FEI Tribunal Disqualifies Maxime Livio (FRA) And French Eventing team

What are your thoughts on the whole team being disqualified?

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The FEI Tribunal has disqualified Maxime Livio (FRA) and Qalao des Mers from the Eventing competition of the FEI World Equestrian Games™ 2014, following a positive for a Controlled Medication substance. Livio, fifth in the individual rankings, was also a member of the French team, which finished fourth in Normandy to secure qualification for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. The FEI Tribunal has also disqualified the French team, resulting in the loss of its Olympic qualifying slot.

Samples taken on 29 August 2014 from the horse Qalao des Mers (FEI ID 103MQ19) returned positive for Hydroxyethylpromazine sulfoxide, a metabolite of the sedative Acepromazine. Acepromazine is a Controlled Medication substance on the FEI Prohibited Substances List. Controlled Medications are substances that are regularly used to treat horses but which are not allowed in competition in order to maintain a level playing field.

Any breach of the FEI’s Equine Anti-Doping and Controlled…

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Equine Ballerina

I started riding Western & barrel racing out in Colorado when I was still in the single-digits [in terms of my age]. Since my family lived in Connecticut, I soon started riding English and by middle school I was showing in the hunter/equitation ring. About halfway through high school, I got burnt out between the politics and the money involved in equitation so I flat out quit riding. I had to sell my horse in order to pay for college anyways so I figured, what the heck…no horse, no money for the show, and, if I quit, no more politics or stress.

So what did I do with my time?

I went back to dance class and picked up ballet..yes..ballet. I promise, there was no tutu involved but nevertheless…I was a ballerina for my senior year of high school. At about that same time, there was a 27-year-old riding trainer at my school/barn (they were one in the same), who saw the real me better than I could at the time. She convinced me to start riding again; training with her and her students for IEA (Interscholastic Equestrian Association) horse shows. Stay tuned for another post on IEA but, for the sake of this story, I’ll summarize by saying that IEA shows are horse shows for students in middle and high school to compete in one of four divisions. At these shows, you leave your own horses at home and instead, you ride one of the hosting farm’s horses that is selected by pulling a [horse’s] name out of a hat.

Anyways, I started riding and showing again solely to fill the “Open” division for our IEA Team. Though I had always placed well at shows, this became the first time that I was consistently placing in the top three at every show. Fast forward  to the Spring of my senior year of high school and I ended up winning the 2010 IEA National Finals for my division.

So what does this have to do with ballet?

Answer: Everything!

EWS IEA 2010

In equitation, position is over 50% of the deal. Next to modeling, equitation may be one of the most judgmental competition forms that exists. However, ballet can improve your position (and your scores) more than you could ever imagine (at least it was a surprise for me). While I strongly suggest taking a Barre class or two (it’s seriously a great workout & will improve your position just like ballet class), I will give you the key tips that will really help (though a formal instructor is probably better).

Tip 1: Engage your core!

How?

Stand with your back against the wall. Engage your core and tilt your pelvis forward so there is no room between your back and the wall (thus removing the arch in your back). Now, remember how this feels and try to do it without the wall as your guide.

Tip 2: Keep your shoulders back AND down.

How?

You can practice this against the wall as well for a guide but be sure check yourself every now and then by rolling your shoulders up, back, and then down. Don’t forget to keep engaging your core!

Posture

Final Step?

Do this on your horse.

It will take time to build the muscle memory but I PROMISE you, it will be worth it and help your position and connection with your horse on both the flat and over fences.

Questions? Please post them!!!!

Can’t wait to hear from you!

Flatwork Matters [Even When You Jump]

Every time I tell people I’m a jumper, especially when I talk to people who mainly focus on the dressage, I can see their expression change to a smirk & it’s almost as if they’re thinking, “yeah she can jump but she probably let her flat work go in order to get there”.

