Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Horse and Rider Goals For The Upcoming Year

Horse and Rider Goals For The Upcoming Year
By Tara Korde and Ben Franklin

The older one gets the more the years fly by.  As time seems to be going so quickly, it is important to set goals and aspirations, and be reflective in the process.  Life is not only about reaching Grand Prix or coming first in a Hunter Derby or a 1* Event.

Work hard and be dedicated
Nothing feels better than putting in your best effort.  If you do your best, and forget the rest, there is really nothing to regret.  When you think about improving your riding or your horses training, don’t just think about more lessons, training rides or just getting into the saddle more often.  Think outside the box - are you crooked in the saddle? Maybe Pilates or yoga can help you. Do you get out of breath easily? Maybe do some extra cardio. Similarly, think about how you can cross-train your horse.  Maybe a hack or trail ride more often would help them, or maybe some hill work. Or perhaps polework would help your horse's core. The more you and your horse do (of course, unless there is an injury or some other constraint to consider) the better you’ll feel, and the quicker your progress is bound to be.  

Play hard
Is your usual routine to ride around an arena on nice footing time after time again?  Consider varying yours and your horses routine more. Spend more time hacking and trail riding.  Consider doing something you’ve never done - perhaps a fox hunt if your horse is suitable, or a hunter pace.  Ride out on a Christmas caroling ride. Jump the occasional jump with your dressage horse, or try a dressage lesson with your hunter horse.  Ride your horse bareback. Take your horse to a friends barn for a lesson with their trainer, or try out a clinic with someone new and different.  Learn how to do some basic massage with your horse, it’ll not only help them feel better but also help your relationship. Try out some natural horsemanship or liberty training.  There are really so many possibilities!

Be ambitious but realistic
It’s always a great idea to have a BHAG (Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal).  There is NOTHING wrong with dreaming BIG. Hopefully you will reach that BHAG one day.  However, it’s not worth stressing over something that may seem far away. Think about smaller steps that will help you get to the next level.  What are yours and your horses weaknesses? How might you improve that weakness? Last year you showed at a certain level. What will you have to do to step up to the next level successfully?  Use the help of friends and trainers and get their honest opinions and help to give you that edge to help you keep on moving up and improving.

Educate yourself
There is an endless amount of information in the form of books, blogs, medical journals, videos, etc. out there and available.  Pick a topic you are interested in, and try to become an expert at it. There is so much out there than can enhance your knowledge.  Learn about breeding. Learn about highly contagious horse illnesses. Learn about plants that are poisonous to horses. Pick a weakness your horse has, and try to read anything and everything that might have a suggestion on how to help them overcome that weakness.  The only caveat here is to try and make sure that whatever material or medium you are using to learn is from a reputable source. If you are ever unsure, consult trusted sources, like your trainer or a vet.

Love your horse a little more
Consider what you can do to show your love for your horse more in this upcoming year.  Bring your horse extra carrots to be added to their feed. Groom them extra well if they enjoy it.  Get them a massage by a professional. Spend more time grazing them if they don’t get a lot of grass.  Do an extra saddle fitting if they seem to be changing shape quickly and might need an adjustment. Be in tune with your horses needs, and go that extra step for them.  

Above all, be EXTRA kind
The world is a crazy place.  Being at the barn or stables with our horses is often our refuge and even our therapy from the outside.  That being said, you never know what someone is facing, horse, human (trainer, groom, friend or even arch rival) or otherwise.  Go out of your way to be kind. Never forget the Golden Rule. You will make others’ lives a little brighter, and you’ll be a better person for it.  

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Tips For Achieving Your Bronze Medal in Dressage

Tips For Achieving Your Bronze Medal in Dressage
Reported by Tara Korde

In the USA, many dressage riders set goals of getting their United States Dressage Federation Bronze, Silver and Gold Medals.  The USDF medals are a stamp of approval in many ways - that you can indeed compete at a certain level consistently. At the time this article was written, to win a Bronze Medal, you must have six scores of 60% or higher, with two different judges and two different rides in each of First Level, Second Level and Third Level respectively.  In this article, we talk to three ladies, two adult amateurs and one professional, who have all achieved their Bronze Medal (or beyond), and ask them their advice on what helped them successfully earn it.

