All Posts in the ‘Professional Interviews’ Category

December 23rd, 2010

Top Eventing Groom Emma Ford Hashes Out Her Christmas Wish List (Take Notes!)

Emma Ford, top groom to top eventer Phillip Dutton, walks us through her Christmas Wish List for 2010. For starters, I think we need to try and get her something like this!

Cleaning Fairy via Any Place Farm

Emma Ford’s Christmas Wish List:

1. Have Phillip be tidy in the tack stalls. He gets a corner and he just explodes. It doesn’t matter how tidy I try to keep it – it just goes everywhere! I need a Fairy Tidier. Boyd‘s groom is in on that to. Is it an Australian men’s mentality?

2.  For shows I was thinking in an ideal world I would love everything to be matching – coolers, blankets, wraps, everything.

3. Bell boots that never come off after cross-country. I’ve probably lost 10 pairs this year.  I haven’t found a make that stays on.

4. A perfect ice boot that any horse will stand in and you don’t have to stay with them.

5. Jammies that the Australians had at the WEGs from their head down to their toes.

6.  Stall mucking fairies.

True Prospect Farm Barn Wishes:

1. Heated water spigots out to every paddock

2. Heated wash stalls

3. In England some barns have a special room to hose down blankets then it’s heated so they dry too. So, a heated drying area for blankets.

4. Tack cleaning fairy

5.  A continuous supply of hot coffee and working students

6. Fairy barn cleaner to de cobweb and clean brass

7.  Pooper scooper

8. To be sponsored by L.L. Bean and have fleece-lined jeans

9. To be sponsored by Starbucks

and Godiva Chocolate

Thanks Emma!  Make sure to check your stocking this Christmas to see how much of that Santa and his Three Days Three Ways elves have managed to stuff in there.

October 2nd, 2010

Owning 4-Star Event Horses: Annie Jones Tells You How

photo courtesy of Annie Jones

It’s easy to get wrapped up in the event horses who are the stars of the sport.  But some additional stars hover at their shoulders, usually out of sight.  Though they might be out of sight, they shoulnd’t be out of mind since they, in so many ways, make eventing possible.  Who’s that then?  The event horse owners, of course.  I connected with Annie Jones, owner of horses like Woodburn, The Forman, and Connaught (all ridden by Phillip Dutton) to find out not only what life as an event horse owner is like, but to find out (for you!) how easy it is to become one.  Fancy being an owner at the 2014 World Equestrian Games in Normandy?  Tune in here.

Q.  When did you first become and event horse owner?

I really backed into it. I was involved with horses all my life, mainly racing.  My family has a polo team and we foxhunted. When I was growing up we were neighbors to Bruce Davidson.  He went to the  ’78 Championships in Kentucky and I followed it for a while.  My children were in Pony Club and so doing three-phase things. In ’82 this unknown rider appeared literally at the bottom of the hill.  I went over and had a lesson on a young horse I was trying to make into a fox hunter.  He said “Why don’t you try a dressage test?”.  We went around the dressage ring and he leapt up and said “Bloody Hell that was good!”  That was Phillip [Dutton]; he had just arrived. No one had said bloody hell to me and I liked it.

That summer or spring he needed help to take a horse over to Europe to try out for World Championships at the Hague representing Australia. I sponsored the travel.  That was for True Blue Girdwood. In exchange I was given part ownership of the horse.  It went on from there.

That won’t happen to everybody. My point is that there is a lot of local talent knocking on the door and trying to get started.  It’s feasible for people looking for action and fun and who have horses to become involved. Not veryone ends up with what turns out to be best rider in world, that was happenstance.  The fun is the journey–Going along the road and helping someone who may have a one-horse stable get a second horse. Find a friend in neighborhood with whom you would like to go into partnership.  It’s very feasible.  You don’t have to travel internationally to make it fun.  There are plenty of local events and wonderful organizers and volunteers.  You can easily travel almost every weekend without having to drive more than 3 or 4 hours. With friends it’s all the more fun.

Q.  Do you have a favorite horses whom you’ve owned?

I’m very lucky because Phillip has been able to spot very talented animals.  I credit Phillip with the ability to train and bring them on.  My favorite horse was Caymen Went by the sire Easy Goer.  He was the one who took me to Badminton.  He was the youngest horse at Badminton and went clear.  He had back issues so now he’s my fox hunter! Phillip cringes every time I bring it up!

Then The Foreman. I’m very partial to American Thoroughbreds.  I don’t believe you have to travel around the world to buy a good horse.

The rest have their own tale.  Recently it’s become more of a business and we haven’t had as much time to make the horses.  We bought Tru Luck after he’d done a 2-star at Radnor.  We bought him from a student who had gone to Texas and turned him out in pasture for two years. Woodburn had been produced through Prelim and maybe one Intermediate. They were already established. I try to keep a maximim of three at advanced and young one coming on. Purely from a financial point of view it’s more feasible.  Those are my top horses at the moment:  The Foreman, Woodburn and Tru Luck.

Q.  What do you like about eventing? Why not stay in polo or racing?

It’s the ultimate test, really, to have to do all three phases. What I like is the synergy between horse and rider.  It’s unique in that there must be complete trust. That’s where Phillip is so brilliant; he doesn’t ride any two horses the same way. That’s the magic. In addition to that it’s becasue I’m older and my friends are beginning to retire and rest on their laurels.  It’s fun to be with younger people who have a future and energy and ambition.  It’s great for me to have friends of another generation.

Q.  Where have you traveled with your event horses?

France, England, The Hague, Rio, and Cannada. Everywhere in this country except the west coast.  We haven’t gotten there yet. Since I’m on my own I always rent a car; I love to explore.  When I went to France I spent the morning driving around looking at farms and exploring villages.  I love doing that, it’s a lot of fun.  I’m very much at home in England because for years I would go foxhunting there and I have friends in the racing industary and hunting worlds.  Going to England is always great for catching up with people. It’s especially nice to travel with a purpose.  I’m not one for going on tours.  It gives you a real reason to be someplace and to be part of it. Then you can make all kinds of things happen around it.

Q.  Do you have a favorite competition?

A.  Each one has own charachter. Badminton and Burghley are my favorites and I’m lucky enough to have had several horses run at each place. The hospitality is great.  They treat owners properly!  When you go to England you passes to everything, they practically put out the red carpet.  So they’re my favorite because of the way they treat owners, the courses being fantastic, having all the best riders in the world, and my friends being there too.

Q.  What’s the life like of an owner? How much do you see your horses? How are you involved?

A.  I’m in a unique position and Phillip is very tolerant of me.  I love to be involved.  As a result I do ride almost all the horses.  I don’t ride Woodburn because he’s pretty tempermental.  The others I walk, trot, canter and gallop. Phillip does all the dressage and jumping. He lives about 6 miles from me. It’s very easy for me to run over there and get on a couple. We go to South Carolina in the winter. I’ve been going to Aiken for years first with racehorse and then with polo and now with eventing.  Our winter base is there. It’s great. Especially now that my husband died two year ago. I’m lucky to have reason to get up and out in the mornings and do something exciting and fun.

Q.  How does event horse ownership work?

A.  Each case is unique. Now we’re trying to put together proper syndicates.  It’s a great idea.  There are forms on the web site and some sample forms you can actually use if you want to form a syndication. Mine is based on long-term friendship and mutual trust. If something comes along or we’re in danger or losing a horse we talk it over and work it out. For someone starting out and supporting a young rider means you might want to put things on paper. Financially it’s important. When we started out the cost of running the operation-Phillip had one horsea and one saddle and no help-wasn’t really a big deal.  Now he’s riding 12 horses and maybe 8 of them at a weekend event. It’s become a much different operation. Just buying horse isn’t whole thing; it’s the cost of event fees and stabling and vet fees which were minimal 17 years ago.  It cost $75 to enter an event.  It’s quite a different things now.  Even at the lower levels syndication is a good idea to help share cost.

Q.  How can we get involved with event horse ownership?

A.  Look at the Event Owners website.  The other thing is you can keep an eye on local events to see who’s successful and dedicated. Dedication and work ethic are the most critical things to back a rider in it for the long term.  And you want to go for long ride. Watch young riders and talk to them.  Ideally it would be better if you could find someone in the area so you can have the pleasure of watching your horses school and attend events.  If you do become involved with a rider and the rider has other owners that’s another aspect.  There is a real comeraderie between all the people who have supported Phillip over the years.  I went to hong kong even though I didn’t have horse of my own running and that was so much fun.

Q.  Anything else you want to add?

Go out and enjoy the sport. Local events are so well run and fun.  They really do make it fun for everybody who comes. Go with that spirit and have a very good time. Sharing that is really important.

If you want to learn more about event horse ownership, syndication, or which horses and riders are looking to invite new owners (including your fave riders like Boyd Martin, Amy Tryon, and Gina Miles) check the Event Owners Task Force site.  And we’ll see you in Normandy!

October 2nd, 2010

Contributor Spotlight: Josh Walker and Red Horse Photography

photo by Josh Walker

Surely you’ve noticed the abundance of incredible photography on Three Days Three Ways.  A key source to that photography is Josh Walker.  Josh is the principal of Red Horse Videography and Photography, a company dedicated to helping up and coming event riders, organizers, breeders, and owners promote their horses, themselves, their events, and their farms, as well as gain new sponsorship and publicity opportunities. Maybe you’ve seen some of his work recently like the video for Galway Downs 2010? It’s the height of craft and professionalism.

Incredibly, Josh didn’t pick up a camera until after high school when he wandered to the beach with some friends to surf and, for the first time, captured memories in a frame.

photo by Josh Walker

His love for photography grew from there and expanded to the equestrian world (thank goodness for us).

Josh also works for the United States Eventing Association handling most of the new media appearing on the USEA website including video, audio, photography, and other interactive elements. He is typically easy to spot at most competitions with multiple cameras and lenses hanging from each shoulder. Don’t be alarmed if he approaches you with cameras and microphones in hand and asks for an interview.

photo by Josh Walker

Though I have no idea how he fits it all in there can be no doubt that he’s putting some of the best photography and videography out there.  And we’re lucky times two or three to have him contributing to Three Days Three Ways.

To immerse yourself in more of Josh Walker’s work visit The Red Horse.

bio written by Josh Walker and Courtney Young

September 14th, 2010

One-on-One with Eventing Team Vet Brendan Furlong

(image via B.W. Furlong and Associates)

How lucky for the lot of us that I was able to rendezvous with the U.S Eventing Team vet Brendan Furlong while the Advanced showjumping went on in the background at the USEA American Eventing Championships.  Originally from Ireland, Brendan has been a team vet for the USEF for over fifteen years and in that time traveled the globe caring for our beloved horses including three World Equestrian Games and four Olympic Games.  He has been the Team vet for the 3-day eventing team itself since 1996.  He cares not only for the three-day eventing horses but also for the driving horses making his talents not only impressive but diverse.

I thought I would catch a few interesting tidbits and pass them on in text form for everyone.  But Brendan had so many insights I thought it would be best to share the entire interview so you might enjoy it as much as I did.