Unfortunately, at one point in time that assumption would have been correct. It took my years to realize just how important your flatwork can be when you’re jumping. If I could sit with you and watch all the grand prix riders go through their courses I would love it! Since I can’t, let’s imagine for a moment that we’re at WEF in Wellington, FL & we’re watching all the top show jumpers from around the world.

Watch their approach to the fences; their positions; their seat & their aids.

It’s even better during the jump-off rounds. You can see the adjustments more clearly since they’re trying to both go clear and jump the fastest time.

Your flat work matters because your flatwork could be the reason you knock the rail, your horse stops, you get a bad distance, or you miss the jump completely. You and your horse are a team when you ride, whether you’re jumping or flatting your horse should be listening to your aids and you should be listening to your horse. If you do your flatwork properly, then you’ll be able to respond to any changes that may occur in your course.

I remember I was riding a 5-year old on his first trip down to Palm Beach, FL for WEF & he spooked at everything! It made it that much more important that I used my seat & did my flat work in the corners not only to set him up for the next fence but to also bring his attention back to me so that he was listening to me and not the spectators, announcers, food stand owners, or other exhibitors.

The horse I have now requires flat work in order to bring her back after every fence. She’s a hot horse & a jumper meaning I don’t have the luxury of wide turns to re-group and focus on flat work so I have to be direct & clear with her in a short period of time without becoming too reliant on one aid or another. Here’s where “flatwork” as a whole comes in. I can’t just pull a horse’s teeth out or spur her to make her listen to me…I have to work with her, as a teammate, and communicate using all my aids. With proper flatwork training at home, it’s a lot easier for me to make corrections quickly AND properly in order to ensure a clean and quick show jumping round.

Need some flatwork exercises?

  1. True-bend & Counter-bend: try changing the bend every 8-10 trot steps and make sure that you’re not only changing the bend of their neck but rather you’re changing their entire bend using all your aids (leg, seat, & then hands last).
  2. Transitions: I know it may sound simple but the more transitions you do, the better. Not only will it build muscle for your horse but it will also improve responsiveness between horse and rider. Try doing transitions between gaits as well as transitions within gaits. To really challenge yourself, you can set two ground-poles 7 (this number is up to you) canter strides apart. Go through the poles in 7 strides, then lengthen the stride the next time through to get 6 strides, then lengthen more to get 5 strides, then go back to 7 strides, then shorten the next time through the poles to get 8 strides, then shorten even more the next time to try and get 9 strides. Remember, the key here is not to ride like a bat out of hell for fewer strides or ride like you’re going to pull your horse’s teeth out to fit the additional strides, rather ride from your seat and leg for both with your hands as an additional aid. Your body can do wonders in terms of communicating with your horse so try and open that line of communication.
  3. Spiral Circles: You can do these at the walk, trot, and canter if you want depending on your level of experience. Start on a 20-meter circle and as you keep going around the circle you continue to make it incrementally smaller. Make sure the inward movement is coming from your leg asking your horse to move its whole body in, like you would if you were asking for a leg-yield. You’ll feel what movement is right for your horse. As the circle becomes smaller and smaller it will be harder and harder for your horse to continue the forward movement and will require immense support from your seat and leg as well as immense work from your horse’s hind end (you’re essentially asking for haunches-in). When you’re ready, use your inside aids to push your horse outwards to incrementally widen the circle (now essentially asking for haunches-out). Then switch directions and do it again after giving your horse the chance to trot on a loose rein and stretch their neck and back out.
  4. Counter Canter: This won’t be easy for many horses but it’s an excellent exercise for both horse and rider. Start with trying to counter-canter (hold the canter intentionally on the wrong lead) all the way around the ring. If you’re already there, here’s an exercise that will be helpful if you’re showing in upper-level equitation or if you’re just looking for a challenge. Pick up your counter-canter up the long-side of the arena. Hold it around the short end through both the corners. Continue you’re counter-counter half-way down the opposite long-side then push your horse onto the quarter-line before turning them in towards the rail to change direction (while holding the same lead) to end up on the proper lead & halt in the corner.