Ruth’s Journal

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I have frequent conversations about the mentors in my life and the influence and respect I have for them.  I got the most amazing piece of advice last week which I will share with you: “Listen.  Listen a lot.  And when you do speak, be slow and deliberate.”

That seems simple, but when I start speaking about the fabulous sport of Eventing, the amazing riders that exist within it, the volunteers that spent countless hours devoted to it, the owners and breeders of horses who support it, the coaches that are so dedicated and every other individual that believes in it, the concept of speaking slowly and deliberately is very challenging for me.

Indoor Eventing at the 2017 Royal Winter Fair!

If we haven’t met yet we should be clear that I don’t make friends easily.  Its not that I don’t play nice with others or that I am antisocial in any way, quite the opposite.  The nickname #funruth that evolved over the past 2 days of coaching meetings in Toronto are a perfect example of my social ability.  However, the blunt honesty that comes along with being my friend is tough for some.  So, although l was recently called conciliatory (I had to look that up), I would say that I will listen to everyone’s opinions… respect them when they are fact based, and be blunt when they are not.

I read an article recently that explored the idea that people who swear in conversation are more intelligent than people who don’t.  I therefore know a lot of very intelligent people. 😊   Having just sat in 2 days of meetings with both the National Eventing committee and then the Provincial Horse Trials committees I can easily say that I was not the smartest person in the room (maybe not calculating my  swearing).  And thank goodness.  I crave learning from people smarter than me and I am not vain enough to think for a second that I know everything there is to know about every facet of this sport that is such a huge part of my life.  I wouldn’t argue that I have some expertise in a couple of areas surrounding the sport, but that’s why a committee of individuals comes together with their own specific skill sets, to have conversations and disagreements and consent about the direction and pathway for our athletes and the sport.

The Ontario Equestrian Federation became Ontario Equestrian this week!

There is no argument that the people that volunteer their time and energy to shape the sport are invested.  Whether they are National, Provincial, or local they have skin in the game.  There are plenty of people that will sit on the outside and complain.  I’d prefer to lose sleep by trying to make change… not just bitching about it.  Change is tough.  We get used to the way things have always been, and we need to understand the history and not discard it, but it is scary for many people.

Let me explore the difficulty of change in an easier way to understand… Monday at our meetings I was coerced into going for lunch at a place that specializes in Sushi Burritos.  I don’t eat green things.  I almost NEVER change what I order at a restaurant once I’ve been there.  And I don’t eat things I can’t identify!!!  Yup, Sushi Burrito… Did I love it, no.  Did I try it, yes.  Did the other people that were with me think it was the best meal ever, yes.  So there is merit to it.  I don’t have to love it to understand it has a place in our world.

Just breath.  Change is ok.

The High Performance Coaching Clinic being delivered by Ozzie Sawicki

After days of meetings I am sitting on the train watching the world zip past and have time to reflect on the meetings that have just happened, the amazing individuals who are passionate about the sport and my place within that.  I listened.  I spoke deliberately and we worked collaboratively.  If you know the sport then you know that this is a great time for change.  We have to work together to make that happen.  Its not an us and them situation, its we.  We need to make positive changes happen, and those that are fine with heckling from the sidelines then in my opinion you need to step out of the way so those of us that are committed to doing something can move forward.

So with that I say, swear often, embrace that you may not be the smartest at the table and get the f@$k out of the way if you aren’t willing to help.

In the words of Robert F. Allum, ‘It’s time to run at the wall’.  (figuratively of course)


#newchairofeventing  #stillfunruth

Where has the time gone?  It feels like the show season is just getting underway and yet the days are getting shorter and shorter, and apparently it is almost Thanksgiving??  So, what am I giving thanks for this year?  Glad you asked!

Here we go:

  • The adrenaline rush. Yup, you read that right, the adrenaline rush!  We were at Grandview Horse Trials on Saturday and we had 2 girls go Preliminary for the first time and my gosh, the intensity of feelings when they left the Startbox, and jumped over the 1st fence was what I live for.  They made it real by galloping on to the 2nd, the 3rd and so on until I regained sight of them coming to the last and then galloping across the finish with a smile so big and that amazing look of, ‘I just did that’ on their faces.  Yup, that adrenaline rush was mine too.  Not because I rode it with them because I didn’t; but because I had a hand in teaching them the skills they needed to get the job done, and that they did.  The adrenaline rush is so real for me when I am watching a rider and/or horse achieving their goal whether that’s a new Prelim combination, a hard-earned clean Training level cross country ride or some seriously kick a$$ flying changes in a 3rd level Dressage test.  Of course, on Sunday at the Silver Dressage Show at Oakhurst, I resisted the urge to ‘whoop whoop’ during dressage tests, but I am sure you all now that internally I am doing a happy dance when I know my rider has produced the winning test.  Have I ever mentioned how much I crave winning??
Emma Richardson & Sokit2ya and Michaela Robinson & Top Gun – Oakhurst’s 2 new Prelim riders!
  • My Team. Its not just about the riders and their horses.  It’s the moms and dads, siblings and friends that bring coffee, make sure we have dinner reservations, that have a water bottle ready, hold horses, and that make the whole experience possible.  I give thanks for them because without them I wouldn’t have the support needed to work with the most amazing athletes.  The expression, ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ rings so true with every athlete I have ever worked with.
Alexa Bresnahan & Contesse at the start box of Grandview HT Cross Country
  • Okay, if you know me at all you know I am not thankful for math!  But I do love statistics, which has some very basic math stuff involved.  I have kept statistics on all of our riders since 1999.  This past weekend marked the 50th horse/rider combination I have helped go Prelim or above.  So, I was trying to figure out how many more years it would take me to get to 100.  Granted the first few years of that I really feel I underachieved.  And then the math got the better of me so I went and set a jump course… I am good at that!
Third Level Champion Jenna Mayhew, Coach Ruth and Training Level Reserve Champion / Adult Amateur Reserve Champion Kristin McLaren celebrating their wins at the Oakhurst Silver Dressage Show.
  • My family. Sappy but true, my family makes me truly thankful.  They support me in every crazy endeavour I declare, they give me room when I fail, they enlighten me when I’m wrong and they congratulate me when I’m right.
Even if it rains at an event, there are rainbows, like this one at Grandview HT!
  • My Lifestyle. I get to travel, work outside, and interact with likeminded, crazy passionate individuals.  Phewf!
Coaches Mireille Bilodeau, Ruth Allum and Rae Becke celebrating a wonderful day of dressage at the Oakhurst Silver Dressage Show
  • My Husband/Partner/Best Friend. Yup, he fuels up and washes my truck for me, he hitches up (and backs up) trailers for me, he harrows, welds, constructs, mows, and plumbs every possible thing that you can think of.  He helps guide and raise our amazing children (although I still had to give birth to them).  He is my rock, my reality and my sounding board.  Plus, ladies, he brings me coffee in bed every morning.

So, these are a few of the things I am grateful for this Thanksgiving.  I wish everyone the best of their Gobble Gobble day.  Salute the people who aren’t with you at the table, embrace the ones that are.

Kristin McLaren – enjoying a rest after riding 3 beautiful tests at the Oakhurst Silver Dressage Show

And jeepers, make the best of every day you are here!  This weekend Mark and Tatum and I are heading out east to do a little celebrating and teaching.  Both things I am thankful for.


Education, really?  You already own a hairnet!  I tell the girls that ride with me all the time that they have job opportunities based on their hairnet application proficiency.  I mean c’mon, what other fry girl has had the chance to repeatedly put on their hairnet not just for function but for fashion?  Think about it, we have them beat in terms of practice & performance.  I coach hairnet proficiency, its in my handbook… does McDonalds have that in their handbook?  Maybe their handbook covers the multifunction of the hairnet, but as comprehensively as mine does?? … I’m just saying… who’s got who beat??  I think you know the answer.

Rebecca Walker & Kira – competing at the Meadowvale ESD Dressage Show

Although I suppose there is the other side of the argument that education might be an important equation to getting where we are now with the sport.  The words like ‘when you are older’ ring true with me lately in terms of education and more specifically, athlete development.  The ‘Carousel in Time’ has brought me to a place where the education of our riders is paramount both in my own barn and across the country.  As coaches and educators of the next generation of equestrians, its our duty to try to figure out what their needs are or get out of the way so that someone else can do it, hairnet and all!!!

Sylvain Jobidon & Heimdall competing at the Meadowvale ESD Dressage Show

With kids having now returned to school my attention has turned to lesson plans that address gaps in education with both horse and rider.  This week’s exercise in the indoor and outside is all about footwork, balance, and energy and all of our riders have tackled it brilliantly.  Having smart, thinking riders and horses is my ultimate goal.  When they leave the start box they need to be ready to answer every question they are faced with 100%.  And let’s get real for a minute, I talk about coaching equestrians like it’s the most important job on the planet… like the earth would stop revolving if equestrian coaches just stopped teaching one day (don’t panic, that’s not happening) but I do have the understanding that it’s a sport… we aren’t curing cancer, because if we were we would have so many friends of the sport still with us, like my dad.

Megan Jenner and Lucien competing at the Meadowvale ESD Dressage Show

He would have been excited to see the team of Andrew, Sylvain and Rebecca, we had out last weekend led by Helen and Megan at the Meadowvale ESD Dressage show and would have beamed at their success just like we do.

This weekend we have riders at both the Wesley Clover Horse Trials and the CADORA Silver Championships.  A busy weekend for all involved but I have confidence that our coaching staff will produce top notch results.

Andrew McDermott with Nemo and Lucien and super groom Taya Davison at the Meadowvale ESD Dressage Show

And genuinely I embrace each one of the Oakhurst team that has made the choice to head to an institute of higher learning education… what does that even mean??  How high do they jump?  If you put a ditch in their way do they spook?  Let’s discuss it when you come home for the Oakhurst Christmas Party which will be on Friday December 29th at the Ashton Pub…  Yup you earned the first beer on me because you are awesome.


Last weekend we hosted 147 competitors at the Oakhurst Horse Trials and I was asked early this week if I had FUN at our Horse Trials.  Hmm, fun you ask.  Probably not the F word I would use on the actual day of the Horse Trials or the lead up to it but certainly after the last horse was safely across the FINISH line I FELT a huge wave of relief and you could say that moment was FUN.

Tate and her new friend Poco!

With the rainiest spring and summer on record in Ottawa, the FINAL days leading up to the Event seemed to stretch on FOREVER with Event preparation, so the word F word I would have most identified with on the actual horse trials day was FATIGUED.

However, with that FATIGUED FEELING also came another F word… FAITH.  The volunteers that come out year after year to help with the running of the event are FLABBERGASTING.  They sit in the sun & bugs, they run for scores and then meticulously tally those scores, they time and check tack, they scribe and whip-in, along with other countless jobs and they are absolutely FANTASTIC!!  With the help of these volunteers the Eventing world runs and to them I say FRIGGIN AWESOME JOB! 

Temporary stabling full of ponies excitedly awaiting the start of the event.

And of course, this brings me to the old FRIENDS that arrived to show their support.  Where would any of us be without FRIENDS?  Lonely for sure but definitely with a less sore rib cage from all the laughing we did after the Event.  Thank you for reminding me how to laugh.

The other overwhelming F word that comes to mind for this past weekend is FABULOUS… yup FABULOUS weather (aka it wasn’t raining)!!!  The sun shone all weekend and even as Mark and Eric rolled the cross-country course between divisions we watched the FOOTING dry.  Yay for sunshine, it FINALLY FELT like show season!

The Fantastic Training Five ladies of Oakhurst at the OakhurstHT.

Then of course my next F word is FEAR.  FEAR that I will miss sharing in the success of my students 😊.  But thankfully the team work that makes our students the amazing group that they are rises to the top and ensures that they are FIRST past the post and they include me in their success!  Good job team!

Now I’m back to the original F word.  FUN.

This week I have at last been able to go out and school the cross-country course with our riders and if you asked me if that was FUN I would have one answer: FINALLY!!!

We jumped all the jumps we haven’t been able to and we also played… yup, played!  Jumped things side by side and one after another and there was laughter and giggling and FUN.  The reason we all started in this amazing sport, FUN.  The best F word out there in my opinion, and you all know that I use others.

To watch riders who are serious about their sport enjoy themselves and FROLIC around the cross-country courses was FANTABULOUS!!! 

To old FRIENDS and new ones, to FABULOUS trips cross-country and to FANTASTIC volunteers, I salute you!

Let’s make every weekend as great as this past one!

What’s your favorite F word?




As balls roll past us in our lives (figuratively) we have the option to watch them roll past or we can take a chance and bend over and pick one up.  And sometimes we see the ball and wonder, ‘am I worthy of picking up that ball?’ or ‘am I strong enough… that ball looks pretty heavy!’

I recently saw a ball rolling past and I picked it up.  I took up the challenge of becoming a mentor in a Coaching Association of Ontario (CAO) initiative called Changing the Game – Changing the Conversation.  The project is designed to enhance female leadership in sport by helping women coaches become more qualified, more engaged and feel more supported.  I filled out the application to be a mentor, sent it off and waited.  In the waiting, I went through a list of thoughts:

  • I probably won’t be selected as a mentor
  • I will totally be accepted as a mentor
  • What the heck do I have to offer to another coach in terms of advice to another coach?
  • I have tonnes of life experience to draw on!
  • What even is the role of the Mentor??
Eric and his “Canoe”

And then I got a phone call from the CAO asking if I would consider being part of the program as a mentor, which without hesitation I of course said yes.  And I was so relieved to hear that as part of the process I would receive training in how to actually be a mentor, Phewf!

With show season doing its best to be in full swing I couldn’t attend the in-class mentor training, which happened to be the same as about a dozen other coaches.  So, the CAO arranged an interactive webinar version of the training, which was super cool!  The opportunity to train with coaches from other sports was inspiring.  Hearing how other coaches plan and train filled me with confidence that I do actually have something to offer of benefit to the next generation of coaches, and I left the training feeling energized and eager to be the best coach (and Mentor) I could be.

One of the most revealing parts of the training for me was the concept of a mentor being a conduit for guided self discovery.  Sometimes that might be through recounting my own experiences, but also through curiosity without judgement.  “People don’t care what you know until they know you care”, was a quote that resonated hugely with me.  Its an exciting adventure to embark on!  If you want to see more of this and other multi-sport programs check out the CAO website:

And speaking of embarking on new adventures, you might have seen this happening right outside the barn all week:

Eric and his “Canoe”

Yup, our son Eric is turning a canoe into a sail boat.  Talk about embracing the wet weather!  There have been many redesigns of the structure so far and I am sure that there are more in the works but to watch the daily progress has been pretty fun.  Definitely a Game Changer.

This weekend the Show Team is headed to Knowlton Quebec for the Tandalee Farm Horse Trials and we are EXCITED!!!  Excited to travel, excited to go cross country and excited to finally get out again!

As well, if you are following the progress of preparations for the Oakhurst Long Format 3 Day Event you probably saw the list of sponsors is growing and clinicians are being added to the roster.  Keep up with the details as they happen by checking out the 3 Day section of the website.

And if you are feeling that the season is slipping away on us because of the weather we are happy to tell you that the Silver Dressage show that we had to cancel on July 1st, has been rescheduled to October 1st and the great news about that scores  for that show will still count towards this year’s OADG awards, this year’s CADORA awards, and are qualifiers for next year’s Silver championships!  Game Changer!!

All of the great opportunities in your life (balls rolling past) are just waiting to for you pick them up… what will your game changer be this summer?

We Believe in You – #SheCanPlay


When I pull into an Event like Bromont and see the white roping on the cross-country course I start to get excited.  I know that the quality of the course is not dependent on the roping however I also appreciate the time it takes to rope, and the attention to detail that exists when there is roping on a course.  This past weekend we were at Little Bromont Horse Trials on the Friday and Saturday and the Oakhurst Derby on the Sunday.  Both had roping… happy day!  Granted the roping at Oakhurst was just to designate parking and non-parking areas but it still filled me with joy to pull in and see it.

Miranda Lepore and The Duke – hanging out together during Bromont HT!

The last 5 days have reminded of the amazing words of Sport Psychologist Paige Mattie, ‘Small Wins Matter’.  Amazing Dressage scores at Little Bromont followed by the best Show Jump rounds a coach could ask for!  Not to mention that the team work of this group was definitely something to be incredibly proud, and that was both amongst the riders and the support they brought with them.  The moms and dads who mucked stalls, carried water, ran for bridle numbers applauded at the ring, and were there when we needed them, they make the horse show days amazing.

Emma Richardson & Sokit2ya taking a second to enjoy their surroundings at the Bromont HT.

And speaking of wieners… we had a quite a few on Sunday!  Yup, not only did we have an amazing canteen with Eric’s Weiner Wagon, we also had some big winners at the Derby.  In other words, we had some Champions!

  • Andrew McDermott & Nemo – Welcome Division Champion
  • Zoe Richardson & Talk O’ The Town – Beginner Division Champion
  • Chelsea Arden & Power Tie – Entry Division Champion
  • Janan Steward & Top Gear – Entry Division Reserve Champion
  • Megan Jenner & So Much To Offer – Pre-Training Champion
  • Kieryn Davison & Tatti – Training Division Champion
  • Michaela Robinson – Top Gun – Training Division Reserve Champion
Andrew McDermott & Nemo celebrating their wins with Coach Megan Jenner at the Oakhurst Derby.

And speaking of small wins, many of you know that I took the day off today to have a root canal done, and good news I lived.  Small win.

Thanks to everyone who shuffled lessons to accommodate my teeth, the small win here is that I am not in as much pain as I was a day ago!

This weekend we have 3 horse shows to go to which means tag team coaching, my favourite!

Kieryn Davison & Tatti jumping their way to a win in the 3’2″ Division at the Oakhurst Derby.

Saturday is the Dewmont Silver Dressage show with:

  • Sylvain Jobidon & Heimdall – Training Level
  • Barb Eamer & Black Magic – First Level
  • Emma Richardson & Sokit2ya – First Level
  • Elyse Howat & Polaris – First Level
  • Kristin McLaren & Sambucca – First Level

Sunday is the Dewmont Gold Dressage show with:

  • Kristin McLaren & Sambucca – First Level
  • Jackie Naida & Conquest – Second Level
  • Jenna Mayhew & Kinsale – Third Level

Sunday is also Touch a Rainbow Horse Trials:

  • Kieryn Davison & Tatti – Training
  • Misha Wylie & Power Tie – Pre-Training
  • Taya Davison & King Stag – Pre-Training
  • Megan Jenner & So Much To Offer – Pre-Training
  • Janan Steward & Top Gear – Entry
  • Devon Eustace & Gemini – Pre-Entry
  • Zoe Richardson & Talk O’ The Town – Pre-Entry
Zoe Richardson & Taco riding their way to the Beginner Champion at the Oakhurst Derby!

With Fathers Day last weekend, I was also reminded that my Dad diligently walked me to the start box at every Event and said these word, ‘you’ve done all the preparation to be here, you have earned the right to be here, you are ready to do this’.  When I say ‘trust in your training’ this is the sentiment I hope to implore.  I would never let anyone leave the start box without feeling that they are ready to tackle every challenge out there, and sometimes it may not go perfectly as planned but the ability to tackle the challenge is what I am confident is instilled.

Emma Richardson and her favourite jump (but absolutely not Sox’s favourite) at Bromont HT

Congratulations to all who saw success this weekend, whether it was in the show ring, at the canteen buying a Father’s Day hot dog or in surviving the humidity with great hair you rock!

See you this weekend to celebrate all wins!


Zoe Richardson and Jenna Mayhew celebrating Zoe and Taco’s wins at the Oakhurst Derby

So, some of the adjectives of crazy = eccentric, foolish, wild, keen, passionate, devoted, enthusiastic.

To a person like me those actually sound not that bad, and realistically, when I think about a whole bunch of those words I’m thinking, yup, that’s me!

Sometimes the greatest part of an ‘away’ horse show is the drive home.  Sport psychologists call it the ‘post performance analysis’; and don’t get me wrong I encourage all of my students to do a post performance analysis worksheet (I pinned them to the bulletin board this morning 😉 ), but remember that as coaches we wrestle with the ‘what if’s’ as well.

Janan Steward & Top Gear, Alexa Bresnahan & Contessa and Kieryn Davison & Tatti ready for XC at Grandview!

We spend all winter building programs that we think/believe/hope will work leading in to show season and then we wait…  This past weekend we had our first Eventing outing at the Grandview Horse Trials in Orillia, Ontario.  And I have to genuinely commend one young lady (and her parents) for allowing me a complete leap of faith and gut feeling last fall about horse selection and although I am super stoked about all the results but this one in particular I would like to highlight because I think it directly speaks to the point I am trying to make.  Some things seem crazy to believe in on the outside, but there is a ‘feeling’ that we get that guides us through… call it intuition, a hunch or just luck but sometimes it just works.  However, that said I am a true believer in the idea that good luck takes hard work.

Alexa braiding Tess at Grandview Spring HT

When we paired Alexa and Tess together last fall I knew there would be moments that we all doubted my gut feeling and honestly waiting for the first Event to arrive so that we could try out all the cool stuff we have worked on all winter I thought would kill me!  But here we were at Grandview, and I am a true believer in the sentiment that ‘small wins matter’.  So when I goal set in my head for this horse and rider this is how it went, and check out the check marks!

 Horse gets on trailer at Oakhurst

 Horse survives 5-hour trailer ride to Grandview

 Horse goes in to temporary stabling and eats and drinks

 First ride in warm up area goes smoothly and horse and rider look of similar skill to at home

 Horse and rider survive night

 Horse & Rider look pristine for dressage warm up

 No one is freaking out

 Warm up for dressage looks calm

 Dressage test is accurate, rhythmic and obedient

 No one is freaking out

 Warm up for show jumping looks calm

  Show Jumping round is accurate, rhythmic and obedient

 No one is freaking out

 Warm up for X-C looks calm

 X-C is accurate, rhythmic and obedient

 Check the leaderboard and see how we stacked up


Okay, so truthfully, I didn’t have the last one in my pre-competition goals but I was super excited to see that Alexa and Tess won their division.  It was icing on the cake of some excellent performances this weekend.

Alexa & Contessa saluting in their dressage test at Grandview HT

But what about next weekend you ask??

This weekend we have 24 horse/rider combinations going out!  WHAT!!!!  24!!  I know right, that’s crazy (eccentric, foolish, wild, keen, passionate, devoted, enthusiastic)!

