Gillian Warner
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Gillian Warner

Achievements

Become an Eventing Nation Blogger

About Gillian Warner

I'm a 17 year old eventer and show jumper. I compete at training level and in the High Children's jumpers. I am a HB/B USPC member. I have two horses; Erin and Putt. Erin is my dressage mount, a 17 year old QH mare. Putt is my new eventing partner, a 9 year old TB gelding.

Eventing Background

USEA Rider Profile Click to view profile
Area Area 2
Highest Level Competed Training
Trainer Mara DePuy

Latest Articles Written

From the Ground Up: Building Your Network

Gillian Warner is bringing us along for the ride as she strikes out on her own to launch her business as a professional. You can catch up on the preceding columns from this series here.

Surrounding yourself with a network that pushes you to develop as a horse(wo)man ensures progress to being the best version of yourself possible.

Over my junior, young rider, and now my professional career, I have been so lucky to have countless coaches, trainers, mentors, and friends who support me, encourage my crazy ideas, challenge new ideas, push me to grow, and allow me to take risks. I’m surrounded by compassionate, driven, and hard working horsemen and women who inspire me in my own path.

Identifying role models in my life has been an important step for me, especially as I work to establish myself as a professional. Finding other horsemen and women that share similar values as I do has been instrumental in developing my training approach, philosophy, and outlook on my personal and professional careers.

Who qualifies as a role model for me is so broad. I find inspiration in the excitement my new beginner students bring to their lessons. I admire horsemen like Mark Rashid and Buck Brannaman for their consistent and thoughtful approach to horsemanship. As I mentioned in a previous article, Luke Gingerich’s open-mindedness spurs my own creativity to think outside of the box. Female business owners and entrepreneurs provide guidance and strength when I’m feeling uncertain of my next steps. My trainers, such as Ange Bean and Doug and Jess Payne, approach training in a way that prioritizes the horses’ welfare, bringing biomechanics and science into work that values feel and connection as well.

I have role models outside of the equine industry as well, found in my college professors’ critical thinking, my friends’ adventurous spirits, my parents’ and grandparents’ commitment, love, and hard work, and my sisters’ light and passion for everything she does.

My family is filled with role models that encourage me in my life-long learning process.

Pulling from the philosophies, approaches, and spirit of such a diverse group has allowed me to approach any situation as a student with curiosity that drives genuine questions, collaboration, and experimentation that might feel like a bold leap of faith, but instead leads to new opportunities and solutions.

By keeping this open-minded, creative, life-long-learner spirit in my work has encouraged me to continue connecting with new role models. Reaching out to strangers who are working hard, trying something new, passionate about what they do, and who share values has allowed me to connect with an ever expanding network that continues to push me to grow and change every day.

I’ve walked up to people registering voters on the street to thank them for their work and learn more about what motivates them. I’ve reached out to individuals on Instagram that have introduced me to something new, or have spurred my thinking. I’ve connected with trainers that share mutual friends about their work, and how we could support one another.

Inspiration can originate anywhere, and developing your network with role models that share your values, challenge your approach, stimulate your thinking, and support your growth can lead to opportunities, thoughts, and ideas you never could have previously imagined.

Who can you connect with today?

From the Ground Up: Establishing Boundaries and Being Comfortable with the Word ‘No’

Gillian Warner is bringing us along for the ride as she strikes out on her own to launch her business as a professional. You can catch up on the preceding columns from this series here.

Working with students and clients towards their goals for themselves and their horses is a passion of mine. But setting boundaries has proven to be important in preserving that passion.

I’m settling into bed and my phone lights up. I glance over, reading the white numbers on the screen signaling that it’s 11:36 p.m. I should have gone to bed hours ago, but needed to wrap up some paperwork.

The text on the screen is from a client of mine, asking for another lesson slot the following day.

My internal argument between being accessible and finding time to rest springs to the surface. I want to be approachable as a young professional, and I care about my clients and their goals — I want to help by providing that lesson. However, I’m tired after a long day, it’s well outside of normal business hours, and I don’t have time in my schedule the following day.

Do I respond?

When I first kicked off my business, messages such as these were quite commonplace. And I responded promptly. I struggled to set boundaries from the get go to protect my own time, rest, and goals. I was eager to please and forgot about the need for balance.

Once I found a steady client base and schedule, I had more confidence and ability to be clear and straightforward regarding those boundaries. I’m lucky to have understanding and kind clients, who of course recognized what I was saying immediately. While I was so nervous about asking for space, setting boundaries on hours I’d respond and what I could give actually allowed me to give more to my clients in the time I had with them, instead of feeling strung out and disorganized in my interactions.

I also realized the power of saying “no”. Of course, I want to do all I can to help my riders and their horses. It’s what I strive for every day, to help each of them be and feel the best they can be. However, I’ve filled up my lesson slots, and am working off of a waitlist. When riders asked for more than I could give, I felt guilty (and honestly, I still do!) But finding the strength to say “I can’t right now” protects me from stretching myself too thin, which again can only result in disorganized interactions and an exceptionally tired self.

Whereas I used to respond to those late night and crazy early text messages, I now wait until normal business hours — hours that I’ve set and explained to my clients. They all know I’m accessible any time in case of emergency, but otherwise will hear from me as soon as I can. Setting and holding these boundaries by being clear, consistent, and confident in what I also need has helped me to be a better trainer, coach, and manager.

Emotional Control in the Face of Pressure: Giving Horses the Tools to Succeed with Luke Gingerich

Developing both a physical and emotional connection with his horses is key to Luke’s mission and work. Photo by Winslow Photography.

One of the best parts of my job is working with young horses. Introducing horses to communication with people and watching them think and problem-solve is fascinating to me. My work within the beginning stages of horse-human interaction largely revolves around ground work, allowing the horse to understand what my body and voice cues mean, but also allowing them to have choice, especially in our first interactions.

Another favorite part of my job is researching (I get it, I’m a nerd!). I love to read, learn about experiences other trainers have had, and brainstorm new ideas and exercises to utilize. During one of my deep dives into research, a friend of mine suggested I take a look at Luke Gingerich’s work. Watching some of his bridleless rides and his work at liberty with his horses made me realize I just had to learn more.

Luke teaches liberty horsemanship, and competes in reining, ranch versatility, and freestyle reining, where he incorporates both bridleless reining and liberty work into his performances. As someone who is detail oriented, Luke was drawn to the “relationship and level of communication that liberty horsemanship displays, and how subtle and refined [the training] can become.” He believes that the “finesse, trust, and communication this requires is a great way to test [the] relationship and showcase what [has been] built together.”

Luke experienced an eye-opening moment early on in his liberty career with his partner, Rio. “After introducing positive reinforcement and clicker training, I incorporated it into my liberty work. When working Rio on a liberty circle, I reinforced the moments where he was soft and collected. Before long, he was holding a consistent stretch at liberty”.

This experience with Rio opened Luke’s eyes to the opportunity to combine liberty work, positive reinforcement (such as clicker training), and negative reinforcement (such as pressure and release) to help horses make the choice to be soft, confident, and controlled, even in the face of pressure.

Training horses at liberty does leave a choice for the horse to engage, or disengage. Providing horses with the space for choice also leaves them with the space and responsibility to develop physical and emotional control, even under pressure.

Horses are bound to face pressure in life — we all are! Whether the pressure is coming from a human (such as a cue to go faster or move over) or an environmental factor out of our control (the weather, traffic noise, crowds, etc.) horses will experience situations where they’re challenged, and their focus and control is tested.

In addition to ridden work, Luke works with his horses at liberty on the ground. Photo by Winslow Photography.

This is where Luke believes liberty work can come into handy. By giving horses the space to learn how to physically and emotionally control themselves, while encouraging and marking the desired behavior, and utilizing pressure and release to show that working through pressure can result in comfort, horses can develop trust and relaxation through stressful situations.

When horses learn that they can work within pressure, and even influence pressure with their response, (such as stepping sideways, resulting in a person releasing their cue), they develop the tool to think through and problem-solve while maintaining mental relaxation.

“Much of my liberty work is built on the basis that a horse naturally wants to mirror, or be in sync with, other members of the herd. I channel that desire and natural instinct to read subtle shifts and changes in body language, to be able to create complex maneuvers and behaviors that my horses become capable of doing at liberty with me.”

“The combination of both the mental and emotional connection, combined with the physical body control and muscle memory that [liberty] work creates can then be carried directly over into riding in many other competitive disciplines,” Luke believes.

Moving forward, Luke would be interested to see liberty horsemanship develop into more of a foundational piece of training horses, for ridden and ground work. Communicating with horses in this capacity has allowed Luke to connect with them on a physical and emotional level, and he now works to help other horse and rider partnerships to experience this connection.

Luke and his mare Chloe performing bridleless. Photo by Winslow Photography.

Additionally, as more people are aware of or participate in this work, opportunities to showcase the development of the horse/rider partnership can assist in further introducing this approach, and help spur collaboration among trainers.

While he’s already achieved numerous goals, Luke aims to continue developing as a liberty horsemanship trainer and as a competitive rider, pushed by the question: How adjustable can myself and my horse be to differentiate between disciplines and explore new challenges?

To Luke, this looks like expanding into bridleless dressage, showing in western dressage, and increasing his and his horses’ body control through higher level movements on the ground. If we each ask ourselves this question, what opportunities open up to explore a new physical and emotional connection with our own horses?

From the Ground Up: Finding Your Niche

Gillian Warner is bringing us along for the ride as she strikes out on her own to launch her business as a professional. You can catch up on the first part of this series here.

Growing up as a competitive equestrian, I always thought becoming a professional would mean a strong emphasis on competing. I’ve come to realize it can be incredibly broad.

There are many capacities in which someone could become a professional equestrian. I’ve always imagined working with horses full time as a model that’s heavily focused on competition — finding owners, bringing horses along, and competing at international-level competitions.

While, of course, that is one path to take, and a path that does involve goals of mine, when trying to determine whether or not I wanted a professional career with horses, I realized that the path I wanted to take didn’t completely resemble what I had always envisioned.

For many years in high school and college, when I was contemplating a switch to professional status, I was always hesitant to do so, since I wasn’t sure I wanted to follow the competition-oriented model I’ve seen outlined so many times before. I enjoy competing, and setting goals for myself and my horses to reach, but it isn’t what I love most about working with horses — it doesn’t fire me up in the same way watching a young horse problem-solve does, or helping a student clear their first fence.

When considering why I wanted to pursue an equine career, I came to recognize my passions within the industry: I love to teach, engage with the community surrounding all things horses, and work with young horses, or horses and riders struggling to communicate clearly. After finding positions that allowed me to prioritize these passions, I knew I wanted to pursue building a career centered on them.

Creating my tagline “Building Partnerships” serves as a daily reminder of my model and focus.

There’s nothing like starting a horse that goes to a home that loves him more than you ever thought possible. Or encouraging a new rider to try their first canter, resulting in a smile that seems to stretch on for miles. The flutter of excitement when a previously hard-to-catch horse canters up to you in the field, or an older horse finding a new sense of curiosity in positive reinforcement and target training keeps me motivated day in and day out.

These moments clarified that my reason for doing this work is to build partnerships between horses and riders. I want to introduce riders to the sport, give horses a kind, compassionate, and consistent foundation, and clarify the communication we can have with our equine partners.

Being honest enough to recognize what I love, even if it’s not what I envisioned, allowed me to create a better model for me: One that allowed me to focus on teaching and training in efforts in line with my passions and goals. Focusing my time and energy on opportunities consistent with my why helps re-energize me, even during a long day.

The point of all of this being, there are many capacities in which riders could find a career with horses. Tailoring your work to match your needs is possible. Do you want to work with horses full-time, or find a way to balance an equine career with your other professional passions? Do you want to primarily compete, or do you not want to compete at all? Do you like to manage and organize teams? Maybe finding a role as a barn manager could be right for you. There are a host of opportunities that fall well within these spectrums.

Finding opportunities to work to build partnerships between horses and riders and invite the community into the equine industry are two components of the work I’ve established that bring meaning to what I do every day.

If you’re considering kick starting a career with horses, or you’re interested in finding a new balance in your own riding, spend some time thinking about your why. Consider your passions, and also think about the needs around you. What does your community need or want? Are there opportunities to introduce students to riding? Or is your community lacking upper-level opportunities? What are some skills that you have to fill those needs? Of course, you can think of those skills as directly relating to horses, but they could also include networking or organizing if you see clinic or show opportunities as lacking.

Working with horses is not a one-size-fits-all situation. Considering the numerous capacities you could fulfill will open opportunities not regularly recognized, and even help develop your community while supporting you in finding work that you find to be meaningful and energizing. Once I took the pressure off of myself to be the professional I thought I “should” be, I was allowed to step into a role that gives back to both myself and the people and horses around me. Don’t be afraid to explore creative approaches to how you engage with the equine industry!

From the Ground Up: Stepping into a Professional Equestrian Career

Navigating my interests while starting out as a professional is challenging, but with a strong passion for what I do and a great support system, I feel up to the task.

People looked at me as though I had grown three heads when I told them I moved back to Central Pennsylvania in January to start working with horses. Leaving the (relatively) warm climate of North Carolina where I was working for Doug and Jessica Payne to embrace the snowy tundra in the depths of Pennsylvania’s winter certainly put my grit, and my cozy wool sweaters, to the test.

It’s been one month since I jumped into the equine industry as a professional. There are days when I feel like I am living my dream and experiencing everything I have wished (and worked) for, and there are days where it feels as though I’m running headfirst into a brick wall – again and again.

From finding clients, navigating the creation of my LLC, finding the “right” insurance, growing comfortable with self promotion on social media (blah), mucking stalls, and maintaining some hint of a non-horsey life, starting my own equine business has been an adventure. While I certainly don’t have all of the answers, I’m starting my column “From the Ground Up” to serve as a space for readers to ask questions, share personal experiences, and learn together.

No joke, I had a total of eight layers on in this picture.

Before we jump into the highs, lows, and stories from horsey (and non-horsey) adventures, I figured I could take a minute to introduce myself. I absolutely love meeting new people, so please feel free to reach out to me on my Instagram, or comment below!

My name is Gillian Warner. I’m a young professional based in State College, Pennsylvania, where I work as an Assistant Barn Manager while operating my new business, Warner Equine, providing lessons, training, and clinics.

I started riding when I was four years old, growing from a young horse obsessed girl, to a professional horse obsessed girl. Growing up in Pony Club (through which I have my HB/B certifications), my background is diverse and well-rounded. While I evented through most of my middle and high school years, I also dabbled in dressage, and now primarily focus on show jumping. While I love to compete, my main passion lies in connecting people with horses. Studying Community Development at Penn State (where I graduated May 2021), I constantly researched human-equine connections – how do horses help us develop as individuals, and help us become “good” community members?

