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!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Preparing for EDAP

Well three rides back in the saddle and my spirits are both soaring and diving!  I feel so happy because i am at home here in the saddle!  I feel as if I found the thing that has been missing for a few weeks.  Yet it doesn't feel quite the same.  In the 13 I have been riding I have only had more than a day or two off maybe two times.  The first time was in 2010 after I got kicked in the torso by SJ at NAJRC and now.  I am a little out of shape!  My rebuilding is going to take another couple of weeks.  Luckily I have the time before qualifying season. I think it may turn out to be a little blessing as Jeremy has been riding SJ and our developmental year might get fast forwarded! :) 
 I have been working so hard in therapy and physio to get ready for Florida.  The Robert Dover week with EDAP is one of the highlights od my year.  I have been focused since the FOC on preparing for it. The competitive and driven part of me wanted to ride through the pain stiffness and weakness. I felt I had a lot to prove, maybe if only to myself. I also didn't want to disappoint anyone. But I also believe in teamwork, helping others and fairness.  So we agreed that I shouldn't take away the possibility for another rider to give and learn 100%. I didn't want to be unfair to my fellow riders or the clinicians.  So I called Lendon and gave her the news.  So someone today got that happy call, "bring your boots"!   I am very happy to be part of that, and sad I must admit to not riding in what everyone knows is my favorite event of the year.  
  However, I have to say thanks to Lendon for understanding and helping me by giving me a job!  I get to have education clinics during horse care for the auditors.  I have spent the time since then coming up with topics and activities. I hope my fellow RDHMW auditors will enjoy them.  I have to say I am on the countdown to head out!  I can not wait to see old friends and make new ones.

  The other news this week was getting to know Anna and her family better.  Her mom and mine seemed to bond over the stove while Anna and I planned some riding adventures. She didn't know about EDAP!  We tried to fill them in on lots of the YR programs.  I hope y'all spread the word too!  Oh and we went to the mall. I needed something to wear in the evenings in Florida.  Anna has amazingly classy taste and found a beautiful dress for me.  I might not be riding this week but I will be styling! I used to think fashion was a some girls thing; but now I  think it is a type of psychology. For example, when you feel you look good it lifts your spirits or gives you confidence. It helps and I hope it helps to make being on the ground easier.
  Well I won't write again til Florida. Then I hope to write everyday.  So the next few posts will be full of clinic data and less riding for me means more info for you because I will have time for better notes!  I will say I am actually going to be sad to miss out on the full Bob 6 am workouts too!  Really!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Healthy Holiday!

