Friday 20 September 2019

Dressage Volunteer of the Month

Earlier this month I was named Equestrian Canada's Dressage Volunteer of the Month. Here is the press release:

A fellow member of the CC/ADA (Chinook Country area group of the Alberta Dressage Association) was the one who nominated me and I had no idea until people who had seen the mass email from Equestrian Canada started congratulating me on Facebook (to be fair, someone from EC had emailed me to give me a heads up the day before but it was the weekend and I was busy trail riding my horse so I didn't see the email until the next day). I think it's a little funny that they say the photo was provided by me because it wasn't (but I don't mind).

I am super honoured and humbled by this award. I have worked hard at building a dressage community in my area but there are so many other deserving people who should be recognized as well. I especially want to recognize that all the people in the CC/ADA have been amazing and have provided so much support, often without me even needing to ask. The CC/ADA is based in Lethbridge which is a couple hours away from me, their area technically includes the whole southern part of the province but in practical terms their sphere of influence was much smaller. In early 2017 I approached them about the show I was trying to organize, wanting to see if we could cooperate to cross-promote our shows. At that time all I was really hoping for was some help in spreading the word about my show, but they came back and offered so very much more. Not only did they promote my show, they made it an official CC/ADA show which meant I could use their insurance and tap into casino funding from the club to help pay for the judge. They also invited me onto the board in the newly made position of representative for my city. That support has continued and they have also helped me in other ways over the last three years. I enjoy spending time with all the ladies at our AGM or when I go to shows in Lethbridge or Claresholm. I could not ask to be part of a better team so thank you!

Thank you also to the blogging community. Starting this blog has been a great way to organize my thoughts and it really encouraged me to get more involved and volunteer. Sometimes I would start writing a post complaining about how I couldn't do something and that would turn into me figuring out how I could.

The view from C - volunteering as a scribe is always worth it! 

I don't know if many people are nominated each month for this award. It is a nice program to provide recognition though (it came with a certificate, an EC pin, and a $25 gift certificate to the EC website) so if you know any good volunteers in your area please consider nominating them. Even if I didn't have much competition for this award I am honestly prouder of this than I would be for a riding award and I will treasure it.

Wednesday 18 September 2019

A Re-Introduction

Hello, I am your friendly neighbourhood writer of AutonomousDressage, I know it's been a long time since we last met so you may not remember me :-P

My name is Siobhan and I am an amateur rider in my early thirties, struggling slowly through the dressage levels with my 17 year old grade pinto mare Kachina. Slowly is a key trend around here as I got Kachina in 2014 and we are still not done with Training Level (we showed both Training Level and First Level this season). However in that time I have learned so much about the sport of dressage. Way back in 2012 I was schooling 2nd Level on my first horse Ellie, but looking back there were a lot of holes in my understanding. When I got Kachina after Ellie passed away, I learned that I had really been a one-horse rider and I had to acquire a whole new set of tools for working with Kachina, especially because, while Kachina is sensitive and tries hard, she was pretty green when I got her and almost all of her riding experience was on trails. I called my blog AutonomousDressage because I didn't have access to a regular trainer and had to figure out a lot of things on my own. There is still no regular dressage trainer in my area so creativity is still sometimes required but over the years I have been able to connect with some great clinicians, other dressage riders and not-for-profit organizations that have been of tremendous help. There is now a fledgling dressage community in my area and I hope to see it continue to grow.