This Saturday is Horse Day at Wesley Clover Park and we have 4 horse/rider combinations representing Oakhurst Farm.  Elyse & Dan, Emma & Sox, Alexa & Tess, Kieryn & Tatti will be doing the Event Horse and Dressage Horse demonstrations on Saturday from 11am – 4pm, come and cheer them on!

As well on Saturday we have 4 horse/rider combinations representing Oakhurst at the Westar Silver Dressage show:  Jenna & Kip, Jackie & Mario, Barb & Candy, Sylvain & Flash.

Kieryn & Taya’s dad Scott keeping everyone entertained – he’s trying out Tatti’s fly bonnet.

Sunday we have 14 riders on the roster for the Eventing at the Park Horse Trials as well as 2 more headed to the Westar ESD dressage show.

So, all in all I would say that we, as a unified and solid, awesome team are heading out in full force this weekend!

Mark has made a tentative reservation at the Ashton Pub Sunday night to drink a toast to the team.  If you want in on that just send us a text!

Taya and Kieryn Davison preparing Tatti for Kieryn’s eventing debut with Tatti at Grandview HT

Thank goodness for show season, and thank goodness for this eccentric, foolish, wild, keen, passionate, devoted, enthusiastic team!


P.S.  Did you see that we are holding a Derby at Oakhurst on Sunday June 18th and that there will be $500 prize money??  WHAT???  See you there 😊

The Oakhurst Long Format 3 Day Event Buzz took a big leap this weekend.  On Saturday night Helen gave an awesome presentation about the 3 Day at the Eastern Canadian Thoroughbred Association Awards Banquet, which by all accounts was extremely well received.  I am of course super proud to also mention that at this awards banquet we had 3 Oakhurst riders bring home a table full of trophies:

Elyse Howat & Polaris were named the Reserve Champion Event Horse of the Year

Janan Steward & Top Gear were named the Reserve Champion Junior Competitor of the Year

Taya Davison & King Stag were the Champion Event Horse of the Year, the Champion Dressage Horse of the Year and the Champion Junior Competitor of the Year

Way to represent girls!

The excitement about the Oakhurst 3 Day also went East this weekend.  First stop for us was in Harvey Station, New Brunswick to the site of the Brae Fearann Horse Trials.  We were treated to a guided tour of the cross country courses, a visit with the dogs, horses, cats and chickens on the farm and a warm home cooked meal and great conversation.  Thanks to Lori and Jeff for their unsurpassed hospitality.

Then it was on to Prince Edward Island where we toured the Cross country courses at the Strathgartney Equestrian Park.  Checking out the changes that the team had made to the course and with an eye on preparing a Maritime Championship course for this year. 

The same day, with the help of the crew at Bonswell Park we dressed the indoor arena with logs, brush, barrels and flowers in preparation for the next days riding clinic.  And what a great day it was!  So many keen horses and riders ready to tackle new challenges and embrace new ideas and that they did! 

With a day of riding clinics done, we headed to the viewing lounge to learn more about the Oakhurst Long Format 3 Day Event as well as the fitness practices in place within the program at Oakhurst.  With talk of Interval training, Long Slow Distance work, Strength Training, Yearly Training & Recovery plans, the group grasped it all. 

On to Nova Scotia!  The next morning, we were greeted at the Central Nova Horse Trials site by a group of educated individuals keen to walk through the morning dampness and talk cross country course design.  The 3 Day event talk followed our course walk and was met with similar eagerness. 

The most enlightening aspect of the whole trip for me was the collaborative nature of all the individuals we worked with.  A group of coaches, riders, parents, owners, talking about how to improve our performance in training and competition.  Sharing ideas.  Talking about solutions to common problems and brain storming on best practices.  This to me is the value of sport in its pure form.                

The buzz about the Oakhurst Long Format 3 Day is partly about increased competitive experience, but its more than that for me.  Its about coaches and athletes coming together to learn from each other and to develop into the best possible team we can be… locally, provincially, and nationally.

With Spring trying its darndest to show itself we are quickly thrust back into the groove of filling out entry forms and juggling the lesson calendar to make sure the final polish is firmly in place for the start of our show season.  Our first team outing is this Sunday to the Meadowvale Dressage ESD show.  On that same weekend we have a group of courageous young athletes taking their EC Rider Level evaluations.  They have been practicing their lunging, perfecting their bandaging and rehearsing their flat and jump tests and they are ready to show their stuff.

The time is now.  The preparation is done and the opportunity to be the best is upon us.  Kick into gear and let’s go show!


 P.S.  The 2017 Oakhurst Show Team Cross Country shirts have arrived and I am now taking orders for students on the Oakhurst Student page.  I have a few of each size to try on and sell and will re-order on May 20th.  Build the Buzz! 

Spring is an incredible time in Canada.  On Sunday I went for beautiful walk on the cross country course which was still covered in a blanket of pristine white snow.  The temperature was a beautiful 9 degrees. 

Today however was a different scene… in fact todays weather might inspire one to google ‘Ark building techniques’. 

With over 30mm of rain having already fallen and much more on the way the landscape is quickly turning into one of rapidly flowing engorged drainage ditches.  And thank goodness for those ditches!  I vividly remember my Dad spending hours with a spade tinkering with the flow of water on the farm, and now I watch my husband doing the same thing.  There is something deeply satisfying about watching the winter drain away and make way for a new season, a season of Cross Country riding!!

To get ready for the exciting sight of the snow dissipating we brought a bit of it into the indoor this week.  With the ring conditioner finally out of the ice, the arena now has a level appearance and our dressage team once again have square corners to get into 😉.  Although now they have to work around the Event teams’ logs!  Yup, we have logs in the arena!  And to everyone’s relief the horses have not forgotten how to jump them. 

So, now that spring is definitely here, its on to the exciting business of finalizing memberships and making the first few show entries.  If you haven’t had a chance to scan through the show book in the barn, check it out the next time you are out.  We now have all of the eventing omnibus pages in there for reference, which in my world makes it officially pre-season!

If you are looking for a little extra challenge this spring, we are hosting a couple of EC Rider Level prep clinics (info on the Student Page) for anyone interested in increasing their equestrian knowledge.  And remember, there is no obligation to be evaluated.

As you look out the window over the next few days at the mud, rain and general gloomy nature of the world remember that this is a stepping stone to things like riding in the sand ring, jumping on grass, galloping cross country oh yeah and of course bugs 🐛

And spring flowers🌷

Chin up and come enjoy the beautiful trees in the arena this week… the jumpable ones and the decorations beside them.


As I look out at the sand ring with its 20+ cm of snow laying like a soft white blanket over top of it I wonder, how on earth will we be able to host a horse show in 2 months!  With the snow still falling its tough to wrap your head around the idea that spring will ever be here, but when I look at the 14-day weather forecast there are indeed days with a + sign in front of the temperature number, spring is definitely right around the corner.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my indoor arena but I am so keen to get out and teach in the great big outdoor world and watch horses splash through the water jump, gallop on the green grass and jump up and down banks!   Winter in Canada certainly does present its challenges for the Event horse & rider, however I have to tell you that when I am watching our riders lately what I am seeing is remarkable.  We are transitioning between the general preparation period of YTP’s and moving to specific preparation… Think of it like this:  In the general preparation period riders are working on getting a great left lead canter transition (for example) and that transition can happen anywhere in the ring, in its own time.  However, in the specific preparation period we now practice that transition in places where it will be performed in competition and maybe link it to other movements that will be asked for as well.  The winter has given us time to introduce new skills, practice them and get really, really good at performing them.  It has allowed both horse and rider time to physically adapt to the newly learned skill before having to perform it under stress. 

Eric, Megan and Wesley heading to the Cross Country field ice rink.

Imagine how that looks for a horses’ footwork and confidence over fences, not to mention our riders.  The trick is then to gently increase the competition to training ratio before actually getting to show season so that our riders mental skills are equally as practiced.  This competition exposure could look as informal as a challenge between riders in a group lesson to get a certain number of strides in a line of jumps.  The idea is to increase the consequence of getting it right in order to raise the stress a rider feels and therefore practice the skills that are going to be used to manage that stress in competition (imagery, deep breathing, positive self talk etc…).     

With this transition from general to specific preparation it means that we are one step closer to show season, finally!  And speaking of competition, this Sunday March 19th, we are holding a super fun in-house games competition.  Contact Megan to enter or come and be part of the cheering squad, and great news the temperature for Sunday has a + symbol in front of it so wear your favorite pair of shorts!

For those of you who have yet to complete a YTP or a show season questionnaire don’t panic, there is still time. There are blank templates on the bulletin board or online versions in the student section of the website.  I know it feels like homework, but let’s face it you are good at homework.  I know this because I watch you and your horses mastering skills all the time… because you are doing your homework!  And, the other amazing people that are doing their homework are your coaches.  I watch the lessons that Helen and Megan are teaching and they have purpose, direction and a plan, and ladies that makes me proud.  For every rider that wants to go out and succeed this show season there should be a dedicated coach behind you helping to map out the daily training environment.  Cheers girls!

Unicorn cookies – Step One…

Its March break for many of you and some of you are off gallivanting in Europe or down south, but for the rest of you that are here doing the normal March break things like my family this week which of course include skateboarding on the ice in the hay field, trying to make unicorn cookies that poop out sprinkles (failed) or getting crafts ready for St. Patrick’s Day. Make sure you hug your favorite pony and keep up the good work.

See you Sunday at the Games competition… I will be the loud one in the front row eating a unicorn cookie 😉



This weeks blog is presented a little differently, if you click on the blog, you’ll see navigation buttons at the bottom of the first page:

Emoji Blog2


Sammy & Rosie being rockstars during Strength Training Sunday!

Coach Megan running the Oakhurst Games Club!
Oh, its not for the snow boarding or skiing or skating or cold or frostbite… no no!  It’s the excitement that is building inside me when I think about the show team meeting coming up this Sunday.  Yup, January 22nd is the day, the Equestrian Canada offices are the place, the Oakhurst show team are the peeps that are invited.


I was called ‘manic’ once which I took offence to until I looked up the definition in the dictionary:  showing wild and apparently deranged excitement and energy, or frenetically busy; frantic.  Well, that doesn’t sound so bad… that’s how I feel about the show season.  So the thought of preparing PowerPoints that outline our horse trials and dressage team seasons makes me manic!  Frantic, busy, excited!!!!  And to be honest if your coach isn’t starting to get excited about the upcoming season I would be worried.


Ruth and Mark’s medals from their 10K run at Disney a few weeks ago.
I don’t know if you know this about me, but I am competitive… I love a challenge… and I worship the opportunity to test myself.  In January I stood in a corral of over 1000 runners at 4:30am ready to tackle a 10km run at Disney World.  I don’t think of myself as a runner even though I have done a 5km race, a half marathon, and now a 10km.  But the feeling I had at the start line was (I hope) the same as my athletes feel when they turn down center line or stand in the start box.  It is excitement, nervousness, and general awesomeness.  I went to the porta-pottie at least 3 times in anticipation, and every kilometer was a challenge and a reward.  When we push ourselves to do things we didn’t think were possible the reward is amazing… I know I can drive to the grocery store or vacuum the floor but to go the extra mile (or kilometer) is definitely worth it.


