Category Archives: confidence

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:)

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

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Still smiling after a “no stirrups november” lesson

“Bullet Proof – A Rider’s Guide to Killer Confidence in the Ring”

With just a few days away until the first horseshow of the season, I know my students are starting to get anxious and excited about getting into the horseshow ring! Sure, ribbons are great and it’s an amazing feeling when you end your show day on a positive note; however, in order to be successful, you need more than just the right horse or the right show attire. You need to be confident. We prepare all winter for the upcoming season: jumping courses, practicing lead changes, etc. but when show day comes, and the nerves set in…well, it sometimes seems like we may not be as prepared as we thought.

I came across an excellent article in the May 2017 issue of Horse Sport Magazine written by registered psychologist, April Clay which gives insight into how to BE confident and how to make your show experience the best it can be:

Bullet Proof
A Rider’s Guide to Killer Confidence in the Ring

“1. Understand this: Confidence is more than a feeling
When confidence is approached as a feeling, the way to change seems to be through willpower. You tell yourself to feel better, to buck up, to believe. It just doesn’t work. Your confidence is a set of beliefs you possess about your abilities; it is knowledge gained through experience. The feeling good part is simply a by-product of this new knowledge. Ask yourself what experiences you need to create for yourself in order to become a skilled rider. What kind of goals are you reaching for? Don’t get too hung up on feeling good; figure out ways to be good. Confidence is not a feeling, it is a “knowing” and the good news is you can grow your knowing!

2. Get ready for waves
Confidence is naturally variable. Confidence can be shaken. Even the most elite riders sometimes suffer doubt. This can come on the heels of an accident, or while trying to extend yourself to your next plateau of competence. If you are moving up a division, of course you will experience some doubt. If you are practicing more risk-taking, you will not feel a sense of certainty.
All doubt tells us is that something needs attending to. It sends a message that you are responsible for decoding. If you treat doubt as nothing more than an unpleasant feeling you have to avoid, then you are missing something – an opportunity to grow.

3. Talk to yourself
The tough part about negative thinking? We come by it naturally. It is part of our survival mechanism to look for potential problems. It’s called the “negativity bias” and unfortunately speaks to the way our brain is wired.
Sometimes you have to recognize how the negativity is trying to serve you, and look for a different way to get the same service! For example, “look out for that jump, your horse hates water” is your mind trying to warn you. Say ‘thank you for the warning,’ but turn your thinking into a solution: “stay straight, horse in front of leg, that’s how I ride to water.” Confident riders make sure their self-talk stays directive and productive. On the other hand, self-talk should not be so over-the-top gooey positive that it’s unrealistic. What you choose to say to yourself must be something you actually find believable. Otherwise you will activate that devil on your shoulder; you know, the one that wants to argue with you about why you’re oh so wrong. Instead of “I am the best rider in this class” try saying “I know I am prepared.”

4. Make a plan
The business of changing what you know about yourself as a rider entails action or experience. After an uncomfortable incident you can’t just pat yourself on the back and tell yourself to feel better. You need to lead yourself through the experience in a way that assures you that you can handle that situation and come up with a plan of coping and problem-solving. Find a way to work through the challenge and you will come out the other end a much stronger person.
A rider who becomes uncomfortable when asked to ride at faster speeds and take risks in a jump-off needs to define a path to that goal. What skills are needed? How might simulations of jump-offs be set up in order to provide greater rehearsal opportunities? Breaking the job down and knowing how it might be accomplished sets the task and the rider up for success. Experiencing the development of specific skills brings confidence in those skills in that setting. A confident rider is a good student of their sport; they know how to study.

5. Train for Adversity
You say you want to increase your confidence? Be careful what you wish for. Confidence-building may not always arise from pleasant circumstances. To be mentally tough, you have to learn how to have ‘good bad days.’ Every time something doesn’t go quite right in your training, this opportunity presents itself. You can either allow yourself to opt out – “I just don’t feel quite right today, better quit while I’m ahead”– or you can grab onto it and reap the rewards: “Sure, I don’t feel great today, but I am going to practice dealing with it because who knows how I might feel before my next performance.”
Janet, an amateur jumper rider, and her trainer decided to make sure they utilized the adverse circumstances life normally presents. Each time a challenging moment presented itself, one of them would say “that sucks, buckle up!” and then together they would devise a clear plan to deal with the challenge. Using humour helped Janet. “I liked the idea of our joint silly key phrase. It made tough times seem a little lighter and more like a normal thing to deal with instead of a huge deal, and the planning made it fixable and learnable. I never thought I could actually be tougher, but I think I am!”

6. Abandon Perfection
One of the greatest thieves of sport self-esteem is the habit of clinging stubbornly to the idea of perfection. Some people believe if they are not reaching for perfection, their goals are not high enough. The truth is, perfection is not a high goal, it’s an impossible one. There is no perfect performance – especially in horse sport, where your teammate comes supplied with their own set of variables. Horses can have off days, injuries, and most certainly a changing inner nature which makes each ride a unique conversation.
Accept that each performance you give will be different, and your job is to create the best you can with what you have on that day. Aim for excellence in your skills and learning to trust your instincts. This you can control.

7. Define your Brand
What is your confidence “brand”? Every athlete has an overall sense of confidence about their ability to perform in their sport, but there will always be strengths and weaknesses in that profile. That’s normal. You can, however, bolster your overall confidence by choosing an area of specialty. In other words, choose a skill that will really define you and go for it! Become known for possessing an area of expertise. Ian Millar, for example, is known for having a keen sense of direction and planning. George Morris is associated with discipline and consistency.
Having and developing a self-chosen superpower can help you get in touch with the rest of your confidence, especially in a pinch. For example: become an expert course walker, study equine body language, explore the history of equitation. Have fun creating your brand!”

I hope that by sharing this article with all of you, that perhaps your confidence, whether in the riding ring at home or at a horseshow, can get a little boost!

Until next time,
Robyn

April Clay is a Registered Psychologist with an independent practice located in Calgary, Alberta. Although she works with all kinds of athletes in her practice, April especially enjoys assisting equestrian athletes with their mental goals. She is a qualified member of the Association for Applied Sport Psychology (AASP) and she is a regular contributor to numerous publications both locally and abroad. You can visit her main site at www.bodymindmotion.com and the online course site at www.outofyourmindcourses.com