When I was really young, you know those years when your mom walks you through your nighttime routine before putting you to bed; she had me do the usuals. I brushed my teeth, got in my pj’s, washed my face; but I did something more.  She made me start putting on lotion, and not just my face and hands.  I lotion my legs and most importantly she says; my neck.  She had me do this so that my skin would look and feel younger when I was older, so that I would develop good habits of health care early. She taught me this through the method of repetition.  If you do something over and over enough it becomes a habit.  For example, tonight if you tried to brush your teeth with the opposite hand then you normally do you will feel really uncomfortable and have to think about what you are doing.
Why does this matter?  Well our lives become full of routines and habits.  Many habits we make in our early yearsduring a time when we feel invincible and see endless amounts of time ahead.  Older people look back and try to tell us things they wish they knew or did when they were younger and we often ignore them, much to our own peril! So a recent small thing for me, made me see into that future.  
As a young female rider I am surrounded at the barnsmostly with older ladies.  I have heard them through the years all talking about their back pain.  I generally felt empathy for them but felt in my youthful arrogance that really their pain was just because they were old.  Sorry!  But really it is the sport,riding puts a lot of stress on your joints, particularly the back, hips and knees.
I recently had some sacroiliac joint pain with slight inflammation. This was not an injury but a really slight nuisance that I look at as a blessing wake up call.    At 18, I never really thought ahead to how to prolong my riding career hopefully into my 70’s!  I was really interested in the now.  Sure we think about our horse’s health. In fact, most of us make jokes about how they get better health care than we do.  Maybe we sacrifice for them for the sport, or for our deep love of them, or because we want to prolong their seemingly shorter careers.  For whatever reason this pain showed me that I have been taking my health and physical abilities for granted.
    I had some slight inflammation and pain in my sacroiliac joint.  I iced the inflammation, and rested.  I thought this would be just another ache that would pass in a day or two.  When it extended, as you know, I began to do my usual research and to look to many ways to change my routine and my lifestyle to minimize these types of stresses and strains in my life.  The sacroiliac joint (hip joint) pain and inflammation can be caused,according to webMD, by any condition that alters the normal walking pattern and increases stress on the SI joint.  Well that describes riding to a tee.  This is particularly true for those of us who ride multiple horses in a day.  You know that feeling when you slide off the last one and you have to get your ‘legs back’ to walk!  Even non-horse people make jokes about our bowed legs and funny way of walking.  By the way, SI problems often manifest themselves as lower back pain with an ‘indeterminate’ cause.
I am only 18 and obviously not a doctor.  I just wanted to share with you some of the things I have learned these lastweeks working to plan a long and healthy career.  First, there are several general health changes I have made as a result.  I have dramatically altered my core training.  When I get back from the RDHMC I have signed up for regular classes in Yoga and Pilates!  The chances of these types of pains can be lowered with core development.  All the doctors I went to the MD’s, Chiropractors, physiosmassage therapists etc. all told me to do more stretching exercises, and not just right before we get in the saddle.  I now do them at home twice a day as well.  The ones on the rolling tubes and balls are fun but tough.  I like those.  
One of the products I found to be helpful was my sacroloc“stabilizing orthosis” from Bauerfind.  It is basically a really light belt brace.  I wore it most of the day at first.   NoI wear it when I feel twinges.  I should wear it at night to sleepI sleep on my belly with my leg bent like I am on the mounting block getting up on a horse and the weight puts pressure on my hip.  As of yet, I will admit I find it disturbs my sleep.  I am working on perhaps finding a lighter, smaller one although the one I have was, as of three weeks ago, the smallest and lightest I could find for under $200.00.  My Grandmother made me (I admit against deep protests) use a special pillow to sit on.  I use it when I drive and when I sit to watch lessons.  It made me feel silly at first.  She actually had to slip in under me as I sat down for me to even try it.  I was that stubborn about looking and feeling like an old person.  After a few minutes in the car and realizing it altered the level of pain I was feeling, I am a convert.  I now go back to the car to get it before sitting down to watch an hour lesson.  She also bought me at Walmart a HoMedics pocket electrode pack.  It is similar to the electrode treatment for your muscles you get at the chiropractor.  It is small enough to put in my purse and if I feel my muscles tightening I can really easily put it on for a few minutes to loosen that tension.  I really like it.
Well I hope this helps a few of you to experience less pain.  I hope it helps a few of you young people to take a look at your own health management.  We may feel invincible but we aren’t.  We may think health issues are for old people after years in the saddle but they aren’t.  In fact, if you are like me and want to have years in the saddle, why not make a few changes now to not be in that same pain thirty years from now.  I know it is hard to think about putting in the effort for something you might nothave to worry about, but I for one want to make those years as enjoyable and successful as these!
     Have a wonderful Holiday Season!  I send you all my best wishes and hope you all have a pain free New Year!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Holiday Spirit!

