Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Tips for New IEA Parents—Surviving Your Child’s First IEA Show

Being an IEA parent is tough.  You’re asked to put your child on a 1200 pound animal that she has probably never ridden before and then watch her pilot it across a course of jumps or around an arena.  It is no easy task.  In fact, I would argue that sitting there watching your child show is probably just as stressful as being the one up there competing. 

Here are six tips to help you survive your child’s first IEA horse show.

Trust your coach
First and foremost, if you can trust that a) your coach knows what she’s doing, and b) she has your child’s safety and best interests in mind, everything else will be easy by comparison.

Part of trusting your coach is allowing her to be the coach.  For example, you may feel your child needs a re-ride.  You have to trust that your coach knows when a re-ride is appropriate and when it’s not, and that if your child does indeed need a re-ride, that your coach is going to make the request. 

If at any time you feel the bond between you and the coach is broken or in need of repair, you need to communicate with her.  The relationship between a child’s parents and her coach can make or break her whole IEA experience.  Take time to nurture and grow this relationship. 

Respect the horse show chain of command
During an IEA show, only the steward may address the judge and only a coach may address the steward.  To say it another way, you are free to discuss issues with your child’s coach, but only the coach can bring that issue to the steward, and only the steward can bring that issue to the judge.   Keep this in mind before heading down to the in-gate to share your thoughts with the steward.

Educate Yourself
Many IEA rules and procedures are not intuitive, especially to a non-horse parent.  I find that parents who understand how the IEA works and why things happen the way they do tend to enjoy the whole experience more. There is a great book about the IEA written just for parents.  I can’t remember off-hand who wrote it…oh wait, it was me.  I’ll provide a link to where you can buy it at the end of this post.

Support the team as a whole
IEA riding is a team sport, and your child is an important part of a greater whole.  It is important to remember this especially toward the end of a long show day when everyone is cold and tired and the trailer still needs to be loaded and then unloaded back at the barn, or when another rider from your team wins her class and your child brings home a green ribbon.

Be on time  
Horse shows start early.  The morning schooling starts even earlier.  You need to confirm with your coach what time your child should arrive and be there ten minutes early.  You should also be on time in the days/weeks leading up to the show with your payment and any paperwork your coach asks you to complete.  You don’t want your daughter to miss her first show because you forgot your checkbook.  Be prepared to stay late.  Don’t allow your child to leave until she has checked with her coach and confirmed that she has completed all of her responsibilities.

Be positive
Horse shows are always a learning experience, especially the first one.  Your daughter won’t always have the best ride and sometimes you may disagree with the judge or steward.  That’s all part of the game.  Try to instill in your child the idea that she can learn something from every horse she has the opportunity to sit on.  Sometimes the best learning experience isn’t going to correlate with the highest ribbon.  The team riders take cues from the parents and coach on how they should behave toward other teams, coaches, show officials, and each other.  Be a positive role model.

These are just a few tips to help you with your child’s IEA journey.  For more information, check out my book, “A Parent’s Guide to the Interscholastic Equestrian Association,” now available in ebook and paperback.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Preparing for College—Five Suggestions for High School Equestrians

Last Friday I had the pleasure of serving on a collegiate coaches Q&A panel at a local Georgia Hunter Jumper Association (GHJA) show.  Most of the questions were from high school students asking how they could get themselves ready to ride in college.  So for today’s blog I discuss five ways high school students can prepare for collegiate riding.

Ride as many different horses as you can, including a variety of breeds, ages, sizes, and temperaments.  During the course of your college riding career you will draw a seventeen hand draft horse, a six year old off the track thoroughbred, and a push button show hunter.  You need to understand how to ride all of them over a course of jumps or in an equitation on the flat class. 

Ride in as many different types of saddles as you can.  Many equine professionals will tell you they would rather ride an unfamiliar horse in their own saddle than their own horse in someone else’s saddle.  The horse you draw could be wearing a super comfy saddle with knee and thigh blocks, or a flat as a pancake Crosby Prix de Nations straight out of the 1990s.  The style of saddle affects your position (and your stirrup length!), so you should practice riding in a variety of different saddles.  And while I’m on the topic of tack, many equitation horses go in a pelham these days, so make sure you know how to hold double reins.

