A Quick Conversation: Laura Graves

Each month, the BarnManager team is sitting down with accomplished riders from across equestrian disciplines to learn more about how they got their start, their typical days, their biggest advice, and more! We’re asking the same five questions and sharing their answers with you!

Dressage rider Laura Graves is fresh off an incredible individual silver medal win at the 2018 FEI World Equestrian Games™ in Tryon (which she adds to her 2016 Rio Olympic team bronze medal), and we had the privilege of catching up with her before WEG at the BarnManager-sponsored “Dressage for Jumping” clinic! (Read more about that here.) She took the time to talk to us about everything from her 4-H beginnings to the hardest part of making your career out of riding.

Q: What was the first horse or pony that got you started?
There were actually two of them. My parents ended up trading our old, used washer and dryer for these two ponies. One of them was jet black, really handsome, and some sort of cob mix. His name was Rafter. Then we had a little Appaloosa whose name was Spanky.

It started out with just those two, but then you know, you have a barn, and you have property – I don’t think my dad really understood that then my mom would just start collecting horses! Anything free or if it didn’t have a home or if it had some sort of tough situation needing rehabbing – there were a lot of horses that had mental issues. They were either really nervous or they wouldn’t get on trailers or for some reason or another people didn’t want them. So, we ended up with all of these free horses.

I have two sisters, and we were all members of our local 4-H club and my mom ended up being one of the leaders. I just wanted to be a part of the presenting of the horses. I didn’t even want to ride. I just liked to groom them and present them. They judge you on how clean your tack is and your own turnout. Then it wasn’t until years and years later that I decided that I really wanted to ride.

The other 4-H leader would give me some lessons. It didn’t really turn into dressage until that 4-H leader said, “You know, if she really wants to ride, she needs to get some real lessons,” and sent us on to a woman who also taught lower level eventing but focused mostly on dressage.

Q: You’ve had a lot of incredible success, but what’s your favorite riding moment or memory?
I have probably two stand-out moments. One was the [FEI World Cup Dressage Final] in Omaha. We had tweaked my final centerline for my freestyle a little bit. I remember the crowd cheering so loud that I couldn’t even hear when my music was supposed to stop. That was pretty amazing.

But probably the biggest stand-out moment for me was in Rio. I had just finished my Grand Prix Special, and we were discussing how not many people came to watch the dressage. With jumping at the end you know how many rails you had down; you know how fast you went. You can look up at the clock. But in dressage, you don’t know for a minute. You kind of count on, “Well that felt pretty good,” and then if the crowd is loud, you go, “Okay, that must have been really good.”

In Rio, I was thinking, “We just delivered the ride of our lives!” and it was like crickets. I heard maybe four people clapping. I was so confused. But I said, “Good boy. I think you were pretty good.’”And then when we turned around to leave the stadium, my three teammates came rushing down because they could see the score, and they knew that we had just won the bronze medal! That moment was amazing.

Q: What’s your number one goal right now?
The World Equestrian Games.

Q: On a typical day at home, what’s your schedule?
I’m not a morning person. If I don’t have any wrenches thrown in, which is unusual, I get up around 7 a.m. I try to get the dogs out of bed – that’s usually the hardest part of my morning. They like to sleep in also.

I’m always at the barn and on a horse by 8 a.m. Then I schedule my day so that the girls and I are getting barn chores done and horses turned out, and we just go through the riding schedule. Maybe I ride five or six in the morning, and then after lunch, it’s just teaching. I have three clients that have horses in the barn or trailer in. Then the horses are all done by 4 p.m. The barn is totally closed up, tucked in, lights off by 5 p.m.

I just think the quiet time is so important for them. And if I can keep the part of their day where they’re being bothered shorter, I think all together they’re much happier. It’s something that I’m pretty strict about.

Q: What’s one piece of advice you would give to young, up-and-coming riders?
We fall in love with this sport for the horses, but when you decide to turn into a serious career, you have to be really prepared to fail. I say nobody else cares that you take down a rail. Nobody else cares that you missed a flying change. And that sounds a little bit mean, but it really can be very isolating.

