December 2020 - Got Game?
Written by by Scott Lico
Wednesday, 02 December 2020 03:28

training

It starts with having a game plan.

by Scott Lico

“Proper planning prevents poor performance.”

I heard this quote years ago and never forgot it. I think this holds true for everything in life. From dieting to starting a business, if something is not properly thought out and planned, the likelihood of success is much smaller.

This certainly holds true for the competitive show jumper. Listen to someone such as McLain Ward speak about his horses’ program, and you will see not only does he have a plan for tomorrow, he has a plan for the next two years!

 


I’d like to be a bit more specific and talk about having a game plan. A game plan that will give you the best chance possible to have a successful performance at your next competition.

To start, you need a clear idea of what your goals are for you and your horse at the show. Is it to win a championship or a classic, or perhaps move up a division? Maybe it’s just to ride as confidently and accurately as you know you’re capable of. Whatever it may be, you need to have some idea of what you are looking to achieve. This will determine the strategy for the week.

For example, my aim with my current horse is to take the first day or two as training days, and then look to be competitive in the Grand Prix that weekend. I use training rounds to develop confidence in the horse with the jumps and atmosphere they will be facing. I plan to really use the ring and give my horse plenty of time on the approaches to the fences. Of course, I will usually end up with some time faults, but for me, the first goal is that my horse is confident in her new environment. Not to be competitive. Your goals may be different than mine. Regardless, having a clear idea of what you are looking to achieve is crucial.

Establishing the right frame of mind going into the competition begins the night before your class. First, I like to spend time reading, preferably something that will get me focused, such as a book on riding or sports psychology.

A great book that I recommend every rider read is The Golfer’s Mind by Dr. Bob Rotella. Dr. Rotella works with McLain Ward and pretty much everything in his book can be applied to the rider’s mind. After reading, you should spend some time watching videos of yourself riding well. These videos will bring back positive memories in the saddle and give you confidence in the capabilities of yourself and your horse.

This serves to help with the positive thinking every rider should be striving to have. I believe many riders make the error of only working on their physical riding skills while neglecting their mental skills. Spend some time working on your thinking game and I promise you your riding will improve.

Photo: Kim F Miller

Eat!

This may sound silly, but on the morning of your competition, make sure you eat! Many of my students over the years have struggled to feed their mind and body the nutrients they need to put on a good performance. I am convinced this is due to nerves. I know when I get nervous, I tend to lose my appetite but I always make sure to start the day with something nutritious to get me going. I like a protein shake and some orange juice along with a multivitamin and mineral. Find something that works for you. You wouldn’t not feed your horse, would you?!

Make sure to arrive at the show nice and early. This will prevent you from feeling rushed.  Just like rushing your horse, rushing yourself is the kiss of death. Following your arrival, and after checking in on your horse and possibly giving them a light flat session or lunge, a good game plan always includes a thorough course walk.

When walking a course, pay special attention to details: the locations of the start and finish timers, distances between fences, turns, time allowed, spooky fences, scope tests and jump-offs. During this time, I also make a plan of what jumps or turns I will tour in the arena with my horse when we enter the ring. The strategy for your course will ultimately be determined by you and your trainer, tailored to fit both horse and rider’s strengths and preferences for the day. Take the time to go over this plan in your head; memorize it and visualize riding it. It must be clear in your mind.

Embrace The Nerves

Now that you have your plan for riding the course, it’s time to mount up. You may be quite nervous and that’s okay. Try to relax by taking deep breaths and reviewing your plan. Aim to be loose, free and confident.

Remember that every top athlete gets nervous and learns to welcome it. Accept the butterflies, and you will actually ride better! I personally used to struggle with being intimidated by other competitors in my class as I moved up the ranks. Top riders I looked up to, or even were taught by, would be in the same division and, at first, I wouldn’t think I had a chance. But I learned to cherish these competitors. Having them is good for my riding, and if I believe in myself, I can beat them!

When on course, be sure to stay in the present with your mind sharply focused on the jump or turn ahead of you. A lot of riders let their minds wander or become even blank during their round. As you can imagine, that will hinder you from riding to the best of your ability. Also, have a trusting and decisive attitude with how you approach your course and fences. Believe fully in your horse, yourself, and your plan.

