Leveling the Playing Field: The USET Foundation

In my work with BarnManager, I have the privilege of experiencing a number of opportunities that I most likely wouldn’t otherwise have. This includes sitting down with Laura Graves during the Washington International Horse Show Barn Night clinic and getting more involved with the United States Equestrian Team  Foundation. Both of which have led me to write this blog post.

The first of these great experiences has been the opportunity to begin volunteering my time with the USET Foundation. They were looking for young voices to come in and help them communicate their mission to a younger audience and to help them launch a grassroots fundraising campaign to complement their existing fundraising efforts. I am one of many who are volunteering their time and experience, and I am so grateful to work with and learn from all of the people that this opportunity has afforded me.

I, like many young professionals, am very busy and constantly juggling a million responsibilities and requests. So I don’t give my time to people or organizations that I don’t believe in. I love horses. Every time I ask myself why I am driving hours to the middle of nowhere to compete or getting up at 6 a.m. on a Saturday, I spend five minutes with my horse, and all of my doubts disappear.

You are here, so it is safe to assume that you understand this type of irrational and sometimes frustrating love that we never outgrow. Part of this love is an awe and admiration for those who compete at the highest levels of the sport. They often appear super-human, completing extraordinary efforts time after time. We become devoted fans and cheer for their successes and mourn their failures. But the story that isn’t told often enough is the role of the USET Foundation in their successes, in our successes.

So first things first, the USET Foundation is NOT the same as the U.S. Equestrian Federation. The USEF is the governing body for equestrian sports. The USET Foundation is a non-profit organization with the mission of supporting the competition, training, coaching, travel, and educational needs of America’s elite and developing International High-Performance horses and athletes in partnership with the United States Equestrian Federation.

To me, that is a long-winded way of saying that the USET Foundation levels the playing field at the highest levels of equestrian sport. And I never really understood this until sitting down with the hard-working team at the USET Foundation and talking directly to Laura Graves, one of the many athletes whose successes at the international level would not have been possible without the Foundation’s support.

A flight to the 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games (WEG) in Normandy, France, for Laura Graves’ Verdades would have cost Graves roughly $20,000 – the approximate going rate for a trans-Atlantic horse flight.

However, Graves—like I venture to say the vast majority of us—didn’t necessarily have an extra $20,000 readily available to ship Verdades overseas to compete in Europe that summer. But that didn’t stop her from competing at the 2014 WEG and bursting onto the international dressage scene in a big way after finishing fifth in the Grand Prix Special, fifth in the freestyle, and fifth with the U.S. team in Normandy.

From that point on, Graves and Verdades together have become a much-loved face for dressage in the U.S. and for the bond between a horse and a rider. They’ve been a vital part of U.S. dressage teams, including the bronze medal-winning team at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, and they will represent the U.S. again at this month’s 2018 WEG in Tryon, NC.

But what if Graves had never been able to pay to get Verdades on that flight to their first WEG – or to any of the major competitions since then for that matter? And how do she and so many other riders like those representing the USA at WEG come up with that sort of money on a regular basis?

 

The answer is the USET Foundation – the secret to leveling the playing field in team equestrian competition in the United States.  

Now don’t misunderstand me. I am not suggesting that equestrian sports, much less at the elite levels of international competition, are easily accessible to everyone regardless of their backgrounds or access to means. But if you can navigate the challenges and obstacles of getting to the top levels of the sport, shouldn’t talent, ability, and preparedness be the only determinants of your ability to represent your country?

That would not be the case without the work of the USET Foundation. However, what is not widely discussed is what that really means. It means that the USET Foundation is ultimately making it possible for the team selections to be fair and not impacted by a rider’s financial circumstances. There are many intricacies in USEF team selection that I may not understand or be privy to and many that are imperfect, but it is because of the USET Foundation that selection can be based solely on the horse and rider’s ability and fit for the team at the time.

Once a horse and rider have demonstrated the ability and qualifications to be selected for a team, they are able to be a part of that team no matter whether or not they can afford it, thanks to the USET Foundation.

“For me, that support is the only way that the dream works,” said Graves. “People tend to think maybe at this point in my career I’ve just made it and now it’s different. This is an incredibly expensive sport. When it comes to supporting the travel and the competition of these horses, it’s a whole other ball game. There are times still where I think ‘How am I going to pay that bill?’ I am someone who could not have achieved what I’ve achieved without the financial support of the USET.”

And it’s not just dressage riders like Graves or riders in the Olympic disciplines of dressage, show jumping, and eventing that the USET Foundation is supporting – it’s all eight of the high-performance equestrian disciplines that will be represented at the upcoming WEG: dressage, eventing, jumping, driving, endurance, reining, para-equestrian, and vaulting.