    So lots of good news to report this week!  I think my back is finally over the hump. I am not in constant pain and I am eagerly looking to get back in the saddle pretty soon.  Sjapoer has been getting cranky and I think he misses me riding him.  Although I go to the barn multiple times a day to take care of him; it isn’t the same.
    We had a Christmas party for the whole barn at Ridgemar.  It was neat. They had BBQ, square dancing, and a pit fire.  It was fun to see all the people you pass in the barn aisle, or in the arena out of the saddle and enjoying themselves.
    My mom finally made it to CALI! She finished grading her student’s exams last Thursday. I guess after the ice days in Texas it was a bit stressful for students and faculty.  I can’t wait to start next semester here myself.  Although I think snow days for finals are highly unlikely in Southern California.
    Being around my mom is always like a breath of air. She is full of energy, positive vibes and constant smiles; but sometimes the air moves really fast a pushes.  Luckily I have learned it is always with good intentions to help others.  She has some sort of teacher gene and tries to help everyone around her to become more all the time.  
    Anyway more great news was that Genay and my flights to EDAP on New Year’s Eve both connect through DFW and continue on the same flight! So my big sis and I are going to get to celebrate for a few hour layover in DFW and the flight to West Palm Beach.  We get in at around 11:35 PM! Mom said she is going to have some sort of girl’s New Years event planned.  I hope she knows by 12:05 Genay and I have to crash so that we are ready for an early day at the GDF grounds. 
    I met a really great girl Anna Buffini.  She and I went shopping and to the Hobbit movie the other day.  I hope we can manage time for more social stuff before I have to leave for Florida.  She will be doing Young Riders this year and will be stiff competition.  I think the breadth of our sport, particularly among youth riders is really growing.  Thank you USDF, USEF, EDAP and all those who have been working so tirelessly to make it so.
    Mom and I are going to the barn this morning, then to do shopping for Christmas!  I can’t wait to take mom to Mary’s Tack shop.  I want to entice her with the dozens of colors of Polo Wraps.  I want to emulate my former trainer Shauntel Bryant and have Polo wraps of all colors to match my pads and outfit.  It just looked so professional.  Also mine are getting awful raggedy.  Does anyone have a method to keep them looking newer?  I once read this joke list on 10 ways to know you are dating a horse person.  I think I should add “their Christmas and birthday present lists, are always lists of things their horse needs.”  

Friday, December 13, 2013


    As the dates for the RDHMW get closer, I start thinking about all I have learned and how I have changed since that first one two years ago.  I remember Mary Phelps talking about the media and how to present yourself in today’s mass media global image world.  I took to heart all she said about things like what to post, what to say and not to online.  But also, I remember her having us do ‘practice’ interviews.  I was thrilled to think about maybe someday giving one.  I was awed that anyone would want to listen to what I had to say.  The first interview I thought I might have to give at FOC that next spring, I sat up the night before, writing out and practicing answers to possible questions; just as she suggested. Even this year at NAYRC I wrote the names of everyone to thank on my hand so I wouldn’t forget.  Unfortunately, as you know that wasn’t a great idea because my palm sweated in the victory lap and all of that got smudged!
    So looking back on all of the mess ups, success and changes in my interaction with the media I have learned a few things.  First, the things you think are interesting or important might not be what journalists think are!  Don’t get discouraged when that great line you thought was a perfect quote is never heard again; but that silly thing you said in jest gets printed in bold!  As a junior I wanted to spend time letting the people in the media learn about what kind of a person I am. I wanted them to see me as my outgoing and light-hearted self. I wanted to thank all the people who helped me. I thought each time might be the last time I had to say thanks.  Everyone always wants to thank their sponsors and support team.  That gets kind of boring to the media though and I see in most interviews that isn’t really a focus.  But I can imagine from the other side it gets hard to write unique and interesting articles.  I know from doing this blog that just coming up with one topic a week is sometimes a monumental task.  Even with so few actual pieces I still have repeated myself!  So let’s keep in mind that journalists have a job.  They may love horses and our sport but they are paid to write articles to grab attention, to interest readers and followers.  So if we are prepared, have interesting and new things to add, it helps them too!
    In the last year Jeremy has scolded me more than a few times that I need to focus my interview responses to be more professional; to deliver my message to the media.  I think what he means is that now I have a goal or a path in dressage and I have to get out what I am doing, and what I need.  For example, I am looking for horses!  As Sjapoer will be 15 in February I will have to get a younger, new horse soon to look forward past the next two years.  I also have three more years of eligibility at Young Riders and would love to highlight American Bred and trained horses.  I want to ride for a US breeder the next three years at NAYRC.  I need to get those statements out into the media.  So as we get more adult and professional we have to begin to answer questions to get out the information we want. This is really hard.  It gave me some awkward moments this year as I have tried to transition my open, light hearted answers to career industry forward thinking answers.
    I like doing interviews where I can write out my full response and send them back to journalists.  This I think has always givenreally in depth information.  Yet in person interviews are fun and more exciting.  They often lead to me saying something silly though; as my natural lightness comes out more in person.  Video streaming and radio interviews are by FAR the scariest.  You can’t take anything back and they aren’t edited.  You also get to hear your own voice back later and I think no one ever likes how they sound.  I think I giggle way too much.  I am going to have to work on that.  
   So what is my point?  Like anything else media presentations, developing your online and in person image takes time and practice.  Think about what you want to say, write it out, practice your responses.  Have your friends and family ask you practice questions.  Trust me it will be worth it!

