Five Ingredients You Need for Your Horse’s Best Training Program

By Caitlyn Shiels, True North Stables

In every show season, there are certain events for which we want our horses to be at their absolute best. One of the most important skills a trainer or rider can have is knowing how to prepare a horse to peak at a certain competition, whether it be an important indoor show or a particular class.

Expecting our horses to perform their best means preparing them to the best of our abilities with the best possible training program for their needs. For any horse that comes into our barn at True North Stables – be it a hunter, jumper, or equitation horse – I create a routine that is specifically best suited for them. There are, however, five key ingredients that I’ve found are important across the board.

1) Clear goals

First, I think it’s important to set attainable goals for the horse, and assuming that they are competition-oriented objectives, look at those goals on a calendar. What events are most important to you as a rider or trainer? And what events are realistic for your horse?

Caitlyn Shiels with student Marisa Malevitis. Photo by Fine Art Horses 

The realistic part is important; take into consideration factors such as your horse’s capabilities and your time and budget. Once you have your sights set on what’s important to you for the horse, you can build your training program around that goal.

2) A focus on fitness in various forms

This one is no secret, but just as we wouldn’t be able to hop up and win an 800-meter hurdles race after months of sitting around, we can’t expect our horses to go out and jump or compete well if they haven’t been properly conditioned. Similarly, just as a human athlete may train legs one day and upper body another, it’s important to vary your horse’s fitness regime. What this may look like for each horse will inevitably vary, but your program could – and should – include some of the following:

Low-intensity work – This might be walking on a hot walker or treadmill, trail riding, or light hacks in the ring.

Flatwork, flatwork, and more flatwork – We don’t jump our horses very much at home. Instead, we place an emphasis on building fitness and a strong foundation on the flat. This is different than the low-intensity hacks or trail rides mentioned above, as you should be flatting with intention during these rides, keeping your horse engaged and varying your movements and what you’re working on. Depending on the horse, I might incorporate exercises such as lateral movements, counter-cantering to work on balance and engaging the hind end, or a focus on transition work.

Caitlyn Shiels incorporates various forms of fitness work into the programs for all of her horses, including
Corporate Way LLC’s Incorporated, pictured. Photo by Fine Art Horses 

Ground poles, cavalettis, and grid work – When we do incorporate fences at home, it’s often in the form of specific, shortened exercises rather than full courses. Straightforward ground pole work can also be extremely beneficial in encouraging a horse to develop better rhythm and balance through the hind end, as well as improving timing and adjustability, and cavalettis and grid work can be set for specific areas of focus.

3) An emphasis on knowing the horse

To me, this is the number one key to success in any training program and the most important ingredient that you need. Really knowing your horse and creating a program accordingly can go such a long way!

Just as humans all respond differently to the same situations or learn differently, our horses do too. For instance, my mount for Derby Finals, Durpetti Equestrian LLC’s Cassius, does not do as well in a highly-structured program that works extremely well for some of our other horses. High pressure or more difficult situations like complicated grid work make him nervous, and really focused flatwork several days in a row makes him sour. So instead, his weekly routine and fitness program is more relaxed than many of our other horses. He’s still kept fit, but many days he’s allowed to go around more casually or with his nose poked out a bit just enjoying the ride. He’s the happiest he’s ever been and jumping the best he ever has!

When you truly know your horse’s personality and idiosyncrasies and tailor your program to them, you’re far more like to achieve success in the show ring.

Caitlyn Shiels and Durpetti Equestrian LLC’s Cassius. Photo by Fine Art Horses 

4) The addressing of weaknesses

In knowing your horse, it’s also important to know what its weaknesses are and address them through your training program. If your horse is weak behind, maybe it’s time to incorporate more hill work. I have one young horse that arrived not quite as strong on his left lead as he is on his right lead, so some of the exercises that I’m doing at home involve big cross-rails with landing poles that make him really think about his shape. The only way to strengthen those weaknesses is to effectively and consistently work on them!

5) Fun!

If you’re not able to also enjoy the process and have fun along the way to your goals, your horse is not the only one who isn’t going to want to perform! Have fun with your training program; reflect on and celebrate your horse’s progress, and don’t get hung up on plateaus or frustrations. At the end of the day, this sport and your training should bring enjoyment for both you and your horse!

