Life has been so exciting the last few months. It seems every weekend I was flying somewhere and something new was upon me. I made a quick trip to Oregon to Nike. I always love going there. This time they let me sign the athlete's wall. I put a big 'dressage' under my name to represent! I then went to California to a friend's wedding. It was fun because as all barn girls know we prefer boots and dirt but once in awhile a dress and a pair of slinky pumps are a nice change. I went with a vintage 50's look, wavy hair and all. I was then off for a quick friend weekend in Angelfire snowboarding. Ok my friends snowboarded and I cooked and spent most of the time in the warming house. But that's another story. I visited my mom's Dual Credit class to see her teaching and now have a date for 'prom'. As a girl who never had her own school prom this seems like it will be fun! Another excuse for a dress and heels. I next dashed over to Welly World to support my bestie (and big sis) Genay in her U25 season at Global. Of course, there were so many of my friends competing it is also a great way to catch up with everyone. I stayed a little longer than I expected because I wanted to help out the USET with the AEGT and decided to sing again with my friend Anna. Maybe next time we should try a duo. We might win if we pool our clapping fan base. As soon as I got home I left for my current adventure-horse shopping in Europe. I left on Valentine's Day which was a bit of an omen because I came looking for my horse partner. I found 2 great horses that I'm vetting now. I think I am already in love. But then again, any horse shopping girl knows how easy it is to fall in sort of love with them all. But it is that true connection we look for right! Ok so too much Valentine sap, even after a week. But maybe the romance stayed with me a bit longer because I took a four day break from shopping to dash down to Italy. I knew with my new business adventure I would most likely not have any free time for years so I took advantage of the distance and the days I had waiting for the next appointment to see Rome, Milan and Florence. I have to say I have never seen a city more beautiful than Rome. It might be a new favorite.
I head home in the morning to Detroit to get busy with the new property. Grandma and mom have been working to update a few things and the new arena footing is scheduled next month. I have to say that business ownership is a lot different than competing. As a business owner, everything becomes about surviving economically so that you can pursue your vision. I've met with roofers, footing people, plumbers, feed people and potential employees. I'm really grateful for all the experiences I've had at NAJYRC, D4K and the YRGP among others. They have all helped me to obtain the valuable skills I need to make the transition from youth rider to adult business owner. I learned about setting high expectations and everything from contracts to feed needs. I learned so many details from so many excellent trainers about how I want to run my barn. Having been a working student under 6 different trainers and owners I gained a lot of insight in to what I want to do. I think it will be interesting to see that 'my' way is an amalgamation of pieces from every place I've worked. This step has been 14 years in the making. Every day it feels more and more real. A life in dressage has always been my goal but now I am beginning to have the concrete financial independence to do so. I can not thank the people enough in my life who helped make this possible. My parents, my Uncle James and Cousins Amy and Ava have to be particularly noted. So do all my trainers Mary, Mary, Bre, Jeremy and of course the amazing Christine. The photographers, freestyle designers, vets, massage therapists, PT guys, barn grooms, insurance agents, have all been the foundation of my dream. IRH and Custom Saddlery have been my rock for so long. I can always count on you. By the way Johnny if your reading this I'm bringing home two new babies! Nina thanks for coming to my rescue the day before Germany and overnighting me two amazing helmets for the trip. Finally, I have to unequivocally express how invaluable my Nike family is to me. Your support has been all encompassing. The confidence you give me and the faith you have shown me is beyond measure. The excitement of our working together and the doors you have opened for me have been without parallel. I'm excited about all our future projects together.
So I fly home in the morning and my two new geldings will be following shortly. For those of you horse people reading this one is a Sezuan and one a Furst Romancier. I can't wait to see what we can do together boys.
