2013 Florida Journal Vol. 3

in Blog,Training Journal

Sharon Barton of Winning Touch Massage visits from Oregon and works on Verona and Alexiss (pictured). Sharon Barton of Winning Touch Massage visits from Oregon and works on Verona and Alexiss (pictured).


Notes & Observations

Following the Global Dressage Forum, I returned back to the farm and my first consistent work with Anne and the two mares.  Let me begin by saying this is why I traveled cross country and left my family, my other horses, and everything familiar in my life. Working together with Anne is something we have talked about for years. Finally it was possible and here we are getting reacquainted in a riding/training environment.

It is a good thing that both my horses and I are fit because this is not for those who think they are here for just riding lessons from a expert. My days are spent with the horses and almost everything to do with horses.

Much like our farm, it is busy here. Horses out, then in, then out, then in again. Grooming, training, turn out to pasture, bathing. Sheets off, fly sheets on. Farriers, veterinarians, treating bites, cuts, or whatever the horse needs… then do it all over again with the next one. Cleaning and organizing, cleaning tack, putting supplies back, and here, just like home, it needs to be done perfectly. Then the hand walk and grazing for the late afternoon. With what time is left I drive 30 minutes to the laundromat and wash the horses clothes, grooming towels, sand-covered polo wraps from their legs, sweaty saddle pads and, oh yes, my filthy clothes as well.

I alternate laundry nights, grocery shopping nights, cleaning the apartment, replenishing stable supplies, Quailhurst paperwork, and managing our farm projects via phone and email.  I try to dedicate at least one night out to shop for fun or go out to dinner or a beer with new friends.

I’m trying my hardest to force myself off the farm to keep some balance but, equivalent to home, it is all consuming.

(The working students begin feeding at 5:30am everyday, then turning out horses and cleaning stalls, tacking up horses, making up grain, cleaning. This goes on all day. A short lunch break then back to it and finishing at 5:30pm. Later in the evening they return to feed and blanket if needed for a chilly night. Some of these girls can be found getting a ride in between their days end and late night feedings. All for the opportunity to work here and ride here. It’s all about horses and The Journey.)

Under Saddle

Each day is about taking the horse out of their comfort zone and developing a new way of thinking. I have a tendency to ride my two horse like they are still babies but now, with Anne’s guidance, we are quickly approaching all of the upper level work because I did set the foundation for their basic training. That was Conrad’s accomplishment with us and for that I am grateful.

While working with Anne I have been reminded of things I haven’t thought about or heard for years because of riding so many young horses. Working youngsters is the best way to destroy your posture in the saddle and also you become more of a defensive rider. Now I’m finding my way back and the timing couldn’t be better because these horses are ready and so am I.

I would be completely remiss if I excluded talking about the person I am training with. For those of you who personally know me, you know that I am a “private person.” I don’t like talking about other people or horses unless in a positive way. I also try to never give others an opportunity to say negative things about us, but unfortunately it will always happen in the sport. Being in the public eye is difficult and you become an easy target for unfair conversation.  Anne is a “private person.”

To recount all of the lessons already would be impossible because within every individual lesson I experience multiple lessons within lessons. Best described as the feeling of having 6 rides while only sitting on one horse. Yes, there is that much to consume. Combine that with observing the other trainers’ lessons and the information  learned in one day is staggering. Anne has already forgotten what most trainers will never even learn! The depth of her knowledge and the sharpness of her eye is simply remarkable. I have watched horse after horse enter the arena with such dramatic changes with work that never causes fear in the horse or rider. It’s pleasant and the horse leaves wanting to perform instead of running away.

What I don’t think most people know is how much time Anne still puts in the saddle. She smiles most of the time and it is obvious she too still wakes up every morning with the anticipation of riding her horses. She’s good at it and the horses love her. Every one of them.

If you think about it, Anne – as the US Team coach – has spent the last few years looking at the best horses and riders in the world. She knows what works and what doesn’t. She knows what the judges want and is also current and versed in the direction of our sport.

Training here resembles boot camp for both me and the girls. It is about precision of the aids and polishing the details and I don’t intend on wasting a single day. It’s the attitude you need to survive the work because Anne won’t let up for a second. When you’re on a horse or just about to think you will have a day off “guess again.” This is how top combinations make it or break it. Having been an elite athlete, it has been more than helpful in knowing what it takes to deal with genuine hard work and tough coaches.

What is really great is my horses too are loving the challenges. They appreciate the clarity, the boundaries, and most of all the discipline it requires. For them as well, just when they think we are done….Yup!  “Guess again”.

If you are in the northwest and you are available to audit Anne Gribbons’ one-day clinic at Devonwood in March, I highly suggest you do. She has not a bag full of tricks but purse full of years of credible information and knowledge to share.

Previous post:

Next post: