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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

A few snippets of video...

We shot a few seconds of video of the boys that are getting back to being riding horses. Nothing fancy but you might get an idea of what they have in store for the future -

We'll add more next week when they're back undersaddle! Check back for new video links!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

A big change

One of the biggest changes that took place while I was in FL was the effectiveness of my seat. Denny Emerson is constantly posting his life experiences as a competitor and trainer and he too goes on and on about The SEAT. And with 70+ years of competitive riding, I have a feeling he knows what he is talking about - even if he is an eventer! ;)

I could try to break down all the intricacies of what Catherine had me visualize, do and struggle with but I think I'll opt for the meat and potatoes version - she took away my stirrups. For both horses everyday for multiple days. I think it was at least 5 days straight...and in the end it doesn't matter. I was using my stirrups to protect my position and compromising the effectiveness of my seat. That made me balance on my hands, pinch with my upper leg, straighten the knee and disconnect my calf from a solid contact with the horse's sides. All foolishness and bad habits that had to be broken! 
A few people have asked, "did it hurt?" when I told them that was her solution for my issues. The answer is "Somewhat" with the immediate tag of "but that's what I was there to learn." Realistically, I did not go to Catherine to have her say what a good rider I was - I went to have her help me become a good rider! Strip down my asymmetries, bad habits, poor skills and start to mold me into the riders I was before I started to think too much all the time!  The pain in my ankle is usually a constant - so to add in a bit more discomfort from other body parts was part of the deal I made with myself when I asked Catherine if I could come to her for training. There is firmly understood acceptance that to improve my riding I will struggle, it will be difficult and, yes, it will hurt to make those changes.*

That touches on the final topic of this blog - the thinking part of riding. I have been riding for a very long time at a high level with difficult exercises being 'normal' for both me and the horses. With a bit of a fresh perspective, I (re)learned that I am an instinctive rider and Catherine bolstered my confidence that my instincts were correct and to ride without thinking about the how and why so much of the time. By helping me to tap into the proper use of my seat and timing, she helped to guide my instincts into the quicker response time that is needed to help the horses perform better, more accurate and powerful movements. I do not have time to think of which book each correction may have come from or which school of a training system each exercise might be a part of - "Just RIDE!" became a running joke in the stable and I was more than happy to have a reason to giggle at my ineffectual efforts and attempts to work harder rather than surrendering and accepting the struggle will improve when I relax. No more passive riding - I can try to create the good moments and be more proactive about achieving my goals and influencing each stride rather than reacting and/or putting out fires after they ignite!

So that's a bit of an explanation of what The Big Boss had me work on! :) Now it's time to make my way out to the first of the horses for today. :)

~Happy Riding!~

*Note - I have to give full props to Catherine and the rest of her crew - when my ankle took a turn for the worse and made riding excruciating, they were the first ones to step in and make me take it easy...which is not always the easiest of tasks, apparently.  Hopefully the ankle resolves the damage in short order and riding becomes more comfortable ASAP. Walking will take a while longer, I fear , but cross your fingers and toes as I am itching to get back to competing!!!

Friday, April 25, 2014


There have been a number of inquiries as to why the website is not updated with new photos and videos. Please accept my personal apologies for being slow in getting all of the web work finished since returning from FL. There is a stretch of rainy weather in the forecast, so I am setting aside my evenings to work on making it current.

If you are interested in any of our Sales Horses, please contact directly for pricing and more info.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Answering some of the Big Questions -

Mane Stream Hotmail

So what does the phrase “Training System” really mean?

I have been home for over a week and continue to struggle with how to translate all that I absorbed in the 2.5 months into a few this is my bumbling attempt at beginning the explanation of what I bear with me, please.

Throughout my riding career there have been a few guidelines that are absolutes. No deviation from the path of coaxing the very best from the horses through the process of advancing them as far as their talent and my limitations as a rider permit. Sounds easy, right?

In going to Catherine’s stable in FL I had the opportunity to fully immerse myself in the culture of training International Grand Prix horses. No shilly shallying, no fluff or bologna - just the pure goal of getting a good connection, self carriage, quick reactions and straightness in all of the work with maximum expression and harmony. 

