Friday, October 2, 2015

The Emerging Athlete Program Experience

By Louisa Brackett, Grayslake, IL - July 2015
Trains with Red Coat Farm/Lisa Goldman

One of the riding groups at 2015 EAP at Ledges with Chris Kappler.

Waking up on the first day of EAP, I was thrilled to become, once again, completely immersed with horses for five days. Since this was my third year in the clinic, I definitely felt as though I knew (somewhat) of what to expect, but then again, with horses, you should never expect the same thing twice! I had the fantastic opportunity to do the clinic three times with the same horse, Beau, my eight-year-old Westphalian gelding. My very close friend, Sarah Lanphere, got a new horse on the very first day of the clinic! I admire that she was able to adapt quickly and share quite an intense experience with a new ride. No matter what your height level or prize money category, EAP takes you on and off your horse and gives you the education to become a real horse woman or man, covering both the basics and more advanced skills.

On arrival day, horses and trailers trickled in and riders quickly set up their stalls, always keeping safety and organization in mind. I'll tell you, the hardest thing about setting up is making sure the fans are securely fastened and away from hungry horses! Nicole Noland (my friend and fellow Red Coat Farm rider) and I must have spent an hour-and-a-half wrestling with zip ties and bungee cords, all with the intention of passing the safety test of our barn manager, Anne Thornbury. For the past three years, Anne has been an inspiration to me. I find myself quoting her often, because everything she says is memorable!

The first day's schedule began in the afternoon and included a routine tack/stall check and hacking, in addition to a group meeting. Nicole Noland and I had the convenience of laying over from the horse show, so we had all our chores pretty much done and horses settled in. Nicole Noland, Sarah Lanphere, Sarah Kennedy, and I have all done the clinic before and we all knew sleep was your best friend, other than your horse, of course!

The actual first full clinic day started at 5:30 am for me because my equine partner is grey, and the wash rack is where we spend 50% of our time together. Like many clinics, we were split into three groups according to rider and horse level. The groups rotated during the day and covered three different sections, riding, barn management, and jump crew. I was in the first group throughout the week. In the first riding session, we focused entirely on flatwork and basic dressage. There was not a fence in sight! The flatwork went pretty smoothly for everyone except me, as I was aboard a very fresh horse! Clinician Chris Kappler even referred to my equitation gelding as an emotional jumper mare. I was borderline terrified that he would ask me what I showed my horse in because Beau was being uncontrollable and there is no way he would have believed that my horse was capable of being a sane equitation horse! Our barn management topic for the first day was managing the horse business in the real world. We all explained why we might or might not want to persue horses as a career. Bella Roman, Anna Spitzer, and I said that we loved the interaction between horse and human, but wouldn’t necessarily want it as a job. It was Dani Roskins and Anne Thornbury who brought up the wonderful point that in order to succeed, you have to be a “people person” as well as a horse person!

Day one was flat work.

Our third rotation was jump crew and you bet we were lathered up with sunscreen and well-hydrated before we headed to the bottom of the ring with Chris. Simple jump crew rules are to never get in the horse’s way (nice way of saying don’t get run over), never cross your feet, and stand near the active jumps so you don’t have to sprint a half-marathon each time a jump comes down. Dani and I were repeat veterans from last year and definitely had jump crew down to a science. We would always fly out in pairs to catch a rail, and Dani beat me every time (thanks to her career in soccer before horses)!

Groups take turns with jump crew duties.

The next day consisted of gymnastics work and obstacles such as liverpools and walls. This was consistently a wonderful exercise for everyone because it really focused on the adjustability of your horse, which would all end up being very useful on the final day. The whole idea of the riding section of the clinic was to build up for the last day and really put together what you’ve learned throughout the clinic. Chris explained to us that each course asks very different “questions” that you need to respond to with more or less leg, seat, or hand. In the barn session, we reviewed basic bandaging techniques such as stack wraps. Even though my horse tends to line dance in the crossties, we ended up using Beau for a majority of the seminars.

The last clinic day definitely had a lot at stake. This was the day where Chris really tried to push us to our limits, all in the hopes of making us very comfortable in the final round, which is a reoccurring theme in EAP clinics. Our lesson was broken down into tighter turns, bending lines, and learning to jump comfortably on a little bit of a slice. Yes, of course we would all like to be flawless and really show off our best at every jump, but we all know that is not how the sport goes. With my horse, I was having problems seeing the best distances. Chris explained to me that you must come out of the turn and “attack the jump.” This was very beneficial to me since I tend to steady back out of the corner and decrease my pace while waiting for a distance “to simply appear.”

