Here there be dragons...

"I'm telling you stories. Trust me." - Winterson

GRS clinics with David Wilding-Davis

So Sunday dawned bright and early.   But our day started well before then.

Hailey and I were going to ride with former Canadian Event Team member David Wilding-Davis up at the gorgeous Cedar Run Horse Park.  Our ride time was 9am.  Only catch?  Cedar Run is north of Collingwood... So let's do the math (a very bad idea early in the am)...   9am ride time means there 8:30 (maybe we can push that to 8:45 if need be - especially as Steph very kindly agreed to sacrifice her Sunday and come help!).   Ok so targeting 8:30.  3h drive.  hmmmm 7:30, 6:30, 5:30....   Leave home at 5:30.  Fun.   Some of you may be aware that loading is not a strength of Athena's...  That means starting loading at 4:30...  Which I was not about to do, so compromise at 5.  Which requires being at the barn at 4 to bring horses in, feed, hook up trailer, etc etc.  Which means leaving home at 3:15.

I repeat, 3:15.

The things we do for our sport.  Especially Steph who wasn't even riding!  (Have I mentioned how awesome she is?).   So I set the alarm for 3 -- I can be out fast when it means an extra few minutes of vital sleep!   I also know that it's *really* more like 2.5h drive, just the anal side of me always leaves 3 so we're not late.  So I mentally adjust that leaving any time before 6 will get us there with lots of time.

So alarm goes off at 3 and I'm up and out on time.  Hailey texted me about then so I knew she was already on her way.  Driving the truck and actually remember to take everything out of the rabbit that I needed.  All good right?  Yeah - except that I got half way to the barn and realized the key to my office is with the key to the rabbit.  At home.  And I need stuff out of the office.  Less good.

Turn around, go back and get said key, muttering at self all the way *sigh*.   Pause long enough to text Hailey and beg her assistance to bring my horse in and feed since now I'm going to be VERY late and Athena is not the fastest eater on the planet.  Fortunately Hailey, too, is very awesome and took care of this (I totally have the best students on the planet!).   And she's been showing all summer so knows a lot of what needs to be done to travel (hay nets etc).   She even groomed my horse and put her shipping boots on!   I'm so spoiled :)

So I get to the farm a little before 5.  Go to hook up the trailer and the ball wasn't attached to the truck -- no  big deal, I expect it's in the back of the truck.  Except it's locked.  And it has an actual key hole.  And the truck doesn't use a normal key.  This is *not* a good sign.  So I drive to the indoor arena and turn the lights on so I can see and start trying to figure out how to get the back of the truck open -- fortunately there's an inside button too and all was good.  Drive back and hook up trailer, which, btw, is ridiculously easy when you have a backup camera!  hahaha

Loading A was a bit of a snot -- and definitely got away from us once and went for a very impressive run around an indoor (ever try to catch a black horse in a dark arena before sunrise?  Yeah - I don't recommend it.  Fortunately the lights don't take that long to turn on :)   Some pretty incredible movement though.  However, at least she was a 20 min brat not a 2h brat and with Laura's help (now *that* is a dedicated friend coming out to help load a horse at that hour!) we got her on.  Bella the super pony of course just hops on next to her and away we go, just before 6am.

Drive was uneventful; the sun rose about half way there which made things a whole lot more civil, and we saw very little risk of the threatened rain.  Also, given the complete lack of traffic we made excellent time, getting to Cedar Run in about 2h.  Despite my awful start to the morning, we were still early. hahaha sweet.  We pulled in to find a chain across the gate.  hmmmm tricky.   Fortunately it turned out that it had already been opened for us earlier, so we were able to let ourselves in and unload.

At which point Bella started grazing contentedly and Athena started a power march exploring as much of the property as she could.  She also somehow managed to get filthy in the trailer so while Steph explored with her I followed along trying to get a moving Athena groomed and presentable.  Or close enough to :)

Eventually got both horses tacked up -- Hailey bridling her own pony alone for the first time off property (a fact which appalled both Steph and I when she mentioned it *g*  And here I thought *I* was spoiled :)   Hop on and Bella was quite content to chill; Athena, less so.  So we went for a power trot and a half and a few canters while we waited for David till eventually she chilled enough to walk.  Not to graze, but to walk.