Sunday, January 1, 2017
On a chilly Michigan Christmas morning; I sat down to write about the first month of my adventure in property ownership. Instead my mind wandered to all the ways that so many people have supported me in this venture. I have been awed by how many ways I feel their well wishes. I have received hundreds of emails, messages and calls of support. I wanted to take some time at the end of the year and the beginning of a new stage of my life to thank several personally. First, I am so grateful to Andrea Landis for sending Ross, her footing man,over to help with updating the arena from a great jumping arena to a dressage one. I also am so thankful for so many people like Jessica Rattner and Sandi Carlton who run barns and have volunteered advice and support any time. Christine you are forever in the top of my thankful list for so many reasons. I am working on ‘Christine’s Corner” platform for your clinics. I am adding lots of extras like a heat lamp and coffee pot. I hope above everything you will be proud of what I hope to achieve here. I can’t wait for you to see how many of the things you taught me I am incorporating here. Lendon and Charlotte B. have reached out to give me support and advice. Lendon and I are working on some great ideas for D4K programs here. I think I am almost as excited about all the young riders that will pass through the gates and hopefully have fun, learn something and most importantly become lifelong dressage enthusiasts as I am excited about the amazing horses I hope will pass through the gates as well. I also have to give an amazing thank you to my sponsors. IRH and Custom Saddlery have already contacted me about some interesting opportunities to help with making the stables profitable. Above all thank you Nike for your undying enthusiasm and support. I am so thrilled at our long term plans and excited for you to come to Michigan. I can’t wait to show you the hard work and dedication a life of horses entails. Finally, a deep thanks (although I know as family you don’t feel it is necessary) to my Uncle James, Grandma and Mom and Paps for helping me to make this happen. You have always been behind me in any and every way you could. I am eternally grateful. I learned what family means from you.
So what have I been doing up here in the great white North? I have worked and met with companies that deal with things like footing and alarm systems. I have made calls to waste management and feed stores. Jessica Hainsworth and her mom flew in from New York on a very dramatic filled flight to tour the facility and make plans for our future partnership. I am so thrilled that Jessica loved it here and I can’t wait to implement so many of our ideas. Finally, we have been working on some construction projects. That’s right, construction in Michigan in December and January. I have to thank little Matt, Jack, big Matt and Grandpa for sacrificing so much of the holidays to come to Battle Creek and help out. We did throw in some fun and built a snow fort (ok wall) and had snowball fight and decorated gingerbread cookies for the tree. We had Mom’s endless great cooking and we all gained weight, I am sure. But who won’t add inches to the waist line for homemade cinnamon roll French toast and double chocolate chunk brownies? I am back in Texas for a few weeks and looking forward to a quick visit to my big sis Genay in Wellington to support her and Anna this season. Then it is back to Germany on February 1st. My family is a little stressed with all the events there but I feel that if I let fear keep me from my goals and dreams, they win. I will live my life to its fullest in spite of those who would hope to cripple others with fear. So I will be on my Lufthansa flight February 1st! I will be there training, working and horse shopping. I can’t wait for 2017 and all it brings.