So, for those of you who will take the leap to join me at the Oakhurst Show Team meeting this Sunday, or join my Strength Training Sunday/Saturday or come on let’s face it be a part of ‘Miraculous Mondays’, ‘Totally cool Tuesdays’, ‘Whacky Wednesdays’ or the newly appointed ‘Shiny Thing Thursdays’, I salute you.  You press yourselves to jump out of the box, to see what you can accomplish and above all else to be the best you that you can be.
This Sunday for me marks the beginning of a new season.  Yearly Training Plans will be born, goal setting will be formulated and bonds will be formed.


Tatum – looking fierce!
I haven’t slept in a week in anticipation of the awesomeness and I am so glad because while the vacuuming and the laundry is lacking, the PowerPoints are ready… are you??
See you Sunday!!!

For the next few weeks, the Oakhurst Coaches are busy getting ready for parties, perfecting their dance moves and doing family Holiday things, so the Journals are being replaced with visual entertainment!  This past weekend the Oakhurst Drill Teams performed their Christmas routines for a standing room only crowd.  After an intense battle, they were declared Champions of Oakhurst Winter Drill Team (it was a tie!).  Watch both teams routines and see which performance you enjoyed the most:

Drill Team #1 – The 12 Days of Christmas

Emma Richardson, Barb Eamer, Sylvain Jobidon, Megan Jenner, Teagan Maroney, Alissia Doran-Guilbault


Drill Team #2 – Grandma Got Runover by a Reindeer

Kieryn Davison, Megan Jenner, Taya Davison, Tatum Nelson

I walked out the door this morning to teach my first lesson and gingerly stepped off the porch when I was very quickly reminded that we had freezing rain overnight. There’s that slow motion moment when you feel yourself sliding and you know you need to make the decision about what to save and what to abandon. So as I watched my coffee cup fly straight up in the air and then turn making its return trip earthward I wondered if I had made the right decision. As my cup met the ground it exploded in a shower of ceramic and coffee. It was quite spectacular, however at the same time my butt hit the ground. Apparently I had been too preoccupied with watching my coffee cup to pick anything to save. #MorningFail

Coach Megan Jenner celebrating Zoe Richardson's multiple door prize wins at the OADG Dressage Banquet.
Coach Megan Jenner celebrating Zoe Richardson’s multiple door prize wins at the OADG Dressage Banquet.

So there I sat wondering why I had the agility of a hippo in moments like this. There have been many occasions for people in my life to observe me trip up stairs, fall off sidewalks, tumble down stairs, slip on ice and have full on rotational falls while walking a cross country course in a flat field with perfect footing, on my own feet with my own legs. Yup, the same feet and legs I’ve had for over 40 years, you’d think I would have learned how to use them by now!

However, all that said, I don’t believe that people can be good at everything, so for me if I take the skill of walking and possibly stairs off the list of things that I am good at, oh yeah and math, then it leaves so much room for other things J. And let’s face it, celebrating the things we are good at is way more rewarding than dwelling on the things that make up our shortcomings. And in fact celebrating success is one of the things I think I am excellent at, which is a great proficiency to have this year as we have so many champions among us to celebrate!

Team Oakhurst's award winners at the OADG Dressage Banquet! L to r: Jackie Naida, Rebecca Walker, Emma Richardson, Coach Ruth Allum, Megan Jenner, Jenna Mayhew
Team Oakhurst’s award winners at the OADG Dressage Banquet! L to r: Jackie Naida, Rebecca Walker, Emma Richardson, Coach Ruth Allum, Megan Jenner, Jenna Mayhew

This past weekend we attended the Ottawa Area Dressage Group Banquet to celebrate some of the triumphs of our Dressage team members:
Rebecca Walker & Kira ESD Walk/Trot Horse PW/JR – Reserve Champion
Megan Jenner & So Much To Offer – Silver Training Level Open Champion
Emma Richardson & Sokit2ya – Silver First Level JR Champion
Jackie Naida & Conquest – Silver First Level AA Champion + Award of Merit + OADG Cash award
Jenna Mayhew & Kinsale – Silver Second Level AA Champion + Award of Merit

Sarah Catt at the OHTA banquet where she received the Reserve Champion for Sr Training level for 2016 with Drummore Bay.
Sarah Catt at the OHTA banquet where she received the Reserve Champion for Sr Training level for 2016 with Drummore Bay.

Along with all of that success, Sarah Catt & Drummore Bay picked up the Training SR Reserve Champion trophy at the Ontario Horse Trials Association banquet last week and Emma Richardson & Sokit2ya picked up the First Level JR Reserve Champion award as well as the Reserve Champion Team Challenge East award for herself, Barb Eamer & Megan Jenner at the CADORA awards banquet.

And of course just scanning the National Capital Horse Trials Association leaderboards, our Oakhurst riders will be taking home 19 awards from that banquet in the new year! 19!!!

All of these accomplishment however should not overshadow the copious achievements gained within our Oakhurst riders this year, competitive or not. The Oakhurst Awards party is the place where we will be celebrating those wins. The wins of people who enjoy their sport, who take pride in their efforts and who share those efforts with a truly amazing partner, the horse. Its going to be a little different this year and you’ve trusted me this far so I feel confident in saying, take my hand, I will guide you through the experience even though its new. Change can be scary, but I have confidence you’ll enjoy this, and let’s face it you’ve trusted me with bigger things than party hosting before. Close your eyes and imagine… okay well do that after because right now you have to read… but do this, imagine that the indoor arena is transformed into a hall full of beautiful twinkly lights, bistro seating, a giant horseshoe shaped comfy couch for your 50 closest friends to watch a kick ass year end video on, as well as a delicious dinner, a hot chocolate bar, a super cool photo booth, fresh popcorn, awards (obviously), groovy giveaways, and some truly amazing champions to celebrate with. I look forward to applauding all of your success on December 28th at Oakhurst for our first ever ‘in-house’ Awards party! I even promise to wear sensible footwear so as to avoid unnecessary trippage. 😀

Jackie Naida showing off her door prize -fuzzy boot socks courtesy of Russell Equine Vet!
Jackie Naida showing off her door prize -fuzzy boot socks courtesy of Russell Equine Vet!

Check out all of the details about the Oakhurst Holiday Party
And don’t forget to RSVP so that I can make sure all of the awards are done. If you have award ideas for a rider please don’t hesitate to send it to me, especially if its funny or embarrassing, those are my favorite. Oh yeah, speaking of embarrassing, my whole wipe out this morning was witnessed by my son who half laughed and was half concerned over the loss of my coffee.

Until next time,


Have you ever been in a line up at the grocery store and had someone turn around and ask you if you had horses, or work at a barn?  Then, when they tell you that they knew you had been around horses because they could smell it the only logical explanation to that is that they should be recruited by some kind of Marvel comic book group based on their unique olfactory abilities.  Seriously I can muck the barn and teach three lessons and in that time I definitely don’t soak up the smell of horses, I mean do they actually smell? 

Switching topics sort of so follow me…

The thought of sitting in a board room for multiple days with limited to no windows and super stale air is one of those things that doesn’t really get me excited.  However, the group that you get to sit with in that room might make the difference in your interest level.  And this past weekend the National Eventing committee along with representatives from the provinces all met in Toronto.  Definitely people in that room that are worth the 2 days of stale air and no natural sunlight. 

In an effort to look respectable for the meetings I brought with me a whole bunch of clothes that I never wear in the barn… I think I looked proper and smelled equally neutral.  


The meetings were, in my opinion, awesome.  Having the opportunity to idea share from each corner of this enormous country was enlightening, and the depth of knowledge in the room staggering.  There have been many before us that have helped shape the sport and there will be many after us.  Talk of athlete development, coaching, competitions and officials got everyone collectively thinking about the future of the sport and how to help it move forward as an unstoppable vehicle. Inspiring. 

I heard a quote once that went something like, “there will always be someone prepared to stand in the way of progress.  Be prepared to tell them to move out of the way… and when they don’t, simply go around”.  No idea who said it… maybe it was just what happens inside my head when I hear people complain from the sidelines without any intention of being useful.  The people who have stepped up to the plate to be in that room (and many others) for the betterment of the sport, congratulations.  Its not easy and we all have baggage but come on, lets work together to make the best we can for the next generation of athletes who embrace this as their sport.



Oh yeah, I was talking about the smell…

So after 2 days of sitting in a board room I decided I needed a moment to myself to regroup.  I like to walk and Toronto is a supremely walkable city.  This morning I embarked on a walk to see as much of the city by foot as I could… when I went to leave the hotel I put on a scarf that apparently I routinely wear in the barn and that’s when it happened.  The smell.  I could totally smell the comforting aroma of the barn on my scarf.  Not just that I could smell the horses.  And it was then that I felt grounded.  Grounded in the knowledge that regardless of the discipline that we profess as ‘our sport’, the horses are what brought us to this place.  The horses are why we give countless volunteer hours to see our sport continue.  The horse is why rule changes aren’t taken lightly.  The horse is why my scarf smelled… and I embraced it.

nov08pic2To all of you who give countless hours in to volunteering, I salute you.

For those of you have championed our sport forward, I salute you.

For every horse that has shared in our dreams, I salute you.

I hope you smell too,






Great things in business are never done by one person.  They’re done by a team of people.

Steve Jobs


A little history before I explain the enthusiasm that is spreading through an exceptional group of people.

Almost 10 years ago in 2007 Oakhurst organized a Long Format Three Day Event that doubled as both a clinic and a competition.  We hosted approximately 40 competitors for 4 days in which they learned how to present a horse for a Horse Inspection, got feedback on their Dressage Test from a judge, discovered the inner workings of the A, B, C & D of the endurance day of a classic format Three Day Event along with making good friends and learning more about their horses and their care.  For me one of the personal thrills was watching riders master the complexities of the Roads and Tracks and the Steeplechase phases, what a lot of smiles!

2007 Winners of the 3-day Event at Oakhurst!
2007 Winners of the 3-day Event at Oakhurst!

In 2010 we once again held a Long Format Three Day Event and it was equally well received and enlightening for competitors, clinicians and supporters.

About 3 weeks ago I woke up one morning and unflinchingly announced to Mark that I thought we should run a long format 3-day event next summer – he left the bedroom.  I wasn’t worried… he always brings me coffee in bed in the morning (spoiled), so I felt sure that he just hadn’t processed my announcement and was on his way downstairs to retrieve my coffee…

Then I heard him leave the house.

2007 Oakhurst 3-day ribbons
2007 Oakhurst 3-day ribbons

No worries, he’s probably on the phone… he spends a lot of time on the phone, I’ll bring up the whole 3 Day subject again later.  Mark spent the next few days (possibly a week) on the tractor a lot, like a lot a lot.  I’m not totally sure what he does on the tractor all the time, but he was busy.  I guess I assumed he was prepping for winter?    I didn’t bring up the whole 3 Day idea again, I figured the time would be right and I would slide it into conversation.

Horse Inspection at the Oakhurst 3-day 2007
Horse Inspection at the Oakhurst 3-day 2007

Mark doesn’t always sit in the bleachers and watch me teach but one night there he was sitting watching my last lesson of the night.  When I finished he asked if he could take me for a drive to show me something.  Obviously not passing that up!  He had the RTV parked outside the barn and in the cup holder there was a rum and coke for me (don’t panic about where I am going with this story – I promise there is relevance).  I jumped in and he drove to a new trail he had been working on for ages!  It was a beautiful drive and the work he had done on it was amazing.  He then started telling me about work still to be done on it to get it ready.  Ready for what, was of course my obvious response.  Duh, Roads and Tracks for the 3 Day next year.  YAY!!!  Not only had the idea for the 3 Day been absorbed but already acted upon.  Mark works in mysterious ways.  😉

Working in the 10 minute box at the Oakhurst 3-day in 2007
Working in the 10 minute box at the Oakhurst 3-day in 2007

What you may or may not know about this type of competition is the amount of people it takes to put something like this on.  You take your normal Horse Trial and count up the amount of volunteers needed and then go ahead and easily double it.  So I put out a general request to our Oakhurst team to meet for an informal get together to talk about the idea of doing a 3 Day again and to ask for help.

