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, July 25, 2017

My First Youth Clinic

     The Young KWPN-NA clinic is now behind me and I am so glad I had the opportunity to meet some amazing young girls and their families.  We had such a great time.  Shared laughter makes friends faster than anything else I know and it was everywhere over the weekend.  It was in the sticky marshmallow grins during the bonfire. It was in the morning sheepish smiles of the girls sleeping in the barn aisle on cots.  It was in the satisfied look of every rider when that aha moment hit.  The weather was warm and sunny but a cool breeze kept us from getting too hot.  The grass was green and the clover so thick you could smell it in the air.  I could not have had a more perfect weekend if I tried.
     The first day started with my working student Anna riding Angela Thompson's horse and working with me to help make a video for her.  It was a great experience for Anna to get to ride a new horse if only for the weekend.  This is one of the interesting aspects of the early Robert Dover clinics when people (like me) didn't bring their horses and borrowed horses to ride.  Riding multiple horses, and horses that are unknown to you, helps to develop your riding skills in a very important way.  Thank you Angela for making this possible.
     Each of the girls throughout the day worked on different aspects of their riding.  It was fun and challenging to me to get the opportunity to work on each. For lunch we had an informal discussion each day over different topics the girls had indicated in their applications that they were interested in talking about.  We discussed show nerves and visualization and other techniques for focusing and handling competitions the first day.  The second we talked about balancing school and work and how to create opportunities for additional study.  The last day we worked on ideas for getting grants and money for training as well as the benefits of training in Europe.  We also touched on their questions about being a working student.
     Each evening we also had a social event which made the three day clinic really fun.  We roasted smores one night.  We watched movies.  We went out to dinner at a local joint.  We had planned water balloon fights but it got too cold.  The food was great and we had way too many desserts like brownie sundaes with caramel sauce. I think we all gained 5 lbs even with the work.
     We had indoor stalling and scheduled turnout for all the participants which was a big hit.  One great bonus at the barn here is that there are extra tack rooms too and laundry facilities too.  So everyone said it was really convenient and well laid out.
      To sum it up I had a great time.  I worked harder than I remember working.  Giving lessons all day for three straight days is tough!  I now have way more understanding of the lives of some of my trainers!  London and Christine...I do not know how you do this so regularly. It is exhausting.  But maybe it is the reward of spreading the dressage bug and growing the base that makes it worth while. I must have liked it because I volunteered to do a pony club clinic next week here!  That is on top of taking my two four year olds to a clinic at Andrea Landis' next weekend!  It sure hasn't taken long to get really busy up here.
     Last thing, good luck to everyone at NAJYRC and Aachen.  Thinking of you................

Friday, July 7, 2017

The spider problem solved!