Even the people around you, your parents or your spouse, they’ll say, “Oh I’m so sorry that you missed the flying change.” But nobody gets it the way that you do, and you have to be prepared to deal with that totally by yourself. I think that’s the hardest part of what we do.

BarnManager is designed to be a part of your team, with the compatibility and credentials necessary to improve communication, simplify the management of horses, and get you out of the office, off the phone calls, and into the barn with the horses you care about! Sign up to start your free trial and to find out more here!

501(c)(3) Feature: The Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind

Through our ‘Free for 501(c)3’ program, our team at BarnManager has had the opportunity to learn more about incredible equestrian non-profit organizations from across the country. Each month, we’ll be featuring one such organization here on our blog!

In the mid-1980s, one Alabama girl, Marianna Greene Henry, begged her parents to start a therapeutic riding program on their farm near the Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind (AIDB) in Talladega, AL.

Henry had been volunteering with a therapeutic riding program in Birmingham, AL, and she was amazed at the positive impact that the horses had on the children with disabilities. Knowing that just down the road from her family’s farm, the AIDB was helping so many similar children, Henry thought it would be the perfect fit and could make an incredible difference for those children. 

Sadly, in 1989, Henry was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy – a heart disease that only a heart transplant could cure – and she died that March as surgeons tried to implant an artificial heart and before her therapeutic riding program dream could come to fruition.

Soon after their daughter’s death, Pat and Marilyn Greene founded the Marianna Greene Henry Special Equestrians program (MGH) as part of The Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind in memory of their daughter.

“We just looked at each other,” recalls Marilyn Greene, “and said, ‘She really wanted this.’”

The Greenes started modestly with a few horses and a ring in their side yard. However, within months the program had blossomed into something greater than they ever imagined.

Today, the program at their farm is housed inside a 39,000-square foot arena and serves 350 to 400 children per year, making it the largest program in the country serving deaf, blind, and multi-disabled riders.

MGH’s mission is to maximize the potential and well-being for the students by providing equine-facilitated activities in the areas of therapy, sport, and recreation to enhance physical and mental skills, aid in mobilization, and promote socialization and communication. To fulfill that mission, MGH offers therapeutic riding, hippotherapy (physical, occupational, or speech therapy treatment strategy that utilizes equine movement), equine-facilitated mental health, equine-facilitated psychotherapy, equine-facilitated learning, and a work experience program.

In the last fiscal year alone, MGH provided more than 3,000 rides to students at AIDB.

With so many rides and generally around a dozen horses in the barn, MGH now utilizes BarnManager to stay organized.

“It’s an awesome program,” said MGH barn manager, Callie Smelley. “It makes filing paperwork quick and easy. It allows you to have all your information in one place, and it’s easily accessible by all MGH employees. Personal profiles for each horse allow you to pinpoint what each horse requires, and we can also share with veterinarians and farriers to keep up with equine maintenance.”

Keeping the horses well cared-for allows for the magic that exists between a horse and rider with sensory or physical disabilities that transcends all language and physical barriers – something that is so evident at MGH.

Presently, Marianna Greene’s younger brother, Tim Greene, serves as the program administrator and Pat Greene sits as the president of the MGH Foundation. Marilyn and Pat Greene continue to volunteer at MGH every Tuesday, where they’ve seen first-hand the miraculous transformation of many of the students and the joy and self-esteem that the riders gain.

“It wasn’t until I started working with these children that I saw what Marianna saw,” said Marilyn Greene. “It saved our lives.”

Click here to learn more about MGH and to find out how you can help make a difference!

To signup for a Free Trial of BarnManager click here, and to learn more about out Free for 501(c)(3) program click here!

Liv’s Tip of the Month – Signs of Dehydration

Liv’s Tip of the Month

Dehydration is more than just your horse being extra thirsty – it can become a veterinary emergency.

Pulling a bit of his skin on the neck to see how fast it snaps back is not a reliable way to measure hydration. Older horses have less elastic skin!