Monday, December 9, 2013


    It seems that a really hot button issue this year has been about education for riders.  This has probably been an issue for athletes from the beginning of sports!  We tell stories of the greats who dropped out of school to justify our decisions.  I mean even Bill Gates was a drop out at one time.  Over the last 6years this question has plagued me and my family.  I wanted to pursue my riding capabilities as far as I could.  Often public school regulations, like the number of days you could miss,interfered with my ability to participate in required qualifying events.  Even private school was often difficult because missed material meant always playing ‘catch-up’ to the class to stay in a group lecture format.  I found a great alternative in K12icademy.  This is a private international accredited school out of the state of Virginia.  
    Many older generations look at online or any type of ‘homeschool’ environment and think that attendees are put at a disadvantage.  Let’s look at some of the facts.  16 states have now licensed and accredited K12 for alternative education for current residents.  Many brick and mortar schools like LakeWashington HS in Kirkland, WA are themselves moving toward an online format with students working at an individual pace with a more one-on-one direction from teachers.  These students tend to be more independent workers, self-motivators and have deeply enriched educations.
    Furthermore, in a world of fast paced life where everyone tries to maximize their time an old fashioned education can becounterproductive.   For example, when I was in middle school the first class of the day was home room.  We spent 45 minutes discussing administrative housekeeping that rarely pertained to me.  Then we spent 10 minutes between each class (a total of 70 minutes a day) changing rooms.  The first 5-10 minutes in each class was used in taking roll.  The next 5-10 minutes were used to return or take up papers.  Then there would be a few minutes of some distractions from the joker of the class.  Then we would get about 20 minutes of instruction at best and then 5-10 minutes to get homework assignments, pack up books and head to the next class.  This meant in a 50 minute class we actually got about 20 minutes of class.  Now of the 7 periods, one was lunch and one was PE.  So we had 5 content classes.  That meant we had on average 100 minutes or less than two hours in a 7-8 hour day for actual work.  
    Furthermore, if we wanted to take a foreign language the limitations were set by the teachers that were available.  They taught Spanish, German, French and occasionally something random.  What if I wanted Latin and Chinese?  What if I wanted Paleontology or a hands-on Oceanography lab? A brick and mortar school has limitations of offerings.  An online school’s limitations are the limitless web.  You can also combine unique aspects to your education that you can’t do in a group class atmosphere. For example, when studying Renaissance artist you have the ability to go to museums regularly to experience the art which you are studying.  Field trips in today’s high school education are rare.  
    So here is my point.  Don’t be afraid of finding alternatives that complete many needs.  I come from a family of professors, doctors and lawyers.  There is no chance that I won’t pursue an education.  I understand the need for diverse learning and how an education has great value to me.  But there are alternative roots to education.  For example, after my often questioned“home schooled” educational route people wondered if I would ‘get in’ to a good university. Even my friends sometimes looked askance at my work and my future.   I was accepted at University of Washington, Washington State, Seattle University, and even Cornell.  One of the things my interview with the Cornell University administrator taught me was that they found my K12 education valuable!  She stated that they found these students to be highly successful in college, often because they had to be independent learners.   So I think we should quit thinking of higher education and athletics as a one or the other option.  If you are creative and willing to put in some time to work out unique alternatives you can have both!  It is just a matter of sometimes thinking outside the box and accepting ‘non -normal’ alternatives.  If you want to live a dream sometimes you have to be willing to accept challenges that others might think aren’t normal or average.  It doesn’t mean don’t go to school; it means find new ways to do so; be willing to adjust and compromise.  