Well holy cow this request wasn’t just met, it was overwhelmingly embraced!  With a kitchen full of individuals keen on knowing more about the inner workings of the Event there quickly grew an organizing team full of engaged, excited and talented people offering their help!


The buzz that has already begun around this project is totally infectious.  I am excited for the competitors that will participate and for the team putting on this endeavour to join us on this journey.

The 2017 Oakhurst Long Format 3 Day Event promises to be an experience to remember.  Look for more information shortly on the Oakhurst website.  Dates and prize list are in the works, and trust me with the enthusiasm of the volunteers on the job this promises to be an Event for the history books!

August is the month, 2017 is the year, the Oakhurst 3DE will be the place to be!

See you at the Oakhurst 3-day in 2017!
See you at the Oakhurst 3-day in 2017!

See you there,


Its that time of year…    

The nights are getting cooler, the days are getting shorter and my students are extra smart!  Walking Cross Country courses this time of year is super fun because I barely get through my sentence on the way to a fence and everyone is filling in the blanks for me.  Riders at this point in the season have such a good gauge of what works for them and their horse that now we are into consolidating their skills, making sure that they remember the little details that get them to their best performance. 

Misha Wylie & Oliver – after a successful Cross Country at Ottawa HT

And speaking of best performances, this year we departed from the normal winter programs and jumped into the realm of competition support in terms of the ‘off horse’ work to be done with our riders.  It isn’t until we get well into show season that we can see whether there were benefits to working with a sport psychologist, nutritionist and stretching expert to see if they have had any impact on the program… well with a couple more horse shows still to come I have already been looking at the numbers… shocker!  

In terms of Horse Trials results, this year (so far) our riders finished in 1st place 12% of the time, 2nd place 12% of the time, 3rd place 8% of the time 4th pace 5% of the time and 5th place 11% of the time giving a total of 48% of the time finishing in the top 5 placings.  Last year we had top 5 placings 27% of the time, in 2015 it was 42% and in 2014 it was 40%.  So given those numbers I would say that we are on the right track.

Jenna Mayhew, Zoe Richardson & Miranda Lepore - 3 true team members who came to support Team Oakhurst!
Jenna Mayhew, Zoe Richardson & Miranda Lepore – 3 true team members who came to Ottawa HT to support Team Oakhurst!

Now that only takes into account the Horse Trials results.  When we look at our Dressage show results its 36% a 1st place finish per test, 23% a 2nd place finish, 12% a 3rd place finish, 7% a 4th place finish and 3% a 5th place finish giving a grand total of an 81% chance of finishing in the top 5 places this year for our riders at Dressage shows.

Hey, I am just going to throw out there that maybe, just maybe our dabbling in the dressage world along with the extra off horse support we have sought out might be upping our game?

You betcha!  Just wait until you see what we have planned for this winter! 

Two of may amazing students gave me this fabulous gift of a little pampering for National Coaches Week – Thank you!

This past weekend marked our last big local outing as a team and in true Oakhurst style we capped the weekend off by heading to the Ashton Pub for a night of celebrating each others successes.  Over 60 friends proceeded to the Pub after the Ottawa Horse Trials to applaud the seasons victories. 

This week has been National Coaches week and so this blog salutes the coaches who go the extra mile.  Helen and Meg, I salute you.  You put up with my crazy drawings of what to set in the arena, you manage to understand and interpret my ramblings of what programs should look like and best of all you impress me every time you step into the ring.  Thanks Coach, you girls are bringing your A game!

Sunrise as we pulled into Ottawa HT on Sunday morning!
Sunrise as we pulled into Ottawa HT on Sunday morning!

As well congratulations to each and every one of our riders who competed last weekend at Ottawa Horse Trials, they all posted top 10 finishes!

Emma Richardson & Sokit2ya – Training Junior – 1st place

Kenzi Mitchell & Top Gun – Training Junior – 2nd place

Sarah Catt & Drummore Bay – Training Senior – 1st place

Taya Davison & King Stag – Pre-Training Junior – 4th place

Janan Steward & Top Gear – Pre-Training Junior – 10th place

Megan Jenner & So Much To Offer – Pre-Training Senior – 9th place

Elyse Howat & Polaris – Pre-Training Senior – 10th place

Rebecca Walker & Rookie – Entry Junior – 4th place

Misha Wylie & Oliver – Entry Senior – 1st place

Leona Noble & Heimdall – Pre-Entry Junior – 6th place

Rebecca Walker & Kira – Pre-Entry Junior – 10th place

 Don’t forget to thank your parents, spouses, grooms, siblings, etc… for contributing to your success.  It takes a village and I love our super strong Oakhurst team, you make me proud every day for trying relentlessly to be the best you can be.  Although its #ThanksCoach this week, I am also proclaiming it #ThanksOakhurstRiders week, because you make my job worthwhile.

See you this weekend at Grandview Horse Trials and Touch a Rainbow Horse Trials!  The fun isn’t over yet!


The starting point of all achievement is desire. Napoleon Hill

With the OHTA Championships weekend now behind us I have had time to catch up on a few of the seemingly lesser important details in my life… and now that the family has clean underwear again I can reflect on what was in my opinion a truly grand weekend!

Jackie Naida & Conquest competing in the Pre-Training (Non-Champs)!
Jackie Naida & Conquest competing in the Pre-Training (Non-Champs)!

There were of course some things that stood out for me as truly tremendous, as itemized below:

  • Victory Gallops: the music, the smiles and the cheering from the spectators was truly one of the funnest things I have watched in ages! I do feel like there was a moment of alarm for our Show Jumping course designer when we let him know that a dozen horses would be galloping around celebrating their success!
The prize table and mile of OHTA Champion coolers at the OHTA Championships at Oakhurst.
The prize table and mile of OHTA Champion coolers at the OHTA Championships at Oakhurst.
  • Medals & Podiums: After watching the excitement on competitors faces at having their medals put on and then subsequently standing on the ‘podium’ for pictures was priceless. I am actually going to teach all of my lessons this week from the podium… and for full effect I think I should wear a medal. The only thing that could top that would be crowns… like those gigantic ones that you see beauty queens wear? Oh yeah, that’s going to happen!
OHTA Junior Entry Champions – including Oakhurst’s own Taya Davison with the Silver medal!
  • Mowing: Talk about a satisfying job. You can see exactly where you have been, you can see where you are going and there is no gray area in between. And of course, not to ‘toot’ my own horn’ but c’mon I think I’m pretty good at it. And, I hit far fewer things when I am mowing than when I am just driving my truck 😉

  • Volunteers that just don’t stop giving: Unless you run something like a horse trial it’s hard to understand just how significant volunteers are. And let me tell you, the volunteers that give their time year after year, weekend after weekend are noble beyond belief. They show up early, spend all day in the sun, and come back time and time again. Volunteers are the backbone of our sport and I salute them!
The amazing cake that was served at the competitors party at the OHTA Championships at Oakhurst!
The amazing cake that was served at the competitors party at the OHTA Championships at Oakhurst!
  • Friends… I know I just said the ‘F’ word. I hate when people say, ‘to be honest’ because it implies they have been lying to you, but to be honest I am a terrible friend. It’s true. I don’t return phone calls and really from May to November you can’t count on me for anything that isn’t horse show related. Shockingly though there are people who stick around my unfriendly self and help in times of importance. Not to name names of course but people that would work from 7am to 8pm building, brushing, flagging, staining, whipper-snipping, roping, setting temporary stabling, raking dressage rings, and of course texting me to make sure I’m still breathing with no expectation of a reply are definitely in that ‘F’ word category.
The amazingly talented Dylan Barry - his skills don't end at building fabulous Cross Country jumps, he's awesome at filling centerpiece jars with Oakhurst M & M's too!
The amazingly talented Dylan Barry – his skills don’t end at building fabulous Cross Country jumps, he’s awesome at filling centerpiece jars with Oakhurst M & M’s too!
  • Sportsmanship: Watching riders congratulate each other on their performances, piling on the podium together, and cheering for each other gives me confidence that this sport has a way of pulling people together. I am such a fan of the idea that when a horse and rider leave the start box we are all rooting for them. They may be placed ahead of us, they may be from another geographic area, but we want to see them succeed. I watched some amazing sportsmanship this weekend at the championships and it was genuinely heartwarming. Congratulations to those of you that rejoiced your competitors’ achievements.

  • Mentors: I am lucky enough to have had some amazing coaches as influences in my life. One of those I consider a true mentor and this weekend he designed and built the Show Jumping course for us. He was generous with his time and energy, he was enthusiastic, and he was truly invested in helping us to make the competition a success. To be able to work with one of your mentors in a common goal is a very cool feeling indeed. Jeff McKessock you outdid yourself, I cheers to you!


  • Family: Yup. They filled so many roles this weekend from gate closer, driver, scorer, secretary, prize securer, jump judge, runner, builder, photographer, and countless other jobs that popped up. They say it takes a village to raise a child… Well, to run a horse trial it definitely takes one dedicated, tolerant, understanding and unbelievably strong family (and yes, Megan you do count as family). And I have no doubt that they are super excited to run the Silver Dressage Championships this coming weekend, yee haw, let’s do it again!

  • Achievement: Right back to where I began; ‘The starting point of all achievement is desire.’ Napoleon Hill. For all of the competitors that competed this past weekend at the OHTA Championships or for those that are competing this upcoming weekend at the CADORA East Silver Dressage Championships, at some point your dream began with desire. Then of course you followed it up with hard work and determination!
Deon Svoboda & Abbigael celebrate their win in the Preliminary (Non-Champs) division!
Deon Svoboda & Abbigael celebrate their win in the Preliminary (Non-Champs) division!

You can check out all of the results from the OHTA Championships weekend by following this link.

Entry status for the CADORA East Silver Dressage Championships can be found here.

I look forward to watching some amazing prancing this weekend! Will you be there?


In everyone’s life there are jumping off points.  Junctures in time where we have to decide if the training wheels can come off.  But wait… you could argue that the training wheels don’t really ever have to come off… I mean seriously imagine yourself as a 40-year-old cruising down the street wearing your pink unicorn helmet astride your shiny new two wheeler with that extra set of tiny wheels on the back to give you balance as your sparkly streamers blow in the wind 😉 .  Now that’s what cool looks like!

Let’s face it there’s risk in taking off those tiny extra wheels providing so much to support you on that tippy purple bike.  On the other hand, my daughter pointed out to me that with them on you can’t go as fast, you can’t turn as sharp and you can’t test your balance.  When we first taught our daughter to drive our little dirt bike we routinely strapped hockey pads onto as many extremities as we could and we only taught her to drive in first gear (training wheels).  Figuring out when to teach her to shift to second gear took careful observation of her skill, her confidence and a certain amount of her whining that she couldn’t keep up with her brother.  We knew that there would be risk in teaching her to shift to second gear but we felt confident that she had the skills to handle the added speed.  Has she skinned her knees and elbows a time or two? For sure, but only once she felt confident to test things out like just how tight she can really turn on gravel.  Once she has mastered all of the skills on the little bike (now that she has found all the gears) we will strap the hockey pads back on and teach her how to ride a slightly bigger dirt bike.

Equally important to knowing when the training wheels should come off is knowing when they should stay on for just a little longer despite the whining.

Coaching definitely has some training wheel decision parallels and having the coaching confidence to make those decisions takes me personally a lot of contemplation, skill assessment, empathy and sleeplessness.

For me this weekend we had a few training wheel moments which I will describe below…in general… with no reference to anyone specific:

  • You may have heard about the amazing team member we call ‘The Mulk’ (aka Megan Jenner – non specifically of course). This weekend I unleashed the 2 wheeler!  Oh yes, Megan took 2 members of the Dressage team to a Silver show to do 1st and 2nd level tests with my horse trailer and my students… oh revelation, maybe it was MY training wheels coming off in terms of trusting someone else to do what I do, and feeling they could pull it off.  It wasn’t without assessment of Megan’s skill, confidence and crave to succeed that I pulled the wheels off to say, ‘sure, this is a great idea!’.  Megan, Kristin and Jenna, (non-specifically) you guys rocked that dressage show and although I was there by text, you guys did this and were amazing!  With a splendid second test for Kristin and Kreacher earning a 61.7% at the First Level, and Jenna and Kinsale at Second Level earning a 67.43% in the first test and 66% in the second test as well as a Champion of the 3rd and 2nd level divisions combined it proved to be an incredibly successful day – without me!  Training wheels off.
Harmony Horse Trials Course Designer Dylan Barry!
Harmony Horse Trials Course Designer Dylan Barry!
  • I was at Harmony Horse Trials for the weekend and what a great event they held!  With Dylan Barry as the Cross Country Course builder each track looked amazing when we walked it on Friday.  An all girl crew on the Oakhurst team (much like the Canadian Olympic Eventing team), leads us to recognize the splendid work of girl power.  I left the whiteboard in the trailer (leap of faith) and relied on the solidarity of the team to do their thing.  Well, the crew at the finish with riders who had completed their day, not started their day and who have driven 2 hours to be a part of their day did their work.  An amazing job by this squad and I couldn’t be prouder.
Team Oakhurst coolout crew at Harmony Horse Trials
Team Oakhurst coolout crew at Harmony Horse Trials
  • Okay, but let’s talk about a young lady that takes a horse who hasn’t seen competition in a couple of years and moves from the Pre-Training level to the Preliminary level within the year… and gives the horse a good run???  I understand the perfectionist tendency that accompanies a sport this intense and I appreciate it.  But also understand that when you come to me with the plan for the latter half of the season I need to consider your skill, ability and confidence before taking the training wheels off.  Will you scrape your knees?  Of course!  Are you mastering second gear?  Of course.  Not only were you awesome, you gave back to the team which also shows your respect and empathy.  Go you, training wheels off!


  • And then, who doesn’t appreciate a person up to a genuine challenge???  I LOVE it!!!  Throwing down the gauntlet of training a horse in a sport that he was not originally intended is the bomb!  Gallop fast… not his forte… solid obstacles… never seen them before… 20×40 what????  Oh yes, Charles WH has a jockey that is game!!  Training wheels off!


  • And then there is the competitor who recognizes that maybe this isn’t the day for their horse and they have the Grace to Gracefully say that my horse needs to be right to compete.  So Gracie-ness.


  • Did I mention already the recognition of training wheels??  My horse is young and although I am sitting in 3rd place going into show jumping I am still thrilled with her after a few rails because she is so young and so brave.  Poise and charm are my new words for you… you impress me!
An exhausted (and hungry) Tatum after Cross Country jump judging for the day at Harmony Horse Trials.
An exhausted (and hungry) Tatum after Cross Country jump judging for the day at Harmony Horse Trials.
  • I definitely haven’t told you yet about the training wheels we took off a courageous young lady who had a fall and concussion last go out at the level she competed at this weekend.  Was she nervous heading out on to cross country?  Obviously!  Was she amazing?  Obviously!  Did she take every direct route and win by over 23 points?  Obviously!   Girl power!!!


  • Let’s talk for a second about a kid who is doing her upgrade and has a second horse to ride… no pressure there!  Training wheels???  They were gone long ago!  (her parents may differ!) Not only did she win her upgrade by over 10 points she showed conscientiousness in making sure that both horses received the same attention and consideration in competition earning an added top 4 finish.
Colton - Super ninja climbing monkey! He kept everyone smiling this weekend!
Colton – Super ninja climbing monkey! He kept everyone smiling this weekend!
  • And then of course, training wheels off to a young lady (and family) who took a horse who was a thoroughbred rescue and have made him a part of their life.  This horse smiles when he sees this family, and he has a confident grin when he leaves the start box for cross country, like, is that all you’ve got???  Seriously, this kid thanked the dressage judge for judging her… I almost thought about thanking her for letting me be a part of watching her… what a team.

It was an awe-inspiring weekend all around.  Watching the students I work with currently and those that have branched out on their own made me feel a great sense of pride.  I am excited to watch what everyone has in store for the next chapter and hope that they jump head first into a leadership role of this great sport.  This sport needs the next generation to step up and grab the reins.  Its your time to shine and I will help you balance on the way.

The first time I rode a bike without training wheels I felt the comforting hand of my dad on my back helping me to balance… if you need help I will be there, if you need me to let you soar down that first hill on your own I will cheer.

This weekend we are excited to host another Silver Dressage Show at Oakhurst on the Saturday and will be at Stevens Creek Horse Trials on the Sunday!  Let the fun continue, let me know if you need an extra set of tiny wheels or some sparkly streamers cuz I’m your girl!



So, if you know me at all, you know I suck at math, but in the same light, I love numbers! Since 1999 I have kept a results database on the horses and riders who have been a part of our team.  At the end of 2015 I had recorded a total of 2848 rides in competition with the Oakhurst team.  Break that down a little further and these numbers help to allow me year by year to see where the team is at and tailor our program to suit the needs of riders in any given year, and trust me that every year is different!

Mark Nelson riding Glissando - Rudy! owned by Andrea Lyon.
Mark Nelson riding Glissando – Rudy! owned by Andrea Lyon.

Is it slightly obsessive to keep track of all of our riders’ results year after year? Possibly, but staying ahead of the curve is crucial in my mind to give our riders the best program to suit their individual needs.  If we always do what we’ve always done, then we are behind the game.  The sport is constantly evolving and so must we.  Recognizing the ebb and flow of the levels of our students is also crucial.  So for the purpose of this blog I just looked at horses that competed at the Prelim level from 1999 – 2015.  I anecdotally tell kids that it takes 3 years for a horse to confidently get to Prelim once they start in the sport of Eventing, which in a generation of young adults that crave instant results must seem like a lifetime!

Hannah Rankin & Conflict of Interest at Bromont HT
Hannah Rankin & Conflict of Interest at Bromont HT

Check out the following numbers and see if the ebb and flow becomes more apparent. These are the numbers of horse/rider combinations that have competed at the prelim level on the Oakhurst team:

1999 – zero

2000 – 2

2001 – 6

2002 – 7

2003 – 8

2004 – 2

2005 – 7

2006 – 8

2007 – 6

2008 – 3

2009 – 3

2010 – 4

2011 – 8

2012 – 10

2013 – 6

2014 – 6

2015 – 3

For me what’s cool about tracking the numbers for me is that when I scan through results from 15 years ago I can picture each one of those horses and riders. No one is lost.  Its sort of my way to remember every single person that competed with us and to celebrate their accomplishments.

Korah Broderick & Nike - (Yes, seriously, beloved schoolie Nike!) competing at the Preliminary level.
Korah Broderick & Nike – (Yes, seriously, beloved schoolie Nike!) competing at the Preliminary level.

There are very few constants in life and learning to roll with the flow of every year, every month and every day is one of the greatest and most rewarding challenges we all face. As coaches we get to share in every accomplishment you make and we feel the sting of every loss.  We have to take tools learned in our experiences and put them to use in forging ahead to the next challenge, whether that’s learning to rise the trot, perfecting a dressage test or jumping around a cross country course.  One of the grandest constants in life for me, is getting to watch people reach their dreams and goals as well as helping them find new goals.  I look at the numbers above and remember every struggle, every tear and every smile along the way.  If the sport was easy I’d only buy boxes of red ribbons and hand them out before the start.

The next couple of weeks at Oakhurst will be action packed! This weekend we look forward to hosting a Silver Dressage show, don’t panic I have the candy all set for the whipper-in booth so be sure to check out the assortment!

Alexa Bresnahan & Aragon - Completing their first Preliminary Horse Trials together at Tandalee HT on July 17th!
Alexa Bresnahan & Aragon – Completing their first Preliminary Horse Trials together at Tandalee HT on July 17th!  Photo by: Tatum Nelson

The weekend after is the Oakhurst Horse Trials! Such a cool line up with Saturday Show Jump schooling and dressage ring familiarization available.  The Event on Sunday followed by a volunteer and competitor party that promises some added surprises… no, I can’t tell you, it’s a surprise!  You have to be there to believe it!

Monday August 1st is what I’m most excited about.  Catered breakfast, guest speakers and a chance for anyone and everyone to school the cross country course while its still decorated and flagged.  This will be the only chance to school before the Ontario championships so be sure to check out the details here.

See you there, and remember keep moving forward, or in the words of Dory, ‘Just keep swimming’!


In the heat of competition, it can be very easy to lose sight of what got us all started in sport.  Its more than likely that we began our chosen sport because we had fun doing it.  We started competing because it was a way to challenge ourselves and test our skills, but competition was still fun.

Cindy Moore & Coach Ruth Allum sharing the cot during the impromptu team meeting under the tent at Dewmont Silver Dressage Show.
Cindy Moore & Coach Ruth Allum sharing the cot during the impromptu team meeting under the tent at Dewmont Silver Dressage Show.

Sometimes as a coach I have mixed feelings about placing emphasis on goal setting and yearly training plans… don’t get me wrong, I know that they are important pieces in outlining schedules, competition structure and ensuring that opportunities aren’t missed.

“A Goal is a Dream with a Deadline” Napoleon Hill

I think what becomes most challenging is the moment of clarity that the goal that’s been set needs to be re-evaluated, revamped and re-written, and all too often this re-evaluation can be mistaken for failure.  Sometimes it takes more courage to change a goal than setting the original one.

Emma Richardson showing off the ribbons she and Sokit2ya (Sox) won at the Dewmont Silver Dressage Show.
Emma Richardson showing off the ribbons she and Sokit2ya (Sox) won at the Dewmont Silver Dressage Show.

Some of my main life goals are to have fun and to feel like I am accomplishing something.  I know those don’t strictly fall under the SMART goals parameters that I preach but in my own way they do:

S = Specific:  Days should consist with at least 70% fun… of course these take some planning if you have do things like go to the dentist or get a needle but its doable.

M = Measurable:  That’s easy when it comes to accomplishments.  Every day I should feel satisfied that I helped make someone else’s life more fun.  Imagine a whole day of teaching lessons and being able to go to bed feeling like people enjoyed themselves, learned something and appreciated their horse… that’s a large part of my day!

