Ask any of my students and they will tell you I ask them this question ALL THE TIME :)

Now you ask me, why? Why do I ask them this question ALL THE TIME?

Because it’s fun…… just kidding….. and not :)

I consider myself a student of life, I study everything I can. I want to understand, grow and evolve, and I am smart enough that I have surrounded myself with some of the best teachers, Horses.

I ask myself why ALL THE TIME. Why does this horse stop all the time? Why is this horse always tight in this muscle? Why does that rider have heavy hands? Why does this horse or rider get this ribbon?

I seek to understand so I am in comfort. If I understand the core reason why that horse is stopping then I can help them. If I understand why that horses muscle is always tight then I can help the owner fix it and the horse can have a longer and happier career. If I understand why I am placing a horse or rider in that placing then I know I did the best judging I could.

Not only does asking why bring you comfort, it tells you where to go and what to do next. This is whyyyyyy I am constantly asking my students why. I encourage them to think, wonder, feel. I want them to be good horsemen not just good riders.

For example; a student came for her lesson. She got on my horse and started her walking warm up routine. I could tell the student felt something was different but I waited for her to bring it up. She proceeded with her walking and then went to pick up a trot and my horse was reluctant and then once she trotted was stiff in her hind end. I still waited for my student to bring it up, knowing she was wondering what was occurring. My student tried again and got the same result. Then she giggled and finally asked what was happening. I started by asking what she felt, she explained what I saw. Then the fun work happened! I asked WHY do you think she is being reluctant? I love this because it asks the student to go in and try and feel. I want them to practice looking at all the layers of their horse and keep following the bouncing ball until they think they got it. After a few answers and me asking more why’s and what do you know about the horses life, my student got the core reason! My horse had just finished a bad heat cycle and she was really tight in some of her hind end muscles from it.

This trailing work gave us the real reason of what was happening for the horse so we could have compassion not frustration. Then we were able to address the core reason by treating her muscles to get her in comfort again.

So why ask why?! Seek to understand, keep trailing util you have found the core reason, everyone will be happy you did so!

Being a Kind Professional

Being a Kind Professional

One of the most rewarding and challenging jobs of being a judge is taking to riders about their performance. Judge’s often get put on a ‘pedestal’ and riders do not feel comfortable approaching the judge, and I believe that borrows from some truth, that some judge’s put themselves on a pedestal and are not approachable.

I judge many IEA (Interscholastic Equestrian Association) shows, and when the show is complete, riders are given the chance to come up and receive ‘judge’s comments’. I like to think that I am a good hearted, nice, normal human being, with a good, fair eye to judge. When I started judging these shows, at first I could not understand why every rider was pretty much scared to come up and talk to me. I quickly started to learn why. Most IEA shows are two days, and require a different judge each day. I began to hear stories of how other judges would ‘give their comments’ to the riders. I was dumbfounded! I won’t go into any details, but it was bad.

There was no finesse, no compliments, compassion with the constructive criticism, just the guillotine of ‘what you did wrong’.

I was heartbroken for the riders when I learned this. These kids travel all over, draw a horse they have never ridden before from a hat, and then go compete. They try their best on whatever horse/pony they drew, it’s not easy! I felt sad for our sport understanding that these ‘professionals’ were being this way with the youth in our industry. I realized that some of the youth will eventually become professionals, and is this how we want to teach them? Or teach them to be this way?

Being a professional in our sport is no small task. It is a hard job with a million up’s and down’s, but still, there is a way to be in that role. Of course the riders want to hear what they could work on, and they should, but that can be done in a positive, constructive way, not ‘you’re a horrible rider/get a new trainer’ way.

