Author Archives: Robyn Freer

Sweet success in the Show Ring without all the sugar

We all know that not all horseshow days are perfect – some days there are ribbons and some days there aren’t – and all riders need to hear the truth…that they, too, are not perfect. As parents/supporters , we need to recognize that our children will be more successful not just in the show ring but more importantly, in life, if we don’t always “sugar coat” our comments.

With a busy schedule of lessons, summer camps and horseshows, I rarely have time to catch up on my horse magazines/articles; however, last week, I finally got around to reading the 2019 Canadian Horse Annual issue published by Horse Media Group. With five more horseshow days to go for our 2019 Foxwood Farm Show Team, I came across a very timely article written by registered psychologist, April Clay, that I thought all parents should read.

“5 Tips for Horse Show Parents”

“Horse shows can be stressful enough – be sure that you aren’t adding to your young rider’s anxiety by following these helpful tips:

1. You might be tempted to shower your child with positive comments about their ability, but use caution. Comments and compliments should be sincere and straightforward. Children are perceptive and excessive praise for an easily-accomplished task (such as being on the correct posting diagonal) may convey negative information about the child’s competence. Or you just may get the eye roll if you go on and on, but for a different reason. I often hear kids remark “She has to say I’m great, she’s my Mom, but really she doesn’t know anything about riding so I don’t listen.”

2. Identify things that can lead to stress and worry or undermine confidence. Unrealistic expectations about winning ribbons or making someone else happy take away from the focus of fun. If you hear your kids making comments like “I have to have a perfect barrel run today” or “I have to win this class or my coach won’t like me as much”, nip that right away. Help your child develop new thoughts that will help rather than hurt them.

3. Go easy on the pep talks. Many parents forget that “pumping” their child up can tip them over the edge. Keep it short and encouraging, and watch your intensity level. It doesn’t take much for some kids to view these talks as pressure. (“If my Mom/Dad is so intense about this, it must be important. I have to do well.”)

4. Be respectful when dealing with an upset child. We might think it’s not a big deal, but to them it is and should be approached as such. Try to help your child process events and use open-ended questions. If a tearful child says, “I rode horribly today,” don’t brush it off and say “It will get better tomorrow.” Instead, try: “It sounds as though you’re upset, can you tell me what happened?” This acknowledges the child’s feelings and lets them know you’re willing to help them work it out.

5. Children who live with excessive worry about making mistakes are stressed and aren’t able to enjoy their sport. Create an atmosphere where mistakes are a normal part of learning and riding competitively. Let them know it’s okay to miss a distance to a fence, or even fall off. Tell them all athletes (even Olympic riders!) make errors and have bad days, and what’s most important is how they handle the challenge. Encourage your child to come up with their very own key word or phrase they can repeat to themselves when something goes wrong to help them get back on track – something like “shake it off” or “move on”. Have fun coming up with a cue and then encourage them to try it out when things go wrong in practice or in the show ring.”

So parents, remember, just a spoonful of sugar will do;)!

Until next time,
Robyn

Sugar and spice and red ribbons are nice…but only a teaspoon will do!

About April Clay: April Clay is a Registered Psychologist with an independent practice focused in: counselling, consulting, and sport psychology. She draws from a wide variety of experiences working with many types of athletes and performers (from youth to elite) including: equestrian athletes, swimmers, wrestlers, golfers, competitive dancers, figure skaters, para equestrians, mixed martial artists (MMA),and more.

April is a member of the Association for Applied Sport Psychology (AASP). April also works as a service provider for the Canadian Sport Centre Calgary.

As an adjunct to her practice, April writes for several local and national magazines, and offers workshops on a variety of topics. As a sports consultant, she draws on some 15 years of experience as a competitive horse show-jumper.

And so it begins…a young girl’s love of horses and horseback riding

It’s a love that many young girls have from the time they can walk and talk – from picking up that stuffed horse at the toy store to asking for a pony ride at the local fair. For many of our Foxwood riders, it is a love that has grown from childhood, through their teenage years and into adulthood.