A = Achievable:  How do I make sure I set myself up for success in achieving my goal.  Easy.  Surround myself with like minded people.  People who want to have fun and feel like they are accomplishing.

R = Realistic/Relevant:  Duh, of course it is!  (and this is really the whole point of this blog today so stop reading after this) If I stop having fun and feeling like I am making accomplishments I need to change and re-evaluate, revamp and re-write my goals.  Life is too short to not be having fun and feeling like you are getting shit done!

T = Time Bound:  Yup.  Til I die, that’s pretty finite.

Huh, I guess it does fall into the SMART goal model after all!

 ‘A goal is not always meant to be reached, it often serves simply as something to aim at.’   Bruce Lee

Sox and Mario exchanging prancing tips between dressage tests - Emma Richardson & Sokit2ya and Jackie Naida & Mario with super groom and support Cindy Moore at the Dewmont Silver Dressage Show.
Sox and Mario exchanging prancing tips between dressage tests – Emma Richardson & Sokit2ya and Jackie Naida & Mario with super groom and support Cindy Moore at the Dewmont Silver Dressage Show.

This past weekend we had a 3 riders (Emma Richardson, Jackie Naida, Barb Eamer) attend a Silver Level Dressage show at First Level and all three of them achieved goals of getting over 60% in each of their tests, not to mention Emma Richardson & Sokit2ya winning the overall Champion of the First Level Division!

Then on Sunday we went to Touch a Rainbow Horse Trials with a couple of riders braving the heat (Jenna Mayhew, Kenzi Greer)!  Kenzi jumped around her first Training level and came 2nd!

"I'm not sleeping. I'm thinking with my eyes closed." Coach Ruth Allum, deep in thought at the Dewmont Silver Dressage Show.
“I’m not sleeping. I’m thinking with my eyes closed.” Coach Ruth Allum, deep in thought at the Dewmont Silver Dressage Show.

But I think the biggest win of the weekend were the laughs that we all shared over silly things that remind us why we all got started in this.  From Tate packing a cot (which I used) and sleeping bag on one of the hottest days of the year so far.  To Grace and Alexa cooling off in their warm up ring row boat/bathtub, these are some of the things that make us smile and remember to enjoy each other.

This week we are pleased to have joining us guest Clinician Jessica Phoenix.  We will undoubtedly learn lots as well as enjoying each others company and appreciating our horses patience.

Next weekend we have 13 riders going to the Ottawa Horse Trials which so far is calling for beautiful weather which will be a pleasant change from the soggy Event there in the spring.

"Oh, Alexa Bresnahan & Grace Grandinetti, you really float my boat!" says Kenzi-Greer Mitchell & Top Gun at Touch a Rainbow Horse Trials
“Oh, Alexa Bresnahan & Grace Grandinetti, you really float my boat!” says Kenzi-Greer Mitchell & Top Gun at Touch a Rainbow Horse Trials

Buckle up kids, its going to be a busy week!

P.S.  If you haven’t appreciated my mowing yet be prepared for golf course type cross country field… I love mowing!!!  It brings my happiness quotient way up and I get a feeling of accomplishment… see, meeting goals all the time!

Through the winter we diligently build lesson plan after lesson plan trying to ensure that all aspects of the sport are covered.  Through the general preparation period of our yearly training plan we try to make sure that we include all aspects of schooling in order to bring out the best performance we have deep down in us once show season starts… but when that first big show of the season is just about to begin I have to admit that I feel butterflies.  Like, elephant sized butterflies, until this year.  I have previously had that moment of, ‘did we school the dressage test enough?’ or ‘should we have dropped into water just one more time this week’ as we headed out into our first Event.

The golf cart even came prepared for the rain. Miranda Lepore and Kristin McLaren kept dry inside!
The golf cart even came prepared for the rain. Miranda Lepore and Kristin McLaren kept dry inside!

This year marked a change for me.  As you’ve probably heard, a group of riders and coaches at the barn worked through the winter with sports psychologist Paige Mattie to up our game.  For me it changed the way I built lesson plans.  The general and specific preparation periods of our YTP’s (yearly training plans) took more structure and through that structure I have moved into our show season feeling more prepared than ever (not that I plan on getting complacent!).

The "Time Sheet" for our coaches and riders was definitely soggy by mid afternoon.
The “Time Sheet” for our coaches and riders was definitely soggy by mid afternoon.

The night before an Event I go through a check list, some of it is written on the white board in the barn:  passports, hay, water, buckets, etc… and some of it is mental.  Set alarm, prep the coffee, pick out coaching power outfit based on the weather forecast, etc…

And then, if I have set the alarm for 5:30am I typically wake up at 4:43am.  Lets be quite clear… non-show days I wait for Mark to bring me coffee in bed before making a move but on show days I am up and puttering around with all the lights in the house on at 4:43am!

Fun times!
Fun times!

This past Sunday we had 13 horse/rider combinations compete at the Eventing at the Park Horse Trials and at 4:43am I was dressed and working on my hair.  Have you seen my hair?  Ever watch the Simpsons?  My hair in the morning is definitely Sideshow Bob-ish unless I attempt to do something with it.  So by 5:30am I was happy with the hair situation, had a thermos of coffee, and had a cooler packed… and that’s when it started raining.  Not sure if you know this but Ruth’s hair + rain = drowned rat look, (quote from one of my students) 😉

The original Sideshow Bob.
The original Sideshow Bob.

The rain carried on pretty much the entire day and the greatest part about it was that our sport psychologist had prepared us for this moment.

You can’t control the environment but you can control how you deal with it.  WHAT???

Oh yes, we have prepared for this!

When I saw the weather forecast I immediately started thinking about my footwear choices.  Oh yes, its true… rain all day definitely = sandals!  Here’s the thought… if my feet are going to be wet it should definitely be my choice.

I have control over how wet my feet are so I will choose to make them wet.

By the end of the day, my feet were definitely wet...
By the end of the day, my feet were definitely wet…

That idea that we have a choice about how we will respond to things is paramount.  This weekend given the adverse conditions on rain for the entire day did not ‘dampen’ our need to show our skills.  Although my hair got rained out our spirits did not, and our results showed it.

Training Junior

  • Alexa Bresnahan & Aragon – 1st Place

Training Senior

  • Laura Gravelle & Tatti – 1st Place
  • Devon Svoboda & Abbigael – 6th Place
  • Sarah Catt & Drummore Bay – 8th Place

Pre-Training Junior

  • Emma Richardson & Sokit2ya – 1st Place
  • Kenzi Greer Mitchell & Top Gun – 2nd Place
  • Rebecca Walker & Silver Lining – 5th Place
  • Kieryn Davison & King Stag

Entry Junior

  • Taya Davison & Gemini – 8th Place

Entry Senior

  • Chelsea Arden & Charles WH – 9th Place
  • Megan Jenner & Portia – 10th Place
  • Misha Wylie & Oliver – 11th Place

Pre-Entry Senior

  • Jenna Mayhew & Kinsale – 5th Place

To watch riders put their skills into practice was awe inspiring.  And to watch them deal with the environmental challenges of the day was even more exciting.

I have waited all winter to see if the training we have been doing is heading the right direction and based on this weekends results I feel confident that we are on the right path.

Coaches Helen Richardson and Megan Jenner embraced the rain and sent this soggy dressage selfie to show how much fun they were having!
Coaches Helen Richardson and Megan Jenner embraced the rain and sent this soggy dressage selfie to show how much fun they were having!

Next weekend we have a Gold Level Dressage show on Saturday as well as hosting a Coaching Certification Evaluation at the Instructor level.  Not to mention that Sunday we are headed to the Meadowvale Upper Canada Derby where we look forward to testing our skill once again.

I look forward to every challenge that we are about to face and am excited to watch our athletes handle it with ease.  To know what life ultimately holds for us is a mystery, but to know how we will deal with it is completely in our control.


In the words of one of the greatest coaches ever – John wooden:  Success is never final, failure is never fatal. It’s courage that counts.

On to the next challenge/adventure/test.  Be courageous and see what the world can bring to you.  See you at 4:43am next show day, game on!


We added a new Maple tree in the middle of the large sandring at Oakhurst. Should be a good shade provider in a few years!
We added a new Maple tree in the middle of the large sandring at Oakhurst. Should be a good shade provider in a few years!


In January when I have a sleepless night I think about some of my favorite things… and no, that list does not include raindrops on roses, or whiskers on kittens.  Bright copper kettles?  Seriously!  For me the list is more likely to include things like drawing jump course maps and mowing grass.  Or what about whipper snipping, putting up signs and roping?  Yup!  Harrowing rings, putting out garbage cans and making sure there is toilet paper ready for the porta-pottie, not to mention how much I love the smell of a brand new marker ready to write numbers on my whipper-in whiteboard, these are a few of my favorite things!

Setting up for horse shows becomes like a well oiled machine, however adrenaline does help a little too!  This past weekend we held a Derby on Saturday and a Dressage show on Sunday.  This past Thursday Mark said to me, “for a Wednesday before a show we are so far ahead of schedule!”.   😉

Heather Leclerc & Lollipop - fierce intensity during their Derby rounds.
Heather Leclerc & Lollipop – fierce intensity during their Derby rounds.
Photo by: EMR Photos 

Saturdays Derby saw 200 jump rounds.  I watched horses and riders learn from their rides; I watched coaches doing brilliant debriefs; and I watched spectators beam with pride when their rider came across the finish line.  There was fun and learning and training all happening in a competitive environment.  What a great opportunity to test out everything learned over the winter months.

Cindy Moore & Gemini - Their first jump outing together was a huge success!
Cindy Moore & Gemini – Their first jump outing together was a huge success!
Photo by: EMR Photos

By Saturday night at 8pm there was almost no evidence of a derby, but instead stood 2 dressage rings on beautifully harrowed footing.  I would say it was like magic, but instead it was by a small army of adrenaline filled helpers!

Sunday was met with a bitter cold wind and a new crew of horses and riders ready to tackle the art of dressage, and that they did!  With approximately 100 tests ridden on the day by a large field of competitors we again witnessed horses and riders rising to the challenge of putting their skills to the test.

Tatum Nelson and Jag - enjoying a speedy ride! Photo by: Alexa Bresnahan
Tatum Nelson & Knight in a Jag – enjoying a speedy ride!
Photo by: Alexa Bresnahan

Its been a long wait to get back into the heat of competition and it was a joy to watch everyone bravely step into the ring and try out their skills.  And here’s the bottom line as I see it:  whether you were champion this weekend or went home with a little dirt on your breeches you undoubtedly grew a little by the experience of pushing yourself.  Go you!!

Janan Steward & Top Gear - Learning how new partners react under pressure this weekend!  Photo by: EMR Photos
Janan Steward & Top Gear – Learning how new partners react under pressure this weekend!
Photo by: EMR Photos

You might not have just won the Grand Slam at Badminton, but you put yourself out there and there’s a lot to be said for that.

All of the results from the weekend can be found on the home page of the website:

Taya Davison & Gemini had a great time jumping in the Derby!
Photo by: Alexa Bresnahan

Can’t wait to see everyone at the next show, and now that I have recovered from Sunday’s windburn and frostbite I am ready to go again!  Bring it on.


Zoë Richardson & Talk O'The Town getting used to jumping outside!  Photo by: Alexa Bresnahan
Zoë Richardson & Talk O’The Town getting used to jumping outside!
Photo by: Alexa Bresnahan

P.S.  After the cold weather on Sunday I have definitely not included in my list of favorite things:  ‘Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes’… who wrote that line???

