Thursday, July 21, 2011

Life is Good by Jackson Roberts

As this is my first blog entry for PRO, I will start with a proper introduction. My real name is Jackson Roberts, although I seem to be referred to by nicknames more often. These nicknames are as fallows but not limited to: Jacko, Jax, Action Jackson, The Tennessee Tornado, Baby Jackson, B Jacks and Young Blood. I would say that 80% of those names were created by good friend Boyd Martin.

As for my background I am 19 years-old from Nashville Tennessee, son of two non horsey parents. I caught the horse bug from my parents renting two ponies for my fourth birthday party, I think my parents would say that was the worst finical decision they ever made! I found eventing through pony club at age 11 and knew right away that is what I wanted to do. One thing led to another and I wound up as a working student for Phillip Dutton three days after my high school graduation. I have been with the True Prospect team now since May of 2010. Within the first year of being with Phillip, I feel that my riding has dramatically improved and brought me to my Intermediate debut at Morven earlier this year.

Currently I have wonderful new horse named Percy Warner who is owned by my parents, Fred and Leigh. Phillip and Julie Richards found Percy for me at the beginning of June of this year. He had mostly just show jumped prior to me getting him and he is at training level currently. We had a very educational run at Surefire in June where he was leading his training section prior to the cross country but we had a run out about 3/4 of the way around. He was quite green at all the flowers and decorations around the jumps, but I think we might have been a bit too lucky had we pulled off the win with just 12 days of our partnership together. Two weeks later we were back out again at the Maryland horse trials. This time around I rode much more forward around the cross country and we had a nice confidence building run. As a side note I would like to commend the event staff at both Surefire and Maryland for putting a lot of effort into the footing for the cross country, which I greatly appreciated as did Percy's legs! Next up for us is Millbrook in New York and then to Waradeca the next week.

As for my day to day life at home in Unionville, Pa every day is different. On a my most busy days I will get up at 3:30 AM and do the barn for Silva Martin and then start work at True Prospect at 7, then we normally finish around 5 and I will either ride some extra horses or go back to Silva and Boyd's farm to mow. This summer I feel like I some times work more for Boyd than Phillip, but both Silva and Boyd have been so kind since my arrival and let me work off my lessons with Silva. When I am not working, I'm generally with my best friend/partner in crime Steph Boyer. She has been so helpful to me as far as someone to talk to as she previously worked for True Prospect and as young professional event rider. In this business you can never have too many friends, but I think I will be hard pressed to find one as good as Steph.

I hope you know a little more about me now, and I should be blogging on a monthly basis for PRO. Until next time keep kicking on!


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Welcome to Virginia by Kate Berta

Well, I guess I should start off with an introduction. My name is Kate Berta. I am currently 21 years old and a senior at Georgetown College in Georgetown, Ky, where I am a double major in Exercise Science and Psychology. I really have absolutely no idea what I want to do with my majors when I graduate, but my parents more than myself hope I figure that out really soon. I started riding when I was six years old and have not looked back. I wish I could tell everyone this really cool story about how I got involved horses, like my mom was a upper level rider and my dad trained horses, but that’s definitely not the case. My parents only really like horses because it’s a part of my life. I can’t tell you why I started riding, all I can say is it’s in my blood.

Anyways, moving on from myself, I currently compete two horses, Brandenburg’s Lucky Charm “Bailey” and Bourbon. Bailey is an 11 year old ISH gelding I bought in 2006 and have gone Intermediate on. Bailey and I have had some setbacks but now are on our way back up the levels. Bourbon is a 5 year old TB gelding who never raced and isn’t even tattooed. I bought Bourbon a year ago as a resale project and he has gone from greenie to training in a year. I am so proud of Bourbon and seeing the progress he has made is very satisfying as an owner and rider.

So now that you have had the spark notes introduction of my team and I, you are probably wondering why I got asked to write this blog. Well, I am currently a working student for Stephen Bradley in Boyce, VA and I’m here to tell you about my experience with Stephen. I arrived here at Long Branch Farm on May 24 and will be staying here till about Aug 4 when I have to venture back to KY to finish school. Our day usually goes like this:

6:30- Wake up.
7:00- Start morning chores (Bringing in horses, feed, muck stalls, hay, water, blow vac. All the normal fun stuff around the barn)
9:00ish- Stephen usually arrives and we tack up horses for Stephen and then once he gets done with his horses then we usually have our lessons and ride the horses we get to ride that day
3:00pm- PM feeding
6:30pm- Turnout

We usually stay pretty busy but since there are 4 working students, including myself, it goes by pretty fast. Stephen has already taught me so much. Because I am an upper level rider majority of my lessons and fine tuning my instincts and teaching me new exercises to improve the way that particular horse goes and how to be a softer rider in my aids. Stephen has also taught me a lot about how to pay attention to finer detail. I have been extremely lucky to be able to ride and learn from Stephen and recommend him to anyone.

