Category Archives: riding

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

“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