Liz Oertel Johnson - Adult Amateur

Liz Oertel Johnson teaches as a lecturer at the University of New Hampshire in the Equine Studies Program and is the owner of On The Bit Events, an equine event management company.  OTBE partners with prestigious events in the Northeast such as Fitch’s Corner and the New England Dressage Association Fall Symposium. Liz knows both sides of the competition ring and earned her Bronze medal in the Fall of 2017.  Her mount is Santa Fe, aka Santa, an 18-year-old Dutch Warmblood. Santa had scores through first level when Liz got him in late 2015, and the two have worked together to progress through the levels. Liz’s horse background has been greatly varied - from sport arabians to foxhunting, dressage and eventing. To find out more about Liz and 
On The Bit Events visit: https://www.onthebitevents.com/

Find a coach that works for you
Find a trainer that will help you and your horse thrive.  It is important that your trainer understands both you and your horse - your personalities, your physical abilities, and how you work as a team. It’s also important that your trainer be accommodating and realistic - helping you to set sensible goals within a timeframe, and to be available to train you when your schedule permits.  Many amateurs work during the day. They might not get to ride as often as they would like. Finding a coach that will work when you can be at the barn is so important. You simply won't get the help you need if you don't have someone who is flexible and will work with you.  

Find an appropriate horse
Just because you have an emotional tie to a horse, does not mean it is the horse you should be competing on or trying to get to a bronze medal with.  Make sure the horse that you plan to earn that bronze medal with is a horse you feel safe with. Don't get overmounted. Ensure the horse also has the physical ability to compete at 3rd level.  Make sure you feel comfortable on the horse - can you sit to their gaits easily? Maybe the correct match isn’t available right now, but don’t let that stop you - lesson on an available horse, consider a lease, or lease to buy, or find someone who doesn’t have the time to ride every day and would appreciate it if their horse gets some exercise.  A little patience to find the right partner will definitely pay off. Your prince charming is out there, you just have to be willing to wait.

Ride without stirrups
The sitting trot has been a challenge for me.  Once I got to third level, I needed to sit well, not just in a mediocre way.  So I try to ride every ride at least 10 minutes with no stirrups, as long as I am in a safe environment.   I don’t do it with snow falling off of the roof or out on the trails. Riding without stirrups has not only improved my fitness and ability to sit the trot but has had far reaching positive consequences to my riding and has also accelerated my progress.  Lunge lessons without stirrups are also fantastic and a real treat if your ground help can help lunge you and your horse in a safe way.

Rachel Masen - Adult Amateur

Rachel Masen is the founder of lifestyle Website Decidedly Equestrian and recently earned her USDF Bronze Medal. Her mount is 22 year old Prix St George schoolmaster Thoroughbred Spice. She has used his solid training to vastly increase her Dressage knowledge in a short amount of time.  She went from Training level to a Bronze Medal in 1 calendar year. She’s been taking dressage lessons for 3 years and was previously a western rider. You can find more about Rachel on her Website: www.decidelyequestrian.com  

Don’t shun the schoolmaster  If you’re new to dressage (or haven’t shown very high), I strongly suggest you find a schoolmaster to learn from. This will vastly reduce the time it takes for you to progress. A well trained horse might be quite expensive to lease or buy...or the horse might come with some issues that keep him from being ideal for many amateur riders (these bargains are great if you can manage riding a horse with problems). You don’t need a fancy horse to get your medals, just a well trained one. There’s one out there for you, keep looking!

Be realistic  Is your horse young and green? Do you have a time consuming job that keeps you out of the saddle? Ask yourself the tough questions. You have to be honest with yourself about how long things will take. Make the right choices for your life, but know their consequences. You only have one lifetime. There’s usually another answer to the question and it may affect your timeline less.

Set goals and work your A$$ off  This is the big one. If you don’t have the work ethic or real desire, it’s not getting done. Ride as often as you can, ride with good trainers and clinicians, and take notes.  Practice what you learn in those lessons. Be mindful every moment of your ride (no worrying about picking up your kid or that work project). Read books and articles on dressage when you have time.  Watch training videos or videos of riders you admire. These are invaluable for improvement and learning when you only have one horse to ride. Set goals for what you want to accomplish in one year and figure out a way to make that happen. Create action items for those goals and set dates for completion. Intention is a biggy...if you say you’re doing something...you’ll do it (for the good or bad).  

