit. If you look cool, collected, put together and professional people treat you that way when speaking and interacting with you. It also makes you feel more empowered and gives you more courage to speak up and stand your ground.  professionalism

On a side note, I remember in the early years in riding many adults asked my parents, "but can she make a living in dressage?" After having spent years in the equine industry now the answer is unequivocally yes! I have met massage therapists who are making 80-100K a year! That is more than the average college graduate. Heck that is as much as most college professors! Shoeing, vetting, saddle fitting, braiding, clipping, dental work, training, and so many more industries thrive on the equine market. These careers can be very comfortable. Not only do they pay well but you are outside, working with horses and horse people! You get to be physically active and not stuck inside behind a desk. What could be better than that?

Anyway, in closing take all ‘suggestions’ as that. The adults in this industry want to help and share their knowledge. It is not criticism. That is a lesson I have to learn. As riders we tend to be type A controlling, over achiever types and we have a hard time not being ‘perfect.’ I am working to be better, to learn and grow from you and the people around me every day!