As we wait to hear about the final decision on which horse and rider pairs will form our 2010 World Equestrian Games Team I hope this conversation (including information about preparing horses for major international competition, evaluating the horses prior to the WEGs, and what the days will be like leading up to and during the WEGs itself) satiates your curiosity.  Plus, he has the most captivating Irish accent and it’s worth listening to the whole interview for that alone! To listen in click on the link below.

Brendan Furlong, Team Vet

If you’d like to learn more about Brendan and his work you might pop over to a great article from The Chronicle of the Horse and soak some more in. You might also want to read a more thorough biography as well as a list of his impressive accomplishments. Thanks again to Brendan for taking the time to speak with all of us at Three Days Three Ways and for sharing his insights, exeriences, and wisdom.  It was an honor and privilege for me and I imagine for you as well!

Thanks also to Amber Heinztberger, talented journalist and photographer, for connecting Three Days Three Ways to Brendan.  We’re grateful and delighted!  Make sure to check out Amber’s vast portfolio of equine journalism including pieces for the USEA, The Chronicle of the Horse, and Equestrian Magazine.

August 5th, 2010

Building Cross-Country Fences with Travers Schick

We left off talking with cross-country course builder Travers Schick of his own Cross Country Hardware discussing how he likes to work.  But what about where he works?  And what he likes to build?  Look no further.  We have the answers here plus an insight into the cross-country course building scene, his best friend, and his first deep-fried Snickers bar.

Q.  Where do you travel?

A.  This year so far I started in Florida at Rocking Horse in January.  Most of my friends winter there at Rocking Horse so it’s a good time to get down there.  Having to work there gives me an excuse to drive out of the way.  I have a lot of friends down there so I go hang out a little, work a little, golf a little.  It’s a fun place to be. Then we all met up in Louisiana, at Stirling Silver Stables owned by the Mosings, one of Will Faudree’s big sponsor.

photo by Joe Stylos

We found a phenomnenal music scene in Lafayette.  We found a little bar in town with music five nights a week and we were there 3 or 4 nights a week. And the food.  It takes years off your life but it tastes really good. Everything is deep friend or seasoned to perfection.  We were down there during Mardi Gras; it’s not nearly as crazy as New Orleans but there was a  parade every night for ten days and a fair. There wasn’t a meat you couldn’t find on a stick and I had my first deep fried snickers bar.  I could feel my arteries clogging, but, you know, whatever. Then we moved up to The Fork in North Carolina. They have a great farm and staff and they’re fun to hang out with. The owners themselves, Jim and Bernadette, were phenomenal hosts.  The event is quite a social scene.  We ended up shooting a couple days at the range; they still harass us about it since we were so awful. From there through the second week in April my two frindn went home and I went to Virginia to Loudoun Hunt Pony Club event at Morven Park. I’ve been working at Morven and it’s great place to be.  You can cruise into DC if you want to. I’m a sucker for a comedy club.  The piece of property is just beautiful.  It’s unfortunate how many subdivisions are around it but the property itself is quite amazing. From there I moved up to Jersey Fresh and a friend builds that and I go in every year for the last ten days to help them finish stuff up. Jersey was lot of work and not a lot of hanging out.  The event is again a bit of a social scene.  That’s a bit of the payoff otherswie you’d go insane.  The event rolls around and friends come in.

Then we flew out to Washington for the Aspen Farms event which is the second weekend in June. My buddy Joe works for me and was my childhood best friend.  We attempted to hike Mount Ranier but the weather turned on us and we weren’t able to make it to top.

photo by Joe Stylos

Here at Aspen we help out with other stuff which is a lot of fun. One thing we ended up tackling was one of the stabling sections out in the field was so wet you couldn’t drive trucks across it so we had to make a road.  We worked all the way through one night. We took shifts keeping the dump truck rolling.  Then we red-eyed it back to Jan’s event [Sure Fire] where I met you. Walking out of Dulles airport going from 65 degress and beautiful to 95 and humid.  We sweated it out there.  The evening ritual at Sure Fire was to get done with work at 6pm and hang out at the house and throw a Frisbee.  I took few weeks off and went up to New England then drove cross-country and here we are back in Washington.

Q.  Do you have a favorite kind of cross-country fence that you like to build?

photo by Joe Stylos

A.  Every builder has tendecies.  You can walk around a course and see construction techniques and can tell who built it. My favorite time is when a course is flagged and decorated.  There’s a slight moment of zen.

photo by Joe Stylos

As for my favorite part of building I know that Josh, Joe, and I all have strengths that are all different.  Joe’s super good with a chain saw and can carve anyting you want.

photo by Joe Stylos

Josh is a finish carpenter. All of it depends on event.  Sure Fire was a lot of logs and rails whereas at Aspen there are a lot of portables.  At The Fork everything is a portable, pretty much.

photo by Joe Stylos

A lot of what you’re doing depends on where you are.  I really try to keep things mixed up. Some builders build a lot of the same stuff, not that I don’t, but you can see different events that look the same.  It’s hard not to do that since we all get stuck in our tendencies.  It’s hard to avoid but I’m trying to change that.  You want people to recognize stuff as yours but don’t want everything to be the same.  That’s what I would like to accomplish.

Q.  Are there any big courses you’d like to work on?

A.  I’d really like to do the Olympics. Now that it’s not in Chicago in 2016 the chances are probably greatly reduced. That would be what I’d like to do. Ideally I’d like to be the best course builder in the country.  I’m no where near that right now but would like to be THE builder. There’s a lot of different things that go into what would be considered a good builder.  It’s a lot more to do than being good builder.  A lot of it is being easy to get along with and being personable.  You can’t really measure that.

