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 15, 2016

A New Adventure!

This last year has been one of great changes for me.  I sold Sjapoer, I relocated to Germany to train and I began to seriously consider my future options in the sport I love.  I have spent the last 5 amazing years with SJ, training every day, working every day and fitting in life on the edges.  By that I mean, when I had time I took a class, when I had time I dated, when I had time I contemplated the vast world beyond my sport.  With the sale of Sjapoer and turning 21, the inevitable transition to adult life had come upon me.  What would be the best use of my money from selling SJ?  What would be the best use of my time long term?  I explored, as my mentor and friend Christine suggested what I wanted.  I took some time to be young and explore on the weekend breaks of my training in Germany. I traveled.  I danced. I also explored.  I took more classes online. I researched, and did what always works for me; I made a pros and cons list.  I wanted to know the full impact of my choices before I made a decision.  I don’t jump quickly into anything and particularly anything this big.  I am like my Uncle James and Christine that way.  I like to think about things from a lot of angles first.  During this process I spoke to my Uncle too.  He has guided me on financial decisions since we opened my stock account over a decade ago.  He agreed to match my Sjapoer money to help me move forward in my career.  We had a family meeting, I admit I have a great support team!  I am very lucky.  My Uncle came, my Grandma and my parents.  I don’t remember exactly how this progressed because fate seemed to intervene a bit.  But here is the long and short of it. My Uncle James had been buying hunting property in Michigan and found an amazing equestrian facility.  It was a former HJ barn known as Windsong Stables in Battle Creek.  It has a full size indoor with viewing room, 2 outdoor arenas, 2 barns with 33 stalls, 40 acres, 2 laundry rooms, 3 tack rooms, 2 feed rooms, 2 indoor and 4 outdoor wash racks and endless beautiful paddocks of green grass.   So we discussed my desire to stay in the equestrian world forever, my need for a way to generate multiple potential horses, and also my desire to give back to the sport and the people that have given me so much.  So using my Uncle’s matching money, I bought it.  I have my own place!  As of last weekend the name has changed to Flyaway stables and 2 big Uhauls and 3 college students unloaded all my stuff into the barn and house!  I already have plans for some things I want to do to the property, so it won’t be open to the public for about 6 months, but I hope to be ready for summer!  Also I have contacted Lendon and Dressage 4 Kids and donated one barn (11 stalls) as a permanent home for D4K for life!  Lendon can use it for any and all programs she desires!  The barn has a laundry room, tack room, feed room, and direct access to the indoor arena with a full sound system and viewing room!  I am putting in a special place for you to sit though Lendon so we have to chat about what you want!  Full heat lamps and comfortable chair, I assume.  I also hope to use it for USDF and USEF events as well. I asked my long-time friend Jessica Hainsworth to partner with me after her graduation to make Flyaway stables a premier breeding and training barn!  For the next year, while the upgrades are being done, I will continue to train and ride in Europe. I am genuinely excited at the endless possibilities this property will give me and hopefully many other young riders like me!  I know this is a big risk to get a facility to start a long term horse program rather than to just invest directly into one horse but if I want to have a long term career in dressage and not just one horse I had to take a big jump.  This felt right.  The property is beautiful, the city is quaint and the timing is perfect.  Thanks to everyone who helped me to make this expanded dream a reality! 

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Benefits of Dressage: Part 2 Travel!

     One of the best 'extra' benefits of equestrian sports is to see so much of the world and to meet people from so many different nations and cultures.  We travel to clinics, we travel to competitions, we travel for training. I have lived in 3 of the 4 corners of the USA as part of my training: Seattle, Washington-Carlsbad,California-and Wellington, Florida!  For competitions and clinics I have traveled to Germany, Holland, the Netherlands, New Jersey, Kentucky, Oregon, New York, Texas, Oklahoma, and Michigan. The last few months training in Voerde, Germany with Johann Hinnemann has been one of the greatest opportunities to explore the world and myself I could have asked for.  Saturday afternoon I ride my bike to the train, lock it up and catch a train anywhere I can travel and return by Sunday night.  I have seen the dom in Cologne, the Brandenburg Tor (gate) in Berlin and the Stadtkirche (state church) in Dortmund.  I have danced with friends in Dusseldorf and wandered through the gardens of many a city park.  I have given an impromptu concert among new friends in Ermelo.  The fun thing is you don't have to go far or to grand places like Paris.  There is so much world to see and so many horse people around the world.  We are all connected with our love of horses.  It has been fun to learn about the tradition and culture not only of the people (like the Dutch men being the tallest in the world) or seeing the Bruge Madonna from the movie Minutemen yourself; but also to learn about the embedded culture and traditions of horses within a society.  For example, there is a castle in Ingolstadt, Germany that is now a museum where they preserved the indoor jousting area.  The entrances to the castle are long slow cobblestone wide paths for the horses.  The entire first floor of the castle is entirely to host horses and indoor winter training.  The Germanic tribes in 1255 started construction.  You can feel the integrated role horses played in their survival and defense.  You can see the giant banners of the knights families fluttering from beams in the ceiling.  It is very surreal to imagine the connection to every day life horses played.  Horses here weren't hobbies or pets.  They were integral parts of the family.  They were necessary to survive and they were also part of the pride and strength of these people.  They gave them power not only to live but to grow and conquer.  The way Sjapoer always made me feel strong and free.
I guess the lesson or advice for today is get out, explore and use the opportunities your given not just to become better riders or trainers but better citizens of the world! 