“It’s impossible to overstate the importance of the support from the USET Foundation in the success and growth of reining on the international stage,” said Jeff Petska, the Chef d’Equipe for the U.S. reining team at the 2018 WEG. “The opportunity it affords athletes to compete on the international level and represent their country is remarkable and has had a great impact upon each athlete’s career.”

The WEG is the only event of its caliber in which all eight of the disciplines are showcased. That means eight times the U.S. teams and eight times the expense. But thanks to the generous support of donors, the USET Foundation is making the 2018 WEG dream a reality for the approximately 50 U.S. riders traveling to compete in Tryon.

“The United States is shipping and caring for 50-plus horses and a delegation of approximately 125 [people] for the WEG,” explained Bonnie Jenkins, Executive Director of the USET Foundation. “This includes providing travel and accommodations for athletes, coaches, team leaders, grooms, veterinarians, farriers, physiotherapists (horse and human), team doctor, chefs d’equipe and a chef d’mission.

“We are incredibly fortunate to have wonderful friends and supporters of the USET Foundation that help make all this possible and ensure our athletes and teams have the financial resources necessary to achieve competitive excellence, not only in the WEG year but also in the critical years leading up to the WEG gaining international competitive experience in preparation for international championships.”

Not all of us are destined to compete on the international stage, but we all revel in the joy and sorrow, the sweat and tears, the patriotism and the passion of the athletes that represent us at the highest levels of the sport. But imagine what this sport would be like if the USET Foundation did not exist. Who would we be cheering for if we didn’t feel like we were sending our best and most able to represent us on the world’s stage? Sure, some riders would find wealthy sponsors to support them, as they do today. This is necessary, and we can thank these sponsors for many of the top partnerships that we see today and that have earned medals and accolades for the US Team for decades. However, we cannot allow team selection to be limited to only those with financial means and to the riders who can secure the support of a generous sponsor. Without the support of the USET Foundation, it wouldn’t be our team, it would be their team.

It is also important to note that many of these sponsors are tremendous supporters of the USET Foundation and responsible for some of the grants and programs that facilitate the leveling of the playing field when it comes to USEF team selection across disciplines. But the USET Foundation exists for all of us. And it is the reason we can proudly cheer for OUR team at the WEG and beyond.

That is what I see as the crowning accomplishment of the work of the USET Foundation. Not the medals, trophies, and coolers, but their commitment to supporting a team that belongs to the U.S. equestrian community as a whole. Like fans of any other team, we can love or hate, take issue with or support blindly any individual player. But we can still cheer for them with abandon knowing that they are ours, and they are the best that we have on that day. Not the wealthiest, not the most connected, the best.

That is how the USET Foundation levels the playing field, and that is why we need this organization to continue to grow and evolve in their support of the athletes we admire, and the dreams that do come true.

To learn more about the USET Foundation and how you can help level the playing field in U.S. equestrian sport and support riders in representing the United States in international competition, visit www.uset.org.

 

Equine Tech Companies Form Collaboration

Wellington, FL – Equine technology companies BarnManager, Equo, Jumpfax, and StableGuard have come together to form the first equine technology collaboration of its kind, aimed at supporting one another, better serving the equestrian industry as a whole, and ultimately creating greater inter-operability between the equine applications and software.

Watch more on the equine technology collaboration here!

 

Launched by BarnManager founder and CEO, Nicole Lakin, the innovators working together on the equine tech collaboration include Lakin, Equo’s Steven Bluman, Alicia Heiniger of Jumpfax, and Alexa Anthony of StableGuard.

With the formation of the equine tech collaboration, the four companies are able to work together to develop improved solutions for the equestrian community, while also each continuing to provide a unique service and value to the equine industry. 

 For BarnManager, that service is a cloud-based software that offers digitized record keeping for the many facets of horse care, as well as intuitive and simple business tools to make small business management easier and more accessible. For Equo, it is offering what has been described as a “mix between Uber and Expedia for horses,” taking horse transportation to the next level by connecting riders, owners, and trainers with certified drivers through the Equo mobile app.

 For competitors, Jumpfax offers a complete, dynamic calendar of events, a comprehensive horse show guide that includes programs, start lists, results, key contacts, and more, as well as a sports data center updated daily with show jumping’s statistics. And StableGuard is often compared to the “Nest home security camera for horses.” Through the StableGuard mobile app, users can watch live-stream feed of the horse in their stall, receive emergency alerts, watch event play-back, and track human interaction. Unlike other equine monitoring devices, StableGuard constantly tracks the horses’ well-being without needing additional wearable devices such as smart blankets, Bluetooth halters, etc.

