Friday, February 26, 2010

USEA Blog Part 6

Photo: Emily Daily for the USEA

In the latest blog
on the USEA website

Ashley talks about mental toughness
in preparing for a three-day event.
Check it out here.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Would You Like Me To Build You a Sandwich?!?!

I think this is like week 4 or 5 in Aiken (St. Mathews really). First of all did you know that if you say "in Aiken" fast it sounds like your saying "naked". It is rather funny when you are talking to a non-horsey person and you say something like, "yea, when I was in-Aiken...", you get a funny look and that ever so loved awkward pause in the conversation.

Anywho, as most of you know, often times OTTB's can be rather picky. Vaunted is no different. He has gone off his feed and has also taken to just staring at his food. Last year when this happened Bonnie suggested that I give him several different types of feed in different buckets. That's right I gave my horse a buffet. This year he is on to me....he scoffs at my buffet. I have tried everything...he is being so dramatic. So today I offered him my sandwich. Next I offered to make him a pasta dinner. Then I offered to take him out to a nice quite, quaint meal. Then I just threw up my hands and said, "I give up! I just cant please you!". Then after we both went our separate ways for a little while and cooled down, we came back and reached an agreement. I have now offered him 5 different types of grain, alfalfa hay, alfalfa cubes and grass hay. He has decided to eat 2/3 of the 5 and the alfalfa hay....I think I can live with this common ground.
After we have, temporarily I'm sure, solved our little tiff we have gone full steam ahead in the training schedule. This week is an off week for Vaunted. Meaning he is not competing this weekend. We do have the first Advanced of the season coming up and I have been working on those pesky new dressage tests. I gave Vaunted a good break this past winter and I must say that I think that has really done his body good, much like milk does. He is coming out this year with a good mind and a strong body. I hope that he thinks the same of me!
I am trying to tackle my issues head on at this part of the season. Any and all positive changes welcome! I have been struggling with my confidence in the show jumping and I find that it comes out when I ride Vaunted especially. Therefore I am breaking down myself. Meaning I am looking at video's, pictures, and having others watch me. I am looking at my position, thinking about my lines, and trying all sorts of new tactics. Through all of this Bonnie has pointed out that I lean a bit at the jump the last stride. This often times causes me to allow Vaughn's step to change and thus allowing him to drift right which then decreases his scope....jeez Louise! Learning sometimes makes my head hurt. Vaughn tries so hard so I know that when I do it right he will reward me!

On a smaller but equally important scale, the little Pixie mare I have jumped for the first time!! She is a very good little horse. She also hacked out all by herself. I love the babies cause anything they do is so rewarding. She also eats....she appreciates me....but I'm not bitter or hung up on the fact that Vaunted doesn't appreciate my thoughtfulness. All good relationships have to test a few boundaries I guess. :) Pine Top Advanced here we come.
**Side note**Murry is the most photogenic horse in the barn.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

February 12th USEA Blog Article

Click here to read the latest posting on the USEA Blog about conditioning your horse for a three-day event!

Monday, February 15, 2010


Who would have guessed that it would have snowed in Georgia....well I will be the first to tell you that Georgia was not the first to think so! When listening to the radio or the news you would have thought that the world was ending! Marley, Jaclyn, and I all drive down on Friday and as we were driving down we started to drive into the snow. Finally when we got to the hotel we found ourselves in approx. 3 inches of snow...that's right the white, cold, powdery stuff, was nuts. The next morning we got up and it looked like a ghost town in Thompson GA. Not a soul was on the road!! The girls and I went to the barn and took care of the horses, as you can see did a bit of photo shooting and had some fun, and then we did what any normal horse person would do on a snow day, went to the one and only wally world!! That's right , Wal-mart. I love can walk in and only buy beer, duct tape, and a 41 ounce bag of skittles without getting an odd look from the cashier...awesome!
The crew at Pine Top was amazing. They did everything just right. From what it sounds like they should go work for the Department of Transportation in some of those snow covered states! Dressage took place Saturday afternoon and Show Jumping and XC was Sunday. Vaunted's dressage was good but could always be better. I botched his walk a bit so he got 2 bad scores on that because of me. However he ended up in the top ten after dressage and there were allot of Advanced horses in the division so we were in good company. He was impeccable on XC and was one of only a few to make time. I was not even pushing him but he is so fast to get across the ground and on landing. We still have our Show Jumping demons together. I let my upper body get ahead just a bit on the last stride before the jump this time so I was not able to help him as much as he needed on the take off. I know that I have a steady grasp on 2 of the 3 phases so now it is time to put my head into the think tank and focus!! It is definitely "GO TIME" at this point. I want to make every second of training count.
I was lucky enough to take a lesson with Lucinda Fredricks the Thursday before Pine Top. A special thanks to Holly Payne for getting these eventing greats over to these parts! Holly and "Baby" loved working with the Fredricks when she was over across the pond last year and I can see why after just one lesson. Lucinda first off lengthened my stirrups about 4 holes and said keep them there. She was direct and to the point and I love that. She gave me allot to work on and she did not just give me a lecture. What I mean by this is that she not only said, this is what you are lacking, but she said this is how I know and what you need to do to help it.

She told me that Vaunted did not have enough power off the ground and that his right drift is one of the causes of that. I tend to let Vaughn drift off to the right on take off and therefore allow his power to trail off. Lucinda was very specific about what she wanted and did not let me get away with anything less than what she wanted! I loved it. I am going to try to continue working on what she was getting me to do, which was actually more defined in Vaunted's warm up. This included getting a stronger step and more ground covering step.
The next step for Vaunted is the Advanced at Pine Top again...without snow please! Take a look at all these pictures from Pine Top...snow, snow, snow....uhgg! Thanks again to all that made Pine Top happen.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Sporting Days and the Super Bowl!!