Molly Maloney - Professional

Molly Maloney is a USDF Bronze, Silver and Gold Medalist, who operates her training business out of Uphill Dressage Center in Salt Point NY. Molly loves training young horses and bringing them up the levels.  Molly, a former participant of Dressage4Kids, is now a clinician and advocate for the program. Molly competes at many prestigious events, from Dressage at Devon to US Nationals.

Memorize, that test
There are a lot of variables about showing that you can’t control, but one huge thing you can control is knowing that test. I can count on not sleeping at all before I show if I have not properly learned my test. Initially it’s about straight memorization. Instead of counting sheep before I fall asleep, I run through my test pattern. My general rule is that you should be able to pick up from any point and continue. Once I have the basic pattern memorized I run through the test. I always hear people say, my horse anticipates the transition, or the changes. I get that. However, you need to run through this test so much and be so comfortable with it that you can work through that anticipation. It is also really good to familiarize yourself with the coefficients. Those are the big money movements that count twice! Lilo Fore once told me to make the ring my friend. It’s something I tell myself often when I am showing. Don’t rush, take your time, utilize space. It’s all about how you prepare each movement. So, know your test inside out and backwards. It will give you the upper hand, and allow you to focus on how your horse is feeling in the moment.

Ring time is paramount
There is a huge difference between being able to ride a test in the comfort of your own sandbox and going in public and knocking off a solid test. Let’s be real, you are never going to have a perfect test. Even if you can ride at home every time for an 80%, at the show a squirrel might run under the arena after a run-away walnut and spook your horse, scaring the living daylights out of you, and therefore giving you the worst case of stage fright causing you to go off course and blow your entire test. Test riding is a whole other ball game. It’s about knowing your horse well enough to know how big and bold you can go, it’s about knowing yourself and where you might be tight or tense, but mostly it’s about mastering that confidence in the ring. So go around that arena like you own the test, you own the moment, and you will rock it and get your score. It’s also about thinking on your feet, for example, if you screw up a movement or a transition, how fast you can recover? Dressage is a mental game just like any other sport and without being able to show enough times to take an edge off your nerves and get your horse seasoned it’s very hard to score consistently. Showing is expensive but experience can be so beneficial, so utilize schooling shows, practice ride a test at a clinic, or even trailer to another farm and practice your test. There are some things that you can only get so perfect at home, and others you need to jump head first into showing to make better. There is confidence in knowing the work is solid, I am not disagreeing with that. Dressage riders as a general statement are perfectionists, and sometimes you have to take a leap and get right to the point! Getting those scores!

This is your moment
It might sound super cheesy, but this is all supposed to be fun. I can’t say I have ever met anyone who doesn’t come out of the ring with their tail between their legs on occasion. Keep things in perspective and know that every time you show, and it doesn’t go as well as planned, the victory of achieving your goals will only be that much sweeter when it happens. So, when you get a little beat up or a comment from a judge like “Nice tail” go home and keep pushing.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Customer Focus - The Gentle Giants of Charleston, SC

Lizzie, Brittany, Jackson and me

I just came back from a trip to Charleston, South Carolina.  While I was there I got to visit one of my customers, Classic Carriage Works, or rather many customers  -  Elwood, Carson, Jackson, Berry, Larry, Bud, Dakota, Franklin and Gerald.  
There has been so much press around the carriage industry lately.  I’m not an activist for, nor am I against the carriage industry.  I’m simply a horse crazy girl.  So from a horse lovers perspective, I write this article, this customer focus, about nine lovely black Percheron horses who help show downtown Charleston to folks from a different perspective.  
Brittany, the barn manager at Classic, was kind enough to let me spend a good portion of two days with the horses.  During my stay, I was also taken around to see the other 4 carriage companies that serve Charleston.  Each barn had a different personality, even different kinds of horses - for example, Charleston Carriage Works has a fleet of beautiful chestnut Belgian Drafts, and Palmetto Carriage Works is the only company in town who drives pairs of mules.  
Carson on his way out of the barn

