Sunday, July 3, 2011

Open Letter to Trainers

Dear Trainers,

In my twelve years in the Saddlebred industry, I have met many wonderful people - customers and trainers alike. I have made many friends, and my children have made some life-long friendships thanks to their involvement in this sport as well. We have been blessed with a trainer who is encouraging, professional, and expects our riders to demonstrate good sportsmanship at all times. Unfortunately, last night, I observed the worst example of leadership, sportsmanship, and overall tact that I have ever observed.

We were at a horse show, and Jordan was competing in her championship class against five other riders. This was an equitation class, and each rider was required to perform a pattern. As I stood on the rail waiting for Jordan to attempt her pattern, I was shocked to hear a "big-name trainer" openly making negative comments about the girls in the class. Many of these girls were new to equitation, and some of them were riding horses that had never done a pattern before; however, he felt the need to openly criticize and revel in each rider that made a mistake as he waited for his rider to do her pattern. True, he was speaking to the mother of the girl; however, he was speaking so loudly that everyone around him could hear what he was saying.

I have thought about this all night, and I feel compelled to write this open letter to all trainers, whether you be an equine trainer, football/baseball/basketball/dance coach, etc. to remind you of a few things:

1. Every child (not just the kids who ride for your barn) are involved in this sport because they love the breed and they love the sport. This should be an enjoyable experience for them, and they should not be subjected to a trainer from another barn openly criticizing their performance. Many of these kids are showing in the ring for the first time, and mistakes will be made. You have to start somewhere, right?

2. ALL of these kids are involved in this sport thanks to parents to have supported them with a lot of time, energy and MONEY. Your riders are not the only ones who have a lot invested in competing in this sport. We, as parents, do this because we love our children and want them to have a good time and enjoy this experience.

3. When you open your mouth and make negative comments about those other exhibitors, you open yourself up to criticism from those who are standing around you and hear what you say. You should also remember that that mom who's standing on the rail next to you filming her child and hearing you criticize her kid could be a potential customer, or could have some influence on a potential customer (i.e., share the experience with others who might have been considering placing their horse in training with you).

4. Whether you like it or not, when you take on the title of "Trainer", you are also taking on the role of a LEADER. One of the definitions of leader is to act as a guide; show the way. It is YOUR responsibility to set the example for others around you (especially the juveniles who are watching you closely and following your example) by exhibiting kindness, courtesy, and good sportsmanship. Do you REALLY want people saying, "So and so is a jerk?" Is that really the reputation you want to have in this business?

You know, it's fine to jump up and down on the inside when one of the kids in your rider's class makes a mistake - you just don't show it on the outside. What's wrong with going up to one of those kids after the class and saying, "Good try"?? Provide some encouragement to these young riders - they are the future of the industry you are working so hard to promote.

A Horse Show Mom

On a side note, the evening did end well - the mother of one of the kids who showed against one of our riders came over to thank her and our trainer for our kids being so courteous and supportive of her daughter. Her trainer also came over and said it was refreshing in this day and age to find exhibitors who were kind and thoughtful. My faith in this industry and people in general was restored, and I was reminded that thankfully there are only a handful of rotten apples out there. :)

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Not Again...

Once again, I am taking to my blog to post sad news. After spending a wonderful winter together, we lost Jordan's new horse, Allie, to what appears to be an aortic aneurism this past Monday. She started acting a little mopey on Monday, and when Karin went to bring her out to hand walk her, she threw her head up and started shaking it and dropped to the ground dead. So sudden and unexpected, and not what you'd expect to happen to a healthy 6 year-old horse.

My heart breaks for Jordan - she has had so much loss in the past 6 months. First Dolly in October, then my mother-in-law on New Year's Eve, and now Allie. Jordan was looking forward to their first show together, and is heartbroken to lose her very first horse. I hate to see my sweet girl hurting like this - she broke down when we went to the barn on Wed. and she saw Allie's empty stall with her halter hanging by it. We brought the halter home for safekeeping, and I will be sending some of Allie's tail hair off for a bracelet so she will always have Allie with her. I've told Jordan that God has a plan for her - it's hard to see it right now, but there is a plan in all of this. We will bury Allie on the hill next to Dolly, and we plan to plant a butterfly bush on her grave so that there will always be flowers and butterflies where she and Dolly are.