Q.  What’s life like on the road?

A.  I’ve been on the road full-time about three years.  I bought an airstream and that’s where I live now.  It’s nice to have your own space at the end of the day.  It’s my dog and I and the airstream.

Q.  What’s the culture of course builders like?

A.  As for course building, I think I got really lucky.  I got in at the right time being so young.  The next course builders are probably ten years older than I am. I’m the baby of the pack. Most of the time I see another course builder with a beer in hand and they ask, “Are you old enough to drink that yet?” Most course builders get a along with one another, it’s a cordial group.  It’s a group that’s taken me under their wing a little bit.  There are quite a few course builders in their early 50’s and they’re a wealth of knowledge.  I’m lucky to be friends with them and to learn from them.

Thanks to Travers for taking the time to talk with all of us at Three Days Three Ways.  I liked getting insight from someone who’s out there creating the fences we like to jump so much!  Next time we walk a course he’s worked on we’ll be able to say oh-so-casually “That’s a Travers Schick fence”.  We’re so in the know.  Meet you at the airstream in ten!

August 3rd, 2010

Building Cross-Country Courses with Travers Schick

Remember when we met the cross-country course builder, Travers, beside the water jump at Sure Fire Farm Horse Trials?  He was all cool and laid back, sporting his matching Sure Fire polo shirt (how could I forget?) and we hit it off right away.

So I tracked him down as he zig-zagged his way across the country to build cross-country courses at some of our favorite locales.  I caught up with him in Washington state and, as per usual, my only regret is that the conversation had to end eventually.  But we did manage to get in a bunch about how much he travels (a lot), the cool places he gets to go (like Washington State), what he builds (wait for the alligator), and how he got into it (thanks Tremaine Cooper).  There’s also a dog named Lily and an airstream.  So I vote you read his interview and then we’ll all meet up later at the airstream for a beer from a cool,  local brewery.  I’m seeing the sun setting, a dog barking, and everyone playing frisbee by the airstream.  Are you with me?  I think you will be once you’ve heard from Travers himself.

Q.  Tell me what your life looks like as a cross-country course builder.

A.  The lifestyle is a bit of a gypsy.  I think that you’ll find most course builders tend to east coast or west coast; I’ve decided to tackle pieces of both of them. Luckily my client base allows me to do that.   Aspen Farms [where I am now] can fly me out and they have enough tools at the farm to build jumps. Which really works out well.  It saves me time having to drive cross-country.  I like to drive across once a year.  I just like it. Twice in one year is too much but once a year I like. I don’t mind driving.  It’s good to get out there and see something new every time you drive across.

For most builders you figure any event you’re working at there’s 2 -3 weeks before for prep and then on to next. Some builders just go straight and don’t take much time off. I’ve gotten to point where I have have two guys helping me.  We’ll work 3-4 weeks straight then take a week off.  It keeps us sane and can recuperate. Especially I find when on the road and I’m working I get in go mode.  It can be hard to take a day off sometimes. At the same time most things I want to do take longer than a day or two.  A buddy and I have been doing some hiking and last year took six weeks off and drove motorcycles to Alaska which was phenomenal.

photo by Joe Stylos

photo by Joe Stylos

That’s one reason why the life appeals to me because I can set my schedule. Going up to New England, where I’m from, is appealing since I don’t get back very often.  Most of my work is not near New England at this point.  I grew up in Western Mass near North Hampton.

Q.  How did you get into course building from a litte town?

A.  Wrong place at the wrong time I think! Tremaine Cooper is a course designer and a course builder.  He designed a schooling facility for my aunt in Maine. I was there at the time that he checked the property out.  I helped for a day or two doing some stuff.  A few weeks later he gave me a call and asked if I could help at Millbrook. That was the first event I ever worked at.  Nine years ago this August. I was 15 at the time. He called me and I helped him there.  The next spring I was on a plane to Morven Park during spring break for the Spring Horse Trials. From there on every school vacation and every summer I was  working for Tremaine.  I worked full time for him for 6 years. We spent more time with each other than anyone else. When you’re building and you’re on the road (we were working together all day long, having meals together, spending evening together) then the people you’re working with you really need to get along with.  It’s important to have strong friendships there. I’m lucky right now with two friends that help me; we all get along really well and deal with each other well.  Those are important things to look for in a crew.

From left:  Joe Stylos, Trav Schick, Josh Sylce, Steph Goodman (Josh’s wife), Kat Willdeboer (Trav’s girlfriend). photo by Joe Stylos

I worked at The Fork for the first time this Spring.  That was a solid five or six weeks of work.  We worked about a month straight and then took a week off and came back for two weeks before the event to do prep.  In an effort to keep morale and craftsmanship up it’s important to take a week off. Being with each other for a month-you can get a little punchy.

Q.  What’s Tremaine like?

A.  Tremaine is great. He taught me most of what I know.  Some things that stick me the most is that anyone can do a crappy job and that the easy way is rarely the right way. Those two things have helped me become the builder that I am. He was a really good teacher and hopefully I benefitted from that.  At this point in life he’s more family than anything else.   I lived with him for a bit, and on the road obviously we were living together.  Overall workong for him was  a great experience.  I got to go a lot of cool places and because I worked with him I got jobs I wouldn’t otherwise.  I opted out of collge but joke I was since working for him since my first year of high school so he should start docking my pay $5 every year I missed college.  That never materalized, thankfully!  It was a great experience.  And he still, to this day, has me under his wing a little bit which is good.

Q.  What do you like about building cross-country courses?

A.  I really enjoy it. I really enjoy the fact that it dabbles in different stuff.  You can be using a chainsaw with logs and the next day you’re on equipment moving dirt and the next you’re using carpentry for portables.

photo by Joe Stylos

I like fact that it’s not really a real job. I don’t think I can handle 9-5 every day. The job has given me an excuse to meet people and go places I wouldn’t have gone.  I have an excellent client base;  I don’t have a single client I wouldn’t consider a friend. That’s important to me.  I also like the last push to get an event done, it’s a little bit of a rush. For any job I walk into with two things in mind: I’m there to have a good time and there to get the job done.  And, if at end of the day, one of those things doesn’t happen something has to change.

photo by Joe Stylos

There’s more to come from Travers including the different styles of courses around the country, his own personal style, and more.  I’ll see you later then!

June 22nd, 2010

Team Up with Your Favorite Pro: The Pro/Am Team Competition

There are big things happening in eventing these days.  Fun things like polo cross (at Jersey Fresh), country fairs (at Fair Hill), and wine tastings (at The Fork).  It’s a brand new world!  But there’s more to come, aren’t we lucky ducks?

The Professional Riders Association has taken up the cause to represent our professional event riders, to strengthen the sport and, as one Three Days Three Ways interviewee once put it: create a sport that a kid can dream of doing for a living without their parents freaking out. They’re creating all kinds of ways for riders to connect with our favorite pros like exhibitions, course walks, and polo cross matches.  But this newest edition might be my favorite so far: a Pro/ Am Team Competition Tour!

I talked with Samantha Lendl, PRO executive director, early the other morning just after she’d returned from her trip to the British horse trials Bramham (lucky!) to get the full scoop for the Three Days Three Ways team.  So tune in, then sign up!

Q.  What is the Pro/ Am Tour?

A.  The Team Competition Series is a format that PRO is putting together which would  bridge adult riders, juniors and Young Riders with professionals.  We are holding a team competition with prize money involved.  It will be quite a lot of fun. It’s a fun format and a way we could help get professionals and other riders together and offer an educational compnent. There will be course walk and tips and you get gift just for entering. Sponsors Eco Gold, Five Star Tack, and Nunn Finer have offered prizes for first, second, and third.

Q.  Where is the Pro/ Am Team Competition?

A.  We have five events this year and Sure Fire is kicking it off June 26-27.  The next one is Stuart Horse Trials July 15-18. We’re trying to reach all areas so Woodside will be August 13-15th and Richland, in Michigan, will be August 26-29th, and then back out in California for Twin Rivers in September.

Q.  Who can enter?

Anybody can enter. It’s an additional $35.00 and you team up with other riders. The horse trials secretary will combine people or if you want to form a team you can do that and we’ll assign a professional.

You can look at PRO website but each event generally has its own entry form on their website.  The best way to enter is to download the entry off the competition website.

Q.  What happens?

When you get there you find out your team and professional.  If it’s a one-day event you’ll get the course walk early in the morning and in that case we’ll work to make sure you  get that info before you head out. If it’s over two or three days the schedule may shift in which case may get a course walk in the afternoon. As far as coaching tips, riders can ask anyting you want and go to stables with specific questions you’d like to have answered. When you  go out for a course walk we’ll take a picture that will be emailed to everybody. It’s a great format and we’re excited about it.

Q.   Are there awesome prizes?

First prize at every Pro/Am Team Competition is an Eco Gold saddle pad embroidered with the PRO logo. Nunn Finer provides brushing boots and a leather halter for 2nd and 3rd pace.

The winners of each five competitions are put into an annual year-end drawing and one team will be drawn.  Each of those members receive a bridle and breast plate from 5-Star Tack.

Q.  Which PRO riders are part of the Pro/ Am Competition Tour?

A.  At Sure Fire Horse Trials the PRO riders are Courtney Cooper, Laine Ashker, Kristen Schmolze, and Phillip Dutton.  Any professional member of PRO can participate; it’s really about schedules at events. Riders and sponsors are very excited. There is a lot of potential and everyone’s excited to be involved.

Thanks to Samantha for taking the time to talk with all of us about this new eventing opportunity.  Which Pro/ Am Team Competition do you want to enter?  Which Pro would you dream of riding with?  Tsk, tsk, silly me.  It’s no longer a dream.  Do it!

June 1st, 2010

Psychologist Jeanne Lambrecht Handles Fear, Peak Performance, and a Horse or Two of her Own

And off we go with Part II with psychologist Jeanne Lambrecht and her insight into fear…and what to do about it.  Plus, her moving story of how she got where she is today and the inside scoop on her own herd of happy horses.  We’ll end with resources to take us on our merry way.

Q. How do you approach a specific issue with a rider?

A. When I look at an issue, any issue between horse and rider, several domains get lots of info. That horse and that horse’s history, their training, the history of the issue, is there a history of doing it with other riders? Then go to rider: their training, background, how do they describe their relationship with their horse? Where do they ride? What is the culture like where they ride? If they have a coach what is their relationship like? Is there an actual problem?  Do they have it in other places in life? Most of the time they transcend.

The challenge when being objective about ourselves is that no one is objective of themselves.  It’s impossible; we’re too close to the subject. When you’re so close there’s things you’re gonna miss. It’s helpful if you have someone outside of yourself who can understand and relate but that is still able to be objective and is able to give you feedback in terms of helping you solve problems.

