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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org