The last day also included the dreaded horsemanship written test. As a veteran, it was almost comical to see the first-year riders fret about it beforehand. The test was open-book and you could work on it in a group! I found this very interesting to see how much my peers knew! I was extremely impressed with how my group participated, especially since it all paid of with 100% scores. We all agreed that medication names and correct spacing between ground poles was the hardest to remember, and were therefore the most looked-up topics.

The final day! Each year, this has been a little bit different. My first year, with clinician Cynthia Hankins, was just like a normal jumper class -- timed and placed! In my second year, clinician Geoff Teal surprised us with an interactive, more laidback hunter course at the end of a week filled with jumper drills. In this third year, Chris (with our help) set a beautiful course that consisted of a 6-stride line to start off on the left lead away from the in-gate, an inside turn to a wall, four-stride to an oxer, around the corner to a one-stride, a direct 6 or bending 7 to a liverpool, to an end jump on an angle, long ride to another one-stride, around-and-over to a vertical, and finally, a long ride to an oxer. The course was very straightforward and we all definitely felt ready, especially thanks to the preparation we had throughout the week. There was only one “question” to the course that you really needed to ask and answer. That was indeed the line that could either be a 6 or 7. My decision, which was easier to make than others, was quite simple. This clinic is all about building upon the previous day. Chris had mentioned that my horse was almost too good at adding the stride in! In conclusion, I chose to ride a direct 6, which was successful. I was very pleased with how my trip had been. The icing on the cake was when Anne Thornbury commented on how much Beau had grown up because, yes, she was witness to my previous years’ rounds, which I am sure were quite memorable.

I would absolutely recommend the Emerging Athletes Program to everyone. I can’t even explain the many ways it has helped me over the past three years. Each experience only got better, and I was able to build upon the knowledge I had gained previously. This program is special because its purpose is to make you the best horseman not only in the saddle, but also out of the saddle. Another one of the countless benefits is that you really make friends for a lifetime. Especially since our horse world is such a small world, it really matters to make friendships that you can always count on. I would also like to extend a huge thanks to Chris Kappler, Geoff Teal, Cynthia Hankins, Anne Thornbury, Nanci Synder, Meghan Carney, Ledges Sporting Horses (Pat and Nicole Boyle), and to the rest of the Emerging Athletes Program for helping to make me the horsewoman I am today. I am ecstatic to expand upon what I have learned and continue to grow with so many new and old EAP friends by my side.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Meet Emma Sargent

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Meet Charlotte Novy

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Meet Hannah Hoch

Ponies and Parlantis was founded on June 30, 2015 by four young equestrians. 
They strive to update everyone with the popular aspects of the equestrian world! They will also be interviewing successful junior and professional riders. Check back daily to stay updated with what's happening on the A Circuit!  *Parlanti is a copyright of PassionEq* 
visit their site at

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Meet Elizabeth Woods

An interview from Ponies and Parlantis 
Ponies and Parlantis was founded on June 30, 2015 by four young equestrians. 
They strive to update everyone with the popular aspects of the equestrian world! They will also be interviewing successful junior and professional riders. Check back daily to stay updated with what's happening on the A Circuit! *Parlanti is a copyright of PassionEq* 
visit their site at

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Gia Rinaldi: Excelling in all Three Rings

An interview from Ponies and Parlantis
Ponies and Parlantis was founded on June 30, 2015 by four young equestrians. They strive to update everyone with the popular aspects of the equestrian world! They will also be interviewing successful junior and professional riders. Check back daily to stay updated with what's happening on the A Circuit!  *Parlanti is a copyright of PassionEq*

Written by founders Emma Mabry and Pearl Bensimoun
Giavanna “Gia” Rinaldi is a 15 year old rider from Illinois. She currently owns two horses, G.P.S Brilliant Disguise aka Hugo, and Cayambe aka Sancho. She also co-owns a large green pony hunter called Top That aka Parker. She shows Hugo in the high junior jumpers and the grand prixs. Rinaldi also shows Sancho in the big equitation. She shows on the A/AA circuit and has won champion or been in the top ribbons at many prestigious horse shows such as indoors, Devon, WEF, and many others.

"My favorite thing about riding and showing is the feeling I get when I'm on the horse. It's a feeing of life, it feels like you never want it to stop. You just want time to stop at that moment because it lights you up inside," says Rinaldi when describing her favorite thing about riding and showing.

Gia hopes to excel this year at all of the big finals(especially in the equitation, she hopes to lay down solid rounds. Her long term goal is to start her own business and become a professional trainer and rider. She also hopes to show in the most prestigious places in the world; such as France, Italy, Canada, and Germany.