All the horses seemed happy and in good condition; I was allowed to go around and greet horses at every company.  The barns were clean, the atmosphere peaceful, the tack clean.  Again, these are just general horse crazy girl observations.  I didn’t see anything alarming or not right, anything that I wouldn’t see at any regular boarding barn with private clients.  
Jackson and his adorable droopy lip
But let's get back to my Percheron friends and Classic Carriage Works.  Classic has been an active barn longer than any other in Charleston.  It has stalls for six horses.  In combination with the city stable, the horses are rotated in and out of town to a lovely farm so that they all get some down time.  
Many of Classic’s horses came from less than ideal circumstances.  In fact, the majority of horses in the carriage industry were bound for the slaughter house.  To put it in a not so nice way, there is a lot of meat on an 18hh draft horse.  Brittany showed me the scars on Jackson from his previous life.  Jackson is one of their newer horses, and I’m glad to say some of our Simple Equine products are helping to heal him.  Given the tough life he came from, it was amazing to me that he could be so sweet and gentle.  Brittany said it’s taken him a little while to warm up, but he’s only been with them for a short time and I was amazed at his calm demeanor and friendliness towards me.  Not only that, but when he was hanging with me he had the most adorable and droopiest lip you’ve ever seen - a sure sign of a happy and relaxed horse in my books.  

Giant 18hh+ Carson
Carson taking me on my tour

Carson is a large 18hh Percheron, very handsome, and I think he actually believes he is hot stuff.  I went on a historical carriage ride with Carson all over downtown Charleston.  I’m not at all experienced with driving, but there were definitely similarities to riding.  The main differences to me were the importance of verbal communication with the horse and also making sure you swing far and wide so as not to hit any parked cars!  I could see Carson’s right ear turned back, listening to his driver, as we would make a left or right or pull to the side of the road to let cars pass by.  

Back at the barn, Brittany decided I should see what it’s like to pull a carriage.  Yes, me, little 100 something pound person, pull the same carriage as my 2000+ pound friend Carson.  To my surprise, it wasn’t very hard, and trust me I am not a very strong human being.  She also showed me what their special cushy shoes are like.  I’ve never seen special shoes like these- a thick piece of shock absorbing material with a little bit of extra grip on the bottom.  This shock absorber goes on after the regular metal shoe, and gets changed out frequently.  It’s one of the thing that gets monitored by the City of Charleston.  
And talk about monitoring.  Brittany showed me their book of rules and regulations.  Seriously, if all horses in the world were monitored like these gentle giants, the horse world would be a better place.  They can’t work if their shock absorbers are less than 1.5inches thick.  They can’t work if their internal temperature gets too high.  If it gets above 95 degrees or a heat index of 110 degrees no carriage rides are allowed.  There is a limit on the number of carriage rides each horse can do in a day.  They have to have a certain amount of rest time between carriage rides.  And the list goes on and on.  It’s not to say all horse owners need strict guidelines, there are plenty of well loved and well taken care of horses out there in the world, but there are also those who could use some governance.  I think it’s pretty cool that there is a governing body to ensure the horses are treated well.  And beyond that governing body, you have real horse loving folks working at Classic, and they go far above and beyond the rules.  

A horse girl in horse heaven with giant Elwood
The fondness all of the employees at Classic, and for that matter all the carriage companies I visited, have for the horses is quite evident.  Everyone of course has their favorite.  The employees  know the horses’ personalities, their likes, dislikes, what makes them happy, what they are scared of, even what might catch them off guard.  I’ll use Berry as an example.  Berry, I was told, takes his job very seriously.  He’s all business.  In fact, as Berry was about to head out on his final tour of the day, Dave, the head driver/trainer, did not want to switch up the tour guide so that Berry would not be too confused.  “It’s not that he can’t do it,” said Dave, “Of course he can.  But Berry thrives on routine and I don’t want to throw him off or cause him unnecessary stress.”  I really love how in tune each and every person seemed to be with the horses.   I have seen many riding programs and other horse programs over the years where people wouldn’t be nearly that thoughtful.  
 What do the horses of Classic Carriage Works like of the Simple Equine?  They all use the Warm Weather Comfort Spray (fly spray), pretty much year round.  Charleston is warm enough that the flies never completely disappear.  All of the new horses they get in show up with docked tails, so the Nourishing Avocado Tail Treatment is also a huge hit, and Brittany reports great growth in both tails and manes.  They also use the Healing Calendula Salve and Soothing Chickweed Cream on various boo boos and irritations, especially on the new horses as they often have lots of skin injuries.  The handsome Carson is a big fan of our Illuminating Sea Salt Polish, especially after he returns from a break - the bugs out in the pasture  bother him. 

