Category Archives: self 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

A new year, a new passion – you’re never too old to horseback ride!

Perhaps you’ve always dreamed of riding a horse or maybe, you’re simply looking for a new hobby but one is never too old to experience the love that can be found at the barn! I’m always interested to hear from my “senior” students what made them decide to ride and recently, my student shared the following with me:

“As many little girls did, I grew up loving horses. I had pictures of them all over my bedroom walls and much to my parents chagrin, I definitely thought they should buy me one for my birthday. I never did get that horse I wished for; however, I was lucky enough that my parents paid for a few lessons, which I enjoyed very much.

Eventually, we moved and that was the end of my riding except for the occasional trail ride. My love of horses always did stay with me; however, a busy life of raising three amazing children and working full time kept me busy. Although we lived very close to many horse farms, it never occurred to me to pick up riding again until only a few years ago.

I have now been riding for almost 2 years and I got back into it quite by accident. When my youngest child was six, a friend mentioned to me that she was riding at Foxwood Farm in Bradford. She was part of a ladies group called “Hags on Nags” that rode once every other week, just for fun. My friend mentioned that occasionally they had a “bring a friend to riding night” and I asked her to invite me the next time there was an opportunity. So, I did go to that next “bring a friend to riding night” and I was hooked. It was so much fun and I knew that I had to continue. My kids were a bit older and I felt that I could afford to spend some time riding every other week. Each time I rode I learned something new – it was a challenge and so much fun I couldn’t keep the smile off my face. Eventually, every other week turned into once a week as I wanted to improve and I was loving it so much.

Recently, I had an interesting experience. It happened on a Tuesday, which is my riding day. Normally, I am excited to get home and get changed to head out to Foxwood Farm; however, on this particular day, I had had a crazy day at work and I was feeling tired and cranky. On my way home from the office I thought about cancelling my ride but I thought to myself, I know if I go I will feel better. So, off I went to the barn, part of me thinking I could stay home and put my jammies on and have a quiet evening…but I have to say that I am so glad that I went to the barn that night! I had such an amazing ride! It was just one of those lessons where everything went well. George, the horse I rode, and I were totally in sync and it was such a great feeling. I am so happy that I pushed myself to go and didn’t stay home and have a quiet evening. If I had stayed home that night, I wouldn’t have experienced that great ride and turned that frustrating day into a good one.

I wanted to share my story in the hopes that other adults might take the sport up again or if you have never ridden before, that you might give it a try. I can think of many reasons I enjoy riding: it’s a challenge, I get to spend time with great people and I learn something new every time but the best reason, really, is how it makes me feel – which is happy. I hope you give it a try and find out your own reasons.”

With the right horse, coach and attitude, horseback riding can be enjoyed for many, many years. Thank you, Jen, for sharing your story with us. I am a very happy coach when I see all my students leave their lesson with a smile and there is always a great, big one on your face when you are at the barn 🙂

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