     You may remember I didn't want to use pesticides and I really dislike cleaning the buggers (haha).  I discovered the best tool ever for the solution: A shop vac!  It sucks up the spiderwebs, the dirt that lingers on them and the spiders without chemicals. It is a lot less gross to use the vac then a broom or blower.  I tried both.  The blower works on the webs but the dirt goes everywhere and you have NO CLUE where the spiders go.  Which means most likely they are in the back of your shirt climbing up your neck.  The broom does better on those accounts but takes forever.
     I am going to save to buy a nicer one with a long handled brush thing on the end. I think that will work even better.
     My next big problem is bird crap.  Up in the rafters of the arena and the barn aisles, the birds sit on the boards and do their business. I don't want to power wash because it takes way too much water. That is not only an environmental issue but also creates a mess in the arena. I tried going up a ladder and using simple green and murphy oil soap to clean.  Both do ok, but moving the ladder every two minutes is time consuming and also dangerous.  That sucker is really high and just sits in the soft arena dirt. I know with my accident prone life, I will be on the ground sooner or later!  I finally found a solution to that too.  I got a huge extender pole and taped a bristle brush on the end.  I lower it into the bucket of ivory soap (which works great on bird crap) and then I brush and dip again.  It is a really great upper body workout too.
     I took my working student Anna King to the Lendon Gray Team clinic and the Midwest Youth Festival. It was fun to be on the other side of the fence at this event.  I didn't have to get up to feed at 6 am.  It was kind of great.  Anna is very talented and works really hard.  She took everything Lendon said to heart and came out great in day 2 and won 2 of 3 sections of her division at the festival on day 3.  She won both of the riding portions (2nd level test and equitation).  The written test placed her overall in reserve champion overall.  Amazing for her first time at such an event.  Good job girl.
     Back home to get ready for my first youth clinic for KWPN.  Really excited to plan a little bit different event. We are going to have a few social things to do (options) while other people ride.  I know it get hard for a 7 year old (or a 17 year old) to sit through 7 other rides and 'watch.' So I am hoping to try something a little different.  I will let you know how it goes.  To prep the barn we have all been cleaning everything.  The stalls are scrubbed, the sky lights washed and a new coat of paint on the front porch of the viewing room (thanks Kim and KK).  My mom's friend brought her whole family up to help us get ready.  Yes, an exciting vacation in Battle Creek on the farm.  But it is turning out to be pretty cool.  I also will have to watch to make sure the boys don't 'confiscate' my dog Chance who they think is the greatest dog ever.  He is too.
     So many new things ahead and I am sick as I have ever been.  I have a tonsicular abscess.  It won't go away, even after the ENT drained it.  It was golf ball sized and got into my face and jaw muscles.  I suffered a bit longer than necessary because the Urgent Care PA misdiagnosed me!  But now I have to get my tonsils out.  It is supposedly a much bigger deal at 22 than at 5.  Several weeks off of riding, I am not sure I want to do this.
     Well, I am off to make another smoothie (I have lived on them for 5 weeks with my swollen tonsils).  I have lost 12 pounds I did not want to lose.  I am dying to eat solid foods.  One thing about owning your own place; even deathly ill the work still needs to get done.  Thank you Anthony and Anna for helping with that!

Monday, June 12, 2017

Land Management 101

So one thing I have learned about having your own place.....the one day you decide (because it is a balmy 85 degrees out and the sun beckons) to take the day off and hang out in shorts and a t-shirt, that is the day at least one stranger will stop in for information about boarding or training!  So the lesson here is to either never take a day off so you won't have an 'off day' in appearance, or to always do it because then people actually stop in and you get new clients!  Either way, things here are really going well.

Another thing I have learned about barn ownership versus working at a facility is that there is a lot more to land conservation and land management than I every thought about.  I never worried when the grass started to look thin, or the weeds started to spread, or the back pastures got too long.  Now I have to think about the daily care and long term health of every tree on the place.  Do I plant an apple tree?  If so where is the best spot?  What is the best kind to plant?  Even beyond the health of the land, I know have to deal with the wildlife on my land.  This is a poses a dilemma for a part Indigenous girl like me.  I do believe the animals are our brothers and sisters but well what to do with the endless spiders? By that I mean the product of spiders of course, the webs.  I swear I sweep them every day and they magically appear the next morning.  Charlotte had nothing on my spiders in the capacity to weave giant creations of sticky threads.  I don't want to hurt them, not just because they keep down the bugs, but because I don't believe in hurting any living creature.  How do I keep down the spiderwebs without killing the spiders?  Does anyone know a magic, keep away formula for them?  One that does not involve any poisonous chemicals or anything that may seep into the water supply?

Finally, a third lesson for land ownership is a question of usage?  I mean where do I put things and what is the most efficient and best use of the 43 acres.  Do I put up more barns and arenas?  Do I build bunk houses for working students and visitors like at Jo's place in Germany?  Do I put in decking with a fire pit by the viewing room for sitting outside on cool nights? But the fun thing is that   I get to decide and I realized if I want to change later I can.  So life is full of choices and they have consequences but that feeling that every choices is a matter of life or death is gone.  I have realized something that my Uncle James learned years ago at about my age.  He was worried about traveling in Europe alone to go skiing.  He had to commute from the Frankfurt airport by train to Austria.  He practiced 'pretend' loading and unloading his bags.  When he got to Europe he got on the right train but the back four cars were going to split off later.  He realized he would have gotten on the wrong train section.  Then he realized if he had all he would have to do is get off at the next stop and get on the right train.  That gave him the the surety to take many adventures in life.  I learned that lesson here, at this place.

