Archive for September, 2009
Oh dear it’s Sunday night and my Hello Weekend post has become Hello Work Week again ! @ridingcoach, Larissa , has been gone barely a week and already I’ve fallen sadly behind. To be fair I’ve had shows every weekend , my own show next week and one more after that to wind up the season here.
Larissa seems to be getting adapted and finding her way in a new life , though I see on twitter her horse Rio is having some edema problems. I hope it’s nothing serious!
I thought tonight I would post a few of the things that riders and horse owners do that make me Bug Eyed.
At home at Sunhall I work very hard on training riders , students and parents to be safe and informed horsepeople. This past few weeks , being on the road showing again , I have had my memory refreshed regarding how much nonsense and how many dangerous practices actually go on in the horse world.
In our home ring we observe ring rules , I believe they are basically universal but sadly they seem to go out the window at shows to a large degree.Pass left to left, fast horse has the track,call a circle, call passing behind, call door.
When one coach decides to hold ego driven court in the middle of the warm up ring so all of us can observe how amazing their skills are , everyone else has to give way and end up fighting for a corner to warm up in .Very bad form Ms/Mr. ultra coach!
Why is it that people think by tying everything but the kitchen sink to their horse before a class it will magically transform from a hard mouthed , defensive bully that runs off at any opportunity to a splendid , mannerly dressage horse in the ring? If these people spent as much money on good solid well informed coaching as they did on side reins, martingales,whips and sharp bits they would be much further ahead.
It annoys me no end that young riders who refuse to work up a sweat in case their hair bow might get ruffled, expect their horse to put in a stellar performance that they can text about to friends leaving their horse with tired, puzzled looking Moms and Dads who have no idea how to cool out let alone untack.
It is very frightening to see horses tied and left at trailers with no water on leads so long they can easily step on them eating out of hay nets that are nearly dragging on the ground just begging to snare a leg….while their owners head off to the snack booth and general socializing barely ever glancing back at their trailer.
I find it disgraceful that young ladies looking the absolute picture of sugar and spice on clearly expensive ponies in the very latest attire, unleash a torrent of vulgar language strong enough to make a sailor blush when scores not to their liking are posted.
Riders who dismount while leaving one foot in the stirrup have certainly never had the misfortune to be dragged Yet.
It pains me to hear the wince of a horse being tacked in a rush since their owner slept in and the girth is reefed up to the top notch in one swift gut busting wrench.
Many riders seem to think it is the colour and newness of polos that lend support rather than taking some lessons on how to wrap them properly.
I think that performing three tests in a day is plenty for any horse. Today I saw a sturdy but worn looking trooper cart four separate children through an entire division each.
At my stable if riders forget equipment at the trailer we have the horse held while the rider hikes back for it. It’s amazing to me that the most effective and hard nosed business man can be reduced to a fawning idiot and spend his whole sunday running around a show grounds fetching water, gloves etc., etc. for his little princess with nary a peep out of him. At least “riding mothers” complain:)
It’s funny how you reach a certain age and “turning on the tears” no longer commands any reaction at all.
If as coaches and parents we don’t teach children to be responsible I doubt a birthday is going to do it.Don’t misunderstand me , I love working with youth but consider a large part of that job to be imparting sportsmanship , a “see to your horse first” attitude and having any one I take out to compete be a credit to the show.
Last but not least on my list of pet peeves tonight are the desperate attempts at control of the inexperienced rider who has managed to have someone buy them a young horse under the misguided assumption that the horse will “grow” with them . I won’t even look at a green horse for a green rider.
If you see yourself here….change. If you’ve seen countless others in my examples know you’re not alone. We can’t really march around demanding people do things our way at shows but I do try to be an advocate for horses when I can. We can serve on show committees establishing safe practice rules. We can try in our own riding and behaviour to set a good example.
Wishing to end on a more positive note I will say the overwhelming majority of people I come across at horse shows are caring , educated, helpful, polite with lucky horses and participating for all the right reasons. It is my fervent hope that these wonderful people will influence the few less sophisticated over time to adopt practices more in keeping with good horsemanship:) Cheers and Happy SAFE , sportsmanlike Riding Libby Keenan
Yesterday I was competing in a Dressage show. I’ve only had this new horse a few months and so coming home with two 2nds and a 5th I was thrilled with the day and with London Fog (barn name Ace).This was only my 3rd recognized show with him and the best part for me was realizing our relationship is deepening. Trust is building in both directions and the makings of a good team are evolving.
This brings me to a less happy discussion in a roundabout way. I was cooling out in the warm up ring and a truly gorgeous , huge chestnut warmblood in a double bridle was floating around me , ridden by an attractive man (who knew it) , you know the type I’m sure. Still credit where it’s due I always say and he had been smiling on his way by so I smiled back and said “lovely horse you have there”. you would think instead of a compliment I had insulted him gravely. His nose shot up in the air and he slowly lifted his head and gazed off over the fence of the ring . I felt like I had been hit in the face with a wet dishrag. The next time he went by I looked at the ground and momentarily ceased to exist.
It turns out he was one of two riders at the show performing a Prix St Georges test. He scored mid fifties, adequate , not excellent. I keep fairly well up to date on Canadian riders of note and had never heard his name so he was certainly not in the running for the National Dressage Team or anything like that. I fully appreciate how much work and money is involved in getting one’s riding to the calibre required for higher level tests.I even understand that it could be argued a certain amount of ego is needed to generate the confidence to compete at that level. The sad thing is…it was a true compliment, an admiration of quality, a sincere apprectiation not given lightly.To trample on that as though the compliment were a piece of litter on the ground is beyond my understanding.
I reconsidered my self esteem and decided I was actually much happier on my little grey , who is honest as the day is long , trying his heart out for me , maybe a pat and a sugar lump if I were really pleased. The flash of jealousy I’d had seeing the chestnut’s suspension and elasticity melted away like a snow cone on a hot day.The snub still stung but I actually began to feel sorry for the man. He was sitting astride a horse dreams are made of and yet he was clearly not a happy person.Had he realized that even his best efforts were not going to get him to the top? Had he sacrificed horses , friends , relationships and more to get where he was?
I have high hopes for this new horse. I believe it is possible we may do fourth level or even Prix St. Georges given time , hard work and persistence . For me though I want to be sure the journey remains the joy. You will never see my horse at the Olympics. You may , at some point see him in our local paper but this much I know, if you do see us and you smile or say something nice, Ace will cock his ears and try to check your pockets and I will smile back and tell you to have a great day.
Paul Simon’s song “SlipSliding away ” comes to mind. “The nearer our destination the more it keeps slip sliding away.”Love your riding for the ride , love your horse for who they are; not how important they can make you feel.Losing your authenticity and sincerity is a much greater loss than a low score or a bad day.
Often on my way to a show , tacking up or in the warmup ring I find myself in tears. It is not nerves. They are tears of gratitude that I am able to be in a show. That I live in a prosperous country where people can own fine horses and enjoy leisure pursuits.That over the years , so many terrific coaches and mentors and friends have helped me with their sage advice and wise council . That people have cared enough to risk my anger and tell me when I’ve been out of line or shown appreciation when my work pays off.
I have many goals. One is advancing my riding to the level that man has already achieved but I now have a new goal and i think it’s even more lofty. It is to never be swallowed up by and lose my humanity in dangerous ambition. Happy Humble Riding. Libby Keenan
Wow! here we are at the weekend again. Larissa’s countdown is on , only a few days and she’s off to school in the UK. I wish her safe journey and amazing experiences which I’m hoping she will share with all of us here on TacknTalk . I’m happy for her but a little sad as well , which is funny because we’ve only met online and really, once she’s settled in our blogging adventure should carry on the same for the most part.