PHEW!!! The first outing of the year is done. Vaunted was a good horse. This horse tries harder than anything I have ever sat on in my entire life. I am so lucky to have him. I have been working on my own for a couple of weeks before Bonnie got down to these here parts. I had a few of the girls video tape me a couple of times over fences and on the flat and tried to learn from that and work on what I saw. I knew that I had to do 2 dressage tests and two jump rounds with warm ups so I did not want to warm him up to long.

The Intermediate test was good and just a way for me to get back into the arena and have Vaunted get back in there. The Advanced test I was pretty happy with. He is not the biggest mover in the world and lacks a bit on his mediums and extensions. That being said he is very, very, very obedient and I have to be accurate. As I am sure you know the dressage test have changed this year. At one point in the advanced test I got confused and had to look left and right in the arena to remember where V was. uhgg. Non the less he put in a very consistent test.

Show Jumping was good for us. I get very nervous for show jumping. I tell people that if you told me on Sunday I had to go xc again instead of show jump, I would literally jump at that chance! Vaunted tries very hard to be good and do what he needs to do. I do believe that I let my nerves get the best of me. Having had Vaunted as long as I have we really have this relationship that we know each other so well we don't really need to "speak". It's like we are married!! :) For this reason he can sense my nerves. At one point in one of the rounds Vaunted jumped so hard and so big he hit my chin and I bit my lip...classy I know. It was overall a good outing for all of us and I am proud to ride him everyday.

The girls, Marley Stone and Jaclyn Burke, also went to Sporting Days today. They both were very good and got all the dust off of those xc vests! We all head out to Pine Top next weekend. I am doing the Intermediate, along with the entire eventing community, as is Marley and Jaclyn is doing the Preliminary. I am glad that I am going to get to run Vaunted xc soon because he did a gallop and is nuts!! I took a picture while galloping him and.....then I almost fell off.

We are all going to the "big house" tonight for the super bowl. No we are not going to prison. Last year I had a really hard time calling Ethel and George's place the "big house" because that is what you call I have just given in. Marley and I made the all wonderful pigs in a blanket, Jaclyn is making buffalo chicken dip, and Rebecca is make guacamole!! Ethel is the best, it is like a sorority when we all end up there. Poor George. I am not a big football fan but anytime you get to eat pigs in a blanket I'm in! Marley is not only wearing her Bruce Springsteen shirt but also holding our cooking masterpiece!

We took Conor Rollins our newest addition to the team at the Piggly Wiggly. It was his first trip! If you are going to be at Pine Top stop by and say hi. I am putting on a good face for season new success!

Friday, February 5, 2010

The Latest Installment on the USEA Blog

Click here to check it out!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Conditioning...not just the horses...

I have been recently turned on to "Podcasts". I realize that I may be one the of the last people that have been introduced to podcast but non the less, I love them! I must give Ethel the credit for my recent enlightenment. I went on the iTunes podcast and found that I can get almost anything and guess what....wait for is all free!! I had no idea.

Being here at the Gibbes farm without the rest of the crew yet, I have allot of time to listen to music, talk to the horses, talk to myself, you know the usual. So I thought that this whole Podcast thing would be great. I was looking last night on the site and turns out you can get Podcast on Sports Psychology. I spend all this time conditioning my horse and planning to the T what he needs to be doing but what about me? I must admit that I do struggle with the mental aspect of the sport. At the end of the day there are two athletes out there and both of us have to be fit. Not only do we as riders, have to be physically fit but mentally as well.

I downloaded some of the Podcast that deal with perfectionism in sports, other competitors in your head, fear of failure, pregame jitters, and focus. The one that really spoke to me was the one entitled "How perfectionism inhibits your game". It goes on to say that most athletes have perfectionist tendencies, however you know your a perfectionist when you are never satisfied with your performance. They place high expectations on their performance. Therefore when they achieve those expectations they feel as though it was not good enough. When they fall short of those expectations they start attacking their game. They start doubting their skill, knowledge, and become very hard on themselves. I have been told, more than once mind you, that I have to get out of my own head and stop over thinking and analyzing what I'm doing. This is very much so easier said than done! This year I am going to try very hard...lets see how that works. :)

I definitely believe that people have their own game ritual and that each ritual should be unique to the person. I think that it is even safe to say that we all get some level of pre-game nerves. That is good! I am starting to learn that it is when you are to relaxed or to "jazzed up" that mistakes are made and negative things happen. While I know that the mental game day demons will be a fight that will probably never go away, I do feel as though simply knowing more will help. Often times students or friends that compete at the lower levels will at times ask me if I still get the butterflies and frustrated with myself. The answer is YES!!! I am my own worst enemy. I am my own toughest critic. While I know that these Podcast are usually geared towards baseball players, football players, or golfers, I can relate to them. I can repeat their words, I can use their tactics, I can learn from their examples. I hope that if I see you at a show this year you will see a confident, focused, and ready to rock, Ashley! Here's to hopin'!

I also added a video of Vaunted jumping and Marley was setting fences for me. Now I must say that I was over analyzing what was happening and wanted a little of this, but not to much, a little of that, but not to much. Marley said something that really stuck with me. It was actually something that Sharon White told her, she said that your horse can do 1 of 4 things, he can go left, right, slower, or faster. That's just ride. I love it!

**I have attached a picture of the MAGICAL chocolate cake that Ethel makes.*** I LOVE this cake!!! hehe