Those were the lessons of the last few weeks!  Talk again soon.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Summer is almost here.  The youngsters have settled in quite nicely.  They were a little overly attached when they first arrived but we worked through their separation anxiety.  The shippers when they arrived here said they have never had two horses bond so quickly and so deeply in transit.  I guess because they were held in Germany, transported to Amsterdam, flown over to NY together, held in quarantine and then driven to Battle Creek together their mutual trauma over those events had them clinging to each other for support.  A big reminder that our animals have emotions and responses just like we do but use a different language to communicate it.  Do not think this means they are 'difficult or bad' horses.  You just have to communicate their way and help them with their issues.  I guess that makes us all horse psychologists!  Anyway I borrowed another horse for a few weeks from Andrea Landis to help them get re-aquainted with being a 'herd.'  I also had in several horses from Albion college for a few days including a schoolmaster I have for the summer named Romulus -so the barn was full for a bit.  This really helped them to adjust and they have now settled in very nicely.  Fuego is a big guy with a lot of power but such a scaredy cat.  Sinatra is that horse who is annoying but you love because of his quirks.  Every day I feel closer to them and because I do all of their care myself, every day they have begun to see me as their security place.

I have been doing a lot of work making some changes to the facility and just the general unending upkeep and maintenance of having your own place is the most demanding job I have ever had.  The grass here literally needs to be cut the day after I finish all 43 acres.  I have been cleaning the sky lights on the arena the last three days and I think I am only one third of one side done.  You never realize how long an arena is until you see it from the roof top perspective.  Fiberglass breaks really easily so I am caulking as I go and dreaming of the day I can afford to replace it.

Everywhere I look I love this place and I dream of its amazing and unlimited potential.  Most of all I love the peace and contentment I find just looking at all the green.  I never would have thought before that Michigan was so beautiful.  I always just thought of it as a winter land of endless snow and ice.  The winter really wasn't that bad and the spring and fall so far have been spectacular.  I have turkeys and deer on the property and they love to visit.  I have raccoons in the barn that I will have to do something about soon.  There are so many birds that every morning I wake up to a serenade of different songs, like a dozen bands all playing concerts at the same time in the same key.

I have several students now but the first was sent to me by Lendon..THANKS.  Her name is Anna King and I can't wait to see her grow in her riding.  I think I get more nervous about giving her lessons than I ever did with my own riding lessons.

I stopped in at a recent EDAP clinic in St. Joseph, Michigan.  London had me chat with the kids for a few minutes and I really enjoyed being able to meet so many great up and coming young riders.  I am awed every time I help with any youth work in America, how much Lendon has changed the very face of dressage in America.

Well that should catch y'all up a bit and if you want I will get back to regularly blogging about life at Flyaway.  I will admit that a lot of funny things happen here.  Like grandma not understanding the concept of a zero turn mower and making crop circles out in the pastures because she didn't realize you have to push the handles evenly together.  When she did, then we realized how crooked her eye must be because her lines look like SSSSSSS's across the pastures.  It is hilarious.  So I'll fill you in with more stories from the great North soon.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Michigan isn't THAT cold!