Following your round, spend time reviewing your ride in your head or with your trainer. I usually walk for around 10 minutes after exiting the ring to cool down my horse, providing me with the perfect opportunity to do so. I will also spend some time watching video footage and critiquing myself when I have free time that day. Hopefully, everything went perfectly but if you happen to have made a mistake, allow yourself to spend 10 to 15 minutes thinking about it. Your best teacher is, of course, your last mistake. After you figure out what went wrong and how to fix it, accept it and then forget about it! As hard as it may be not to, do not sit around and dwell on it. A rider needs to be able to forget the bad rides and remember the good ones.

Improving one’s chances of a successful performance starts with having a solid game plan. A plan that you are confident in and that will ultimately bring out you and your horses’ true capability. Whether it’s for your class tomorrow, a weekly training program, or the year ahead, put the time and energy into creating a plan that will help you succeed at whatever goals you may have.

Author Scott Lico is a USHJA Certified trainer and Grand Prix rider based at Hacienda Del Valle in the Los Angeles area’s Sylmar. For more information, visit www.scottlicostables.com.

 
April 2020 - Blackjack Farm
Written by CRM
Tuesday, 31 March 2020 23:25

training

Hunter/jumper program caters to adults and their unique learning preferences.

Loving horses aside, adults are at the barn for very different reasons than their junior counterparts. At Blackjack Farm in San Diego County’s Vista, they specialize in catering to just those reasons.  

The most prominent characteristic for adult learners is that they are internally motivated. That means they are doing something because of their own values or interests. They simply enjoy an activity or see it as an opportunity to explore, learn and actualize their own potential.  

 


When Blackjack Farm owner Robin Martinez came back to riding as an adult, she was about 30 years old, ready to buy a horse and start competing again. She was certainly internally motivated.

 

But right off the bat, her experience back in the horse world wasn’t very good. She didn’t feel like she fit in a group lesson with a bunch of teenagers and private lessons were few and far between. As an adult, working in a corporate structure for years at that point, the communication style she was accustomed to was a 180-degree change from what she experienced at the stable. Direction was given as an order rather than an explanation, with the most common direction being the phrase, “Do it again!” It seemed to her that the focus was much more on style than on substance and the communication methods left a lot to be desired.   

Robin knew from her own experience as a corporate trainer/facilitator that teaching adults is about a partnership between the student and the instructor. Adults learn much differently than their younger counterparts and therefore must be taught differently. Adults need to understand the why of things and how ideas fit together. This characteristic drives many trainers crazy, but this is who adults are and how they learn. “I know this is how I wanted to be taught when I was the client and it’s exactly how I teach now,” says Robin.

Robin and Dionicio Martinez.

“It has been my experience that the American method of teaching is focused mostly on replicating a style rather than on principles that lead to a consistently reproducible outcome of an effective rider and a rideable horse,” says Robin. “This lack of a system in teaching jumping riders is problematic in general but especially problematic for adult learners. I really believe it is the cause of so many adult amateur riders finding themselves frustrated and without any real progress to their riding. It’s what stood in my way as a horsewoman and a rider. It was the basis of my frustration that eventually inspired me to do things differently.”

Robin’s teaching style is one of well thought-out communication, with the goal always being that the rider understands the theory behind what they are learning. After 20 years of experience with adult learners, Robin knows that you can’t just say “do it again” and expect that the person is going to learn something that will affect lasting change or improvement.  

At Blackjack Farm, horsemanship comes first, and the principals of riding are an integral part of that. “To me, good riding is a part of good horsemanship. It’s not a separate thing. Learning the foundational flatwork that is the basis of how all horses are taught, mastering how to put the horse on the bit, understanding proper use of the horse’s body and the rider’s position, really understanding the aids and what you are actually saying to the horse with each thing you do, these are essential parts of good horsemanship.”

Blackjack Farm at sunset.

The focus at Blackjack is on teaching adult amateurs and young people who want to be in a more adult atmosphere. Full and half training programs are available as well as in-barn lease options. Robin teaches out of her beautiful North County facility that she owns and manages with her husband Dionicio Martinez. Together, they eat, sleep and breathe horses. Life is full and the future is bright.  

The vibe at the five-acre facility is “peaceful, productive and positive,” and the training emphasis is jumpers and adult amateur riders. Blackjack Farm has a 12-stall barn, nine oversized in-and-out stalls, premiere all-weather footing, show quality jumps, large turn-outs, a groomed track and a Eurociser.