If you’re really talking about fear we know natural things are fight or flight. People like to avoid. That’s why dealing with fear is not a great do-it-yourself project. The natural thing to want to do is to avoid. But the thing is everything you avoid reinforces the fear. It’s not neutral; it strengthens the fear. That’s pretty damaging. Another mistake when try to do it on your own is that we throw ourselves into the deep end of the pool or others encourage that.  When you’re trying to desensitize yourself it’s much better to take baby steps to help you be successful than to take major strides which often fail and leave you feeling more helpless. What do you do when you realize you’re doing this?  You can think what’s my deal? Why am I afraid of this? Sometimes in breaking it down it’s not such a big issue but something you’ve been reacting to. On the other hand there are tons of strategies to teach people, before they even get into the situation and feed this stuff to their horse, about preparing mentally with strategies to bring themselves back to their comfort zone and ease so therefore they’re not communicating information that they’re not intending to communicate to their horse or that’s not helpful.

Q.  So sometimes we all get nervous.  A herd of hourses comes galloping across a field and my mare starts snorting and backing up.  That might make me a little nervous.  Is there a difference in that kind of fear and something more extreme?

Jeanne’s own thundering herd.

A. There’s a point I like to make and that is that fear is signal. We understand that to some degree. If we’re going to be harmed it’s a signal for that but it’s also signal of growth. When you’re doing something that is pushing your boundaries or about to, in a good way, you experience fear. A lot of us know that first time we tried something new, the first job interview.  A job interview is not life threatening and you’re not currently being injured but people experience fear because it’s a signal that it’s new, that we’re stepping out of our comfort zone. Whenever I try something new or am putting myself out there I’ll experience fear but what I learn to recognize is that there’s difference between those fears.  I recognize when fear is about harm and threat and when it’s about growth. And what’s helpful is to be able to go, okay I’m experiencing fear but this is a badge of honor because this means I’m doing something that is making me grow.  I love trying new sports but when I’m learning it I feel anxiety. But then I recognize it’s because I’m trying something new and I don’t know what I’m doing and that’s great.  Stop and think.  What is this a signal of?

Q. How did you get into this field?

A. Well I’ve been riding since I was a little girl.  Horses have always been a major passion for me and they’ve always brought something out in me that nothing else did. And so the horses have always been this consistent thread in my life and always part of my life to different degrees. That said from the time I was a teenager I knew I wanted to be a psychologist. Even before then I think I knew where my strengths were to some extent and that that was what I was meant to be and that would be my role in life. So I had these two twin passions and I don’t think I ever realized they would ever integrate. It was always important I would have both: the ability to understand and connect to other human beings and also have the presence of horses in my life. It’s not about riding at all; it’s about being with them. Riding is such a small part of it.  When I’m having a hard time and no mater how stressed or sad or frustrated I could always go and spend time with a horse and those feelings evaporate. That’s partly because they require you to be so present because their nature is so present and with you in the moment that I think they pull me out of myself and ask me to be. That’s a very good message and an important one for someone who is so about doing. They bring me this sense of peace and so I think I was always interested in the dynamic of connection, especially because it’s a challenge to understand your horse and how horses experience the word.

I understood humans very well so had to work to expand my understanding so I could understand my horses. That was a difficult journey for me. But then a few years ago I was injured in non-horse accident and as result I had to have time way from horses and riding to recover and in part of my recovery I started to experience fear.  I had a better connection to my own vulnerability and was very much afraid it would take riding away from me because I was very much afraid of falling. I was committed to not losing horses as part of my life. So I looked at the resources available for people like me and there were some but they weren’t terribly helpful.  So I had to work together with some people that cared about me that were wise to the dynamic of riding but then also of me and fear and how I worked.  We worked together to be able to transcend that. I should say that with asterisk. It doesn’t mean I don’t experience fear with horses because I do but I think what’s different is I know I can do with it takes to make those experiences fewer and far between and not debilitating.

It was out of that experience that helped me to see a marriage between two parts of my life: interest in people and a love of horses and understanding a connection between horse and rider. It brought those things together in a very different way.

One of Jeanne’s pooches, Rocky.

Q. Can you tell me about your horses?

A. I can! Valentine was the first horse ever that was mine on my own. Given the course of my life I got him way later than I would have wanted him.  I pretty much wanted him at four but I didn’t get him until I was in my early thirties. Valentine is an off-the-track thoroughbred.  He raced for quite some time, seven or eight years until he was eight, which is pretty old for a racehorse. He liked his job as a racehorse; he has a legitimate love of his own power.  He loves the feeling of galloping; I can tell that it brings him joy and that makes me happy to know that he liked that part of his life.

He’s 16 hands and bay.  A blood bay, real red. He’s got a beautiful face and soft eyes.  His face looks like Man O War’s face. Which I found out when I went to Lexington and saw statue and went oh my gosh he looks just like Valentine! And in fact he’s a descendent of Man O’ War’s.

Above: Man O’ War. (Image via Standing in The Gap)

Valentine stretched me as a rider because he does require an advanced rider and I definitely wasn’t when I got him.  He has things he needs to feel comfortable: Balance, very clear, gentle signals, and needs to know you are his leader and you are a confident leader. Those were all major areas that I had to work on! I can pretty much guarantee you that I wouldn’t be nearly as good as rider if I hadn’t gotten Valentine. He forced my education. He would tell me I was riding poorly.  He’s tough to understand because he’s very dominant but very friendly.  It’s important for him to connect but needs you to be in charge, but a calm in charge not loud, bossy in charge.  If he doesn’t get confidence from me then he feels need to be in charge.  But he’ not comfortable with that. He made me grow in so many ways.  I’m grateful for the education as hard won as it was.