Whether or not you believe horses should have a job or pull a carriage or have a rider on top of them, I really do believe these beautiful draft horses are treated with love and respect, and genuinely like what they do.  It’s almost as if they know they’ve been given a second, better chance at life and they are happy with and thankful for the cards they have been dealt.  It seems a shame that folks don’t put their efforts to other parts of the horse industry, like rescuing horses from slaughter and trying to re-home them, just as many horse sanctuaries, and the carriage industry (in general) are doing.  There are thousands of horses in dire need.  Sure, the world isn’t perfect and not every carriage company is good, but in Charleston they all seemed pretty darn decent to this horse loving gal.  

If you are interested in visiting Charleston and taking a tour with Classic Carriage Works, please visit their Website: https://www.classiccarriage.com/  Thank you Classic for pampering your horses with Simple Equine products!  

This post is based on experience, learning and opinion.  You may or may not agree with what is written, but we hope that you will be left with information to consider, mull over, laugh at, or even agree to disagree about.  Thank you for reading.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

How to care for embellished tack in 3 simple steps

During the summer of 2015, when the heat was stifling and it was about 100 degrees out, I met Tiffany Donnelly at a horse show.  Tiffany owns Equus Couture, an amazing equestrian boutique (yay woman owned small businesses!) specializing in custom embellished tack.  She’s a true artist, bringing each and every horse (and dog) owners dreams to life.  Tiffany is awesome and we’ve stayed in touch ever since, and it’s clear she is an expert when it comes to both leather and embellishments!  

We have invited Tiffany to share her expertise on how to best care for embellished tack.  And a little shout out to Tiffany’s business, Equus Couture - please check out her wonderful work here. Thank you Tiffany for sharing your knowledge with us!  

How to care for embellished tack in 3 simple steps

We all know that tack takes a lot of abuse; horses sweat and barns have dirt! When using embellished tack, you are essentially subjecting jewelry to this harsh environment. There truly is no magic trick to care for your embellished tack; we promise it’s easier than it sounds. Follow these three simple steps and you will be golden!   
1. Maintain the integrity of your leather 
Let’s face it, you invest a lot of money in your tack, so you need to care for it as such. I think we are programmed incorrectly from the very beginning in terms of leather care. For the love of all things sacred, DO NOT use saddle soap! It will only dry out your leather. If you keep up with the following routine, we promise your tack will be pristine and hydrated!

Ideally, you should do this after EVERY ride. We realize while many of us have the best of intentions, this is not always possible, so stick to the following as often as you can possibly manage.

A simple wipe down with a wet rag will not only cleanse your leather of all the dirt and sweat that are inevitable, but it will restore your crystals to their original brilliant sparkle as well! A thorough wipe down with a damp rag is ridiculously simple, quick, and effective! You can be as rigorous as you’d like on the leather to remove any built up dirt, but when wiping any embellishments (metals or crystals) please be very gentle! Treat the embellished portion of your tack as you would fine jewelry. The damp rag will remove any sweat and dirt that is clouding your crystals and restore them to their brilliant shine!

Once you have thoroughly cleaned your leather with the damp rag, we recommend conditioning your leather with The Simple Equine's Love My Leather Balsam, (it is the official leather conditioner of Equus Couture! Did we mention how AMAZING it smells?). Be careful to condition around the embellishments and not necessarily on them, or you will cloud up your crystals again, making double work for yourself.  Then simply allow your tack to hang somewhere to dry.

There is literally no magic involved in maintaining the integrity of your leather. I think it is far simpler than we all think. Water and conditioner will keep your leather clean and hydrated, while the damp rag will remove any dirt or sweat that is clouding up your crystals. It’s amazing what a little cleaning will do to restore your tack to its original sparkle. If you can keep up with this routine after every ride, you won’t experience build up. This will cut your cleaning time down tremendously! 

