Ashley Eve
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Ashley Eve

Achievements

About Ashley Eve

Dressage diva turned Ontario eventer with my APHA, FSG Montana Dust (Monty).

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Improve Your Riding by Strengthening Your Glutes

Ashley Eve is a long-time dressage rider turned eventer and a certified personal training with a passion to help riders and their horses through fitness and health coaching. She coaches riders with at-home workouts that use minimal equipment and is developing a YouTube channel with full workouts for riders looking to get fit, improve their riding and help their horse.

If you are unstable in the saddle, or lack balance, what is the first thing someone tells you? Strengthen your core. Yes, the abs are important. Most people have lost the ability to move from their “center,” therefore teaching someone how to work the core, not just do crunches, is very important.

However, there is one major muscle group that has proven time and time again that they are actually more important to functional movement than the abdominals: the glutes. The glutes consist of 3 major muscles:

  1. The gluteus maximus, which does external rotation and extension of the hip joint (moving the leg backwards).
  2. The gluteus minimus, which does abduction of the hip (moving the leg away from the body).
  3. The gluteus medius, which also does abduction of the hip (moving the leg away from the body).

These muscles are important mover and stabilizers of the hip joint. The glutes assist us in walking, sitting, standing, climbing stairs, getting out of bed and literally every lower body movement.

The problem these days, is that we SIT on the glutes all day long, rendering them weak and useless.  Without the proper use of the glutes, the hamstrings and lower back muscles end up taking over far more work than they should. The abdominals are strong and can support a weak lower back, but if the lower back keeps having to compensate for sleepy glutes, then the abs will never be able to keep up. This will result in poor posture, back pain and a less than ideal position in the saddle. Trying to ride without strong, active glutes is akin to trying to build a house without a foundation.

So, how does this relate to you? Without strong glutes, your lower back and hamstrings will take over as primary movers and stabilizers. This provides a very unstable base of support for your upper body, which can show as bracing in the upper body and tension in the reins, as well as an unstable lower leg. You will also find the rider clings with their legs, as the pelvis is unable to stabilize the body.

Weak glutes also leads to poor posture, as the abs are only able to compensate to a point. This is where the dreaded “shoulders back” battle begins. You will also see this manifested in riders that can’t seem to sit up straight and always tend to lean forward. The weak glutes lead to tight hip flexors and a weak upper body making it nearly impossible to sit up straight. This isn’t something that can be fixed in the saddle.

Think of the pelvis and hips as the foundation of a house. Without a strong foundation, everything is weak and unstable. This applies to your riding as well. Without a strong pelvis, which is stabilized by your glutes, you are going to lack the ability to maintain a proper position, which leads to unclear aids, poor posture, imbalances in your body due to compensation and a whole host of other issues, just like a bad foundation does for a house.

And here is the truth: Your imbalances become your horse’s imbalances, which become your horse’s lameness.

Further, by allowing your lower back and hamstrings to take over while riding, you are setting yourself up for back pain, knee pain and ankle pain as you compensate for the weakness. Often I hear “I am just old; I get knee pain when I ride.” While degenerative conditions, such as arthritis, can lead to pain, strengthening the proper muscles and lengthening the tight tissue is one of the best ways to not only combat chronic pain but prevent future pain.

But riders are soooo busy! Now, I know riders are busy between working to pay for the horses and actually riding, but it is crucial to make time for your own fitness out of the saddle. And, no, mucking stalls doesn’t count.

Sinead Halpin said it best in her recent interview with the USEA: “If you’re competitive, if you don’t want to have chronic low-grade pain, if you want to be kind to your horse by riding well, you will find it important to find an exercise routine that works to keep you supple and strong,” Halpin concluded. “Just do it. I have 23 horses on the farm, an 8-month-old, and a mortgage to pay without a major sponsor and I find the time, so just do it.”

Riding will feed into your imbalances. If you are weak on the left and therefore lean into the right, you will lean more into the right stirrup as you get more exhausted in the saddle. Especially out on cross country, it becomes dangerous to have a rider’s imbalances being magnified when the horse may be getting tired as well.

If you sit at a desk all day and therefore have weak glutes and tight shoulders, causing you to slouch into a chair seat in the saddle, no amount of yelling “shoulders back” and no amount of custom saddles will fix your issues.

Further, if you continue to get on the horse with the same issues, it doesn’t matter how much money you dump into their massage, therapy blankets, chiropractic, acupuncture, etc. You will continue to cause the same imbalances in the horse until it causes a lameness.

We are all adults, right? So I can be a straight-shooter, right? You are an athlete. Start training like it! Not only does improving as a rider depend on it, but your horse depends on you to show up as your best self every day.

To help you get started, I am developing a YouTube channel with free workouts for riders looking to get fit. The video at the top of the post is a quick booty blast to help kick off your new fitness plan and strengthen those glutes. For more videos and tips make sure to follow me on Facebook and join the free The Equestrians Advantage community.

As a former sport horse vet tech, eventer and certified personal trainer, I am passionate about starting a movement towards rider fitness out of the saddle to improve not only riders, but also improve soundness in the horse.

Super Paint in Training

Ashley Eve is an Ontario eventer and frequent contributor to EN’s #EventerProblems series. As Ashley says, “I’ve got 99 problems… and apparently my horse is every single one!” A former dressage rider, she entered the world of eventing as an adult amateur upon the arrival of a special horse, Monty, into her life. She chronicles their adventures (and misadventures) together on her blog Super Paint in Training. We asked her to tell us a little more about herself and her very colorful — both literally and figuratively! — horse, and she kindly agreed. Thanks for sharing, Ashley!

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Photo by Ian Woodley

I own the most charismatic, life of the party, APHA gelding in the world. FSG Montana Dust, or Monty, is a future eventer that provides anything but a dull day! Stay tuned for ramblings of our good and bad days, funny stories and frustrations. If anything this blog is going to be an online journal of our adventures together, and there are always a lot! After a setback in 2015, related to tack, we are ready to take on the world, errr, Ontario, one stride at a time! PC: Ian Woodley

How does a lifelong dressage diva end up turning to eventing? The drinks! Just kidding (mostly!).

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Truthfully, I am not overly brave or bold but I was drawn to the sense of community (which says a lot for an extroverted introvert like me! It is a real thing, I promise!), relaxed atmosphere and acceptance of one and all — both horse and people.

My History

I grew up in Windsor, Ontario, around the incredible Rosemary and Julie O’Connell. I first met them at Southern Cross Equestrian Centre, at the age of 5 with my terror New Forest Pony ironically named Prince, from his registered name Forest Hill Prince Albert. They were my first introduction to eventing.

Proof my parents didn’t own a camera. One of my only Prince pictures!

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of Ashley Eve.

While I enjoyed eventing for fun, and playing on my homemade cross country course at my family farm, aka whatever I could scrounge up and hide out in the hay field, the horror stories of death via jumping (carefully placed in my head by my mother) left me to play in the “sand box” growing up. The amazing Heather Buchner, a Canadian Young Riders Dressage team member, took me under her wing while dreams of Young Riders bounded in my head.

My incredibly talented mare, First Love (Lovey), came from The Horse People Inc. and was originally bred to be an upper level eventer (Talk about a missed opportunity!). I turned her into my dressage star and all was going well until ONE season (No, that is not a typo. One season.) into our competitive career together nagging injuries started to creep up.

I attempted a second year, and my family graciously funded every newly researched supplement on the market; however that year we only made it to a handful of shows prior to our deciding to retire her at the ripe ol’ age of 7. Talk about crushing.

Lovey, enjoying the retired life at my family farm. Photo courtesy of Ashley Eve.

Lovey, enjoying the retired life at my family farm. Photo courtesy of Ashley Eve.

Stigmas in the Show Ring: I Always Dreamed of Having a Paint

To backtrack a bit, I was never allowed to own a paint, or any unusually coloured horse, growing up. Dark bays and black horses filled my family stable as to not draw negative attention while showing in dressage. I still feel, from my recent personal experience, that Paints and Quarter Horses are stigmatized as “western” horses, particularly in certain disciplines. Even my newsletters from APHA barely showcase the versatility of the Paint within English disciplines.