You need to look at your horse’s gums. Pale, white, red, or blue gums are a sign of severe danger. The gums must also be slippery and slick, not dry or sticky.

In the warmer summer months, use electrolytes a few hours before you exercise your horse. This helps retain water.

Keep plenty of fresh water available and make sure your horse gets at least a tablespoon of salt per 500 lbs of body weight every day – no matter the season.

BarnManager can help track supplies, medical records, and watering reminders –  to sign up for a free trial click here!

 Liv Gude, a former International Dressage Groom for years, founded proequinegrooms.com as a way to unite Grooms in the horse industry. The educational website also serves to entertain and inform horse owners across all disciplines about horse care, grooming, and health. Click here to check it out!

501(c)(3) Feature: Great Oak Aiken Therapeutic Riding Center

Through our ‘Free for 501(c)3’ program, our team at BarnManager has had the opportunity to learn more about incredible equestrian non-profit organizations from across the country. Each month, we’ll be featuring one such organization here on our blog!

Aiken, South Carolina is one of the foremost equestrian communities in the Southeast. However, in Aiken County and the surrounding areas, the number of individuals living with significant life challenges and disabilities is also higher than the national average.

Given these two factors, it seems only fitting that Aiken would be home to one of the leading therapeutic riding centers in the region, the Great Oak Aiken Therapeutic Riding Center, designed to promote certified therapeutic riding for children and adults with physical, emotional, and psychological challenges.

Formerly known as STAR Riding, Great Oak Aiken Therapeutic Riding Center began expanding two years ago when the board courageously purchased a 20-acre farm and began a $1.5 million campaign to construct a state-of-the-art, fully handicapped-accessible facility to provide therapeutic riding.

“It brings an incredible amount of joy to the board and instructors to have this available in such an equestrian community like Aiken,” said the program and volunteer coordinator, Nicole Pioli.

According to Pioli, the number of individuals in the area with life challenges is significant due to lower per-capita income, less available healthcare, and the presence of two military installations in the region. It’s the mission of Great Oak to provide equine- assisted activities that promote improved physical, emotional, and psychological health for anyone affected by these challenges.

Pioli came across a BarnManager advertisement on Facebook and immediately recognized how beneficial the software could be in helping the organization fulfill its mission.

“As an organization, we are supported by many volunteers, and it is critical for us to be in communication at all times about our horses’ needs and routines,” said Pioli. “We’re a non-profit, so it is critical that we are making sure we are managing our funds. I use the whiteboard in the BarnManager app to document every feed and hay delivery in order to show that we are being efficient in our feed practices. The calendar feature is great because it allows our instructors to communicate about which horses have been exercised and to document what areas our horses need improvement in. They have a very important job, and we are working with very fragile individuals, so we need to ensure that everyone is kept in the loop about changes in their routine.

“Working in a non-profit means that we wear a lot of hats and knowing that all of our horse documents are in one place helps,” concluded Pioli.

Great Oak Aiken Therapeutic Riding Center strives to make services available to all participants for whom registration is accepted but cannot afford full tuition. Great Oak fulfills this mission through the generosity of supporters, and it’s through that generosity that Great Oak can provide access to transformation healing by developing a community of acceptance and empowerment through therapeutic riding. To learn more about Great Oak Aiken Therapeutic Riding Center, visit www.greatoakatrc.org/programs.

To signup for a Free Trial of BarnManager click here, and to learn more about out Free for 501(c)(3) program click here!

Four Things We Learned from Laura Graves’ “Dressage for Jumping” Clinic

At BarnManager, we place a strong emphasis on the importance of ongoing education in order to become better riders and horsemen and women, and when it comes to furthering your dressage education, what’s better than learning from Laura Graves!?

The U.S. Olympic dressage team bronze medalist and 2018 FEI World Cup™ Dressage Final runner-up represents so much of what we at BarnManager believe in and stand for – she’s truly connected with her horses and is so passionate about their care and their well-being. So, it was an absolute privilege to sponsor a “Dressage for Jumping” clinic with Graves on Tuesday, August 14, at the Ohana Equestrian Preserve in Virginia!

The riders of Kama Godek LLC, were awarded the clinic as the winners of the Washington International Horse Show (WIHS) Barn Night video contest, sponsored by BarnManager, and it was open to auditors to attend at no cost. For those not able to be in Virginia on Tuesday, it was also available to watch (and to re-watch here!) on USEF Network. We were in attendance and loved meeting so many great people and learning so much from Graves!

Here are just four of the takeaways that we came home with:

1) Dressage riders and jumpers – we’re not that different. – The “Dressage for Jumping” clinic was the first time that Graves had taught exclusively jumpers, but she herself said, “Whether you’re jumpers, or eventers, or dressage people – everyone struggles with all of the same things.”
What are some of the struggles that we all face? Most notably, according to Graves, getting horses in front of the leg and straight – two of the fundamental flatwork concepts that were emphasized throughout the clinic.

2) You should only work as hard as you want to. – Okay, this doesn’t mean that you should quit your day job and just go watch Netflix because you don’t like working. Instead, what Graves reiterated throughout the clinic was creating a level of responsiveness from your horse that allows you to not exert more effort in the saddle than what you want to be exerting.

As she explained, “If you’re using all of your energy to get a mediocre performance, your odds of getting a better performance are slim to none. You have to get more by doing less.”

Graves started each rider’s one-on-one session by asking, once they had moved into a trot, how hard they were working on a scale of one to 10. Graves joked that she is “lazy” and likes to only work at a one or a two when the horse is trotting.

“The first thing I ask when I get on a horse is, ‘Can I ride 10 of these in a day?’ ” said Graves. “If I can’t ride 10 in a day with breaking very little of a sweat, then for me it’s too much work.”

So, how do you make it so that you’re doing less? You have to make the horse care about what you’re doing and respond to it. If the horse isn’t moving forward in front of the rider’s leg for instance, rather than continually kicking and squeezing and working at an eight or nine on the one to 10 scale, you have to deliver something more.

“If he doesn’t care, you have to say, ‘How far do to I have to take my leg, hand or whip to make him care?’ ” explained Graves. “He has to mind your leg more than he would want. You have to find a place where you can surprise them enough that you make your point.”
By doing this, Graves hopes to create the situation where “if your leg is away, the pressure of the air of your leg coming toward his side should be enough to speed

him up again.” This responsiveness allows the rider to only work as much as they want to be working, ideally at a one or a two.

3) It’s okay to make mistakes. You shouldn’t work just to cover them up. – “The main thing that I find holds people back is that we’re afraid of mistakes. Nobody’s more afraid of mistakes than dressage people,” said Graves. That may be true, but as Graves also shared on Tuesday, “horses making mistakes does not mean we’re bad riders,” and it’s extremely important to embrace mistakes rather than working to cover them up.

As an example, Graves had the very first rider of the day, 14-year-old beginning rider Piper Tyrrell, allow her horse to break from the trot down to the walk when Tyrrell took her leg off. Breaking to the walk was a mistake; Tyrrell wanted the horse to keep trotting even with less leg encouraging her forward. However, until Tyrrell let the mistake happen and was able to then correct it, the horse likely would not have been cognizant of the error.

“If you don’t let the mistake happen, he doesn’t even know if he’s doing the right thing or the wrong thing because your leg is always on,” said Graves.

4) Laura Graves is awesome. We had a good hunch about this one going into Tuesday, but our conversations and the clinic with Graves only confirmed it! We loved her message:

“My number one goal is to make sure that the rider understands something that will hopefully change the way that they ride for the rest of their life. I really try to make sure that I deliver a clear message to every person so they say, ‘I really learned something today.’ ”

From her attitude toward teaching and her desire to truly instill her knowledge in the participating riders to her true passion and love for her horses and the sport, Laura Graves created fans for life in the BarnManager team!

We sat down with Graves to talk about her beginnings in dressage, her typical day at home, and managing the mental aspect of the sport, and we can’t wait to share more!

BarnManager is designed to be a part of your team, with the compatibility and credentials necessary to improve communication, simplify the management of horses, and get you out of the office, off the phone calls, and into the barn with the horses you care about! Sign up to start your free trial and to find out more here!