This week, as part of our Foxwood ShowTeam spotlight, we learn from one of our newest team members, about how her love for horses started her riding:

“Hi everyone. I’m Elizabeth Goreski and ever since I was old enough to walk my Mom and Dad have put me into sports and programs. They have always worked hard to give me the opportunity to experience everything that was out there. I learned how to skate, swim, I played soccer and the piano but I always loved horses the most. When I was 3 years old, my parents took me to the Kentucky horse park where I got to be up close to so many different breeds of horses and watch the riders show off their horse’s talents. That was the beginning of my love for horses.

Shortly after that trip, we moved to a new house and my Mom and Dad made over my room in pink with horses as the theme. I asked if I could try riding, but the rules at many of the local barns were that I needed to be 6 years old and so I had to wait. I didn’t forget about those rules and shortly after I turned 6, we found a stable close to home. I remember how excited I was the first time we drove up the lane to the barn. There were so many big horses in their stalls and a few ponies as well. I started to take riding lessons and loved it!

Since then, we have moved and I have been riding at Foxwood. I have really improved as a rider and I am very excited to compete this season on the Foxwood show team. I love being part of the Foxwood family. Everyone is so nice and helpful, and we are really a team. My goal is to become a great show jumper and compete at the highest level possible. The thought of competing really excites me. I even wrote my school speech on riding and horses, it was awesome! I have always loved animals, especially horses and have even thought about going to school when I get older to be a veterinarian. For now, I want to learn all I can, listen and learn from my coaches and compete every chance I get…and of course win some ribbons!;)”

Partnered this season with Sera (aka Simply Magic), the entire Foxwood Show Team is excited for Elizabeth and her debut in the show ring.

Until next time,
Robyn

Elizabeth getting her show attire from Doonaree Tack Shop

Elizabeth and her equine partner, Sera

Show Like a Pro – some tips from the top

It’s only the beginning of June, but our 2018 Foxwood Farm Show Season is well underway. We’ve competed at 3 “A” circuit shows and are only 3 days away from our 2nd Bronze horse show with our show team. On June 10th, several of our students will be participating in our Foxwood Farm in-house horse show and for many of them, this will be their first time competing. Parents and students new to the equestrian world need guidance on how to prepare for a horse show and even our more experienced riders need some reminders;)

I was starting to compose of list for my students on preparing for a horse show last week when I received my latest issue of Horse Sport magazine. It was perfect timing as one of the featured articles was written by top Canadian rider, Erynn Ballard. Erynn entered the show ring at the age of six under the guidance of her parents Sandi and Dave who own Looking Back Farm. Even at such a young age, it was obvious she had an incredible natural talent for riding. Her ability to get on multiple types of unknown horses and win, established her as one of the top junior catch riders in the country. 1998 was an incredible year in Erynn’s junior career. She began the year competing at The Winter Equestrian festival in Florida and was awarded the Christie Conrad Perpetual Trophy for equestrian excellence. Later that year she became only the second Canadian at the time to win the most prestigious junior equitation award by winning the ASPCA Maclay national championships at Madison Square Gardens.

With all of her experience, here are her top 5 favourite tips for showing like a pro:

1. Presentation
“That includes presentation of yourself as a rider, presentation of your horse and presentation of your barn. Clean your boots, wear clean clothes, clean your horse and your tack and keep your barn aisle neat and tidy. When you walk into the ring, the first thing people notice is how you look.”

2. Tack
“Tack needs to fit properly. Bridles need to fit the horse and saddles need to fit the horse and rider.” And tack needs to be clean. Spending a little bit of extra time to make your tack shine, will be worth it!”

3. Keep your Cool
“A temper has no place around horses – in the barn, the schooling ring, or at the horse show. Horses give us so much and in return ask for patience and kindness. Fix your problems at home with patience and good training, not in public with temper and attitude. No matter what your result, pet your horse and walk out of the ring.”

4. Perfect position
“In all aspects of riding, correct position is your base. Classic and effective position is important at any stage of the game. You should never get to a point where you can take anything for granted – not your position, your horse, or the level you jump at. You have to manage yourself, your fitness, your horse’s fitness, and never get complacent.”

5. Die Trying
“Give it 100% every time you walk into the ring. At some point, you have to give it all you’ve got to be a competitor. It’s a skill that is nearly impossible to teach. Show where you are the most brave and confident and give yourself the best chance of success.”

I’m wishing all of my students the best of luck preparing for their next show…and know that no matter how you do in the show ring, as long as you do your best (and take some of Erynn’s advice;), I will always be a proud coach.

Until next time,
Robyn

Erynn Ballard in fine form

Chapter 2 – Riding a new road to happiness with Macduff

I have every intention to post more frequently on this blog; however, between cleaning up after the last ice storm, followed by a wind storm in addition the wrath of winter, I seem to run out of time so quickly these days. Luckily, some of my awesome students have come to my rescue, providing me with snippets and stories of their riding life at Foxwood and abroad so for the next month, it looks like I can catch up on some of my work;)

Hope you enjoy Chapter 2 from Catherine:

“It is said that change is as good as a rest. As true as this may be, that is not what I said.

Presenting circumstances have dictated the necessity of an amendment to my complacency and I simply followed the road signs that fate had provided. My longstanding relationship with my riding instructor and friend, Paige, dealt me a hand that dictated an adjustment.

Paige became an instructor at Foxwood a few years ago and I changed barns in order to maintain the trust and continuity of our relationship. As a result, the trepidation of change was minimized. Apprehension was further minimized in knowing that my friend Anne, boards her horse, Sierra, at Foxwood. The third flower in this arrangement was in meeting Robyn, who has become a cherished friend, is a first rate coach and a perfect compliment in assuring that making the drive to Bradford is the correct road.

My first ride at Foxwood was on Velvet. She is a dear, but not very challenging. She was gentle, compliant and good for trotting with no stirrups but when a faster mount was offered, I accepted…this came in the form of a two part package, MacDuff and Bella.

Bella is a lovely Cleveland Bay mare and we are working hard at our cantering. MacDuff (part Percheron & Thoroughbred) and I are both well-aged seniors. He is a big boy. We two elders plug away and get very excited when we achieve a new goal.

We all take comfort in routine. Upon arrival at Foxwood, I will go out to the paddock to get Duffy. When I call his name, he looks up, stares, and then, will saunter over to me. I ask myself, “Does he find me attractive or is it the carrots that I offer?” Although the question is clearly rhetorical, his response nevertheless provides me with a feeling of unbridled gratification. I have the power (it is orange and crunchy)!!! It makes me feel pretty good.

Upon arrival on one rainy day, I went out to get Duffy and was met with an unanticipated level of resistance. Coaxing words and carrots failed. The ponies had just been put into this lovely grassy paddock and were galloping around playing hard to get. Carrot bribery was not working. After a half hour, of growing aggravation, my learned-horse friend, Anne, came to my rescue. I learned to put the lead around the neck before trying to put on the halter! It is so simple when one knows the answers.

On another occasion when I went out to get MacDuff, he decided that he would eat his carrots and not move. I tried desperately to get him to come with me. No, he would not budge. Out came Anne (as always) to my rescue. Anne suggested I give him carrots once we arrive back at the barn. So far that suggestion has worked very well.

Another trick I learned was from Desiree, with whom I ride on Fridays. After Duffy ate his carrots and decided to play hard to get, I turned my back on him and just stood there. Eventually, he came over and put his face near mine, which put a huge smile on my face and a sense of satisfaction in winning the battle of who is going to concede first.

Arriving at the barn and heading out to get him is special. There is a bond between rider and horse. One beautiful summer day, I headed out to the front paddock to see if MacDuff was under the trees with the other horses enjoying the shade. No, he wasn’t I couldn’t see him. I turned around and there he was right behind me waiting patiently for his carrots.