For more information on Blackjack Farm please visit www.blackjackfarmsandiego.com.

 
December 2020 - Courses for Horses
Written by by Alice Chan
Wednesday, 02 December 2020 03:06

training

The importance of staying curious.

by Alice Chan

As a relatively new horse-owner—three years and counting—I knew early on in the journey that there was an entire library of equine knowledge that I’d likely never acquire, but I sure was going to try. On my quest to becoming better informed, I’ve attended many a riding clinic, have consistently had my horses in training, and exhausted my poor vets’ (yes, plural) patience with my never-ending questions.

 


Imagine my delight when one of our wonderful vets, Dr Carrie Schlachter, together with veterinary colleagues from her newly established practice, Animals In Motion, announced she would be hosting a four-week-long educational series entitled: The Horse Course. Totaling 12 hours, the course includes lectures and hands-on experience with AIM’s herd of horses who are there expressly to support the practice’s teaching efforts.

 

We recently moved our two horses home to live with us, so acquiring some basic health management techniques seemed like a good idea. The course covered fundamentals such as taking vitals, spotting colic, better understanding nutrition, recognizing lameness, worming and vaccinations.

Each class starts with a detailed lecture, with plenty of opportunities for Q&A with the presenting veterinary, and lots of laughs along the way. I discovered that most of my equine medical knowledge dates from the 1950s (don’t ask me why). Once our classroom time was done, we would head on over to the barn to apply what we learned. If you haven’t figured out how to listen to a horse’s heartbeat, here’s your chance - and spoiler alert, it’s not quite as easy to find the right spot as you’d think.

Likewise, we learned how to apply standing wraps correctly, as well as six-layered pressure bandages in the event of an injury. And we heard that today, a broken leg isn’t necessarily a death sentence, and you may want to use drain pipe material as a temporary splint in the event of a nasty break.

We became skilled at identifying common parasites, and how to avoid picking them up (e.g. at shared water troughs and grazing spots at trailheads and showgrounds) and were invited to bring in a poop sample which we then analyzed under a microscope to assess for parasites and how to count them.

During the nutrition class we were taught how to read the labels on feed bags, as well as understanding the importance of a forage-heavy diet. We were shown how to assess a horse’s body condition score—which we then practiced on the AIM herd. Looks can often be deceiving: a large barrel doesn’t necessarily mean the horse is carrying fat, and vice versa.

Perhaps my favorite class was about lameness, having had all too many experiences. We got to evaluate a number of videos of different horses to see if we could spot where the lameness was originating from, and heard about the preventative and curative treatment options that are available for the modern sport horse.

All in all, this was a highly educational and engaging experience and I look forward to taking the Horse Course 2 in the future.

If you’d like to attend the next Horse Course, the clinic’s Wednesday night lectures, you can visit the website below. The in-person classes take place in Penngrove, Sonoma County, and there are often opportunities to join remotely.

For more information, visit www.animalsinmotionvet.com.

 
December 2019 - Learning To Fall
Written by by Kim F. Miller
Sunday, 01 December 2019 08:36

toc training

Minimizing injury risks is the focus of four Landsafe Equestrian clinics in California this month.

by Kim F. Miller

Nobody doubts that riding is a physically dangerous sport, but there is disagreement over what can be done to reduce risks. Some accept the risks and carry on and some accept the risks and do everything possible to minimize injuries when the inevitable falls or necessary sudden dismounts occur.


The three-year-old program Landsafe Equestrian is firmly in that latter camp. Staging four clinics in California this month, during a larger West Coast tour, the program was created by riders Danny and Keli Warrington. It is steadily growing the ranks of proactive riders intent on improving their odds of walking away from potentially terrible falls without devastating injuries.

The core of the two-day clinics are gymnastic exercises and work on a mechanical horse programmed to dislodge riders in a realistic simulation of the speed and impact of a real fall.

The first day starts with two hours of gymnastics skill building. The emphasis is on rolling safely and with a body shape most able to protect the head and neck and to decelerate the impact. Later that day, these new skills are transferred to the mechanical horse. The second day revisits those skills, then spends more time on the simulator working with various of types of falls and dangerous situations: like the right way to roll off and away from the horse in a rotational fall and developing the instincts for when to eject from the saddle when a horse rears.