Gia said she loves all aspects of riding, but her favorite and one she says is the most thrilling is jumpers. “I love being able to go around the ring and feel like I'm flying. Equitation is about looking pretty and getting the job done well and no one noticing what you're doing. It has to look effortless. Hunters is a blast as well. I love the handy's especially!”

 Rinaldi said she does in fact get butterflies before showing in big classes such as grand prixs, but not because she's nervous. She said “It's not so much nerves as much as I just want to get in the ring and do what I love. I do get nervous sometimes just because I always set very high standards for myself and I always strive to get there each and every round.”

“My horses, trainers and supporters mean the world to me. I am extremely grateful for all of the positive comments they make. It makes my day to see them. Without each and every one of them I wouldn't be where I am today. To be an excellent rider you have to understand how to learn from your mistakes, comprehend them and move on. You learn from your mistakes and understand where you went wrong and what you could have done to fix them and move past it. My parents and trainers have always said that to me. The one thing I don't like to do is dwell on the past.” Says Rinaldi.
Photo by photography intern Grace Schinsing

Monday, August 10, 2015

Annabella Sanchez: From Ponies to the Junior Jumpers

We are pleased to bring you blogs from Ponies and Parlantis.
Ponies and Parlantis was founded on June 30, 2015 by four young equestrians. They strive to update everyone with the popular aspects of the equestrian world! They will also be interviewing successful junior and professional riders. Check their site as well to stay updated with what's happening on the A Circuit!   *Parlanti is a copyright of PassionEq*

Photo by Andrew Ryback

At the age of only thirteen Annabella Sanchez has had quite a successful pony career and has now moved up to the junior jumpers. She has been riding for around six years. Sanchez stated that she got into riding when she visited her uncles horse farm. She had always took an interest in the horses that were there. After that, her mother asked around about where she should start riding. 

Sanchez started her showing career in the short stirrups. She had quite a bit of success and won IHJA Short Stirrup Champion at the end of the year. She then started showing in the pony hunters. Sanchez went through two medium ponies before she found her pony Newsflash. Just after getting him, she got a sixth place ribbon at USEF Pony Finals.

"Yes it is nice to win but at the end of the day it is based on how you rode your course," Says Annabella.

Sanchez's goal is to one day represent the United States at the Olympics. She currently owns a jumper named Zara and a medium pony hunter named Flash, who is leased out. The first time she showed Zara she competed in the low junior jumpers and was champion!

Annabella rides with Katie Kappler at Kappler Farms. She says she believes her biggest riding accomplishment was winning the IHJA Pony Medal Finals and getting 10th overall at Pony Finals. Sanchez says that winning the IHJA Pony Medal Finals this year meant a lot to her because the year before she was runner up.

"I am so lucky to have had such great horses and amazing trainers that have helped me get to where I am today. Without them I would not be where I am and would not have as many opportunities as I do now. I am so grateful to all the staff at Kappler Farms and my parents for always supporting me," says Sanchez.

Annabella also says she sees herself being around horses in the future, and that she has always found something special in horses.

"People say it's just a horse or she is just your horse. Well to me my horse is a best friend, a partner, a team mate, and a teacher. No matter what she is not just a horse. Without horses I wouldn't be who I am today."

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Why Continuing Riding in College was the Best Choice for Me

by Lily Kubly

A big decision presents itself for young equestrians when it comes to graduating high school: do I continue in college or take a hiatus? With new change coming, it seems many want to take a break and focus on classes and their future careers (unless riding will be or involve their future career, of course).

When presented with this dilemma, I knew that I wanted to ride by any means possible. It really wasn’t even a decision that I made; I knew in my heart that I wanted to ride beyond high school before I even applied to colleges. I would not commit to anything right away in order to make sure this was for sure something I wanted to continue with the challenges of college work, but deep down I knew that it was something I wanted to continue even if part time.
Lily and Gunner
At the point of making college decisions, riding was a major part of who I was. Traveling for shows was not uncommon especially my junior year and the first half of my senior year of high school. I had traveled to Florida that winter of my junior year (2011) to compete in the 3’3 juniors with my young horse, Gunner. After florida, I began competing again in the junior Eq classes (I had traveled and done them my sophomore year also) and traveled all over to get qualified for the USEF Pessoa medal finals at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show in Harrisburg. That was successful and I went on to go to Capital Challenge for two weeks before the medal finals as well that fall of 2011.

