Category Archives: Horse Riding Lessons

Summer Horseback Riding Camp at Foxwood- A week of memories and a lifetime of skills

We all love summer: warmer weather, sunshine, (no school, if you are a student;), and time to spend with friends.  For me, as a child, summer vacation meant time for camp…something I looked forward to from the moment my mom registered me.  I would count down the days that I would get to spend 2 weeks with my friends, learning how to improve my riding skills and to just be around horses.   I know my parents wanted me to have a great summer experience, but I wonder, if they truly realized all of the benefits of summer horseback riding camp? 

Building CONFIDENCE 

Horses are BIG animals and being at riding camp, gives children the opportunity to learn how to control a 1,000-pound animal.  From leading their horses from the paddock into the barn, to grooming them and finally, getting on for a ride,  children learn in a safe environment how to take the lead and can overcome any fears as they do. 

Learning RESPONSIBILITY

Campers at horseback riding camp are responsible for caring for their horse or pony every day at camp.  This involves grooming, cleaning and caring for their tack as well as making sure their area in the barn is kept clean and tidy.  

Increasing ATHLETIC SKILLS

Horseback riding is a full body workout requiring the rider to use core muscles.  As riders progress in the saddle, so does their strength.  As riders increase their time in the saddle, their stamina, flexibility, endurance and muscle memory also increase. 

Developing CHARACTER

In addition to building self-esteem, confidence, and responsibility, horseback riding teaches children wonderful character traits. As riders get to know their horses, they begin to feel empathy and love towards them.  Riders must also learn patience with not only the horses but with themselves as they learn to ride. Horseback riding gives children the chance to experience joy and teaches the importance of balance and happiness in everyday life.

Making new FRIENDS

Riders typically end up forming strong friendships as they work together to take care of horses at the barn, as they learn, and as they enjoy riding together. The bond over horses often creates lifelong friendships. 

Appreciating the outdoors and UNPLUGGING

Growing up, I only had television to keep me indoors.   There were no cell phones, iPads or lures of social media.  My parents kept me active in sending me to summer riding camp, where I loved being outside, meeting new friends and most importantly, riding and lbeing with horses! 

As we start our open registration this week for summer camp at Foxwood, I am excited for the new and the returning campers who will be coming to Foxwood summer riding camp this summer!  New memories and friendships to be made and a lifetime of lessons and new skills! 

Until next time

Robyn 

Who needs Hawaii when we have Foxwood Fun Camp!
Improving our riding skills and developing confidence at Foxwood’s Ontario Equestrian Rider Level Camp
Making friends at Foxwood
Learning to take care of – and have fun with – our Foxwood ponies

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

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

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

Mind your melon and save your money! Riding helmet shopping 101

Safety has always been my number one concern when teaching students how to ride. I find safe horses and ponies to teach on; I follow the farm safety protocol of Equine Canada, I have had my facility approved by the Ontario Equestrian Federation; and when it comes to riding apparel, I recommend safety vests but mandate a properly fitted, approved helmet for all of my riders.

With the start of a new session this week, it’s a great time for riders to check over their equipment to make sure that everything is safe. Even if your helmet has never sustained any damage or impact from a fall, ALL manufacturers recommend replacing your helmet every 5 years…and for many of us “mature” riders, if not replaced, we may be wearing helmets that are no longer approved.

This coming weekend, manufacturers and retailers are offering great discounts on riding helmets for International Helmet Awareness Days (September 16/17), so it’s the perfect time to purchase a helmet for a new rider or replace your existing helmet – especially if older than 5 or if you have had a few falls in the last couple of years.

Once you choose a tack store, the decision then comes down to safety standards, fit and style:

Helmet Safety Standards
The first thing you will want to look for is a helmet that is ASTM approved. ASTM (American Society of Testing Materials) tests all types of sports and work equipment including equestrian helmets.

Helmets are subject to drops, sharp and blunt blows, and extreme temperatures. If a helmet bears the ASTM certification, you can be assured that it is made to pass at least the minimum standards set by the ASTM.