When David got there we did a brief warmup and then started hopping over some tiny logs.  Athena was reasonably rideable by this point (yeah for earlier energy dismissal :) but Bella came to life!  Have never seen that pony quite so, ummmm, exuberant *g*   Hailey did an awesome job with her, mostly giggling at her antics and trying really hard to follow David's instructions on how to slow that pony down!  hahaha

So we went around jumping mostly PE and E logs with the occasional PT fence thrown in for good measure.  I was a little frustrated because I felt I wasn't riding particularly well, but at very least with David's help we got Athena jumping a little more consistently :)  So that was good.  "This is not the type of horse I'm used to seeing you on..."  hahaha no, no she's not.  Pretty much the extreme opposite actually.  "Ok well this'd get you killed if you were sitting on your usual type, but probably work with her."  hahaha sure enough - it worked :)

And while I was feeling pretty out of it, I was being totally shown up by my student who was proving to be a superstar; Hailey was busy putting in some of the best riding I've seen from her.  hahaha and Bella did, eventually, chill out and return to her usual superstar self.  We went down to the bank complex in the woods which was lots of fun -- Hailey took the whole "lean back" thing to a whole new level -- aiming for Rolex rather than Entry :)   But she moderated it before we got to the more complex bank that had a showjump fence after it.   Then up top again to jump a few mini-courses.  Always good :)   Both horses were excellent for that actually.

Off to play with the ditch, which went just fine.  Athena was feeling slightly tired and so getting *very* strong at this point (breaks were ummmm intermittent at best - and the fat snaffle I had her in wasn't going to do much about it :), but at least she was honest about it.   Bella didn't even blink.

Follow the banks and the ditch with a quick play in the water and we've got all aspects of XC covered!  It was sooooooo much fun :)   Made better by good company, perfect weather, and *almost* well behaved horses (totally well behaved would be boring after all :).   Loading to go home Amy (D's equally amazing wife) helped me out with Athena and we got her on with very little argument.  *phew*   Drive home in daylight was reasonable -- really, if you're going to go that far, that's the direction to go in.  The same time spent on the 401 or even the 400 isn't nearly as pleasant!  Got home just in time to feed the horses their dinner :)

Overall an awesome day!  Thanks tons to David for yet another brilliant clinic!

Pics on Facebook here if you're interested :)

Happy babbling

Ever wonder why we do it?  What makes it worth the hours and the physical labour, and the pain and hurt and frustration that horses bring?    If you don't instinctively know, it'll be very hard to explain, but today's GRS post tries.  And if you *do* know, but are perhaps having trouble remembering at the moment, give it a read and it'll remind you :)

Today was so much fun.   Even hay yesterday was fun when interspersed with pizza and friends :)   I definitely have the coolest job on the planet.

A few years ago I published a "why we event" - in response to one of Denny's posts (long before I ever met him!) about showing under horrific conditions...   Today was another of those for me.  What are your reasons why?  (feel free to sub in any form of riding for event :)

Today Hailey officially past the point of no return...

So sometimes the fun of teaching is in reliving "firsts" through your students.  

Hailey was at the barn all day helping out (well past the wonderful-working-student requirements :) so we went for a fun ride when I was done teaching.  Under the 'power hack' category -- officially because it was Athena's conditioning day but really because it was  fun.   Gorgeous sunny day, perfect temperature, just the right time to go riding. Even better when you have good company with you.

Even better still when I asked Athena for her nice lovely canter and look back to see the giant grin on Hailey's face as Sienna's keeping up easily :)  Kinda wish I'd had my camera.

So we'd warmed up and were playing down on the plateau and I suggested she let Sienna go a bit -- which she did and came back with a big grin on her face.  All good.   But was really only a hand-gallop if that.  Still a big step up from galloping her pony (which she only just did for the first time a couple weeks ago), but still not *really* galloping.  Those who've done it, know the difference.  And Si has one of the nicest gallops I've ever sat on :)

But ok.  After Athena's break, we went back up and did another trot loop; all good except for minor technical difficulties when my stirrup buckle broke.  Buckle?  Really?  Who does that happen to?  Sheesh.   I *thought* the stirrup had just slipped off the stirrup bar, but no, sadly it was not such an easy fix.   So we detoured our loop by the paddocks and I dropped off both stirrups and we kept going.  Fortunately it was near the end of Athena's schedule so no need for endless 2-pt with no stirrups.  Awwww >;-P   Hack back down to the plateau and tell Hailey she could go for another gallop if she wanted.  hahaha yeah right.  If.  She was gone in a heartbeat and this time got an actual gallop.  Sweet.  And came back grinning ear to ear.   Kinda made me smile just to watch.

