How YouTube, WIHS, BarnManager, and Stacia Klein Madden Led to Two Sisters Dream Weekend!

Visit the Sisters Horsing Around channel on YouTube, and select any of the videos.

Within 30 seconds, it’s easy to see why our BarnManager team enjoyed meeting sisters Emily, 21, and Sarah Harris, 15, in August 2018 at the Laura Graves “Dressage for Jumping” clinic, presented by BarnManager and the Washington International Horse Show (WIHS); their kind, appreciative, and enthusiastic personalities are contagious!

It’s those personalities, the sisters’ YouTube channel, and the clinics put on by BarnManager and WIHS that – eight months later – led to what Emily Harris said was the “best weekend of her life” with Stacia Klein Madden at Beacon Hill Show Stables.

Before we get to that though, let’s backtrack to the Laura Graves clinic. Emily, Sarah, and their mom, Julie Harris, made the three-and-a-half-hour trip from their hometown in Altavista, VA, to the Aldie, VA, clinic, and it’s there that they also met WIHS president Vicki Lowell.

The Sisters Horsing Around, Emily and Sarah Harris meeting Laura Graves at the 2018 Laura Graves “Dressage for Jumping” clinic, presented by BarnManager and the Washington International Horse Show (WIHS). Photo by Jump Media 

Like our BarnManager team, Lowell was extremely impressed by the girls, and, after watching some of their YouTube videos, invited them to attend WIHS in the heart of Washington, D.C. that November. (You can watch video from their WIHS trip here!)

It was at WIHS 2018 that the girls learned the clinician for the 2019 WIHS Barn Night clinic, presented by BarnManager, would be renowned trainer Stacia Klein Madden, and let’s just say, they were pretty excited! (But, you don’t have to take our word for it…watch here!)

The Harris sisters knew they didn’t want to miss it, so they again made the drive – this time about four hours to Mount Airy, MD – to audit the clinic with Madden. (Read more about that clinic in our coverage here.)

“I was so star struck and speechless!” said Emily Harris of meeting Madden, who she and Sarah had also watched in replays of the Animal Planet series “Horse Power: Road to the Maclay.” “I don’t generally get to the point that I cannot speak, but I was just so happy and overly excited and so joyful to be there that I could not speak!”

Emily Harris did find words to say to Madden before the end of the clinic, eventually speaking with her and getting her autograph before leaving, and after attending the clinic, Emily and Sarah Harris made and posted a video, in which they tagged Madden.

Emily and Sarah Harris sporting their BarnManager hats and water bottles! Photo via Sisters Horsing Around

Madden saw both that video and the previous video the Sisters Horsing Around had made sharing their enthusiasm over her being the WIHS/BarnManager clinician, and she invited the girls to bring their own horses to Beacon Hill Show Stables in Colts Neck, NJ, for a weekend!

Emily and Sarah Harris could not believe Madden’s generosity, and quickly took her up on the incredible offer, this time making their longest drive yet – seven and a half hours – to bring their horses, Stella and Dancing Shadow, to New Jersey.

“We got there Friday, and the stalls were all set,” said Emily Harris. “It was so nice of them to have the hay and water and shavings all ready for us when we got there, and they had their names on the stalls which was so nice!”

Sarah Harris added, “It was amazing! It was in such pristine condition and order. Everything had its place, and everything was taken care of down to the tiniest detail. Everything was so nice, and everyone was just super nice and friendly.”

At home, Emily and Sarah Harris are members of the Roanoke Valley Pony Club and enjoy cross-training their horses, incorporating jumping, flatwork, dressage, and even some Western riding, but at Beacon Hill, they had the chance to really zero in on their hunt seat flatwork and jumping.

On Saturday morning, Emily and Sarah Harris helped as jump crew while taking in several Beacon Hill students’ lessons before getting on their own horses for their first lesson with Madden.

“The way that she explained things was amazing,” said Emily Harris of Madden’s teaching style. “I have trouble keeping my heels down because my ankles actually are very stiff, and she was able to set right my previous thought on how to get your heels down. I always thought that when you get your heels down, your calf stretching is a result of your heels going down, but it’s actually the opposite. Your heels going down is the result of your calf stretching.”

After enjoying a dinner near the beach with Madden on Saturday night, Emily and Sarah were back in the saddle on Sunday, this time first taking a flat lesson on two Beacon Hill mounts.

Click to watch Emily and Sarah Harris’s video from the Stacia Klein Madden clinic

“Every time I think of that, I’m reliving the moment all over again,” said Emily Harris, who has been riding for about four years, as has her sister.

“They rode so nicely, and they were so well-behaved and everything,” said Sarah Harris.

Following their first lesson of the day, Emily and Sarah Harris enjoyed a trail ride with some of the Beacon Hill students before another lesson with Madden on their own horses.

“She was able to enlighten us further on previous things that we had learned and teach us even more,” said Emily Harris. “We brought back a lot of new things, a lot of new techniques and ways to better help our horses. That was amazing.”

Emily and Sarah Harris not only brought home new lessons when they left on Sunday, they brought home lasting gifts.

“WIHS had heard that we were going there, and they sent us a t-shirt and saddle pads which was really amazing! They were so nice to send us those things,” said Emily Harris.

“Then one of the students there gave us some of her older pony’s tack as a present for when we went home! That was so special,” added Sarah Harris.

“The people were just so nice,” continued Emily Harris. Down south, there’s southern hospitality where everyone is really nice to each other; being there at Beacon Hill it felt like we didn’t leave home. It was like having that southern hospitality up there. Everybody was so nice and so friendly and welcoming, and the hospitality was just great.

“That was the best weekend of my life!” concluded Emily Harris. “That was better than in our wildest dreams. I’m still in shock at how amazing that was.”

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! Click here to get a free demo and find out more!

Five Fundamentals of Equitation from Stacia Klein Madden and the Iron Bridge Hounds Pony Club

Stacia Klein Madden can typically be found ringside during major equitation classes at top horse shows across the country or at home at Beacon Hill Show Stables training some of the country’s most competitive junior and amateur hunter, jumper, and equitation riders.

Two weeks ago, however, our BarnManager team found Madden somewhere a little bit different: in Maryland amidst 11 young U.S. Pony Club riders and their adorable, fuzzy ponies and well-schooled mounts.

The riders – ranging in age from seven to 16 and in skill level from walk-trot to those competent at jumping three feet – generally focus on dressage, eventing, and beginning show jumping in their lessons, but Madden’s presence meant something different for them as well: a special clinic with a focus on the “Fundamentals of Equitation.”

The clinic was awarded to the riders as the winners of the 2018 Washington International Horse Show (WIHS) Barn Night Group Video Contest, presented by BarnManager, thanks to this winning entry!

This year marked our BarnManager team’s second year in a row partnering with WIHS to put on the clinic, and for the second year in a row, we walked away having gained valuable insight! (Read about last year’s clinic with Laura Graves here.)

With Madden, the emphasis on equitation provided the participating riders – and us! – with tips and reminders that can be beneficial to riding across disciplines – and across all skill levels.

While using the full ring properly in your hunter or equitation class or halting squarely in a straight line after a fence in your lesson may not be exercises you need to work on, it never hurts to revisit the fundamentals!

In fact Madden herself said, “The basics are the same, whether you’re teaching somebody to be on a horse for the first time, or whether you’re trying to win a national championship. It’s just levels and degrees of what you’re trying to fine-tune. Having taught these levels might inspire me to go back to some very simple things with my students at home when I teach this week!”

Here are five of our favorite fundamental reminders from the clinic with Madden:

1) Always remember that you are the pilot – not the passenger!

 Ensuring that the rider had full control of the horse was an over-arching theme of Madden’s for the clinic, no matter what level the rider was.

“Air Force One is the most technologically advanced airplane in the world, but it can’t fly itself! It still needs a pilot,” Madden said. “Think of your horse as the plane, and you as the pilot. No matter what kind of horse it is, you have to fly the plane. If they want to go off the course you planned, you have to correct it.”

2) Don’t allow repeat disobediences from your horse, but tailor your correction to the crime.

As the pilot of your horse, you should expect the horse to go where you direct them to go and do what you have asked them to do. When they don’t, it’simportant to correct them properly the first time and not continue to let the disobedience go on or even build into a greater problem.

In the IBHPC clinic, Charlie Atkinson had a good ride in her session on the pony, Emmie, but the chestnut mare had a habit of rooting the reins in a quick motion, pulling Atkinson out of the tack.

Madden showed Atkinson how to quickly set her hands to prevent the rooting as well as teaching her the proper timing for the correction. “When you feel her neck tense and her head go up a bit, get ready, because that’s what she does before she roots down,” Madden advised Atkinson. By the end of the session, Atkinson had a feel for the timing and correction, and Emmie had stopped rooting at the reins both while moving and in downward transitions.

There is a difference in the type of correction a horse may need, however.

“There’s a difference between a horse that stops and a horse that ducks out, and you correct them differently,” Madden said. “A horse that stops is one who loses momentum on the approach to the jump and stops straight right in front of the jump. A horse that ducks out is one that keeps his momentum but turns away from the jump.

“When the horse stops, you need to correct the loss of momentum, so you circle right away, and use your stick behind your leg to get the horse going forward,” continued Madden. “Ducking out is a steering problem, so to correct it you need to turn the horse the opposite way that he went past the jump, then re-approach.”

3) Utilize a three-second rule when it comes to your transitions.

Young Pony Club rider Penelope Roesler had only been riding Fleetwood Mac for a short time before the clinic after transitioning from a pony, and at the beginning of her session, Fleetwood Mac was a bit sluggish off of her leg aids.

Madden taught Roesler how to use the crop behind her leg to reinforce the leg aid and increase Fleetwood Mac’s sensitivity to the leg, and she instituted a “three-second rule” for her transitions, calling out a new gait then counting aloud to three to encourage Roesler to get a prompt transition. The improvement in Fleetwood Mac’s responsiveness was dramatic, and by the end of her session, Roesler was cantering a small course on him.