Anyway, I didn’t think much of it as a child or teen. Ironically, when I met Monty I was looking at black Yellowcreek fillies to develop into my future eventing prospect.

The babies loved my husband! Photo courtesy of Ashley Eve.

The babies loved my husband! Photo courtesy of Ashley Eve.

Monty, a Dream Come True

While the Yellowcreek offspring were lovely my attention was drawn to the recent arrival, a blood bay Paint x Quarter Horse in the quarantine paddock (APHA, FSG Montana Dust. PQR Im Apollo x Watch Convoy Blazer, of FSG Farms in Ontario.)

Meeting Monty. Photo courtesy of Ashley Eve.

Meeting Monty. Photo courtesy of Ashley Eve.

It wasn’t necessarily his colour that caught my attention, or that I was looking to work on breaking stereotypes with a horse of a different colour, but his curiosity and that “twinkle” in his eye.

After finally getting him out of the paddock (He had other ideas), discovering he has two small bumps on his forehead (his “devil” horns) and watching him move, I was sold. He had all the markings of a solid prospect for eventing. I wasn’t looking for a Rolex horse. I wanted a young horse to develop and grow with, working through the levels together until they, or my budget, maxed out. He was my guy.

Eventing, Welcome One and All

What drew my attention back to eventing was the sense of community. (Also the fact that every professional to work with Monty asked if I planned to event him. His awesome vet calls him “busy body/ busy minded”).

Don't let that baby face fool you! He is likely planning something! Photo courtesy of Ashley Eve.

Don’t let that baby face fool you! He is likely planning something! Photo courtesy of Ashley Eve.

In the eventing community everyone had something nice to say about everyone else and did not hesitate to lend a helping hand. Paint, Thoroughbred, Warmblood, etc., they were all welcome and celebrated for their achievements.

It didn’t matter that Monty wasn’t an imported Warmblood, wasn’t 17-hands with legs for days, or that his mane will never sit on the right side (literally no matter WHAT I do!). It didn’t matter if I couldn’t afford the latest IT helmet, or breeches, or if my socks had holes in them. In fact, it was celebrated through series like “Eventer Problems” on Eventing Nation.

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Also, the “Horse of a Different Colour” (Yes, I’m Canadian. I spell it with a ‘u’!) series actually brings attention to colours in eventing!

First Show Season

Our 2015 season was interrupted, early in the season, due to saddle fit technicalities (You could say he is hard to fit but luckily Julia, from Schleese, came to the rescue!).

Monty was an absolute star when we were able to get out and get experience. He seemed to ooze confidence and a sense of “this is where I belong.” The judge graciously gave the newbie baby as much time as he needed to walk around before we began our test. Old and new friends took a moment to congratulate Monty and I on his first show. Everyone was kind and didn’t hesitate to strike up a conversation, share an umbrella or hold your horse for you (or move their car, to give you extra space to work when your horse decided he was NOT loading for the sixth time that day!).

This was new territory for me. Leaving Twisted Pine that day I WANTED to become more involved in the eventing community.

First time ever at a show or in a dressage ring! Photo by Ian Woodley.

First time ever at a show or in a dressage ring! Twisted Pine Combined Test, spring 2015. Photo by Ian Woodley.

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Soaking up the long hours of the horse show life like a pro! Photo courtesy of Ashley Eve.

Our Future

So here I am. The 2016 show season is upon us, whether mother nature agrees or not.

We have a new Schleese Merci to train in (I am working on the husband approving an Obrigado next!), an Ambassador position with Horsey Bits Treats (Monty’s absolute favourite treat. This must be a sign of good things to come!) and a bright future ahead of us!

I am proud to consider myself an evente (even if being brave enough for cross country requires an increase in my LCBO budget!), I love sharing my “Eventer Problems,” and I can’t wait to show the world (OK, Ontario!) what the American Paint Horse can do!

While my budget could never bring Monty to the upper levels, even if he is able to achieve that level of success, I hope to show Ontario that a good horse is a good horse, regardless of colour (or which side his mane falls on!).