Like any other living being, horses learn by their experiences. Old dogs can learn new tricks with repeated lessons and understanding. He has learned many lessons from his life at Foxwood.”

We are all happy that Catherine has joined our #FoxwoodFamily…and we know that Macduff is, too;)

Until next time,
Robyn

Always happy to see each other:)

Putting each page into Perspective – Chapters of a Horseback Rider’s Life

As someone who has pretty much grown up around horses – and who has spent the last 20 years taking care of them full time – I often forget that not everybody has been as up close and personal with horses as I have.

A couple of years ago, I met a wonderful woman named Catherine via my friend who was her instructor at the time. Thinking that Catherine was maybe in her 50’s and that she had been riding for some time, I was shocked when I discovered her true age and that she had only been riding for a short period of time. Catherine started taking lessons at Foxwood about 1 1/2 years ago, with my friend and also with me. We became “Facebook friends” and after each lesson, she would often post about not only her riding lesson experience but also about what happened at the barn and the life lessons that she takes away from it.

It’s a perspective that differs from mine. And it is one that I, too, can learn from.

Back in December, I asked Catherine if she would share some of her experiences with riding, horses and Foxwood and she said yes…and I will share with you her “chapters of riding life” as she sends them my way. Catherine is a fabulous writer and I hope that in sharing her horseback riding experiences, it will bring a little perspective to each of you.

Until next time,
Robyn

Catherine’s story – Chapter 1

There is no surprise ending to this tale. It has an unqualified happy ending.

My story begins seven years ago on the occasion of my sixtieth birthday. As a senior, I embarked on a mission to learn to ride a horse. In the realization of this quest, the pleasures of learning a new set of skills, forming cherished relationships with experienced riders of all ages, coming to love the pleasures of the touch, sight, the olfactory, and tactile nature of an equine relationship, and feeling the joys of sitting astride a horse in motion have enhanced the quality of my life immensely. It started seven years ago.

Chapter 1

We have all heard the familiar adage that you cannot teach an old dog new tricks… I am the old dog and can announce that this is a fallacy.

When I turned 60, my daughter, Kelly, decided to organize a surprise birthday party. This task was complicated by the simple fact that she lives in Ottawa and the party was held in Tottenham. She remembered that I had always wanted to learn how to ride. The party invitations contained a request that, in lieu of a gift, a donation in any amount would be consolidated and used to purchase a series of horseback riding lessons.

Not only was the party an unadulterated surprise, but I ended up with eleven lessons, boots, and a helmet as well as a place to ride. This happy story has an even happier ending. Kelly embarked on a series of long distance, time-consuming, interviews of prospective instructors. This resulted in my first introduction to my riding instructor, Paige. She received an unqualified five star rating and made Kelly feel certain that my needs would be well-taken care of and I would be made to feel safe.

To add a further complexity to this meandering tale, I would like to introduce Paige’s son, Keir, to my story. Two of my grandchildren, Ryan (9) and his brother Liam (6) visit us in Tottenham in the summer. Their time with their grandparents is enhanced by time spent with Paige’s son, Keir. Ryan and Keir have been enjoying a week filled with fun since they were 3 and Liam joined them 2 years ago when he had just turned 4 and is now fully partnered in all social activities. Their week-long visits are spent in a series of planned and informal activities with the two households. Liam has informed his mother in Ottawa recently that he will be visiting Tottenham again this summer and will be engaged in learning to ride a horse with Paige as his instructor. Apparently this is a non-negotiable commitment for all parties involved. Paige and Keir have also visited Ottawa! Yes, Paige has become my second daughter!

As you read through this tale, you have become aware of the many sideways steps my life has taken because of a gift received seven years ago. It has nothing to do with a senior learning to ride a horse but everything to do with my personal experience.