 “They are all very complimentary, and they all really could be used on a daily basis by any show jumping rider,” said Jumpfax founder Alicia Heiniger.  “I’m a rider myself, so I’m a natural user of these apps, and we all really share a vision, a passion, and a wish to make our industry better and stronger.”

 Lakin added, “We’re all trying to improve and advance our own specific area of the industry, but ultimately, we’re all using technology to help horse people have peace of mind at the end of the day and to allow them to focus on why we’re all really doing this in the first place: the horses.”

 Lakin studied entrepreneurship and received her Master of Business Administration (MBA) from Babson College, and it was her experience there that sparked the idea for the equine tech collaboration.

 “At Babson, I was constantly surrounded by other entrepreneurs,” explained Lakin, whose BarnManager application is now the Official Barn Management Software of US Equestrian. “It was a really inspiring atmosphere, and we were constantly thinking of ways that we could help each other – even though we were in completely different industries. It was a really great way to integrate together and to support each other, and I find it extremely important to have community like that.”

 

Steven Bluman of Equo, Alicia Heiniger of Jumpfax, Nicole Lakin of BarnManager, and Alexa Anthony of StableGuard have partnered to form a new equine tech collaboration. 

Photo by Jump Media

In addition to forming their own community to help one another as equine technology start-up founders and better serving the equestrian industry, Anthony, Bluman, Heiniger, and Lakin hope that their collaborative effort will encourage equestrians to embrace how technology can help them navigate in their industry.

 “It’s really an exciting time,” said Anthony, CEO of Magic AI, the company behind StableGuard. “Now is a great opportunity for all of us to join together and create awareness surrounding technology in a traditional industry. I believe it will make the adoption a little bit easier if all four of us work together – we’re stronger that way.”

 Equo CEO Bluman echoed Anthony’s sentiments: “Just like in any other life aspect, when Uber came out and Airbnb came out, everybody said, ‘No way! I will never get in a car with someone that I don’t know,’ and, ‘I would never go in an apartment that I don’t even know who owns the place.’ Now, people are realizing they’re both great options. It’s the same with us. People are a little bit skeptical when it comes to using apps for whatever it is for their horses. By our companies coming together and acting as a force, people are going to begin to pay more attention to what’s happening. We’re trying to update the horse industry and really bring it into the 21st century.”

 In addition to collaborating to grow and improve together and to introduce equestrians to applications to simplify their daily responsibilities, Lakin hopes that the equine tech collaboration will ultimately lead to greater inter-operability between the applications.

 “We all are cognizant of thinking about how the applications are talking to each other, because at the end of the day, if we’re all making a million different products for people, and they have to have 17 apps on their phone, you’re not improving anything, you’re making it worse,” explained Lakin. “If we can work together and make our products work together, we’re not only better together for ourselves, we’re delivering better products for the end user.

 “When each company can focus on their own specific piece of the puzzle, but then we can all also put those pieces together, we’re really able to create something great for the consumer,” concluded Lakin. “It’s a win-win for everybody.”

Learn more about BarnManager, Equo, Jumpfax, and Stableguard by visiting each of their websites, and watch here to hear more about the equine tech collaboration.

To sign up for a free trial of BarnManager click here!

 The “Stronger Together” equine tech collaboration video was produced by the new Creative Studio by Jumpfax.

501(c)(3) Feature: Heart of Phoenix

One of the greatest parts of our work with BarnManager is getting to know and learn from incredible horsemen and women across the globe. Everyone has a unique and powerful story of what horses mean to them and why they continue to dedicate themselves to the equines in their life.

One such story comes to us from Tinia Creamer of Heart of Phoenix, an equine rescue facility in West Virginia. In 2010, Tinia and her family came across one of the most horrific examples of abuse and neglect they have ever seen. This is the day that changed everything for the Creamers.

A mare was found tied to a tree with no shelter from the sun or any inclement weather. Her hooves were overgrown and curled up to her fetlocks, and her face and ankles were covered in lacerations. Prior to being tied to a tree, she had been confined to a stall for 5 years with little to no time outside. Her skeletal frame suggested years of starvation, malnutrition, and dehydration.

This unimaginable cruelty left the mare with very little chances of survival. But Tinia and her team worked feverishly to give her the best chance to heal and recover. They fought for her with hopes of giving her a future until it became clear that letting her go was the kindest and most humane thing that they could do.

Tinia gave the mare a name, Phoenix. The phoenix in Greek mythology carries a lot of meaning. The death of a phoenix is not the end of its life. A phoenix is cyclically regenerated or reborn from the ashes of its predecessor. With a heavy heart, Tinia said goodbye to Phoenix, but their short time together would not end in vain.