With all the change that was coming my way, I couldn’t imagine also giving up something I had been so passionate about all my life. It would mean a complete lifestyle change without riding; moving cities and also discontinuing something that had been such a big part of most of my life. College marks the end of riding for a lot of junior riders who either decide to focus on something else or loose interest, and I knew I didn’t want to fall in those catagories and give up all that I had worked for.

The next fall (2012) I began my freshman year at University of Missouri in Columbia or Mizzou (an out of state school for me as I am from Milwaukee) and, as planned, started riding as soon as I could. As small of a town as Columbia is, I was fortunate to find an awesome Hunter/Jumper barn just 15 minutes from campus. I was able to consistently ride at least five times a week even with my schoolwork. I met a few good friends right away at the barn also who helped me adjust to campus socially.
Things started off well on campus, but as the first semester dragged on, I slowly started to realize Columbia was not the right place for me. I felt disconnected to the people around me and homesickness hit me really hard. I was constantly torn between staying and seeing if it gets better next semester, and leaving and starting over as soon as possible. I felt really lost and unsure of myself and my life, as I imagine most students do first semester, so I decided to stick out the year and see if things get better. And things get better for a while. During the first few weeks of second semester, things finally felt like they were falling in place. I was still riding consistently, classes started off better for me, and I was starting to really connect with the friends I had made first semester, but after relatively short a period of time I started to feel lost again.

During these periods of feeling lost, the barn was the place where I was able to find myself the most. Getting of campus was definitely the best thing for me as well in order to remove myself from the situation and get my mind off everything. Just being around the horses was therapy enough. The way they are always excited to see you (even if you just left them for a few minutes in the isle) was just what I needed.

 Here, I did my most rational thinking and was able to really sort through the issues in my head. I was able to work towards my riding goals and put my spirit into something else other than school. I can truly say the barn kept me in school and grounded during that period of time.

In the end, I ended up leaving Missouri which was by far the best choice for me. And now about two years down the road and in Madison, WI, I am still consistently riding and competing when possible and I am so happy I did so. It means I’m constantly busy, but I could not be more thankful for the opportunity to ride as much as I do.
Lily and Desi
There have definitely been parts of my college career where I took some time off due to a horse with lameness, being without a horse to ride, or transferring schools (which I did twice; from Mizzou to Milwaukee then to Madison). And to be honest, at this point I was looking forward to a little break to find myself again through these changes and make time for other things in my life. These periods of time helped me realize how much riding does for me and how it affects my life. I realized my motivation in general is way higher when I am riding consistently. My grades are always better during the times I ride most even though I have less time for schoolwork. It keeps me focused and motivated and allows me to better manage my time by staying organized and on task. This applies to keeping in shape as well. Riding in itself is active, but I have also always been an active person and enjoy pushing myself at the gym or on runs, but I noticed I actually was less active during time off depending on the length of time. When I took about a month and a half or so off of riding, my longest break ever, I slowly stopped going to the gym as much as I had before. If it is only a week or a few days off I tend to be more active, though.

 It’s also a great way to get off campus. As much as I love school, hanging with friends, and my roomates, it’s a good way to escape from stress associated with campus at least for a few hours and also feel more at home in your college town. The drives to the barn are when I realize how beautiful the area around Madison is. The drive always involves a scenic view of the capital and the rolling hills around the area. I also get to see and realize how much goes on outside the city and how much suburban life there is beyond the downtown area.
Lily and Uno in Kentucky 2014
Another thing it has done for me is keep me grounded. Having a horse to ride is both a privilege and a responsibility. College social life (especially in Madison) is abundant and it’s easy to get distracted by all the things there are to do and all the fun people you meet. With a horse to ride consistently, there is still time to be social, but it keeps me from overdoing it. I look forward to riding and know I need to keep my grades up in order to continue it.

Continuing to ride in college isn’t possible or plausible for everybody, but from my experience I could not be happier that I am able to and chose to continue my passion beyond my junior years. It provides a balance and happiness in my college life that would be hard to find otherwise and I could not be more thankful for it.

Hold Tight! Staying On the Overjumper

From Chronicle of the Horse
August 7, 2015

Hold Tight! Staying On The Overjumper

Staying with young horses like Carrasca Z when they overjump can help them develop into confident jumpers later in life. Photo by Lili Weik
I ride a lot of young horses, and sometimes you just don't know what you're going to get when they leave the ground! Sometimes they make an effort for a 4' fence when the top rail is half that.

One question I am always asked is: “How do I stay on when my horses jump so big over the jumps?”

First, I must say I am so lucky to have such superfreaks in my life. We breed and look for horses with phenomenal talent, but I like to say that they only jump like this because they are food motivated. They take after their rider! Just like my horses, I love food, and just like my horses, I am an overachiever which sometimes makes life difficult.

