501(c)(3) Feature: The Northern Virginia Therapeutic Riding Program

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 1980, the Fairfax 4-H Therapeutic Riding Program was launched with one borrowed horse and a handful of riders.
 
 
Today, 38 years later, that program has evolved into the Northern Virginia Therapeutic Riding Program (NVTRP), with a herd of 15 horses, four full-time and eight part-time staff, and a team of up to 250 weekly volunteers that serve approximately 115 riders each week.

 
With an ever-growing team, the need for organization is paramount—that’s why NVTRP Equine & Facilities Manager Christina Duffy found herself searching online for a horse management tool. In her Googling, she came across BarnManager.
 
 
BarnManager seemed to best fit our program needs and was the most user-friendly option,” explained Duffy. “BarnManager has helped to keep all of our files in one place and helped keep track of any events or illnesses that arise with a specific horse; it is much easier to remember to type something up then write it down! It has also made information about our horses more accessible to instructors and staff.”
 
 
This streamlined organization makes it easier for NVTRP to continue to focus on fulfilling its mission of providing equine-assisted therapeutic services to children and adults with disabilities, youth-at-risk, military service personnel, and their families in an inclusive, community-based setting.
 
 
NVTRP’s number one goal is to use equestrian-based services to provide a range of physical, social, and emotional benefits, and to help riders attain the healthiest, most independent lives possible.
 
 
Today, in order to meet the growing demand for NVTRP’s services, the organization has begun construction and a capital improvement project. Part of the project includes a new, larger, lighted outdoor riding ring, an accessible playground, and improved parking and access. To learn more about NVTRP and to get involved in the capital campaign, visit http://nvtrp.org/capital-campaign.

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!

Managing for McLain Ward: An Interview with Erica McKeever

On September 21, spectators and show jumping fans from around the globe watched as McLain Ward and Clinta delivered an incredible jump-off performance to anchor the U.S. team and clinch the USA’s first World Equestrian Games (WEG) team gold medal.

What most spectators did not see however, was Lee McKeever outside of the ring, overseeing every last detail of Clinta’s care or McKeever’s wife, Erica McKeever, coordinating all of the logistics involved with Ward and Clinta’s WEG appearance and managing the 30 additional horses back home at Castle Hill Farm in Brewster, NY.

Behind every great rider is an equally great barn and horse management team, and while they might not be the ones atop the podium, for the last 30 years, Erica and Lee McKeever have been an essential part of that team at Castle Hill.

With more than three decades spent overseeing horses at one of the top show jumping barns in the country, there are few with more ongoing, high-level barn management experience than the McKeevers, so we asked Erica to share more about her own management career!

Q: How did you get started at Castle Hill?

When I came to the U.S., I was working for Tim Grubb in New Jersey, and Brigette that was working for Tim’s barn brought me to Castle Hill during the horse show at Old Salem.

I first met Barney Ward that night. It just seemed like a really fun place. Everyone was hanging out together, and he called everybody his family several times while we were there. I felt like, “Whoa what a really neat place that is to work.”

Then I guess he must have called Brigette shortly after and said that he was looking for someone who could manage the show horses and go on the road with him. She asked me if I thought it was something that I was interested in doing. I said, “Oh I don’t think I could.” I had experience but not being in sole control of the horses. She said, “Well I think you could do it.” I did a trial, and we kind of hit it off right from the go. He was awesome. He taught me so much about horses and horsemanship. It was really special. I figured it out, and I never looked back.

I went on the road with him for a lot of years. McLain and Lee kind of went their way, and we went our way. I pretty much ran the show side of this barn. He had his managers at home, and that’s kind of how it started.

Q: You had your son, Bradlee, in 2002, and your daughter, Baylee, in 2004. How did your role at Castle Hill change after having kids?

I took care of Sapphire when we first got her. I’d just had Bradlee, so I tried to go on the road and still be a mom, and it actually was about virtually impossible. We had a fabulous babysitter who was with us from when Bradlee was six months old, so I tried to still go on the road and keep the same role, but it was really hard. I couldn’t do it.

Then I started to stay at home and run that side of it. Instead of having a bookkeeper or a secretary, I did it myself. I still tried to occasionally go with Sapphire. I still traveled to Florida, and I still tried to do the barn as well because that’s really important to me. That’s what I love to do. Then I had my second child, and it became very difficult to do it all. So, I stayed home, and I run things at home. It’s great because now there are so many horse shows, you constantly have horses getting ready for the next event, which makes it really exciting at home too.

Q: What’s a typical day like at home now?

I like to be home until my kids leave for school on the bus, and then I go to the barn. I usually do a couple of hours in the office. We do a plan for the day of what horses are going to be doing–who’s riding which horse, who needs clipping, who needs the vet. We plan all that early in the morning.

The key to this is to surround yourself with great people, and then it’s easy. If you have good people in the barn that you trust and are good at what they do, it makes our jobs really easy too. You have to find good people that really want to do this and love the animals.

Q: What do you think it takes to be a good barn manager?

I think you have to be responsible. You can’t leave it for someone else to do. You have to do it. I think managing is the perfect word – you have to pretty much manage everything from the help to the horses to the farrier. It’s a huge role, and it’s a huge responsibility. I love it because I like to be in control a little bit.

Organization is important. We have a plan in place because McLain’s a huge planner. The horses are planned where they’re going now through week 12 of Florida.

Again, I think the most important thing is that you have good people around you that care as much as we do, and they do this not for a job but because it’s what they love. We try to encourage the people to be a huge part of each and every horse. They all ride; they all take care of them. When McLain wins, we all win. Everybody contributes to that.

Q: What are the challenges of the job?

It can be a little stressful; sometimes it’s a little overwhelming because there’s always something going on,

Now my daughter shows. She does the ponies. That’s become stressful in itself! I feel like I’m managing a whole other operation; I don’t know what’s going to happen when she’s doing the equitation! I just spent some time at the [ASPCA Maclay] Regionals last week, and that looks more stressful than ever. We just did the world championships, and that didn’t seem as stressful as some of those kids!

Q: What’s your favorite thing about working for Castle Hill?

The family aspect. To be appreciated by McLain as much as he does. It’s so special the way he involves our children in the whole thing – his father was the same. It was always about family. McLain’s really, really kept up with that. I would think he would make his dad very proud with how he is. I think giving the appreciation to the people around him, that’s huge for everybody. Not just for me, but for my husband, and Virginie [Casterman] who took care of Clinta at WEG. That’s so important to be appreciated.

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!

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.

Graves and Verdades

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.

Graves and her WEG mount, Verdades

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

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!

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.

 

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!

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!

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.