Michelle Durpetti and Caitlyn Shiels. Photo by Fine Art Horses 

Best of luck, and happy training!

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!

Ketchup and Crisco in the Barn? Eight Kitchen Item Horse Care Hacks!

What do ketchup, Crisco, popsicles, soap, and cornstarch have in common? They could save you time or money and solve problems in the barn!

We asked our followers and scoured the internet for the best kitchen horse care hacks, and both delivered! Here are eight kitchen items that were repeatedly recommended for use in the barn. (Note: many of these methods have not yet been BarnManager-tested and approved – but others swear by them!)

1) Cornstarch

We’re easing into this list with a more commonly known kitchen item horse care hack! For extra white legs in the show ring, dust cornstarch over your horse’s clean and dry white socks. Carefully brush off any excess with a soft brush, being sure to apply the cornstarch prior to any hoof dressing to avoid a potential mess.

2) Crisco

Lisa Blythe from Atlanta, Georgia, shared on our BarnManager Facebook page: “Crisco for hooves. The store brand works great. You have a horse with bad hooves? Rub that in twice a day, and it is a miracle.”

3) Ketchup

@Hobbyhorseinc shared on Instagram: “Hate when your gray horse’s tail yellows? Give ketchup a try! Apply the ketchup liberally to the tail and leave for 10-20 mins to soak in. You might want to tie the saucy tail up or place it in a carrier bag whilst it soaks in to keep ketchup off the rest of the horse! Rinse and repeat as needed. The red lifts the yellow color out, getting your greys whiter than white!”

A few skeptics say that it’s really because of the vinegar within the ketchup, not the red of the ketchup as mentioned, but either way, we’d be curious to try this one for ourselves!

4) Mayonnaise

Karea Shaver from Grand Rapids, Michigan said (and many others agreed!), “Hellmans mayonnaise is an excellent final rinse for optimum coat conditioning. Amazing results. Use a ratio of 1/4 cup mayo to three gallons of water. Apply a well-mixed solution using tepid to warm water with a sponge, poll to croup. Let dry and use a cotton towel to wipe down horse. Do not use daily. It will add too much oil into the coat.”  

5) Soap

If you have a horse that chews or cribs on wood surfaces, rub a bar of Ivory soap over those surfaces. The taste of the soap will strongly discourage the horse’s cribbing behavior.

6) Vinegar

Spraying vinegar on your manure pile may help it degrade faster while keeping flies away! Want more uses for vinegar at the barn? Check out this full blog post from ProEquineGrooms, dedicated to the topic!

7) Dish Scrubbers

For a simple way to scrub your horse’s legs and get white socks even whiter, try one of these soap-dispensing dish scrubbers! Simply pour your whitening shampoo in the top and scrub away!

8) Popsicles

Forget expensive ice boots when you have freezer pops! Just be sure to put something, such as a bandage wrap, between the icy popsicles and your horse’s legs.

Have your own kitchen item barn hack? Leave it in the comments here!

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!

Eight Barn Hacks to Save You Time and Money!

We’ve surveyed barn managers and grooms, scoured the internet, and put some of them into practice: here are eight time or money-saving life hacks that could help make your barn more efficient or your horse habit more cost effective!

Feeding and Watering

1) Add a second water bucket.

If your horses’ stalls each only have one water bucket, it may be time to consider hanging up a second one. By filling up both buckets at the same time, you could save yourself from extra fill up time later in the day.

2) Deliver all of your horses’ meals by wheelbarrow or storage cart to save time and streamline delivery.

Rather than making trips back and forth to a feed room, prepare all of your horses’ meals and place them into a wheelbarrow to drop off along your way down the aisle. Alternatively, filling up a compartmented storage cart with the feeds and supplements that you need and portioning them out accordingly at each stall is another great option for streamlining feeding time.

Tack and Equipment

3) Cut designs into the end of your polo wraps to easily identify matching sets.

This tip from ProEquineGrooms is a great one if you’ve ever found yourself wasting time attempting to roll up and match sets of polo wraps! Instead, cut a small, matching design into the end of all of the polo wraps in a set. This could be a small triangle cut out of the middle of the end, the corners cut off, or something similar – anything that will allow you to easily recognize which polos go together.