Liv’s Tip of the Month -Beat the Heat

Liv’s Tip of the Month

There’s one sure fire way to determine if your horse is having a hard time with heat and humidity -take his temperature. Before and after a ride. Also, check his gums frequently for signs of dehydration, his upper teeth should be slimy and slick. Sticky or dry gums are dangerous and are a sign to call your vet right away.

Ride in the shade if you can, during the coolest hours of the day, often in the morning. Take your time cooling your horse down, offering water right away and rinsing with water or a water/alcohol bath. Alcohol evaporates faster and helps speed us the cooling process.

Consider clipping your horse in the summer for added temperature control. (You can see Liv’s clipping tips here!)

Talk to your veterinarian if you have any questions or concerns.

BarnManager can help track temperatures, schedule ride times, and keep medical records –  to sign up for a free trial click here!

 Liv Gude, a former International Dressage Groom for years, founded proequinegrooms.com as a way to unite Grooms in the horse industry. The educational website also serves to entertain and inform horse owners across all disciplines about horse care, grooming, and health. Click here to check it out!

501(c)(3) Feature: L.E.A.R.N. Horse Rescue

Through our ‘Free for 501(c)3’ program, our team at BarnManager has had the opportunity to learn more about incredible equestrian non-profit organizations from across the country. Each month, we’ll be featuring one such organization here on our blog!

In the spring of 2009, South Carolina Animal Control executed the second largest animal seizure in the history of the state, removing 47 horses from a local farm following continued complaints to the authorities of the horses’ abuse and neglect. Recognizing the dire need for homes for these horses – many of which were in extremely poor physical condition – one South Carolina resident, Elizabeth Steed, took on the care and rescue of 33 of them.

It was from that event and out of crisis and necessity that the Livestock & Equine Awareness & Rescue Network (L.E.A.R.N.) Horse Rescue was born. Steed had spent 20 years prior to the 2009 rescue involved in private horse rescue in the Charleston, SC, area, and she had served as Charleston County’s large animal consultant for 10 years. When the state seized the 47 horses in 2009, Steed immediately recognized that there was a need for an officially designated equine rescue organization in the Lowcountry of South Carolina, and so began L.E.A.R.N. Horse Rescue.

Since its founding nine years ago, L.E.A.R.N. has successfully rescued, rehabilitated, and re-homed more than 300 previously abused horses, with a specialization in rehabilitating severely starved horses. The organization is run entirely by volunteers, with no paid staff positions. Instead, a dedicated group of approximately 25 volunteers take turns signing up for morning and afternoon feeding shifts and care. With many volunteers and so many horses to keep organized, L.E.A.R.N. volunteer coordinator Jane Higdon was looking for a way to coordinate everything and “to work smarter, not harder,” when she came across BarnManager.

“I searched online for a program like I have used when working at vet’s offices, where we could keep all of the information on our horses in one spot,” said Higdon. “[BarnManager] helps tremendously since we are often standing in the middle of a pasture when we need to update information.” Today, L.E.A.R.N. Horse Rescue utilizes BarnManager to update horses’ records from anywhere, reduce the amount of paperwork that they have to go through when needing to find information quickly, and to smoothly and easily print out a horse’s records for its new owners once the horse is adopted – one of the ultimate goals of the rescue. In addition to re-homing the rehabilitated horses, L.E.A.R.N. aims to reduce or eliminate the vast numbers of abused and neglected horses throughout South Carolina through education and awareness.

“We always say we are working hard to be unnecessary,” said Higdon. “We have rehabilitated starved horses for many years and want to do everything we can so that we don’t have to do this heartbreaking work anymore. One of the main reasons horses in South Carolina (and other states) often get to this point is that most animal control agencies don’t have a facility to hold large animals, so owners are given many warnings, but horses aren’t seized when they probably should be. “We are working with other organizations and individuals to try to improve the animal cruelty laws for equines in South Carolina,” continued Higdon. “We are also working with animal control agencies and other rescue groups, veterinarians, and people willing to foster to create a network that animal control can contact when they need to seize horses.”

