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BadEventer Learns to Roll With It at LandSafe Clinic

EN’s good friend Laura Szeremi AKA Bad Eventer recently had the opportunity to participate in a clinic with LandSafe, whose Landsafe Rider Fall Safety System training program is designed to teach the best practices of fall prevention and response. (Despite what Laura would have you believe, she is actually a very very good eventer!) Laura was kind enough to share her experience with EN. You can keep up with Laura via her blog, Tales from a Bad Eventer, here.

Editor’s Note: LandSafe believes participants should learn to clear the head and neck properly first before introducing a helmet and vest. EN strongly recommends wearing a helmet at all times when mounted on a horse.

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All photos courtesy of Laura Szeremi

I admit it. I’ve ALWAYS wanted to ride a mechanical bull.

Always.

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But every time I’ve had the opportunity, my thoughts went something like “I could get hurt and not be able to ride tomorrow” or “The individual running it might be drunk and could get me killed” or “I ride dangerous horses in a dangerous sport, I should probably stick to that.”

In the end I reasoned that if I got hurt doing something so stupid I just couldn’t live with it, and I’ve managed to talk myself out of it every single time.

Besides mechanical bulls, I’m also obsessed with safety in our sport and particularly rider and horse falls. The fact that I’ve had a serious fall and own some extensive facial hardware thanks to it …

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… may or may not have something to do with my passion on the topic.

I read every single safety article, study reference and video review, and I comb through all the data I can find. I LOVE data. So when I saw the LandSafe team set up at Ocala Horse Trials …

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… I could see from across the park that they had a mechanical horse set up to simulate falls. I nearly sprinted over there.

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Bad Eventer had found her chance to finally justify getting on that “mechanical bull”! This was about safety! And I get to fall off a mechanical horse onto a super soft landing.

I could NOT sign up fast enough! And the Bad Event Groom got volun-told to sign up with me!

As excited as I was to sign up for the LandSafe clinic, I really am a big chicken. And of course the first step: liability waiver. BadEventer = Massive scaredy cat.

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Fortunately they have a plan for that, and didn’t just toss us off the mechanical horse first thing!

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But before I tell you the rest of my story, some real talk.

Safety in our sport and reducing rider risk is such an important topic to me that I’m going to make a rare exception to the BadEventer No-Real-Names rule. The BadEventer stories have never used real names. Full disclosure, many of the “identifying details” of characters I describe are often changed to protect the innocent, or the not-so-innocent, in my tales.

So let me introduce for the first time some real names.

This is about safety.

And reducing rider risk.

And saving lives. So let’s start with the decidedly NOT fun part of this story.

Nikita Sotskov, Philippa Humphreys, Caitlyn Fischer, Olivia Inglis, Guillaume Pucci, Sabrina Manganaro, Francisco Seabra, Benjamin Winter, Jordan McDonald, Cathal O’Malley, Tom Gadsby, Bruno Bouvier, Sebastian Steiner, Robin Donaldson, Elena Timonina, Dirk Grouwels, Ian Olding, Jade South, Emma Jonathan, Stephen Moore, Karen Rodgers, Franz Graf, Shannon Bloomfield, Eleanor Brennan, Maia Boutanos, Tina Richter-Vietor, Anke Wolfe, Elin Stalberg, Julie Silly, Jo-Anne Williams, Amelie Cohen, Amanda Bader, Kim Hyung Chil, Sherelle Duke, Caroline Pratt, William Booth, Cindy Burge, Samantha Hudson, Rhonda Mason, Mark Myers, Jemima Johnson, Peter McLean, Simon Long, Polly Phillips, Robert Slade, Peta Beckett, Keith Taylor, David Foster, Tasha Khouzam, Roberta Scoccia, Linda Riddle, Amanda Warrington, Sam Moore, Anna Savage.

If you’ve been around our sport for any length of time, you’ll quickly recognize these names. These are riders who died while eventing.

I truly believe this can change and that we don’t need to add any more names to this list. There are multiple pieces and parts to examine when it comes to reducing risk. While course design, fence construction and qualifications get much deserved attention, safety is being suitably mounted on the “right horse” at the “right level” on the “right day.” In summation, nothing is more important to safety than rider responsibility.

Now that the not-fun part is over with, let me introduce the fabulous cast for the rest of this story. Cue the stage entrance music: the fabulous BadEvent Groom, Tegan Henderson …

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… who is also an amazing artist! Check out this painting she did of the Zebrasaurus!

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Joining us in the fun was the very talented rider Zachary Brandt.

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Then we have the LandSafe creators and instructors Danny Warrington …

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… and Keli Warrington.

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The first day started with some stretching and concept introduction. This is where I remembered how incredibly BAD I was in gymnastics. As a child I was thrown out quit gymnastics after about two weeks due to my overall lack of aptitude for the discipline.

Fortunately you don’t have to be a world class gymnast to learn how to fall and we started slowly.

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I fully admit when they said eventually we’d be doing “dive rolls” over a tower of mats, I didn’t think THAT was ever going to happen.

