Going to do a few different things on here so I can keep up with posting! Saw this on a friend's blog and thought it looked fun! No guarantee I will keep up with the 5 days straight thing, but I can try! :)
1. Most influential person on your riding
This is a tough question! I didn't have the typical horse experience growing up, I have always been and still am very much a "do it yourself" kind of person, I learned how to ride by reading tons of books and trial and error. I never had that one instructor who I was with forever who helped mold and shape me into the rider I am today. Other than a handful of jumping lessons one spring back when I was about 12, and the very odd coached ride on a random horse here and there, I never really had any sort of actual formal lessons until I attended Olds College in 2003, I was 20. I guess I couldn't have been doing that badly for myself because I was one of the 10 students they chose for the program, but very often I find myself looking at kids and teens and I think "Gosh, imagine how much farther along I would be in my riding if I had had good (heck, ANY!) regular instruction when I was younger!"
I am a big fan of clinics, and I'd have to say that Sandy Alexander has had the biggest impact on my riding, although I definitely don't get to ride with him anywhere near as often as I'd like! He has an amazing natural intuition, I have never met anyone who can watch you ride for 10 minutes and instantly know everything about you. He's very honest and blunt, sometimes to the point some would consider rudeness, and has been known to make riders shed a few tears, but he is 100% bang on about everything he says and does not apologize for it.
Sandy is huge into the psychology side of things as well, he merges both the mental and physical sides of riding and really holds riders accountable for everything. When riding with him you can count on the fact that he will cover ALL the bases, he will go deeper and quickly discover your weaknesses and shortcomings, and help you to improve them. He will break you down and then build you back up, in the best way possible.
I find him very similar in teaching style to George Morris, who I have not yet had the honor of riding with, but someday I hope I do! Both are very honest and blunt, but if you are open and have truly come to learn and try hard, you will walk away with far more knowledge gained than you ever thought possible.
2. Piece of tack you’d love to splurge on
A custom jumping/cross country saddle would no doubt be at the top of my list, but is definitely not in the cards at the moment. Staying a little more practical, a Back On Track mesh sheet will be my next splurge for sure. I have the quick wraps and back warmer for Sunny, and she absolutely loves them, the back warmer works absolute wonders for her tight muscles and has improved her cold back so much. I think she would definitely benefit a lot from a full blanket as well.
3. Top 5 riding playlist
I'm probably a bit behind on this trend. I have never been one of those people who puts on headphones to do things. At home when I'm by myself I'll throw on headphones every once in awhile, but in public it makes me very uncomfortable to be cut off from everything going on around me. I've had a jogger wearing headphones totally unaware run out of a driveway in the country onto the road directly in front of my car, and thank god I managed to narrowly miss her, and she didn't even notice what had happened until I was already half in the ditch and had already passed her by.
There is always a radio playing in the barn though, on various random stations, and certain songs do help me get into a better rhythm while trotting or cantering.
I must add that one of my dreams has always been to compete in the indoor eventing at the Royal Winter Fair, and now with the Royal West starting up in 2014, it's looking like that could possibly be less of a dream and more of a reality! If I ever get the chance to do it, and I know that they usually just play random music during the rides, it would absolutely make my day if they played Party Rock Anthem by LMFAO while I ride:)
4. Most important aspect of your barn?
I will admit that I was a barn hopper for a lot of years. There was a few reasons for it, the main one was that I was (and still am) very much a rider on a budget. I would go to a barn with a indoor arena for the winter, then do self-board somewhere cheaper for the summer. I also never found a real barn that I connected with and actually enjoyed. Many places I've boarded at over the years were the typical barns you hear about, crazy owner/boarders, drama, sub par care, etc. They were fine for a few months but nowhere I had any desire to stay long term. Then I went to my current barn.
Again it was supposed to be just for the winter, but this place was different. Everyone was so helpful and friendly. They really welcomed me in, the lone eventer in a barn of jumpers. I got along great with the BO/coach there, which was surprising after having some bad experiences with a few different instructors. I didn't go to this barn looking for a regular coach, just a place to ride for the winter, so that was a plus. Everything just fit. Sunny seemed a LOT happier there too, she was far more relaxed than she'd been at any previous places. And then when spring came, the time when I would've moved for the summer came and went, and leaving never even crossed my mind.
So definitely the most important aspect is the team atmosphere and camaraderie between everyone. I'd never been in a lesson where the other students were encouraging and cheering you on, and celebrating the little things right alongside you. The great care is definitely a plus as well, the farrier at the barn is fabulous, Sunny has never thrown a shoe after moving there! There are a few things that I wish for here and there, like more space to ride outside the ring for conditioning and trails for hacking, but there are more positives than negatives so I make do!
5. Three winter riding goals
1. Be able to sit the trot *well*. (And ultimately be able to sit a whole dressage test!)
2. Conquer haunches in and perfect our shoulder in, then start half pass.
3. Really get comfortable jumping up to 1.20m. (Riding Sunny's BIG jump!)
And just dressage in general. This is all to go with my goal of moving up to Intermediate in 2014. We have a long ways to go and a lot of things will have to go right for us to get there, but it's all a lot of baby steps along the way!