My horses speak English and every time before they show I tell them that if they jump clean and are good they will get their special treats; they about eat me in their haste to eat their cookies after their rounds. People laugh at me all the time asking if they understand and let me tell you, they totally do. My horses and I have full conversations.

Young horses frequently make unexpected extravagant efforts over smaller jumps. Here Vuvuzela Z is way above the top rail, but I'm doing my best to stay with him and out of his way.
Photo by Shawn McMillen Photography
I grew up riding Role Model and people used to say all the time that her jump looked so difficult to stay with, but the first horse I rode that really jumped me loose was Clever Girl (Clevi). She was a young mare we had bought as a broodmare and then within a year of starting to show she was very competitive at the 1.40-meter level. She was a special mare and I am excited for her daughter, who I recently started.
On that note though, I realized that if I wanted to give Clevi the ride she deserved I was going to need to get stronger. I was getting jumped loose and then didn’t get back into the saddle fast enough on the landing to be organized for the next jump.

What’s more, if I wanted her to keep jumping this good and trying so hard I had to stay with her in the air to give her the support she needed while at the same time not hanging onto her mouth. It is important for your seat and hand to be able to be independent of each other. You don’t have to be jumping big jumps to get jumped loose and it is important at all levels to be able to stay with your horse.   

We hear it all the time that you have to be fit and you should work out to be a stronger rider but until this realization, I really didn’t accept or acknowledge that. I rode a lot every day and did lots of barn work and I thought that was enough. I had worked out off and on but never really had the time or the energy to commit to it.

But I decided that I wanted to be the strongest rider I could be, because I wanted to help the horse, not hinder it. Furthermore, it is doubly important when you have young horses that you stay with them because you have to help them with their balance and give them confidence. If I hang on their mouth or get left behind they are not going to want to jump the next jump and especially not in a confident, athletic manner. Usually, the first few times a young horse jumps they will jump really high because they are nervous and this is such a fragile time in their life. Then they will land on their front end unorganized and out of balance.

You have to be secure in your leg with your heel down, not pinching the knee, holding your core strong to hold your body in the air, and looking forward (because this does make a difference in your body position), with your hands keeping a slight feel on the horse’s mouth but not to the point where you are balancing off the mouth. I would rather see someone with their hands on the mane than pulling on the horse’s mouth. However, I think it is important to be strong in your seat and leg so that you can keep a slight feel of the horse’s mouth especially when they are young so that you can help them land balanced.  

My heel might not be down as much as I'd like in this photo, but I'm staying balanced in my body despite Carrasca Z's huge effort. There's a also a nice slack in the rein to let him use himelf.
Photo by Alison Hartwell
We expect our horses to be in peak condition and why should we accept less of ourselves. I am the first one to tell you that I know I could stand to lose a few—or several—pounds, but beneath that I would like to think I am very physically strong and balanced. What really helped me to get this way was Pilates and Yoga and it is my go-to workout whenever I can.

When I cannot get to the gym I will do 15-20 minutes of exercises on my own. Pilates really taught me body control, helped with my balance, and it made my core very strong. People will say, “Oh Pilates is an easy workout,” let me tell you, it is not. I never realized how strong it made me until I worked out with a personal trainer at the gym and he could not believe how strong I was and how easy everything was for me.
Yoga makes me more supple in my body, which is so important for me because I am one of the tightest people ever. I think it is so important for riding to have a strong core because then it makes your back stronger and your seat more independent/balanced. In the air you want to be able to hold your body still and not be balancing off the horse’s mouth; a strong core makes this possible. When I hurt my back a year ago, being fit, strong, and limber made my recovery so much faster.   

Riding-wise I think you can also do exercises to improve staying with your horse over the jumps. You can practice jumping without stirrups, or jumping with one hand behind your back to not have to balance off of the horse’s mouth but rather your seat.

I am definitely not perfect and my riding style is far from traditional but I always want to try to give my horses my all like they do for me.  Even if you can’t fit in a workout you can still get stronger just by riding and I think the most important aspect is to be confident and positive about your riding. Believe in yourself.

Chronicle blogger Taylor Flury rides out of her family's AliBoo Farm in Minooka, Ill., and competes primarily in the jumpers, specializing in bringing along young horses. She also runs AliBoo's breeding program. Flury's former top mount is the U.S.-bred Role Model (Roc USA—Darling Devil), who claimed U.S. Equestrian Federation Horse of the Year titles in 2011 and 2012 in the 5- and 6-Year-Old Jumper divisions and won at grand prix.  
Read all of Taylor's blogs here.