   So I survived my first Michigan winter.  I have to say it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.  I hope that doesn't jinx next year!  However, I do have to say it is definitely a must to have an indoor arena attached to the barn up here.  The babies have settled in after their long trip from Europe.  They have such different personalities, it is going to be interesting seeing how they develop.  Fuego is all big power and strength.  His conformation reminds me a lot of Sjapoer.  He naturally holds his head so well.  Sinatra is a pest.  He never rests, he is always demanding attention.  He is flair and drama.  When I ride him it is as if he is saying to the world, look at me, look at me.  Beyond the horses, I have found I really love having my own place.  The independence is amazing.  The work is exhausting (as is all horse work really).  The expenses never end but I am fortified by the fact that everything I do is for the future.  I am building a permanent place here.  The viewing room is now a premier place to hold clinics.  I have a great area for serving food and drinks.  The bathroom has a shower that people will die for.  There are tables and seating in the room for at least 30, a big screen for video and all heated with a speaker system throughout the property.  I can play Christmas music in the indoor and in the back outdoor arena you can be singing along!  I can't wait for the November TEAM clinic to hear Lendon's voice broadcast over 43 acres!
   That by the way is the next step in facility development-get people to know I am here!  To help with that I am glad to announce that Lendon has agreed to do a clinic here November 11/12th.  Be sure to go to the Dressage4kids.org website to sign up soon.  I have already started planning some amazing 'extras' for the clinic.  It is going to be EPIC I promise. I may have news soon about another clinic in July so stay tuned.
    One big thing about Michigan is that the grass is amazing.  I have to mow every day.  Seriously, it grows so fast and with 43 acres, I have to mow at least one pasture a day to stay on top of the mowing.  We have contests about our mowing skills. Grandma puts it in turtle mode and then does circles and her lines are a bit like snakes going over the hills.  Anthony does the beautiful angles across the area.  Mom is great at getting really close to the fence posts (quit hitting them mom).  I like to go really fast and mow the back pasture that is overgrown.  I feel like a pioneer back there.
    I have students!  I give lessons!  I never realized how much fun that would be.  Seriously, I never really thought of myself as a trainer.  I always just wanted to ride.  But now I realize how much you learn by teaching.  I come from a family of teachers and I guess the multiple learning style approach is genetically inputed into teacher's kids because I get a kick out of trying multiple ways to turn on light bulbs about dressage.
     Finally, check out my instagram and the video of Laurie Hernandez.  She is the sweetest and most talented girl ever.  She rocks. I am proud to have the privilege to call her friend! Watch her on Disney's 'the middle' soon.
     Now that my life has settled a bit.  I promise to write more often.  Promise!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Update-Horse Shopping and Italy!

Life has been so exciting the last few months. It seems every weekend I was flying somewhere and something new was upon me.  I made a quick trip to Oregon to Nike.  I always love going there.  This time they let me sign the athlete's wall.  I put a big 'dressage' under my name to represent! I then went to California to a friend's wedding.  It was fun because as all barn girls know we prefer boots and dirt but once in awhile a dress and a pair of slinky pumps are a nice change.  I went with a vintage 50's look, wavy hair and all. I was then off for a quick friend weekend in Angelfire snowboarding. Ok my friends snowboarded and I cooked and spent most of the time in the warming house.  But that's another story. I visited my mom's Dual Credit class to see her teaching and now have a date for 'prom'.  As a girl who never had her own school prom this seems like it will be fun!  Another excuse for a dress and heels. I next dashed over to Welly World to support my bestie (and big sis) Genay in her U25 season at Global.  Of course, there were so many of my friends competing it is also a great way to catch up with everyone. I stayed a little longer than I expected because I wanted to help out the USET with the AEGT and decided to sing again with my friend Anna.  Maybe next time we should try a duo. We might win if we pool our clapping fan base.  As soon as I got home I left for my current adventure-horse shopping in Europe.  I left on Valentine's Day which was a bit of an omen because I came looking for my horse partner.  I found 2 great horses that I'm vetting now.  I think I am already in love.  But then again, any horse shopping girl knows how easy it is to fall in sort of love with them all. But it is that true connection we look for right! Ok so too much Valentine sap, even after a week.  But maybe the romance stayed with me a bit longer because I took a four day break from shopping to dash down to Italy.  I knew with my new business adventure I would most likely not have any free time for years so I took advantage of the distance and the days I had waiting for the next appointment to see Rome, Milan and Florence. I have to say I have never seen a city more beautiful than Rome.  It might be a new favorite.

I head home in the morning to Detroit to get busy with the new property.  Grandma and mom have been working to update a few things and the new arena footing is scheduled next month.  I have to say that business ownership is a lot different than competing. As a business owner, everything becomes about surviving economically so that you can pursue your vision.  I've met with roofers, footing people, plumbers, feed people and potential employees.  I'm really grateful for all the experiences I've had at NAJYRC, D4K and the YRGP among others.  They have all helped me to obtain the valuable skills I need to make the transition from youth rider to adult business owner. I learned about setting high expectations and everything from contracts to feed needs.  I learned so many details from so many excellent trainers about how I want to run my barn.  Having been a working student under 6 different trainers and owners I gained a lot of insight in to what I want to do.  I think it will be interesting to see that 'my' way is an amalgamation of pieces from every place I've worked.  This step has been 14 years in the making. Every day it feels more and more real.  A life in dressage has always been my goal but now I am beginning to have the concrete financial independence to do so.  I can not thank the people enough in my life who helped make this possible.  My parents, my Uncle James and Cousins Amy and Ava have to be particularly noted. So do all my trainers Mary, Mary, Bre, Jeremy and of course the amazing Christine. The photographers, freestyle designers, vets, massage therapists, PT guys, barn grooms, insurance agents, have all been the foundation of my dream.  IRH and Custom Saddlery have been my rock for so long.  I can always count on you.  By the way Johnny if your reading this I'm bringing home two new babies!  Nina thanks for coming to my rescue the day before Germany and overnighting me two amazing helmets for the trip. Finally,  I have to unequivocally express how invaluable my Nike family is to me. Your support has been all encompassing. The confidence you give me and the faith you have shown me is beyond measure.  The excitement of our working together and the doors you have opened for me have been without parallel.  I'm excited about all our future projects together.