There were/are clear training steps and a sequential presentation of the exercises for both horse and rider with a firm grasp on what is correct for each and every ride. The young horses are held to an age/fitness/level standard that is appropriate to their individual needs while the upper level horses advance as their innate gifts allow them. The plan is very clear and closely monitored by Catherine and the rest of her staff. The length of my immersion was lengthened as the weather was terrible here at home and I wanted to take advantage to my access to her store of knowledge. Details from the most basic of stable management and horse care to the schedule that is put into effect at top level competitions...those things truly matter and can mean the difference between a top placing and big mistakes. 

So, does that make sense? 

If anyone wonders why I chose to go to Catherine - here it is in a nutshell - in all the lessons and clinics in the past 3 years, I have enjoyed and benefited immensely with her wisdom and insight in training the horses while trying to overcome my injuries. Her training system reinforces what I have learned from my mother and instinctively want to do - therefore it is a natural progression of what I want to achieve with  the horses. It is very, very difficult to bring a horse to the Grand Prix level, let alone do so repeatedly at the International to have access to a system where that is “normal” was an opportunity I could not pass up. 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Getting things in order

Since returning home I have done 12 loads of laundry, about a million trips up and down the stairs, sorted 2 dressers and one closet, a solid 5 hours with the vacuum and am looking at organizing a great "clear visible surfaces" trash sort in the main living room. After all of that is really complete, the fun begins with the Murphy's Oil Soap and a fantastic clean house will re-emerge!

However there are a few small things that seem to be getting in the way of this kind of progress - there is a barn full of lovely, talented horses out there begging for attention! But this morning is a bit chillier than I am used to, so I'm logging in another 25 minutes of cleaning and then it is off to the barn to give them what they have been so patiently waiting for - more time with people with educational stimulation!

There is an Open House on Saturday from 1-3 PM and I hope to see lots of our friends and horse connections! The weather is looking decent and there is so much to share with everyone! If you can't make it on Saturday - I will be working a full schedule from here on out, so just get in touch with us and I can arrange things to do a private demo by appointment. 

In the meantime, stay warm and Happy Riding!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Open House at Watermark Farm

After 10 long weeks - it's time to share what I learned!!! We'll be opening the doors on Saturday at 1PM for all of those who would like to see what I learned in FL at Catherine Haddad Staller's stable! Bring a chair! Light refreshments will be available. 2 demonstration rides and then a Q & A to follow. 

A long long way to go...

This is a big list but here goes...

Massive, monumental thank you's go out to -
Catherine Haddad Staller, Patrick Tigchelaar, Meredith MacDonald, James MacDonald, Austin Devlin, Michelle Brady, Betsy Rebar Sell, Olivia Hallman, Dana Fiore, Kim Jackson, Adam Pollack, Jimmy and Pat, Wes, Jake, Sergio, Sandro & his crew, Dr. Stacey, Waylon, Dean and Matt, Dianna, but most especially my parents for allowing me the space, freedom and opportunity to go to study with Catherine for 7 amazing weeks. If I have left off your name, I am so sorry, there is a missing stack of coffee filters and I'm sure to come back and edit this list when there is the appropriate amount of coffee wonderousness in my system!

So the journey was simply fantastic from start to finish. I am still organizing and unpacking all the things that traveled south and back north. The best summation I can give you all is that I have a greater understanding of the entire system, process and training techniques to help the horses achieve their personal best at the highest levels in a relaxed and harmonious manner. There are not really verbal or written words that can sum up the whole system, so I think we will be opening our doors (gates?) and having an Open House in the next 2 weeks to allow people to come and see for themselves what I've been up to with Mom's horses. 

Speaking of horses, we are offering some breeding specials in the coming weeks as we are reducing our inventory of Frozen Semen. Please keep an eye on the Farm Page as the deals will be announced and updated from that location. 

Officially, both Wyatt and Wendy (Wakanda WF) are for sale. Wyatt is a 16.2, 10 year old PSG horse with his 2's, a good start on the piaffe and passage and his 1's are progressing nicely ($100K). Wendy is 15.2, 9, she won at Third Level in FL and has her 2's, working pirouettes, piaffe, Spanish Walk and her 1's are also well started ($75K). Both have lifetime USEF & USDF numbers, are registered and have DNA verified parentage and papers. Serious inquiries only, please. Videos will be added shortly, so check back for the links. 