To learn more about L.E.A.R.N. Horse Rescue, please visit www.learnhorserescue.org.

To signup for a Free Trial of BarnManager click here, and to learn more about out Free for 501(c)(3) program click here!

Liv’s Tip of the Month – Clipping Like a Pro

Liv’s Tip of the Month

Start with a clean horse!  Shampoo, condition, dry.  Use a sheen product or grooming oil.   

Then add wickedly sharp clipper blades.  Pick a clipper blade that leaves enough hair for your taste.  Most blades have a mm designation that tells you how many mm of hair are left with that blade.   

If you are going for a partial clip, your horse doesn’t have to be clipped in a specific pattern.  It’s much better to clip your horse’s hot spots – where he sweats.   

If you clip too early in the season, you might have to do some touch ups later.  That’s fine!  If you clip too late, the hair will have stopped growing in and any clipper marks or “oops” will be there for a while.  

Depending on your climate, you may want to do a full body clip early so you can prep your horse in the last few days of warm weather.  As winter drags on, you can do a partial clip so legs stay warm but his body gets the benefits of a clip.

BarnManager can help track who needs to be clipped and who is left –  to sign up for a free trial click here!

Liv Gude, a former International Dressage Groom for years, founded proequinegrooms.com as a way to unite Grooms in the horse industry. The educational website also serves to entertain and inform horse owners across all disciplines about horse care, grooming, and health. Click here to check it out!
Second Chance Thoroughbred - user of BarnManager for barn management software and equine management software

501(c)(3) Feature: Second Chance Thoroughbreds

Through our ‘Free for 501(c)3’ program, our team at BarnManager has had the opportunity to learn more about incredible equestrian non-profit organizations from across the country. Each month, we’ll be featuring one such organization here on our blog!

Everyone deserves a second chance, or, at Second Chance Thoroughbreds, at least every retired Thoroughbred race horse.

Collette Duddy started the registered 501(c)(3) non-profit in 2012 after she had made her first trip to the backside of the Finger Lakes Race Track in Farmington, NY, in September of 2011. There, Duddy was struck by the quality of the horses – even those who may not have been successful on the track – as well as by the lack of post-racing options in the area

Today, Second Chance Thoroughbreds’ board of directors includesDuddy and fellow lifelong horsewomen and volunteers, Karen Faillace and Robyn Hancock-Null. The organization is dedicated to providing OTTBs with a soft landing after the end of their racing careers, giving them ample down time and retraining before transitioning the horses to a new career.area for those horses. Soon after Duddy’s initial visit, six off-the-track Thoroughbreds (OTTBs) traveled to the Duddy’s farm in Spencer, NY, to be re-trained and re-homed.

One of 64 organizations nationwide accredited by the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance, Second Chance Thoroughbreds also works to educate and demonstrate to the public how versatile and trainable Thoroughbreds are by offering clinics and participating in shows, parades, and community events. The organization is also unique in offering riding lessons and a summer horsemanship program using some of the OTTBs.

“OTTBs receive a lot of training while they are on the track, both under saddle and on the ground,” said Duddy. “Most Thoroughbreds are very good at loading, tying, and standing for the farrier and vet, and they are easily transitioned into a new career.”

With many horses coming into the program or leaving to be adopted and re-homed at any given time, BarnManager has been a welcome addition to the non-profit in helping them keep track of each horse’s paperwork and schedule. BarnManager’s cloud-based software allows the staff of Second Chance Thoroughbreds to input information and seamlessly communicate about the details of each horse’s care.

BarnManager helps keep us organized,” explained Duddy. “It’s very helpful to be able to store Coggins and other health papers in one site. When a horse is adopted, it’s easy to print out all of the info to send with the new owner, including the dates of the last farrier visit, worming, and vet exams, etc.”

To learn more about Second Chance Thoroughbreds, visit www.SecondChanceThoroughbreds.org.

To signup for a Free Trial of BarnManager click here, and to learn more about out Free for 501(c)(3) program click here!