In all phases, the goal is building muscle memory, body awareness and control and the rider’s confidence in activating the training in the heat of what Danny calls the “Oh crap!” moment. “It’s a training program designed to teach the best practices of fall prevention and response,” he explains.

Danny is a former steeplechase rider turned FEI level eventer. His first wife, Amanda Warrington, died of injuries sustained during a 4* competition in 1998. He has since been a strong voice for riders taking personal responsibility for “playing the sport safely,” as he wrote in a moving 2008 Chronicle of the Horse article. Keli has an extensive background as a gymnast.

A

s horsemen, both are eventers, and that’s the discipline that first embraced this still-new Landsafe Equestrian program. In 2018, the United States Eventing Association offered members a grant-funded discount on the cost of participating in the clinics. With its cross-country phase in which horses and riders gallop over permanent obstacles, eventing has been in the rider (and horse) safety spotlight for many years so its embrace of Landsafe is not surprising. More recently, the United States Hunter Jumper Association reached out to Landsafe, Danny reports. The training will be incorporated into USHJA educational programs in the fall of 2020, he says.

No need to wait until a governing body formally adopts the program, Danny stresses. Some professionals make Landsafe participation a prerequisite of joining their training program. Danny hopes the safety training will become as ubiquitous in equestrian sports as it is in many mainstream sports.  Gymnasts, he notes, learn to fall safely and avoid their sport’s most common injuries in their earliest phases of participation.

Any riding style has its risks, and Landsafe seeks to reduce those across all disciplines. Rotational falls in which the horse hits a jump between its knees and chest, causing the horse to flip over the jump, are the most dangerous. “The risk of having a serious injury is once every 55 falls,” Landsafe reports. “A rotational fall, however, increases the risk to once every five falls.”

Even as the Landsafe clinics fill to capacity, skepticism persists. The biggest doubts concern any program’s ability to train the mind and body to respond in the split-second moment of a potential or actual fall and how much can be accomplished in a two-day session. In what little time he has for such doubters, Danny begins by stating that any form of training is better than none. Landsafe’s two days of core-building somersaults, vaults and controlled falls off the simulator do build muscle memory, he asserts. Repeating the course annually or with some regularity is ideal. Adopting or continuing an active, play-oriented lifestyle is a big help in maintaining the strength and body control lessons learned in the clinic. Activities that increase hand-eye coordination are also valuable.

Part of the Landsafe education is countering myths, like the idea that it’s best to relax the muscles in a fall. “What we are teaching is body shaping as it applies to decelerating the force of impact when hitting the ground,” he explains. “This is rider education regarding falling safely. It teaches riders not only a better way to navigate a fall, but also using these skills, in many cases, may reduce chances of injury or prevent a fall all together.”

Danny feels the training is perhaps even more needed now than in the past because many young people spend more time in safe, sedentary activities than in rough and tumble outdoor play of earlier times.  Such physical activity contributes to body awareness, balance and strength that are critical to the muscle memory reactions Landsafe emphasizes. Participants of all ages and auditors will benefit from the clinic, Danny asserts. Even though an older rider might not be so swift with the somersaults, they can still learn skills to minimize the risk of severe injury in a fall.

He equates Landsafe to seatbelts and child safety seats when they were first introduced. “Your kids won’t want to do them, but you’ve got to get them into them.” He expects that acceptance will eventually follow the same trajectory as those everyday safety precautions.

February 2020 will mark Landsafe’s third year of giving clinics. “I can’t believe this isn’t mandatory,” is one of the most common participant comments, Danny relays.

For the contact information on each clinic, visit www.landsafeequestrian.com.

 


Landsafe Equestrian Clinics this month in California

 

  • Dec. 7-8 at Kingsview Equestrian Center in the Sacramento area’s Woodland.
  • Dec. 15-16 at Red Fox Farm in the South Bay Area’s Gilroy
  • Dec. 22-23 at Shea Therapeutic Riding Center in San Juan Capistrano
  • Dec. 28-29 in Twin Rivers Ranch in Central California’s Paso Robles. Eventing star Buck Davidson, Jr., is partnering in this clinic with cross-country jumping coaching. He’s a longtime friend of Danny Warrington and was one of the first international riders to instantly understand and promote Landsafe’s benefits, Danny explains.
 
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