4) Make a list of which horse uses which tack and equipment.

Whether this is a physical list hung in the tack room, or a list easily accessible within the BarnManager app, top managers like Courtney Carson recommend creating a list of which horses require which tack, that way, there’s no confusion for any students or staff unsure of what to use. If you’re the barn manager, this could save you a lot of time in answering questions and finding tack!

5) Don’t throw away your old clipper blades just yet.

Even after they’ve past the point of being useful for clipping, your clipper blades could serve a new role as mane thinners or shorteners, so it’s worth holding on to one or two for this use.

Grooming

6) The sweat scraper doesn’t have to be for just after a bath.

You probably only use the sweat scraper when you’re done bathing a horse to get off the extra water, right? Next time try using it mid-bath before you hose of the shampoo suds! By instead scraping some of them off with a sweat scraper, you’ll save yourself both time and water.

Riding Apparel

7) Make your own boot trees using pool noodles!

In need of new boot trees to keep your tall boots in good shape? Rather than purchasing boot trees, cut costs by picking up an inexpensive pool noodle and cutting it to fit inside your boots! By taking care of your boots now they’ll also last longer and save you even more money in the long run.

8) Salvage your white show shirts with lemon juice.

If you’ve ever had sweat stains threaten to ruin your expensive, white show shirts, this one’s for you! Soak them in one part lemon juice and 10 parts water to eliminate the stains and save you money in not having to purchase new shirts!

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 Ways to Make Your Barn Manager Your Best Friend

A good barn manager can be the backbone of any large boarding operation or show barn, and a good relationship with your barn manager can go a long way in creating an enjoyable barn atmosphere!

While many barn managers have suggested baking them delicious food or bringing them snacks as ways to get on their good side, here are five other ways that you could make your barn manager your best friend – or at least be a better boarder and client!

1) Know and follow the rules.

Perhaps your barn does not allow dogs; maybe there are certain areas of lawn that horses aren’t to be walked or grazed on, and no one is to be mounted on a horse without a helmet. Whatever they may be, your barn likely has rules that allow it to run smoothly, and your barn manager is likely partially responsible for enforcing those rules. Having to reprimand you for not following the barn guidelines or continually having to remind you of the rules isn’t fun for them, and it’s no way to build a good relationship.

2) Communicate.

Not able to make it out to the barn at all this week due to a hectic work schedule? Notice a small cut on your horse’s leg? Have a question about the way something is being done? Communicate with your barn manager!

3) Trust them.

Good barn managers are often extremely knowledgeable horsemen and women with your horse’s best interest at heart. (Read what makes a great barn manager here!) If you see a problem or really don’t like the way something is being done, revisit point No. 2 and consider properly communicating that to them; otherwise, trust that they are doing their job well. Coming to your barn manager with 10 different ways of doing things or an idea that you read online that you think may be better than how they do something likely isn’t going to sit very well and isn’t going to help your friendship.

4) Stay neat and organized.

At home, keeping your space in the tack room neat and orderly and cleaning up after yourself when you’re done can go a long way in making your barn manager’s life easier (and in making them think more highly of you)! And the same applies if you’re headed to a horse show. Make a list,  check it twice, and ensure that everything that you need for both you and your horse is packed so that you or your barn manager aren’t left scrambling.

5) Be kind.

If only this one could go without saying, but in any barn boarding situation, it’s important to remember to be kind and polite, not only to your barn manager but also to your fellow barn mates and the entire barn staff.

A smile, a hello, and a thank you can go a long way in making you the kind of boarder or client that everyone loves to have around and a barn manager’s best friend!

 

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!

Six Ways to Make Horse Showing More Affordable

Horse show entry and office fees, transportation and travel expenses, tack and equipment costs, training fees, and grooming and braiding charges can be enough to make many an adult amateur – no matter the discipline – contemplate a second job or a steady diet of ramen noodles to offset expenses.

Fortunately, while the entirely inexpensive horse show may remain elusive, there are ways to greatly reduce your expenses and make horse showing more affordable.

Here are six tips that could help you decrease your costs this show season!

1) Identify your goals.

