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Seija Samoylenko


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About Seija Samoylenko

Seija Samoylenko is a young rider from Boston, Massachusetts. She enjoys competing her mare, (the) Black Russian, and homebred, Forte EDF in Areas I, II and III. For more about Seija, follow her on Instagram @seijasam and check out her new website:

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Can the Eventing Professional Do It All?

Can the eventing professional do it all?

Recently on the center of the equestrian universe (Facebook) a fellow competitor posted that she was seeking a new instructor and needed recommendations. A flurry of comments followed where nearly everyone suggested a different trainer and/or a different farm.

I scrolled through the comments and thought: 1. There is an abundance of trainers even in our less dense eventing community of Area I. 2. How would someone even begin to sort through all these suggestions? 3. I’m happy I don’t need to do this.

I realized in reading each pitch how many trainers, especially in the sport of eventing, try to be all things to all people. There becomes an impossible standard for which trainers are held in order to be legitimized.

How can one human successfully coach riders at competitions, fix problem horses, break-in babies, breed babies, retrain OTTBs, source horses nationally and internationally, ride at events, ride at the upper levels, hire and manage staff, showcase products for sponsors, show in rated dressage and rated show jumping (for extra practice!), bill clients, pay bills, schedule lessons, maintain a facility, set new jump courses, haul horses, sell horses, etc. I’m not saying every eventing professional does it all, but I know many who try to do most.

Amateurs begin to expect a certain base-line competency for their trainers, and every year it gets higher. Benchmarks like highest level completed and number of certifications obtained are great tools to find a trainer. But, I don’t think they tell the entire story.

There are professionals that are great with working with beginner or timid riders at the Beginner Novice Level, but have never competed above Training Level. There are professionals that can patiently retrain an OTTB but are absolutely mystified with schooling a modern warmblood type. There are professionals that could ride a 5-year-old around a Preliminary cross-country course, but are flabbergasted by how to explain proper leg yield to a student.

From my experience, results and level competed rarely explain the knowledge base and competency level of a professional. On a daily basis, I hear “X competed at Advanced, CIC2*, or a CCI4* so they are more qualified to coach me than Y.”

There are better questions to ask when looking for quality instruction and mentorship: How long have they been training horses? Who do they receive instruction from? What types of horses (and riders) do they work with? Are they competing every weekend, or are they teaching lessons at home? Are their horses happy? Are their clients happy?

There is a huge difference between a competitor, a trainer and a coach. To expect someone to check all those boxes at one point, much less with the time and financial constraints most equestrian professionals face, is insanity. Professionals are only human.

This doesn’t only happen on the demand-side. The margins are low and professionals must constantly hustle to maintain just the status quo. When you finally have a client, how can you let them walk out the door? Many instructors will bend over backwards to keep their clients and that can mean providing services where they are not comfortable nor qualified.

If we can build an industry where professionals and amateurs are both honest about their goals, abilities, and true strengths everyone will benefit. An environment where professionals are willing to share clients will grow a sport of independent, proficient and happy riders at all levels. Plus, professionals will be more free to carve out a business in their niche of expertise.

What do you think, EN? Discuss!

No Bad Lessons

Snapshot from Snapshot from "the lesson." Who knew jumping a single fence could be so hard? Photo courtesy of Seija Samoylenko.

This winter was the first time I was able to have consistent, weekly jump lessons in a while. But that isn’t totally true. I’m in a privileged position because my mom, Lisa, is a trainer and is able to help me almost everyday. Even though she gives me daily advice her lessons aren’t formal “lessons.”

There is something special about having a specific time with someone that you admire and, importantly, doesn’t see your horse everyday. Plus, someone is there to focus solely on you, your riding and your horse.

I’ve made steady improvement over the winter. I walked away from each session with an idea for training and how to improve or incorporate a certain technique or exercise. I had direction and knew where to take my rides during the week. The lessons weren’t always flawless, but I also haven’t had any points where I felt like I couldn’t do what was being asked of me.

That is, until this past week. The exercise seemed innocuous — three placing poles to a fence (first a vertical, then a wide oxer). The poles were set to keep the horse in a forward stride and place them at the base of the jump. It is an exercise designed to make the rider’s life easier. My sole job should have been to get the proper canter accurately to the first pole. Then, if I could support Roxy with my leg, everything should be OK.

