Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Ten New Years Resolutions for Equestrians

As we say goodbye to 2014 and welcome in 2015 tomorrow night, many of us will be thinking about our goals for the year ahead, so for today's blog I've listed 10 fully attainable new years resolutions for equestrians.

In 2015, make a resolution to...

1. ...Ride without stirrups on a regular basis. We all know the most tried and true method for building the strength equestrians need is to ride without stirrups. If you're new to no-stirrup work, start small and build as you get stronger. I have a rectangular ring, so I have my students do posting trot down the long sides of the arena and sitting trot along the short sides as a rest break. Alternating between sitting and posting allows you do the exercise for longer periods of time, building strength and endurance. As you get stronger, add to the number of laps. After a few successful rides, begin taking away some of your short side sitting trot breaks until you can post the trot around the arena for multiple laps.

2. ...Ride outside the arena. Its easy to do all your riding inside the confines of the ring, but you and your equine partner will benefit from working outside without an arena rail. Speak with your trainer about taking a lesson out in a paddock.You may be surprised at how much harder you have to work to keep a consistent rhythm and pace on uneven ground and to maintain a straight path or quality circle without an arena rail to guide you.

3. ...Take trail rides on a regular basis. Everyone, human and equine, needs a break from time to time, so get together with some of your riding buddies and plan regular excursions outside the arena. If you don't have access to trails, just sauntering through the pastures or paddocks will do. Allow yourself and your horse to decompress and just enjoy the scenery.

4. ...Keep a riding journal.  Take time after every ride to jot down some notes. What things did you do well and why? What things did you struggle with and why? What are some goals you can set for yourself to overcome your struggle areas? Don't forget to make some notes about your horse, too! Which exercise did he seem to enjoy or do particularly well and which did he not seem to enjoy or excel at and why? Journaling will help you stay on track toward achieving your goals. Also, it's always fun to read back through your journal entries to see what you used to struggle with that now seems easy.

5. ...Follow a riding/training blog. Most of us don't get to spend as much time in the saddle as we'd like, but you can continue to learn when out of the saddle by reading and watching videos online. Here are a few good blogs (other than this one, of course, lol):
  • horsecollaborative.com
  • horselistening.com
  • Denny Emerson at Tamarack Hill Farm on Facebook
When you come across a new idea or training tip, make a note in your riding journal and share it with your trainer.

6. ...Read a training book or series of books.  Some good examples are:
  • Hunter Seat Equitation by George Morris
  • Centered Riding by Sally Swift
  • How Good Riders Get Good by Denny Emerson
  • The United States Pony Club Manuals by Susan E. Harris
You can get more information on these books from my December 9, 2014 blog, "Five Books IEA Riders Should be Reading"

Just like with the blog posts, keep notes in your journal of the things you learn and share them with your trainer.

7.  ...Attend a clinic with an upper level professional. If you're able to ride in the clinic, that's great, but if you can't ride, go anyway and audit or volunteer to work. Watching can sometimes be better than riding because you can focus on the instructor and all of the riders rather than worrying solely about yourself and your horse. Also, if you volunteer to go as someone's groom, you may be able to audit for free. And while you're there, offer to be jump crew, that way you can get inside the arena near the instructor.

8. ...Watch an upper level professional class at a rated show, such as a hunter derby or grand prix jumper class. Watch the class as if you were the judge and critique the riders. See what they are doing that helps them get the results they want. You may be surprised at how much you can learn by watching top level riders competing on top level horses.

9. ...Watch some top professionals ride in green horse classes at a rated show, such as baby green or pre-green hunters or training level jumpers. As I said previously, you can learn a lot by watching top level riders on top level horses, but you can learn a TON by watching top level riders on green horses. Try to see what they do to help their green horses get around the course successfully. How are they explaining the course to the horse as they go around? How are they building their mount's confidence? Watch the riders create a positive experience for their young green horses to build a solid foundation for more advanced work later on.

10. ...Stay positive. No matter what your riding goals, it is most important to stay positive and believe in yourself. Don't underestimate the power of positive thinking and don't let minor set-backs get you down. If you believe you can do something and work hard, you can achieve it.

Whatever your riding goals for 2015, best of luck and happy riding!