Fitting a Helmet
To get the best fit, you’ll need to try some helmets on so it is imperative that the rider who is getting the helmet be present for the fitting. The sales person may measure your head with a tape measure before starting to select helmets to try on. This will give you a general size to work from. This measurement is only used as a guideline for finding the right size and to start trying on helmets as some helmets fit different shapes of heads differently.

Once you have the helmet on your head, leave the harness undone and tip your head back and forth, and side to side. The helmet should sit firmly, not sliding forward or backwards. The helmet should be snug, but not tight. Remember that the linings will compress with use, so take that into account. Do up the harness and notice how the helmet feels. It should feel secure but not like your head is being squeezed. Pay attention to any pressure points that may become irritating. The helmet should be between one half (1.25 cm) to one inch (2.5cm) above the eyebrows. If the helmet looks perched on your head or sits too low, try another style.

I can’t stress enough, the importance of having the rider try on different helmets, making sure you are shopping at a reputable tack store with knowledgable staff. I’ve had several students come to the barn with helmets they received as Christmas gifts or birthday presents, that do not fit properly. Having owned a tack store, myself, for many years and having taken a workshop on how to fit a helmet, I know how imperative it is to have the rider sized properly. Many tack stores will not allow you to return a helmet, for sanitary/safety reasons, so if you wish to purchase a helmet for a gift, get a gift card and then take the rider into the store to get properly sized.

Helmet Style
The style of helmet you choose is entirely up to you and there are many different options:

For weekly/daily schooling purposes, a schooling helmet is appropriate and they come in a range of colours with patterns/designs, etc and are easy to keep clean by simply wiping off. Most of them are vented, making wearing a helmet on a hot, summer day rather bearable:)

If you are going to be showing, a velvet/velveteen show helmet is more suitable; however, the popularity of helmets, such as Sam Shield, are on the rise and they are not velvet/velveteen. In most cases, it comes down to the discipline of riding that you are doing as well as how much money you wish to spend. Keeping all of that in mind,
whether it’s a colourful, schooling helmet or a sparkly show helmet, remember that the most important part is making sure it fits!

Buying Used Helmets
Should you buy a used helmet? The answer is NO! And tack stores will not sell used helmets. The same thought applies to using a 2nd hand helmet. Over the years that I have been running lessons and camp, I have had a few riders who show up to their first lesson with their mom or even grandma’s old helmet. I understand the sentimental attachment to the old helmet; however, most likely, it is not approved.

So, with a little information about fitting helmets, and with some great discounts being offered this weekend, if it’s time for a new helmet or time to replace an old one, happy shopping!!

Until next time,
Robyn

At the show

Perfect posture for that perfect ride – equestrian fitness starts with standing tall

“Stand up straight. Don’t hunch” …I don’t know about you, but as a teenager, my parents were constantly commenting on my posture. It bothered me at the time but now, as I am getting older (not old;), I am realizing the long term effects that could arise from having a poor stance. A few years ago, I started taking yoga classes – not just to improve my riding posture – but my every day posture and my core strength. Several daily simple exercises, combined with stretching, have made a big improvement for me on the ground and in the saddle.

In the current issue of Wellness magazine, I read a very interesting article written by Gina Allan about posture and how it affects us while riding:

Why Rider Fitness & Posture are so important

You pay attention to your horse’s fitness program, but as a rider, it’s also important to understand how vital your own fitness it. It is your responsibility to ensure you have good body awareness and posture when you ride, so when you initiate even the subtlest movement in your position, you will know and expect your horse’s response. Horses can’t achieve good balance and self-carriage if their riders are unable to maintain their own self-carriage. Proper posture and understanding the dynamics of your seat and back, and how they affect the horse, are essential.

Back health issues affect up to 90% of the population and 66% of those affected are between 20 and 50 years of age. Muscles that are too loose and weak, or too tight, cause 90% of muscular and skeletal injuries; therefore, it is best to ensure that your posture, core strength and back health are in good condition before you set foot in the stirrup. Most injuries are due to muscles that are too tight or inflexible, or that lack sufficient strength. Injuries can also be caused by a fixed or repetitive motion with inadequate rest, or muscles that have not been properly warmed up prior to a workout.