2. Do not let your horse abuse your tack 
The biggest faux pas when it comes to any kind of embellished tack, is - do not let your horse rub while wearing the tack! Do not let them rub on the wall, the gate, you, or anything else! Any time you let them rub (which is just plain bad behavior), you are compromising the integrity of your embellished tack. If they are allowed to do this, you will likely pop a crystal or tear off a metal piece in the process. Teach your horse patience - to be attentive to you - as you stand with them or while you are removing the tack. Remember, you are their leader. Don’t tolerate bad behavior that could ruin your tack. You paid a lot of money for it and it is your job to protect it. 

3. Store your tack in a dry, safe place 
You can care for your leather all you want, but if you are not storing it in a safe and dry place, it will all be for naught. Make sure it is dry to prevent mold and safe to prevent someone or something else from damaging your tack and causing your embellishments to fall off.

Basically, just be sensible with your tack. Be vigilant in protecting it and be smart about where you store it. There are no unicorns or stardust; it is very simple to protect your tack so it will stay brilliant for years!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Equine Photography Basics

We welcome Catherine Stokes, equine photographer, to share some tips on how to get that perfect shot of your horse. Catherine has been around horses since she was 5, her childhood horse farm in Rockland County, NY being only a two minute walk away from her home.

She holds a BA from Bennington College, with a degree in photography and videography. Catherine has worked closely with Ginger Kathrens, an Emmy Award winning cinematographer, known for the hit TV series, Cloud the Wild Stallion of the Rockies. She has spent time out West in Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, and Nevada, documenting and advocating for wild mustangs.  In addition, she has been a volunteer at PATH Intl. (Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International) for over 8 years.

Catherine has recently started her own photography and videography company, deciding to marry her passion for horses and love of film and photography.  She currently resides in Putnam County, NY where she lives with her two rabbits, Buddy and Velvet, and keeps her horse Prince nearby.  Let’s hand it over to Catherine…

Catherine out in Montana making friends with BLM wild mustang Shane

Do you have a smartphone? A point and shoot? Or even a nice DSLR digital camera? Technology today is so advanced that you don’t necessarily need to spend thousands on a big fancy camera. A smartphone can take an excellent photo too.  No matter what camera you are using, the following tips will hopefully help you to take better photos of your equine friends.  

Step 1- Find the right light

Best times to photograph are in the early morning and late afternoon, when the light is ‘“flat” meaning there are no harsh rays that are casting shadows. Better yet, choose to shoot on an overcast day, where the light will be even and you won’t struggle with harsh shadows.

Of course it goes without saying, if your horse is doing something cute midday then of course just snap away! Just make sure, as the photographer, to face away from the sun- this will guarantee a photo without sunglare.

If you're shooting on your phone, make sure to turn your HDR on- this will find the middle ground of the light and will give you two different exposures of the same shot.
Sun glare

No sun glare

Step 2- Get in front of the horse

This can be difficult at times, knowing how unpredictable horses can be. Take a second before snapping the picture, and make a game plan. For example, when I’m in the paddock I make sure to start off standing at least 40 yards away. (Most of my best photos are from when the horse is first starting to approach me) If you're shooting in a riding ring, stay in the middle. If you can’t interrupt the horse and rider in the arena then set yourself up along the long side of the fence for more photo opportunities.

Imagine if I were in front of this wild herd of horses!

Step 3- Get down to the horse's eye level

As with any subject, having their eye be the focal point is what makes for a flattering photo. Make sure that your camera is at the same level as the equine’s eye. And remember to keep adjusting your stance, horses tend to change their body and demeanor frequently.
This is Snap the mini. She almost doesn't look like a miniature horse when you get to her eye level.  

Step 4 - Get your horse's attention

It goes without saying that 99% of the time we want our horses ears forward when we take a photo.  Therefore, it’s important to be prepared with something that gets their attention - for example, a wrapper that can be crinkled, or something to toss in the air nearby - even a bit of grass being picked and flying through the air can work if that’s all you have.  An extra set of hands can be very useful if you have a friend around to help so that you can focus on the shot.  
A bucket of treats never hurt

Step 5- Patience  

As with anything to do with horses, patience is a must! Prepare yourself to wait for the best moment.  And don’t forget, you are also testing your horse’s patience, so don’t expect stellar behavior from them for an infinite amount of time, and give them a break if necessary.  