Tuesday, November 15, 2016
This last year has been one of great changes for me. I sold Sjapoer, I relocated to Germany to train and I began to seriously consider my future options in the sport I love. I have spent the last 5 amazing years with SJ, training every day, working every day and fitting in life on the edges. By that I mean, when I had time I took a class, when I had time I dated, when I had time I contemplated the vast world beyond my sport. With the sale of Sjapoer and turning 21, the inevitable transition to adult life had come upon me. What would be the best use of my money from selling SJ? What would be the best use of my time long term? I explored, as my mentor and friend Christine suggested what I wanted. I took some time to be young and explore on the weekend breaks of my training in Germany. I traveled. I danced. I also explored. I took more classes online. I researched, and did what always works for me; I made a pros and cons list. I wanted to know the full impact of my choices before I made a decision. I don’t jump quickly into anything and particularly anything this big. I am like my Uncle James and Christine that way. I like to think about things from a lot of angles first. During this process I spoke to my Uncle too. He has guided me on financial decisions since we opened my stock account over a decade ago. He agreed to match my Sjapoer money to help me move forward in my career. We had a family meeting, I admit I have a great support team! I am very lucky. My Uncle came, my Grandma and my parents. I don’t remember exactly how this progressed because fate seemed to intervene a bit. But here is the long and short of it. My Uncle James had been buying hunting property in Michigan and found an amazing equestrian facility. It was a former HJ barn known as Windsong Stables in Battle Creek. It has a full size indoor with viewing room, 2 outdoor arenas, 2 barns with 33 stalls, 40 acres, 2 laundry rooms, 3 tack rooms, 2 feed rooms, 2 indoor and 4 outdoor wash racks and endless beautiful paddocks of green grass. So we discussed my desire to stay in the equestrian world forever, my need for a way to generate multiple potential horses, and also my desire to give back to the sport and the people that have given me so much. So using my Uncle’s matching money, I bought it. I have my own place! As of last weekend the name has changed to Flyaway stables and 2 big Uhauls and 3 college students unloaded all my stuff into the barn and house! I already have plans for some things I want to do to the property, so it won’t be open to the public for about 6 months, but I hope to be ready for summer! Also I have contacted Lendon and Dressage 4 Kids and donated one barn (11 stalls) as a permanent home for D4K for life! Lendon can use it for any and all programs she desires! The barn has a laundry room, tack room, feed room, and direct access to the indoor arena with a full sound system and viewing room! I am putting in a special place for you to sit though Lendon so we have to chat about what you want! Full heat lamps and comfortable chair, I assume. I also hope to use it for USDF and USEF events as well. I asked my long-time friend Jessica Hainsworth to partner with me after her graduation to make Flyaway stables a premier breeding and training barn! For the next year, while the upgrades are being done, I will continue to train and ride in Europe. I am genuinely excited at the endless possibilities this property will give me and hopefully many other young riders like me! I know this is a big risk to get a facility to start a long term horse program rather than to just invest directly into one horse but if I want to have a long term career in dressage and not just one horse I had to take a big jump. This felt right. The property is beautiful, the city is quaint and the timing is perfect. Thanks to everyone who helped me to make this expanded dream a reality!
Thursday, October 6, 2016
One of the best 'extra' benefits of equestrian sports is to see so much of the world and to meet people from so many different nations and cultures. We travel to clinics, we travel to competitions, we travel for training. I have lived in 3 of the 4 corners of the USA as part of my training: Seattle, Washington-Carlsbad,California-and Wellington, Florida! For competitions and clinics I have traveled to Germany, Holland, the Netherlands, New Jersey, Kentucky, Oregon, New York, Texas, Oklahoma, and Michigan. The last few months training in Voerde, Germany with Johann Hinnemann has been one of the greatest opportunities to explore the world and myself I could have asked for. Saturday afternoon I ride my bike to the train, lock it up and catch a train anywhere I can travel and return by Sunday night. I have seen the dom in Cologne, the Brandenburg Tor (gate) in Berlin and the Stadtkirche (state church) in Dortmund. I have danced with friends in Dusseldorf and wandered through the gardens of many a city park. I have given an impromptu concert among new friends in Ermelo. The fun thing is you don't have to go far or to grand places like Paris. There is so much world to see and so many horse people around the world. We are all connected with our love of horses. It has been fun to learn about the tradition and culture not only of the people (like the Dutch men being the tallest in the world) or seeing the Bruge Madonna from the movie Minutemen yourself; but also to learn about the embedded culture and traditions of horses within a society. For example, there is a castle in Ingolstadt, Germany that is now a museum where they preserved the indoor jousting area. The entrances to the castle are long slow cobblestone wide paths for the horses. The entire first floor of the castle is entirely to host horses and indoor winter training. The Germanic tribes in 1255 started construction. You can feel the integrated role horses played in their survival and defense. You can see the giant banners of the knights families fluttering from beams in the ceiling. It is very surreal to imagine the connection to every day life horses played. Horses here weren't hobbies or pets. They were integral parts of the family. They were necessary to survive and they were also part of the pride and strength of these people. They gave them power not only to live but to grow and conquer. The way Sjapoer always made me feel strong and free.