The problem was I couldn’t get her to the first pole in the proper canter and support her throughout. Sometimes I made it on the correct step. Yet often I got there on a half stride over and over. I lost my confidence. Roxy lost her confidence. Her least favorite thing is for me to lose my connection with her and lack commitment to base of the fence. Eventually we found a positive place to wrap up the lesson, finishing over some more confidence building jumps.

I know lessons are supposed to be the place to make mistakes. I know that without making mistakes I won’t improve and the horse won’t learn. It still doesn’t change the fact that having a bad lesson can sometimes feel just that: bad. But I try to remind myself that there is always another chance. Schedule that next lesson. You can bet I’ll be there next Monday, learning and kicking.

All About the Details

Seija Samoylenko is a young rider from Boston, Massachusetts. She enjoys competing her mare, (the) Black Russian, and homebred, Forte EDF in Areas I, II and III. For more about Seija, follow her on Instagram @seijasameq and check out her new website:

Polishing my boots before cross country at GMHA in South Woodstock, Vermont.

The joke around horses is that the time you spend “riding” is largely spent out of the saddle. Everything that has to happen to ride is what takes the real time: grooming, tacking, cleaning tack, etc. Non-horse people don’t understand this. To them, these tasks could be done quicker or, worse, not at all.

Lately I have realized that it is not just the unenlightened that see these tasks as somewhat superfluous —it is even some people who work with horses every day. I’m not saying that they do not want to care for their horses; what they don’t seem to focus on is the details. If you get the big things done, shouldn’t you have permission to cut out those tasks that seem almost unnecessary?

Why check the horses’ feet when we know they have pads and nothing can get in? Answer: To see if the horse has all its shoes. Why wait for the legs to be dry before you wrap them? To ensure that you’re not creating an environment for skin bacteria to flourish.

Why wash a bit when it’s just doing to get dirty again tomorrow? Same reason you brush your teeth. Why hook up the chin strap of the halter when you only have to walk 50 meters? To keep the swinging buckle from potentially injuring your horse’s eye, or to be sure he has a secure halter if he gets loose.

Many of us “cut corners” if you think about it.

It’s those of us that work with horses daily who are tempted to skimp on these little tasks. I know these extra seconds add up when you’re in a hurry. Am I perfect? No. I’m horrible about keeping the manes pulled in the winter. Sometimes I only wash the bit and not the entire bridle after I ride. But if I cut a corner, I try my best to not cut it again tomorrow. 

The problem is many of these details are so small that they go unnoticed. And when you point them out you are often met with blank stares. Who cares whether pitch forks are hung properly? Who cares if the aisle is swept under the tack trunks every day? Who cares if the blankets are tidy when folded?

Maybe I haven’t convinced you, so here is what George Morris says: “Love means attention. Which means looking after the things we love. We call this stable management.”

Five Tips to Thriving as a Working Student

Seija Samoylenko is a young rider from Boston, Massachusetts. She enjoys competing her mare, (the) Black Russian, and homebred, Forte EDF in Areas I, II and III. For more about Seija, follow her on Instagram @seijasameq. Interested in trying your own working student position? Check this one out.

You’ll get to see many sunrises and sunsets as a working student, trust me.

You’ll get to see many sunrises and sunsets as a working student, trust me.

I spent time as a working student for three months between college semesters when I was 18 and recently got back into working student life for a three-week trial over winter break as a soon-to-be college graduate. For anyone thinking about being a working student, here are my five perhaps not-so-common tips I have for not only surviving but thriving in this crazy lifestyle.

1. Before you start a job, get as clear as possible about what your duties are and what the arrangement of your position is. Do you ride your own horse during work hours or after? How many lessons do you get per week? Are they private? Is there a dress code on the farm? Get all of the terms of your position in writing. If terms change one day, get that in writing too. It will make your employer happy to know that you are taking your job seriously, and it will alleviate most confusion that could arise down the road.

2. Ask as many questions as possible. Just because you were taught one way or Pony Club taught you another, every rider and groom has their own way certain things are done. One example is that some people like you to wash manes the day they are braided and others would never allow that. Try to ask questions even if they seem obvious. Have people show you how they like it to be done. Don’t be afraid of appearing stupid, because you’ll still end up doing millions of stupid things no matter what. Ask again if necessary. Just try to not ask too many times because that means you’re probably not paying attention.

3. Even if you ‘finish’ all the jobs, there is always something else you can do. I’ve definitely awarded myself with some self-congratulatory phone time for finishing whatever jobs I was supposed to do. Undoubtedly, there is always something else to do depending on the operation. Here are some ideas: checking waters, picking stalls, raking the barnyard, general tidying up, checking the laundry and sweeping. This is not busy work — it will make your life easier in the future. P.S. Along those lines, try to not walk anywhere empty-handed.

4. Most of the time you won’t be given that much time to eat on your butt, so pack (healthy) snacks and make food ahead of time. Stock up on (healthy, I love Amy’s) frozen meals/pizzas. Make sandwiches and salads ahead of time. Food prep your meals on your days off. Lay off the junk food. Drink water. Go to sleep early. No one is there to take care of you other than you. So take care of yourself; you’ll feel good and get so much more out of your experience.

5. Speaking of days off, use them to your advantage. Ride your horse early or late if you need to, so you have some time to focus on just you and your horse. Shower for a long time (and then use lotion and perfume). Wear normal human clothes even if you don’t think your going anywhere. Do your laundry. Wash the dishes in the sink even if they aren’t yours. Bring Starbucks/Dunkins to your coworkers that are probably slaving away because you’re not. Your future, tired self will thank you for not just watching six hours of Keeping Up With The Kardashians (even though that’s totally ok to do — just get the big stuff done first).

What It’s Really Like to Train Your Own Young Horse

My 4-year-old, Stewie.

My 4-year-old, Stewie.

Admit it, we’ve all been enamored at one point or another about how great it would be to get a young horse and end up at a CCI4* or [insert level here]. Often build-your-own appears to be the only option because young horses are often cheaper than made horses. But as someone that has actually bred and is attempting to ride a young horse, I can tell you the three truths that I have found.

You cannot do it alone.

No horse is trained in a vacuum, and training starts from day one. My 4-year-old, Stewie, was bred and born at TNT Equine by experts that know everything about making healthy babies. At home, the barn staff (not me) would take him out to the field, feed him his meals and clean his stall. He was broken in by one of the most amazing horsemen I know, Roddy Strang. Without Roddy, this 4-year-old wouldn’t have made it to three sanctioned events in 2016.

Nearly every moment I have ridden him under saddle I have had the watchful eye of a professional, either my mom or another professional — they have trained hundreds young horses. To claim that I alone have made this horse because I’m the one who collects the ribbons would be almost comical. If you want to develop your own young horse, make sure you have an educated support system around you.

Also, if you think it will be cheaper than buying a more experienced horse (and you are not someone that has trained hundreds of young horses already) be prepared to spend the difference on training.

You need to be able to detach emotionally.

We all get emotionally attached to our horses. Anyone that’s trained a horse from scratch knows that it creates a special bond. To date, one of my most amazing experiences with horses was the first time I left the startbox with Stewie at GMHA in September.

He dropped me in the warm-up (which I laughed about even as it happened) and after sailing down the massive hill after fence 3 with no half halt — we’re still working on that — I wasn’t totally sure how I would make it through the finish. But by the end of the course he was so confident and agreeable that I could have been riding my experienced Preliminary mare, Roxy.

All that being said, when you get a young horse, from embryo or off the track, you can only make some informed guesses about where that horse will go. There’s a chance that at some point Stewie may not be the right horse for me to reach my personal goals. It isn’t always about talent; sometimes the most talented horse is not necessarily the right horse.

Even early in a partnership I could have found that Stewie was beyond my current scope of ability to handle. In order to make your own young horse you have to be willing to be unemotional, honest and willing to move on when necessary.

It’s not for everyone.

Riding Stewie every day is incredibly different than getting on Roxy. With Roxy, for better or for worse, I know exactly what to expect. I know what our strengths are, and I know what our challenges are. Stewie, on the other hand, is a total unknown.

Some days I can’t even get him to one end of the arena and canter departs are off the aids. Other days I am doing leg-yield and shoulder-in. The unknown is exciting, but can be mentally and physically draining. If you want to come home from a long day of work and know what horse you have today, training a young horse is probably not for you. And that’s totally OK.

The long and the short of it is that saving money or falling in love with a talented young horse is simply not enough. You have to understand that training a green horse is not simply riding — it is an exercise in planning, patience and physical stamina, and on a daily basis will challenge your knowledge of horses and your confidence in your riding.

An Unpopular Opinion

The uproar in the wake of the FEI’s proposed changes to eventing has been swift. However, many resign themselves to the fact that eventing must “change” for the future. It seems people have plenty of ideas about how to change eventing and others have opinions on why not to change eventing, but very few people ask why we are told we need to change eventing in the first place. So, why do so many people feel eventing needs to be changed?

The Olympics.

Amid budgeting nightmares at every new Olympic Games, equestrian sports always get reevaluated. Social relevance? Audience? Cost? Eventing is at the bottom of the pile when compared to even the other equestrian disciplines because it requires much more infrastructure, logistical organization and a significant additional cost without increased revenue. In addition, eventing has famously “failed” at attracting the money and audience that dressage and show jumping can. Again, eventing is expensive and (admit it) the rules are confusing.

But I can’t help but wonder, so what?

Everyone appears to cling to the Olympics as the sole validation of our sport outside of the equestrian community. I know I have explained to strangers that my sport is an Olympic sport in an attempt to convince them of eventing’s importance. But why? At the end of the day, their opinion on the athletic merits of eventing will not decide whether or not I compete.

The real question is, are we willing to compromise the integrity of the sport (again) at the international level in order to allow a handful of riders to represent their country at the Olympics, a single competition every four years? Instead of changing our sport exclusively to keep up with the Olympics, why don’t we let it go? There are many other sports, sports with a global reach, like rugby, cricket, and MMA that are non-Olympic.

I am a young rider. I have entertained the ideas of becoming a pro or at least continuing to progress up the levels. Like many people my age, I have had dreams of getting my own pinque coat. Heck, I even just love watching a championship like the Olympics on my computer. The problem is that as a sport, we are so willing to equivocate. If we keep changing in order to meet outside demand, eventually we will be forced to admit our own irrelevancy. I am increasingly suspicious that this fact will lead to the total demise of international eventing in the next 25 years.

What do we really lose without the Olympics? We still keep CCI4* competitions. We still have the World Equestrian Games. Feasibly, the FEI could create a special international championships to run during the Olympic year. Perhaps an exclusively eventing focused championship (think: FIFA World Cup) could attract more attention to our sport than just being another line item in the Olympic roster.

What do we lose by staying in the Olympics? The entire structure of the FEI competition system, the Olympic format and even our name (again).

Why risk throwing our beloved baby out with the bathwater?

Watching, Learning and Kicking On

Teacher not impressed by student ... Teacher not impressed by student ...

When I went to try Roxanne, I did it hesitantly. She was nothing that I “wanted”: a petite, lazy mare. I tried her for less than 40 minutes in a dusty ring during the dead of summer. I had no idea how I would learn to ride her, but something told me she was for me. Roxanne has been an incredibly challenging teacher. I could fill a book about everything this quirky mare has taught and continues to teach me.

Riding Roxanne is like trying to put a balloon in a box. I first got hold of the show jumping. Then I chipped away at the dressage. All the while I took for granted the incredible ride Roxanne always gave me cross country. Then, sometime last season, Roxanne and I started having refusals. It would only be at one fence and usually not at the most challenging question on course.

Let me tell you, I hate getting cross country penalties. At competitions, I get incredibly competitive and, unfortunately, emotional. I know that with a refusal, no matter how many clean jumping rounds I can produce or consistent I can make my dressage, I can’t get the results I want with a stop.

I’ve pulled up after a stop before. I loose my confidence. I tell myself I am no longer safe (even though that’s not at all true). Eventually, I learned I couldn’t just keep pulling up. I had to find a way to finish no matter how demoralizing it is to see that 20 penalties on the scoreboard.

I know the stops happen because Roxanne isn’t convinced I’m keen on getting to the other side. Then I grit my teeth and dig in, and she rewards me by easily popping over. After our stop, we’ll fly around the course, and I’ll ride at my absolute best. This is her lesson for me right now. I wish I could tell you that I’ve learned my lesson, but I still don’t have a handle on how to be both mentally and physically aggressive from the moment I leave the start box.

