Office Hours

Ep. 15: Office Hours

Victoria Clayton

Q: What are your thoughts on having a discipline specific coach for the different phases in eventing?

Kyle: For most people, it doesn’t make sense to have a coach for each discipline. When you get to a certain level, maybe that is needed. I ride on the flat with some very good dressage riders and trainers. Jacquie Brooks is super. Same thing with show jumping, I get help from a few different people. Dennis Mitchell has been super helpful for me, and this last fall I took lessons from Leslie Law on my mare Reddy or Not. I was struggling, and wasn’t getting the results I wanted out of her.

My problem is when people want to come ride with me as a cross-country coach. That’s fine, but in my program we typically do show jumping and cross country combined to work towards the same end result.

At the end of the day, if you have a good 3-day coach then we are typically able to coach to 3rd level dressage, 1.30m or 1.40m jumpers, etc. If your coach is competent at what they are doing then I think it is better to have a single coach’s purpose carried over in every phase. I am not a huge fan of a having a different coach for each discipline.

Q: What sport do you think should replace riding in modern pentathlon?

Kyle: That’s a very tough question. I used to do modern pentathlon. I did it because Pony Club has tetrathlon to help build riders into athletes for modern pentathlon. A modern pentathlon organization approached Pony Club because their pentathletes were bad in the show jumping. They felt like it was easier to pull someone with the skills in riding and develop them into a proper athlete than it was to take someone who was good at mainstream athletic endeavors like running or swimming and try to stick them on a horse. They were smart in thinking that way because the riding skill is harder to learn than just building muscle. Now that riding is being replaced, it should be replaced with another skill endeavor. I think it should be replaced with mountain biking because that is now at the Olympic level. I think it’s a very interesting topic.  Jen: I think motorcycle racing would be super awesome!

Q: Should I turn my horse out in a halter? If not, why not?

Jen: Ideally, you should not turn out in a halter. There are some times that there are those young horses that are impossible to catch and need a halter on them. The main reason not to is the worry of them getting caught and stuck on something. If you have to turn out in a halter, make sure it is a leather one, but we have to remember that they don’t always break like they should.

Kyle: At a lot of commercial barns you might not have a choice because of the different people handling your horse. But I agree completely to avoid it if you can. Just try to minimize as many risks as possible.

Q: Jen, how did you get into eventing when you were growing up in Alaska? Did your parents ride?

We had horses when I was very young and in Colorado. My dad got bucked off and broke his ribs when I was 3 years old, and he never sat on a horse again. My mom rode when she was really young in the 50s. They weren’t really riders. I hounded them for a while, and they finally got me a pony when I was 13. My favorite thing was to get out in the woods and pop over logs and gallop around. I did not enjoy the riding in an arena part.

When I was between my junior and senior years of high school, I went to New York and was a working student for about six weeks. It was at a jumper farm that also did events, so that’s how I got introduced to eventing. I did my first event with them, and I loved it.

I wanted to be a jockey and go to school with horses, so I chose Midway University in Kentucky because there were horses there. The coach of the intercollegiate riding team was an event rider, and I leased a horse from her. I was doing eventing on my own and hunt seat on the team. That was a great experience.

I met Kyle after I had been going prelim for awhile. I still really knew nothing about it, I didn’t know all the levels or even what Pony Club was.

Jen Carter rides a bay mare in dressage wearing a Purina saddle pad

Q: Do you have any specific boundaries or processes in place to keep your training program running smoothly?

Jen: I want to tell you that we have some great tricks or tips. Honestly, I assume that all coaches run into these issues. We have been pretty lucky with our clients.

We always say if they cancel the day-of a lesson, they still have to pay the fee, but we don’t enforce it. You have to kind of roll with things and be flexible. If it is the same person canceling over and over, we will try to rework our schedule and put them at the beginning or end so if they cancel it’s not as disruptive. Kyle has talked to people before.

Kyle: If you’re trying to do this professionally, make a list of the things that will have fines. Set boundaries. If a client cancels within 24 hours, what is the consequence? Or 12 hours before, what is that consequence?

As far as most behaviors, I’ve learned over time that you have to train people how to be your clients. Remind yourself that especially with young riders, we are also training these kids to be adults and to learn these life lessons.

Overall, it is best to write out your rules! Establish those boundaries and be clear with what you expect.

Q: When you first got started coaching, how did you figure out the right price to charge your new clients for lessons or board?

Jen: The first thing to do is to gauge who is surrounding you in your community and see what they are charging for board, lessons, etc. Then, decide where you rank in comparison to that.

Kyle: What makes your price what it is? Our price now is based on demand! Stalls are expensive down here and there is lack of them, hay has gotten even more expensive, etc. When I was younger, it was much different. Find what it’s worth to you! Remember, it is supposed to be a business, and you want to turn a profit as well.

Q: How many acres is your place and what do you think is most important to develop first? (Ex: barn renovation, good footing, cross country jumps, any major field maintenance, home renovations, etc.)

Jen: I will say that the home renovation will probably be at the bottom of the list if you own a farm! If it is a blank slate, then do the fields first with run in-sheds! Then slowly work on the building the barn.

Kyle: For the cross country schooling, the first thing we built was a water jump so we didn’t have to leave to school that. We knew we wanted to grow into a training facility. Then we added ditches. We set everything up right off the fence line so people can still ride around the outside of the property. Allowing for that adds space to your place automatically.

The “last” thing we did was build a house. After we built the house, I put in another arena and a conditioning pond. It never ends when you’re building your facility!

Q: Do you have your students do any no-stirrup work? If so, what do you use it for?

We suggest it for certain students that have strength issues in their riding. I very rarely do it in lessons. It is great to learn the balance that happens without stirrups, and it is important to do that. I don’t participate in “no-stirrup November”, but I will do it sometimes. I will do it during my trot sets and work on posting work or holding myself in 2 point for a period of time. It is really good at strengthening your seat on the flat and adding leg strength to carry yourself in your jumping.

It can be rough on the horses because as soon as you get tired you will be punishing your horse. Because of that, I think working on it in small intervals is better!

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