Our next show that Stephen and the team will attend will be Maryland Horse Trials II, but until then I will keep everyone updated on our adventures here at Long Branch Farm and Team SS Bradley.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Lucinda Clinic: Why Not More Professionals? by Ashley Leith

I just finished a two day cross country clinic at Fair Hill with Lucinda Green, and my biggest question of the week was why are there not more professionals taking advantage of this wonderful opportunity? I have ridden with Lucinda on and off since I was sixteen. These days I try to see her once a year. I will take a young horse or a client's young horse and participate in one of her Stateside clinics. If the timing works out perfectly, the clinic will be a week or two before a big show, because no matter how well I am riding, Lucinda's clinic is always a good wake up call. The exercises that she has her riders play over are skinny, awkward, sometimes spooky, and have no set striding. It is the perfect foil for the increased pressure of perfection in dressage, show jumping, and even cross country in our sport. Lucinda focuses on what she terms engine, line, and balance. These elements are the most basic building blocks in any correct riding. What Lucinda tries to do is foster these building blocks in the rider and then build on our horses' natural instinct to use their footwork and athleticism. Lucinda, rather than trying to create the perfect jump time and time again, tries to create awkward jumps so that riders and horses can learn instinct and survival skills. No one can be perfect every time.

Lucinda has a very loyal following for her clinics, the one I just participated in is usually full six months before the actual clinic date. Her training approach has been very influential in my own riding and her exercises are a breath of fresh air in this country. Gone are the days of learning to ride cross country by actually, well, riding across the country. Even in my own program I now go to Florida for the bulk of the winter and miss a good part of balancing on the slippery, muddy hills in the Northeast. I also miss fox hunting season, which is cross country riding raw. Lucinda has figured out a formula to specifically recreate cross country riding techniques in an arena. Even with quality dressage and show jumping riding more important now than ever before, good cross country riding is still the meat of the sport. Lucinda, one of the best cross country riders that the sport has ever seen, still has her finger on that pulse.

Lucinda's clinics are not the only ones I've attended. Over the years I have done clinics with Jimmy Wofford, Stephen Bradley, Ann Krusinski, Joe Fargis, George Morris as well as other top riders in different disciplines, including Natural Horsemanship. With few exceptions, very rarely is there another professional in my group. One notable exception was the George Morris clinic at Morven Park two years ago. To the benefit of everyone riding, Leslie Law also rode in the clinic on a young horse.

I see clinics as useful for many reasons. First, they are a great way to stay fresh by practice training techniques that I don't use on a daily basis, and in some cases I learn a new approach to an old concept. Second, they are a great experience for a young horse. My training level and preliminary level horses are looking for mileage, mileage, mileage, and a clinic is a great way for them to be in a pressure situation without being in a pressure situation. They perform a little bit, then they get to stand quietly and relax. Every single young horse I've taken to a clinic has been more mature by the end of two days. Clinics are also a great place for riders, even very good riders, to practice under pressure. The first year that I rode in an Ann Krusinski clinic, I did not want to be the leader in the exercises. Two years later, I led almost the entire clinic in my group. My thought process had gone from "I want to watch someone else so that I make sure I do the exercise right" to "I want to see if I can do this exercise right without seeing it done first." Having professionals in a clinic group also benefits the other riders. We do learn through watching, and being the group leader sets a great example for those savvy enough to pay attention. These days, clinics also help my teaching repertoire. As an ICP certified instructor, I have become more interested in watching different instructors teach. Often in a clinic I will watch how a master horseman communicates different concepts or works a struggling rider through an exercise.

Again, then, I ask why there are not more professionals riding in clinics? If Leslie Law can take the time to participate, where is everyone else?

