A New Home

 

Some of you who may follow my Facebook page may be aware that recently I moved house and yard to a setup that will fit my own needs and wishes as an equestrian business owner. I’m settling down in a new place. In the midlands of Ireland. Just outside Mullingar.

At the new place, there is an arena, scenic roads for hacking, paddocks for turnout and plenty of room to build stables for my own personal use and for business use.

For now, Barnes Equestrian as a business yard is closed. Meanwhile freelancing services are still available.

 

The Future

 

In the coming weeks and potentially running into the next month or two, I will be setting up the facilities in such a way I wish to represent myself and my business. The biggest part of my plan is to build stables, a tack room and a hay shed. These will be fundamental to the future of Barnes Equestrian as a business and for myself and my livelihood. With that comes setting foundations and investing in extra pieces. Therefore I  not only wish to make the yard more functional but also more homely to anybody who may be keeping a horse there or visiting.

Even more than that, a lot of the work will be presentation. Maintaining and painting fences, setting fields into paddocks and adding other pieces that I feel will benefit the yard in the long term.

I’m really looking forward to setting out my vision for the premises and being able to reach out to you. I can’t wait to get it all done and dusted!

For now, I want to thank anyone who has read this and supported Barnes Equestrian along the way.

Happy riding folks! I’ll be around as I keep settling down in the new place and making the place my own!

 Settling Down was written by Scott Barnes

 Barnes Equestrian

 Disclaimer: I’m not a qualified dressage judge but the Dressage Judges Gala was open to both judges and Dressage enthusiasts.

Event Summary

 I was fortunate enough to attend the Dressage Judges Gala at Spruce Lodge Training Facility In county Wicklow. The galas focus was around judging freestyle to music. I must say it was a fascinating experience to gain insight from a rather unique perspective.

 Dressage Ireland were hosting the gala and at the podium to share her valuable experience was Jo Graham, BD List 1 and an FEI 4* dressage judge.

 The day itself was split into two halves – The morning and the afternoon.

The Morning

 In the morning a large crowd gathered for a presentation alongside some examples of freestyle tests to music. We got to look at the technical and creative sides of the freestyle tests.

 The examples were to express to us how much music can affect the pace being ridden. When you choose the correct music, it adds so much more to the overall expression of the test whereas with the wrong music you may find it hinders the performance of the horse.

 To delve further into this for now, we were shown several clips of various levels. In these clips, horses varied from expressive movement with lots of cadence to more flat movement with little in the way of expressiveness. What we were shown was that when using the correct music, even the flat mover can appear to be more expressive. Likewise with the wrong music, the flashy mover may suffer in the overall picture.

 The right music in freestyle tests is vital!

 The Afternoon

 In the afternoon section, we were treated to 3 volunteers who I believe were from Spruce Lodge – Sean, Joanne, and Belinda.

 Sean and his horse (Fig) were demonstrating a freestyle test at Novice level with some spectacular Phil Collins music. Joanne rode her horse (Cashmirs Hadina) to a more serious tone at Elementary with some impressive music that demanded all eyes in the building. Her choice in music put me in mind of something you’d see Totillas ride to. Finally Belinda stepped up to ride an Advanced Medium test on her horse (Galaxy Moone) to some very jazzy and fun music.

 As each rider rode their tests, we got to look at their required movements and judge their creativity. The rider was given the chance to take feedback on board and receive a valuable perspective from Jo herself as she explored our thoughts and voiced her own – alongside justification for all points of course! When judging dressage, it’s vital to be able to justify why you give the marks you do.

 The day was interesting. I was thankful for the opportunity to have attended it. Dressage judging is something I’ve been curious about but I haven’t actually taken any steps on a journey towards qualifications. It allowed me some great insight into how judges work and what they look for – Especially in a freestyle where both creative and technical marks are applied.

 So, now that my experience is done with, let’s get onto the tips! I’ve taken loads from the day and some of my favourite bits are as follows!

Tips

 In the following section, I’ll share with you some tips I learned from the day and I hope you’ll find them as interesting as I did!

Use Your Arena

 When designing the choreography for your test, consider symmetry. Are you leg yielding on the left rein across the whole arena and only doing it across half of the arena on the right rein? Change it. Are you doing 3 canters on the left rein and only 1 on the right? Change it. Your test needs to be balanced and symmetrical. It’s a common mistake that many people tend to not reflect both reins but judges notice symmetry.

 Use the whole arena. Don’t fall into the trap of only using bits of it. It’s a huge space so use it all! Balance curving lines such as loops and semi-circles with the straight lines such as long diagonals.