Shockingly, with plenty of fun and hilarity we all got there.

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When we got to the horse we started slowly, with extra padding and a spotter. Zach was the first volunteer.

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And when it was my turn, I was NOT disappointed!

The first time, in true BadEventer style, I landed on my head!

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Boy is THAT a good reason to take the Landsafe Reducing Rider Risk clinic!

Learn more about LandSafe and view the upcoming clinic schedule here. Stay tuned to EN for a full report on LandSafe’s mission to save lives, reduce injuries and increase safety education of riders.

Dressage and Fitness … Wait, What?!

A couple months ago we had a “Let’s Discuss” conversation here on EN inspired by a blog post by EN’s good friend Laura Szeremi AKA Bad Eventer called “The Secrets of the Sitting Trot.”  (Editor’s note: Despite what Laura would have you believe, she is actually a very very good eventer!) Today we catch up on Laura’s sitting trot adventure. 

All photos courtesy of Laura Szeremi.

I’ve had a couple ah-ha dressage fails moments this week. I have this fancy shmancy unbelievably bouncy dinosaur of a horse. My struggles to sit his trot have been epic — mentally and physically.

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While riding our first Prelim test, wherein sitting the trot is mandatory, halfway through I found myself wheezing like a dying animal. This was in spite of being the fittest I’ve been in decades.

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Let’s face it. My apologies to all the Crossfit champion DQs out there, but dressage is not exactly known for requiring *cough* the most athletic riders of the equestrian sports. And I certainly didn’t think my severe lack of oxygen had anything to do with fitness.

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Sure! You need flexibility and some core body strength, but not aerobic fitness. Right?

During the end of season break I wasn’t sure what to do with myself. I need goals to keep me motivated and having never run more than five miles in my life I decided to enter my first half-marathon. Makes total sense, right?

So I’ve been running my shoes off, training for my suicide attempt. My half marathon is next weekend and I’m feeling pretty amazing about my fitness.

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When I took my first dressage lesson this week in nearly two months, I was prepared for A LOT of suffering. I hadn’t sat the trot in weeks and I assumed I would’ve taken several steps backwards, as if it was possible for my sitting to trot to get any worse. I’ve had flat lessons where the fearless leader told me I could post if it meant I wouldn’t cry during lessons.

I was braced and ready for the physical and emotional suffering, but something very unusual happened.

There was no wheezing…

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and at least 50% less bouncing…

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Wait … what? Who knew dressage required so much fitness?!

You can keep up with Laura via her blog, Tales from a Bad Eventer, here.  

William Fox-Pitt Clinic Cross Country Report: ‘Don’t Be Wimps!’

In case you missed the first two recaps from William Fox-Pitt’s recent clinic in Ocala, here are the links: dressage and show jumping. Thanks so much for sharing, Laura! Check out Laura’s blog, Tales from a Bad Eventer (editor’s note: Laura is actually quite an GOOD eventer!).

Photo courtesy of Laura Szeremi.

Photo courtesy of Laura Szeremi.

William’s introduction to cross country included some similar thoughts he had shared in show jumping.

“The most important thing is for the horse to be thinking on its own. Unless you’re Michael Jung, you make mistakes and things go wrong. You have to teach the horse the stride isn’t always right, the line isn’t always right, and that’s why we start from trot.” He mentioned that invariably every time we fall off it’s jumping from trot! He sent the horses out to trot several fences including a ditch.

Photo courtesy of Laura Szeremi.

Photo courtesy of Laura Szeremi.

He also mentioned that he rides all his young horses in a full cheek snaffle for cross country. He commented, “What’s going to happen when things get tricky if you’re riding a young horse in a tricky bit? Where do you go from there?”

He wanted the horses thinking about jumping around the fences and stressed it’s important to trot a ditch for the first time so that the horses could look at the ditch, because they don’t even notice it from canter.

Photo courtesy of Laura Szeremi.

Photo courtesy of Laura Szeremi.

Most of the horses had jumped earlier in the show jumping session so he made quick work of the warm up. After everyone managed to stay on trotting a few fences he sent them right out to do a fairly impressive first course of nine jumps including a coffin and trakehner.

All went well and next they picked out another 10 or so fences that included several related distances and a few decent skinnies. All the riders and horses made it look easy so there wasn’t much to comment on.

After that they headed out and did a decent sized corner, an up bank and some steeply angled logs.

Photo courtesy of Laura Szeremi.

Photo courtesy of Laura Szeremi.

Next came the water where the riders spent more time than anything else on the course jumping through the water jump in various patterns.

He stressed that you need a short, bouncy, energetic canter in the water, further explaining that the horses tend to get longer and longer in the water so they get in trouble. He had the riders start out by just cantering through the longest dimension of the water and he told every rider as they cantered through to get an even shorter canter.

Next they did a variety of drops in to wedges out. One horse was doing a fair amount of peeking at the water before jumping in. The rider was puzzled and William said something to the effect of she needed to put her leg on and get on with it. His instructions were always direct and he sure does have a wonderful sense of humor.