So we let the horses graze for a bit  (funny, Athena doesn't have any problems eating with the bit in any more :) - but you see, I know my horses fairly well, and I knew Sienna had the game down.  And I knew Hailey didn't know.  *insert coach laugh here*  "Want to go once more?" Hailey's eyes just lit up -- I think she was pretty sure we were done so picked Si up before I could change my mind.  "Bridge your reins and just let her go."   Ever ridden a race horse before?  Even a failed one?  Know what happens when you bridge your reins and let them go?  hahaha well for Si it takes about a stride and  a half to settle into a lovely galloping rhythm.   Which got a great laugh from her pilot.   But the real fun was when they turned around at the other end to come home.  And Si shifted into gear.  hahaha  All I hear from the far end of the plateau was "HOLY S...." well - it's a pg rated blog - you can fill in the blanks :)   But it was all excitement - nothing that even vaguely resembled hesitation or fear *g*   Kid's going to be a highly decent eventer :)

Do you remember the first time you galloped so fast you couldn't see?   Do you remember the adrenaline rush of being just *slightly* (that's the story we're sticking to) out of control and unconsciously deciding to trust your horse and enjoy every second of it?  And perhaps just a little bit of your brain wondering if you'd  stop before you ran out of space?  And the excited part telling the worried part to shut up and enjoy the ride?  That was what I saw today.  hahaha in this case stopping was not such a worry since Si wasn't likely to leave Athena without being explicitly told to -- but the first time *I* did it, we could've gone for a very long way >;-P   Ok, maybe I wasn't always the smartest cookie -- but I had a lot of fun.  Still do :)

So yeah - the look on her face brought back so many memories of good times nearly forgotten - and pretty much made my day.   Not sure how I'm ever going to get her back in the dressage ring now...  hahaha but that's a challenge for another day >;-P

And judging from the comments on my FB status, I'm not the only one it brings back fun memories for :)

All I can say to Hailey is -- for the days when it's cold and rainy and miserable and you get bucked off in a pile of manure and you're wondering why any idiot would ever subject themselves to such insanity, remember today.  And you'll know.

To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle, requires creative imagination and marks a real advance. -- Einstein

(stolen from GRS blog.   Mostly horse-related, but enough random babbling I figured it could survive here too :)

Whoever says there are no stupid questions has never had to answer them with a straight face.  There are stupid questions.  Lots of them.  After all, what kind of questions do stupid people ask? Do they suddenly become smart just in time to ask questions?  And I think I've heard them all.  And very smart people still sometimes ask stupid questions.  The difference is, they generally *realize* it's a stupid question about a heart-beat later.  To me, the stupid questions break down into three categories:
- questions you already know the answer to,
- questions already answered in the last 30 seconds (therefore stupid because you clearly were not paying attention and/or see point one),
- and questions that even a modicum of common sense clearly answers.

Now I realize that common sense is not so common, but since my students tend to be of above average intelligence (yeah!) I feel this rule applies.   "Can I walk under my horse?" would be considered a question in this category by anybody whose age is in double digits or higher.  And no, I'm not inventive enough to make that up.

That mini-rant being said, I actively encourage questions in my lessons because the vast majority of them are legitimate and serve to either aid in learning or highlight a skill that needs more clarification -- since both of these things are part of my job description, anything that makes that easier is a bonus!

But one of the things that makes teaching truly interesting is when I get asked a really *intelligent* question.  To me a truly intelligent question does one of two things:
- it demonstrates an understanding or attempt at comprehension of a skill or concept that is well beyond the rider's current abilities,
- or, it really makes me think about the answer.

The first of those always impresses me and gives me hope for whichever student asked the question.  The second of those is part of what makes teaching really interesting.  Neither is entirely common.  Today I had *both*.

A just-off-the-lunge-line student who watched a more advanced class asking me the difference between flexion and bend.  Totally simple question with an easy answer -- but what made it intelligent, imo, was that she considered what she was watching, was paying enough attention to realize she didn't really *know* what she was watching, figured out precisely which piece she didn't understand, AND she cared enough to ask.   That's not entirely common.

