Sunday, March 15, 2015


I have failed, spectacularly, at everything I have ever done in my life. No joke, not exaggerating.

I'll tell you a story that's got nothing to do with horses, but everything to do with failure....

I was not the best student in my University, not by a long shot. I failed class after class, but I always went back, took the class again and passed. I ended up graduating, but only by the thinnest of margins. I had a 2.1 GPA and you needed a 2.0 to graduate.

One of my more memorable screw ups was the time I took an Organic Chemistry test while completely drunk. I had been out drinking all night, the test was at 8 am. It was a really, really stupid decision. I showed up 20 minutes late and still finished the test 30 minutes before the rest of the class. I scored so badly that the professor wanted to see me about my results. He asked if I was having trouble in the class, and I responded completely honestly... "I went out last night and I was still drunk when I took the test". He handed my test back to me and said, "Congratulations on your 20% score".

I failed his class that semester, but I took it again and passed. Years later, I was up for a job interview for a very important position at that same University. I walked in, and saw my Organic Chemistry professor, the one I had admitted to showing up drunk to a test for, sitting on my interview committee. I thought for sure I was sunk, because I knew he remembered me, but I got the job.

I asked him later why I was hired over all the other candidates, who had much better academic records and had never showed up drunk for tests, and he said, "Because you have the right attitude."

While I've failed, spectacularly, at everything I've ever done in my life, I've always picked myself back up and gone right back at it. The world doesn't end when you fail at something. I've failed University courses and still was hired by the same University. I've gotten 40% in a dressage test and I'm still allowed to be in dressage. I've flubbed my changes, gone off course, even gotten the comment "out of control" in a dressage test, but they still haven't kicked me out of dressage. I'm even allowed to run dressage shows and be the Vice President of a USDF GMO!

Don't be afraid to fail, because failure is just the beginning.

Spider's first time down centerline. We got a 54% on this test.

Friday, March 13, 2015

All In A Day's Work.

People say it's hard to find barn help. I think what they actually mean is "good barn help". If they're looking for terrible, but very entertaining barn help, I can lend them Jack. 

Now that it's not freezing anymore, I've been meaning to pull the heater on the stock tank. Jack decided to expedite this process by dumping the whole tank over. 

"You can't prove it was me."

Since it was now empty and laying on the correct side to replace the heater, I decided to just go out and get it done. 

Jack wanted to help with that, too. 

The problem with 17h giraffes disguised as horses is that no matter how far away you shoo them they can still reach you with their Go-Go Gadget necks. 

I swear he's like 10 ft away from me here.

I finally just gave up and let him help. 

He had a little trouble with "lefty loosey, righty tighty".

After we had the plug back in, it was time to give the tub a quick cleaning. 

Spots wandered over to supervise that part of the project.

Then we split a cocktail as a reward for a job well done. 

Vodka kills horse germs, right?

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Can I Have A Proud Mom Moment?

Today when my daughter got home from school she asked me if she could ride her pony, Spots.

I said, "No, it's raining. You don't want to ride in the rain."

She countered with, "Well, then why do you ride in the rain?"

So, she rode her pony.

I think I've got a serious rider here.

Just ignore this rollkur moment, I swear she's not Dutch!

Friday, March 6, 2015

Why Thoroughbreds?

Anyone who's ever held a conversation with me knows about my love of the Thoroughbred horse. I don't hide it. I'm probably a little too outspoken about it. I've actually offended a more than a few Dressage Queens by pointing out that my Thoroughbreds can do all the things their Very Fancy Warmbloods can.

* Side note: Never point out the number of Thoroughbreds in an offended Dressage Queen's Very Fancy Warmblood's pedigree. It makes them froth at the mouth. Many of the modern Warmblood lines do have a lot of Thoroughbred in them, though. 

Which is why I keep getting asked what kind of Warmblood this is.

People often ask me, as I'm singing the praises of my Thoroughbreds, "But, why? You ride dressage. Wouldn't it be easier if you rode a horse bred for dressage?" Maybe. But, I've never been known for doing things the easy way. I do things the fun way.