Get strong and physically fit.  Of course everyone knows you should ride without stirrups, but you should also develop a personal fitness plan outside of riding.  If you are joining a varsity team, you need to be prepared for those 6am workouts in the gym.  If you are joining a club team, you may only get to ride once a week, so you will need to have a plan for cardio and strength training on the days you aren’t riding.   For club riders, going from riding five or six days a week during high school to only one day per week in college will affect your strength, which will in turn affect your riding, so you’ll need a fitness plan for the days when you’re not in the saddle to keep yourself in riding shape.

Clinic with as many different professionals as you can.  The very best equestrians are the ones who realize there is always more to learn.  By clinic-ing with different professionals, you can learn new techniques or gain a new perspective on a problem you are having in your riding.  It is best to ask your current trainer to recommend a good clinician rather than just picking a clinic off the internet.  If you’re able to take your own horse, that’s great.  If not, you can ask about leasing a suitable mount from the barn hosting the clinic.  If you can’t do either of these, don’t underestimate the amount you can learn by auditing.

Make use of social media and the internet.  Youtube videos, live feeds of high level equestrian events, blogs, and online magazines are all valuable methods for gaining knowledge out of the saddle.  

I want to take a moment to thank Margaux Casey and the sponsors and staff of the Ticket to Ride horse show as well as my fellow clinicians, John Abbot, Laura Norment, and Daphne Ross for a wonderful time at the coaches Q&A.

from left to right:  Amanda Garner, Daphne Ross, John Abbot, and Laura Norment

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

College Preparatory Invitational (CPI) Horse Show, January 16-18, 2015 Wellington, Florida.

Just announced--Priority entries for the College Preparatory Invitational (CPI) Horse Show, to be held January 16-18, 2015 at the Jim Brandon Equestrian Center in Wellington, Florida, open today for high school juniors and seniors (entries for freshmen and sophomores open September 15th).  To enter, go to the official CPI website www.collegeprepinvitational.com.

CPI Competition
If you are a current high school student looking forward to riding on a collegiate team, the CPI horse show is a great opportunity for you to show your stuff in front of college coaches in a horse-draw format, similar to what you would be asked to do on an IHSA or NCEA team.

The CPI offers competition in hunt seat equitation over fences and equitation on the flat.  All horses and tack are provided, so the only thing you need to bring is yourself.  You can even “rent a coach” to assist you during the show if your home coach is not able to attend.

CPI College Fair
The CPI horse show also hosts a college fair with collegiate coaches from all over the country standing ready to answer your questions about their schools and riding opportunities.   Equine professionals also give talks about current events in the equine industry.  Last year Olympian Peter Wylde and IEA Executive Director Roxane Lawrence both gave informative talks to competitors.

CPI Scholarship Opportunities
You can also enter to win one of several scholarships.  Last year the CPI offered the following scholarships:
  • Highest Point Rider
  • Essay Award
  • Written Horsemanship Test Award
  • Journalistic Photo Award
  • Champion of Service Award

Winter Equestrian Festival and Wellington Area
The Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) will be in full swing just a few miles down the road at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center.  You can take a break from CPI to drop by the WEF show grounds to watch a Grand Prix or other big money class.  With an average high temperature of 78 degrees in January, you might even be able to catch some beach time.

IEA Hunt Seat National Finals
Did I mention that the 2015 IEA Hunt Seat National Finals will be held in Wellington at the same facility as the CPI Horse Show?  This year's CPI provides a rare opportunity for IEA riders to compete in the same arena they will be competing in at IEA Hunt Seat Nationals just three months later.

CPI Show Stewards Announced
I was very fortunate to serve as one of the two show stewards last year, along with IEA National Steward Sue Wetzel, and now I’m thrilled to announce that both of us have been invited back to serve as show stewards again this year!

Enter Early
If all of this sounds like something you’d be interested in attending, make sure you enter soon.  Last year the entries filled up and riders had to be turned down, which is why the CPI is offering priority entry for high school juniors and seniors starting today.

Visit the official CPI website www.collegeprepinvitational.com for more information.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Clinic and Parent Q&A Pricing Information

After I posted on facebook about the clinic and Parent Q&A session I did with the Oak Creek IEA Team I've had several IEA coaches contact me about doing one for their team, so I posted some details and pricing information on my blog.  If you'd like to set up a clinic and/or parent Q&A or buy some books in bulk for your team, just let me know!  Thanks!

Clinics and Parent Q&A Sessions
The clinics are $40 per rider with an eight rider minimum and include a free parent Q&A session at the end.  Paperback copies of "A Parent's Guide to the Interscholastic Equestrian Association" will be available for sale at the clinics for $12.99 each or 20 for $200.  I like to do the clinics in groups of four riders, and each section lasts about 1-1/2 hours.

A Parent Q&A session without a clinic is $200, which includes 10 paperback copies of my book. Additional copies of the book are available at $12.99 each.

These prices are for teams located north of the Atlanta area (Alpharetta, Cumming, Canton, Gainesville, etc.) within an approximately 50 mile radius of my home in Dahlonega, GA.  Teams located more than 50 miles from me may be subject to a small mileage charge.

"A Parent's Guide to the Interscholastic Equestrian Association"--Bulk Pricing & Delivery
If you just want a box of books to hand out to your team members, you can do that too.  Several coaches have asked for books and are planning to include the cost in their annual team registration fee.

Books are $12.99 each for less than 20 copies, or $10 each for 20+ copies.  If you are buying 10 or more copies I will be happy to meet up with you somewhere convenient to pass them off to you.  If you are buying less than 10 copies you can get the books off Amazon.com or at Atlanta Saddlery or Snooty Fox Tack Exchange for $12.99 plus tax (and shipping for amazon).

If you have any questions or would like to set up a clinic or parent Q&A, you can contact me by:

phone:  404-245-6688
email:  amanda@epiphany-farm.com
facebook private message:  Amanda Garner

Thanks again for your support!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

IEA/IHSA Team Tryouts—10 Tips for a Good First Impression

Summer’s here, and it’s the season when IEA and IHSA teams hold tryouts (for teams that select specific riders for competition) or evaluation rides (for club teams that accept all interested students).  Here are ten tips to help you make a good first impression.
  1. Be punctual.  Show up on time or even a little early.  You don’t want your new coach to have to wait on you or rush through your lesson in order to stay on schedule.  Also, make sure you know how to get to the farm.  If you are planning to use a GPS, it’s a good idea to confirm the directions with your coach first because some farms are way out in the country and your GPS may not be accurate.
  2. Dress appropriately.  You should wear ‘clinic attire,’ which includes britches and tall boots (or half chaps), a tucked in polo shirt, gloves, and a belt.  If you have a show helmet, wear it along with a hairnet.  If you don’t have a show helmet a schooling helmet is fine, too.  No matter what you wear, make sure your clothing is neat and clean and your boots are polished.  Don’t spend a ton of money buying new clothing for your tryout.  If/when you make the team, your coach will tell you what brands or styles she wants you to purchase.
  3. Know your riding and showing history and be accurate and truthful about it.  Before you ride, you and your coach will spend a few minutes discussing your previous riding and showing experience in order to determine which showing division is appropriate for you.  Take a look at last week’s blog post HERE to learn the importance of proper division placement.
  4. Make a list of questions in advance.  You are going to be nervous and having a list you’ve prepared beforehand will ensure you get all of your questions answered.  I did a blog post about important questions to ask any IEA/IHSA coach a few weeks ago.  You can find it HERE.
  5. If you don’t understand something, ask.  When tacking up, if the horse requires a piece of equipment that you’ve never used, ask someone to help you.  When riding, if you don’t understand an instruction, it is better to ask for clarification than to do an exercise incorrectly.  Often the issue isn’t that a student doesn’t understand what to do, it’s that her home trainer uses a different word to describe it, and once the vocabulary is straightened out, things go a lot smoother for everyone involved; the student, the coach, and the horse.
  6. Be prepared to ride without stirrups.  Coaches want to test your fitness level, which means riding without stirrups.  If your training regimen doesn’t already include no-stirrup work, you should start practicing in the weeks leading up to your tryout so you’ll be prepared.
  7. If you are asked to do something beyond your experience level, speak up.  Your coach wants to find out what you know, not push you too hard or get you or the horse injured.  For example, if she asks you to jump higher than you’re comfortable jumping on an unfamiliar horse, or if you aren’t confident riding without stirrups at the canter, let her know.
  8. Take proper care of the horse and tack after the ride.  Take the time to cool the horse out correctly, offer to clean the tack, put all tack and grooming tools back where you found them, and clean up your crosstie space.  Once you’ve finished, ask if there is anything else you need to do.
  9. Say thank you for the opportunity, follow up with an email, and keep in touch with your coach as your enrollment date approaches.  Coaches understand that riders’ plans change.  If you decide to attend another school or choose not to ride on the team, let the coach know as soon as possible so she can alter her team plans accordingly.
  10. And for goodness sake, have fun! When all is said and done, we ride horses because we love it.  Don’t let the pressure of trying out for a team cause you to lose sight of the reason you first started riding horses in the first place.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Rider Division Placement —Key to a Successful IEA/IHSA Experience

For riders new to IEA or IHSA, the first key to a successful IEA/IHSA experience is getting yourself placed into the correct showing division right from the start, which is determined by your riding and showing experience. 

The IEA hunt seat divisions are:
  • Beginner (flat only)
  • Novice (crossrails and flat)
  • Intermediate (2’ fences and flat)
  • Open (2’6” fences and flat)
 The IHSA hunt seat divisions are:
  • Walk/Trot (flat only)
  • Walk/Trot/Canter (flat only, subdivided into beginner and advanced)
  • Novice (2’3” to 2’9” fences and flat)
  • Intermediate (2’6” to 3’ fences and flat)
  • Open (2’9” to 3’3” fences and flat)
To be competitive, an IEA/IHSA team needs at least one rider in each division, and the points earned in the lower divisions count just as much as the points earned in the upper divisions.  So a first place ribbon, whether in open fences or beginner flat, earns the same number of points for the team.

The beauty of this set-up is that you don’t need to be the top rider in the country to be competitive in IEA/IHSA horse shows, you just need to be able to compete successfully in your division against students with riding and showing experience similar to your own. 

I find that many riders new to the IEA/IHSA want to be placed in the highest division.  However, the most successful IEA/IHSA riders are those who figure out that it is better to be the strongest rider in a lower division, than the weakest rider in a higher division.   It is also a whole lot more fun to start in a lower division and “win your way up” to a higher division by winning ribbons and earning points, rather than to be assigned to a division that is too high for your experience level and not being able to bring home a ribbon.

So how do you ensure that you are placed correctly?  Here are a few tips:

First, know your riding and showing history, including:
  • How many years you have been taking formal lessons
  • Which shows you have attended
  • Whether those shows are rated or not
  • Which divisions/fence heights you have competed in
Riders are placed into their IEA/IHSA division based on these criteria, so it’s important to know the answers to these questions when you sit down with your coach to discuss your division placement.

A question I am often asked is, what does “rated” mean?  Some horse shows are rated by a national horse show or breed organization (such as AQHA, APHA, USEF, USDF, or USEA), some are rated by a local organization (i.e. State Hunter Jumper Associations), and some hold no rating at all (local barn or saddle club shows). 

Whether the shows you have attended are nationally rated or not makes a difference in your division placement.  If you aren’t sure if a particular show you attended was rated, you can contact the organization and ask.  The major nationally rated organizations keep records of who has competed in their shows and they can provide you with a “rider report” listing all of the classes you have competed in and how you placed. 

Second, be accurate and truthful when discussing your riding and showing history with your coach.  I know riders want to impress their new coach, but here in the internet age everything is documented and it’s really easy for a coach to look up your show results.   So answer the questions you are asked as fully and honestly as you can, but don’t embellish.  Your coach wants you to be the strongest rider in your division, and embellishing your resume is the easiest way to end up placed in a division too high for your experience level.
Also, don’t feel pressured to have experience at the top levels of the sport.  It is perfectly okay if you spent your junior years showing in long stirrup because your horse was older and not able to jump any higher than 2’3”, or if you stayed in crossrails or mini-hunter because you didn’t own a horse and did your showing on a lesson mount.  

Remember, in IEA and IHSA shows, points earned in the lower divisions count just as much as those earned in the upper divisions.

Knowing your riding and showing history and being accurate and truthful when answering questions is the first step toward being competitive in IEA/IHSA riding because it will ensure you are placed into a division suitable to your experience level.

Amanda Garner is an Interscholastic Equestrian Association (IEA), Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA), and Georgia Hunter Jumper Association (GHJA) steward, schooling show judge, head coach of the University of North Georgia IHSA Equestrian Team, and owner of Epiphany Farm, LLC in Dahlonega, Georgia. She is also a member of the IEA Board of Directors and the author of "A Parent's Guide to the Interscholastic Equestrian Association."

If you enjoyed this blog post, please feel free to like and share on Facebook.

Thanks!  --Amanda

photo credit Dede Chase