 In your choreography, remember to make it interesting. Transitions between and within paces go a long way to keep the attention of the judge.

 Finally, make every line you ride mean something. It’s a freestyle, use it to show off your strengths! Don’t aimlessly display a working canter from A, up the long side to C. Transition within the canter to a medium canter up the long side and transition back to working before the corner. Use the lines to show off!

Find One Pace Easy? Don’t Overuse It!

 If your horse has an effortless uphill canter, don’t feature it in the majority of your test. When it comes to choreography, it’s important to be able to show off the parts you’re good at but keeping them as features. Those parts should be a highlight and not used so much that the judge is left bored watching the test.

Link Your Movements Creatively and ride them clearly

 Riding movements clearly means that if you’re riding an extended trot, try to make it an obvious case of extended trot. You need some extended steps! It’s the same no matter what movement you ride, try to make it clear what it is.

 When you link movements creatively, this links back to your choreography. Keep it interesting. Don’t go for an extension into collection if your horse struggles with it but don’t shy away from stringing together moves that show off what you’re capable of. Creativity looks at what you ride, where you ride it, how you ride it and the degree of difficulty. Sometimes taking a chance can pay off.

Consider the degree of difficulty

 Calculated risk. This particular tip involves you to assess your horses ability alongside your own to pull off weaker moves. If you’re riding a horse who struggles with extension for example, you might not want to put much extension in your test as poor extension could bring your mark down.

 However, if you’re riding a freestyle test and can ride a harder move more than adequately, you may be able to bring up marks through repetition of the harder move. Reputation of harder moves, different lines and combining different moves (for example an extended trot to a halt) can bring up a score impressively if you’re able to pull them off. If you struggle to do so, avoid showcasing your combinations weaknesses.

 Fun fact! Everyone knows you get higher marks for riding difficult movements with one hand; But did you know you can only do this a maximum of 4 times in one test?

Music that enhances the image

 This years Dressage Judges Gala was focused particularly on freestyle to music. I’ve seen people attempt to compile a freestyle test and use one song or piece of music for the entirety of the test. No matter what their pace may have been, that song and it’s beat played throughout the walk, trot and canter phases. Think about the pace and even the pace within the pace. If you’re doing free walk on a long rein, make that music reflect that. Medium walk music should reflect the change in pace too.

 Also consider the overall picture. The choice of music should suit the horse and rider combination. What supports the picture and story you’re telling throughout your test? For example, the Steptoe and Son theme song music suits a cob more than it does Totilas.

 Remember, music can help the overall image of what you present in a test. The right music can enhance the weak movements and wrong music can hinder the strong movements. Consider this when choosing music.

More notes on music

 Music in your freestyle test should enhance the movements being ridden but not distract from them. Your music should enhance the movement being ridden. Changes in pace should be reflected in the music with a smooth, unjarring transition from one piece of music to another.

 Vocals may be used but if you have a choice between a vocal piece or an instrumental piece, consider whether or not one enhances your test over the other.

 It’s important to note as well, that your technical mark in a freestyle test may be adjusted if your transitions aren’t ridden in line with the music. If you’re still cantering when your trot music hits, you will see this reflected in the end scores.

Music pro-tip

 In a freestyle you have some flexibility in what you’re riding. If you’ve ridden slightly quicker or slower than the music and don’t want to be caught off guard for your transition; You may add a slight audio cue to remind you of where a transition is coming up.

 This could be bells, a chime of some sort or whatever you think fits. I’d recommend making it fit in with the style and tone of your music. If you struggle to remember transitional spots or have timed the pace to the music poorly, this may be a life saver.

Interesting points to note

 Question: What happens if the music fails to start?

 Answer: The judge has to use their own discretion in these events. If a rider signals for the music to begin and there appears to be a technical error, the judge has the right to use their discretion to determine whether a restart is acceptable or not. A delay of 5 or even 10 seconds may still not trigger a restart. The judge will consider the rider in the situation and also the horse. The judge should know that expecting a horse to stand waiting isn’t fair to the horse nor the rider.

 On the day of the gala, Jo Graham said riders should have a backup plan so that they aren’t standing there with their horse halted for too long. Ultimately there is no answer on this one really. It’s entirely up to the judges discretion. We as riders just have to be prepared and look after the horse we are on.

 Question: What happens if the music stops playing during my test?

 Answer: The judge will likely stop the test. All movements marked up to the point of the technical failure will be kept. After the judge stops the test and the failure is resolved, you will then be asked to ride the test from the beginning. This is mainly because it may be hard to find the exact place the music left off. It’s also allowing you and your horse a chance to get back into the swing of things.

 Once you reach the stage where your music stopped, the judging commences. By the end you will have ridden a complete test and have been scored fairly as though no interruption took place.

Summary

 I’m sure you can probably tell that I feel I learned a lot at the Dressage Judges Gala. I did. It gave me valuable insight into how dressage tests are judged and what the judges really look for. In freestyle, it’s easy to get caught up in wanting exciting music that we feel fits our story. One of the most important lessons I learned at the gala was to look at the bigger picture and to consider the image others see.

 Dressage isn’t like most equestrian sports. Dressage is an art. There is interpretation of our work. There’s technicality and creativity. There is freedom from the rider to be able to express themselves through the test – but it’s when you bring it altogether as one masterpiece that the magic happens. That magic is on show for others to interpret; to relate to and especially with freestyle, to form an emotional bond to.

 The Dressage Judges Gala was a great experience to view the sport of Dressage in a new light. I’ll definitely consider attending again next year.

 

 The Dressage Judges Gala was written by Scott Barnes of Barnes Equestrian.

Bullying in the equestrian world

 

Bullying in the equestrian world is a very real problem. It’s something I’ve seen first hand. Even today I continue to witness such cases. These aren’t by immature children, but grown adults who really should know better.

 I really want to share my views on this as there are many misconceptions on the topic. 

 

Bullying in the Equestrian World: The Stereotype

 

 There’s a stereotypical situation – One we can all imagine. Think of the bully on a yard or at a show. Typically, you imagine the bully being the one with money, having a clique of friends and being a snob to the highest degree. We can all imagine that and in some cases it is very true. 

 It’s also not hard to imagine the bully being the successful competitor who acts like they own the place. Let’s face it, we’ve encountered that at some stage too. 

 

The common reality may surprise you

 

 People imagine the bullies being the guy or girl on the big fancy competition horse. We can stereotype all day about the bullies in our industry but the real bullies may often surprise you. 

 

The real bully seeks validation

 

 In my personal experience, the real bullies are insecure about how the world perceives them. They want to be viewed as the better people, the most knowledgable people. They can do no wrong and often feel as though they are always being dealt lifes hard hand. These people feel like they have so much untapped potential but the potential never shows because the system is rigged to keep them down. Or that life is against them. Or the horses they have are never easy or throw them event after event of pure misfortune. The bullies are the ones that seek validation from those around them – both in real life and online.

 I’ve known instructors to openly mock and complain about clients and their inability to ride. Instructors who question “why do they own that horse and do/don’t do x, y or z with it?” Again validation is sought and given by those around them. 

 I’ve seen people vocally cry out with distress when a rider that’s being taught can’t do the exact right thing at the exact right time. Those people typically threaten to get up and do it better. It isn’t about helping, it’s about feeling like they’re more competent. 

 I’ve seen spectators stand by laughing and mocking a rider in the arena as they go about their business. 

 The simple truth is, the bullies could literally be anyone.

 

The addition of social media

 

 Social media is a wonderful tool for businesses and people alike. It gives us a platform from which we can easily vocalise beliefs and discuss the realities of life – Much like I am doing here. Social media is a marketing tool. Each and every one of us promotes ourselves on social media. We might not all be a business, but our personal brand is always on display. Like with businesses, our name can and will be judged by those viewing what we post and how we react. 

 

Nothing is quite as it seems 

 

 Social media also has a dark side that aids bullying in our sport. As users, we invest in the brands that interest us and who engage us through posts. As such, especially with small businesses, you may feel as though you know and can trust people behind the page. In many cases, we see business pages as “official” brand pages. When we think “official,” our minds tend to view them as being correct or even trustworthy. We often forget that there may be individuals with alternate agendas behind them.

 Remember, publicity is marketing. When dealing with your brand image, it’s easy to present a persona of being blunt and not caring as a way to market yourself. It’s easy to stir emotion and pity. People love controversy. It does work! A page that says things that even a minority may think will attract a vocal following who want to put the spotlight on that logic. Arguably this can be seen in other areas in other walks of life such as Trumps often controversial acts in the US. It often validates the controversial thoughts of others and gives them a stage from which to act from. 

 Facts can be manipulated. Those who scream loudest are often more commonly believed due to having the larger audience.

 Social media enables us to have a platform to put forth our preferred reality. Facebook reality and actual reality could be completely different things for all we know. In many cases, people twist things to better suit the version of themselves that they wish to present to you and I – The audience. 

