Riders and Social Media: You’...

It might be uncomfortable to hear, but riders: your social media strategy needs a major overhaul. ("Social media strategy? What's that?" -You.) In cas...

Coming to the Pan Am Games 2015? He...

Many equestrians have already gotten a first crack at advance ticket sales through their governing bodies, and December 8, 2014, marks the day the tic...

drunk horse

7 Ways to Make your Barn Visits Mor...

1. Pick up a snack or have food on hand so you're hydrated and have enough energy to ride effectively http://i.imgur.com/mVzwG.gif Just go easy on...

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Watch Horse Competitions Online

There's nothing worse than not being able to ride, but never fear—you can take advantage of great horse content to watch online. The accessibility of ...

Riders and Social Media: You’re Doing it Wrong

It might be uncomfortable to hear, but riders: your social media strategy needs a major overhaul. (“Social media strategy? What’s that?” -You.) In case you are from a wealthy family willing to indulge you with trips abroad and European horses or superior homebreds, or your best friend is your owner/sponsor (again, willing to indulge your horse habits with trips/horses/homebreds), then you need to seriously work on your social media.

Social media refers to websites and applications that allow users to create and share content and network with others. Here is a great infographic on what each major social network does and one with demographics of the people who use them. (Have a bit more time on your hands? Read this infographic “posting etiquette” cheat sheet.)

“But I’m a busy/serious rider and crash into bed after riding 9 horses and managing my barn and dealing with clients/owners/staff/calls/etc. and don’t have more than four minutes to have dinner before a 5:00am wake-up to do it all over again!” -You.

Fair point, you have gruelling days. But let’s face it: money is good. Social media can help you win new students, attract new owners, help you sell along your resale horses, promote your sponsors and help you get new ones. There’s a lot of ways you can sell yourself, and chances are, you are not using social media well enough to do any of these things. Building your audiences, your network of followers and fans, is just the starting point.

Social Media Tips

  1. Post photos and content that your audience will actually WANT to share. A random competition photo with “My horse jumps every ditch when he’s wearing his neon-blinking browband by Neon Browbands!” is not interesting nor share-worthy. Create a two-minute “Here’s my trick for improving my horse’s trot up the centerline” and tag any relevant sponsors to that tip in your post.
  2. Have a consistent “voice” in your posts. As a rider, you want to share your knowledge and skills and be the expert to your audience. If your posts are full of grammatical mistakes or spotted with inappropriate humor, type your posts in Word and spellcheck them before posting and leave the dirty jokes for your personal accounts. If someone else is posting for you, decide if they will use “your” voice or theirs (i.e., “Today Suzy’s school on Caspar made her realize she needed to incorporate more lateral work into his training”) to keep it consistent.
  3. Definitely share and promote any published articles/videos/clinic reports you were featured in. Add a little personal note about how it was fun to be a part of the process or an anecdote about the horse you were riding or other riders/trainers who were there. Tag the publication or website in your post.
  4. Share “backstage” action photos that make your audience feel like they are an intimate and valued part of your competition team. It could be loading the trailer on the way to shows, giving the ponies a bath, silly photos of your working students, video clips of funny horse habits in your barn, etc. If you build a relationship with your audience, they will jump to help when it comes time to fundraise for your Europe trip or team bid.
  5.  

    Make your social media presence unique to YOU as a rider and person. If you don’t get to go down south for the winter, do a week’s posts of stable management tips for dealing with snow and ice. If your favourite food is chicken-salad sandwiches and Diet Coke, feel free to throw in the occasional (read: 2-4x a month is sufficient) foodie photo or recipe. Love to watch training videos online of other riders? Share the videos and tag the riders with the hopes they will do you the return favour.

  6. Engage with your fans. If they leave you comments, like some of them! You should reply to comments that are left for you, to show that you appreciate their support. Don’t feel obligated to reply to every one, simply add a comment of your own here and there that shows you’re listening to their feedback.

There is no need to use expensive video equipment or spend hours in front of your computer every day trying to accomplish the above. You can use free web tools like Buffer.com that allow you to autoschedule posts for future dates. If you can accumulate some pics and video throughout the week, you can use them for the future week’s posts on say, a Sunday evening. You can even update your social media pages from your smartphone while you’re en route to a show (provided your groom is driving, of course!) or passing time waiting for the vet to show up (not like they’re ever late…. ha.)

 

Stay tuned: Social Media Posting Examples

 

Coming to the Pan Am Games 2015? Here are some tips.

Many equestrians have already gotten a first crack at advance ticket sales through their governing bodies, and December 8, 2014, marks the day the tickets go on sale to the public. If you haven’t already bought your tickets, you can hit up Ticketmaster.com and search through the equestrian event schedule.