There are several other horses here that would love to have more work that I can fit into the day as their daily norm, so if you are in the market for a talented equine partner, please get in touch with us as they would dearly love a person to call their very own! Age, size, color, gender, level of training and current work status will depend on the horse's current status on my riding list but prices will be negotiable and adjusted accordingly. There are a handful of unstarted young horses that also fall into this category, so please consider adding raw talent to your own riding resume as they are very special and deserving of competitive careers with good riders. 

So on that note, it is time to skeedaddle out the stable and begin the first bit of training. Thank you all for the support, encouragement and positive words over the past few months. The experience was truly one of the best things I have ever done and I will use the knowledge and skills for the rest of my career going forward. 

Thank you!!!!!

Monday, April 7, 2014

It's all in motion! (the trip north that is!)

OK - this might be my last blog until I get home as The Great Packing Extravaganza has begun! 

I had an amazing ride to start this fine Monday! Catherine allowed me to have a sit on her up and coming superstar “Monty” as the sun crept over the tree line next to the canal. He is so attuned to every motion from the rider, so light in the bridle, so supple and so incredibly FORWARD in all his movement - what a positive and insightful feeling!!! Monty is what dreams are made of...really. It made my soul smile and, yes, I really was giggling with joy about how much fun I was having on Catherine’s nice horse. The feeling is that you are dancing together with no inhibitions or restrictions...just enjoying the dance in your own time and space together. Sublime. :)

So enough of me waxing on and on about how cool someone else’s horse is (and he really is THAT amazing!) - my two had a pretty fantastic weekend down at Adam’s fabulous White Fences show! It was the Adult Amateur Championships as well as a regular show, so there were special prizes and awards for the people who keep our sport in the public eye and work so hard day in and day out. Wendy was a touch nervous on Saturday but pulled out a pretty good Third 2 with a 65.6% (which incidentally gives me my 2nd Third Level score for my Bronze Medal) and was just .2 out of First Place! Such a good girl at her first show of the season! Wyatt was also quite good in his conservative PSG - some mistakes but we got a 63.8% in a competitive class of 16. Sunday was extremely hot and humid, so their warm ups were a tad too brief - Wyatt got another 63% for a 4th place and Wendy a 61% for the win!!! 

Today was a light training day for all 3 of us, so it’s back to the program tomorrow with a ton of packing commencing RIGHT NOW!!! 

On the horse front, Wyatt is for sale. Wendy is for sale. The other horses are also for sale and will be starting back to full work the Monday after I return (4/14/). I’ll probably hold off on any recognized shows for the “at home” horses for a few weeks so we can all get back in sync together, but we will be planning on competing the 2 FL horses as the lesson schedule permits. It will be fun to take them both out and about to show off all our new skills for our home based friends! So much improvement and polish after our time with The Boss!!! :)

If there is interest in any clinics - either at our farm or off site - please contact me directly after the weekend is over. I know there were 2 emails and I’m afraid they may have been lost in the shuffle while I was away - apologies!!! :( 

Oh and for those who are wondering what the “big news” is that I mentioned on the Farm Page on Facebook...well, here you go -

I will be offering lesson/training packages for the months of April & May to make up for not having been available to my students for so long! Normal lessons were $75, I’ll be lowering that to $65 each or a 5 Lesson Package for $300. The only restriction to those prices is that the lessons need to be taken by the end of May 2014. New students, new horses, new venues welcome! And, hey, I’ve earned another score towards my Bronze Medal while I was away...that has to count for something, right? :) The Silver and Gold are from so long ago they were pretty much obsolete!!! :D No, seriously, I’ll be more than happy to share what I’ve learned and help you and your horse make progress as the season is beginning to get rolling!  Regular pricing will go into effect June 1st, so this is a good opportunity to save $$ while increasing the tools in your training toolbox.

So on that note - It’s time to head back to the stable to start packing the trailer and do the evening stables!

~Happy Riding!~

Friday, April 4, 2014

YIKES! Only 1 week left and a show this weekend!!!

So two more days have gone by and I haven’t been able to track down some Wi-Fi! I’ll do a quick recap of what the horses have been up to and then be sure to drag the laptop out tomorrow at the stable and snitch some internet time!

Wendy continues to improve with light year’s of difference in each ride! Her trot work is showing definite sparkle and the canter work is getting to be more and more like her sire’s every day! The changes are wonderfully expressive with great reach through the shoulders and very(!) uphill! Her overall carriage (posture?) has also changed dramatically - she is carrying her withers higher and a much softer croup - which makes all the work so much easier and elastic! Her walk continues to be a true highlight - perfect, regular steps with clear rhythm and over step...I am very excited to be showing her this weekend - even if it is “only” at Third Level. :) Tomorrow we have a lesson with Catherine, so I am quite interested to see what we work on with The Boss!