Step 6 - Safety First!

We all know we want the most amazing shot that anyone has ever seen.  We want it to win awards, be displayed on a billboard, or be on the cover of a horse show program etc.  But never forget about your safety or your horses.  Sure, we might get into a slightly unique or different position for taking photos, but it should never come at the expense of ending up in a dangerous situation.  The same goes for our equine friends.  

Good-luck and don’t forget to have fun!

Happy trails,


Friday, April 28, 2017

The Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA) Network

In 2015 I attended my 10 year college reunion at Mount Holyoke.  It’s almost as if life had flashed before my eyes - has it really been 10 years since I graduated?  I mean, it’s not as if A LOT has not happened in the last 10 years - multiple jobs, graduate school, getting married, starting my own business - oh, did I mention I have moved 7 or 8 times in those last 10 years?  When I think about why it feels like I was at Mount Holyoke (MHC) just months, not years ago, it all culminates in one thing - the IHSA riding team.  

Above: the Mount Holyoke Equestrian Team in the 2004-2005 year.

The IHSA team was competitive, and our coach, CJ Law had a large pool of talented equestrians to choose from.  I wasn’t a star rider on the team, far from it.  I didn’t even make the team every semester.  But the team, and the riding program at MHC were inclusive and the group of women there became my second family, many of my closest friends, and beyond that, a network of people who always lend a helping hand when they can.  That group extended beyond our IHSA team, to others in the region.  We all have friends that went to, for example, Smith College and The University of Massachusetts Amherst.  It is this awesome group of extended friends and family that I am in frequent contact with, even though many of us live far apart from each other.  

When I started my business, The Simple Equine, which makes natural grooming products for horses and riders, my IHSA network from my college days immediately helped me when I asked.  I was given marketing guidance, product ideas, ideas about where to sell and how to sell.  People willingly volunteered, testing and trying my products, and answering questionnaires and endless additional questions from me.  I was also lucky enough to have friends, IHSA riders, who like me, had just entered equestrian related businesses too.  Lauren Morlock, owner of Galleria Morusso, and Sharon Perrin (Lilien-Zwiebel) and Katie Sutko (Matteson) who own Kathryn Lily Equestrian, have been an endless supply of information, encouragement, camaraderie, and empathy.  Of course it goes without saying that Coach CJ Law has been kind, generous, a wealth of knowledge, and enthusiastic about my endeavors.  Her love for helping her riders throughout their lives, beyond the four years they attend MHC, must be praised.  

But the story goes beyond Zone 1, Region III of the IHSA.  Literally every time I meet other IHSA folks at a barn, a show, or a social event, they offer their help, words of wisdom, or even just a “well done and keep at it.”  They are current students, alumni, and even coaches.  They are kind, professional, and intelligent.  

It goes without saying, that the common thread here is the IHSA.  The IHSA brings us together.  It turns an individual sport into a team sport.  It enables experienced lifelong equestrians to nurture walk-trot riders.  It evokes memories for the advanced riders on the team, and creates new memories for those just learning about horses and how to ride.  The IHSA encourages us to be responsible, for each other, for the horses that we practice on, the shows we run, and the colleges we represent.  Oh yes, and we have FUN.  Lots of it.  

Above: A few of us having fun at our 10 year reunion in 2015

The IHSA enhances our college experience by helping to prepare us for the real world.  The lessons learned while being part of the IHSA are extremely valuable.  I think we realize this when we meet fellow IHSAer’s.  We know that we had certain mutual experiences that shaped us in positive ways.  Of course, we don’t really think and analyze these qualities, we just inherently know it when we meet someone else from the IHSA.  

I am looking forward to many more interactions with fellow IHSAer’s.  I can already thank them for the help and guidance they have given me with my business.  As The Simple Equine grows, I look forward to having IHSA interns and employees.  I am a part of a positive reinforcing loop.  I hope the IHSA continues to be a great organization that turns out so many wonderful people.  I for one, am a very proud and grateful alumna and privileged to have been part of the IHSA.  

This post is based on experience, learning and opinion.  You may or may not agree with what is written, but we hope that you will be left with information to consider, mull over, laugh at, or even agree to disagree about.  Thank you for reading.