MM Training and Consulting News and Informational Articles

Entries in clinic (2)


Team Black Stretch Limo presents… The American Horsewoman’s CHALLENGE - 9 Steps to Entering and Being Chosen to Compete!


Step 1   Answering the Call. 

It began innocently enough.  Kori, our team member who loves to do on-line research for us, told Marcia about this cool competition she saw advertised, the American Horsewoman’s Challenge.  As we looked through the information, there were several key words that really seemed to be a fit with the philosophy of our team at the barn.  Words like horsemanship skill, equitation, light handedness and equine partnership were music to Marcia’s ears.  What a fun way to add focus to the training of Marcia’s colt, Stretch!  The steps for entering seemed doable….just needed to complete the paperwork, get the videos ready, and hey presto, an entry is born!  First, time to get out Sam, Marcia’s older gelding, and start work for the videos!

Step 2   Preparing the Horse.

Sam, Marcia’s dark bay, Quarter Horse gelding, had been used for reining and had solid training that would be a bonus in the Cowboy Dressage and ranch/trail portions of the entry requirements.  All that would be needed was a tune up and some work on specific moves.   Sam also had nice ground manners, but had never done liberty as was described in the entry rules.  Let the training begin!  Marcia worked with Sam at least 5 days a week through January and February perfecting the parts of each pattern.  Liberty proved to be the biggest challenge, with each part of the pattern being broken down into smaller individual parts as Sam and Marcia learned together what it took to make each movement fluid and easy.   Marcia’s hard work with Sam was paying off as we watched Sam learn weaves, figure 8’s and backing at liberty.  We were getting closer to being video ready!

Step 3   Accepting and working through Adversity.

A few things would attempt to get in the way of success.  Through January and February the temperatures were frigid, sometimes below zero.  Snow was deep, paths and roads were pure ice, and always the cold was biting.  The Challenge entry deadline was actually moved out because so many entrants were having a hard time getting training and videos done due to the extreme weather across the country.  In addition, Sam experienced some lameness, apparently through a fall on the ice, and was sore through his hip and hind leg for a few days.  This happened right before the team was getting ready to shoot the videos.  As a result, the videos were spread across several days and then cut and pieced together for the final product.  We took care of Sam by only doing what he was physically able to at the time, and he took care of us by giving his best effort and an excellent performance.  We bundled up every afternoon and evening, braved the cold, and got some great video to enter.  We even met the original entry deadline.  Now that’s teamwork!


Step 4   Keeping things Light.

When you are under a deadline, learning and teaching new things, and experiencing some adversity, it’s easy to get stressed and lose sight of the big picture.  Marcia did an excellent job of keeping her perspective and her priorities in order as we approached the entry deadline.  First priority was taking care of Sam, physically, mentally and emotionally.  Too much drilling of patterns would take the fun out of it for Sam, but there had to be enough repetition for him to understand what was being asked of him.  In addition, Marcia made sure that her team was having fun and felt appreciated, even when freezing during shooting the videos!  She also did a great job of balancing her drive to win with acceptance for what was possible at the time and didn’t expect perfection.  She expected the best effort possible from herself, her horse and her team and that’s what leads to success!

Step 5   Loving the focus.

Marcia loved  having a deadline and specific  goals to work toward during that time.  The Challenge gave her a specific focus and something to work toward.  It gave her training a bigger purpose and so gave her a reason to strive for something more than she might have otherwise.  This usually happens when we make goals specific and measurable and attach a deadline to them.  In this case, the goals were the patterns, the measurements were the accuracy with which they were completed, and the deadline was obvious.  Working backward from the entry deadline, we made sure there was time to edit the video, and then determined when the videoing would need to begin.  From there it was easy to make a mini timeline of events and prepare everyone for videoing.

Step 6   Engaging the team

The simplest way to engage anyone in an activity is to work to their strengths.  Marcia knew the people around her and knew what skills she would need to complete the entry.  By matching the people and their strengths with the skills she would need on her team, she created a win/win situation that worked well for everyone.  Some people helped with videoing and technology, others could see the big picture of light, color, angle and timing and how it might look to judges, one helped with writing and editing, another with ensuring the patterns were accurate.  The team came together to create an entry that captured the attention of the judges and won Marcia and Stretch a place in the Challenge.

Step 7   Noodling through patterns and instructions

Most people we know don’t love patterns.  They find them stressful, hard to remember and easy to misunderstand.  We find that practice makes perfect and the more patterns you do the less stressful they are.  We had a few challenges determining the specifics of the patterns for the Challenge and everyone had a little different perspective at first on how they should be done.  We have always found it helpful to read through the pattern, then read it to another person out loud, draw the pattern, walk the pattern, and ride the pattern in order to get it correct.  Patterns generally have fluidity to them and finding the cadence of the pattern is helpful in making it look effortless.  Once we agreed on exactly what the judges were asking for in the patterns, Marcia and Sam were able to execute them beautifully.  Like dancing partners, a horse and rider performing a seamless pattern is a thing of beauty.

Step 8   Getting it on tape

We were lucky in having a facility with an indoor arena since the snow was pretty deep in places.  Lighting was a challenge sometimes, as was getting the right camera angle.  At one point, our videographer, Kori, was standing on the next-to-top step of an aluminum ladder to get a good shot.  It’s much easier to stand on a ladder and hold a camera steady when you don’t have on 30 pounds of clothing, snow boots, mittens and a furry hat.  We were glad to go inside by the fire to shoot the introduction portion of the tape and work on some editing.  Another team member, Jessica, did the cutting and added music.  It was so much fun to sit down and watch the final version and see the product of our efforts!  Marcia bundled the tape, recommendations, and written paperwork into a package and mailed it off.  Now our wait to hear the judges’ decision began.

Step 9   Exciting news!

Our patience was rewarded with a letter from the selection committee.  Marcia played it cool and was very modest about being selected one of 50 entrants in the Challenge!  The team was thrilled and congratulated Marcia and each other on our success.  Now the real teamwork begins as Marcia starts training Stretch and the team helps with marketing, writing, travel plans and capturing all the steps in the journey to the final competition in Oklahoma.  Let the CHALLENGE begin!


What Dr. Miller Says About Cowboy Dressage

When we attended the Cowboy Dressage World Show, we had the honor of meeting Dr. Robert Miller, a renowned veterinarian who is known for his imprinting techniques and empathy for the horse.  When asked why he likes Cowboy Dressage, Dr. Miller said the following:
 “There are several things that I am enthused about in Cowboy Dressage.
 1. It is one of the rare horse-show events that is not potentially damaging to the horse’s limbs. (Another is the trail class and ranch pleasure).
 All others I can think of, (under saddle) can do harm, especially if done to excess, to an immature horse (under 5 years of age).
 2. This discipline will demonstrate that proper collection is possible on a loose rein, without excessive contact. 
 3. It will also help to sophisticate Western Horsemanship.”

We appreciate Dr. Miller’s perspective and whole heartedly agree with him.

We will be attending a Cowboy Dressage Clinic this June.  We look forward to bringing back knowledge and techniques about this exciting discipline and sharing them with you.