Photo courtesy of Laura Szeremi.

Photo courtesy of Laura Szeremi.

Towards the end, he had them do a course of seven or eight fences through the water jump in different combinations and said, “If you don’t like my course feel free to make up your own, but don’t be WIMPS!”

It was a wonderful day, and an absolute privilege to glean secrets from William Fox-Pitt!

William Fox-Pitt Clinic Show Jumping Report: The Importance of Making Mistakes

Thanks so much to Laura Szeremi for bringing us a three-part series on Willam Fox-Pitt’s recent clinic in Ocala. Check out Laura’s blog, Tales from a Bad Eventer (editor’s note: Laura is actually quite a GOOD eventer!) and stay tuned for the third installation featuring the cross country day. If you missed part 1, featuring dressage day, check it out here

Photo by Laura Szeremi.

Photo by Laura Szeremi.

William Fox-Pitt started the jumping sessions with a discussion of … wait for it … fitness.

I was thinking how true it was. Before I traipsed off to become the world’s oldest working student, I really had no idea how many of my past Bad Eventer moments had lack of fitness as a piece of it. I have always been active and was never an all out slug so I didn’t realize just how over the top fit you actually need to be for this sport.

Photo courtesy by Laura Szeremi.

Photo courtesy by Laura Szeremi.

Now I get it.

William started the jumping lessons discussing fitness, core body strength and how the best riders are still over the fences and still on their horse. You can’t be still if you aren’t fit and if you’re not still you are wearing your horse out trying to stay under you.

Next he spoke about some basics that he focuses on. Your horse needs to be straight and needs to jump evenly off both directions; he mentioned how important it is for them to be ambidextrous and what a handicap it is if they aren’t. He said it’s easy to drift around and let them jump crooked and stay on one lead at home, but you have to be definite, straight and even. Sound familiar? His “no grey areas” rule was introduced during the dressage lessons and he carried it through to his jumping instructions.

Next he discussed rhythm, and said he tries from the very beginning to establish a rhythm right in the warm up. He did say that’s often a challenge due to space constraints in the warm ups.

You’re probably thinking this is all pretty universal: fitness, straightness, rhythm, yeah yeah yeah. And here is where it got interesting.

He explained his philosophy about jump training, explaining that he believes in variety, keeping it interesting and being what he called “relaxed about striding.”

“With event horses, at most you jump once a week, so sometimes I like for a session to just jump from the walk, one session I will only jump from trot, maybe for another session I’ll just trot a few skinnies. You shouldn’t always do course work, you shouldn’t always canter fences. Trotting and walking fences is important for horses to learn to sort it out. We don’t like trotting fences because invariably when it goes wrong or we fall off it was from trot. But trotting fences forces the horses to figure it out and if they kneel on a small oxer from trot they learn something. If they kneel on a 4-foot oxer at a show they don’t learn from that.”

Photo courtesy by Laura Szeremi.

Photo courtesy of Laura Szeremi

Next he went on to discuss how he is “relaxed about striding.” He asked, “How many rounds do you see at shows with perfect strides? None! So when we practice I want to produce a variety of distances, I want them deep, then off, then long, they have to learn to be relaxed about striding and taking off from anywhere.”

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Let me tell you. Having just parted with a horse who was not even a little bit “relaxed about striding” (blog on the way called “Oil and Water” ) this was music to my ears.

This also brought up fond memories of riding with 15 time reining world champion Craig Johnson.

Photo courtesy by Laura Szeremi.

Photo courtesy by Laura Szeremi.

Though reining couldn’t be a more different sport from eventing Craig’s philosophy was the same. You aren’t always going to ask at the perfect time for something (like a flying change), and things at competitions aren’t going to go perfectly so your horses have to learn to have responsibility.

He had us do lots of exercises where we didn’t set the horse up perfectly, he actually called perfect riding a form of “micromanagement” and we did specific exercises he called “riding badly.” I remember one lesson in particular where he rode around the group calling out, “I know you can ride worse than that!!! Show me just how badly you can ride!” It was a powerful lesson and I actually got more out of my reining horse that day than in the six months before. It’s like it switched on an idea in his head that went something like, “Oh wow, I better take care of this idiot!”

OK, back to William Fox-Pitt and jumping. His comments really echoed Craig’s and he explained that the horse has to have independence, responsibility, and tolerance for a variety of distances because you’re going to mess up and the horse has to be able to cope.

He started with the riders and horses trotting a crossrail, then moved on to trotting some small verticals, and then trotting 2-3 small verticals in a row. He focused on the horses being straight, and approaching from each direction. Once everyone had been sufficiently humiliated introduced to jumping at the trot, he moved on to cantering a few fences.

Here he continued his theme of letting them make small mistakes. He said to “create a canter and go with it so you’re not increasing or decreasing. Wait for the jump to come to you. Life doesn’t happen in one stride, don’t move and panic to be in that deep forward spot every time, you WANT to get a variety of striding!”

He talked about the canter you want being the canter that gets you an 8 in the dressage ring. I love his descriptions of things like “wibbly wobbly” and “creepy crawly.” He said, “Don’t get creepy crawly in the canter. It’s better to keep cantering and be a bit wrong at the fence than to shut the canter down for the deep distance. He said coming to the fence think, “Quality, quality, quality, not stride, stride, stride.”

This reinforced through each lesson with additional comments such as, “Think about the canter not the striding — I don’t mind if you miss!”

As he moved on to course work he discussed some philosophy about related distances. He said, “The golden rule is that you have the first half of the distance to organize and the second half to ride it. If you’re still trying to make changes in the second half it’s too late and you’re horse is more likely to make a mistake because you’re interfering too close to the jump.”

Photo courtesy of Laura Szeremi.

Photo courtesy of Laura Szeremi.

One discussion in particular was interesting. A rider who had just missed pretty badly at a large oxer by creeping up to it was explaining how they have a harder time seeing a distance when turning to the right. William’s reply was “You probably shouldn’t even know that! The reason distances are harder to the right then left is because he falls through the turn. Stop thinking about the distance, work on the turn, GO through the turn and kick him and GO, stop waiting and looking.”

He went on to comment later, “You’re thinking too much about him being bad on one rein, you need to just energize him and get on with it.”

As the jumps got larger (and for the riders competing at Advanced) he did demand some better decision making. One rider jumped into a four-stride line pretty badly but then just cruised on down the line, missing at the out. William’s comment was, “If you get a bad shot in you have to deal with it, you can’t just carry on. By adding you give confidence but if you chase him down in four and a half he thinks you’ve gone mad!”

He had them do some interesting bending lines and noted quickly that all the riders wanted to make the turns too tight and were leaving out strides. He said it was a common error, “we all want to snatch and take a tight turn, everyone needs to jump the first jump, then breath out and think CHILL as we turn to the next fence.”

One rider cut the turn so sharply that he stood in the way and had her go around him. This was really entertaining as he said things like, “Relax, you don’t have to give me miles, just go right around me!”

In her defense Bad Eventer would have “given him miles” too, as all I could think of would be the Horse & Hound article, “William Trampled at Clinic in the U.S.”

All the riders finished with some full courses and he had each make some adjustments based on their horses needs. Some riders had to kick on, energize and “create a fire in their belly.” Others had to “land, control, ride” because their horses were getting what Wiliam called “onward bound.”

He also mentioned his number one priority throughout, which is … you guessed it … connection.

He said the horse has to give you a good feel down the rein and the horses that were too backed off. He had the riders kick them on until they could hold the rein in “that good handshake” like he discussed at length in the dressage lessons. There were also several bit and rein changes as he’s not a fan of any bit that doesn’t let you hold enough for that solid feeling (gags, three-rings, etc.) He said if you’re going to ride with something like a gag you absolutely need the snaffle rein as well so that you can still have a good connection.

William Fox-Pitt Dressage Clinic Report: Connection, Connection, Connection!

Having spent a year attempting to channel William Fox-Pitt, I was pretty darn excited when I saw he was going to be teaching a clinic in Ocala. Unfortunately the timing was such that all my horses are on an end-of-season break, so watching and blogging are the best I could do.

The inimitable Laura Szeremi.

It was unusually cold for Ocala and I was woefully underdressed to sit by a dressage arena furiously taking notes.

The dressage lessons carried a common theme interspersed with fantastic comments such as, “I’m not good at changes either but I’ll take a look.”

The theme was connection, connection, connection. 

Photo by Laura Szeremi.

Photo by Laura Szeremi

Did I mention connection?

Photo by Laura Szeremi.

Photo by Laura Szeremi

Here are a few takeaways I wrote down.

“You need a confident connection. The best horses are the ones that argue the least — you don’t see Michael Jung’s horses arguing on course.”

“The Golden Rule is connection, they have to be connected, forward and balanced. Do corners, straight lines, leg yields, don’t just do circles.”

“That’s what the winter is for: boring hard work.”

He had several riders flip their hands over on the reins and use a driving rein position. He even had one ride with one hand on both reins. That was particularly interesting because I had watched him warm up for dressage at Rolex with one hand on both reins and I thought he was just such a Bad A$$ he only needed one hand on the reins. (Of course that’s true, too.)

He said it creates a different feeling for the horse, that the most restrictive “blocked” position we can use is the “correct position” and flipping the reins over helps unlock the elbows and prevents riders from sticking their elbows out. He told one rider she needed to use that hand position at home for the next six months!

Essentially all of the dressage lessons focused on basics. Are you connected? Do you have a good feel down the reins?

Photo by Laura Szeremi.

Photo by Laura Szeremi.

He described the feel you need as a solid handshake. This idea really struck home for me when he said, “Don’t have a wimpy handshake. You know what a bad feeling you get when someone gives you a creepy handshake so don’t give that icky feeling to your horse.”

More on the handshake feeling, “A weak feeling is trouble and a heavy feeling is hard to do anything out of so you need a confident connection.”

More basics. Will the horse bend? Can you go forward and back between gears? He said over and over that people tend to only ride in circles at home, and they need to do straight lines and corners, speed up and slow down.

He mentioned that the horse needs to stretch down from the breastplate area, not just behind the ears.

He had a few horses that were reluctant to bend and he walked with them and demonstrated how much they need to be able to bend.

He mentioned a few times that you can’t fiddle with the reins. “They have to be lighter off the leg to become lighter in the reins. Stop fiddling with your hands — you need to fiddle more with your leg.” “You can change the bend inside and then outside but don’t fiddle!”

The constant theme was connection and a few times he mentioned, “Yes, the horse is a little heavier than maybe you like but you have a nice confident connection so be grateful for that and work on the rest.”

When he touched on a specific movement his comments included, “Each movement has a beginning, a middle and an end. We tend to drift into and out of movements and they can’t have grey areas. You need to be definite. For example, when coming up the quarterline to start a lateral movement, finish the turn, get straight, then start the movement. It’s better to show the beginning and start a few steps late than to just drift into the movement out of the turn.”

He said you need to think about preparation, “make the turn, think am I ready? Then, here we go!”

A few more interesting notes: He doesn’t like loose ring bits. As his focus is connection, he said it’s harder to be connected with a loose ring because it’s “too wibbly wobbly of a feeling.” He told a couple riders, “I’m not a loose ring fan, and neither is your horse.”

He had several riders do a quarter walk pirouette, as he likes the quarter turn better than the half because it keeps their feet moving.

He commented about giving one horse a break before they go in the arena so they don’t go in with their neck aching.

Other themes: “Don’t be afraid to ask! He might not like it but you need to ask anyway.”

“They can’t go around like a plank, they have to be rideable.”

“It’s O.K. to ask and have it go a bit wrong, today’s a good day for it to go a bit wrong!”

Of one horse he said, “because he doesn’t hurry you don’t think about the half halt, but it will help develop his strength so it should be part of his program.”

He was charming, funny and focused. I’ll say every lesson was thorough and he was particularly insightful as to each horse and rider’s strengths and weaknesses. And of course everything began and ended with a discussion about CONNECTION!

Thanks so much for sharing, Laura! Check out Laura’s blog, Tales from a Bad Eventer, and stay tuned for the second and third installations of her William Fox-Pitt clinic report, featuring the cross country and show jumping days. 

Let’s Discuss: The Secrets of the Sitting Trot

Each week we take a talk-worthy topic and crowdsource it to our readers in search of an answer — or at least a some good ideas. This week’s topic, “The Secrets of the Sitting Trot,” is inspired by this blog post from EN’s good friend Laura Szeremi AKA Bad Eventer. (Editor’s note: Despite what Laura would have you believe, she is actually a very very good eventer!) You can keep up with all of adventures via her blog, Tales from a Bad Eventer, here.  All photos/amazing Bitmoji courtesy of Laura Szeremi. 

Before you get excited, let me be clear: I still have no earthly idea how to sit the trot on my giant moving fancy pants warmblood. My dressage lessons on him regularly bring me to tears.

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For the record – I can sit the trot no problem on this horse…

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and this horse …

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and this horse …

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But this one!!!!!

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Last weekend in warm-up the fearless leader admonished me NOT to sit the trot in the warm up. The advice went something like, “Don’t SIT before you go in the ring! If it’s too bouncy, trying to sit isn’t going to make it better.”

Last I checked sitting is “required” at this level and I’m not sure if I can’t sit in warm up what’s going to happen in the ring.

Here’s what happened: I thought I might actually DIE. And by the time I was done with the trot work and FINALLY able to canter I was sucking wind trying to breathe so desperately that I couldn’t imagine why it is that I can run eight miles at altitude …

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… but two minutes of sitting trot on this beast absolutely kicks my A$$.

I was lamenting my issue at the last show, and the best comment I heard was, “Well … you look quite a bit better. At least now we don’t think you’re actually going to bounce OFF the horse??!!

So I’ve been asking people if they have any “sitting trot secrets.”

These were the top five REAL answers Bad Eventer got to her question.

#5. “I drink three glasses of wine before every dressage test.”

#4. Go to your doctor and ask for Ativan.

#3. Gain A LOT of weight. You can’t bounce as high if you’re heavier.

#2. Wear a shadbelly and post anyway. They’ll just think you’re “re-balancing.”

#1. Buy a Paso Fino.

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What sayeth you, citizens of EN? Can you help a sister out? Have any sitting trot “secrets” to impart? Share ’em in the comments! 

Diary of the Oldest Working Student in History, Part 4: Is It a Crisis?

Ever fantasized about dropping everything to focus on your riding? Area V eventer and Tales from a Bad Eventer blogger Laura Szeremi’s dream was to go be a working student for a big-name rider –– just one (OK, more than one) problem: her job, her husband, her farm, her can’t-even-keep-count-of-how-many herd of horses… and, well, Laura is a bit older than your typical starry-eyed working student candidate.

In light of all that grown-up “baggage,” what she chose to do next — load up the trailer and move from Texas to Florida to be a working student for Jon Holling — makes her the hero of every adult-amateur event rider’s wildest dream. And just when you thought the upheaval couldn’t get any more real… here’s Part 4. 

Just tuning in? Check out  Part 1: #YOLO, Part 2: Newbie Lessons and Part 3: Animal Crackers and Drip Drying. All photos courtesy of Laura Szeremi. 

Crisis

1. a dramatic emotional or circumstantial upheaval in a person’s life

2. the point in the course of a serious disease at which a decisive change occurs, leading either to recovery or to death

When I was 11 or 12 years old I remember telling my riding instructor that I wanted what she had. She had her own stable, horses, arena, cross country course… it was my dream. I thought I wanted to be Just. Like. Her.

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She looked down at me and without pausing a moment said, “No you don’t. What you want is a nice job where you can board your horse at a place like this and all you have to do is come ride her after work.”

Thirty years later, I understand.

I followed my “dream,” started my own stable at the ripe age of 18 and I’ve been running a stable full-time (along with my “other” full-time jobs) for 24 years.

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I’ve got the farm…

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the arena…

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cross-country jumps…

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And in the past 24 years I’ve spent infinitely more time mending fences, thawing hoses and feeding horses than I ever have riding.

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All I’ve ever really wanted to do is ride. Stable ownership definitely didn’t make room for riding. At least it didn’t for me.

Now that I’ve spent a few months in the land of good footing and plentiful tack shops I can’t possibly imagine going back to all work and no play. If only I could tell my 12-year-old-self how right that advice was.

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With great excitement I’ve decided to sell all of it. I’m going to live in my horse trailer, board my event horses at fabulous facilities (where I don’t have to mend fences) and follow my life-long dream of riding. JUST riding.

I have never been more excited about anything.

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Yet I keep getting messages like, “I’m so sorry you’re selling your farm.”

“Are you having a midlife crisis?”

“Have you been diagnosed with something terrible?”

“We’re really sorry to hear you’re selling your equipment.”

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I suspect all of the so-sad messages are from people who still believe what my 12-year-old self believed. They think the house and the farm is “the dream”.

It isn’t. It never was. And I have never been so excited and happy to turn loose of it.

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Is it a crisis?

Definitely not.

Anyone looking for a perfect 60-acre farm? I happen to have one for sale.

Stay tuned as we continue sharing Laura’s “Diary of the Oldest Working Student in History” adventures (and misadventures). Thank you so much for sharing, Laura, and for reminding us to Go Eventing, no matter what the odds.

Diary of the Oldest Working Student in History, Part 3: Animal Crackers & Drip Drying

Ever fantasized about dropping everything to focus on your riding? Area V eventer and Tales from a Bad Eventer blogger Laura Szeremi’s dream was to go be a working student for a big-name rider –– just one (OK, more than one) problem: her job, her husband, her farm, her can’t-even-keep-count-of-how-many herd of horses… and, well, Laura is a bit older than your typical starry-eyed working student candidate.

In light of all that grown-up “baggage,” what she chose to do next — load up the trailer and move from Texas to Florida to be a working student for Jon Holling — makes her the hero of every adult-amateur event rider’s wildest dream. This is her story.

Just tuning in? Part 3 chronicles Laura’s #YOLO decision to make her fantasy a reality, and Part 2 outlines a few newbie lessons she learned the hard way. Today’s entry, penned one week into her experience, doesn’t gloss over the fact that it’s hard work, yet somehow worthwhile.

All photos courtesy of Laura.

Animal Crackers & Drip Drying

If you’ve never experienced a clinical rotation in some kind of medically related college it’s hard to explain to the uninitiated the complete circle of hell that is involved.

My clinical rotations in vet school are a blur of sleep deprivation, massive stressors and intense starvation. I’ve never been so skinny before or since.

A typical day started at 4:30 a.m. and ended at midnight. Next day repeat. It wasn’t unusual to get less than three hours of sleep per night for weeks straight. Some nights it never ended with emergencies and surgeries and critical care. There was one week in particular I still have dreams about where I worked from 5 a.m. Monday until 8 p.m. Wednesday… without a break. That’s 63 hours, but who’s counting?

I had an exam Thursday morning and guess what? I slept through my alarm and missed it.

In addition to the out-and-out sleep deprivation there was little to no opportunity to obtain food. Seriously, was I going to the grocery store at midnight and interrupting my coveted three hours of sleep? I think not.

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The pharmacist at the school always kept a large bowl of animal crackers on the pharmacy counter, and I’m certain that I’m not the only vet student who only survived clinics thanks to those animal crackers.

It’s a funny coincidence that while stocking up on food before I headed off to my working student adventure, I bought a large jar of animal crackers. For some reason this last week made me think about that bowl at the pharmacy.

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I’ve officially, or perhaps unofficially, survived my first week. I’ve decided there are stages of “working student training” and the first stage is the “not-worth-the-air-they-breathe” stage.

