Mar 26, 2023

You Can Teach An Old Dog New Tricks (or, The Continuing Education of an Eventer)

By Jan Byyny - ECP Faculty
Jan Byyny tries her hand at a hunter derby (left) and gets help with her horses on the ground from Lauren Barwick and Fabian Brandt (right). Photos courtesy of Jan Byyny

One of my passions is continuing to be a good student, because I think no matter how old I get, there are multiple reasons learning new things inspires me. First and foremost, it helps me be a better rider and trainer, so my horses benefit. Second, it helps me be a better teacher by exposing me to different ways to have a relationship with a horse or a student.

I always bring down horses to Florida that have recently come from the track that I’m restarting to a new career. With any horse I have, whether in training or restarting, I’m big on groundwork. David O’Connor impressed this idea on me over 20 years ago because it allows me to see how a horse handles pressure and their reactions to new things in their environment and to new concepts in their education. I’ve been fortunate this winter to meet Lauren Barwick and her husband, Fabian Brandt, from Bridging the Gap Horsemanship. I’d heard a lot about them from a friend and her daughter who had had them work with their horse. Not only is Lauren a 4-Star Senior Parelli instructor, she is a five-time Paralympian in dressage and five-time World Para-Reining Championships team member for Canada!

I decided to call Lauren and have her work with two of my babies. One I have is named Charm, so I’ve been joking that Charm has been going to Charm School. It’s been a really great education because their approach is a little different than mine, and I’ve learned more about right- and left-brained and introverted and extroverted horses and how you approach them differently. It turns out I have a left-brained extrovert in Charm, who is quite confident in herself and her surroundings but tends to say, "I won’t," not, "I can’t."

Working with Charm is a little like administering a Meyers-Briggs personality test and then learning how to interpret the results. I thought I knew these things, but having her behavior explained in a different way has been super helpful. You don’t want to have a horse say, "I won’t." You have to figure out a way to have them be on your side. If they need to move their feet, let them. Or, if they are gate-sweet, find a way to make them work at the gate until they want to work somewhere else.

I’ve benefitted from being exposed to a different thought process, which improves my approach to all my horses, and interestingly, my clients. I already knew some of this—different pressure points, when to put your leg forward or back to address yielding haunches or moving shoulders, etc.—but having someone explain their system in a new way to add to my system and using the things I like that mesh with my own program ups my game. If you’re in Ocala, Florida, I highly recommend Lauren and Fabian.

This time of year, one of my other passions is having time to work on pure dressage and pure show jumping. In March, I’m all about show jumping, and my clients and I go to HITS Ocala regularly. This year, I was also lucky enough to do the hunters with Claudia Sarnoff’s horse, Helloway. If that’s not a specialty unto itself, I’m not sure what is.

Jan Byyny and Beautiful Storm competing at second level at the World Equestrian Center-Ocala. Video by Susan Merle-Smith.

It’s super hard to have 12 consistent jumps in the same rhythm and the same tempo and make it look like you’re doing nothing! It’s fascinating to me how difficult that can be. I even got to ride in a derby, starting with eight jumps as a hunter round and then going right into a handy round—maintaining the same tempo and producing the best jump, trotting a jump, angling a jump, making tight turns—all for a score, and you could even win $10,000!

I scored a 69 in the first round (I had one jump where I was a bit too anxious, making me too quick to the in-and-out). I made a smooth, tight roll back turn to start the handy and finished with an 81! It’s all about connection and making sure you can be forward to the base to produce the most beautiful jump you can.

For the derby, I didn’t know you have to wear a shadbelly, so I used my beautiful Eventing Team shadbelly, along with my hunter stock tie and buff britches. My friend, Sue, lent me appropriate tack, including a flapped saddle, and coached me.

In Ocala, I am fortunate to ride weekly with dressage coach Barend Heilbron at Island Farm. I’ve done this for four years now and love every minute because he gives me great exercises, says the same things I do when I teach but in a different way, can ride my horse and feel what I feel, and can coach me at shows as well. I also ride with Canadian Olympian Jacquie Brooks when she’s in town.

She is a master at giving you a picture in your head of what you’re trying to achieve, whether it’s keeping my horse’s shoulders towards the bit and connected to the reins (by imagining there’s a 2x4 running from the bit to the front of my shins so I’m always pushing toward the bit and not pulling into the connection), or I’m collecting my horse’s stride by imagining I’m bouncing the saddle up with my horse’s back.

Jacquie’s analogies help me to form a picture in my head for the feeling that I’m trying to create. Her lessons are along the same lines as Barend’s, but her method of teaching adds another dimension to my thought process.

My motivation in trying new things is all for the love of the horse and my students. I make mistakes daily, but I’m always trying to be better. I encourage you to try something new, and don’t get discouraged if it takes some time to get good at it. If you can’t ride yourself, go watch other disciplines—dressage or show jumping, hunters, western, driving, or someone doing groundwork. I think you’ll find it’s worth it.

About the USEA Eventing Coaches Program (ECP)

Coaches are essential to the training of riders and horses for safe and educated participation in the sport of eventing. The USEA Eventing Coaches Program (ECP), formerly known as the Instructors’ Certification Program (ICP), was initiated in 2002 to educate all levels of eventing coaches with crucial training principles upon which they can continue to build throughout their teaching careers. ECP offers educational workshops and assessments by which both regular coaches, Level I through Level V, Young Event Horse (YEH) coaches, and Young Event Horse professional horse trainers can become ECP certified. Additional information about ECP’s goals, benefits, workshops, and assessments as well as names and contact information for current ECP certified coaches, YEH coaches, and YEH professional horse trainers are available on the USEA website. Click here to learn more about the USEA Eventing Coaches Program.

Jun 07, 2023 Eventing News

Weekend Quick Links: June 9-11

Are you following along with the action from home this weekend? Or maybe you're competing at an event and need information fast. Either way, we’ve got you covered! Check out the USEA’s Weekend Quick Links for links to information including the prize list, ride times, live scores, and more for all the events running this weekend.

Jun 07, 2023 Eventing News

Fast Facts: MARS Bromont CCI

After not running in 2020 and 2021, the MARS Bromont CCI Three-Day Event returned to the Bromont Olympic Equestrian Center in Quebec, Canada, in 2022. America's Jennie Saville (née Brannigan) and Twilightslastgleam won the CCI4*-L, as the chestnut Thoroughbred gelding (National Anthem x Royal Child) bred and owned by Nina Gardner moved up from eighth after dressage into the lead after cross-country with the fastest round on wet ground over the tracks designed by Derek di Grazia. Canada's Lindsay Traisnel and Bacyrouge, a bay Selle Français gelding (Mylord Carthago x Lelia) owned by Patricia Pearce, finished second, and they are among four from the top-10 in the CCI4*-L in 2022 that return in 2023.

Jun 06, 2023 Eventing News

Hollberg Takes Top Honors in Open Intermediate and Preliminary Divisions at 2023 Essex Horse Trials

Hannah Sue Hollberg of Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, was on a winning streak at the Essex Horse Trials on Sunday, claiming victory in both the $10,000 Open Intermediate and Open Preliminary divisions with two horses that are fairly new to her. Some difficulty on cross-country did not stop her mount Hachi from claiming victory in the Open Intermediate with a score of 101.6, while Open Preliminary partner Rockster finished on his dressage score of 27.3.

Jun 06, 2023 Profile

“And again, and again, and again”: Knowing When to Come Again and When to Switch Up an Exercise

The great football coach Vince Lombardi said, “We win our games in practice.” With the goal of having the most effective practices possible for horses, their riders, and their coaches, Cathy Wieschhoff explains some signs that can indicate when horse and rider should repeat an exercise, switch it up, or be done with that activity. Wieschhoff brings perspective as a five-star rider that has competed at the Kentucky Three-Day Event and Burghley Horse Trials, a USEF “R” Course Designer for eventing cross-country and show jumping, a former Area VIII chair and member of the USEA Board of Governors, and a Level V USEA ECP Certified Coach based out of Carriage Station Farm in Lexington, Kentucky.

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