In the meantime, Jordan does have something to show. Karin has partnered her with Red Handed, a 5-gaited Pleasure gelding. They've actually had their first show together, after only 1 1/2 weeks of working as a team. They looked super-cute, but had some troubles with the canter last night - they show back tonight, so we'll see how they do. Next stop for them will be Bonnie Blue.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Love and Loss

It has been a difficult few weeks in our household, especially for Jordan. On October 16, 2009, Dolly crossed the Rainbow Bridge, and Jordan lost her best friend. Jordan has been riding Dolly since she was 7 years old, and that little pony taught Jordan how to be the rider that she is (of course Karin's instruction played a huge part in that too!). This was totally unexpected and came from out of the blue, and Jordan was just devastated. It has helped that Jordan has Allie to help ease the pain, but Dolly was a very special pony, and she took a big chunk of Jordan's heart with her. Below is the obituary we sent to the ASB publications.

What A Doll (“Dolly”) crossed the Rainbow Bridge on Friday, October 16, 2009. Foaled in the early 80’s at Windy Hill Farm in Frankfort, IL, Dolly was one of the last surviving foals by Carolyn Folkers’ stud Sparkling Supreme, sire of many world champion Saddlebreds, including many 3- and 5-gaited ponies.

Dolly was shown by so many children just starting their show career, and taught them how to ride a show horse. She was truly a pony who gave her all – and loved doing it. There was nothing “push button” about Dolly – she definitely made you ride. She was always in the top ribbons throughout her career, with wins at shows such as ASHAV, Roanoke, Tar Heel Classic, Bonnie Blue, KY Fall Classic, Morristown, and more. She was definitely a little pony with a big heart.

Dolly was brought out and shown in IL for many years by Lindsey Dillon and, after moving to Virginia, was shown with much success by Brittany Gordon, Tori & Polly Hunter, Emma Jefferies and, for the last 4 1/2 years, by Jordan Burks. During that time, Jordan and Dolly were ASHAV champion and reserve high point champions in 10 & under WTC equitation and English Pleasure Pony every year. Jordan is so grateful that Carolyn’s grandchildren, Justin & Katelyn Smith, shared Dolly with her and allowed her to show Dolly these past 4 1/2 years. She is thankful for the time she had with Dolly, and misses her deeply. Jordan, Katelyn, and many more will remember Dolly forever.

Dolly was buried at Windy Hill Farm in Monroe, VA, and we know she is in Heaven, trotting above level, with CH The Red Ferrari racking right beside her.

Godspeed Dolly, and thank you for making so many little girls so very happy.

Somewhere in time's own space
There must be some sweet pastured place
Where creeks sing on and tall trees grow
Some paradise where horses go.
For by the love that guides my pen,
I know great horses live again.

~ Stanley Harrison ~

Sunday, July 12, 2009

We're So Excited!

Things have changed since our last post. While Hollywood taught Jordan a lot about riding a "big horse", he was not the right horse for her for the long-term. After much searching, Karin managed to find a wonderful 4 year-old mare for Jordan. Her name is All By Chance ("Allie"), and I think she is going to teach Jordan a lot. She had a really great start with her previous family, and just seems to get better and better every day. We told Jordan yesterday afternoon that she was her new horse, and she is so excited! They will most likely not show this year - need to make sure they partner well with each other - but will debut in Country Pleasure and Pleasure Equitation in 2010. I plan to keep this blog updated with their progress, both at home, and in the show ring!

In the meantime, Jordan will be showing Dolly at the Rockbridge Regional Fair Horse Show, The Old Dominion Futurity Summer Show and the West Virginia State Fair. Dolly is 23 years old this year, but still wants to go to a horse show! Rockbridge is next week, and Jordan is already counting down the days.

Logan has decided that he may want to start riding again. Since he is now in mens' shoe sizes (I miss buying boys' shoes - so much cheaper!), I am going to have to find him a new pair of riding boots and get him some new jods so he can start taking lessons again. I am glad he is showing an interest in horses again - not sure if it's related to horse show girls or what, but I'll take it! LOL

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

It's been a while....