 

First hand experience

 

 Try not to side with social media spats and arguments. In many cases, the bully may take a “woe is me” approach. They’ll discuss personal experiences but that’s not to say they’re true. They may not be falsified either, but be aware that the truth can be spread thin. Don’t take one persons presentation as fact. Whether they’re more qualified than you or not. There are no qualifications for being a good and decent human being. 

 There are two sides to every story. Do remember that things can be very easily twisted and morphed to better reflect the person at the centre of it all. 

 

 The mob mentality

 

 This is another reality made all the easier by social media. It’s our job to use critical thinking and personal first hand experience to determine the truth. Don’t take someones presentation to you as their reality. If we believe one side of a story without knowing the other, we encourage the bullying and isolation of others only to validate the personality at the source. We become enablers. From that, we encourage that person to continue to be horrible. We allow the ugly side of humans in our industry to shine.

 On social media especially, drama attracts discussion. Drama gets likes and shares. Calling some drama a “Gate” is a lot more common these days. You see it creep up everywhere. It’s a fun way to throw shade at people while validating the small drama that they’re now going to make into a mountain. It validates the drama further while mocking it, belittling it but also dragging it out. Through that, a page can grow. The audience grows. Discussion grows. The more people who join the discussion, the more ears they have to present their fictional reality. 

 

The personality you’re dealing with

 

 If someone’s reaction is to complain and rant about others, they won’t hesitate to do so about you too. These people are abrasive. They’re toxic. Bullies in our industry are often opportunistic and narcissistic. Therefore, they exploit people and situations in order to further their own agenda and market themselves in a particular way – Whether that be for attention, validation, power or popularity. When you don’t agree with the bully, or better yet, you see through them, you become disposable. You become their target. 

 In cases of real bullying, there isn’t always a good guy and a bad guy. In reality those lines are blurred. It’s easy for us to be dragged into an unfolding drama. Especially when we invest and trust in one side of the story. It’s also easy for that someone to present their side as fact. It’s easy for them to twist and change the story to suit their image of themselves. 

 Stop and think about the person you’re dealing with. If they’re always hard done by, are they really that unlucky? Or are they presenting an image to market themselves?

 Remember that everything you see and hear may not be what it seems. 

 Bullying in the Equestrian world is real. It just isn’t the stereotype we like to believe. 

 

 Bullying in the Equestrian world was first published on https://www.BarnesEQ.com/ by Scott Barnes of Barnes Equestrian. All views expressed here are my own and come from first hand experience with bullying and the types of people who I think are most likely to be bullying in the equestrian world. For more information on bullying.

 

 If you are a victim of bullying in the workplace, please visit the HSA website for support or the mental health support website for other useful information.

The fuss of the Charlotte DuJardin elimination is unreal!

The Fuss of the Charlotte Dujardin Elimination
Charlotte Dujardin, 2012. Source: Horse & Hound

One of the big issues here, is that people put her on a pedestal. She can do no wrong in many eyes. That’s not me saying she is harsh as a rider. She isn’t. Likewise nor do I even think she did anything wrong. I do believe that her and Carl work for the interest of the horses. Above all people simply forget that mistakes happen all the time. They happen at all levels, even at the top. It can take a split second of a wrong movement and that’s it. A split second is all it takes for something to go wrong!

 

What is a simple mistake will now be judged by the court of public opinion

 

Charlotte Dujardin is a good role model and I sympathise with her greatly. What is probably a simple mistake will now be judged by the court of public opinion… This small thing will be amplified. Certainly not because of WHAT happened. In contrast because of WHO it is. The fuss of the Charlotte DuJardin elimination is overblown!

Since this is Charlotte Dujardin, I’ve seen people excusing it. For reasons as simple as she’s won the country gold. On the flip side I’ve seen others blame her for carelessness and being cruel to her horse. Just because she’s competed at the Olympics, she isn’t infallible. At grass roots or Olympics, mistakes happen.

Charlotte isn’t the villain of this story

 

She was eliminated for this. As a result, she doesn’t mean that she has to be vilified. Rules were broken but rules were upheld. That’s great! Charlotte isn’t the villain of this story. We have two huge camps in industry who are debating this out; Those who idolise her and Carl, and those who hate their hype. Where is the middle ground?

Neither are correct. The truth isn’t an extreme. Horses and riders have a lot of grey areas. It isn’t always black or white and good or bad. It doesn’t mean she’s terrible and it doesn’t mean she can do no wrong either. She’s human!

It simply comes down to human error. She is a human being and not a godly being.

Like the horses we ride, riders aren’t robots. Even the top riders make mistakes.