I guess the lesson or advice for today is get out, explore and use the opportunities your given not just to become better riders or trainers but better citizens of the world!
I guess the lesson or advice for today is get out, explore and use the opportunities your given not just to become better riders or trainers but better citizens of the world!
Tuesday, September 20, 2016
In August of 2012, I had a life altering and sudden move to Washington from Texas. In a period of less than 2 weeks I left my parents, my friends, and my culture to relocate to cold, rainy Kirkland. My parents thought it might make the transition easier if I made some new friends quickly. They contemplated removing me from the online International Academy that I had attended for the last 5 years to go to a local public high school. Many of my parent's family and friends were pressuring them to give me a “normal life.” They often suggested, in the kind way people who care about you do, that I was missing out by not attending football games, or going out on dates. So I went to 'check out' public high school those first few days of Senior Year! After only a few hours of observation at the school, I gained a new appreciation for my unusual educational background. My K12 online international academy experience allowed me to develop myself and my sense of identity separate from the intense peer pressure and need to conform of a typical high school experience. Everywhere I looked, during my observation time, I saw not compromise or healthy respect for diversity but pressure to submit. Everywhere I looked, I saw pressure to change in accordance to preconceived ideas. This pressure interestingly came not only from students, but from teachers as well. If I had been in that environment for four years perhaps I would not have become the independent person that I am. I may not have had the confidence to take off for Europe on my own, or to take huge risks for my dreams. What I realized in those hours was a previously unrecognized positive that came from sacrificing the ‘normal’ childhood experience. Those few hours gave me a great insight into being proud of being me. That time of getting a taste of 'normal' made me realize what a trivial word that 'normal' really is. It also made me a lifelong advocate of charting your own path and following your dreams. What would I have gained by sacrificing myself and my goals for the ‘normal’ or ‘expected?’ Now when I travel to youth conferences and clinics I talk to young people about finding their passion. I truly believe that life is about living for what makes life worth living and that driving passion may not be the same for everyone; for some it is riding, for some it may be helping others, for some saving the environment and perhaps a million other possibilities. The secret is to find that passion and make your life, not the life others demand from you.
Tuesday, September 13, 2016
Dressage is a bit like pairs figure skating, in that you have to have harmony and trust in your team to create the beautiful balance of the complex movements. That only comes from spending a lot of time together. This partnership is developed on trust and knowledge of each other. You have to learn to feel your horse’s thoughts and to be able to make small and gentle adjustments in your riding in even the largest and most out of control situations. This has taught me to be calm and thoughtful even in a crisis. When our partners get scared or distracted it can be very dangerous. They are large and powerful animals. I joke with my athlete friends that while they may be flipping around upside down to do death defying tricks on their skis the goal of dressage is to look in complete control and make everything look easy. At least their skis aren’t trying to buck them off or jump off the mountain at the same time!
My sport also requires close communication with an animal that weighs over a ton. Horses scare a lot of people because they seem unpredictable and have a lot of power. They are bigger and stronger than us and we can’t always control them. This make them in a lot of ways like guys who tend to be bigger and stronger too. Horses have the added issue of not being able to tell us what they are thinking or feeling so we have to learn to communicate in other ways and to learn to share with them our feelings and emotions without language. We also have to learn to work together as a team without force. Learning to communicate and to work as a team with my horses over the years has taught me about communicating with people. It has given me a lot of empathy to listen to what people (and nature) need without speaking. I mean being aware of other people’s needs without them having to tell you. I think this makes me really aware of people and very empathetic to others. Yet also to communicate with a horse you have to be consistent, dependable, and trustworthy. You have to build a bond that you will do as you say and will keep them safe. Having my horse treat me like his best friend and believe in me is probably the most rewarding friendship I have earned in my life.