So I fly home in the morning and my two new geldings will be following shortly.  For those of you horse people reading this one is a Sezuan and one a Furst Romancier. I can't wait to see what we can do together boys.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

On a chilly Michigan Christmas morning; I sat down to write about the first month of my adventure in property ownership. Instead my mind wandered to all the ways that so many people have supported me in this venture.  I have been awed by how many ways I feel their well wishes.  I have received hundreds of emails, messages and calls of support.  I wanted to take some time at the end of the year and the beginning of a new stage of my life to thank several personally.  First, I am so grateful to Andrea Landis for sending Ross, her footing man,over to help with updating the arena from a great jumping arena to a dressage one.  I also am so thankful for so many people like Jessica Rattner and Sandi Carlton who run barns and have volunteered advice and support any time.  Christine you are forever in the top of my thankful list for so many reasons.  I am working on ‘Christine’s Corner” platform for your clinics.  I am adding lots of extras like a heat lamp and coffee pot.  I hope above everything you will be proud of what I hope to achieve here.  I can’t wait for you to see how many of the things you taught me I am incorporating here.  Lendon and Charlotte B. have reached out to give me support and advice.  Lendon and I are working on some great ideas for D4K programs here.  I think I am almost as excited about all the young riders that will pass through the gates and hopefully have fun, learn something and most importantly become lifelong dressage enthusiasts as I am excited about the amazing horses I hope will pass through the gates as well.  I also have to give an amazing thank you to my sponsors.  IRH and Custom Saddlery have already contacted me about some interesting opportunities to help with making the stables profitable.  Above all thank you Nike for your undying enthusiasm and support.  I am so thrilled at our long term plans and excited for you to come to Michigan.  I can’t wait to show you the hard work and dedication a life of horses entails.  Finally, a deep thanks (although I know as family you don’t feel it is necessary) to my Uncle James, Grandma and Mom and Paps for helping me to make this happen.  You have always been behind me in any and every way you could.  I am eternally grateful.  I learned what family means from you.  
So what have I been doing up here in the great white North?  I have worked and met with companies that deal with things like footing and alarm systems.  I have made calls to waste management and feed stores.  Jessica Hainsworth and her mom flew in from New York on a very dramatic filled flight to tour the facility and make plans for our future partnership.  I am so thrilled that Jessica loved it here and I can’t wait to implement so many of our ideas.  Finally, we have been working on some construction projects.  That’s right, construction in Michigan in December and January.  I have to thank little Matt, Jack, big Matt and Grandpa for sacrificing so much of the holidays to come to Battle Creek and help out.  We did throw in some fun and built a snow fort (ok wall) and had snowball fight and decorated gingerbread cookies for the tree. We had Mom’s endless great cooking and we all gained weight, I am sure.  But who won’t add inches to the waist line for homemade cinnamon roll French toast and double chocolate chunk brownies?  I am back in Texas for a few weeks and looking forward to a quick visit to my big sis Genay in Wellington to support her and Anna  this season.  Then it is back to Germany on February 1st.  My family is a little stressed with all the events there but I feel that if I let fear keep me from my goals and dreams, they win.  I will live my life to its fullest in spite of those who would hope to cripple others with fear.  So I will be on my Lufthansa flight February 1st!  I will be there training, working and horse shopping.  I can’t wait for 2017 and all it brings.