Then I have Hopscotch a five year old, red roan paint horse who’s 15.3 hands. As much as it took me reach to understand Valentine and figure out, Hopscotch and I fit like a glove.  That relationship is so easy since he’s such a counter part. I can be as high strung and energetic and hot as I want to be and he’s so low-key and cool headed and solid that I will never have fear of over response from him.  He’s very friendly and lovely, almost like golden retriever.  If he could I’m sure he would come into the living room and curl up on the couch and watch TV with me. He’s a super duper western horse who made me further refine my western riding and made me understand it more deeply and look into western culture.  He was bred to be a show horse and I probably will show him just for fun.  The one thing I value most about him is his calmness.  He’s not dull, just sort of serene.

Then I have Phoenix and he is a twenty-three year-old polo pony.  He knows the game incredibly well.  He loves polo and so likes it when we practice.  You can tell, I swear, that he’s a fan of the game. Cause that’s when he’s the happiest.  He’ll tell us when we do well and make it very clear when we have not done such a good job. He’s like, “Oh brother, that was kind of lame” because he’s so uninspired. But when we hit it well he gets so happy and chases that ball!  He’s a genius.  He likes to untie things, open gates, and we pay extra attention to where his stall is and what’s around it since he can break out and go get hay or whatever.  We actually create toys for him and will ties knots on lead lines on the fence line to untie because it makes him happy. So he’s brilliant.  There’s no question he can outfox us. The fact that he cooperates with you is out of his sheer goodwill-it’s not because he has to.

Guinness is a 16 hand bay thoroughbred retired racehorse.  He’s a grandson of Secretariat but didn’t race much.  He’s ridiculously talented and would be the most amazing dressage horse. Its not that I don’t do my version of dressage with him! He would also be a stellar eventer.  It takes so very little asking to have him to do movements and he does them flawlessly.  He’s very contemplative and likes to think a lot and so the more complicated the question the happier he is. He’s very confident and almost arrogant! He’s really curious, which I love, and if we’re taking photos and they’re out in the pasture at liberty he’ll always get in on the photos because he wants to.  I have more pictures with him because he always wants into it. Guinness has challenged me in that he’s very dominant and requires me to be leader but a very serious leader. With Valentine I’m the calm leader.  I show him much more leadership on ground than with other horses.  You give him an inch and he takes a mile. The irony is that even though he’s such an issue on ground when you’re on his back he practically goes, “Well, how can I help you?”

Q. Is it different to work with an upper level professional than an amateur rider?

A. Fist of all I do think people’s issues go beyond fear. Sometimes there’s focus. Being able to have the optimal mindset for competition and training.  I would say one thing that is different for amateurs versus professionals, and one thing that has impressed me about event riders in particular, is their understanding and connection to their mindset and dynamic, how they function and how it impacts them. They have this awareness of themselves and they know how to ground themselves and focus and orient themselves where need to be.  They have much more psychological awareness than the amateur.  They understand how their mindset impacts their work with their horses much more.  Whereas amateurs tend to be much less connected and self-aware. These are broad strokes.

I see sublimation, pretending something isn’t an issue, more at the lower levels. There’s a fear of injury in both groups; much less concern about other people at higher levels.  Much, much, much less.  There’s much more focus on how am I performing and am I going to perform my best. More concentration on the optimal mindset for performance and training and working on that and almost trying to fine-tune it to some degree.  Those are, again, painting with a broad-brush stroke but it’s almost like overall they understand the importance of it because they’ve been doing it and it’s so central in their lives.  Because the stakes are higher they’re not given the luxury of pretending it’s not an issue.   As opposed to the recreational eventer who doesn’t have sponsors or everyone breathing down your neck.

Q. And if we want a little more help where can we go to get more information?

A. You can go to my website and I also contribute to different magazines like Horse South magazine.  I will be posting more general resources in the coming months and am working on projects to release more information.

Q. Anything you want to add?

A.  I’m looking at the optimal mindset and stuff not just about fear. There are other sports in which you can get by with fear and still be able to perform okay.  With horses you can’t because they know you’re deal and you can’t get away with it.

Thanks for reading, Team.  I’m glad we could bring up such an important, and little discussed topic. Let us all know what you thought of Jeanne’s perspective of fear and peak performance and your own experiences with both. Chime on in! Thanks again to Jeanne for talking with all of us about this little-discussed issue and for all of the photos throughout both interviews.  Remember, you can also find her on Barn Mice!

May 31st, 2010

Eventers are Fearless. Or are We?

As eventers we take pride in being brave and fearless. It’s what we demand of ourselves as well as of our equine counterparts.  But are we always fearless? Do we need to be? What happens when anxiety creeps in?  Our guest today is Jeanne Lambrecht, a psychologist, who works with equestrians to not only achieve peak performance at home and at competitions, but also to deal with fear and anxiety.  Let’s call it the big, bad wolf, of eventing. No one’s talking about it: but we are at Three Days Three Ways!  We begin today with the prevalence of fear, the shape it takes, and how it effects us as eventers. Dig in.

Q. I want to start with fear.  How much do you think it happens in riding versus how much it’s talked about? How prevalent is it?

A. I think it’s a huge issue. It’s part of a lot of rider’s lives.  I’d go so far as to say part of the majority of rider’s lives. The big reason it doesn’t get talked about is there’s a lot of shame that’s associated with experiencing fear of a horse whether it’s cantering, jumping, falling, other people thinking you’re a terrible rider. All of those things come into play. Shame because depending on what discipline there’s a culture that you’re supposed to pull your bootstraps up and get back on the horse that threw you. Cowgirl up! Shove it down and not feel it.  That doesn’t work of course. And because that doesn’t work people think they’re deficient. But they’re not. Culturally that was never gonna work as a strategy, to pretend the fear doesn’t happen.  There’s not a lot of great information about overcoming concerns and I know a lot of it is experienced and felt but not talked about.