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Call to Action!

Emerging Dressage Athlete’s third annual Robert Dover Horsemastership Week will be upon us in one month!  You have all heard me talk about this program several times.  I credit it with helping me to make a lot of changes which helped me to build my personal commitment to dressage and my goals.  I have spoken about making friends, about learning so much about the industry and how it works.  I have learned from this clinic about the countless of potential careers in our industry and how we are not lone solitary riders but networks of teams producing a few minutes of harmony and beauty.  I haven’t spent much time talking about the hard work that all the volunteers but into this program.  Lendon works tirelessly to help find and encourage young raw talent.  I remember my first clinic with her in Texas.  When I got selected as an auditor I felt so honored.  I felt all of the years of hard work were finally being noticed.  That someone saw I had potential gave me motivation. I mean sure my parents thought so, and my trainers told my parents so but that is kind of the job of parents and trainers.  They try to encourage you.  Here was someone who didn’t seem like the type to give false praise telling me I was doing something ‘perfectly.’  
I want to thank all of the presenters, lecturers, sponsors and trainers in advance for all of their time and energy.  But I also want to ask all of you to think how you might be able to help.  In this individual sport it is often easy to as Jeremy calls it, “become insular.”  We think about our horses, our injuries, our tests and we don’t take time to think of the big picture; our industry as a whole.  In order for more breeders to put out dressage horses, in order for trainers to select horses for dressage and not more lucrative ventures, in order for young riders to skip the thrill of jumping fences and ride endless circles, in order for the media to see us as something other than horse dancers we need to work on our industry as a whole.  And like most things it will take time, energy and be the results of lots of people doing lots of little things that will make our industry grow.  When I was little my mother explained teamwork to me this way.  Put a lot of different toys in the bath tub and then turn on the water very slowly.  Watch what happens as all the little molecules of water begin to become more and more.  All of the toys rise and begin to be lifted; together.  The more little drops of water that fill the tub, the higher all of the toys rise.  So we in the dressage industry are the toys but we are also the water for each other.  
So how do we help to develop future dressage enthusiasts who will need trainers, breeders, farriers, vets and other support teams?  We encourage young people to build their love of the sport.  EDAP and the USEF Youth clinics, the HSEA program, the International Dream Rider program, the USDF shining star program and many others all support this type of participation.  So think about what you can do to help these programs.  EDAP and the RDHMW always needs supplies, funds for costs and most importantly as time draws near; horses for the selected riders to use at the clinic in Wellington.  Most of these young riders are selected through local clinics.  They have talent and ability that Lendon, Robert, Courtney or other clinicians see as something that could be developed; just like they did in me.  Many don’t have the access to top quality horses and they look forward to coming to EDAP for the experience of riding a horse they wouldn’t get to ride at home.  All the riders want to get up and shine in front of their heroes.  It is really scary to get on a completely unknown horse for the first time and then walk directly into a lesson with Jan Ebeling or Tina Konyot!  I know I have done it.  I was so excited for my chance to show them something, to have them remember me.  I bet Tina does because I cried when I couldn’t even get my mount to trot or canter.  He was so freaked out, his tail was spinning in circles, his eyes were rolled back in his head and he was covered in lather after a matter of minutes from anxiety sweat.  I am so blessed and thankful that Rick Silva jumped in and got me another horse the next day.  However, I will not forget how horrible I felt with my ‘failure’ in front of Tina.  So what I am asking you readers today, if you are in Wellington or know someone in the Wellington area that might have an FEI horse that these 10 amazing riders could borrow from Jan 1-7 please contact Lendon Gray.  You can find her on FB!   Also if you or your company can donate money, time, lunch, or anything else that will help make this once in a lifetime event so memorable that it becomes for all the riders and auditors the ‘game changer’ that Robert Dover called it when it began 3 years ago; then please help any way you can.  I know it was a game changer for me.