 Before heading to a horse show, think realistically about you and your horse’s level of competitiveness and what you hope to accomplish throughout the show season.

If your aim is to use horse shows simply as a way to test all that you have been practicing at home, to enjoy the competition with your horse, or to gain experience or exposure, unrecognized or schooling horse shows could be a great cost saver. These shows generally have much less expensive entry and office fees, paid memberships to governing organizations such as US Equestrian or the U.S. Hunter Jumper Association (USHJA) are typically not required, and US Equestrian fees are not imposed.

If your aim is to earn rated points, awards, or titles or to qualify for prestigious year-end finals and championships, you can still be smart and save money when it comes to selecting which horse shows you attend. Consider your travel expenses and what is realistic for you. While that beautiful horse show in Kentucky might look fun, perhaps the one of equal rating and just an hour drive from your home in Pennsylvania could be far more affordable for you and offer you the same opportunity to accrue points.

By identifying your goals in advance and selecting horse shows that fit those goals, you could save a great deal of money!

2) Submit your entries on time – or even well in advance.

Many horse shows penalize riders with an added fee for entering a horse show beyond a set entry date, while some others even offer reduced rates for early entries. Submitting your entries on time or in advance is a simple way to save money.

3) Be well organized and prepared for horse show day.

No one wants to have to purchase new gloves or spurs at a horse show when they know that they have perfectly good ones sitting at home, and having to purchase any tack or equipment at the horse show can be a good way to quickly exceed your budget! Instead, get organized and ensure that nothing is forgotten.

Make a thorough packing check list (fun fact: you can do this within BarnManager!). Be sure to include any items that you might need at a horse show that you might not typically use at home like ear plugs, Show Sheen or other show grooming products, rain gear just in case, and yarn or rubber bands.

Review your packing list a few days in advance of the show to make sure that you have everything that you need and that everything is in good repair. You don’t want to be left scrambling to get to the tack shop the night before the show!

As you’re packing and getting organized, it’s also wise to clearly label all of your belongings. That way, nothing gets inadvertently put in someone else’s tack trunk at the show or left behind at the ring with no identifier.

4) BYOS – Bring Your Own Stuff.

Much like it’s cheaper to ensure that you have all of your tack and equipment with you rather than purchasing anything new at the show, it’s also cheaper to “bring your own stuff.” That could include packing your own shavings to avoid paying more for them at the horse shows and bringing your own snacks and lunches to avoid paying expensive food vendors. If you’re going with a group from your barn, consider working together to organize who can bring food items to share.

5) Learn to groom and band or braid for yourself – or have friends and family help.

Whether your show requires that your horse’s mane be banded, braided in hunter style, or put into button braids, learning to do it yourself can save a ton of money – especially if you are horse showing frequently!

You can find numerous great tutorials on YouTube and on equestrian websites to help get you started on learning to braid or band before getting into the barn to practice. If you get good enough at mane or tail braiding, and if time at horse shows allows, you could even braid or band for others at the show to help you recoup your horse show costs.

Similarly, if you are able to groom, tack up, and care for your horse and your stall area yourself at the show – while still having the energy and focus needed to ride well – doing so is a great way to cut costs.

If you are fortunate enough to have friends, family members, or a significant other willing to help you out, don’t be afraid to take them up on the offer! Having an extra hand to hold your horse or an extra body to run back to the stalls for that forgotten item can go a long way and can help eliminate grooming costs.

6) Take good care of your belongings.

At the end of the horse show, again consult your packing list, this time to ensure that nothing gets left behind. It’s easy to head home from the horse show with a crop, glove, or girth missing from your tack trunk; ensuring that you have everything is an easy way to avoid having to purchase the item again.

While cleaning and organizing may be the last thing that you want to do when you get home from a horse show, it’s important to take good care of your belongings to prolong their lifespan and avoid having to spend money on new tack or clothing. Try to hang up your show clothes as soon as possible instead of leaving them crumpled in a bag or in the back of your car. (If you take good enough care of your show coat, you may even be able to avoid a dry-cleaning bill until after the next show!) Clean all of your tack and equipment as soon as possible after the show, and re-organize your belongings to keep everything ready to go for next time!

What are your horse show cost-reducing tricks!? We want to hear from you in the comments below!

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!

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!