Born from the loss of the mare they could not save, the Creamer’s created an equine rescue, Heart of Phoenix, that has grown into an organization comprised of volunteers, offices and board members spread across 4 states. This team works tirelessly to rescue as many horses as possible from dire circumstances. Their mission is to save, rehabilitate and place as many horses as possible in adoptive homes, and they have successfully done so for hundreds of horses.

Heart of Phoenix specializes in horses that are seized by Animal Control and who often require substantial medical care and groundwork to regain their health, well-being, and trust. Once a horse is healthy and happy, they seek to match each and every horse with the best home. The organization works to thoroughly screen all applicants for adoption and to ensure that each horse is given a fresh start with an owner who can properly care for them.

BarnManager is incredibly proud to have Heart of Phoenix as part of our Free for 501(c)(3) program. We are thrilled that we are able to offer tools to aid in their mission to provide exemplary care and management of their horses. And we look forward to supporting them for years to come.

For more information about Heart of Phoenix, visit their website: http://www.wvhorserescue.org

Preparing the Barn for Winter Weather

The time to get ready is before it gets cold! This includes getting your barn spic and span, and your horse all squared away for the cold weather. Focus your winter barn prep energy on making sure these systems are a go:

  • Electrical: Exposed wiring is a fire hazard. Have an electrician inspect your barn and fix any issues. Metal conduit is one of the best ways to protect the barn’s wiring from rodents, curious horses, and dust.
  • Plumbing: Are water lines deep and freeze proof? Add insulation to exposed lines, and invest in bucket warmers. For outside areas, consider trough warmers.
  • Ventilation:  Even though it’s cold – keep the air flowing. Use products to absorb ammonia, and keep windows open. Most horses LOVE the cold weather, so resist the urge to lock up everything to make it warmer.
  • Hay:  Is your storage area waterproof? Can your winter hay supply be lifted on pallets or tires so the damp ground doesn’t mold the hay? Do you have enough, and then some, for the winter?
  • Blankets: Time for a deep clean and re-waterproofing. Most horse blanket repair pros can do this for you to save some time. Also, double check buckles and straps.
  • Your horse’s feet: Fall is the time to talk to your Farrier about winter weather changes. Are snow pads in order? What about leather pads to protect from the hard and frozen ground?
  • Your horse’s health: Fall is also the time that rising ACTH levels in your horse’s blood can lead to laminitis. Work with your Vet and perhaps run some simple blood tests to make sure your horse’s metabolism is within normal ranges.

And last but not least, enjoy the chill in the air! Spend lots of time currying that winter coat, ride in the crisp air that gives your horse some pep to his step, and enjoy the changing seasons with your horse!

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!

A Visit to The Peeps Foundation

On a recent trip to Lexington, Kentucky, all of my childhood dreams came true when I was invited to visit The Peeps Foundation. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this organization or its namesake, Peeps, it’s time for you to become familiar.

As I pulled onto the lovely Kentucky farm, I was immediately greeted by the Foundation’s fearless and talented leader, Josh Dolan; a free roaming dwarf miniature pony named Toasty; and a miniature fainting goat. Josh kindly let me step into his world and get a better understanding of the work that he and his team are doing to find safe and loving homes for these tiny equids and to put a stop to the abuse and neglect that has befallen so many of these adorable creatures.

The Peeps Foundation started in the spring of 2014 when Alex Granato of Mad Season LLC and Josh Dolan were on their way to a hunter/jumper show in Lexington, Kentucky.

Along their drive, they spotted a dwarf miniature pony out in a field. Josh was familiar with miniatures and with dwarfism, a rare genetic condition that causes deformation, weakness in the limbs, and many more long-term health issues. Feeling curious, they pulled over and found that the entrance to the property was locked and chained. Out of concern for the little guy in the paddock, they walked down a neighboring driveway. To their shock and distress, Josh and Alex discovered a field full of miniature ponies that appeared to be malnourished and in extremely poor health. Alex hopped the fence to find an additional mini starved in the barn aisle and many others in extremely dire conditions.

While working with the authorities to try to remedy this sad situation, Josh returned daily to find their condition worsening. Determined to do something, Josh left a note on the fence for the owner, who was nowhere to be found. To his surprise, the owner called that very night and offered to sell him the minis for a good price.

The Mad Season crew completely rearranged their nearly full show barn to accommodate the 35 miniature ponies that they rescued and nurtured back to health before finding them forever homes. One of the minis that they had rescued that day was the one they first saw in the field, Peeps. Peeps was diagnosed with Rhodococcus, a very serious and often deadly disease, but after four strenuous months of antibiotics, around-the-clock care, and a custom box stall to ship from Lexington to Wellington, Peeps was back to her spirited and sassy self.