And later on a student asking me how to feel when the horse drops his shoulder.   Not how to *fix* it, which she mostly already knew, but how to feel it.   I definitely had to consider how to answer that one for a second or two :)   hahaha long enough that she was questioning if her question made sense *g*   Yes, it's a good question, I just need a second to give it a good answer!   And any question I have to think about interests me :)  Next time I won't have to think about it cause it's under the "answered and filed" section now.  hahaha but the first time somebody asks me something interesting is always fun.

For those who ride, consider this one -- I remember similarly a fairly novice student (about EC rider 3) a few months ago asking me how it feels when your horse goes on the bit.  For those who know, how would you answer that?  And it's not an adult, so you can't be overly technical.   Do you go with the emotional yet slightly useless answer: "it feels incredible/it feels like you're floating/it feels like you suddenly have 10x the amount of power"?   Or do you go with the literal: "the weight in your hands softens, as their back lifts you feel as though you're sitting on something round and sit straighter so as to stay in balance, your hips swing more to accommodate the horse stepping farther underneath..."   Well that list could keep going :)   But really, the first one is a fairly useless answer and the second one is entirely too technical.  Neither is going to be of any use whatsoever to a student who's still trying to learn to flex without the horse turning.  But she asked the question, so I had to at least try to answer :)   Explaining aids is easy; explaining feel is far more of a challenge.  Usually, imho, even harder than teaching them to feel it themselves.  But fortunately once you've done that you don't *have* to explain it, cause they already know :)

Anyways - after I had to go discuss (read brag about :) with another coach the fact that I'd had *TWO* intelligent questions in one day, it left me thinking through what exactly qualified as an intelligent question.  Or not >;-P   And this is the overtired result of that.

Mid-Summer Newsletter

Formatted version available here:

Alright, I admit that technically this is really the fall newsletter, but that’s not due for another month and while I have news now, I can’t bring myself to end summer early. Soooo this year you get two summers and no fall. Sound like a good plan? If only I could work it to two summers and no winter >;-P

Important Dates

- September 4 and 17: Hay day!

- September 10: Video Clinic at GRS

- Fall horse shows: Sept 11 – Myrddin SC, Sept 24 - Glen Oro HT OR Sept 25 - Joshua HT, Oct 9 - Woodwinds HT, Oct 29-30 RCRA Dressage

- October 8: David Wilding-Davis Clinic at Cedar Run

- October 15-16: Hyde Moffat Clinic at GEC

October 15-16: Pat Burgess Clinic at Eventing Canada

- October 23: Equine Canada Rider Level testing at GRS

GRS Clothing

Will be in mid-September! Woohoo! We’ll be doing another order that’ll include sweatshirts mid-November; hopefully in time for Christmas. If there’s anything in particular you’d like us to source, let me know!

New Sign!

Most of you will have noticed our gorgeous new sign out front! HUGE thanks to Overdrive Design for the design and to Vic Baigent for making it come to life! :)

Video Week

Thanks to all who offered video testimonials. Nicole is working on compiling those now and hopefully you’ll see them up on the website this fall!

Equine Canada Rider Testing

The EC Rider program challenges riders who are interested in knowing about the horses as well as riding. These exams are highly recommended, particularly for any rider who thinks she may want her own horse some day. The exams include four parts: a written test, a stable management test, a riding on the flat test, and a riding over fences test. We will be holding an exam October 23 for anybody interested in doing Rider levels 1-4 (higher levels will be offered this spring). If you wish to participate, let me know – you should start studying now! If you’re interested but not sure which level is appropriate, ask. To participate you must be a member of the Ontario Equestrian Federation (

GRS could use your help!

On September 4, 300 bales of hay are being delivered to see our horses through the winter and on September 17, 200 more. On the plus side, our horses will be happy. On the down side, all of these need to be stacked! The more hands, the easier this job is. Would greatly appreciate any extra hands. Sept 4 at 1:00, Sept 17 date and time TBC.

Fall Lesson Schedule

To accommodate new students, extra adult lessons, and a few work/school schedule changes there will have to be some changes to the lesson schedule. Please check out and let me know if there are any concerns about making your suggested time.

Upcoming Clinics

There are several exciting clinic opportunities coming your way!

Video clinic – Sept 10. This clinic is open to riders of all levels, but a limited number of participants. The clinic will included a lesson that is professionally videoed – a valuable learning tool as you can see what you’re doing right and what needs some work! Sometimes seeing *is* believing :) Cost for the clinic is $75 and will include either a 1/2h private dressage lesson or a 1h-1.5h group jumping lesson. You will get a dvd of your ride to keep.