Stretching for Strength
First comes the stretch, then comes the strength. Muscles are technically stronger than bones and act as the body’s pulley system, maneuvering and affecting the bones. The muscles determine the shape the body will take, so if you slouch, your muscles will pull the bones into that position, eventually shortening the muscles creating the constant slouching position. Once we have adopted poor posture, any attempt to use the muscles correctly will likely feel wrong. It will take time to make shifts in the body’s patterning and muscle memory in order to change it back. It is by using this awareness and patience that we can restore muscle balance and reawaken our underused muscles, gradually coaxing them to work harder. The “too strong” and likely “too short” muscles need to stretch and relax a little so we can restore balance and maintain good posture. This will enable us to ride with balance, ease of movement and athletic grace.

Common Postural Concerns
1. The hunched or rounded upper back, known as “kyphosis”, is a common postural problem. It can inhibit breathing, interfere with digestion, and cause tremendous stress to the discs between the vertebral segments of the thoracic spine. All this offers little support to your equine partner and often results in pushing him onto the forehand. Stretching through the front chest muscles and strengthening the mid-upper back muscles can help correct this problem as long as the kyphosis is not too advanced.

2. Another common postural problem is a protruding belly, or “lordosis”. It may result from tight hip flexors and poor abdominal strength. Although the “potbelly” may not necessarily be caused by weak abdominal muscles, the forward tilt to your pelvis will likely block your horse through his back, disallowing the hind leg energy to travel through his body.

With good posture, you will remain connected to the saddle and to your horse’s back at all times. With your feet rested properly on the stirrups, you’ll most likely feel a greater, more consistent connection to your horse throughout your ride”.

So much to work on but there IS hope for all of us…and help in the form of some very good exercises! I will share some of Gina’s exercise suggestions with you later this month.

For now, it’s off to do a little daily yoga practice,
Until next time,
Robyn

“You sit like a soup sandwich” George Morris

Gina is an Equine Canada Certified Level II Hunter/Jumper Coach, a Level III Theory Coach, and is pursuing her Level III Dressage Coaching Certificate. Gina’s vast experience includes three years studying and riding with former Canadian Equestrian Jumper Coach, Frank Selinger in Alberta before moving to Pennsylvania where she trained with International Dressage Clinician and author, Paul Belasik.

On the fitness side, Gina is a BCRPA Certified Group and Third Age Fitness Instructor, a Yoga Instructor and a Specialist Instructor in Pilates. She graduated from Capilano University where she majored in Lifestyle Counselling and Kinesiology. She has worked with Doctors and Physiotherapists to develop specialty modules including Back Care and Posture Assessment.

For more information, visit Gina’s website at:
http://www.ginaallen.ca

Horses, riding and finding that barn connection – a mother’s perspective

Over the years, I have had the joy of teaching many riders from a very young age, until they reach university. Many of them will return to visit during the summer months or will come back to ride once they are finished school. Just over a year ago, I met Alex. She wasn’t a beginner rider, nor was she the “typical” new Foxwood young rider. She was finishing up high school but wanted to get back into riding not only because she missed being around the horses but she wanted to learn how to jump. Given that she already had some riding knowledge, it was only a matter of a few lessons before she was on her way! Alex is very lucky in that her parents are very supportive of her riding and recently, her mom, Lisa, sent me a lovely note to share with me how important riding, horses and Foxwood are to her daughter:

“When I was young, I always loved to go and visit my cousins who owned horses, but I was never able to convince my parents to buy me a horse or pony. It was with great delight then, for me, that when my daughter, Alex was very young, I discovered that she also had a love for horses. My first memory is of a trip to the Kinmount Fair on Labour Day weekend near our cottage when Alex was maybe four or five. She pulled her Dad and me towards the section of the fairgrounds where all of the riders and horses were parked with their trailers getting ready for their shows. The first owner we spoke to had Clydesdales and Alex pulled us closer so that she could touch them, but then when we tried to get her to stand beside the horse to take a picture, she realized just how big he was and she got nervous. We never did get a picture, but the owner who had won several ribbons, gave Alex a first prize ribbon to hang on her wall at home. That clinched it. From that day on, her love and draw to horses was sealed. She began riding later that year or the next at a farm on our cottage road.

