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Adult Rider Camp

Adult Rider Camp, dressage, Equi-Spa, Essential Oils, horses

Skipper Goes to Camp

… and We Test an Essential Oil

When I started leasing Skipper on June 1st, I had a goal: to take him to Adult Amateur Camp. Our region puts on a great Camp, which I’ve attended the past several years with Micah. Since Micah retired, Skipper would be a whole new experience.

My first concern was getting Skipper fit enough to work for four days in a row, with a total of six lessons. Skipper arrived at our barn he was unfit and pudgy, after having had several months off.
Fortunately, I co-lease Skipper with my friend, Mary, and we worked together to increase Skipper’s workload at a reasonable pace. As we did so, Taryn Yates DVM kept Skipper feeling good with regular chiropractic work.
Skipper progressed well but I wasn’t sure how he’d handle the stress of a new facility and the challenge of back-to-back lessons. He’d been to shows with trainer Mari Valceschini and done well but a) she’s a professional and b) Skipper can get a little hot if he feels insecure or gets frustrated. 
With this in mind, I decided Camp was the perfect place to test out an essential oil, specifically Show Thyme Calming Oil by Equi-Spa. I’d never used essential oils before but research has shown that there are calming benefits from lavender and other oils, so why not? This one contains a blend of Lavender, Geranium, Clary Sage, Patchouli and Ylang ylang .
I’d also read that the essential oils can calm the handler, as well as the horse, and that’s a good thing. I had butterflies in my stomach as we packed up for camp, not knowing what to expect. Before loading Skipper in the trailer, I added a few drops of essential oil to Equi-Spa’s Fairy Tails lotion (a mane/tail conditioner) and rubbed it into his forelock, temple, and muzzle. He didn’t mind and he smelled yummy. 
When we arrived at Camp, Skipper came out of the trailer calm yet curious. What is this place?
My plan was to lunge him before our afternoon lesson if he needed it — and with Skipper, it’s easy to tell if he’s got nervous energy. 
As I debated, lunge? or not? I let Skipper hang out in a stall while I unpacked, then hand-walked him around the facility. Skipper was calm and curious — no anxiety. We walked around the indoor arena where we’d be taking our lesson and I let Skip look at the mirrors on the wall, the chairs for spectators, neat stack of jump poles, and out the open doors into the world beyond. 
We walked in, out, and around a few times and I decided against lunging. While I knew lunging would be the safest route, I decided to trust my gut and my horse.
When the time came, I tacked up, led Skipper to the arena, and got on. All was well, Skipper was relaxed, confident, and focused on his work. We had a super lesson and trainer Morgan Barrows was pleased with how agreeable Skipper was.
On day two, Skipper seemed a little amped. He wasn’t used to being in a stall 24/7 and missed his pasture time. I put on the essential oil and we did a hand walk to let him stretch and look around. Again I debated, should I lunge him?
Skipper was a little high-headed when I walked him around but, when I turned him loose in the round pen, he followed me like a puppy — no running or bucking. I decided not to lunge and we had a great lesson in the outdoor arena. He jumped out of the dressage arena once but that was my fault and it was a real crowd pleaser! He found the canter shallow loop frustrating and threw in flying changes, but kept his cool. 

One day three, Skipper seemed really settled but now my concern was that, despite his mighty little engine, he’d be getting tired. By now using the oil was a ritual I found comforting.

Susan, one of my camp-mates confessed that she always uses an essential oil for clinics and shows. “The one time I didn’t,” she said, “my horse started up with a rolling buck. He never does that.”

Skipper was a champ through the entire Camp experience. I’ll never know to what extent the oils affected his behavior, but they certainly didn’t hurt. And he smelled so good, trainer Stephen Birchall said, “Wow! It smells like a cologne I’d be happy to wear.” 
I was so happy with how Skipper handled new surroundings and situations, I’ll keep using the oils for adventures that might be stressful to either us. Smelling good was an added bonus!

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Adult Rider Camp, dressage, Heather Oleson, Stephen Birchall

Lessons from Camp

Dear Diary,
I am home from Adult Amateur Riding camp and have finally caught up on sleep and laundry! This was my third year of attending camp and the event is a highlight for me — a chance to hang out with good friends and my horse for four uninterrupted days. The instruction was superb , with lessons from trainers Heather Oleson and Stephen Birchall.
The format is intense. I normally ride three days a week, so jumping into six lessons in four days was a push for me, physically and mentally. The heat was also a factor, when temps hovered in the upper 80’s – testing the limits of my declining heat tolerance. I guzzled water and told myself I was in an endurance event, pacing myself between rides and even getting in a quick afternoon nap.
My first three lessons were with Stephen, who has a very positive and encouraging teaching style. He helped me with my leg position, using a lot of two-point, and it was exciting to make progress with what’s been a long-standing issue for me. Stephen gave Micah and I some great exercises to do at home and the results have been terrific. I’d train again with him any day. Stephen was so good, I really didn’t want to train with Heather. I’d heard that Heather was making students work really hard and I got a bit intimidated.
Fortunately, I was able to spend time with Heather at dinner (she and I being the two ravenous people who filled their plates first) and during the course of the evening I got a feel for her dry sense of humor. She’s very funny in her own way.
In our first lesson together, Heather immediately pointed out a habit I didn’t know I had. When she asked me to push my horse’s haunches out, I automatically looked back at them. “Don’t do that!” she yelled … again and again and again.
It soon became a running joke and I simply had to sass back. I’d jump at the chance to train me again, if she’d let me.
Since we’re a bit isolated here in Central Oregon (being separated from the Willamette Valley by the Cascade Range), Adult Amateur Camp is a terrific opportunity for us to train with high-caliber instructors and experience their insights.
This year especially, I came away feeling I had learned a lot and had some new tools for dealing with old issues. And, I dare not look at my horse’s haunches.