Shortly after regaining her health, Peeps became an instant celebrity. She accompanied Josh on Chick-fil-A runs and regular visits to the WEF show grounds for Saturday Night Lights.

Since their initial rescue mission, Josh and Alex founded The Peeps Foundation to continue to help minis in need. Since its inception, The Peeps Foundation has helped hundreds of minis find loving homes. Notably, many of these adorable animals have found forever homes with some familiar faces, including actress Kaley Cuoco and riders Jessica Springsteen, Jennifer Gates, and Ben Maher, just to name a few.

During my visit (and while I fell in love and wanted to take every single one of the minis home with me), Josh spoke to me about some of the challenges he has in keeping paperwork in order for all of the minis coming in and out of their farm. They constantly have to dig through hundreds of file folders to locate various health documents, adoption records, and applications. He also has to spend a lot of time documenting all of the health treatments that they administer and instructions for new families to continue to care for their adopted minis.

Josh was hopeful that BarnManager could help him to simplify all of this work so that he could focus on the animals rather than the paperwork. Each time a new rescue comes to the farm, Josh can quickly snap photos of all of their documents and create a profile for them. As the new rescues are assessed and monitored, Josh and his team can keep records and store any reports from their vet or farrier in each pony’s profile. And when it is time for a mini to move to their new home, Josh can download and print or e-mail these records to their new family. He can also store copies of all adoption applications and contracts for his records and archive the adopted ponies so that their histories are saved, but they are no longer included in his active planning.

With the help of Josh, Peeps, and the rest of The Peeps Foundation team, we realized that we have a huge opportunity and a duty to support more organizations. That is why we have decided to offer Free Subscriptions for 501(c)(3) Organizations. All equine rescues and equine therapy centers with 501(c)(3) Charity Status are eligible to receive a FREE BarnManager subscription.

BarnManager was created to support managers and horse owners in providing the best care and management of their horses. And with Free for 501(c)(3), we want to further our mission to support all of the incredible organizations that work tirelessly to give horses a second chance, to improve the lives of others, and to bring happiness and well-being to people in need.

And there are so many other great equestrian companies who feel the same way!  After sharing our idea with Steven Bluman, CEO and Co-Founder of Equo, an instant collaboration was born.

Equo, the company that is redefining horse transportation, was founded with the mission of making the entire horse industry more reachable and accessible by connecting owners, trainers, and riders with shippers all around the country. With that in mind, being able to help those in need of a better home fits right in with their mission and core values. The Equo team is honored to help The Peeps Foundation to provide transportation for minis coming to the Foundation and then moving on to their forever homes.

If you own or operate a 501(c)(3) rescue or therapy organization and would like to sign up for a Free Subscription, click here for more information and to find out if you qualify.

For more information about the Peeps Foundation or how you can get involved, check out their website and follow them on Instagram (@mylittlepeepers) and Facebook.

And for all of your horse transport needs, head over to Equo to learn more about their services.

The Plaid Horse Blog: Nicole Lakin’s Barn Management Brain Child

“When it comes to horses, there’s nothing that can replace the feeling that you have whether you’re on the horse or on the ground with them,” Lakin said. “That’s irreplaceable and technology will never change that. What technology can do is to automate business side of things, and that’s what we’re doing with BarnManager. Nobody gets into the horse industry to be an accountant! Our mission that drives all of our design and development is to enable the incredibly hard working managers, grooms, riders, trainers, and all equestrians to spend more time getting to do the things that technology cannot.”

Check out The Plaid Horse Blog for more from a great interview with our founder, Nicole Lakin!

Nicole Lakin’s Barn Management Brain Child

a rider patting a horse

The Gift of Personality

quote about dreamers

I took a class in College called Personality in Politics. The class offered a wildly engaging analysis of the way that personality effects Politicians, policies and their ultimate success or failure. Think Time Magazine meets People Magazine. Needless to say, I loved it! This past week I found myself reflecting on those days while I observed some interactions between horse and rider, rider and trainer, rider and vet and so on. In the equestrian world, we are constantly surrounded by a huge variety of personalities, and I can’t help but take notice of how differently so many people seem to be working to achieve the same things.