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Peer pressure

In August of 2012, I had a life altering and sudden move to Washington from Texas.  In a period of less than 2 weeks I left my parents, my friends, and my culture to relocate to cold, rainy Kirkland.  My parents thought it might make the transition easier if I made some new friends quickly.  They contemplated removing me from the online International Academy that I had attended for the last 5 years to go to a local public high school.  Many of my parent's family and friends were pressuring them to give me a “normal life.”  They often suggested, in the kind way people who care about you do, that I was missing out by not attending football games, or going out on dates. So I went to 'check out' public high school those first few days of Senior Year!  After only a few hours of observation at the school, I gained a new appreciation for my unusual educational background.  My K12 online international academy experience allowed me to develop myself and my sense of identity separate from the intense peer pressure and need to conform of a typical high school experience. Everywhere I looked, during my observation time, I saw not compromise or healthy respect for diversity but pressure to submit.  Everywhere I looked, I saw pressure to change in accordance to preconceived ideas.  This pressure interestingly came not only from students, but from teachers as well.  If I had been in that environment for four years perhaps I would not have become the independent person that I am.  I may not have had the confidence to take off for Europe on my own, or to take huge risks for my dreams. What I realized in those hours was a previously unrecognized positive that came from sacrificing the ‘normal’ childhood experience.  Those few hours gave me a great insight into being proud of being me.  That time of getting a taste of 'normal' made me realize what a trivial word that 'normal' really is.  It also made me a lifelong advocate of charting your own path and following your dreams.  What would I have gained by sacrificing myself and my goals for the ‘normal’ or ‘expected?’  Now when I travel to youth conferences and clinics I talk to young people about finding their passion.  I truly believe that life is about living for what makes life worth living and that driving passion may not be the same for everyone; for some it is riding, for some it may be helping others, for some saving the environment and perhaps a million other possibilities.  The secret is to find that passion and make your life, not the life others demand from you. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Benefits of Dressage: Part 1 Managing a Crisis

Dressage is a bit like pairs figure skating, in that you have to have harmony and trust in your team to create the beautiful balance of the complex movements.  That only comes from spending a lot of time together.  This partnership is developed on trust and knowledge of each other.  You have to learn to feel your horse’s thoughts and to be able to make small and gentle adjustments in your riding in even the largest and most out of control situations.  This has taught me to be calm and thoughtful even in a crisis. When our partners get scared or distracted it can be very dangerous.  They are large and powerful animals. I joke with my athlete friends that while they may be flipping around upside down to do death defying tricks on their skis the goal of dressage is to look in complete control and make everything look easy. At least their skis aren’t trying to buck them off or jump off the mountain at the same time! 
My sport also requires close communication with an animal that weighs over a ton.  Horses scare a lot of people because they seem unpredictable and have a lot of power.  They are bigger and stronger than us and we can’t always control them.  This make them in a lot of ways like guys who tend to be bigger and stronger too.  Horses have the added issue of not being able to tell us what they are thinking or feeling so we have to learn to communicate in other ways and to learn to share with them our feelings and emotions without language.  We also have to learn to work together as a team without force.  Learning to communicate and to work as a team with my horses over the years has taught me about communicating with people.  It has given me a lot of empathy to listen to what people (and nature) need without speaking. I mean being aware of other people’s needs without them having to tell you.  I think this makes me really aware of people and very empathetic to others.  Yet also to communicate with a horse you have to be consistent, dependable, and trustworthy.  You have to build a bond that you will do as you say and will keep them safe.  Having my horse treat me like his best friend and believe in me is probably the most rewarding friendship I have earned in my life.