Q. Is it particular challenge in eventing?

A. There are different cultures depending on the discipline.  I’ve noticed different personality profiles associated with different disciples and different levels of disciplines.  I wouldn’t say it’s a particular thing for eventers but I definitely do think that there is a lot of almost this gung-ho, adventurous, almost Indiana Jones mentality that goes with eventers. They’re a courageous, adventurous, and high-energy bunch and. A group of risk-takers. Certainly the culture of eventing would encourage risk-taking and adventuring and taking chances and testing your limits.  So I would say that there’s this idea of being courageous being promoted but wouldn’t say I’ve observed that within this culture that it would support shame as I would see in other disciplines.  I don’t see that quite as much. It’s not as bad among eventers for whatever reason.  But it’s still there and I still know coaches who yell at people for being afraid.

Q. What kinds of fears do you hear about with your work?

A. I would say most of the time it’s the same set of concerns that I hear over and over. Although when people first come to me they fall into general categories but when I look into their own history with a horse and the culture within the barn I can fine-tune it. For example—some common ones are fear of falling, jumping, getting injured, fear of the horse doing something unexpected (rearing, bucking refusing), fear of embarrassment that others will think you’re not a good rider or considering you cowardly. That’s a big concern. Fear of never being good enough for their horse, or to do the sport they want. Fear of ever being able to ride comfortably.

But then when you look deeper that’s when you find more refined questions like the fear of a horse doing something when they mount because they had an accident when they mounted once. Or it’s specific to a horse or behavior.  Barn culture and a person’s history with issues comes into play quite a lot much more than people realize.

Q. Are their fears that are specific to eventers?

A.  The most common fear with eventers is the fear of falling because there’s so much business of jumping. Part of the two days of the three things you guys do. Fear of falling a big one for eventers. Fear of the horse doing something unexpected because again so many thing eventers do leave room for a horse to do something potentially scary or injure them.  The third biggest one (though a lot occur at the same time) is the fear of other people not thinking they’re good enough.  The fear of embarrassment I guess I should say.  There is a lot of self-consciousness among eventers and peers, which is really unfortunate because it impacts the enjoyment with you horse and your ability to perform with your horse.  It becomes preoccupying to some degree and creates anxiety, which feeds back to the horse, and then you do have legitimate problems.

Q. How does this effect riding?

A. Well, first of all every single person and every partnership is individualized so I don’t love globalizing. Particularly with self-consciousness.  It impacts a lot but impacts each person differently. Even in training since most riders train around other riders. Your horse picks up everything you feel and experience whether you’re aware of it or connected to it they’re aware of it and read it.  Depending on the partnership you have you’re gonna get different kinds of reactions as a result. If you have anxiety for whatever reason it’s going to interfere with your ability to communicate and get the best performance out of your horse. For example, if you have a relationship where your horse looks to you as leader and your horse experiences tension from you it’s going to become distracted and have difficulty receiving your signals and relaxing and do what’s it’s capable of doing athletically and mentally because you’re telling it to be anxious because its leader anxious.  Your horse is not going to be able to hear you as clearly if you’re not relaxed and you’re giving it a reason to be concerned. They’re especially aware of signals of threat. So it’s not good for anybody.  It’s not just competition it’s in training as well. Even building up to getting to where you need to go before you even get to competition can impact it negatively.

Say you have, hypothetically, a person with a fear of the horse spooking, particularly on trail riders. The horse had one time jumped to the side unexpectedly.  After that the person thought the horse was spooky so put the horse in that category.  The fear about trail riding and the fear of horse then rearing and spooking (even though it didn’t rear) might come on. And then feeling guilty that they let the horse down since they weren’t paying attention, which is why they came off.  Now the relationship isn’t the same with all this stuff that’s out there.

The thing is in all likelihood that moment was that moment for that horse. But that moment wasn’t just that moment for that rider so the rider changed their way of engaging with the horse and had negative feelings and when they would go on trail rides were anxious and communicated it.  So the horse became more reactive when on trail rides because their rider is acting strangely and they don’t like it when we act strangely. They‘re very aware of us. As much as we pay attention to their behavior they pay way more attention to us so when we act weird they know it. My horses could write the book on me, they know everything and not all of it’s good and some of it embarrassing!  But they spend lots of energy observing us because we’re the major feature in their life. We have to recognize that and become self-aware. Whether you’re aware of it or not they’re picking up what you’re communicating.

Thanks for exploring this topic with me. It’s something that’s little discussed but occurs often.  Check back for part II and more on how to handle fear, finding resources, and Jeanne’s own equine (and canine) family.  If you just can’t wait for part II to hear more from Jeanne you can find more from her up on her website, her blog, Barn Mice or The Equine Journal. Thanks to Jeanne for all the photos in this interview!

April 24th, 2010

Dr. Kevin Keane, vet to Phillip Dutton, at Rolex 2010

Three Days Three Ways is all about pulling back the curtain so you can see everything that happens in the 3-Day eventing world.  It’s not only dazzling riders on dazzling horses.  There’s always a team of people devoted to the well-being and care of that horse and rider combination.  We’re talking with one of those critical team members, Dr. Kevin Keane, a veterinarian who works with the likes of 3-Day Event riders Phillip Dutton and Boyd Martin.  Here we have an intro to him and his practice as well as what he, and other vets, will be attending to after cross-country.

Dr. Keane discusses handling an abscess scare three days before Rolex and caring for the horses after cross-country.

There’s more to come from our expert vet, Dr. Kevin Keane during cross-country day.  Look out for choosing and implementing a recovery plan post cross-country. Happy cross-country day at Rolex 2010!

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