In my past as a working student, and now as a happy horse loving amateur and a self-proclaimed student of the sport, I find myself spending lots of time in the schooling area. I am generally on foot more than in the saddle these days, which if you are in the right place at the right time can afford you some free lessons in riding, teaching, and patience (Let’s be frank, it is a busy schooling area).

three jumping trainers in the warmup ring

McLain Ward, Max Amaya, Jeffery Welles

There is no shortage of personalities in the schooling area at any busy show. Think about it the next time you are out there. There are timid riders, over-thinkers, under-thinkers, people in la-la land, aggressive riders, passive riders, angry riders and patient riders. I am really just scratching the surface here, and that doesn’t even take into account the various members of the ground crew that accompany each four legged creature. Look around, take a second to stop and listen. You will hear calm explanations, loud screaming, laughing, crying, fighting, joking.  And to each their own. It could be anybody’s day once they step into the ring.

a rider and horse in a barn

Meagan Nusz and Dynamo: No lack of Personality for Either of these two!

The additional complication to this meshing of personalities that happens  in any human interaction is that horses have personalities too. Part of working with horses is realizing that you are not just following a run of the mill recipe for success that works every time. Each horse requires a special understanding  in order to  best provide them with what they need.

In this vein, I thoroughly enjoyed a recent interview with the Incredible Eric Lamaze following his unprecedented winning streak in the Thursday WEF Grand Prix in Wellington, Florida this circuit. When asked by Equestrian Sport Blogger Extrordinaire Noelle Floyd what sets his sponsors Artisan Farm apart from other big time supporters of the sport, Eric answered very astutely:

“They are very, very understanding of our sport. They have a great understanding of our industry–what it takes to win, how easily you can lose. How easily you can be disappointed in a horse you purchased if {they’re} not a match with the rider or if you simply make a mistake. They really understand that this is not an exact science, and it’s impossible to get it right every single time.”

rider getting coached on a horse

Eric Lamaze, Artisan Farm’s Fine Lady, Tiffany Foster; Photo © Erin Gilmore

A rider such as Eric can hop on just about anything with four legs and 9 times out of 10,  he will make it better, or allow for him/her to be their best. This is not some magic voodoo that Eric, or other riders of his caliber have discovered and chosen not to share with the rest of us. There is no magic potion, bit or lucky socks. These people, and I include Managers, Grooms, Vets and Farriers in this category, have success because they take the time to understand each horse’s distinct personality. They put in the extra effort to find out what makes each horse tick, what makes them want to go out and give their all. And they find logical ways to meet the needs of each horse, each individual, each personality.

Similarly, the best teachers find a way to explain the same concept as many ways as it may take for each student to comprehend. They adapt their own personality to support and fill in the gaps of their pupils.

barn management team KPF

Team KPF

It is a beautiful thing to see a team like Mclain Ward’s or Kent Farrington’s work with one another, support one another, appreciate one another and succeed together.

a rider patting a horse

McLain and Rothchild aka Bongo

Personality is a gift. It makes us unique. It sets us apart and and makes us special. But the true gift is being able to identify and understand a personality, and work together to make something great. Sapphire and McLain, Hickstead and Eric, Rodrigo and Baloubet du Rouet, these are personalities who found each other, and made each other whole. And what horse and rider could not do for one another, grooms, managers, vets, exercise riders and more stepped up and did what needed to be done.

With modern politics in its current state, we could use more meshing of personalities to make each other great. In horses, in politics and in life, the dominant personality will always make itself known. But the success of that personality is all in how it works with others, and finds the right teammates to fill its gaps, make it stronger, make it better.

As horse people, it is on us to do the meshing, the hole filling, the supporting. Success with horses, no matter the arena, is finding the right fit, and working with your team to make it work. Personality impacts politics as it does equines. It is our responsibility to find the right team and adapt to one another’s personalities to support our equine counterparts (as I hope, however naively, politicians do to support their constituents).

horse in a paddock

Sapphire

As they say, teamwork makes the dream work. So the lessons that I have taken away from my observations of some of the best in the sport at the Winter Equestrian Festival through ups and downs, at their best moments, at their worst, and on the days that fall somewhere in between:

1. Surround yourself with a team that makes you your best self.

2. Respect and embrace the individuality of your horse, your team, your friends, and your peers.

3. Be willing to adapt to bring out the best in one another (Horse or human).

4. Stop and look around every once in a while. There are amazing people doing amazing things. And if you’re lucky, you may just get a front row seat.