As for me I am always preoccupied this time of year getting the farm ready for our annual show Sunhall Harvestfest. This got me thinking I might write a few notes on getting ready for a show. Some of you may have or will hold shows in the future and even riders can have a better day if they know some of what goes on behind the scenes.
Dressage shows are different in many ways.We share with eventing the fact that riders compete individually and so times must be assigned for each test. This can get tricky if a rider is showing in two consecutive levels which is allowed or perhaps showing on a school horse shared by another rider.The times are usually roughed out and then narrowed down a few times as judges breaks and late entries get scheduled in. Finally times are assigned and we try to stick to those as closely as possible since riders plan when they will trailer in , warmup , etc. according to their test times.The times are emailed out to riders as soon as the schedule is complete, hopefully at least 2 days prior to the show so people can plan their braiding, hauling times etc.
Many details are dealt with months ahead. The securing of judges and the show date being the first priorities. I would strongly advise having a written or at the least an email contract with judges agreeing on price , hours, special needs ie:food , gas allowance or travel arrangements, accomodations, a rain date , fee to be paid in case of show cancellation for any reason etc. over the years I have learned that making these arrangements far ahead and in writing can save everyone a lot of grief ( not to mention money.)
As for the date you want to make sure it does not conflict with other local shows and/or holiday weekends when people may be away. The sooner your show date can be posted the more riders you will have make time in their schedules and other stables will much appreciate the advance notice.
Prizes need to be secured for various divisions. Sponsors are a terrific help and often your farrier , vet , boarders, feed suppliers and local tack shops are more than happy to donate the cost of a set of ribbons or various prizes. It is most important to make note of these contributions at your show in the form of banners , posted acknowledgements etc. People like to know their efforts are appreciated. It is almost impossible to put on a show without a dedicated group of volunteers.These people should be mentioned in your thankyous as well.
It is a good idea to keep a list of everyone you wish to thank . It’s amazing how many actually contribute time , prizes ,skills and jobs of all sorts.
Give the awards company plenty of notice to print your ribbons. This way if something is not to your liking or classes get added there will be time to fix the order. If you are selling food or snacks you need to plan on at least two people coming with every rider ( parents etc. ). The menu need not be elaborate but should offer some choices ie. muffins and cocoa in the morning (fall show)coffee , tea, snacks, fruit, the ever popular burgers and hot dogs and drinks(maybe three choices on soft drinks), ( heavy on the water ) which riders prefer.The mark up should allow for a small profit but if your prices are too high people will soon realize that and pack their own lunches.
Our feed company donates rider numbers from Purina for free. Also these are paper and need not be collected at the end of the show so we do not need to charge a number fee and these days people like that fact.These can be handed out with yarn for around the riders waist or with safety pins to put on the saddle pad. Bridle numbers are much more expensive and if lost or damaged the cost adds up so a refundable fee should be charged and most numbers will come back to the show secretary in good condition this way.
You will need roughly one portable toilet per/100 people. it is a good idea to get one for a little extra that has a sink or hand sanitizers.This will keep people out of your house and barn ( except boarders) and cause less disruption in the stable for the horses who are getting ready or not showing , not to mention security. You do not wish to give unknown people any good reasons to be wandering about private areas of your property.We post Boarder’s Only signs on the barn.
You should have a water source for visiting horses and if it is not a long walk from the rings, that will be appreciated.We usually have carrots and apples available as well and often give a bunch out to young starter riders for their horses/ponies.Our show is always in the fall which lends itself to great decorating possiblilities with pumpkins, straw bales,corn stalks, gourds and mums etc. keeping our Harvestfest theme. A safe and attractive show grounds makes riders want to come back as only a small part of their day is actually in the ring so the whole experience must be taken into account.
We request people keep their dogs at home as many are well behaved but one naughty or noisy dog can wreak havoc with nervous riders very quickly.