That’s where you can’t remember the easiest thing — like put the horse in the stall and turn the fan ON. Take the horse out, fan OFF.

Seems simple.

Wasn’t simple for Bad Eventer.

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I am hopeful, as I’m finishing day 10, that I’ve passed that first stage where you are worse than useless. (More on the stages of working-student-training later.)

BE WS directions for dummies

It’s been an interesting week and I thought I’d share a few working student tidbits.

1. Electrolytes in hay cuts is a really, really, really bad thing.

2. Getting to ride more than just your horses is awesome. Hours in the saddle, baby, that’s what it’s all about.

3. Even if you’re on your fourth large bottle of water, it’s not enough. Pee that looks like coffee is not OK.

4. Just as I was thinking that maybe I’ll survive without dying of heat stroke, I find someone who just mucked an entire barn, in a blistering hot metal shed, lifting weights.

5. Dubarrys aren’t waterproof when the water is running into them from the sky. It took five days for them to dry out from a summer thunderstorm.

6. Always look before you sit. I hooked up the water to my new-to-me horse trailer, and the first night at 2 a.m. I sat in a cold bowl of overflowing water.

Hello. Rude. Awakening.

7. When people ask you what you’re doing here and you tell people you’re the “oldest working student in history” they think you’re kidding.

“No really, I’m a working student. Really. Yes. Yes, I’m serious.”

8. When you’ve finished your fifth day in a row working 11 hour days in the heat and you’ve walked the 73 steps to the shower — and you realize you forgot your towel. It’s just not worth it to walk back and get it.

Drip drying was how I ended the day.

9. Riding your own horses during work hours is just awesome.

It doesn’t matter how many stall walls you’ve scrubbed or polo wraps you’ve rolled, getting to ride during your work day makes it all worth it.

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Stay tuned for more on Bad Eventer’s Working Student adventure.

Stay tuned as we continue sharing Laura’s “Diary of the Oldest Working Student in History” adventures (and misadventures) throughout the week. Thank you so much for sharing, Laura, and for reminding us to Go Eventing, no matter what the odds.

Diary of the Oldest Working Student in History, Part 2: Newbie Lessons

Ever fantasized about dropping everything to focus on your riding? Area V eventer and Tales from a Bad Eventer blogger Laura Szeremi’s dream was to go be a working student for a big-name rider –– just one (OK, more than one) problem: her job, her husband, her farm, her can’t-even-keep-count-of-how-many herd of horses… and, well, Laura is a bit older than your typical starry-eyed working student candidate.

In light of all that grown-up “baggage,” what she chose to do next — load up the trailer and move from Texas to Florida to be a working student for Jon Holling — makes her the hero of every adult-amateur event rider’s wildest dream. This is her story.

If you missed part 1, chronicling Laura’s #YOLO moment, check it out here. Today she recounts what it was like to get thrown in the working student deep end. All photos courtesy of Laura.

Newbie Lessons

Whenever you embark on something new there are always some important lessons learned. Some of them are more embarrassing than others.

1. Dark clothes are a must.

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I’ve always worn light colored riding clothes. Where I live in Texas it’s unbelievable horribly hot, and I always went for the lighter colors thinking it attracted less heat. Of course I would wear “other” clothes for all my barn chores, change into my riding clothes just before riding, and then change out of them after.

Working students might get on horses at any moment throughout the day. Hack this one, trot this one, cool out this one — oh, your lesson is in 20 minutes. This is the first time I’ve had to work all day in riding clothes.

I found out very quickly that by 8 a.m. my lovely tan breeches, were no longer lovely — or tan.

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2. I’ve never actually done a trot set.

OK, I’ve trotted my horse for 30 minutes. Sure. Of course I have. But apparently it was more of a Western Pleasure style jog, because when I was sent out for my first “trot” and I learned what that means.

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I realized I have never in my life actually “trotted.” Who knew?!

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3. Never leave your spurs on the fence.

This is an old cowboy saying. I’ve used it myself many times but I also ride A LOT of baby horses. And while I’m particularly suicidal brave, I’ll never be the kind of colt starter that climbs on for the first ride with spurs on.

When I ride someone elses horse for the first time I usually skip the spurs as well. So when I found myself headed out for my first “gallop” in a group of horses as a working student, all I could think of was MY horses, who are all off the track.

I had visions of being run away with in front of everyone. I left the spurs off.

Fortunately they put me on the most level-headed of the group, being the newbie and all. Soon I found myself getting left more… and more behind.

Never — EVER — leave your spurs on the fence.

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4. Use two hands for EVERYTHING.

Scooping feed.

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Brushing.

Currying.

Double the hands, half the time.

5. I don’t, in fact, have lice.

When I did a pretty intense riding boot camp last year I started having some head itching issues. I thought maybe it was the humidity, the long hair stuffed in the helmet all day.

When I went home & back to my mostly-work and not-much-riding life, it went away.

I didn’t think a lot about it. So when I came back for my working student gig AND I had cut all my hair off…

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…I thought surely it wouldn’t happen again. But this time after a couple of days in a helmet it was WORSE.

I was convinced I had ringworm or lice or something horrible. Then it dawned on me. I’m allergic to plastics and detergents of all varieties. The lining in my helmet is different in the place my head was itching and when I got enough mirrors together to make sure I didn’t, in fact, have lice, I discovered HIVES.

OMG I’m allergic to my helmet!

And now I get to make an even better fashion statement in THIS new accessory.

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Bad Eventer in the house!

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Stay tuned as we continue sharing Laura’s “Diary of the Oldest Working Student in History” adventures (and misadventures) throughout the week. Thank you so much for sharing, Laura, and for reminding us to Go Eventing, no matter what the odds.

Diary of the Oldest Working Student in History, Part 1: #YOLO

Photo courtesy of Laura Szeremi. Photo courtesy of Laura Szeremi.

Ever fantasized about dropping everything to focus on your riding? Area V eventer and Tales from a Bad Eventer blogger Laura Szeremi’s dream was to go be a working student for a big-name rider –– just one (OK, more than one) problem: her job, her husband, her farm, her can’t-even-keep-count-of-how-many herd of horses… and, well, Laura is a bit older than your typical starry-eyed working student candidate.

In light of all that “baggage,” what she chose to do next — load up the trailer and move from Texas to Florida to be a working student for Jon Holling — makes her the hero of every adult-amateur event rider’s wildest dream. This is her story.

The Fork in the Road

I was having breakfast with a long time friend. He’s not a horse person but he’s always fascinated with my latest adventures. I was whining a little bit about how work was keeping me from doing pretty much everything — except working.

I wasn’t getting in ANY riding. I’m not sure I even remember what color my horses are. Bad Eventer…

Contrary to what "Bad Eventer" would have you believe, she is in fact a lovely rider. Photo courtesy of Laura Szeremi.

Editor’s note: Contrary to what “Bad Eventer” would have you believe, she is in fact a lovely rider. Photo courtesy of Laura Szeremi.

…was becoming Overworked Non-Eventer.

"I play a doctor on TV, too." Photo courtesy of Laura Szeremi.

“I play a doctor on TV, too.” Photo courtesy of Laura Szeremi.

My friend asked me, “If you could do anything you wanted, what would you do?”

I paused for a second and said, “I’d take a working student position with someone like William Fox Pitt!”

He stared at me for a few seconds and said, “Wow, that is definitely not what I thought you were going to say.”

I still don’t know what he thought I was going to say, but that conversation has echoed in my mind ever since. I really thought I had missed that kind of opportunity.

I’m too old.

I have too much stuff.

I’ve chosen my “path” and it definitely doesn’t have that kind of branch in it.

Without warning, a few weeks ago I had the opportunity to get out of my rut. My chosen path abruptly ended, and while the shock has not quite worn off, I soon realized that the sky was the limit.

I can do anything I want.

Sometimes you just have to go for it. Bad Eventer is headed off to be Bad WorkingStudent.

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Photo courtesy of Laura Szeremi.

The Reactions

You may have heard: Bad Eventer is running away from home to become Bad WorkingStudent.

The reactions to this announcement have been… interesting. So I’ve decided to share of few of them. Here are my top five.

#5. Bad Eventer: “I’m going to Florida to be a working student.”

Friend A: ” You can’t do that.”

Bad Eventer: “Why not?”

Friend A: “You can’t just sell everything and move!”

Bad Eventer: “Sure I can.”

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I think people limit themselves based on all the “stuff” they think they’re supposed to have.

Yeah, OK, I have a lot of stuff. Tarps, hula hoops…

Yeah, I have a lot of stuff. Tarps, hula hoops...

Yeah, I have a lot of stuff. Tarps, hula hoops…

My new motto, “If it won’t fit in the horse trailer, I don’t need it.”

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#4. Bad Eventer: “I’m going to Florida to be a working student. Are you still there? Hello? Hello?… Hello???”

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Photo courtesy of Laura Szeremi,

#3: The Bad Eventer’s Parents: “I had really thought by this age you would have outgrown this HORSE thing.”

"Bad Eventer as a teenager! Don't ask about the jodhpurs."

“Bad Eventer as a teenager! Don’t ask about the jodhpurs.” Photo courtesy of Laura Szeremi.

#2. Bad Eventer: “I’m going to Florida to be a working student.”

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Laura and her husband. Photo courtesy of Laura Szeremi.

The Bad-Event-Husband: ” Honey, remember a trakehner is JUST a log!”

Trakehner full gallop

Photo courtesy of Laura Szeremi.

#1. Bad Eventer: “I’m going to Florida to be a working student.”

Friend B: “Huh?? You don’t know how to ride yet?”

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Photo courtesy of Laura Szeremi.

Stay tuned as we continue sharing Laura’s “Diary of the Oldest Working Student in History” adventures (and misadventures) throughout the week. Thank you so much for sharing, Laura, and for reminding us to Go Eventing, no matter what the odds.