Until Next Time…quote saying life is amazing

Dina mazzola and Bluesaddles.com

Guest Blog: New saddle, New perspective with Dina Mazzola

BarnManager.com is proud to feature a Guest Blog Post by a fellow Small Equestrian Business owner, Dina Mazzola. Dina wears many hats these days. She is a professional rider and trainer at a top Hunter/Jumper Barn in Massachusetts. She is a USEF hunter and hunt seat equitation judge. She is a wife and mother. She owns and operates Bluesaddles.com with business partner Katy Baldini. And most recently, she is a REINER. Since Jenny and I have also recently discovered our love and appreciation for Reining, and with the 2014 Reining Futurity underway in Oklahoma City as we speak, we thought it would only be fitting to get to know Dina through her recent expedition into this new discipline. We hope that you enjoy Dina’s story! Be sure to check out Bluesaddles.com today to find top pre-owned saddles or to sell your own. Dina and Katy are extremely knowledgable and easy to work with.


Bluesaddles company logo

Dina Mazzola on Fantasia Rouge

Dina Mazzola and Fantasia Rouge

So I have this friend.  She rides and teaches at one of the top hunter/jumper barns in New England.  She also is super nice and models for SmartPak.  I want to hate her, but I can’t.  But the most important feature of this friend is that she has a hobby, and that hobby is reining.  As part of this reining addiction, said friend also teaches western horsemanship and reining at another local barn.

My 11 year old recently expressed a renewed interest in riding.  I love her dearly, but she is not a brave child nor is she an athletically gifted one.  So I did some thinking and came up with a brilliant plan. She can ride western with SmartPak model friend.  Fantastic.  I won’t have to teach her myself, provide a pony, or watch someone else teach her English riding at a painful beginner level.   I schedule a lesson and off we go. Smartpak model friend has my daughter walking, jogging, and loping in her first lesson on this very safe, quiet, quarterhorse. I feel like a genius. And then she asks if I want to get on.  I’m in my sneakers, skinny jeans and Mom t-shirt. Sure, why not?  It looks kinda cool.

horse in western tack

Ziggy (the Wonder Horse)

But I quickly learned just how cool it could be.  The very same ultra quiet and safe beginner horse my daughter just rode (Ziggy) has a secret.  And that secret is that he has a throw it in the dirt sliding stop and a wicked fun spin.  In one ride I had a new addiction. I had found yet another way that horses could infiltrate my life and bring me new forms of happiness and thrill.

So I’ve been taking reining lessons now with my Smartpak model friend, and now trainer, twice a week for about 3 months.  Some of my hunter/jumper trainer friends don’t really understand why I would go to another barn to ride after I’m done teaching and riding at my own barn. But it is not just me that has benefitted from this whole new learning experience. I have become a significantly better teacher and trainer as a result of my time spent learning to ride reiners. My customers are noticing the trickle down effects of my new found hobby, and they love it!

rider on a horse in western tack

Dina and Mega

I find that I demand more precision in their riding, especially in the downward transitions.  We do a LOT more reinbacks, and we do them correctly.  No sitting in the bridle while being dragged backwards. We go forward and backwards a lot at the canter and gallop, and practice working over the pace and slowing down immediately to a collected canter.  We do it on the big circles and on the quarter lines.  They can all gallop down the quarter line now, halt with no trot steps, do a perfect turn on the haunches away from the inside leg, and gallop away again.  No one is late with a lead change anymore after the jump, a minor miracle in itself, and everyone can SIT in the tack. 

I thought I could sit in the tack before my time in a Western saddle. But now I can really sit in the tack.  I’m straighter.  I’ve always struggled with my right side leading, but riding one handed with my left hand holding the reins has forced me to sit truly in the center of my horse and to be square.  I’ve opened my whole right side and stopped grabbing the left rein. I ride more forward, much more forward. My instinct now is to solve problems with leg.  And as I have improved the efficacy of my aids,  I am able to  demand more precision from my horses.

horse and rider going over a jump

Dina and Fantasia Rouge

These are all principles I’ve always taught and always strived to execute.  But now I have different exercises, different ways to apply, and different ways to explain these key principles that are the foundations of any kind of riding.  Reining has helped me to become a better rider and a better teacher.   And my clients love hearing how I was almost launched like a lawn dart while trying to execute a sliding stop with my eyes down.

My daughter, who can now canter bareback, and I are enjoying this experience to learn and grow together. When it comes to horses, the learning never stops, the lessons never get old, and the successes and achievements are perpetually rewarding!

About Dina:

Dina mazzola and Bluesaddles.com

Dina Mazzola (left) and Bluesaddles.com Partner Katy Baldini (right)

Dina Mazzola is a partner in bluesaddles.com, an online retail store that sells quality preowned saddles from fine saddlers such as Butet, Voltaire, Devoucoux, Antares, CWD, Delgrange, Tad Coffin, and more.  Bluesaddles was launched in the spring of 2014 to meet the demand from trainers and riders for high quality, affordable used saddles that are in great to almost new condition.  Dina and her partner Katy Baldini recognize that while all riders wish for the level of performance and comfort offered by high end saddles, not all riders necessarily have the budget for a new saddle. They offer fitting advice to both horse and rider and a 14 day trial for each saddle to ensure every horse and rider get the best possible saddle.