We try to have the rings set up a few days ahead to allow for lots of dragging and finishing touch mowing. Your letters should be large and visible to riders and judges. Your rings should be made of material that will not injure horses or trap a leg. Home made is fine but should be well maintained , clean and highly visible to horses and riders. Any holes on the grounds should be clearly flagged. Garbage containers set near the trailer parking will cut down on litter a great deal. Sunhall always requires jr. riders to be wearing helmets at all times when mounted.
It is paramount to have adequate liablitiy insurance. Two million dollars worth is good.With luck and sound safety practices you may never need it but if you don’t have enough coverage you could lose everything you own in an unfortunate moment.It is wise to have a clearly defined and mandatory Acceptance of Risk Waiver signed by every entrant and/or parent /guardian for juniors.
This is a general overview of our preparations for Sunhall Harvestfest. Every show will have countless small details to be taken care of. Try to do as much as possible as far ahead as you can so that on show day you can mainly fill in as a test reader , meet and greet riders, deal with complaints or questions and also enjoy the day. Every year I say “never again ” so much work is involved but every year as the leaves take on a hint of orange and the evenings begin to cool I feel the excitement stirring again . Happy Riding . by Libby Keenan
Story by Larissa Cox
Meet Debbie Flood - an inspirational artist that captures the emotion in children and the bonds they have with their animals. From award winning portraits of the equine, to limited edition landscapes of her home in Maine, to children’s books, Debbie has a full career. Enjoy reading more on this talented artist’s journey.
What has been your artistic journey, and what are your proudest accomplishments?
My artistic journey has taken a few paths, but always seems to bring me back to children and horses. I started out very young, painting and drawing the horses on our farm or any horse in general. It didn’t matter as long as I was drawing a horse. As I got older, my relationships between myself and our horses grew and I started painting and drawing them with more emotion and caring for the individual I was drawing or painting. As a teenager and onward into my twenties, though I still had a studio, my direction was a bit haphazard and I didn’t have focus (as many individuals that age experience). I worked part time in non-art related jobs, but still found venues to display my paintings of wildlife and landscapes. It wasn’t until my thirties that I realized painting horses wasn’t a child’s fantasy and that indeed there really are collectors and other artists out there who love the equine subject in art. Once that clicked into my head, I was off and running with my focus and goals. Creating equine art has led me many directions, though all directions have a common thread: the horse and children.
My proudest moment? I’ve had a few. It’s seems that each step is just as important as the last. I’m very proud of what I have become and what I have built so far with my art. A year ago my proudest moment was getting a painting accepted into the American Academy of Equine Art, The Museum of the Horse Exhibit in 2008. The most recent proud moment was winning first place in the oil painting category, with a Zebra painting, at the Waterville, Maine, downtown sidewalk art festival. I have been exhibiting my booth there for 20+ years and this was my first win in the judged competition there. I’m also proud that children in my area, themselves equine enthusiasts, look up to me for what I create and the fact that I am running a business doing what I love. That is inspiring to me, to hopefully be inspiring them that they can do anything they set their minds to. That is something to be proud of.
What is your equestrian background, and what inspired your fondness of equine illustrations?
My dad grew up with farm horses and belonged to a local stable club as a teen. He was very bonded with animals, particularly the horse. When I was about two years old, my parents bought a farm and the barn began filling up with horses. So did my room! With the toy horses, books, coloring books, stuffed toys. I used to think I was a horse! I lived in the barn and pasture. I slept, ate, and breathed horses. My grandparents had Morgan horses, my Great Aunt had Arabians, and we raised Appaloosa and Quarter Horses. My dad halter showed a couple of our horses and my parents ran a local riding club. We also belonged to the Appaloosa Horse club. You know the old saying “Paint what you love and know” – that’s what I did and still do. I remember the emotional bonds between people and their horses and that is what I enjoy portraying in my work.
It seems that you draw a lot of inspiration from turn of the century (1900′s) Maine. What about this period do you enjoy?