It is time to digress from my digression and actually speak of how the experience of learning to ride a horse has enriched my life. I would like to pay tribute to all of the wonderful horsewomen with whom I have become friends and for whom I have the greatest respect. Without exception, they have been incredibly supportive and cheered me on when I floundered. It was their encouragement and support that led me beyond thoughts of what I could not do and feelings of discouragement to focussing on what I can do now, how much I have improved and where I am going. The focus on encouragement is the best motivator. To all of these women, I am grateful for the gift of their encouragement.

Prior to my first lesson, I was apprehensive, but nothing was going to stop me from filling part of my “bucket list” and thoroughly enjoying this new chapter of my life. I ride for pleasure. I have no intentions to enter any competitions and for that I think my coaches are grateful! My doctor rides and thought it was wonderful that I was going to take up the sport. Yes, another supportive horsewoman offering affirmation.

My first horse was Josie. She is a very gentle senior and is now living out her retirement on Paige’s farm eating grass and hay. She was a fitting introduction to horseback riding. She was my tricycle. I was not yet ready for the two-wheeler.

Then one day, Paige determined that my complacency needed to be challenged. She informed me that it was time to “change up”. Egad! I then realized that my destiny had arrived. I also realized that I was looking forward to it. Not surprisingly, I was also a little nervous. Veda, part Arabian & part Quarter horse was perfect for me. She was a little stubborn, so I had to work rather hard, but we succeeded in doing so many wonderful things. When Veda didn’t like what I had in mind, she would stomp her feet and swish her tail and then, proceed to do what I had asked of her. As an experienced mother and grandmother, this was no surprise.

I fell in love with her. All of the barn-folk knew that if I was riding that day, Veda was off limits. We seniors benefit from getting older… I became the “Gramma” of the barn. The younger children were so encouraging, and helpful.

Because my hair is long, I will usually wear it in a braid when riding. This resulted in a photograph that I treasure. One of the girls had braided Veda’s tail and took a picture of the two of us from behind! It is a great picture.

We rode outside in the good weather. I was jumping small jumps and trotting away. One day, Veda decided to canter after the jump. What a thrill and shock! We only did a few steps, but there was a smile on my face for days… I learned to trot without stirrups, jump with my hand out to the side and then, to canter. I had learned so much and was so happy to be among these beautiful animals.

I have come to enjoy the many varied experiences associated with horses and have contrived to spend extra time for all of the stimulating sensory experiences proffered by horses and barns. The sights, the smells and the feel all offered incomparable and unequalled experiences for me. Several years ago during the winter of the ice storm, a lovely young exercise rider, Leigh Anne, decided not to go to Florida that winter. She was very experienced and worked with Roger Attfield at Woodbine Race Track. She chose instead to get her horse-fix by mucking out stables at Paige’s barn. I saw an opportunity here. Because I was awake around 5:30 a.m., I decided to join her and helped out three days a week. It was only a 5 minute drive from home and the horses got to know the sound of my diesel truck!

I fed the horses, and through Leigh Anne, learned about different foods and what each represented in their diet as well as the different amounts for each pony. I felt like a flight attendant wheeling the barrow full of food down the aisles. Stalls were kicked, nickering going on with some saying, “Feed me first”. Unlike a flight attendant, the food was free and so were the blankets. In-stall movies were not offered.

Leigh Anne taught me so much about the horses, their individual needs, the care they required, etc. I would blanket the ponies and put them into the paddocks along with some hay (I learned it was best to put the hay out first!). When it was too icy or too cold, we put them in the arena to run around. The “girls” would gather at the end of the arena, so I had a huge whip that I hit the ground with and then, they would take off at a gallop. Here I was in the middle of these six beautiful ponies tearing around the arena feeling quite safe.

It was the best winter! I loved every minute of it.

The Braids

Turning out the ponies

Bundled up and ready to go! How to dress for winter riding

With an early blast of Old Man Winter this week, we are reminded that it’s important to dress for the weather. Many people will stop riding in the winter, in fear of being too cold; however, if dressed appropriately, winter riding can be fun – especially after a fresh snowfall out in the fields!

