Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Chop Wood, Carry Water

This is a famous Zen story, and I excerpt it here from the book "Zen Mind, Zen Horse", by Allan J. Hamilton, MD.
"In a famous Zen story, a pupil approaches a great teacher and asks what activities he should undertake in order to reach 'satori', or enlightenment.
The old Zen master answers: 'Chop wood and carry water.'
After ten years of faithfully carrying out these duties, the frustrated pupil returns and tells his master, 'I've done as you asked. I have chopped wood and carried water for ten years, but still I have not attained enlightenment! What should I do now, O Sage One?'
The master answers, 'Continue to chop wood and carry water, my son.'
The pupil faithfully returns to his duties. Another ten years pass. During that decade, the student matures and reaches satori. He returns to see his old master wearing a simple smile on his face.
'Master,' he says, 'I have reached satori, and now I am an enlightened being. What should I do now?'
The master answers, 'Continue to chop wood and carry water then, O Enlightened One.' The pupil bows deeply and retires to his wood and water."
You see, dressage(horsemanship, good riding, et al) is not a destination. It is a journey. It is day in and day out of chopping wood and carrying water. Just because riders like Steffen Peters and Edward Gal have achieved greatness at the highest levels of dressage competition does not mean that each and every day they don't have to go out and start each horse from the beginning. They start with rhythm, relaxation, and connection. They build on those qualities to develop impulsion, suppleness, straightness and collection. Every day. Every ride. Every half halt. If you go out and run your horse through all of its tricks every day and never chop your wood and carry your water first, you will very quickly have a sore, bored, tight, clever horse who knows how to do only enough to end the ride as soon as possible. Take the time it takes, skip no steps. Neither should you languish...there is no such thing as perfection, so don't stifle your horse's enthusiasm and playfulness with demands of robotic perfection. But if you go out every single ride and make sure your horse's muscles are supple and loose, and that it  moves freely forward in a clear and steady rhythm, accepting contact with the bridle, you will be well on your way to achieving satori. Namaste, my friends.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

2011 Summary on the Horses & Riders of SCWDressage

Frisco Bay at the Halloween CCEC Schooling show
This winter has been the mildest-and driest-many in this area have seen in a very long time. It's been great for training horses, though probably not so great for those running cows on BLM land. I'd like to take a minute to update what everyone has been up to, and of course brag a little on my gals and horses.

Brenda Whiteley and Cookie(Poetic Justice) have had a banner year for 2011, and it was both of their first show season competing in recognized Dressage competition. Cookie accomplished all the following from the age of just over 3.5 through the fall of her 4 yr old year. Though Brenda had made a transition to Dressage from the Hunter/Jumper world several years ago, she had previously only competed at the local schooling show level. Even in 2010, she only entered in the "Opportunity" classes at the recognized shows. So, what follows is a laundry list of this pair's phenomenal achievements for 2011:
 ~CHAMPION-USDF All-Breeds/American Warmblood Registry-Open Training Level
~Reserve Champion-Las Vegas Chapter-CDS-Amateur Training Level
 ~Champion-Color Country Equestrian Club Vintage Training Level
~Reserve Champion-Color Country Equestrian Club Vintage First Level
~Qualified-and participated-USDF Regional Championships-Training Level
~Qualified-and participated-CDS Regional Adult Amateur Championships
~USDF Horse Performance Certificate-Training Level
~USDF Rider Achievement Award-Training Level
~Represented the Las Vegas Chapter at the CDS Adult Amateur Clinic series with Donna Richardson.
~Two Vintage High Point awards
~Brass plates from CDS for both Brenda at I and Training and First levels
~Cookie, with me aboard, also earned an Open High Point award, Reserve Champion with LVC-CDS at First level, and assisted me in completing my Rider Achievement Award at First level.
This young mare is a bright star and a pleasure to train. I'm honored to be a part of this team.

 Karen Martz and Tanner have continued to develop their bond. They have become the seasoned pair in our barn to ride out with if you want to go on a trail ride. Of course, Karen uses all that she learns in her dressage lessons to complement her horsemanship skills, keeping her safe on the trails. They competed in our local schooling show series as well as participated in all three of the clinics SCWDressage organized. In the last couple of months, Karen and Tanner have reached a new level in their connection and throughness, and we are looking forward to the 2012 schooling shows with great anticipation. Tanner has been schooling much of the First level work in his training sessions with me, and has gone from being a totally unbendable mack truck four years ago to a soft, supple, sensitive big boy. As my very first full training client, Karen deserves great respect for her dedication and committment to becoming an educated and responsible horsewoman.

Sarah Glidden has had a trying year. While I have continued to ride & train her horse, Daz(Beau Dazzler, she has spent little time in the saddle. She took an unplanned dismount in April, which resulted in two compressed vertebrae. That needed a few months to heal, but before she could really get back in the saddle, it came to light that her family needed her help in a very big way. Her year old grandaughter was diagnosed in July with delayed myelation. This is a very serious disease, not unlike cerebral palsy, that causes developmental delay and will be a life long challenge for little Avery. Fortunately, Sarah was able to take a leave of absence from work and head to Park City to help with all the physical therapy that was required. Avery has a long road ahead of her, but I am so glad Sarah was able to go and be a part of the education and therapy process. Sarah has bravely faced many heartbreaks and challenges in her life, and is an inspiration to me. I am humbled to be able to help her keep her horse. He makes her happy, and that makes me happy. I did compete Daz in the local schooling show series, and he finished the year as the Open Second level Champion. I also competed him at one recognized show early in the year, at First level. He was a very good boy, earning me yet another CDS brass plate for scores above 60%. He is schooling everything in Third level, and of course is now helping Sarah regain her saddle-fitness.

Jenny Campos has moved to southern California! After some trying personal times and much soul-searching, she decided to take a year for herself. She was born and raised in southern Utah, and this time in California is a wonderful opportunity for her to grow, and hopefully blossom. She did compete at four recognized shows in the 2011 season at First level, and did very well with her first season. She finished with scores as high as 68%. I have kept her amazing Latvian Warmblood gelding, Brendijs, going in full training. Jenny has decided to sell Brendijs, so I have spent the last few months since returning from Canada getting him fit, strong, and bringing him up the levels a bit. He has very easily handled the work, moving rapidly from Second level into Fourth level. I competed him at the Las Vegas Fall Fling in Fourth level test 1, and we earned excellent scores, particularly considering it was both of our debut at the level. We brought home a 66.7 and 67.4. I'm pretty happy with that, and plan to continue to show him until the perfect home can be found for him. He'd make a wonderful schoolmaster, but also is talented enough for a new professional to get some experience at the medium levels. I have him schooling everything in Prix St. Georges. Good Lord willing and the creek don't rise...maybe he and I will make an FEI debut in the spring???!!! While I miss having Jenny at the barn, I wish her much happiness in life and hope California treats her well.

Barbara Repta, the owner of Bergdalen Marit, has moved back to Park City with her husband. She made the brave but agonizing decision to discontinue riding in light of the progression of dementia. "Petunia" has moved to Las Vegas and is being leased by Samantha Slinkard, a very talented young lady. I feel this pair is the perfect match, and while I know Barb misses her pony, Petunia is in very good hands with Samantha.

SCWDressage welcomes a new addition to the gang, in Mariellyn Berry. She owns a really nice AQHA gelding named PKS Sugar("Skeeter"). He has been in full training with Ryon Gardner, who owns Lava Bluffs. Mariellyn has her sights set on Western Dressage, a rapidly growing discipline. Mariellyn is a delight to work with, has become a wonderful friend to me, and I look forward to seeing this pair compete in the upcoming schooling shows, where we will add the new Western Dressage tests to the lineup.

I competed my kiddo, Frisco Bay, in his first two shows in November. He is a travelling pro already, having gone to Canada for the past three summers. At 3.5, he was the youngest horse entered in the Arizona Dressage Association's Fall Fiesta. He was also the youngest horse entered at the Las Vegas Fall Fling. We showed at Training level tests 2 & 3 at these two shows. Our path has been a little bumpy, with scores ranging widely! Our first test of his career, in Scottsdale, resulted in a 50% and a near-elimination after repeated disobediences. He just could not understand why he had to be by himself in that ring, when all the other horses were next door in the warmup ring. Twice I had to bring him to a complete halt in order to avoid an unplanned exit of the arena! Can you say "effective use of the outside rein?!" Frisco gradually got the hang of his job, gained some cofidence, and we eventually edged our scores up to 64%. I'm wondering if that was the widest percentage swing of the show?! Our next show went significantly better, with Frisco having a lot of confidence in his job, and making a big step up in his scores. He earned 69's on both tests on Saturday, and our final test of 2011, at the Las Vegas show, resulted in a 70%. My first ever 70% in recognized competition. On a 3 year old. At only his second show. Frisco has earned one score needed to qualify for the Regional Championships, in the Open division, which requires a 68%. I hope he continues to progress, and gains consistency and confidence. I plan to show him at least a couple more times at the Las Vegas shows this winter and spring. Frisco and I were the Open Intro Champions for our local schooling show series for 2011. By the way, I must mention I really like the new addition to the Intro tests...test C is a very well designed test, perfect for youngsters and timid riders.

SCWDressage organized three clinics and two schooling shows in 2011. Our clinicians were Blondie Brimhall, Trisha Kerwin, & Stephanie Brown-Beamer. These ladies also judged all three of the schooling shows in 2011, allowing riders who had participated in the clinics to get feedback on their progress from these wonderful instructor/judges. I can't thank Ryon and Holly Gardner, owners of Lava Bluffs Equestrian Center, enough, for their support of my efforts. And Color Country Equestrian Club provides a great opportunity for the local dressage community to gain much-needed experience in dressage shows without having to break the bank. I also can't do any of this without the love and support of my wonderful husband, Dow. He made oatmeal for me every morning in Scottsdale...and took me out to dinner every night. I am grateful to all those who make all this possible for me, and look forward to another great year in 2012.