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

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Guest Blogger Jadie Jones: The IEA Helps Coaches' Dreams Come True Too

From Amanda:  For those of you who may not know, I had surgery last Tuesday and have been spending the last week recuperating.  My very dear friend and fellow author/blogger Jadie Jones graciously agreed to take the helm of my blog this week.  So,without further adieu:

From Guest Blogger Jadie Jones:  The IEA Helps Coaches' Dreams Come True Too

I became involved in the IEA by accident. I was driving a new way home and saw a sign for a boarding facility. I called them to see if they had anything to lease. They asked about my background and riding experience. Instead of offering me a lease on a horse, they offered me a job. I started teaching there as an IEA coach three days later.

At home, I was mom to a one year old girl by day and an aspiring writer by night. I kept the writing aspect of my life mostly to myself. When people find out someone writes, the first question they often ask is what you’ve published, and I hadn’t published anything yet. Two months after I started coaching, the email landed in my inbox: a publishing house wanted my book. I taught in the afternoons and then toiled at my laptop into pre-dawn hours, racing through a series of editing deadlines while trying to juggle the rest of my life. The day we hosted our IEA show, I received the next big email, which revealed the cover for my book, the title: Moonlit, and a release date: April 14th, 2013.

My managing editor told me to find horse-industry professionals willing to read and review pre-release copies of Moonlit. Since I chose to use a pen name, I would need to contact them in person to eliminate confusion. I was intimidated to say the least. I reached out to Amanda Garner, who had stewarded several of the shows I’d been to that year. She seemed friendly, and I figured if she turned me down, she’d probably smile while she did it. I walked up to her at a horse show, my shaking hands stuffed inside my pockets, and introduced myself. Then I asked her if she liked to read. She lit up at the question, and we had a ten-minute conversation about our favorite books. At a pause in the conversation, I took a breath and a chance, and told her about Moonlit. She immediately agreed to review it, and she had a surprise for me: she liked to write, too. Amanda then pointed me in the direction of another IEA coach, Simon Towns, an avid reader and encourager of the arts, and the snowball of support began its roll. Roxanne Lawrence, founder and director of the IEA, invited me to come to the IEA hunt-seat championship in New York, which I agreed to as fast as I could. 

I saw the trip to New York as a finish line – some kind of culmination, when in actuality, it was a launch pad. Within three days, forty copies of Moonlit were given away as prizes, and I was interviewed for IEA’s Take the Reins magazine, which served to spread my first book all over the country. Robin Alden, youth manager of the AQHA, bought a copy of Moonlit and invited me to appear in the college showcase at the AQHYA “Built Ford Tough” world championships in Oklahoma City that August. Before I left for home, I purchased my plane ticket to Oklahoma. I also sold out of Moonlit. 

The best aspect about being involved in the IEA is this: you are surrounded by doers, movers, shakers, entrepreneurs, hard-working, I-dare-you-to-tell-me-no type people who change the minds of twelve-hundred pound animals on a daily basis. Equestrians are tough, stubborn, fierce, patient, compassionate, decisive, persistent, and supportive. We learn how to decide when it’s time to use muscle versus when it’s best to finesse. We cultivate a sense of humor for landing in the dirt instead of on the other side of the jump. And we dust ourselves off and keep going. These skills and this network help create habits and traits that serve its members well no matter what you decide to do with your life, no matter what dream tugs you into each new day.

About Jadie Jones
Georgia native Jadie Jones first began working for a horse farm at twelve years old, her love of horses matched only by her love of books. She went on to acquire a B.A. in equine business management, and worked for competitive horse farms along the east coast. The need to write followed wherever she went.

She lives with her family in the foothills of north Georgia. When she's not working on the next installment of the Moonlit series, she is either in the saddle or exploring the great outdoors with her daughters.

Jones is the author of the Moolit trilogy.  Books one and two, Moonlit and Windswept are currently available.  Book three, Wildwood, is set for release in 2015.


Enjoy Jadie Jones' post?  You can find more of her work on her website www.JadieJones.comlike her facebook page www.facebook.com/jadiejones1or follow her blog www.jadiejones.blogspot.com

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Five Books IEA Riders Should be Reading

No matter how much time you're able to spend in the saddle, there is always more to learn. All equestrians can benefit from supplementing their lesson instruction with books written by successful riders and trainers.