Brief Overview of the Location

In case you were curious, all dressage and  show jumping will be held at the Caledon Pan Am Equestrian Park in Caledon, Ontario. It’s a bit under four hours drive from the Ambassador Bridge in Detroit, Michigan or just over two hours from the Buffalo Niagara International Airport.

Pan Am Games Map

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The park has been an equestrian show ground since 1973. They have held hunter/jumper shows, dressage, reining and more with an emphasis on the ‘A’ circuit shows. Learn more about the history and current status of the park.  Plan to bring your walking shoes; there is no parking directly on site. Visitors will be parking a short distance away with frequent shuttles to accommodate everyone.

The cross-country portion of the eventing will be held at Will O’ Wind Farm which is approximately 35 minutes from the equestrian park. Eventing dressage and eventing stadium will be held at the equestrian park.

 

Things to Consider

 

In case you don’t follow equestrian news, there are some lessons to be had from the World Equestrian Games held this past summer in Normandy, France. Essentially, social media exploded with cringe-worthy reports and photos of extremely limited bathrooms, three-hour lineups for food, ankle-deep mud and standstill traffic (causing many visitors to miss the events they had driven to see!)

Palgrave is the nearest, immediate town to the park (you can practically see the entrance to the park from this main street), but as you can see the retail situation is somewhat limited. Add in tens of thousands of visitors and it could get pretty crowded.

town of palgrave

Town of Palgrave, a stone’s throw from the park

 

It would be wise to maybe grab some basic supplies like you would for any horse show (a couple bottles of water, a snack and maybe emergency toilet paper?) in case the venue is packed. Luckily, there is a considerably larger town called Orangeville that is about 25 minutes west. They’ve got you covered from a Wal-Mart, BestBuy, restaurants, gas, grocery stores, etc. (Take note, American buddies, you have to hit the designated LCBO liquor store or beer store for your fix. Those are the only places you can buy bottles of liquor. Be warned!)  The closest hotels to the venue will also likely be in Orangeville, such as a Best Western and Howard Johnson. There are also some B&B’s and smaller motels nearby.

Keep in mind, if you plan to stay in Toronto for some sightseeing, that Toronto has the dubious honour of some of the most congested rush hour traffic comparable to L.A. or New York. If you’re going to stay in Toronto and commute up to the park for your equestrian events, plan for at 1.5-2 hours of driving each way during rush hour to be sure you don’t miss your event. It’s a one hour drive in average driving conditions.

Also, plan to keep an eye on the weather a few weeks in advance of the games. While Canada has the reputation for the cold, summer in Southern Ontario can get insanely hot and humid. During the games it will be mid-July, so plan to dress accordingly to local weather reports.

The shopping situation at the Pan Ams should be pretty awesome, but just in case I will put up a good listing of tack stores you should probably check out while you’re here. (TBD.)

I will do my best to post updates about the venue/event as they become available. It should be a fabulous time with lots of good food, parties and riding. See you all there!

 

 

 

7 Ways to Make your Barn Visits More Enjoyable

1. Pick up a snack or have food on hand so you’re hydrated and have enough energy to ride effectively

Just go easy on the carbs so you’re not uncomfortably full.

 

2. Keep your tack and equipment organized so you don’t waste time searching

dancing tree

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…or find something living in your locker.

 

3. Stay out of barn drama and gossip

mp5RmrI

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not only it is time consuming, but sooner or later it will be about you and your horse.

 

4. Have a training goal or purpose to your ride

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 If you’re going to only put in half the effort, you’re not doing you or your horse any favours. Go for a hack instead.

 

5. Be aware of your horse’s mood that day and how it might affect your schooling session

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#notadressageday

 

6. … or your own mood for that matter.

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Don’t spend the whole time fighting with your horse. Give him/her a nice brush and call it a day.

 

7. Remember why you’re there… because you love your horse!

giphyhorse

 

 

 

 

 

 

…and there’s always wine at home if your barn visit was a fail. Try again tomorrow!

Watch Horse Competitions Online

There’s nothing worse than not being able to ride, but never fear—you can take advantage of great horse content to watch online. The accessibility of live streaming of competitions in dressage, showjumping, eventing, racing, reining and more is a huge benefit to the equine community, not only for viewers but promotion within the sport and it’s sponsors and advertisers.

Read more →

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Hilarious eventing meme

If you event and love hilarious memes, this one is for you!

 

 

 

How to calculate the optimum time in eventing

While most events today post the optimum time for event riders to complete their course, there is a simple mathematical equation that can help you sort out discrepancies during your own walk.