Particularly when schooling or hacking solo at home, if you have a sluggish horse, it can be easy to get lazy yourself and give your horse a little extra time to accelerate, or, on the opposite end of the spectrum, a little extra time to decelerate! It never hurts to remember to be crisp and timely in your transitions.

4) Incorporate ground rails into your routine.

Madden incorporated rails on the ground before jumping for each one of the groups. “You can get a lot done with rails on the ground. You want your horse to have a long, healthy career,” she said.

“I have multiple horses in my barn in their 20s, still sound and showing. You do that by saving their legs and not always jumping. You can keep a horse pretty fit over cavaletti, and they’re a great way to work on riders’ skills as well. Cavaletti work prepares you for jumping and gives you the skills to be ready to jump. There are a gazillion things you can do over cavaletti. Get creative with them and figure out what would help you and your horse.”

5) Be thankful for the opportunity that you have to ride in any capacity and enjoy it!

Maybe it was the way they carefully groomed their ponies, brushed out their tails, and showed their mounts how much they appreciated them, or maybe it was the way you could almost see each of them taking in and absorbing everything that Madden said and truly valuing her expertise, but watching the Iron Bridge Hounds Pony Club riders was a valuable reminder of what it looks to really be thankful for this incredible privilege that we have of riding and working with horses.

No matter what your discipline or riding level, I think we can all agree that love and appreciation of the horse is the most important fundamental of all.

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! Click here to get a free demo and find out more!

4 Lessons From the Equestrian Businesswomen Summit

On Wednesday, January 9, we attended the first ever Equestrian Businesswomen Summit in West Palm Beach, Florida. It was a day of inspiration, learning, networking, and an overall sense of excitement. If you weren’t able to make it this year, we highly recommend you penciling it in for next year. Whether you were there or not, here are a few takeaways that we wanted to share with all of you.

1) Equestrian women are insanely resilient.

Many of the amazing women who spoke at the EQBW Summit have attained a great deal of success, but that didn’t come without challenge and adversity. The honesty and openness of many of these women lent itself to genuine and authentic conversations. We heard from Tracey Noonan, founder of Wicked Good Cupcakes, about her struggles with mental health and family while managing a growing business. We learned about the ways in which women like Donna Brothers shattered glass ceilings and found success in the male dominated Thoroughbred racing world. And we were brought to tears by the story of Bea de Lavalette and how her horse helped her to find herself after nearly losing her life in the Brussels Airport bombing.

Moral of the story: equestrian women are incredibly resilient. There is nothing that we can’t handle.

2) “How you do anything is how you do everything.” 

During a panel on jobs in the equestrian industry that are not riding or training, Donna Brothers of NBC sports shared this great motto that was passed down to her from her mother, Patti Barton, and it really resonated. Impressions matter. While none of us are perfect, it is important to show the world who you are. You do this through your appearance, through your treatment of others, through your preparedness for situations that you get yourself into, and by the decisions that you make.

3) You’re not in anything alone.

Good people want to help good people. Nothing was clearer in that room on Wednesday than the excitement and compassion that women felt toward one another. There were women offering their personal contact information to anyone who wanted to continue the conversation offline. There were questions asked and genuine interest in others on display. There were coffee dates set and friendships forged.

When women come together to support each other, it becomes clear that many of us share common experiences. So when you find yourself feeling alone, look around. There is usually someone there who is happy to help or to support you in whatever big or small way that they can. With that said, none of us are mind readers. You cannot be afraid to ask for help or support or to offer it when you see someone in need.

4) Equestrian women are awesome!

There was something really special about the group of women who came together for this inaugural event. The energy in the room was fantastic from thestart of the day through to the very end. Every single speaker spoke eloquently and shared truly interesting insights and advice. I have been to a lot of summits, speakers, lectures, conventions, etc., and I have never experienced something quite like it. Sure, sometimes a truly talented and electrifying speaker can command a room and make everyone feel their passion and excitement. But we are not talking about one rock-star personality saving the day. Every single woman was fantastic.

I can only attribute this phenomenon to equestrian women. Everyone from the organizers to the speakers and the attendees shared a spirit of excitement, empathy, compassion, and curiosity. These four emotions, no doubt ingrained in us through our love of horses, culminated in an experience that was authentic. Each speaker, no matter their comfort level with public speaking, felt comfortable and safe. Each attendee felt seen and heard. It was truly an experience that I will not soon forget.

Conclusion:

This event was one that I had been excited for since I first learned about it just under a year ago. I have the pleasure of working with the Equestrian Businesswomen founder Jennifer Wood, so I am admittedly a bit biased. But I truly have nothing but pure joy and excitement for the future of this initiative. And if you don’t trust my assessment, I encourage you to do your research, check out their Digital Ticket to hear from panelists and speakers, and then sign up for next year’s event and see for yourself.

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! Click here to get a free demo and find out more!

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! Click here to get a free demo and find out more!