While I’ve frequently been recognized as the horse girl among my school peers, I was also known to be the biggest nerd – serving as the student government president at my high school. Also passionate about local government, I considered pursuing a career in community planning and organizing. However, as graduation approached, I realized I wanted to give a career with horses a real shot.

Shortly after graduating from college, I packed my bags and moved to North Carolina. First, I worked as the Equestrian Director for Camp Wayfarer for the summer before starting a position with Doug and Jessica Payne in the fall. Loving the experiences of teaching at camp and competing with the Paynes, I decided to dive a step further and start my own business.

Although I decided to pursue a career outside of community development, I still love to be engaged in local government, and believe it’s important to find a balance between my horsey and non-horsey passions.

As a firm believer that horses have the capacity to develop responsible, empathetic, community-oriented individuals, I use every opportunity to explore the benefits that horses bring to us. My research and the belief that horses have the ability to develop these values lies at the foundation of my business. My goal is to build partnerships between horse and rider that will be mutually beneficial to both involved. I thrive off of assisting horses and riders find their “light bulb” moments in learning to communicate.

Despite feeling like I’m occasionally on a rollercoaster, I wouldn’t change my current plans for the world. And I feel fortunate to have had previous jobs and experiences to help prepare me for this new role. However, there is still so much I want (and need) to learn. If you’re on a similar journey, interested in efforts to kickstart a business in the dead of winter, or generally are looking to hear some funny stories, deep conversations with myself while cleaning stalls, and appreciation for the opportunity to spend so much time with horses, I hope you’ll join me! Welcome to From the Ground Up!

Giving Upcoming Professionals a Leg Up: The Rising Equestrian Pro

Countless lesson students have come up to me after their rides, exclaiming how lucky I am to work with horses day in and day out, and how they would one day like to be in the same position.

Of course, working with horses professionally is quite literally a dream come true for me, as it is for many other professionals. However, as many other equine professionals and enthusiasts know, it comes with multiple challenges that require thoughtful and intentional work – just like any job. Navigating business, customer, and skill-based challenges can make it seem overwhelming to jump in. Where do you even start? What skills do you need? What resources or support exist, and how can you utilize those? What business model is right for you?

The Rising Equestrian Pro is a new platform started by New York based professional Emily Urban that helps direct young riders, such as the enthusiastic and passionate ones I teach, to find next steps towards a career with horses by strategically planning to find their role in the industry. Emily, who runs a successful teaching/training operation while pursuing a PhD in Soil and Crop Sciences at Cornell University, noted, “This is the type of resource I wanted when I was figuring out my own career path years ago. By the time I was in my early 20’s, I had worked for some top riders in the US and Europe but still didn’t have a clear sense of how to “make the leap” into the profession. You can be a great rider and horse trainer, but there is a lot more that goes into making an equestrian career successful.”

Identifying why you want to pursue an equine career and focusing your business model to support that passion is one component of developing a strong business. Photo by Robby B Photography.

While existing organizational support for young professionals is super, The Rising Equestrian Pro began to offer similar support to riders just beginning to explore a potential professional equestrian career. “We recognized that many of our young riders who have hopes of going pro someday need more avenues to gain specific knowledge on the business side of things. We offer a 6-week virtual course that brings together experts in law, finances, marketing, etc. and current equine professionals to do just that. We want to give them specific business insight and a community of peer support before they launch into the industry professionally,” Emily explains.

The platform is structured in a way to support interested and potentially future professionals, by offering an expert-taught, module based course that offers technical and social support. Focused towards high school or college aged candidates, riders can sign up for the course and expect weekly live lectures with expert guests, biweekly ‘Meet the Pros’ Mastermind sessions, and weekly assignments and feedback to help them plan their businesses. Students will work through this course with a cohort of other potential equine professionals, allowing the students to connect and begin building a nation-wide network of collaboration and support.

Modules focus on addressing and building skills useful for an equestrian business and career. Some module offerings will include those to evaluate why the students are interested in the industry (identifying passions and creating a written framework and business model to connect those passions), business logistics (such as accounting, insurance, and employee management), and personal well-being (diving into retirement savings, and mental and physical healthcare).

Founder Emily Urban plans to bring in expert advice on how to plan and manage an equine business for a successful professional career. Photo by Stelladorables LLC.

This course is meant to provide a broad sweep of what it looks like to be a professional, introduce existing resources, and explore potential career paths (not all business models look the same!). With the opportunity to center your “why” in your plan, develop tangible skills necessary for an equine business, and connect with experts in the field and peers in a cohort setting, The Rising Equestrian Pro aims to set up up-and-coming equestrian professionals for success.

Course registration is now open for the Spring 2022 session scheduled for March 28- May 6. For more information on how to get involved and sign up for a course, visit The Rising Equestrian Pro’s website. Additionally, take a look at their Facebook and Instagram pages (@risingequestrianpro) for more information and to stay up to date!

White Knuckles, Why Not? Learning to Drive a Horse Trailer

Driving a car is one thing, but driving a horse trailer, loaded with precious animals, is on a completely different level. It’s terrifying, and feels much, much different than driving a car. You have to be more aware, and prepared, in order to make stops and stay away from annoying drivers. Even though it’s a stressful task, it’s one that many equestrians are bound to have to learn.

After growing up driving trucks and trailers around the farm, I was ready to hit the road with a trailer, and a horse. As we were heading back from one of our many horse adventures, my mom asked if I wanted to give it a go.

“Sure, why not?” I responded, unknowing of the white-knuckled situation I just got myself into.

As I sat down in front of the wheel, I was feeling confident. My mom was right next to me, and my trusty steed, Putt, was happily hanging out in the trailer. I switched into drive and pulled out onto the road. I then realized just how terrifying it was. I didn’t want to mess up!!

Smiling? Or grimacing?

Smiling? Or grimacing?

My first trailer driving experience was sink or swim. Without remembering, my mom put me in charge at the hardest part of the drive. We were on back roads, with many, many curves, driving right on the edge of a cliff where the pavement had started to break away.

... Don't look down...

Don’t look down …

If that wasn’t nerve-wracking enough, we came to a one-way underpass bridge where I couldn’t see oncoming traffic. Good way to learn, huh?

OK, Mom.

OK, Mom.

Luckily, I was able to safely maneuver my way through that obstacle course, and the rest of the drive went well. I don’t think I went over 30 mph, but one step at a time, right?

If you’re getting ready to go out on a trailer adventure, make sure to check everything on your trailer and car to make sure you have the safest trip possible. If you’re going on your first trailer adventure, I would recommend driving somewhere easy first, not on a twisty-turny, narrow cliff road!

Safe travels!

About Gillian: I’m a 17-year-old eventer and show jumper. I compete at Training Level and in the High Children’s Jumpers. I am a HB/B USPC member. I have two horses: Erin and Putt. Erin is my dressage mount, a 17-year-old QH mare. Putt is my new eventing partner, a 9-year-old Thoroughbred gelding.

Role Models and Mentors

With Michael Jung’s recent Grand Slam win, and the Olympics coming up right around the corner, the eventing world is incredibly busy. The world’s top riders are in the spotlight, highlighting their journeys to the biggest events in the world.

It’s inspiring to hear about the struggles and successes of these athletes, and many prove that anything is possible with hard work and dedication.

Having the opportunity to course walk with Jimmy Wofford and to see some of the world’s best riders at Rolex was so inspiring!

Having the opportunity to course walk with Jimmy Wofford and to see some of the world’s best riders at Rolex was so inspiring! Photo by Gillian Warner.

Having our top riders popping up over every inch of our social media accounts has had me thinking about how important it is for them to have a good presence online, and throughout our community in general, as it has a strong effect on their fan base and support team.

It’s not only important for business, but also for the next generation to see. The current upper level riders are the role models for our next generation of competitors, and how they act is setting an example for the younger riders that will one day take their place.

I’ve been extremely lucky to have had some great role models, coaches, and mentors to help and support me in the process of fulfilling my goals. The people you surround yourself with really affects how you act and respond to different challenges.

Looking forward to the year ahead with Mara DePuy!

Looking forward to the year ahead with Mara DePuy!

A role model doesn’t have to be a top rider; he/she should just be someone who inspires you to work harder, laugh louder, and go for your dreams, whatever those dreams may be.

Role models are there to help you through the bad times, and cheer you on in the good times. Sometimes our role models are taken from us far too soon, as the eventing world has experienced at Jersey Fresh, and a few other times this year already.

The riders we have lost will live on with us, as we will continue to strive to make them proud and remember them as their bravery inspires us as we ride.

We need each other in this sport through the high points, low points, and suffocating heartbreak. We need to look up to those who push us to be the best we can be, but everyone has the responsibility to support our friends, competitors, and eventing family.

We cheer as one, mourn as one, and work as one. We’re all in this sport for the love of the horse, and we all share the same drive and passion. We can all be role models, friends, and family; together we are a team.

Learning to Grow From Your Mistakes

Photo by Gillian Warner. Photo by Gillian Warner.

As riders, I believe we all have perfectionist tendencies. We work so hard, dedicate so much to our sport, and give up so much to live this lifestyle.  It’s easy to become so focused that one little hiccup can feel like it upsets everything! However, mistakes are made, and while it’s hard for perfectionists to accept, we have to realize we can’t avoid them. They’re bound to happen.

But we learn from our mistakes, and they do honestly let us grow. They give us the tools and knowledge to deal with later situations … we become more experienced.

Last weekend at Pine Top, I had the most educational event that I’ve had so far. “Educational” can sometimes be code for “not the best,” but actually my educational weekend provided me with the best show jumping and cross country rounds I’ve had to date.

A rider error picked us up time penalties in show jumping, but as Tamie Smith has stated, “It’s easier to fix the rider than the horse.” While I was disappointed by the penalties, I’m so lucky to have such an amazing partner in Putt, and glad that the little mistake of the weekend is an easy fix!

This weekend offered many lessons. I learned so much about my riding, Putt, and our partnership, and, although it was challenging, my mistake gave me the opportunity to put everything into perspective.

As I was walking back to my trailer after hearing about my time penalties, I worked on processing what happened. I saw two things I could do: focus on the negative and let it ruin my weekend, or pat Putt, and focus on what a good boy he was. I chose to focus on the positive.

While I was frustrated with myself about the penalties, I had to accept that they happened and move on. I chose to focus on Putt’s fantastic performance, and how well we worked together. I feel as though this weekend helped everything click, and I felt the training and tips we’ve received really solidify in all three phases. I felt myself become more of a thinking rider throughout the weekend which, to me, was more rewarding than our final placing.

Photo by Gillian Warner.

Photo by Gillian Warner.

I realized how lucky I was to have the opportunity to come down to Aiken to train, and to compete with my friends, family, and other people I admire. Just because a mistake was made doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world. As I plan to be in the horse world forever, I chose to see my mistake this weekend as a learning experience to help me in the future.

It’s important to remember this and take a step back to appreciate all of the progress you’ve made. In a world that moves so quickly, it’s easy to forget to take a moment to look around. Take the time to really think about where you are, who you’re with, and how you got to where you are.

I'm so thankful for my best friends!

I’m so thankful for my best friends!

Own your mistakes and grow from them. It’s not making the mistake that’s important, but how you respond to it that forms you, and your character. Celebrate your steps forward, and be grateful for the opportunities you’re given. Focus on the positive!

Forward, Confident Decisions

I set out to write this blog about how I wanted to become more decisive … that was a month ago. Why did it take so long? Partially because of multiple school finals (I was drowning in various subjects … Pre-Calc, German, Chemistry, etc.) but also because I was actually indecisive on how to start this blog.

So I got a little frustrated. How was I supposed to write a blog about being decisive when I couldn’t even decide how to write it?!

In a form of procrastination, I spent my Saturday night watching the cross country phase of the 2010 Badminton Horse Trials, studying the riders and how they rode through so many difficult questions. There were spills and refusals, but there were also a lot of inspiring jumps and clear lines.

Badminton helped me write because it made me realize that being decisive and clear is an enormous part of riding, especially when it comes to cross country. Now, I know that might sound obvious, but it forced me to just sit down and write; I just need to go for it.

And I’m going to challenge myself in my riding to do the same — to ride more forward and have the guts and confidence that my horse needs to succeed. I’m very much a perfectionist, and I notice that I mainly start having issues when I get in my head and overthink every little detail. As riders, we do have instincts for what the right feeling is. We need to trust it. Kick on, and ride forward.

If we get stuck overthinking everything, how can we be clear to our horse? Horses don’t speak our same language, but they’re very in-tune to our body. If we question ourselves, they’ll question the situation, which can then lead to a murky, unsure performance and dangerous results. If we’re confident in our own mind, our horses will connect with us and ooze confidence themselves.

Saying “be more decisive, clear, confident and forward” is definitely easier said than done. I have found a trick for this, though. If I feel myself lack confidence, and it starts to affect my riding and horse, I try to imagine myself in the shoes of one of my favorite riders. What would William Fox-Pitt do? Michael Jung? Mary King? It relaxes me to picture their riding, and I gain confidence by almost faking the confidence until it becomes real.

The other trick, which I always do and I always recommend doing, is to work hard. As well-known and well-respected hunter/jumper trainer Karen Healey said at the USHJA Emerging Athletes Program this summer, “Perfect practice makes your horse perfect. Imperfect practice doesn’t make perfect.” Work hard and practice, practice, practice (perfectly) to get better.

Photo by Tricia Booker http://campaign.r20.constantcontact.com/render?ca=a7ae9057-cef3-4e1b-96d6-b45f591662f5&c=3fd5c1e0-cd09-11e3-b5be-d4ae5292b9a6&ch=40bced90-cd09-11e3-b61b-d4ae5292b9a6

Photo by Tricia Booker

The more you work, the more solid your foundation becomes, and you will gain confidence and your horse’s trust. Make the decision to set a training program, stick to it, and you will succeed.

Having a Long Distance, Horsey BFF

Between traveling around for events, going to different clinics, and the random ‘I kind of know you (?)’ friend requests on Facebook, we’re bound to make new friends in the horse world… most likely all around the world!

Some of these friendships can turn into a strong best friend relationship, as other horse people understand your crazy ways. While it’s sometimes always difficult when you can’t physically be with your long distance horsey BFF, there are some bright sides to having support hours away.

1. You’ll always have a home away from home.

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2. You have, and are, the best cheerleader, groom, supporter, therapist, dance partner…

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Your BFF will always be there for you to help you with whatever you need.

3. They’re a great travel buddy, and make long trips better, as you have SO MUCH to catch them up on since the last time you saw them.

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“I need to cover the last 6 months in 5 minutes.”

4. They offer a unique perspective on your ‘normal life’ issues, as they know everything about your life, but are somewhat disconnected from the situation. They also help consider the effects that your ‘normal’ decisions would have on your horsey life.

-Charlotte Dujardin

-Charlotte Dujardin

Your long distance horsey BFF will always help you keep your priorities straight.

5. You’ve become masters of texting, FaceTime, and longgggg phone calls.

http://cdn5.littlethings.com/app/uploads/2014/08/tumblr_ll3a68U6I71qfo58oo1_500.jpg

We can talk about nothing and everything for forever.

6. Your friendship teaches you life skills, such as clear communication, planning and sticking to a plan (when you have a plan to catch up), and understanding (if/when the plan falls through).

7. When in difficult times, they’re always there to wish for Aiken to come faster….

8. …. and they’re there to dream about skipping responsibilities to just make the trip down south NOW.

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9. They support potentially unrealistic plans for the future.

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10.Your Snapchat game is STRONG.

www.memes.com

www.memes.com

11. Your other friends and family members seldom ask ‘who are you texting?’, as they probably already know the answer.

12. While they might not be ACTUALLY by your side, they are always just a quick text away!

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13. And while missing them makes you feel like this…

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14. The countdown to when you see them next always keeps you motivated.

See you in:

http://days.to/23-february/2016

Thanks, Em, for everything you do! Can’t wait to see you again soon!

The Guide to Getting to Know a New Horse

Ahh how exciting! New possibilities, new adventures … it’s the honeymoon stage. It’s like having a crush on a cute boy in school, but it’s also about as uncomfortable as that awkward first date: getting a new horse.

First off, congratulations! You’ve set out on an amazing new journey. However, it can definitely be nerve wracking. After all, you have to learn how to trust a very large animal very quickly. It’s strange. But no worries! You got this. There are some stages that you might want to consider in your new chapter.

You’ll be overwhelmed with excitement. “Oh my goodness, he’s so PRETTY!” “Aw look how cute!” Which is all true. Countless pictures, videos and praise will be gushing out of you and into your friends, trainers and strangers. Embrace the PDA.

Look how cute he is!

Look how cute he is!

You might have to (get to?) purchase some new tack. Blankets, and saddles, and bridles, oh my! If your new horse doesn’t fit in your old horse’s equipment, or if this is your first horse, be prepared to go shopping. TIP: Write out a list, as if grocery shopping, to keep your focus on what you NEED. Maybe wear some blinders before entering the tack store so you don’t get distracted.

Gillian 2

Getting to know the horse around the barn and under saddle is a different experience too. Your new horse might not be similar to your previous horse. You need to relearn all of the quirks, favorite things and passionate dislikes of the horse … usually through trial and error.

In a SAFE setting, you have to go through things that might have been second nature to you and your old mount. Easy and comfortable tasks such as tacking up, hacking, leading the horse and feed routines will have shifted.

You’ll need to learn if the horse has issues with his or her face being brushed, or if there’s a certain kind of treat that they go CRAZY for, or a kind they hate. Maybe they’re scared of plastic bags, or cats or little kids. Getting to know a horse takes time. A solid relationship is never rushed.

Gillian 3

Getting a new horse is incredibly exciting. It’s a special bond where both horse and rider have to adjust to trust and respect one another. It’s a connection where I have trusted and fallen in love with an animal faster than I could have imagined. There are so many possibilities!

Just remember to be patient and look at the world from the horse’s point of view as well; everything has changed for both of you! Best of luck in your new partnership. And welcome home, Putt!

Perks of Eventing

Nothing else like cross country! Nothing else like cross country!

Equestrian sports in general are special; the dedication, passion, and insanity of the participants are out of this world compared to some other “normal” sports. Between the amount of money we spend on our horses, our clothes, and literally anything you can think of, equestrians are a rare breed; we’re like crazy cat ladies — but our “cats” happen to weigh over a thousand pounds and walk around, practically eating our money.

All equestrians can unite under our ways, but each equestrian sport creates a different type of person. We’re different in how we ride, dress, and act. Barns are managed differently and different types of horses are desired for different activities. Eventing has it’s own unique category.

The atmosphere at events are generally very kind, welcoming, and helpful. Forgot your watch? I’m sure you could find someone to lend you one. Need to review the course with someone? Any stranger would probably take a few seconds to make sure you’re on track for success. Eventers want to see each other have a safe and successful day. Even though it’s not a team event, it certainly does feel like one.

Even the biggest names in the business take the time to share some advice!

Even the biggest names in the business take the time to share some advice!

Judgement of other competitors is very minimal. They didn’t have the best round? That’s too bad! It just wasn’t their day. It doesn’t matter how expensive your horse is; everyone is where they are because they worked for it. We all appreciate the work we’ve done to get there. Events aren’t always seen as who can take home the blue; they’re also to push each rider individually to beat themselves. It’s an eventer’s aim to get a better dressage score, a clear stadium round, and a smooth, safe, and clean cross country course.

There’s room for a comeback. So maybe you didn’t have the best dressage test. Your horse was spooky, hot, or maybe lazy. Whatever it was, the bright side is there’s room to improve! Because of the three different phases, you always have the chance to comeback after a bad phase.

Eventers are well-rounded people with well-rounded mounts. One-trick ponies aren’t found in this sport! Eventing requires riders, and horses, to be graceful, technical, and brave. While this combination is difficult to master, great horsemen are produced. When a problem arises, eventers have the solid base to find a solution. Great dressage work produces great jumping which produces confidence which creates strong cross country rides. Eventers understand the importance of expanding their knowledge in all areas; they can do it all!

Want to find some kind, hard-working, talented, and non-judgemental friends? Go Eventing.

We’re All in This Together: Eventing Nation, High School Musical Style

We’re breaking free! We’re soarin’, flyin’... We’re breaking free! We’re soarin’, flyin’...

I recently passed my United States Pony Club ‘B’ certification in early August which definitely required a lot of time, energy, and work, but was worth it in the end! Reflecting on my experience, I realized how many people it takes to tie all of the ends together, and how grateful I am for everyone who helped or supported me as I was working toward my B. I couldn’t have done it without a team.

Congrats to all of the other B candidates who passed!

Congrats to Brenna, Colin, and Katelyn who also passed their B!

One of my favorite things about being an equestrian is being surrounded by others who are passionate, caring, and hard working. Equestrians are generous and understanding of the commitment that is required to pursue a life of riding.

Even though it’s just you and your horse competing together, it’s still a team sport because the eventing community is there to back you up and help you out along the way; we’re all in this together, and it shows when we stand, hand in hand, make our dreams come trueeee (off-pitch singing of any High School Musical song is my forte).

When I realized that I was going to have to find a horse to borrow for the cross country section of my B (I didn’t have the time to prep my jumper mare), Tracey Bienemann stepped up to the plate and let me use her former intermediate level horse, Zoomer.

Tracey and Zoomer. Picture from Tracey’s Facebook.

Tracey and Zoomer. Picture from Tracey’s Facebook.

As a graduate Pony Clubber, and as a rider, Tracey understood why my certification was important and trusted me to take care of Zoomer. Zoomer and Tracey helped me pass my rating and I’m definitely grateful for the experience to learn from such a confident and willing horse!

While I was nervous for the testing (and nervous while I was galloping towards a tall — and very wide! — flower box), Zoomer seemed to serenade me with ‘Get’cha Head in the Game’. His confidence helped boost mine! Thank you to Tracey and Zoomer for their generosity and support!

Aces Zoomin’ Dude… a little rockstar!

Aces Zoomin’ Dude… a little rockstar!

Also, as always, a HUGE thank you to my wonderfully supportive parents, sister, trainer (August Torsilieri), and friends for keeping me calm, helping me prepare, and making sure I stayed organized while the daunting ‘B’ certification approached.

Rolex Riders Teach Pony Club Past, Present and Future

Some of the Lion Country Pony Club riders with two of our instructors, Allie Sacksen and Kate Chadderton. 

Photo Credits to Sue Cavanaugh. Some of the Lion Country Pony Club riders with two of our instructors, Allie Sacksen and Kate Chadderton. Photo Credits to Sue Cavanaugh.

Lion Country Pony Club, located in State College, PA, hosts an amazing and very educational summer camp every year! This year, LCPC was lucky enough to have TWO Rolex (and former Pony Clubbers!) riders Allie Sacksen and Kate Chadderton to teach lessons to our older Horse Masters, our upper level members, and our younger members.

I had the chance to pull Allie and Kate to the side to see what they had to say about Pony Club and how it has helped them to get to where they are today.

Two LCPC members work together to safely complete a team exercise. Photo by Gillian Warner.

Two LCPC members work together to safely complete a team exercise. Photo by Gillian Warner.

EN: What’s your favorite thing about Pony Club?

Allie: My favorite thing about Pony Club is that it gives all kids opportunities to experience many different disciplines and all walks of life to be part of the horse world. It’s a fun way to learn about horses!

Kate: My favorite thing about Pony Club is the values that it gives kids with respect to how they treat their horses and that riding is not just riding but also taking care of the horse. Pony Club teaches kids to become horsemen. Through Pony Club, kids spend as much, or more, time on the ground working with their horses than they do actually on their horse. Pony Club also creates an awesome group energy.

August Torsilieri, of Torsilieri Show Stables, was another one of our ‘A’ rated instructors. He tried cutting after camp one day and all of the campers enjoyed the demo. Photo by Gillian Warner.

August Torsilieri, of Torsilieri Show Stables, was another one of our ‘A’ rated instructors. He tried cutting after camp one day and all of the campers enjoyed the demo. Photo by Gillian Warner.

EN: What was your experience in Pony Club?

Allie: I started in Pony Club when I was five and rated to my ‘A’ rating when I was eighteen. Pony Club was part of my whole childhood and gave me opportunities to ride and learn that I would not have had otherwise.

Kate: I went to Pony Club meetings and lessons out in the country in Australia. We did a lot of mounted games and show jumping and we learned so much about the basics of horsemanship and developing a relationship with our horse.

I didn’t have a trailer, so I would ride two hours to Pony Club and then two hours back! My experience in Pony Club was an independent and intense one with just me and my horse. It taught me to become a better rounded horse person.

Allie Sacksen teaches a Pony Club member how to properly wrap a tail bandage during one of our horse management lessons. Photo by Gillian Warner.

Allie Sacksen teaches a Pony Club member how to properly wrap a tail bandage during one of our horse management lessons. Photo by Gillian Warner.

EN: How has Pony Club affected your career?

Allie: Pony Club was the base of my career. I grew up in Pony Club and it gave me opportunities for instruction that allowed me to grow as a rider and a person that led to my future as a professional.

Kate: Pony Club gave me a springboard to learn that I wanted to ride as a career. I grew to understand how to interact with people and I learned to recognize strengths and weaknesses of horses — what makes them good for a sport or not.

Kate Chadderton helps members learn how to train their horses to make improvements. Photo by Gillian Warner.

Kate Chadderton helps members learn how to train their horses to make improvements. Photo by Gillian Warner.

EN: What is your favorite thing about teaching at a camp? What is the hardest thing about teaching at a camp?

Allie: I’ve been an instructor at Lion Country Pony Club camp for 8 years. My favorite thing is being able to watch kids grow from up/downers to almost starting their own careers. The hardest thing is the weather! It was very hot this year, but we always work hard to make it safe and fun for the kids and the horses.

Kate: My favorite thing about the camp is that it’s fun! It’s fun to teach and I love to meet everyone. I like to see people and their relationships with their horses and helping them further that connection.

Since the camp is only a few days, we can’t change everything, but I can give pointers to help that will hopefully make them think and understand their horse on a deeper level. I don’t have a good answer for what’s the hardest thing! I love everything about teaching.

Upper level members teach younger members the basics of riding and horse care. Photo by Gillian Warner.

Upper level members teach younger members the basics of riding and horse care. Photo by Gillian Warner.

A big thank you to Allie and Kate for the wonderful instruction. We’re already looking forward to LCPC Camp 2016!

‘Whatever You Are, Be a Good One’

Me and b(abe) Me and b(abe)

“Whatever you are, be a good one.” This quote from Abraham Lincoln is my favorite quote for more than one reason. 1) As a history nerd, Abraham Lincoln is probably definitely, my favorite historical figure. 2) I honestly believe it’s true and live by it daily.

Things sometime don’t go as planned. Whether something changed at school, work, or the barn, the plan isn’t always going to stay the same.

As horseback riders, we encounter change daily while riding; we have to adjust our plan to accommodate for the horse we have that day. And hey, change isn’t necessarily a bad thing! While you might be upset or confused when the path changes, it might lead to bigger or better things.

I had always expected that I’d always keep my focus on eventing and eventing only. However, some cross country spookiness came up and so I decided to dabble in jumpers for a while to get our confidence back up. And we didn’t just get our confidence back, we even gained some.

Punky’s just extra careful… just in case!

Punky’s just extra careful… just in case!

Something clicked and everything felt right. The confidence boost helped us both in the jumper ring as well as at our events!

While I had NEVER thought I would do jumpers (cross country is way too much fun), I found myself enjoying it more and more until I realized I was a show jumper as well as an eventer.

Being careful pays off in jumpers!

Being careful pays off in jumpers!

This also applies to non-horsey life. As a sophomore (rising junior!) in high school, I have been testing out different interests of mine that I might expand in college.

I’ve found that I’m very interested in politics and business, which was something I hadn’t really considered before. While I would absolutely love to become a professional rider, I understand that I also need a back up plan since, as every horse person knows, the horse world is not easy.

As I consider different options for my future, I have no idea what I want to do or what I will do. But I do know that whatever I do, I want to be good at it. Maybe I’m just a naturally competitive person, or maybe I just want to do the best for the people around me.

All I know for sure is that whatever I become, I want to be a good one.

Thanks to Abe for always inspiring me, pushing me to be my best self, and reminding me that I don’t have to decide everything right away.

The Little Mare That Could

My little mare that could, Punky, standing at 15.2 hands. My little mare that could, Punky, standing at 15.2 hands.

The following is loosely based on the original story The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper.

Neigh, neigh, neigh. Whinny, whinny, whinny. Trot, trot, trot. The little gelding circled around the arena. He was a happy little gelding.

He was loved by a little girl — a girl with a pony tail sticking out from under her helmet, a girl with bows in her hair, and a girl who carried carrots around with her everywhere she went! The little gelding was carrying his little girl around anywhere the girl wanted. He trotted and cantered along merrily.

Then all of a sudden he stopped. He just simply could not go on! He was too tired. His little girl hopped off his back and went to another, younger horse. “Mommy, Daddy, will you please buy me this new horse?” But that horse was too cranky! He would buck and buck and buck until the little girl’s parents said “No more!”

Another horse came along. This gelding was bigger and stronger. He was better behaved except for when they jumped; he was just too strong for the little girl!

The little girl’s parents decided to find a safer and older option for their daughter. But that horse was too tired and sore from his years of riding with other little girls and boys. The search for the perfect horse seemed to be hopeless!

But then came a small pony. The little girl fell in love with her, but her parents had doubts; was she too small to do the job? They decided to give her a chance. The little girl popped onto the mare’s back and warmed her up. They were then ready to jump! After some smaller fences, the jumps were raised. The mare had never jumped this high before!

Then she said, “I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.” And she cantered towards the jump. Huff, huff, puff, puff went the little mare. Closer and closer to the jump she got until she took off — and up, up, up they went high into the air! The little girl and the little mare put every effort into the jump until they reached the ground.

“Hurray, hurray,” cried the little girl’s parents. “The search for the perfect horse is complete! Our daughter will be happy because of this one spectacular little pony.” And the little mare smiled to herself as she was showered in carrots and love. She seemed to say “I thought I could. I thought I could. I thought I could.”

Based loosely on my own hunt for a new horse.

 

 

How To: Do Barn Chores the Right Way

Caring for horses is a lot of work. The chores can be tiring and they aren’t the most glamorous jobs. However, barn chores can be made fun too, as my friend Emily and I experienced in Aiken.

My friend Emily Peairs and me preparing for barn work

My friend Emily Peairs and I preparing for barn work

Step One: Grab your best friend; someone who you enjoy spending time with and who can laugh with — and at — you.

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Step Two: Get to work! As you work, feel free to chat with friends. But, make sure you stay focused and work hard.

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Step Three: Take occasional dance breaks. There’s nothing better to lighten the mood. Warning: innocent bystanders might be confused to why you are dancing which will then make them infer that you’re crazy.

Step Four: Turn some chores into a (SAFE) competition. I know I’m a competitive person, as are many riders. To keep the hard work going, see who’s the better worker. Who can clean more stalls perfectly in a shorter amount of time? Who can make a bridle cleaner in 3 minutes?

Step Five: Take some naps.

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Naps are important. You have to be rested to do your best and most efficient work. Naps are essential for a happy barn environment (no cranky people allowed!). They’re especially great when someone isn’t using you as a pillow, but beggars can’t be choosers…

Step Six: Find an experienced and friendly barn dog that will both oversee your work and cuddle.

Thanks to Jane Jennings for letting us borrow Toby. He was the perfect watch dog while we loaded hay.

Thanks to Jane Jennings for letting us borrow Toby. He was the perfect watch dog while we loaded hay.

Step Seven: Laugh!

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Time flies when you’re having fun. Before you know it, barn chores will be done for the day. But don’t worry! You have tomorrow’s chores to look forward to.

A Foodie’s Guide to Aiken

Even the horses enjoy the food in Aiken! Even the horses enjoy the food in Aiken!

For the past four years, I have had the privilege of traveling to Aiken in the early spring to escape the cold and snow of central Pennsylvania and to get in some excellent training rides and early competitions.

I am back home now catching up on all of the school work I missed and dreaming of Aiken’s sun, warmth and FOOD! Maybe it’s all the fresh air and exercise, but everything seems to taste better in Aiken. In addition, there really is something to that southern hospitality! Here are some of my favorite places to go eat:

Emily and I love the milkshakes!

Emily Peairs and I love the milkshakes!

Betsy’s On the Corner

Right in downtown Aiken, Betsy’s is a great place to go for soups, salads, burgers, grilled cheeses, ice cream, milkshakes and so much more! The workers are friendly and the food is good. Their spinach salad is a delicious and healthy option for lunch!

A cheeseburger from Dave's makes any day better!

A cheeseburger from Dave’s makes any day better!

Dave’s Grill and Grocery

On Wagener Road, Dave’s is both a grill, gas station and small grocery store (hence the name). You can either pick up something you need for later or get fast, delicious food. There are many options: burgers, chicken sandwiches, hot dogs and AMAZING fries. Dave’s is a perfect place to pick up lunch between rides.

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The Green Monster Shake at New Moon Cafe.

The New Moon Cafe

In downtown Aiken, The New Moon Cafe is an adorable little coffee shop with pastries, soups, sandwiches and shakes. A delicious and healthy option, the food is also fresh. The Green Monster shake (pictured above) is one of my favorite healthy options, made from kale and other nutritious ingredients.

Aiken Brewery

Aiken Brewery is also located in downtown Aiken. The Aiken Brewery has a lot of tasty options; some of my favorites include the Brew Burger and the Chicken Sandwich. They also have yummy fries! Also, according to my parents and friends that are over 21, the beer is also good. I unfortunately did not get a picture of the food; we couldn’t wait to eat!

Takosushi

Takosushi is another restaurant located downtown. This unique restaurant offers an interesting mix of Asian and Mexican food. So, if you’re craving sushi, enchiladas or both, Takosushi is the place to go! Takosushi does get busy on weekends, so make a reservation if you want to decrease wait time!

It was so pretty I almost didn't want to eat it! Almost...

It was so pretty I almost didn’t want to eat it! Almost…

Maria’s

Maria’s is also another fun Mexican restaurant! They offer many different options including quesadillas, enchiladas, salads and fajitas, all of which are very good and are presented in a creative way (the beautiful toppings can be seen in the picture).

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The Willcox

The Willcox is a beautiful and historic hotel with very good food. If you’re looking for more of a fancy evening, definitely go here. The servers were friendly, and I went home very full and very happy!

Thank you to everyone at the barn for such a wonderful night!

Thank you to everyone at the barn for such a wonderful night!

Pizza around a bonfire with friends

One of my favorite nights in Aiken was spent at the barn, around a fire, eating food and talking to friends. The pizza was from Mellow Mushroom (a restaurant located downtown with very good pizza!) and everything else was homemade. Gather your friends together for a memorable night!

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Shopping!

After you’re done eating … don’t forget to shop!

Downtown Aiken also has a lot of good stores … perfect for shopping on a rainy day or if you have some extra time. Whether you want to browse for riding clothes at Equine Divine or if you want “normal” people (non-horsey) clothes from a place like Threads, Aiken has it! Aiken also has some great tack stores out of town like Oak Manor and Boots, Bridles, & Britches. Warning: it’s easy to spend a lot of money … if you’re not careful 🙂

Punky and me, August Torsilieri, and Jane Jennings with Calvin

Punky and me, August Torsilieri and Jane Jennings with Calvin.

Pictured above from left to right is me on my mare Punky, August Torsilieri (my trainer) and Jane Jennings on her gelding Calvin. A huge thanks to Jane, August, Mary Clair and Emily Peairs for exploring Aiken with us; everyone else at the barn; and my parents, friends, and my high school teachers at home for the endless amounts of support and help! I’m so grateful for the opportunity to work hard as well as to make lasting memories with both old and new friends.

Cards for Your Favorite Valentine

Happy Valentine’s Day, EN! Feel free to use these original creations to express your love to your horse, family, friends, or significant other.

http://www.equinenow.com/store/eggbuttbits.htm

I love you to bits

To:

From:

 http://blog.easycareinc.com/blog/hoof-love-not-war/one-hoof-church-all-religions

Hoof it on over to be my Valentine

To:

From:

 http://atascaderohayandfeed.com/hay.html

Hay… won’t you be mine?

To:

From:

http://www.wikihow.com/Understand-Horse-Communication

Don’t deneighhhh it… you love me too!

To:

From:

 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bucking

Stop horsin’ around and be mine!