The first thing to keep in mind is to dress in layers so that you can maintain a comfortable body temperature. Layering allows you to add or remove clothing easily as your body temperature changes. On top, I usually suggest a turtleneck or high-necked shirt followed by a zipped sweatshirt or fleece top. For those riders who wear protective safety vests (which on their own add about 10 degrees to your body temperature), wear your vest on top on your turtleneck, followed by the zip top so that you have 1 less layer to remove as you warm up. For the final top layer, a down vest or winter jacket would be best. This piece will also keep you warm before and after you ride when you are grooming your horse or pony.

Since your head allows much of your body’s heat loss, fleece helmet covers will help maintain some of your body temperature, and can also keep your ears warm! Some riders will also add an ear band underneath a helmet and as long as it doesn’t interfere with the fit of the helmet, it’s another way to keep the ears warm.

For pants, I prefer to ride in “winter riding breeches” which are nylon on the outside and fleece on the inside. I don’t like to promote specific brands but will acknowledge ones that have been great for me over the years. After riding through many cold winters, the “Kerrits” winter riding breeches wash up the best, last the longest and are super comfy to wear. For added warmth, both on top and bottom, you can also add long underwear in cotton or silk. These natural fabrics add warmth and pull moisture away from your skin so that as you ride and get warm, you won’t get chilled when cooling down afterwards.

For me, what get cold the quickest are my hands and feet so it’s important to find the best gloves and winter footwear. For gloves, try to look for products that are rated for a minimum of -10 degrees. My favourite ones are SSG’s “10 below” winter gloves. They keep my hands warm and stay relatively dry. I also like the sheepskin lined deerskin gloves, but unless you are good at keeping track of your things, they can be a bit pricey.

Winter riding boots come in many different brands and styles. Some riders prefer winter paddock boots (short boots) while others like to ride in tall boots. Either way, the key is to wear good socks and to have lots of room to keep wiggling your toes. Both Mountain Horse and Ariat have many different styles so it’s a good idea to figure out if you want short or tall boots and then try on different brands. It WILL be difficult to get 1/2 chaps over most winter paddock boots so keep that in mind when selecting your style. Some of my students bring “Hot Shots” to lessons which keep their hands/feet warm and I know that many parents “buy in bulk” at Costco and keep a good supply in their rider’s “barn bag”.

All this being said, I admit that I AM a wimp when it comes to winter riding but when I dress properly, I warm up quickly. When I go out to teach, I am bundled up from head to toe from my Foxwood toque, down to my full-length parka and Sorel boot and I also added snow pants to my winter teaching wardrobe.

So, bundle up to stay warm and have a great season of winter riding!

Until next time,
Robyn

No stirrups November? No problem!

At first they thought I was joking…an entire month of lessons without stirrups? But why?

When I first started implementing “No stirrups November” a few years ago, I think most of my students lasted around 2 weeks before convincing me into letting them have their stirrups back. It’s not as if we didn’t practice without stirrups over the course of the year, but we never made it the full month. But this year, we ARE going to make it to 30 days!

I know it sounds scary (and trust me, I know how much it can hurt!) but riding without stirrups is a challenge, it takes us out of our comfort zone and it makes us better riders.

Most coaches would agree that riding without stirrups is necessary for all riders:

“Those looking to bring their riding to a higher level will benefit greatly by riding without stirrups. Riding without stirrups will help to make a rider more balanced, stronger and secure in the saddle. The most important reason to make it a consistent part of a rider’s weekly riding routine is that it will help improve your seat. By improvising your seat, you will improve your feel, and by improving your feel in the saddle, you will ultimately become a better rider. Once a rider has put in the time and effort to develop a world class seat, it’s equally important for the rider to maintain their seat by riding without stirrups on a consistent basis.” (USHJA certified trainer Scott Lico)

We are now into our 2nd week of “No stirrups November” at Foxwood. I have started all of my students off slowly, with each rider going without stirrups for a little bit longer at each lesson. For our beginner riding students, who are still working on developing their balance, no stirrup work may simply involve taking their feet out of the stirrups at a walk and then putting them back. A small exercise but with big benefits – not only improving their balance but their confidence.

Our novice riders are confidently riding at the sitting trot without stirrups and are building muscle strength to try posting trot without stirrups, while our intermediate and advanced students are working on bending exercises as well as cantering without stirrups.

So, what really ARE all of the benefits of riding without stirrups?

1. Strengthening the leg
Everyone knows that riding without stirrups is a common exercise used to strengthen a rider’s leg, so a month without them is a great way to focus on just that. The rider’s leg becomes stronger and more useful in the long run.

2. Improving leg position
This goes along with strengthening. Posting off of the stirrups is a common mistake that many riders make and they don’t realize that they are doing it. When there is no stirrup iron to balance off of, the rider must use their muscles to hold their leg in place in order to stay on their horse. This helps eliminate any instability of the rider’s leg and it improves correctness.

3. Preparing the rider
Any rider that shows may know that sometimes in an equitation class, they may be asked to drop their stirrups. It also prepares the rider for any situation, whether at a show or at home, that involves them losing a stirrup and then subsequently, their balance.

4. Building balance and improving a rider’s seat
It is easy to stay in the saddle when stirrups are there for support, but when there is nothing to rely on, it forces the rider to use their seat to remain balanced. A rider’s seat is an essential aid that becomes especially useful when riding “green” horses or more difficult horses.

5. Developing confidence
Not every rider is keen to ride without stirrups as there is always the fear on falling off. Working at their own pace, improving with each lesson without stirrups, gives each rider a sense of accomplishment.

We are going to be stronger by the end of November and who knows?
Maybe my students will suggest we continue it into December…and add some jumping WITHOUT stirrups;)

Until next time,
Robyn

IMG_7505

IMG_7482

Still smiling after a “no stirrups november” lesson

A Foxwood familiar face – Charlotte Hodgson

When you drive up to Foxwood, and you see the little lemon coloured car, you know she’s here. It’s our junior instructor, extraordinaire, Charlotte! I have had the pleasure of knowing Charlotte from the time she was just starting out riding on her Shetland pony, Champ. From the beginning, I knew that she was going to “grow up” to be an amazing horsewoman as she always seemed to have a connection with not only the ponies that she rode, but also with the horse people who surrounded her.

When I found out in the fall of 2016 that Charlotte was returning to Canada after nearly 6 years in the UK, I messaged her to ask if she would be interested in teaching some of the beginner and novice lessons at Foxwood. I was delighted when she said yes!

She has been back for nearly 1 year and I would like to share some of her riding and horse experiences with you:

Starting off in the saddle around the age of 7, Charlotte has spent more than 20 years around horses in various equestrian disciplines, both working and riding.

She started off competing on ponies at a young age and was successful in the hunter ring with small, medium and large ponies over the years. As a skilled pony rider, she even started training some green ponies (unschooled) and some of them advanced along to be competitive in both Canada & the United States. One of those young ponies was Foxwood’s own, Sera. I purchased Sera in 2000 as a 3 year old and was going to train her myself; until I found out I was pregnant. I knew Charlotte and her mother from riding at another farm and I asked Charlotte if she would be interested in riding Sera while I was unable to. Sera could be challenging at times; however, Charlotte spent the time working with her and soon, Sera was able to have more riders start on her.

Although Charlotte grew out of competing on ponies, she continued showing both in the hunter and equitation rings with a talented thoroughbred called Shades of Grey. She and Grey ended up being long time partners and he was retired in 2006 after a fabulous career in the Children’s Hunter division.

Moving on from high school to university, Charlotte helped start what is now known as the Ontario Collegiate Equestrian Association. She competed successfully on the University of Guelph horseback riding team and had the opportunity, during that time, to train with various hunter and jumper coaches.

Charlotte has recently returned from living abroad in the UK for nearly 6 years where she was involved with a local fox hunting community – riding with the Belvoir Hunt and the Duke of Rutland’s hounds in England. It was an incredible opportunity to ride different horses, connect with other horse people and experience the excitement of riding cross country with the hounds.

Since returning to Canada last October, Charlotte has a new horse who she shares with her mom. Training with FEI eventer, Julie Clark, Charlotte has been introduced to the eventing world and competed this summer with her little Cleveland Bay horse, Rideau. Converting from the hunter/ jumper world to eventing has added to Charlotte’s skill set as she continues to learn more and more about the three phases (dressage, show jumping & cross country) involved in the sport; however, she attributes her hunter background as providing a solid foundation for her change in riding disciplines.

Charlotte is great with kids, having not only taught at Foxwood in the past but she also worked for several years for the town of Bradford with their summer camp programs. She is looking forward to having fun with the students and ponies in the Foxwood Farm lesson program and we are excited to have HER as part of our Foxwood Family!

Until next time,
Robyn

Welcome to the Foxwood Family, Charlotte Hodgson!

Horse Coach Corner #FromWhereIStand – Lessons learned from my Students

The good days show smiling faces, the bad days have tears…but as a coach (no matter what sport), you learn to take the good with the bad and learn from them.

As we celebrate National Coach Week this week, I am grateful to all of my students, present and past for the impact they have all had on MY life. The role of the coach is to guide and mentor others; however, little is said about the role that the student has on the coach.

I started off coaching at my farm in 1999 with some of my neighbour’s children. I had my older horse at the time, who was a great school master and I knew that she was the perfect horse to teach young children how to ride as she was very calm and gentle. I had to develop beginner lesson plans; focusing on the basics starting with grooming and leading, to tacking up and getting on a horse for the first time – things you take for granted as a more experienced rider. It reminded me of how much there is to learn when horseback riding, how much time goes into our sport and how learning, is a process to advancing.

As my lesson barn began to grow, so did my desire to start taking my students to horse shows off property. 2013 was the first official year of the “Foxwood Farm Show Team” with only 3 riders. It then grew to 13 show riders in 2015 and now, in 2017, we have 20 competing show riders! Coaching offsite, in a competitive environment, has different challenges than coaching at home: there is the stress of how the ponies/horse will behave, which is beyond anyone’s control; there is dealing with the nerves of the rider and teaching them to focus on their riding, improving with each round and not just on winning a ribbon; there are the expectations of the families, who have invested time and money, to see their riders do well; and of course, my own expectations of wanting my students to have a positive show experience. Over the last 4 years, I have had to make changes to my coaching style to better prepare my students for the show ring and I have learned how to be a better coach by changing my ways.

The students I have taught, have made me the coach that I am.

Earlier this week, I was tagged in a tweet from one of my students, who was recognizing National Coaches Week. She wrote the following:

“This week is National Coach week, and I just wanted to say thank you so much to not only my coach but also my friend and role model! This summer was my first official show season and I couldn’t have been more pleased with the outcome, as even though I only attended two shows, I brought home champion and a lot of first and seconds, this is all because of the amazing support and motivation I have from my wonderful coach. She is there to coach and support us at every show even when it’s 30+ degrees out! Her words of motivation keep up going throughout the day. I started at Foxwood Farm 2 years ago without any experience jumping and now I’m here, all thanks to you, Robyn! I was welcomed with open arms an now I can’t stay away from the barn (except when I’m away at school). Thank you for an awesome year, Robyn!”

I have been coach, mentor and friend to many students and I thank all of them for the positive role each of them has played in my coaching career.

Of all the coaching quotes I have come across, this one pretty much sums up how I feel:

“I want to inspire people. I want someone to look at me and say, because of you, I didn’t give up.”

I want them to learn from me, just as much as I learn from them.

I love teaching people how to ride; children, adults, anyone who wants to learn. And if I can encourage people to improve upon their riding skills, while developing an unconditional love for horses, then I have truly done my job as coach while learning along the way.

Until next
time,
Robyn

Part of the Foxwood Farm ShowTeam for 2017

Coaching “my kids”


Coaching ringside at the Essa Agriplex