It's been a while since I last updated this blog, and a lot has happened. We have been to the last of the winter tournaments, and Jordan was 3rd in Showmanship and 2nd in Equitation for the winter tournament high points. She and Dolly were 2008 reserve champions in the English Pleasure Pony division for ASHAV, and she was the 10 & under WTC Equitation champion for ASHAV. We had a great time at the ASHAV convention, and Jordan really enjoyed the first annual "Horseless Horse Show" (Breyer horse show).

We started show season at the Old Dominion Futurity Benefit horse show. Jordan showed a horse named Mountainview's Heir to Sultan ("Hollywood") in Juv. Show Pleasure and
17 & Under equitation. She was 5th in Juv. Pleasure and 1st in equitation. Our farm took out an ad with Show Ring Times after the Old Dominion Show, and we were really pleased with the results. The ad featured horses and riders who were successful at Old Dominion and were headed for Bonnie Blue. We had originally planned to show at BB, but our plans changed and we scratched our entry. Jordan was disappointed, but understood the reason for the change of plans and was very adult in the way she handled it. I am so proud of her. :) Not sure when our next show will be - we'll have to see. She is riding really well - confident and aggressive - she has really grown in her riding over the winter.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

UPHA Chapter 18 Winter Tournament - January 31, 2009

Last weekend was the 3rd of the 4 UPHA Chapter 18 Winter Tournaments, and we had a great time. Jordan showed in Advanced Equitation 11-13 and Advanced Showmanship 11-13, and took home a 3rd and a 2nd, respectively. She had a great time, and if she hadn't fallen out of the canter 1st way in the first class, could have probably gotten a better ribbon. Oh well, these tournaments are to work on your skills and find the areas you need to focus on for show season, and she learned a lot.

Afterwards, we ate dinner at Cracker Barrel, then she spent the night with her friends McKenzie and Janie. She loves spending time at Jenny's farm, because she gets to help take care of the horses. She's happy just being around horses, and doesn't even have to be riding to have a good time. This kid lives and breathes horses, and as long as it's not boys, I'm ok with that. :)

She and Dolly started working together again yesterday, preparing for this show season. She's not too big for Dolly yet, and was excited to hear that they have one more season together. Dolly is a very special pony, and Jordan has been so blessed to have Justin and Katie share Dolly with her.

Only 2 months and 9 days til the first show!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

A Little History.....

Our involvement with the American Saddlebred spans the course of the last 9 1/2 years. My oldest daughter, Morgan, begged me for years to take riding lessons, and one Sunday she found an ad in the paper advertising lessons at a farm close to our home. I called, we went, and the rest is history. Morgan was almost 11 at the time, and she fell in love with the sport. My son Logan was almost 3 and Jordan was just a baby at the time, but they went to every practice with Morgan.

Logan enjoyed riding for a while, but it was Jordan who grew to live, breathe, and sleep horses. She would sit, even at 18 months old, and listen to every word being said to Morgan, and by the time she was 3 1/2, she was asking to learn to ride. I held off letting her show in academy until she was 7, because I guess I'm just a "Nervous Nellie" and she was so small. She showed one season in Academy, and then moved to 10 & under WT with a very special pony named What a Doll. "Dolly" is probably the winningest pleasure pony on the east coast, and spent some time at Smith Lilly's barn before Carolyn bought her back for Karin's children, Justin & Katie. Justin & Katie have graciously shared Dolly with Jordan for the past 3 1/2 years, and Dolly has taught Jordan so much about horses and riding. Despite all appearances, Dolly is NOT a "pushbutton horse" - she has challenged Jordan in many ways, but has helped prepare her for her move to "the big horses".

Along the way, we have been to many great horse shows in Virginia, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, North Carolina, and Kentucky. We have helped to organize and hold the Old Dominion Futurity Benefit Horse Show, which is entering its 8th year in 2009. We have witnessed the historical return of the Saddlebred to the Washington International Horse Show for the first time in 36 years on October 24, 2008, and we have been active members and supporters of the American Saddlebred Horse Association of Virginia (ASHAV).

We will continue to support and promote this breed in whatever means we can, because we believe that the American Saddlebred is the perfect horse for families and children. We consider the Saddlebred one of America's "hidden treasures", and hope to help unearth that treasure so that it can be recognized for the true gem that it is.