A Thoroughbred can do all the things that most people are doing with their Very Fancy Warmbloods.  Very, very few people are riding at the top of the sport where you actually need a horse bred specifically for dressage. Most of us are going to spend our entire career at the lower levels, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

So, lets be completely honest with ourselves here..... Do you really think you've got a shot at the Olympics or WEG? Do you really need a Very Fancy Warmblood to schlep around at local shows and have fun? I know I don't! So, I just have fun riding my Thoroughbreds. Added bonus: because I didn't have to mortgage my house to buy them, I have a lot more money left over for local shows and booze.

It's a win-win!

That's not to say everyone should get a Thoroughbred, but everyone should get the type of horse they can actually have fun riding. It doesn't matter what breed that horse is, every horse can compete in the dressage arena. If you want to ride Warmbloods, ride them because you like them and have fun with them, not because somebody told you that's the only way to be competitive in dressage. It doesn't matter how well bred your horse is, if you don't like riding him you're never going to do well. I see it all the time at shows: the rider on the $50K Warmblood sobbing in terror with two grooms and a trainer leading the horse around the warm up ring, another person who replaced a solid 2nd level paint with an imported Warmblood because somebody said that's the only way to be competitive and is now getting 50% at training level. These people aren't having fun.  Sure, I'm only getting 55% on my Thoroughbred, but I'm doing 3rd Level and have a big grin on my face as I gallop through my extensions. (Thoroughbreds frequently confuse "extension" with "We're on the backstretch!")

Not a proper extension.

I ride Thoroughbreds because they're the only breed of horse with enough energy to keep up with me when I'm feeling good or lend me some when I'm feeling sick and tired, the enthusiasm to be down for whatever crazy shenanigans I get up to, and the intelligence to keep us both out of trouble while we're getting up to those shenanigans. I ride Thoroughbreds because I love Thoroughbreds, and that's the only reason to ever ride a horse.

You can't ride papers.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

What Are You Looking For In a Clinic?

I organize all the shows and clinics for my local USDF GMO. We do pretty well, but there is always room for improvement. So, I'm asking you, dear Internet friends, for your advice on what makes for a successful clinic.

I'm only asking about clinics this time, because shows are whole different animal and I'll get to that in a subsequent post. Right now, as the Clinic Chair or Manager or whatever my title is, I'm looking to expand the reach of our educational program. Here are my questions:

1) Do you prefer full individual lessons with the clinician, or shorter "fix-a-test" type formats? Or would you like to see some other format?

2) Multi-day or one day?

3) Weekends, or middle of the week? Can you/will you take off work to participate in a mid-week clinic, or do you prefer them on weekends? Does it matter if it's a Really Big Name International Trainer vs a Local Trainer?

4) Do you look for clinics within your discipline, or fun cross-training clinics like polo, police training/de-spooking, etc? Would you like to participate in clinics where rider fitness was a goal, clinics where there is an unmounted session in which the clinician guides you through exercises designed to help you ride better?

5) Do you like to ride with Really Big Name International Trainers, or would you rather see more accessible local FEI trainers that you might not ride with every week, but aren't as renowned (or intimidating)? 

6) Does the level of the clinician even matter? Are you interested in riding with accomplished lower level trainers, or do you only clinic with The Big Names?

7) Would you rather audit Really Big Name International Trainers than ride with them? If so, do you think it's important for the clinic organizer to showcase a variety of skill levels, riders and breeds for the auditors?

8) How important is good food to your overall clinic experience? (It's important to me, which is why I included that question.) Is there any other hospitality that will make your clinic experience better and make you want to come back?

9) How do you find out about local clinics? Do you prefer to be notified by snail mail, email, social media (FB, Twitter, Blogs, etc), flyers in your local tack shop or some other method I haven't thought of yet?

That's all I can think of for now. I look forward to your answers, and I'll post follow ups as I think of more questions! For making it through all that, you deserve a sparkly rainbow unicorn kitten with butterfly wings:


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