Wyatt had another smashing lesson today - he is so easy to sit and getting greater self carriage, impulsion and elasticity! Apparently tomorrow is Video Day in the stable - so brace yourselves as there will be some video of him from a month ago and then tomorrow’s ride added to the Farm YouTube Channel ASAP! It will be so fun to show everyone what we were looking like a month ago vs. right now!! Such a big change and so much fun to be able to compare the differences! :) He’s on schedule to have another good outing at PSG this weekend, so I’ll keep things as up to date as I can between now and Sunday night. 

The countdown is on - 9 more days until I leave for the North! Rumor (aka the Weatherman) has the temperatures being reported in the 60’s. Can it be true? Is Spring really coming to the mid-Atlantic???

I sure hope so!!! See you all soon!

PS - I wrote this 2 days ago and am finally getting a chance to sit down with access to WiFi...I'll never take the bits of technology that make life "normal" for granted again!

So much to learn so little time!

Ok, the long draught of limited blogging is coming to an end!!! I currently have my feet propped up on a chair poolside and am indulging in a Cadbury Mini-Egg - life is beyond good! :) For those who don’t know me well - Cadbury is my weakness. Really. Or at least it is one of them! ;)

Wendy was my first horse of the day today. To recap what she has been up to while we’ve been here - she has been working on establishing longer steps with the hind legs, better self carriage and an improvement in the connection - specifically in the way she carries her neck and front end with the energy coming from behind. I am extremely pleased to say that we’re regularly checking all of those boxes and she has made great strides (literally) towards being a very solid 4th level horse! Today’s ride had a lot of diligent forward energy with extremely good pushing from behind (nice long steps) and a great deal of uphill quality to all of the work. Counter canter, shoulder in, shoulder fore, leg yield, half pass, renvers, travers, walk pirouettes, working canter pirouettes, half steps, super medium is all getting to be easy and fun for the Little Red Mare (LRM). Her changes are easy, balanced, straight and up hill and we’re mixing in some 3s and 4s now...tighter counts are also there but we are going to maintain the discipline of waiting for a bit longer to ensure perfect changes each and every time. 

Wyatt had an amazing lesson in the late morning. He is just so awesome to ride at this point - easy to sit with a soft, flexible back and super connection up in the bridle! Lots of props to Catherine - I’m not sure I could have him at this point without her expert assistance!! His working pirouettes are fabulous - no other way to put it! His medium trots rival those of Grand dam Able Spirit - they’re really that good! :) The lateral work was spot on - uphill, balanced, great self carriage and elasticity - I have no complaints! He’s really quite fit now and we are working on fine tuning the execution of the exercises within the test - polishing and getting good sparkle to each of the movements is the name of the game. :)

So that brings me to the schedule going forward from today. Both horses will be showing at White Fences this weekend. Wendy will have the 3rd 2 both days and Wyatt is entered in the PSG - so I’ll be busy braiding and making sure I try to remember the tests! We’ll then take a few days to cram in as much training as we can with Catherine and then head North on the 10th. I should arrive home late on the 11th - so lesson times will be available starting the 13th. Sorry to ask for a day to recover but it is a very long drive and I need one day to unpack my warm clothes! ;)
On the PA farm front - 

For anyone who has inquired about working student position(s) - yes, there are some available. Message me for more information and we can work out some of the details. On site housing is no longer an option. References and video of current riding required. 

In the next few weeks I will be doing some weekly training tips and horse care ideas here on the blog to begin to share what I have learned in my time away from home. Those blogs will probably be going up mid-week as a new project to help highlight our training system and concepts for aspiring riders. If you have any specific questions, please feel free to comment below and I will make a list to begin at the beginning of what everyone would like to know first. :) 

Also, there have been several inquiries about horses that are for sale while I have been away. If you are waiting for a video, new photos or additional information on one of our northern horses, please bear with me for a few days - I will get things out as fast as the schedule allows. If you are interested in either Wendy or Wyatt and are in FL - act quickly and get in contact with me ASAP. Their prices will only continue to rise with additional show mileage and training. 

All of that stuff aside - think SPRING!!! Happy Riding!