So, just in time for the holidays, here is my list of five books IEA riders should be reading.

1.  Hunter Seat Equitation by George H. Morris

Could any equestrian book collection not include this definitive volume by the master horseman himself? In this timeless classic, Mr. Morris describes rider position and aides on the flat and over fences, lateral and longitudinal flexion in the horse, proper horse and rider turnout, and the fundamentals of horse showing, all with the frankness and attention to detail that you would expect. A must-read for every aspiring equestrian.

Once you've read the book, I encourage you to sign up for one of his clinics. I guarantee you will come away from the experience a stronger, and more humble, equestrian.

2.  Centered Riding by Sally Swift

Ms. Swift's book teaches riders how to work in harmony with their horses using yoga-like techniques such as breathing, balance, and body awareness. It is also full of illustrations and metaphors that can help visual learners grasp abstract concepts. Have you ever thought of yourself as an ice cream cone slowly melting down around your horse, or of your horse as a train travelling down a track? I personally use many of her methods in my own teaching and feel that her system of working through "feel" rather than simply through "mechanics" helps create happy horses and riders.

3.  How Good Riders Get Good by Denny Emerson

The purpose of Mr. Emerson's book isn't to teach you how to ride.  You won't find anything in there about "inside leg to outside rein" or "finding the perfect rhythm to a fence." Instead, it's a sports psychology book designed to help young riders develop their own path towards success based on their own personal circumstances.

Have you ever heard someone say, "I can't be an upper level rider because I can't afford a good-enough horse?" Emerson dismisses that kind of negative thinking with chapter titles such as, Wannabes versus Gonnabes, Dealing with the Cards you Hold, and Nine Character Traits for a Successful Rider. Throughout the book he also profiles dozens of famous riders, many of whom made it to the top though years of hard work, dedication, and sacrifice despite being born into families of modest means. This is a great book for aspiring professionals who want to learn the non-horse related skills necessary to make it in this business.

I also encourage IEA riders to visit Mr. Emerson's facebook page, Tamarack Hill Farm, where he regularly shares knowledge he has gained through his 60+ years of experience. I learn something from every post he makes.

4.  The United States Pony Club Manuals of Horsemanship by Susan E. Harris

I cheated a little bit here, because this is actually a set of three books:

Have you ever followed the IEA facebook trivia contests and wondered where many of those questions come from? In addition to being required reading for students involved in United States Pony Club (USPC), these manuals are also the basis for many written horsemanship tests, such as the horsemanship test offered each year at IEA National Finals.

The first volume covers the basics of riding, nutrition, grooming, hoof care, tack, and horse conformation.

The second volume builds on the information presented in the first. Topics include riding on the flat and over fences, horse care and management, conditioning, health care, wrapping and bandaging, and ground work.

The third and final volume is intended for those pony clubbers who wish to ride at an advanced level, manage a farm, and train young horses and/or teach riding as an equine professional.

5.  A Parent's Guide to the Interscholastic Equestrian Association by Amanda Garner

Shameless plug...In no way am I suggesting that I can hold a candle to the great horsemen/women listed above, but I do believe every IEA rider can benefit from learning more about the rules, regulations, and general structure of the IEA, as described in my book.

In Conclusion
So this is my list, I'd love to hear from my blog readers, what's on your horsey reading list?  Click back over to my facebook page and leave a comment.

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

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

My Horse was Drug Tested at an IHSA Show

One of my team horses was drug tested at an IHSA show last month.

It was the first day of a two-day show hosted by Berry College in Rome, Georgia. My team, the University of North Georgia, brought three horses.

One of our horses, Casino, a big paint/draft cross, won the Intermediate Equitation on the Flat class. As he exited the arena one of my college students took control of him and was leading him back to the holding area when she was intercepted by Berry College's barn manager and official school veterinarian.

The manager and vet asked my student to lead Casino back to the barn area. When they arrived, the vet pulled a blood sample while the manager took down some information on the horse: name, age, breed, owner, and contact information.

Once the testing was complete, the vet and manager allowed my student to bring Casino back up to the holding area and he resumed showing.