I’ve tried to write before about how much I learn about riding from watching high-level competition. I think watching is incredibly important for understanding our sport. However, an elite high-level event can seem a little far from home for a rider like me (and I imagine 95 percent of the people who read EN). When I watch a competition, I’m always looking to find a “way in” or something relatable to bring to my own riding.

Recently I’ve been scouring eventing media to get my horse fix. I stumbled upon Laine Ashker’s interview before Burghley, where she said among other things, “We all get caught up in that sort of pretty look … but I think here at Burghley, you’ve got to get the job done, and I can’t get myself caught up about perfect striding and perfect lines. Just here’s the flags, get through it.”

Woah. This is everything my coaches have been trying to tell me. And, here is an accomplished rider having to work on the same thing at Burghley. She later said that no matter what happened out there she would give it her all — and in my opinion she did. My heart broke with her at the fifth fence, but I was even more impressed with Laine by how she handled the rest of the round. In some ways I know exactly what she must have been feeling (even though my experience is on a much smaller scale).

It’s easy to make our role models the people that have medals and to selectively watch the rounds where people finish clear. However, I got my own inspiration from seeing someone learning, kicking on and, ultimately, still succeeding. 

It’s Not Luck

That time I met Michael Jung That time I met Michael Jung

I’ve been a big Michael Jung fan since he danced into most of our hearts at the 2010 WEG. Every time another event rolls around, people ask, “Can he do it again?” as if Michael’s luck might finally run out. However, Michael Jung doesn’t dominate events because God ordained him to or he does special pre-event voodoo. Neither does Tim Price, Chris Burton or anyone else who completed Burghley this past weekend.  They succeed because instead of worrying about luck, they worry about riding the best they can. 

I think we cling to the idea of luck as an equalizer in our sport. After all, everybody works incredibly hard. If we totally eschew chance then we have to come to the terms with the fact maybe so and so lacked experience or accuracy or finesse.  If we stop letting luck rule our competitions, then we have to hold ourselves accountable for our failures (which is hard). But, it also allows us to take full credit for our success.

Believe me, as a competitor I have clung on to the idea that a bad round was because of bad luck. I’ve used all the excuses: I got paired with the grumpiest dressage judge, I went first in the division, it rained all night — but this attitude over the years has done nothing for improving my results. In the time that I’ve been complaining about bad luck, I probably could have been building the skills that would get me better scores.

I didn’t see that all of this luck stuff just wasn’t true until I began to see consistent results with my horse Roxanne. When I first bought Roxanne, we used to score in the high 40s and 50s in the dressage at a horse trial. Now I can eek out a test in the mid-30s, and we’ve got room for improvement. Was I unlucky at the beginning and lucky now?

If you bet on luck, anything can change tomorrow. Which means I could go back to scoring in the 50s, and I would prefer that doesn’t happen. I also wouldn’t want to consider that everything I put into improving my dressage was moot just because  the gods have smiled down on me favorably for now.

If you believe in your lucky cross-country undies, sure, keep wearing them. But make sure you can also jump all the ditches, tables, banks and water forwards and backwards — because that is how someone like Michael Jung wins Burghley (after winning Rolex, the World Championships, the Olympics, Europeans and probably a thousand other events).

Burghley Binge Watching

Photo by Seija Samoylenko. Photo by Seija Samoylenko.

Ah, Burghley weekend, just one of the five weekends a year (sorry Adelaide, I’ve never been committed to watching you — but now that I’m living in Australia I should probably add that to my roster) I get to curl up on the couch and be totally ok with not leaving the house for days at a time.

Watching the four-star events has been a ritual for me over the past few years since convincing my mom an FEI TV subscription was necessary for my ‘eventing education.’ Pro-tip: this is great phrase to use when convincing your parents (or even spouse) about the necessity of spectating at an event or staying antisocial and completely glued to the laptop for days at a time or writing off any large horse related expense.

My mornings begin like this: setting alarms at unreasonable hours (but we’re all already used to that), making a cup of coffee, and carefully balancing the laptop on my stomach with my phone in hand to check a twitter feed or chat room commentary. This year, I have welcomed an iPad into my repertoire which makes my spectating next-level. Ironically my horses end up often getting light work days (or not working at all, especially on cross country day) when I’m in my full-blown four-star trance.

As you may know, Burghley doesn’t have live streaming so it does take a little of the excitement out of it. However, the videos are usually quickly up there on Burghley TV.  I’ll already know the results, but just having the chance to watch these rounds in action at all is amazing.

For Christmas in 2010 I was given the WEG Cross Country on DVD by my trainer. I kept the CD in my laptop and would sit in the library between classes studying each round and memorizing it by heart. My favorite ride was Clarke Johnstone and Orient Express; I was just so impressed with how easy they made a World Championships track ride.

I have some great memories from this peculiar habit (which honestly is no stranger than how the whole USA shuts down on Super Bowl Sunday). I stayed home from school to watch Mark Todd win Badminton in 2011. I also have probably watched Boyd and Neville’s cross country round from when they finished 7th at Burghley in 2011 hundreds of times.

That year had been full of personal tragedies in my own life (not to mention all things that went down for Boyd and Neville) and that partnership proved both the healing powers of eventing and how hard work above all pays off. I’ve also seen some memorable disappointments, and unfortunately there tends to be a lot of those.

One memory that was particularly unsettling was Ben Winter’s fall at Luhmühlen 2014. I was actually watching the live stream on my iPhone as I was brushing my teeth in a hurry to get to the barn. It wasn’t until a couple hours later when i was hacking that I learned Ben had passed. When watching a four-star you see the highest of highs and (rarely) the lowest of lows. Each little event stands as a metaphor for life itself.

And now we have the ability to watch eventing at the highest levels over every fence and flying change. I remember as a kid having to go to the local tack shop and buy the VHS recordings usually months after the competition ended.

Even then you got just short, edited ‘highlights’ of the competition (something akin to the abomination that is the NBC sports abbreviated coverage of Rolex pre-Kentucky derby—you all know what I’m talking about). Now we’ve reached an era where the internet is brimming with eventing coverage.

Sometimes I wonder if with all of the eventing media more people turn to the shortened journalistic coverage rather than  the real thing. Watching these rounds is the educational experience—not the 500-word summaries.

I hope you will get a chance to watch some Burghley too, and I will probably be struggling with the terrible wifi here in Australia. With the time difference it will actually be appropriate for me to follow Burghley coverage with a glass of wine—and that’s worth cheering about. All we can hope for is a weekend with good weather, safe rides, and some new eventing history.

New Beginnings

You may remember me a couple months ago from when I was a finalist for the blogging contest.  If you know me in real life, I’m not someone who likes to put myself out there in anyway–especially with my writing. So, entering the blogging contest on website like Eventing Nation was a huge deal for me. 

I was slightly horrified when a few weeks later I was informed I was progressing and had to write more entries. As the contest continued, I always had a slightly bewildered expression when people came up to me at the barn, at events, or sent me a message on Facebook saying they enjoyed a post. The contest didn’t end successfully for me (congrats David), but the process was edifying.  In many ways I got what I wanted in the first time when I wrote that first entry (although I’m still not totally sure what was going through my head). I was asked to stick around and write some guest blogs for EN!  

So a little about me (in case you missed my blurb from the contest). I’m a 20 year old event rider from Massachusetts.  I have competed my black mare, the Black Russian, at Preliminary for what seems like ages (but still haven’t mastered the ‘art’ of a preliminary horse trial).
Long term goal is to go Advanced once I’ve finished college. (I also had a goal to go the NAJYRC CCI2* in 2016 and here I am having not ever done an Intermediate horse trial, so that’s something that I have learned — let your goals be flexible — but more on that another time).
I’m an economics major at Wellesley College where I commute to my home-base, Eleazer Davis Farm, about 5-6 days a week.  I have a part-time job as a hostess at a local restaurant, and also do some casual blogging for Heels Down Magazine.
Right now, actually, I’m on a personal journey away from eventing. Around 10,000 miles from my horse to be specific. For the first time in my life I’m living in a city, ‘going to the gym,’ I don’t have a separate dresser for barn clothes, and starting to live like a ‘normal,’ non-horse person.
I’ve been met with all sorts of resistance from instructors through out my eventing ‘career’ about deciding whether to be an ‘amateur’ or ‘professional’ (which is rather strange when you realize I’m only 20 and still technically a young rider).  Some like my long-time trainer/friend/mentor, Stephie Baer, have encouraged me to continue college, study away, and take time off the horses while I’m still so young.
Others have pointed out that I can’t be that ‘serious’ if I want a college degree.  Sometimes they were kidding, sometimes they weren’t. Maybe they’re right. But luckily for me, eventing is not gymnastics.  I’m not going to age out, rather I offer, I may instead age ‘in’.
The best way to get better at riding is to ride, but how do you become a better competitor mentally?  Competing?  I’m not sure it’s that simple. Most of time I’ve ran into trouble with my horses I had ‘jumped the fences’ but was not all there mentally. At times I’d get incredibly frustrated and angry, or just let my own insecurities get away of the performance I am capable of.
I came to a point where I was making the same mistakes in competitions over and over again, and having the same types of reactions.  What’s the definition of insanity?  “Doing the same same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”  So, I applied for exchange and that’s just the beginning.
Offering my perspective and my writing up to EN was just another step on this journey of mine to find my place in the eventing community as well as another step towards challenging myself and making changes for the future.  I hope you can find some similarities between my experiences and yours and I’m looking forward to hearing other peoples stories about how (and why) we all make this crazy sport a part of our lives.

Blogger Contest Round 3: Seija Samoylenko

Our top three Blogger Contest finalists submitted their final entries to us this week, and now we need your help deciding on the winner! We asked the finalists to submit their interpretation of #EventerProblems. We’ll be posting all three submissions here on Bloggers Row this weekend, followed up by a voting poll. All posts are presented without editing for fairness’ sake. The votes will not decide the winner but will be taken into account during the final decision process. Good luck to all finalists!

I’m going to try to not make too many assumptions that you all struggle as much as I do sometimes just trying to get into the sandbox/ring/startbox at an event. So here’s a day in the life of me trying to prepare for a horse show (and that’s just the beginning).

Wakeup.  Cool.  Look at all these hours I’ve got and I’ve only got one horse to take care of.  Maybe I can go to the gym?

Remembers last time at the gym.

gym gif

No, no, no.  I’ve really got to *focus* on getting ready for the event.  Getting in the right mental place.  I should probably jump triples today.  Or practice that medium canter.  Or finally get my changes.  Righto.

Remembers last time riding.

pony gif
Or I’ll just hack on the show grounds at the event.  Not like I’m fixing any issues today! I’ll pack the trailer with supplies for the weekend.

Remembers last time trying to get hay from the hayloft.

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I’ll just wait until everyone shows up later.  We’re all supposed to share the chores anyhow.  Might as well give the horse a bath.  Then I’m nearly good to go!

Remembers last time trying to give the horse a bath.

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No worries.  Nothing a good curry can’t fix anyhow.  Plus I heard some fancy groom say the trick to a shiny coat is just not bathing them.  Ha!  And everyone else is wasting time in the wash stall.

Remembers last time driving to an event.

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Thanks for driving, ma!

Blogger Contest Round 2: Seija Samoylenko

We recently announced the final three Blogger Contest finalists, and now we’re bringing you each submission from Round 2 here on Bloggers Row. We will be posting all six entries over the next few days, so be sure to check them out and leave your feedback in the comments.

All entries will be reprinted without editing for fairness’ sake. Thanks again for your support and readership, EN! We are thrilled to have such quality entries yet again this year.


I grew up (and still live) a little bit outside of Boston.  If you know anything about Boston, you might know the people here love their sports (and particularly their sports teams).  The Pats, the Bruins, the Celtics, the Sox…I’ve been to many games, watched countless playoffs, World Series, and Super Bowls at home, with friends, and at parties.  Watching sports here is part of the lifestyle, and it’s what you talk about with a stranger after you talk about the weather (which is always a hot topic in Boston).

What makes people like watching sports?  Why are some sports more popular than others? Some of by best childhood memories are going to Fenway Park for Red Sox games with my dad.  Half of the fun was the game itself, but the other part was the experience.  You saw in real life all the superstars on television, you ate peanuts and cracker jacks, you sang Sweet Caroline in the seventh inning.  Those are the kind of experiences that make sporting events meaningful long after the game is decided.

What needs to be done to “change” eventing? I don’t think there are foundational problems with our sport, how its conducted, or how its scored.  We don’t need riders to start training for half-marathons to “spice up” the competition.   I think of eventing in some ways like major league baseball.  There are moments when it’s exciting, but there are also times when it’s pretty slow and boring. The balance we need to strike is an environment fair to competitors and the horses, while being really engaging with the spectators.

This year was my first trip to Rolex CCI****.  I always had considered going to watch a four star pretty overrated—I would rather be riding my horse.  But on Wednesday afternoon when I walked into the stadium, saw horses schooling, and the horse park in all it’s glory I realized there is something special about watching riders of this caliber in real life.  For the first time at an event it felt like walking into Fenway for me.

The solution may be to finally accept there are two levels of the sport out there: one for the professionals or high-level competitors, and the lower-levels. I love the my local Area 1 events where I’ve grown up competing, but that isn’t the same atmosphere you see at Rolex, Fair Hill, or any FEI event.  Why not create a better system where riders, like other athletes, are ranked?  Why not make it priority to have commentators who are a mix of horse and non-horse people that actually engage the spectators?  Why not have each rider pick their own walk-on song? People like understanding the rules of the game and they like picking favorite players or teams.  People want to know the odds Michael Jung will win versus a first time competitor.  Rolex gave me so much hope that there can be a future for eventing as a well-respected Olympic level sport, and I believe the answer is simpler than we all think it is. The problem is how equestrians as athletes understand themselves and connect with the non-horse people of the world.  If we as eventers demand to be taken seriously as a world-class professional sport, and can provide a meaningful experience to an audience, we will be.

Blogger Contest Round One: Seija Samoylenko

We announced the six Blogger Contest finalists this week, and now we’re bringing you each submission from Round 1 here on Bloggers Row. We will be posting all six entries over the next few days, so be sure to check them out and leave your feedback in the comments.

All entries will be reprinted without editing for fairness’ sake. Thanks again for your support and readership, EN! We are thrilled to have such quality entries yet again this year.

I love to blog

It’s kind of ironic I’m writing an entry for a blogging contest, about eventing, in my college library.  I should be finishing my research paper about development.  Or working on my final problem set.  But, alas, here I am.  My horse is sitting in a paddock on this beautiful day while I toil away.  Also, I’ve only got two events planned for this summer.  In mid-July I ship out for study abroad in Australia.  Wow, it really looks like I’m getting off the eventing bandwagon.

In stark contrast, a year ago today was my first day working for Boyd Martin.  For three months I lived and breathed eventing, trot sets, putting in and taking out more studs and braids then a little girl could dream up.  I was hot and sun-burnt 95 percent of the time.  I required many of Mr. Martin’s motivational speeches to figure out what the heck I was doing there, and met some pretty cool friends and mentors along the way.  Someone once asked me the best part of the experience. Honestly, it was Boyd telling me “you look fit” before I hoped on my horse for cross-country at Fitch’s Corner.  Anyone who knows Boyd (or even doesn’t) knows this would pump you up better than any rap song.  I retired at fence 5 incase anyone cares.  The trauma of that failed result has been forgotten, but the memory will live on.

At the end of the day, that’s the best part of this sport we do.  Ribbons, competitions, training lists kind of all fall to the wayside.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m one of the most competitive people known to man.  A rail, a time penalty, or god-forbid a cross-country stop will send me into a tailspin.  But the real memories are the little things, as cliché as it sounds.  Like getting enough courage to ask Michael Jung for a picture an hour after he won Rolex.  Or when your boss buys you a snow cone for your lunch in the middle of a wild day of grooming.

We all have to find ways to fit this crazy sport/lifestyle into our other life goals.  Read: making enough money to support yourself.  Also: having a family, traveling, still being a well-fed, well-educated member of society.  Sometimes this drive for success and recognition makes it seem like other life goals aren’t as respected as our riding ones—especially as a young rider. I’m at a place where I can finally accept NAJYRC definitely won’t happen.  I want to finish my degree, see the world, enjoy being twenty, but still stay connected and contribute to the sport that’s my home.  So EN, what to come along for the ride?