Friday, July 1, 2011

Common Threads: Life at Wood Lane Stables by Missy Miller

I’ve decided to stop starting my blog posts with the usual intro of “Well, since my last post things have been the ultimate of high to lows”. Because, as also previously stated that is typical of life with horses. I’m not sure what to be expecting after this summer or for the remainder of it because lately I feel like even though I had the heartbreak of retiring my fantastic advanced mare, TSF Amazing Grace, things finally seem to be on a slow, uphill climb. Of course I have been trained to be wary of this but it is hard for me not to get excited about the possibilities being put in front of me, and for that, I have Gracie to thank and everyone else that has supported me.

Because of growing up in the eventing world, I can’t help but always find ways to keep myself busy, be them productive or not. So after I had Gracie settled into a new home and headed into a happy new chapter of her life with my other mare, I started sorting out exactly what they would be doing and working on something for me to do as well. Luckily for me both of my horses can be bred to hopefully produce exciting young prospects for me down the road, or as my mother will see it, new members of the ever growing Miller family. While I was starting to solely focus on my education I was at the same time becoming like a little girl longing for a pony all over again. Every time I saw ANY horse anywhere (including the carriage horses in downtown Savannah) I wondered if that could be my eventing superstar. Scopey jumper? Decent mover? Who cares, I’ll take what I can get. Seeing this, some friends suggested I get a job riding over the summer so I didn’t go even more insane. I jumped at the idea and sent e-mails, text messages, facebooks, twitters, morse code signals, etc to everyone in my contacts list. Then the suggestion came that I go overseas since I’d always wanted to and for once, I had no serious obligations keeping me in the good ole U.S of A. So the list grew and by some stroke of rare luck, I received a response from William Fox-Pitt, offering me the opportunity to come work at his yard. Yes, I did think it was a cruel prank at first, but I have been here for two weeks and Ashton Kutcher hasn’t jumped out of the bushes yet to tell me I’ve been punk’d.

One question I keep getting asked is what made me want to come work at William Fox-Pitt’s farm. And to be completely honest, it continues to floor me when I am asked. I mean, why wouldn’t I? Isn’t that what we do in this sport? Or any chosen profession for that matter? Go to work under someone we respect that has been successful so hopefully we can learn to emulate their habits and if all the stars align and we work hard and luck is on our side, we can also have similar success? So my answer is, why not? For the first time I can remember I had no horses needing my constant attention/annoyance and could take the jump across the pond like I had always wanted to. I have been beyond fortunate enough to work for many successful competitors and horsemen. Every time I have started somewhere new I make a habit of doing extensive stalker like research so I know who I’m working with, which for the most part makes me even more nervous about my first day. When you first arrive at a new farm it is much like anticipating your first day at a new school, a high mix of nerves and excitement. First days you feel lost as you try to figure out where things go, what your “schedule” is, who is who, and what to do when.

No matter how many successful barns I pass through, every single time I expect to uncover some well kept secret to the success of each professional. I watch them feed, are they putting golden Wheaties in for supplements? As I muck, I check to see if the stall mats are tempurpedic? As I watch them work with their horses, is their a secret handshake and exchange of bribery? Is the vet a magic witch doctor? Does the farrier put Nike Shox in the horse shoes? I haven’t found any of that… yet… But one thing I have found is routine, routine. Every barn has a schedule that is played out religiously day in and day out. Being here at Wood Lane Stables has proven to be no different. Everyone is always in a pleasant mood (maybe the British accents help to portray the cheer), and I think part of what makes it such a pleasant atmosphere is the lack of chaos and confusion that can sometimes accompany such busy competition barns. Before William left for Luhmuhlen with Mary King and Pippa Funnels horses hitching a ride you would have thought that they were leaving for a vacation weekend by their behavior. I wondered to myself how they could be so relaxed and nonchalant before leaving for a 4*??! Was this part of their madness that made them such fearless competitors? The more I become integrated into the routine I discover that when you have a good team working at home and a routine that has yet to fail, there really is no reason to stress. Yes, maybe it helps that all of them have done a 4* or two this year alone. After thinking about this for a while I realize some of the most successful barns I’ve been fortunate enough to work at all have this blanket of pleasant and calm over them. No barn has the same routine through out the day, but every single one has found one that works and sticks to it religiously.

Since I’ve been at Williams I keep discovering more and more that has brought back the pure joy of working with horses every day and reminding me “Why we do this”, which I had pondered heavily after boughts of bad karma. While I’m bringing in one of Williams current top competition horses and watch as Mr. Stunning eats away in his huge pasture, you forget about the show approaching and just feel thankful to work with such amazing animals on a daily basis. And that is something I don’t think anyone here ever forgets.