Welcome to the dressage spot, a place for the young (or young at heart) dressage riders wanting to gain information on the sport of dressage, training tips, equine health care, maintenance and fun!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Holland and the WBDC

I am in love with Holland.  Everything is green, the cheese melts in your mouth. Everyone bikes.  Dressage is everywhere.  Two girls at my hotel rode dressage, and one’s family were breeders.  The tickets sold out to the horse show.  Can you imagine that!  Sold out seating weeks before a young horse show?  I swear this place is perfect.  In fact, I was in the market buying thumb size blackberries, rolls and cheese for a picnic and a 6’7’’ guy behind me and I struck up a conversation.  I said something about how tall the men were in Holland and how I normally don’t feel so short.  He said that, it was recently announced on the news that the average height of Dutch men has increased 20 cm the last 10 years and they are now the average tallest men in the world.  I mean what more could you ask for? I can wear heels and not feel like a stork.

So I love Holland, and I became kind of officially Dutch because I bought a used bike.  It even has a granny metal basket on front, reflectors and a bell!  That way when I need to run up to the market or I want to take a train on my day off I can pedal to town or the train station.

While I was here I went to the World Breeding Dressage Championships for Young Horses in Ermelo, I just finished an article for California Riding Magazine about it, be sure to look for it. It was an amazing experience and made me want to get a facility and start breeding horses. On Monday after the show I headed early to Cologne, Germany to the federal administration office to work on my paperwork to stay in Germany.  After an entire day of government offices I did have a little time to visit a German friend.  He lives in Cologne and met me at our hotel to take me around the sights.  The Cologne cathedral is amazing.  Mom said when she came backpacking at my age here, she walked up the over 1000 steps to the top, I didn’t feel compelled to so instead I sat on the balcony of the hotel and just looked at it!

It was an early night at the hotel.  I partly wanted an early night because the Excelsior hotel has the greatest shower ever.  I had to arm wrestle mom to get to use it first.  My environmentalist heart felt guilty for the 20 minute shower, but it was heavenly.  The floor had geothermal heating as well so my toes were even warm after.  We had three balconies that opened onto the square.  Our room actually had a little foyer with a door bell.  Can you imagine, a doorbell in a hotel room?  I mean what is that point in that?  

It was up before six am to head to Voerde in time to help feed the horses and start my next adventure.  I was nervous but didn’t want to show it which tends to make me quiet.  I had been to Voerde before but now looking through the eyes of someone living here for months verses visiting it felt different.  Now Voerde is part of my story.  My time here will, like all my adventures, become part of who I become. My time here will change me. 

I have been here a few weeks now and I am blissfully happy.  I am riding lots of horses.  It has been cold and rainy so that makes you miss home a bit but for some reason (and don’t get me wrong on this) people just can’t replace horses for me.

Monday, August 8, 2016

     Well I haven’t had a lot to say in a few months.  This is not because nothing has been happening.  It's because I have been really busy resettling my life.  Last fall, after competing in the Young Rider European Tour I was back in SoCal with my idol Christine Traurig.  She is truly amazing and I am very blessed for every minute I get to train and work with her. 
     I think some of you may have heard before, I am on an a plan that my parents and I devised to wean me into financial and career independence.  I am really gung ho at times about the plan as I want to have control of everything in my life, but at times it kind of stinks.  For example, I get to decide what to eat every day but I have to do the grocery shopping.  But it has been a really good process and has been really helping me and my family to meet expectations.
    I am also taking classes online and I am glad I don’t’ have to get back up after a 10 hour barn day and get dressed to go to school.  I can comfortably work in my pj’s on the couch at night.  I am so glad they invented this online college thing.  Some of you may want to think about this!  I don't do a full load but it is better to get in two or three classes every semester online than not to move forward at all!  I may be switching my major soon though.  I love psychology but there is a specific reason I may switch to business.  I don't want to give away the plan but I may soon have news.
     Another aspect of the plan is paying all the bills for living, riding, school and life myself.  This might be a little early because I am not even out of college yet, but I like having set phased plans and having things spelled out. I like having a path.  If I do I am focused on that plan, without one I get a bit unfocused.  I have been working on my budget and paying vet bills and shoeing bills.  I guess you never truly realize how expensive this sport is as a junior or young rider until you make this transition.  I would like to suggest that if you have or are a J/YR you perhaps start to keep a monthly accounting book of every item that is spent.  I mean every penny for spurs or socks or massages and this will begin to give you an idea about what you will need to continue after ‘independence.’  It also helps us to appreciate our parents, family and sponsors more!
    I had to miss the Region 9 EDAP clinic in Houston and I am still bummed about that.  I really wanted to see my friends and to stay with Dawn at Isabella farms.  I did get back on my feet in time to ride in the Developing Dressage clinic with Debbie McDonald.  I was thrilled about that because so many of my friends were there. I got to see my sis Genay!
    After the move to Florida for the season last spring it has been a whirlwind!.  It started with settling in at the equestrian center just across from where the GDF is held.  The facility is great and there were so many great riders there. The first week we were there mom and grandma came down with my friends Fernando and Jack. They spent two days in a rented kitchen cooking up yummy homemade BBQ, and vegan and vegetarian dishes for the RDHMW dinner.  The dinner was at Devon Kane's beautiful facility.  I got to catch up with Reese, Nina, Johnny and so many other friends it was really a beautiful night.  The only scary part was when Lendon and Robert had me stand up front with them and speak.  But even with my nerves it felt really good to give back and to try to help other young riders like me through these programs.
     Shortly after the dinner party was the Young Rider Graduate Program.  What an amazing amount of material packed into 2 days.  Roz really understands the fears and needs of young riders wanting to make a career in our industry.  Everything was really helpful and I wished I didn’t have to leave a little early for the USDF Trainers Conference.  Riding in the conference with Johann Hinnemann was the biggest crowd I had ever ridden in front of; and the viewers were primarily FEI trainers so I knew they could tell when I messed up.  I was a bit nervous at first but after the American Equestrians Got Talent crowds last year, this was a lot easier.  He really gave me some great advice, which I believe is available through the USDF web training site. 
     In the spring season I rode my first ever U25 GP tests and Sjapoer did great.  He and I had traveled a long way together since 4th level.  I had a heart breaking summer when I had to sell him.  This was one of those hard lessons in life between the tough choices of what you 'want' and what you need and can afford.  Adulting is so hard.  Christine really helped me through the loss of Sjapoer and to place him in a good home.  I spent the next six weeks mentally and physically adjusting while absorbing as much as I could from Christine.  
     When my lease was up on my apartment in Carlsbad I headed home to Texas for a few weeks.  My mom always schedules an intense round of all my check ups.  You know; the dentist, the eye doctor, etc.  I also got to spend a fun and rare weekend just hanging out with friends.  We had a very eclectic group at the lake house of friends from elementary and middle school, family friends and riding friends.  It was a blast of kayaking, sand volleyball and just chilling.  Then I headed out to Holland for the World Dressage Young Horse Breeding Championships in Ermelo.  I got to be Christine's assistant and Kim Miller got me press credentials so I had a truly unique experience.  Look for the article in California Riding Magazine soon! :)  
   In the first weeks of June and July I heard that I had received the KWPN-Willy Arts Grant for developing dressage a second time and the Women's Sports Foundation travel and training grant.  This was amazing news as it gave me an great opportunity to go to Europe for training.  So after the WDYHBC show I headed to Germany to train with Johann Hinnemann.  This is a truly amazing experience.  I am riding so many horses my muscles hurt and I go to bed on my couch happily exhausted every night.  I am TRULY blessed to be here and it is exactly where I need to be in my training.  Thank you Christine for making this happen.  (I'm working with immigration to get to stay as long as they will let me).  Thanks papa for being a German and thanks to KWPN and the Women's Sports Foundation for the money to make this possible.  Please look up both groups for future grant and scholarship opportunities!
     Now I am trying to ride and train and sneak in updates on team USA while not yelling too loudly when we beat the Germans!  But, I want to say good luck to my fellow Nike athletes and to my Shade Global family competing in Rio.  Stay safe and have fun.  
     Stay tuned..... in the future I have some interesting things in the works and can't wait to share some new ideas and fun with you.  Sorry for the long drought!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Back to California

    I am back in California!  I got to fly home with Sjapoer and I was really excited about that.  I have a few new concerns now though.  For example, in case of an air pressure drop – there are no masks for the horses. What’s up with that? I think I will have to noodle on that.  There are also no life rafts for them.  I had a plan to tie SJ to the raft so he could swim alongside us until we were rescued.  I spent a good part of the flight plotting how I would save him. I sometimes curse my wild imagination.
    Anyway, I have had a truly enlightening and empowering trip, but I am glad to be home.  I got to LAX last Tuesday. The apartment complex I stay in got renovated while I was in Florida and it looks great.  I am glad to be back with my roomie; grandma! I missed her smoothiesI have already eaten at my favorite taco shop ,Juanita’s, so everything is fitting back into a routine quite quickly. I am excited to begin the next phase of work and training.    Congratulations to all the other USA team competitors this summer across Europe and the Americas.  I have been honored to be even a small part of this explosion of the red, white and blue. Congrats to all my friends and fellow competitors at NAJYRC! 
    Definitely can say I like the SoCal weather better than anywhere else in America.  I do miss the green and the hazy mist of Washington and those 45 days of the best season on the planet.  But for overall broad perfection I can see why California is so expensive.  You pay for the weather.  Heading up to Oregon to visit my Nike family this weekend.  Exciting!  Have to go to New Student Orientation in Texas even though I have been going to school online!  
   But it is time to focus on being my best for Christine and Sjapoer!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

My experience in Germany

   Well my first big European competition was a very exciting experience!  Before anything else I want to say thanks again to everyone who helped me to be able to be here.  The USEF committee and donors that made the program possible, I hope you continue this program because it is life changing and eye opening.  The Dressage Foundation, the Renee Isler Dressage Support Fund, and Lendon Gray and Courtney’s Quest Scholarship for helping to defer the financial costs and giving me the opportunity to stay a few weeks longer for additional training.  Thank you to my sponsors Custom Saddlery and IRH for making SJ and I look good and to do our best.  Thank you to Nike for giving me the privilege to represent you and the honor of having your spokesperson here to not only support me but to get to experience the amazing sport I love.  Thanks to Sheryl Shade the most supportive and knowledgeable agent anyone could ask for.  Thanks to their daughters Shade and Ryan for giving their mom’s up for a weekend so that I could have them.  Next time I hope to see you both here!  Thanks to Jessica Hainsworth a true friend and my partner in all things dressage.  These things would be so stressful without you.  David Wightman it was so fun getting to know you and I am up for staring contests, singing, and general goofiness any time.  Thanks for being there for us all.  Genay Vaughn one of the greatest rewards of getting selected this year was to get time to spend with you.  You always give me a reboot and I think you are the best friend a girl could have.  Catherine Chamberlain (Cat) thanks for being such a great teammate and being so supportive.  I enjoyed getting to meet you and hope we can do it all again soon!  I love your sense of humor and your focus.  George Williams, when I say we clicked in training I really mean that. I don’t just mean about riding, but politics, sportsmanship, strategy, teamwork and a list of other things.  I really appreciate all you did to help make me successful in the ring and out of it. I also want to say thank you for all the extra time you took with my “posse.” They were all awed and impressed.  Finally, to my extended family of supporters I have to say my heart overflows with your generosity.  Uncle James you were there every minute jumping in any way you could.  You went literally countries out of your way to be helpful and supportive.  You got people on trains, stood in line for coffee, carried bags and all manner of things, all while expressing deep interest and support for me.  Grandma and papa I know you couldn’t come physically because of work but you were here in spirit.  I love you and thanks to you and my mom for all your help.  You guys are the rock on which I stand.
     I put the thanks first, because if we put them at the end I know sometimes you just quit reading!  HaHa and they deserve top billing.  So What did I learn here.  First, I have to admit some of the most valuable things I learned here are not what I expected to learn. I had heard that shows here can be crazy.  At the RDHMW I remember Devon Kane telling us about the craziness she encountered here and it stuck.  Though I had been told how different it is, this is really something one must experience to appreciate.  Some of the things they casually do here, we would lodge a formal complaint about at home. Scooters with four kids on them zooming between mounted horses and jumping off right in front of you, while you’re walking on cement next to a moving tractor lifting bales of hay while a loose dog runs around your feet!  I kid you not! It is truly an atmosphere one must experience to believe.  It isn’t bad or wrong it is just totally a different culture.  I am so lucky to get to learn to deal with it as a young rider which is a great benefit of this program.  I think that Europeans grow up in this chaos which makes them more prepared for it later.  
    Second, I realized that while dressage has been my life for over a decade, this sport I love doesn’t have the same history or awareness and support it does in Europe.  I mean, I always knew it was ‘their’ sport but I didn’t realize what that meant until I got here.  The facility the show was at opened in 1322!  That is 450 years before the US became a nation and longer than we have been one!  The show atmosphere, and the stress got to me a bit the first day and I was nervous.  We improved every day as I got more comfortable. That is another great benefit of this program.  I didn’t do as well as I could and I am sorry for that. The individual day I started to put everything aside and to focus and I was lucky enough to move up to 12th.  The interesting thing was that from like 6th to 12th place we all were 67% so the spread was so close. It showed us how competitive my old guy can still be.  On freestyle day, SJ shines.  We ended up 7th so I was ecstatic with him.  We were warming up in a torrential downpour but just as we started to get ready to go in, the rain cleared up and the sun came out.  George and I had looked at my choreography (done by the brilliant Karen Robinson of Applause Dressage) and it was done so that there is space at the end to input things that might have messed up.  I had three different options we had worked out so that I adjusted a bit at the end.  I want to thank Karen for always making me the best freestyles. 
    Another thing for young riders coming over in the future, the June weather is unpredictable.  Bring clothes for all four seasons and layer.  Having lived the last few years in Southern California and Florida I haven’t been this cold in a long time. But the Germans do know how to put on a show regardless of weather! Almost 900 combinations with just jumping and dressage.  NAJYRC I don’t think has that many with eventing, endurance and reining.  The horses were fabulous.  I saw a pony passaging!
    I have to say sitting in the dining tent was a bit of a surreal experience.  At the table on your left there could be the Dutch with their vibrant orange jackets and pale blonde hair.  The Russians sitting next to them are leaning forward and are highly animated. Twenty seven countries are staggered everywhere speaking differently, looking different in their bright colors.  The atmosphere is electric.  NAJYRC is similar in that the Canadians are always identifiable in their Red. Yet this is really different.  It is as if 27 different groups like the Canadians are around and each has a history, an identifiable dressage story and characters.  But as I sat there, it felt comfortable and a bit like coming home.  We belong here and with enough support and experience we will continue to take a seat at the table and flash the red, white and blue. 
    Another difference is that there are guys here.  I don’t mean one or two in jumping, guys in dressage.  There isn’t just the lone one that makes him unique, special or identifiable.  There are dozens.  In fact, many teams had more males than females in jumping and there was a fair number in dressage. 
    The transport trucks here are awesome.  I will dream about the little one that is like a minivan with a box stall, and the full size half-million dollar Mercedes RV thing with the 6 stall and living quarters.  Wow.  Someday, if I can ever get one of those I will be in heaven.
    So far I haven't run over anything while driving around these narrow roads! My German is limited but I do ok speaking.  Driving without GPS would be a nightmare though because the words are so long that you pass the sign before you have sounded out half the word!
    Then it is home to Albert Court in California!