I think what’s so hard or complicated about this topic is you can’t tell someone how to be. Of course you can try but they will only change if they truly want to. The world doesn’t work that way, especially in the horse world. I try to do my part by being in truth and rightness, fair and professional, and educate. During my clinics I educate riders and parents on the type of judges, riders and professionals out there, so they have an understanding when they come across them. And while it is easy to focus on the ‘bad’ in our sport, there is also the good. There are countless professionals, judges, and riders who educate from a positive grounded place, and are always in the pursuit of truth and rightness. You may have to weed through a few, but they are out there :)

Is it your fault?! Probably!

Is it your fault?! Probably!

Let’s just start with an example. 

I was at a show preparing my clients in the warm up ring. I began to watch other riders and a young woman caught my eye. I noticed how stiff her back was, and then I noticed her outside hand. Every 3 seconds she would jerk on her horses mouth. I watched this go on and on, and it was literally every 3 seconds!

Horses are one of the most pure and honest animals on the Earth. This saint of a horse was trying to figure out what this jerking motion meant. He started to curl his neck and fall behind the bit. Frustrated by his response she yanked his head straight up and kicked with both legs. Listening to his rider, he brought his head up.... But 3 seconds later she went back to the yanking. Was the falling behind the bit the riders fault or the horses? You guessed it, the riders!  

I write about this in hopes to increase the consciousness of a certain horseman mentality. So many riders demand and control, but did you ever stop to seek out why your horse isn’t framing up, moving off your leg, or jumping? And if you asked the question, did you ever look at what YOU might be doing to create the ‘issue’. 

There is an ‘ism’ I teach all my students. If something feels effortful with your equine then ‘Seek to Understand’. Unfortunately its human nature to blame problems on something outside ourselves, so naturally many riders don’t look at themselves as the problem. 

Can you imagine a horse world where riders said the following:

‘My horse is going to fast, is my lower leg in place or is it gripping?’

‘’My horse is starting to stop at jumps, am I keeping my leg on or is he tired of bailing me out.’

‘My horse bits me every time I tighten the girth, am I doing it too fast, or is he in pain from the saddle?

Feel the difference. Jerk, 3 seconds, jerk, or ‘why’. 




What perspective do you have for the judge? I often hear variations of the following;

‘The judge didn’t like me.’

‘The judge doesn’t like my horse.’

‘The judge keeps pinning that rider/horse so that must be what they want to see.’

‘The judge is mean.’

And the list goes on…..

I want to discuss both sides of the coin. I travel all over the United States and work with many judges. I can say that MOST judges are not out to get you. MOST don’t sit there and say ‘oh I don’t like that horse so it is getting last.’ MOST judges are truly trying to find the best horse or rider out of the group they are judging. The flip side of this coin is the minority of ‘bad’ or ‘grumpy’ judges out there. Whenever I teach a clinic on judging, I always speak to this because most riders, at some point, have encountered an unfortunate experience with a judge. I have seen some of these experiences first hand and felt sorry for the judge who is ‘bad’ or ‘grumpy.’ I felt sorry for them because their view of the rider/horse was limited, like always seeing the glass half empty. They no longer had joy doing what they were doing, and this was directly affected their judging.

When this topic comes up in my clinics, I encourage people to share their feelings with management. If an unfortunate experience is happening, it is probably happening to many competitors, and if many express their feelings to management, hopefully the judge will not be called back. I have seen this happen! So speak up and share with management.

The only way to change our perspective is through understanding. I try to teach people what judges do all day, and tell them exactly we are looking for. That way they can understand what we are thinking and going through all day. This leads to more comfort because the exhibitor understands what the judge is doing, and the judge doesn’t have any negativity coming towards them! 

Judging is fun! Certainly there are days where judges watch the best of the best. And then there are the other days, which are the majority, that are watching everything else. Most judging is watching the beginning-intermediate levels, and this leads to watching and keeping track of mistakes.  Embrace the comments and suggestions from the judges, and if taken to heart and applied in your daily practice, your showing success will undoubtedly follow.  I say this to educate, as education and communication is the key to understanding and being in comfort. Best of luck in the show ring!