Our small city has changed a lot over the years, buildings gone, farms gone, new buildings replace old ones and the way of life is changing, a lot. A local Gallery in our downtown area put on an exhibit about “The way it used to be” and what we as artists remember our city and town being like. I had some ideas and went to our Historical museum for reference images. When I started going through those old photos, something sparked in me. I was actually digging into my own ancestral past here and was finding things out about my own family as well as friends of theirs and how tough it really was for them all living back then. This museum also houses expensive works of art created by a cousin of mine, Percy Sanborn. I felt that if I created works of art of the past and created Limited Edition Reproductions of those works of art, I could bring awareness to this time period and what the people went through. I could raise funds to donate to the museum to help keep it alive and bring awareness to the museum. As I got further into the series, I was on even more of a personal journey. I have a group of collectors of these works and they often ask me “What’s next?!”. It’s been a fun journey too, because I have many who can tell me more stories about my paintings. It really opens up dialogue, bringing together the generations.
You recently self-published your own book, ’Children & Their Four-Legged Friends: A Series of Watercolor Paintings & Poems’, and on your blog at www.debfloodart.com you “Paint a Child a Day”. How have children become your muse for your watercolors, and where do you see your artistry moving in this new creative avenue?
The book came about from a series I did of children with horses from local horse shows I attended with my booth. I had an exhibit of this series, but the originals sold and the series was broken up. I wanted a way to still have this series intact and viewable as a whole. So the book was born. To enhance the images, I wrote the poetry to go along with them. I find that the children I paint with the horses are really a reflection of my own childhood. I see the child who longs for a horse and can’t have one. I had close friends in school who felt that way. I know the spiritual and emotional bond with one horse or pony. My work reflects this passion. And even after we are all grown up…we still love the horse. We never lose that. That is what I enjoy creating. I taught a couple years on a Farm that offered Summer Camps and riding lessons. I was asked to join in the camp and teach an art class to the campers. The first year the Camp art was a ‘tribute to their lesson horses’ past and present. I assisted them in painting large portraits, of their favorite mount on the farm, on large panels that were attached to the stall doors of each horse. Then in the barn on a large wall, they created a tribute mural wall that contained horses that had passed on to greener pastures, foals that had been born on the farm, the different disciplines that had been learned, and all the horses who had ever come and gone on that farm. A wonderful bond was also created between me and those kids.
After some prodding from artist friends, they felt my work was suitable for children’s books, I joined the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. While I have been learning more about this industry, I thought I would start painting a child a day to hone my skills, to test myself with deadlines and beef up my portfolio to show to potential publishers. Since I started the “Painting a child a day” project, it has taken on a life of its own. So I am just going with the flow of it for now. Many new doors are opening up from this. I am meeting new artists, new collectors, and certainly more interviews from this project, which has been really wonderful! Time is a bit scrunched, but that is what I wanted to feel from this: time constraints, prioritizing and meeting goals. It’s very exciting and I’m enjoying painting these little gems as well.
Do you have any advice for aspiring artists and illustrators in finding their source of inspiration and funneling that into a career path?
Look into your heart. Don’t look at what other artists are doing and are successful at. It may not be what you would be successful at. Yes, study other artists, see how they accomplish their goals, and learn to prioritize, organize and run a business and customer relations. There is so much about being an artist, other than the painting. The marketing and socializing and networking are the biggest battles. I’ve always said that being an artist is 10% creating and 90% marketing. Find what you love to paint, what excites you, what medium you enjoy the most and hone those skills and find the right market for that subject matter. If it’s horses, then get involved with all the horse venues. If it is dogs, then go with the dog venues (though often horse and dog people overlap). If it is flowers you love, get involved with flower clubs, garden walks/visits, green houses and so on. Whatever your subject matter go to where the people are for that subject. Whatever your subject matter, enjoy what you are doing and love and know what & why you are creating and the rest usually falls into place. But be prepared to work and work hard. If you don’t have the passion for it, so bad you can taste it, it often becomes ‘work’ that you will not be happy in.
Happy Riding Everyone!