A special thank you to everyone from Central Oregon Chapter who helped to organize this event, in particular Lisa Koch. Thanks, also, to Shevlin Stables for hosting the event at their beautiful facility.

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Notes from Dressage Camp
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Adult Rider Camp, Camping with horses, Central Oregon Chapter, dressage, Ernst Hermann, Nicki Grandia

Notes from Dressage Camp

My new riding checklist goes like this: heels down, legs back, sit on back pockets, use core, shoulders forward (since I tend to lean back), hands together, chin up.

Micah & I relax before our first ride of the morning

Micah & I relax before our first ride of the morning


Yes, I focused on POSITION at last week’s Adult Amateur Dressage Camp, held in Tumalo, OR and hosted by Central Oregon Chapter of the Oregon Dressage Society.
Twelve intrepid riders attended, many of them choosing to camp onsite. Camping was the only way to go, as that’s where we really got to know one another, over morning cups of coffee and evening cocktails.
Solbritt & her eye-catching youngster, Pandora

Solbritt & her eye-catching youngster, Pandora


The gals from Grants Pass/Klamath Falls showed us how it was done with first-rate beverages, appetizers, amazing homemade mini-quiches, naturopathic remedies for our aches and pains, plus Olympic-level hospitality.
Jill & her handsome 'boys'

Jill & her handsome ‘boys’


My campmate, Lisa B. and I learned several valuable camping lessons along the way: don’t camp near the horses being one of the most important. While they looked adorable snuggled in their paddocks, Friday night’s squealing mare party made sleep a matter of wishful thinking. On Saturday, we slept with deep satisfaction, thanks to the fact that the horses were too tired to karaoke.
Lisa and I also learned the importance of location when camping. By late afternoon our cute little campsite simmered in the summer sun. Fortunately, the Grants Pss contingent offered to share their shade with us. Next year we’ll pay more attention when setting up camp.
Lisa &  her young horse, Apollo, made big strides in his training

Lisa & her young horse, Apollo, made big strides in his training


As for riding, clinicians Ernst Hermann and Nicki Grandia offered their expertise. The two had very different approaches to teaching but, for me, this worked well. I started off with Ernie and his very technical approach to position and ended camp with Nicki, who allowed me to pursue the same issues at a more self-guided pace. Here’s hoping muscle memory kicks in and I can make these lessons last long term.
In four days we had six lessons each, something of a total immersion course and — thanks to the heat— a bit of an endurance test. As we and our horses grew more weary each day, our warmup times shortened from generous to hasty.
On Sunday afternoon I was sad to see camp clearing out, trailers pulling away and riders saying their goodbyes. This was the best vacation I’ve had in years. I loved sharing a strong cup of morning coffee as the sun warmed the air, listening to the horses enjoy their hay. Since Micah lives in a boarding stable, hearing his whinney as I brought him each meal was music to my ears — and what a trooper he was through the whole adventure. I was very proud of him.
A big thanks goes to organizer Lisa Koch, who helped make the magic happen … bringing together riders from throughout the region for a truly memorable experience. We bonded.
Will I go back next year? It’s at the top of my list for much more than just the riding. If you have the chance to attend a riding camp giddyup and go!

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August 26, 2018
Adult Rider Camp, dressage, Ernst Hermann, Niki Grandia

Cleaning Tack in the Kitchen

When some womens’ spouses leave town they really live it up.
As for me, I had a glass of wine and cleaned tack. On the kitchen counter. Granite is ‘impervious’ (or so they say) and the evidence will be gone by the time Al gets back tomorrow night.
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Just so you know, I’m cleaning tack for this weekend’s Adult Rider Dressage Camp. This is a huge deal. Four days of fun with women obsessed with dressage. (Men are welcome but none signed up.)
Imagine this: horses, terrific instruction, camaraderie, camping, food, wine — and no other distractions! Our instructors will the fabulous Ernst Hermann and Nicki Grandia.
I had a major vacation scheduled for April of this year but my husband’s unintentional achilles tendon rupture put an end to that. So, if you think my tack cleaning on the counter (which he wouldn’t be happy about) is over the top … think again.
Check back in for my reports from camp! I’m so happy that Micah is recovered enough from his April injury to be able to go. I’m also thrilled to get to spend time with other dressage fans in an informal, non-competitive setting.
Yahoo!
I say this knowing that most of the instruction will be a critique of my position. Which (just sayin’) sucks.

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