David Wilding-Davis Clinic – Oct 8. This is a XC clinic up in Cedar Run, open to riders PE + (anybody who did Equus CT could do this clinic). I have space for one more rider to come with me, after that we’ll have to hire a trailer so that’ll up the cost significantly. David has evented at the top levels and represented the Canadian team. He is also about the most positive and easy going clinician around – I take all my green horses to him because they come home pretty sure they can jump the moon. Clinic cost is $75, and I expect trailering to be between 100 and 150. First come, first serve :) Clinic will include a 2h cross-country lesson.

Hyde Moffat Clinic – Oct 15/16. This clinic is open to riders of all levels and is being hosted by GEC (our neighbours – no trailering fees!) Hyde Moffat is an international level hunter/jumper coach who places a strong emphasis on correct flatwork and basics. There is one group that will do flatwork both days. All the others will do flat on Saturday will and jumping on Sunday. Jumping groups start at cross-rail level and go up to 2’9”+. Cost for this clinic is $225+hst. Each horse may only have one rider, so if you want to participate book your space now! Note that I will be away this weekend, so participants will have to be confident getting themselves ready and to the ring on time unsupervised. Even if you’re not riding, you should consider coming out to watch!

Pat Burgess Clinic – Oct 15/16. Unfortunately conflicts with Hyde’s clinic or I’d do both, but I’m going to ride with Pat who’s visiting from England. I have space for one more in the trailer. Cost is $345 and includes stabling and HST. Trailering will be about $100. We’ll go up Saturday and come home on Sunday. Pat was the coach of the British event team in the 80s, when they were essentially unbeatable. She is super patient with greenbean horses and new riders as well as being able to pick up on the finer details for more experienced riders. This clinic is two days of stadium – day one will be gymnastics and day two will be course work. Riders must be comfortable at least Entry level (2’9”) to participate. Spectators are welcome at a cost of $10/day.

Competitive Season

The GRS team continues to bring home piles of ribbons from every show they attend! Awesome job girls! Apollo, Nick, Bella, Jack and Lissy have all been out competing successfully. From the GEC schooling hunter show congrats to Alex, Caelan, Emily M, Emily S, Hailey, Kennedy, Olivia, and Rowan. Both Kennedy and Rowan were piloting their horses around their first ever hunter rounds and both girls did an awesome job, bringing home 3rd and 1st respectively. Sweet! This was followed up with Caelan, Hailey, Kennedy, and Paige attending the Lollipop show – first time competing off property for both Caelan and Paige! Paige brought home first in walk/trot equitation. Not a bad way to start!

In eventing, Hailey has been out fairly consistently with Bella, upgrading to entry level and focusing on improving her dreaded dressage! Her hard work has paid off now and she’s regularly in the ribbons.

For all the shows you can see a more detailed write-up on the GRS Blog. Photos are sometimes on the blog and always on Facebook.

Upcoming Shows:

- Sept 24: Glen Oro HT OR

- Sept 25: Joshua HT – Joshua is a schooling level event that offers lower divisions than exist at normal horse trials. This has a 2’ division and allows you to keep going even if you get eliminated (really – it means you need the practice!) The only membership required is OEF, so particularly for those who went to the Equus CT at intro level and think you might want to give this a try, it’s a good place to start. Let me know asap if you’re interested.

- October 9: Woodwinds HT

- October 29-30: RCRA Dressage – this is a schooling level dressage show. If dressage is your thing, this show starts at w/t level and goes up from there. We will only go one of the two days, but which is open to negotiation. OEF and EC Bronze memberships required.

GRS Online

If you haven’t seen it recently, check out our Facebook page: It includes daily horse-related YouTube videos, as well as photos and videos from around the barn. Alternately, keep current on GRS adventures by reading this blog right here! Like to write? Consider being a guest author! Write a post about one of your lessons or your favourite horse or something going on at the barn and send it to Lauren for publishing. Youtube page with GRS videos is under construction. Look for it coming soon.

Coming this Winter

So it’s definitely *not* time for a winter newsletter, but for those who like to plan *way* ahead:

- Winter theory lessons will be on Sunday afternoons again this winter. They will run January through March; we’ll host Rider Level exams at the end as we did last year.

- In January lesson prices will be going up slightly in order to keep lesson sizes small.

- We’re hoping to host both a dressage clinic and a jump clinic mid-winter that will be open to anybody who’s interested. More details on that in January :)

Gold star to anybody who read this far!