Kachina and myself at the CC/ADA Summer Dressage Show in June 2019

I've previously gone by SarahO on this blog but Siobhan is my actual name. Siobhan (pronounced Shi-vawn) is not exactly phonetic so for years I've used a pseudonym of Sarah for little things like Starbucks orders, booking taxis, restaurant reservations, etc. I chose to use Sarah on this blog as well, partially for simplicity, and partially for anonymity. I grew up in the time where kids were told to never use our real names or locations on the internet and that has kind of stuck with me. I of course share photos and real stories about my riding life so I'm not fully anonymous, but I initially liked that people would have to do more of their own homework/already be part of the local horse scene to figure out my identity. I started reading blogs to get training tips and insights into dressage when I was sorely lacking in education opportunities. I started this blog to be able to participate in the blogging community. I still have somewhat mixed feelings about how much one should share with the internet (and will continue to be careful about some aspects of my life), but I've also seen the power of what communication and making connections can create. Through reaching out to horse people, in real life and on Facebook, I have made many new friends, found out about clinics to ride in and organized a few of my own, became part of the Alberta Dressage Association, and I also successfully started the first dressage show in my town which has now run for 3 years and counting. As my dressage profile has grown in real life and as I have started to feel closer to some fellow bloggers, the partial divide between my two identities has started to feel more awkward and less comforting. I've been thinking these thoughts for a while now but a recent press release about me and some soon-to-be-published recognized scores of mine are the reason for making this change at this time (blog posts about both are coming!). I want this blog to be an extension of who I am in real life, not just a separate semi-anonymous depository for horse stories. So with that in mind: Hello, I'm Siobhan, writer of AutonomousDressage, nice to meet/re-meet you!

Tuesday 17 September 2019

Blog Hop: 10 Questions for September

I can't believe it's been more than 5 months since I last posted. It's not that I haven't been doing blogworthy things, in fact I have been riding lots, have gone to multiple events and have more media than ever.

I fell off the blogging train because of being super busy with work in the spring (like being at work from 6am-1:30am kind of busy), something had to give so I gave my notice and went straight into a new job but adjusting to a new role in a new company has been a different kind of busy. Things have somewhat settled now but being away from blogging is a vicious cycle, the longer it has been since my last post the harder it is to know where to start again.

I have so so many things I want to share but I'm going to start simple, with a nice and easy blog hop courtesy of L.Williams.

1. Favorite quirk your horse (or a horse you’ve spent time with) has?

I know it's not really a good thing and I have been working on having other people handle Kachina but part of me kind of loves how Kachina will walk up to me but is almost uncatcheable for other people. 

2. Three adjectives that perfectly describe your horse?

Hardworking, sensitive, submissive

3. Plan your next ride. What will you do/work on?

I want to do some work on canter transitions and cantering in general where I focus on keeping my seat in the saddle and my upper body back and centered. This has been a focus for the last while and it is helping a ton so I want to keep at it. I also want to go back and reinstall the fundamentals for lengthenings, this is likely to make Kachina over-reactive initially and things will probably get worse before they get better so I wanted to wait until after my last show.  

My go-to canter position: tipped forward, seat out of saddle, lower leg forward
I am working really hard to not do these things

4. Have you ever trained an OTTB? If yes, what was the biggest challenge?

No, though I have ridden a few while horse shopping. They were all quite different from each other. 

5. Have you ever groomed or worked for a professional rider?

No, I think it would be an amazing experience and part of me would love to do it, but a bigger part of me likes the stability of my current non-equestrian career and realizes that what I am doing now is more capable of financially supporting my amateur horse-habit. 

6. Favorite horse and rider combination?

My favorite riders are generally ones who can recreate the same kind of harmony with multiple types of horses.

7. Have you ever ridden a horse at the beach?

I did a beach ride on a horse in Mexico once but I always feel a little awkward riding in those type of tourist trail rides. I would love to ride my own horse on the beach but the 1300km separating us from the ocean makes that unlikely. 

Does a riverbank count as a beach lol?

8. If you could experience the equestrian community (i.e. ride and compete) in another country, what country would you choose and why?

I would ride in Ireland. My family is Irish and I like connecting with that part of my heritage. Plus riding out in the country there is so physically different from here (no snow, no gopher holes, entirely different kind of grass, higher density of horses, etc). I would be scared to encounter traffic on their narrow twisty roads though. 

Who wouldn't want to ride in this idyllic place

9. In your opinion, what is an item of tack that is given unnecessary hype?

Horse boots or wraps for dressage. I understand that some horses benefit from them due to interference etc. but I do not understand why they are so ubiquitous. 

10. What was the first horse you rode called? Are they still alive?

The first horse I rode (sat on would be a more apt description) was one of my cousin's broodmares. I don't know her name. She would not be alive anymore considering that was 24 years ago and she was not a young horse.