I haven't got any official test results back from IHSA yet, but I have no reason to think he didn't pass.

I knew that the IHSA had a drug rule, but I personally had never seen or heard of any horse being tested. For today's blog I discuss the IHSA's drug rules, consequences, and testing procedure.

Before I begin, I'd like to thank IHSA National Steward Sally Batton for providing much information for this blog.

Also, please note that the indented sections of text in BOLD below are passages straight from the IHSA rule book.

1. Which types of drugs are illegal in IHSA competition?
Care and control of horses including any drugs or medications administered shall be the sole prerogative of the horse provider or their designated representative. Administration of drugs and medications shall be limited to therapeutic use only, and used for the well-being of the horse.  The administration of central nervous system drugs is prohibited in IHSA competition.  
As you can see from the rule book passage above, not all drugs are illegal in IHSA competition. The IHSA does not restrict the use of NSAIDs such as phenylbutazone (bute) or any other drugs used purely for therapeutic purposes.

Drugs that are illegal in IHSA competition are those that work on the central nervous system (CNS) to "calm the horse down."  A well-known example of a CNS drug is Acepromazine (Ace).

2. How does the IHSA determine when/where horses will be tested?
At the June meeting, the National Steward will randomly select one IHSA competition in each Zone to be tested for CNS drugs. This would require no more than one horse/random selection to be tested. The IHSA would hire the veterinarian, chosen by the show manager, and would receive the results and hand down the appropriate penalties for violations.
Below is an excerpt from an email sent to the IHSA regional presidents from IHSA National Steward Sally Batton:
For 2014, the following regions will perform a CNS drug test at the 5th show of their 2014-2015 show season (list of regions omitted for privacy purposes). The 5th show can be either Hunter Seat or Western, whichever show falls on the 5th show date of the semester. 
The veterinarian will select one horse to drug test from among the horses entered in the show. Once the veterinarian arrives on the show grounds, they will drug test the first place horse in the class that is in session when they arrive.
Our region was one of those selected.  Our region's fifth show was the first day of the Berry College show. The first place horse in the class that was in session when the veterinarian arrived was our horse, Casino, which is why he was chosen for testing.

3.  What happens if you get caught?
All offenses are charged to the individual dispensing said medication by the National Standards and Ethics Committee (NSEC). Should the said individual be found guilty through positive confirmation of CNS drugs, all fees/charges for the testing will be assigned to the guilty party. 
First offense:  Written warning
Second offense:  One month suspension from all IHSA activities
Third offense:  Six month suspension from the IHSA
Fourth offense:  One year suspension from the IHSA   

4. Has anyone ever been caught out of compliance with the rule?

This rule was approved by the IHSA Board of Directors in 2010 and has been in the IHSA rule book ever since. All tests have been returned negative since the IHSA started testing in Fall 2010.

5.  In conclusion:

Personally, I was happy to see that the rule is being enforced on a regular basis and that everyone who has been tested since the rule went into effect in 2010 has passed.

I agree with IHSA that the use of CNS drugs should be illegal for the safety of the human and equine athletes.

I also agree that therapeutic drugs (like bute and banamine) are often necessary for the comfort and well-being of our IHSA horses, many of whom are older (and wiser) schoolmaster types, who still have a lot of wisdom to share with our riders, but just need a little help to keep them comfortable.

I'm curious to hear what my readers have to say on the subject. Please take a moment to click back over to facebook and leave a comment.

***Please also note that this discussion relates the the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA), not the Interscholastic Equestrian Association (IEA).***

For those who may be interested in the IEA's drug policy, below is an excerpt from the IEA rulebook:
4512 Cruelty - Soundness / Ride-ability / NSAIDS
Equestrian sport is made possible by the animals that serve the rider. This is a sport of grace and elegance where the rider and animal work as a team. There is neither grace nor elegance in an abusive spectacle. IEA is concerned about animal welfare and encourages good horsemanship. IEA does not condone the use of medications that affect the central nervous system. Cruel or abusive behavior of any type toward the horses will not be tolerated. It is the responsibility, therefore, of all parties concerned to be aware of the conduct of participants and the condition of the horses; and, if a violation is observed, a report must be made immediately to the stewards.

UNG Horse, Casino, who was drug tested

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