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!

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!

Managing Horses in Multiple Locations with Laura Kraut

A month ago, Laura Kraut rode on the U.S. Nations Cup team at the CSIO5* Ocala in Ocala, FL. Three weeks ago she was contesting the Sunshine Tour in Spain, and this week, she is back in Wellington, FL, to compete at the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) – only to go back to Spain again on Sunday, March 18.

It’s a busy travel and horse show schedule that could feel difficult by anyone’s standards. For Kraut however, it’s made easier – and even what she describes as
(almost) somewhat relaxing – thanks to the team behind her that understands and exhibits a few key components and characteristics. She shared with BarnManager what a team needs to make managing horses across continents a simpler task.

Compatibility

“You’ve got to be compatible with your team first of all no matter what. I’m very fortunate in that I have my sister who is like having me. I know that what she’s doing is what I would want done. When she’s at a different location than I am, I don’t really have any worries.”

Kraut’s sister, Mary Elizabeth Kent, is the one on the ground in Wellington, FL, where she oversees the approximately 14 horses that they currently have competing at WEF. In Spain, it’s Kraut’s lead rider, Julie Welles, who is in charge of the 18 horses there when Kraut is back in the States.

“They have to be people that you want to work with. I think that’s one of the reasons that Julie has worked really well – because we are all compatible.”

Credentials

“They’ve got to have the credentials. If they’re going to be a rider than you’ve got to respect the way they ride, and if they’re going to manage, you have to have the basic same philosophy of how things are done.

“You’ve got to have people riding your horses that you feel will, at the very least, keep them where you left them or for the better improve them and keep their condition good and their flatwork good.”

For Kraut, she can trust that her horses will all receive the constructive, positive rides that they need from her sister and Welles, who rides the horses in Spain and many of the young horses throughout the year.

Care

In addition to having Kent and Welles at the wheel when Kraut is not on site, the horses are all under the care of well-qualified and knowledgeable grooms.

“It works perfectly. We’ve got enough grooms in each location to help keep the horses looked after the way that they need to be”

And whether it’s a groom, Kent, or Welles, there’s one thing that it is crucial for all of them: “The health of that horse. They’ve got to be on top of that. They have to be paying attention to whether they feel good or whether they feel a little stiff or if one is lame, and they have to be able to make a decision about that. Obviously they consult with me, or my sister, but at the end, you have to rely on them to make a good decision.”

Making those decisions, consulting one another, and all staying on the same page leads to one of the most important components that make everything possible:
communication.

Communication

Kraut, Kent, Welles, and the entire team stay closely connected no matter what location they each are in, and they are constantly communicating and consulting with one another on the day-to- day, what is best for each horse, and how each horse is
performing.

“You asked me about what the difficulties are with managing horses in different locations, and I think the struggle would be if you didn’t have the staff in place to communicate with and to execute the whole thing. For me, I’m very fortunate in that I have that, so it eliminates any worries.”

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!

Protected: What’s In Your Tack Truck? – with Lillie Keenan

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below: