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Show Like a Pro – some tips from the top

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time,
Robyn

Erynn Ballard in fine form

Chapter 2 – Riding a new road to happiness with Macduff

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

Hope you enjoy Chapter 2 from Catherine:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time,
Robyn

Always happy to see each other:)

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time,
Robyn

Catherine’s story – Chapter 1

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

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

Chapter 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Braids

Turning out the ponies

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

The “Golden Foxwood Years” – love, care and compassion for our retired horses

When I first moved to my farm in 1998, I only had my horse, Silhouette. Given that Foxwood had nearly 25 acres, I decided that Silhouette would need a friend or 2 and so, upon moving onto the property, I started to take on retired boarders. Not only would they help keep my horse (and soon to be, horses;) company, but they would also help will some of the costs associated with keeping horses, such as hay, etc. As the years passed by, my “geriatric” group grew from one or two retirees to, at one point, 11 out of the 13 horses that were here.

These horses ALL become a part of our Foxwood Family. Many of them have been show horses, or riding companions, and we have also had the privilege of boarding several retired school horses who worked very hard in busy lesson barns. Each and every one of them has deserved the time to come to Foxwood to retire; eating green grass in the summer, being a part of a horse herd, yet, still being loved and cared for.

This past Monday, we welcomed a new retiree to Foxwood! His name is Sam (aka Boston Clipper) and we are just thrilled that he has joined us! A little something sent to me from Sam’s “mom”, Melanie:

“April 2017 marked 20 years of Sam being in my life. He was my first horse and my first true love. He has been a part of my life for every major milestone; graduating University, starting new jobs, meeting and marrying my husband John and the birth of my three children.

Sam and I enjoyed a lot of success in the hunter and equitation ring on the A circuit and competed together at the Royal Winter Fair five times, but my best memories are times spent at the barn grazing and brushing him.

Seven years ago John and I decided to leave city living and bought a horse farm so we could keep Sam close and every day I woke up to see him in his paddock. We recently sold our farm and I knew exactly where I wanted Sam to live. I have know Robyn probably as long as I have had Sam and always envisioned him retiring at her farm. As Sam is 28 years of age I was nervous how he would handle the change but seeing him get off the trailer and all the other happy horses come to greet him made me know I had made the right choice.

I know I won’t have Sam in my life forever but I am so grateful to know at Foxwood he has found his forever home.”
Melanie Tory

I truly admire the owners, like Melanie, who are able to make “golden years” possible for their retired horses as they truly do deserve to live out their days in comfort and in peace. And when the time comes for our older horses to pass over the Rainbow Bridge, I make sure that I am here for each of them as they have come to trust me and know that I am here for them – I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Until next time,
Robyn

Sam and Melanie competing

Sam and Salty

Sam in with the Foxwood herd

“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

You CAN lead a horse to a “Drinking Post” to save you time AND money

The trees are budding, the birds are chirping, the horses are shedding – spring has sprung! With spring on the farm, comes lots of work: from cleaning tack, harrowing paddocks, grass cutting, and tidying up the Foxwood horses and ponies after a long winter season. With so much to do, there never seems to be enough time in the day!

I like to think that I am fairly progressive when it comes to trying new methods of working around the farm and if I can implement something that is going to save me time AND money, why wouldn’t I try it?

In the fall of 2015, I read about a watering system for large animals that had originated in Western Canada, mainly for cattle, but was becoming popular at horse farms. If you’re familiar with how a frost-free yard hydrant works, then you already understand the concept of how the Drinking Post Waterer works; however, unlike a regular frost-free hydrant, the Drinking Post Waterer has some amazing differences:

Frost-free yard hydrants/drinking post waterers are installed to provide water to various locations on a farm during all seasons of the year. They are manufactured and installed in such a way that they will operate throughout the winter without freezing and because the water is coming up from below the frost line, the temperature remains at 50 degrees Fahrenheit year round. The main difference between the 2 systems is that to use a frost-free hydrant, you then need to have a trough. A trough that needs to have a heater installed in the winter time, to keep the water from freezing. And, a trough that needs to be cleaned and dumped out, especially in the summer, to avoid algae growth (not to mention standing water which increases the likelihood of mosquitoes).

About 10 years ago, when I had a new well drilled on the farm, I had frost free hydrants installed in 3 of our paddocks. At the time, I thought this was fantastic as it meant that I no longer had to drag hoses out from various tap locations and during the winter months, I simply had to put the heater in the trough and all was good…well, until a power outage when the heater would then stop working, causing the water to freeze within the trough. Or in the heat of the summer, if I happened to be away for the day, and the horses would drink the trough dry. As horse owners, we know that having fresh, clean water accessible to our horses all the time is important for their health so something needed to change.

I took that leap in November 2015 and purchased 1 Drinking Post Waterer from System Fencing. I was skeptical at first – not knowing if they would all drink from it. Many of my horses had been at barns in the past with automatic drinking systems in their stalls, but none of them had access to automatic outdoor systems. Leading one horse at a time up to the Drinking Post Waterer, I was amazed at how quickly each and every one of them learned how to work it.

To operate, a horse simply presses their nose on the paddle inside the bowl and as it fills with water, the horse can drink. When they are done drinking, the paddle is released and the remaining water drains down through the interior of the waterer and into the ground below. It’s simple and has so many benefits:

Constant cool, fresh water at 10 degrees Celsius or 50 degrees Fahrenheit, all the time. Horses will consume considerably more when at that temperature

Clean drinking water ALL THE TIME. No algae growth and no having to scrub out water troughs.

No standing water which equals no mosquitoes

AND cost savings due to no hydro requirements!

So, yesterday, I had my Drinking Post Waterer installer back to Foxwood. We put in 3 more drinking posts! One in every paddock so that now, I can rotate pastures in the summer without having to drag around the troughs to the hydrants. I no longer have to clean out algae, I don’t have to worry about water freezing in the winter…and with a decrease in my hydro bill this past winter, I can buy more crazy socks and saddle pads;)

Until next time,
Robyn

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