Over the years, we took her to various farms including riding with my cousin Iris in Sharon and later on out in Thornton where another friend rode. At this farm, Alex also belonged to the 4H club, but the owner did not teach jumping and after three years, we stopped going. Alex however did not stop thinking about horses and riding so when her friend Megan told her she was riding at Foxwood Farms, Alex went with her to check it out.

Soon after, Alex begged us to start riding again and I went to meet Robyn. We felt immediately at home being back at a barn, but it was more than that. Robyn and Alex had a connection through their love of horses and within a few months, Alex told us Robyn had asked her to be Head Camp Counsellor for that summer. Alex was already working as a lifeguard and swim instructor and had her first aid certification, so adding her love of horses to the mix, it was a perfect fit for her and we were overjoyed.

It’s hard to believe it has only been just over a year since Alex joined the Foxwood Family. It feels like Alex has found her second home and because Robyn is there, she will go to the farm whenever she gets a chance, but we don’t mind. We are happy that Alex has a place to do what she has always loved. Alex has grown her riding skills quite quickly and will be a member of the Foxwood Show team this year. Jumping and simply being at Foxwood has given her the confirmation that whatever she does for her future career, it will be with horses.

Foxwood is a place where not only can our children learn about and be around horses, it is also a place where they feel like they belong. We are thankful that Alex has found her way to the Foxwood Family. Thank you Robyn for being Foxwood!”
Lisa Paul

I’m so excited for Alex to show with our Foxwood show team this season! She has worked very hard to improve her riding skills and she has developed a great partnership with Maggie, the horse she will be showing. As to her future adventures, I know that whatever she does, she will be a success! (and maybe if she gets into vet school, one day, she’ll come back to Foxwood to be our vet;)

Until next time,
Robyn

Alex and her mom, Lisa, riding Fjord horses in Denmark

Alex in the fall of 2016 at Foxwood with Neo

Winter riding lessons at Foxwood

How to have happy teens? Let them horseback ride the stress away

Horseback riding. By definition, is the sport or activity of riding horses; however, for those of us who ride, we know that it is far more than just that. We all lead busy lives and barn time is time away from work, home and school stress – which, for teenagers, is an especially difficult time in life.

Who doesn’t remember the challenges that we faced in our teen years, whether it was getting good grades at school, being part of a socially accepted peer group, finding the right part time job or just getting along with our families. Today, teenagers face far more pressure than ever before. University admissions are increasingly competitive, which means students are constantly striving to earn top marks in order to get into their university of choice. And then, there is the stress of social media. Being perfect. All the time. Because everything is posted whether on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat, etc. and everybody sees it. It’s an acceptance that many of us didn’t have to deal with but unfortunately, our children (and my students) do.

Stress causes many physical and emotional side effects such as headaches, gastrointestinal issues, anxiety, sleep and eating disorders and even suicide. So, how do WE – as parents/adults – help our teens reduce their stress levels? Studies have been shown that exercise is one of the best ways AND combined with the love of an animal, it’s a perfect match! I teach many teenagers – in fact, they currently make up the largest number of my riding students. Yes, they have fun when they are here, taking “selfies” with their horses as they groom, snap chatting silly moments in the barn BUT…once they enter the barn, taking on the responsibility of caring for their horse and then concentrating on riding, I can see the stress they may walk in with, disappear.

One of my adult students came across this article written by Ella Innes which gives insight into how horseback riding can help with teen stress:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2613211/Spending-time-horses-make-teenagers-stressed-study-reveals.html

So, if horseback riding CAN and DOES relieve the stress of your teen, why not let them give it a try? Who knows, they just might start putting in as much effort into cleaning their room as they do sweeping the barn or grooming their horse;)

Until next time,
Robyn