The Fuss of the Charlotte Dujardin Elimination was written by Scott Barnes

Barnes Equestrian

Riding with Emotion

Should we be riding with emotion? Let’s read on and allow me to share my thoughts on this.

‘People ride with too much emotion, you need to let that go!’

I’m paraphrasing that quote but i initially heard it from George Morris as I watched a master class of his. He was giving young riders a lesson in the Simmons Court arena at the RDS Horse Show back in 2011 at the time. All these years later I think back on that as one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever heard!

 

If you keep adding tension to tension, something will eventually snap

 

The fundamental basics of working with horses is to establish rhythm and relaxation throughout everything we do. Those are the first two steps of the training scale and we often only attribute those to the horse. However the very same goes for the rider. If we ride without relaxation, we are adding tension. That may be physical, mental or both. When we are tense in either aspect it will often ‘feed’ to the horse we are working with. If you keep adding tension (human) to tension (horse), something will eventually snap.

 

We are emotional beings

 

As much as we humans are smart and as much as we can act off logic and intelligence, we are also very emotional beings. Riding with emotion is very normal for us. You can see this emotion come out all the time around horses from both amateur and even professional riders. Whether you get frustrated during a session or even in some cases I’ve seen, getting angry, it really has no place in our work with horses.

It’s no easy task and it won’t happen over night. We’ve all been there when it feels like nothing is going right whatsoever – Even though we know it can go right! That makes it even more than frustrating! It’s how we act in these moments, whether good or bad, that can leave a long lasting mark on a horse.

As riders and trainers, it’s vital to be level headed and not let things escalate. It is easier said than done but it’s not impossible. It isn’t even that we have to be emotionless, but we have to learn how to control that emotion while on horseback.

 

The next time things don’t go right for you, instead of being flustered or angry about it, try the following

 

Breathe! Let’s try not to be riding with emotion for a second. That thing that just went wrong 5 seconds ago is now in the past. It went wrong and you can’t change that. Take a deep breath and have a think about what happened. Think about what you did or didn’t do. Think about what the horse did and move on to the next step.

Try again. Think about what went wrong initially and keep it simple in the correction. Don’t overreact or over ride, focus on giving clear and firm aids. Sometimes we get complacent with our signals when we need to be clear. Horses aren’t robots and we should never assume they’ll just do the exact thing we want them to. We are riders, not passengers.

If it still goes wrong, take another breath and think about what else you can try. Don’t revisit the same method over and over because that will only frustrate both you and your horse. Look at what happened, assess what you did and look at your options. Even if it means thinking outside the box, it’s important to find relaxation and calmness again before continuing. Avoid adding tension to tension.

 

Don’t be afraid to take a break from the troublesome task

 

Work on something else in the meantime. Find that happy place again. You can always go back and work on the issue once you find that relaxation again. We all try not to leave an issue unaddressed but sometimes you have to step away and establish the basics before trying to ask for more.

Working with horses is extremely trying at times. It is frustrating and when you’re passionate about it, it can be emotional. The foundation of everything we do is rhythm and relaxation. Just remember it’s not only for the horse, but it’s vital for us as riders too – Rhythm and relaxation.

 Riding With Emotion was written by Scott Barnes

 Barnes Equestrian

The Sensitive Cob

Throwback to a lovely cob called Benson that I got to take for a spin once. The sensitive cob isn’t a special kind of cob, they are most cobs.

Cobs are really unfairly stereotyped. People see a big chunky cob and don’t attribute any sort of suppleness or softness. There’s no real expectation of them and when they do go well, surprise is often the reaction on people’s faces. The sensitive cob is actually misunderstood.

They’re reliable, adaptable and surprisingly impressive when you get on their side.

I’ve worked with a few cobs through the years and the one thing that I’ve always taken away is that cobs are some of the most mentally sensitive horses out there. They’re big softies! They worry and they stress. Furthermore most of all they’re misunderstood. They may not always look pretty going around but they have a lot to give – Especially if you take the time to work with them rather than make them fit the mould of every other horse. Like every horse, cobs too are individual.

The sensitive cob is smart. They feel you up there but even when they don’t know something, they’ll try to look after you.

Cobs aren’t big clunky plods. They don’t need to be whipped or spurred to move. They don’t always need muscle and strength, it’s quite the opposite. They’re not the old banger from the scrap yard of the equestrian world. Cobs are the Volkswagen Golf. Hence theyre reliable, adaptable and surprisingly impressive when you get on their side.

Never underestimate a cob…Even if they don’t sound “just like a Golf.”

 The Sensitive Cob was written by Scott Barnes

 Barnes Equestrian