To:

From:

 http://www.fanpop.com/clubs/spirit-stallion-of-the-cimarron/images/33182221/title/spirit-stallion-cimarron-photo

My love for you is unbridled

To:
From:

https://stylephd.wordpress.com/2013/10/24/its-all-about-the-mane/

You’re my mane man

To:

From:

http://www.paulickreport.com/news/bloodstock/secretariat-leads-noms-for-canadian-horse-racing-hall-of-fame/

My heart races when I see you

To:

From:

http://bklynbride.com/26113/wedding-photos/real-atlanta-wedding-theresa-jay/

Mare(y) me?

To:

From:

How to Train Your Non-Horsey Boyfriend

I’ve been riding horses and learning how to train them for years, but this is a completely new concept to me: How to train a “non-horsey” boyfriend.

Where to even start? There’s so much to cover…what is dressage? What is cross-country? What’s Eventing Nation? All of the different types of tack, what it means when my horse ‘spooked’ or ‘refused’, and, most importantly, the all encompassing love for riding (and how to respond appropriately to this obsession).

With the help from my boyfriend, I hope to give you a little more insight on how to ‘train’ your significant other who might be new to the ‘horse world’. Disclaimer: I am definitely not an expert.

Start them slowly; if you rush things and show your ‘crazy horse side’ too early, they might become nervous. If you’re ‘friends’ on social media, they probably already know that you are a horse person (from the countless pictures of your amazing horses).

For the first few dates, try not to talk too much about horses so they don’t think that’s all you do. Focus on some of your other interests or what else you have done. Then, when you feel like they’ve become relaxed and comfortable around you, start talking more about your rides, your horses, upcoming shows, etc. while continuing conversation about other things as well.

As they start to understand the importance of horses in your life, you can start teaching them terms that they will need to know in conversations. Eventing, dressage, show jumping, and cross country are all very important because they will understand more of what you really do. Visual aids help; show videos of upper level riders to show how intense the sport really is. Once they understand the basic terms, you can start talking about types of tack, feed, and anything else.

Now is the important step: Introducing them to the horses. This is really make or break. They might be a little timid around the horses for the first few visits because it is new to them and they might be scared. Reassure them by showing that horses are gentle; have them pet a horse, have them lead (a very quiet horse), and maybe even brush a horse.

They will become more comfortable, it just takes some time. If they don’t want anything to do with your horses, they might not be best suited for the horse life so you might need to rethink some priorities and the future of the relationship.

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Eventually, they will need to ride the horse. This will make them understand just how hard it is and they will appreciate what you do so much more. Make sure to put them on a quiet horse and that it’s in a safe situation; a good experience will produce confidence and good results. This step might take some time, so don’t be too forceful about them riding right away.

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The final step is getting them to understand just how important horses are to you. Yes, they know you love them and they know that it’s your passion, but it’s more than that. To prevent future arguments or confusion, sit down and talk to them. Make sure they know it’s not ‘just a horse’.

Your horse is your priority and pretty much your entire life. Make them know you’re a crazy horse person so they aren’t shocked later. Warning: Do NOT take this step too early. You should be at a secure place in your relationship to prevent any break ups (if they get freaked out). They will also learn from time; as they are around you and your horses more, they will start to understand your world.

It’s not a simple task; there’s just so much to learn! Make sure you’re returning the favor by trying something that they like (I went running which was definitely an interesting experience). Relationships are double sided so make sure you learn about their passion too!

New Year’s Resolutions

The New Year brings the opportunity to start fresh. Out with the old and in with the new, right? As the New Year is quickly approaching, I want to start forming a list of riding-related New Year’s Resolutions. Here’s to improvement!

1. I will always smile in my dressage lessons.

Smiling will send good vibes to my horses which will (hopefully) improve their performance. Or I can channel Charlotte Dujardin here and maybe my horses will pretend that they’re Valegro.

Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro at WEG. Photo courtesy of  FEI / Arnd Bronkhorst / Pool Pic.

Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro at WEG. Photo courtesy of FEI / Arnd Bronkhorst / Pool Pic.

2. I will clean my tack daily.

Clean tack leads to comfortable and happy horses. Also, since I’m a control freak, always having clean tack will lower my anxiety and increase my overall mood.

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3. I will look at the big picture and understand that good things take time.

The Great Wall of China wasn’t built in one day. Riding takes lots of time, practice, and dedication so, as riders, we must look at the big picture and not take a bad ride too personally; look at the overall progress you’ve made.

4. I will do daily ab workouts.

Stronger core = stronger rider. I’d love to have a six pack too.

5. I will run three times a week.

Stronger legs = stronger rider. If I have stronger legs, I’ll be a more secure rider and I’ll be more comfortable riding with no stirrups for a longer period of time.

6. I will clean my trailer right after every trip (aka I will not be lazy).

I don’t want to forget about the piles of horse poop in the back of the trailer and then wake up early for a trip and realize that I have more work than I’d planned on having.

7. I will always change into ‘normal’ clothes after the barn before going into public.

The picture pretty much sums this one up. At this point, my friends have gotten used to my parading around in my tight fitting pants and dirty boots; they’re used to the weird looks we get. Through this resolution, I hope to embarrass my friends less.

8. I will learn to understand that the smell of horse doesn’t appeal to all.

This is going to be a tough one. Honestly, to me, there’s nothing that smells better than horses, and more specifically, my horses. Now, non-horse people don’t think that’s the case. I want to be able to understand and accept their opinion, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I will smell like horse less (sorry…actually… not sorry).

9.  I will stick to a healthy diet.

Fit fit fit fit fit. This resolution goes with my two other exercise ones. In 2015, I want to be even more fit for riding than I already am. Overall, I’m a decently healthy person, but maybe I should eat less ice cream.

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10. I will find a healthy balance between barn time and social time.

I give this resolution two weeks before I go back to my old habits.

Photo by Deanna Behring

Photo by Deanna Behring

These are all easier said than done…  Do you have any New Year’s resolutions? Put them below in the comments!

Holiday Wish Lists

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Although my last blog focused on the reality of winter and the cold, this time we’re going to focus on something brighter and happier; winter holidays! The holidays take (some of) the bitterness out of the winter months. They’re a time to gather with friends and family, and also a time to get (and give) presents!

Holiday gifts can cause stress for both the giver and the receiver. I always feel bad about how expensive some of the gifts I want are. Gone were the days when I was ecstatic with just a stuffed animal horse (sorry Mom and Dad)!

My first 'horse'!

My first ‘horse’!

Since I felt so bad about how expensive some of my horse-related gift wishes were, I decided to do some research on how horse-related gifts compare to non-horse-related gifts money wise! Surprisingly, they were very similar with the average price of the “horsey” gift at $160 and the average price of the “normal” gift at $150.  Below are ideas from some of my rider friends and “normal” friends.

Ideas for horse friends (Thank you to Dominique Guimond, Nicholas Hansen, Emily Peairs, and Maia Jensen for the ideas!):

Eventing Boots (~$90)

Half Pad (~$125)

Tall boots (~$290)

Helmet (~$160)

Vet wrap ($1.99)

A new jumping bridle (~$300)

(More) Riding Pants (~$150)

Ideas for non-horse people (Thank you to some of my school friends for their input!):

Warm boots (~$160)

Gold jewelry (~$300)

Hair straightener (~$300)

Makeup (~$35)

Skateboard (~$50)

Video gaming equipment  (~$180)

Chocolate (~$20)

Hopefully this blog relieves some pressure as you start to think about the holidays and as the cold weather really starts to move in! Stay warm everyone!