When not working at bluesaddles, Dina rides, trains and teaches out of Fair Harbour Farm in Acton, MA. She also holds her USEF judge’s license in hunters and hunt seat equitation. Dina can be reached at info@bluesaddles.com

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First Dates, First Impressions, The Joy of the Horse.

Jenny (the Director of Sales and Queen of Friendly at barnmanager.com) and I just returned from Denton, Texas where we visited with the AWESOME teams at Tom McCutcheon Reining Horses and McQuay Stables. We had an absolute blast, and have some exciting new features and programing coming your way!

Tom McCutcheon Reining Horses McQuay Stables

But more interestingly, Jenny and I had some very entertaining and somewhat enlightening conversation over dinner one night. As part of Jenny’s job at barnmanager.com, she finds herself meeting lots of new and interesting people on a daily basis. She is also the type of person who can walk up to anyone and have them laughing in a matter of seconds. She has this charismatic halo that follows her and envelops everyone in her presence. She is truly a ray of sunshine, and I am not exaggerating.

barn manager team member

Jenny is constantly reminded about the significance of first impressions. First impressions are her life. And lucky for her, she tends to leave a good one. But in our lives as both humans and equestrians, we find ourselves constantly struggling with how we hope to impress ourselves upon the universe. Obviously, everyone wants to leave a “good” impression. But what does that mean?

person in a store aisle

Our equestrian upbringing has made us who and what we are. We have learned that nothing worth getting comes without hard work, some ups and downs, and often sacrifice. While Jenny and I are wildly different people with wildly different personalities, we find that our work ethic and our overall attitude and approach towards “work” is the same. This comes in large part  from the way we were raised….and by raised, of course i must lend some credit to our parents, but mostly I mean how horses raised us. Nothing given. Respect earned day after day. Things changing in an instant. Adapting could sometimes mean scrapping months of hard work and starting anew. And the rewards were epically more gratifying.

person on a horse

If you came of age in a barn, you know what I mean. We take pride in everything that we do. In every accomplishment and in every failure we search for meaning and understanding.

We are proud of who we have become and how we arrived at this place. And yet, as Jenny discussed with me over a glass of Malbec, what does it mean for the non-horsey when we reveal ourselves as “people who ride horses?” What do our roles as “horse-girls,” equestrians or even people who work in the Equine Industry lend to their first impressions of us?

back view of a person on a horse

While on a first date with a Dealer of Rare Violins (I will never be able to understand how or where she meets these people), Jenny struggled with the choice of whether or not to tell her new acquaintance what exactly she does for a living. What will it mean to him? And how on earth can one explain that they sell Web-based software to horse farms? Jenny and I seem to have found a way to keep one foot firmly planted in the horse world while allowing the other to dangle to and fro, testing the waters and occasionally diving in thigh high. Is it more of a 3rd or 4th date kind of thing? (This is all assuming that we allow them the luxury).

I assume that for anyone with anchors in two universes this question arises sooner or later. We are who we are, for better or worse. We aim to be our best selves, and to put that out into the world for others to see. And my best self is the person that horses made me to be.

For Jenny, the answer became clear as she started describing her job, and ultimately her life to her new musical friend. She hesitated at first when he asked her what she does for a living. It is nearly impossible to qualify or quantify what we do to a non-horse person. Jenny struggles with the fact that many of her childhood friends are pursuing careers as doctors, lawyers and real estate developers and seemingly having a larger impact on the world. What she does tends to feel small and immaterial in comparison.

horse and rider going over a jump

As she described to him what barnmanger.com is,  how it came to be, and how she has helped to develop it from its weanling stages, his face grew harder and harder to read. So she kept talking and struggling to explain something that is always slightly inexplicable. When she stopped, the violin dealer reveled in her passion, which he said shone in her eyes as she spoke about horses and the role that they play in her life. He found himself floored by how much she loved what she was doing and jealous that he did not feel so strongly about his Violins. (I imagine they aren’t nearly as cuddly as a horse).

What Jenny discovered that night was that a passion for horses goes so far beyond a first impression. It reveals something much deeper. If the recipient of such information is paying close enough attention, they will feel that extra je ne sais quoi that makes Jenny who she is. They will see in the way her eyes light up that she knows some special secret that maybe one day she will share with them (if they are lucky). She may not be curing diseases or amassing a great fortune, but she is living a noble life by living with a joy that is contagious: the joy of the horse.

person on a horse