Traditionally, riders and coaches used the trusty meter wheel. Meter wheels today have digital displays to keep track of the distance measured. Beginning at the start box, riders track the course distance while planning their desired route. Modern smartphone applications such as CourseWalk App and CrossCountry App will also record and track course distance (if the rider has GPS functioning enabled on their smartphone) as they are walking their course.

Speed is dictated by the USEF’s Rules for Eventing, and the acceptable course distance range is also outlined in the rulebook.

Appendix 2 in the USEF rule book for eventing

Appendix 2 in the USEF rule book for eventing

 

Once the rider has calculated their route and determined the meters of the path they wish to ride, there is a simple calculation to determine whether their route will align with the course designers optimum time. Let’s use Rocking Horse Winter III (held February 28th, 2013) with the Preliminary division as an example. 

A competitor has walked the course and determined the distance of their route to be 2854 meters long. The speed as dictated by the USEF for the Prelim level is 520 meters per minute.  The course length divided by the meters per minute gives us a number of 5.49. However, this does not give us the correct optimum time. Take the .49 and multiply by 60 (seconds) to find .29 which is the correct amount of seconds. Therefore, optimum time for the Prelim division is 5 minutes 29 seconds.

Calculating optimum time for Rocking Horse (prelim division)

Calculating optimum time for Rocking Horse (prelim division)

Looking at the results of the Open Preliminary division, we see that the top three riders in the division finished the course in 5:13, 5:18 and 5:20 respectively, coming in under the time and therefore not incurring any time penalties. Riders must remember to take note of alternate routes and areas to “make up time” in case of run-outs or refusals on course that could affect their time on course.

Many riders may find shortcuts or areas to save time while they are walking their preferred course routes. By measuring the course distance and calculating how their walk route compares to the official optimum time, riders will have the best chance of arriving home in under the time without penalty!

Top 10: Horse things to do on a rainy day

  1. Go to the barn and ride.
  2. Put off going to the barn and catch up on horse news using an equine bulletin board.
  3. Get distracted from horse news and laugh at the nuts on said horse bulletin board instead. (Some people = fruitbat crazy.)
  4. Clean all your horse tack while watching reality TV shows.
  5. Watch old home videos of yourself riding.
  6. Remind yourself how old those videos are (you’re a much better rider now!). It’s off to the barn to practice that leg yield!
  7. The kids need one more bedtime story. Dog needs walking. Again.
  8. Consider the fact it’s pouring and Pooky probably didn’t get turned out. Ugh.
  9. Moment of brilliance: catch up on some equine accounting! Grab a glass of wine first…
  10. (Bottle of wine later.) I spent THAT much? This was a bad idea. Should’a gone to the damn barn.

Getting inspired to ride on a rainy day may lead to a hangover.

 

Fix your canter problems!

Just like people, many horses have a strong side and a weaker side of their body. This can be due to conformation, past injury, tension in the body or incorrect training or training equipment. With a careful and structured training plan, you can help your horse strengthen the weak side of his or her body to create a more balanced, physically comfortable horse. Many owners of OTTB (Off the Track Thoroughbreds) note that their horse tends to have problems on one side or another, typically due to their track training.

Recently, I came across this short (under 2 minutes) video where dressage Grand Prix rider Jody Hartstone talks about how to get the correct canter lead. I had never seen this method before, so was a bit doubtful but traditional “ask for the canter” techniques have been hit and miss for us. While at the barn today, I gave it a try…. it worked! He picked up his correct lead the first time I asked! Although this is not something you can do in a show situation, it will certainly help you achieve the correct lead and therefore practice building your horse’s muscles at home.

 
 

(NOTE: If your horse has recently started struggling with his leads, talk to your vet and rule out any causes of pain. Things like saddle fit,  joint health, vitamin deficiency leading to weak muscles, neurological deficits, muscle strain or sublaxations in the cervical/thoracolumbar spine are all things that can affect your horse’s ability to canter or give them trouble to pick up a lead.)

Learn how to identify a disunited canter

Have you ever been puzzled by or not able to identify a problem canter from the ground? This great video uses a demo horse with different coloured polo wraps to help viewers clearly see a correct canter and the contrasting incorrect canter.

If your horse regularly has problems cantering or frequently is disunited at the canter, swaps leads or bucks to avoid cantering on the correct lead, contact your vet to rule out any pain or injury . Once your vet has given your horse the all clear, you can then work on muscle building and schooling your horse to help get the correct canter.

(Check out more training videos at 5MinuteHorseVideos.com)