“If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything. I’m positive that a doer makes mistakes.” John Wooden

This past weekend we hosted a prep day for coaches who are looking to move forward to being certified as Instructors and Competition coaches. Not only did all of the candidates have to prepare a lesson plan to share with the group they then had to bravely step into the arena and teach that lesson in order to get feedback.

The candidates that enrolled for the prep day made a bold leap when they signed up. After all, they already know that they enjoy coaching, and they are likely already making some money at it, so why take the chance of standing in front of their peers and potentially have someone tell them that they are making mistakes?

There is no more intimidating feeling than putting yourself out there. I was evaluated as a Competition Coach Specialist in 2012 after having been certified as a Coach 1 in 1994 (before most of you were born 😉 ). For 18 years I had been making a living at coaching and the thought of standing in front of evaluators with even the remotest possibility of them telling me I was making mistakes was definitely nerve-racking! So why do it?

2 of Tatum Nelson's newest creations in her "OakArts" line - click on the pic to see more!
2 of Tatum Nelson’s newest creations in her “OakArts” line – click on the pic to see more!

For me it was a very distinct decision to be certified in the context that I was now working in as a coach and believe it or not I actually crave the idea of being graded. Okay, don’t get me wrong, when it comes to math or my cooking, don’t even think of grading me… I get an ‘E’ for effort but that’s about it!

But when it comes to this thing called coaching that I am insanely passionate about, I actually want to know where I can improve so that my athletes get the best opportunity to learn and grow. I’m not saying it wasn’t without careful planning and some well-placed trepidation that I stepped in front of a pair of evaluators who are icons in the industry in order to have them assess my performance as a coach. Here are the things that went through my head when thinking of going ahead with the evaluation:

  • What if I just plain stink as a coach?

o   I’m pretty sure I don’t stink as a coach which is why I have athletes who are successfully reaching goals

  • What if I can’t form a complete sentence when I get into the ring to teach?

o   It hasn’t happened before and I have taught in front of lots of people, plus I live for adrenaline, so maybe I will be even better!

  • What if I think I am amazing, but they don’t?

o   We can’t all think I’m amazing, and maybe the feedback I get from the evaluators will make me even better than amazing!

  • Why am I even doing this, I already make a living as a coach?

o   Because I want to be the best I can.  My athletes put themselves on the line all the time to get better and to be judged, why shouldn’t I be willing to do the same!

For those of you who are taking the leap to put your skills to the test and be evaluated, I salute you!  The candidates we had with us on the weekend worked collaboratively in order to bring their ‘A’ game to their lessons.  Did they make some mistakes when they stepped in the ring?  For sure!  Did they get better at recognizing where they could improve?  Absolutely!

It was fun to watch everyone step into the ring to teach their lesson and get a glimpse of their style and rapport with the riders.  Whether we are watching a coach new to the industry or one that has been   imparting wisdom for years, we all have something to learn by watching and listening.

Misha Wylie & Oliver showing off their skills in the Hyde Moffat clinic on April 11, 2016.
Misha Wylie & Oliver showing off their skills in the Hyde Moffatt clinic on April 11, 2016.

Yesterday I trailered two of our girls over to a Hyde Moffatt clinic and although the sunny spring weather was more like sideways sleet, it didn’t dampen our spirits.  The horses were well behaved, Hyde was excellent in communicating his expectations of the girls and there was learning all around.

The opportunity for me to watch my athletes ride with another coach is always an enlightening one.  I get the opportunity to see things through a fresh set of eyes and come home with a renewed sense of where to head.

Miranda Lepore & Duke learning some new moves in the Hyde Moffatt clinic on April 11, 2016.

And speaking of clinics, you may have seen on our website that we have a date firmed up for our annual Jessica Phoenix clinic – Wednesday June 29th & Thursday June 30thAll of the information about the clinic can be found here.  Applications are already rolling in so if you want a spot, get yours in soon.

And speaking of getting paperwork done, those of you on the show team have noticed in the barn the folders of entry forms waiting to be filled out.  The sooner you get those filled out and returned, the better!  Spring is definitely heading our way and along with it an exciting season of challenging our learning and our skills.

Here’s one last quote to leave you with today:

“Success comes from knowing that you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.” John Wooden

The ball is rolling past, it’s time to bend over and pick it up!


Each fall when we plan our winter education program we try to come up with a catalogue of opportunities that will captivate, inform and elevate our athletes.  This winter in my opinion has been Grade A!

I first heard the term ‘holistic athlete’ a couple of years ago when listening to Ozzie Sawiki talk about the complete training of an athlete.  It occurred to me this fall that doing just the typical lunging, bandaging, stable management type clinics over the winter was just not enough.  As coaches we have the ability to do more for our athletes and we should, so following the words of Sara Bareilles, ‘Honestly I wanna see you be brave’, we tried something a bit new for us.

Lindsay Buchan & the Oakhurst Show Team stretching in the barn aisle. March 13, 2016

I am not a Sport Psychologist, or a Nutritionist or a chiropractor or a physiotherapist, I am a coach.  Do I think my athletes could benefit from working with all of those people?  Absolutely, but I had to be brave enough to:

A) Admit that I am not an expert in all things (who knew?)

B) Ask for help for my athletes from the amazing professionals who are truly experts in what they do,

C) Relax and let the experts do their job,

D) Embrace the program with reckless abandon!

So, in this idea of creating holistic athletes I have adopted the understanding that an athlete needs a coach who looks at them as a whole person, taking into account their mental, social and physical demands.  Seems obvious right, and I know that as dedicated coaches we are all already thinking in that light, however this year I challenged our team to take it one step further and am I ever glad.

This coming weekend marks the last group session we have with Sport Psychologist Paige Mattie.  We have honed our mental imagery techniques, practiced progressive relaxation routines, worked on goal setting and so much more.  One of the big pieces we are hoping to tackle this weekend is the Pre-Performance routine.   I’ve talked for years about the benefit of a post-performance analysis, but here is my recent revelation:  What if we took that post performance analysis and devoted energy into using it to make an effective pre-performance routine!  Ta da!!!

20160314_210543This year at our annual Oakhurst Christmas/Awards party we gave all the 2015 Show Team members that were there a super pretty and functional Oakhurst Journal.  I had a plan!  Then at our show meeting in February I spent great lengths to explain the importance of journaling all the little details of a competition to our riders in order to see trends (knowing full well that most of them had fancy – unopened journals that I had given them – plan falling into place!).  I was sitting listening for feedback when one of our riders spoke to the fact that there was absolutely no rhyme or reason to what made one event go well or disastrously.  Right then and there I was hit by a lightening bolt… The post-performance analysis worksheets that I had weren’t working.  Coaching fail!

At the time I wasn’t sure how to deal with this idea that there is no pattern or formula that an athlete could refer to as their best practices.  Then I heard something from our wise Sport Psychologist Paige when we were talking about stress management skills that lead me start thinking about specifically targeting our pre-performance routine to help alleviate some potential stressors.  Let’s face it, we can’t control everything in the day but (in the words of Paige), “we can control how we react to it”.

I didn’t have a complete plan yet, but there was definitely the beginning of an idea forming in my head…

Then when we had Heather MacKinnon come in and talk about Sport Nutrition I heard about this idea that planning out what you are going to eat before show day, on show day and after show day could actually help performance!  I thought to myself, hey here’s another example of something we could target in a pre-competition routine that we carry into training.

Train like we mean to compete!  Lightening bolt #2!!!

Would we change our horses entire diet on the day of a horse show?  So why then is it okay for us to go to the canteen and order the greasiest burger ever an hour before dressage and think its not going to affect our ride?

Dr. Lindsay Buchan stretching with the Oakhurst Show Team.
Dr. Lindsay Buchan stretching with the Oakhurst Show Team.

This past weekend we had Dr. Lindsay Buchan come and do a Stretch & Strengthen workshop for the riders.  She spoke to the importance of core stability, flexibility and leg strength, then worked through a plethora of exercises designed to target those areas.  That’s when it hit me!!

Lightening bolt #3:

A) Sport Psychology isn’t for athletes with mental problems

B) Sport Nutrition isn’t just about Gatorade and spinach

C) Support from Chiropractic/Massage/Physio isn’t exclusively for after you sustain an injury, it is used to help prevent injury!

I had it now, a complete picture of all the cool tools available to our athletes to make them a stronger, more confident, whole contender.  It’s a package deal.  We spend hours thinking about what training techniques, nutrition, and support the horses get, it’s time to put that much effort into ourselves.

For those of you who know me well you can appreciate that the process of bringing in experts to work with our riders has been invigorating and enlightening.  Watching them get new tools to help them be the best that they can has been awesome.

I challenge you to look at your program and see where the gaps are.  Nothing is random.


I am 42 this year and somehow I thought that I would magically be gifted the answer to life the universe and everything – too many late night movies!  I don’t have all the answers but I am brave enough to call in experts to help out!

Be the best you, you can be!


plus I heard a Canada Goose this morning, so it also means that winter is almost over 🙂

So, after what seemed like the most temperate winter in memory we finally have our first taste of the chilly north with a weekend in the -40’s (with the wind chill) and a day of warmer but definitely snowier weather.  Today is a ‘Snow Day” for all of the kids in the area because we have a forecast of 40cm of snow fall which equals so much indoor time… possibly!

Some of us, like Eric,  enjoy the snow - even when we get 50 cm of new snow!
Some of us, like Eric, enjoy the snow – even when we get 50 cm of new snow!

The great news is that our Oakhurst Show Team meetings coincided with this super frosty time.  This past weekend we held meetings for both our Horse Trials team and our Dressage team in the warm comfort of the Equine Canada Office Board Room.

Dozens of dedicated show team members braved the cold weather to plan their show season through the use of PowerPoints, SMART Goals, YTP’s, and calendars.  We explored the specific requirements of the different divisions of competition and worked through an interactive exercise in groups where we investigated the physical and technical skills that are required at each stage of competition in order to gain a better understanding of the necessities at each level.  The gained awareness brought to the athletes through this exercise was awesome!  Even just the knowledge that at the Training Level of Horse Trials although the Cross Country jump height is 3’3”, the base width of the jumps on Cross Country can be 5’2”!  That’s wide!

The Oakhurst pony got to hang out and take selfies at the Equine Canada office!
The Oakhurst pony got to hang out and take selfies at the Equine Canada office!

Watching the excitement and the understanding in the room when we talk about the upcoming show season is inspiring.  We started putting together a ‘Show Team Handbook’ back in 1994 when we constructed our first team of athletes looking to compete.  I’ve said it before, but will happily recapitulate the statement that when I first made the shift to coaching: my dream was to one-day coach an Event rider at the Training level that would finish in the top 3… Needless to say our show team meeting now not only encompasses what’s involved with competing potentially at the Training level but well beyond.

It’s a pretty inspiring group of individuals we get to work with, and the dynamic of the Show Team meeting is so cool.  We have athletes that have never competed in anything equestrian; athletes that have aspirations to be the best walk/trot local amateurs on the dressage circuit; athletes that have hopes to make it to the Provincial Championships for both Eventing and Dressage and athletes that have goals of representing our nation one day.  They all work through their goal worksheets in full support of everyone in the room despite the level of athlete development that they are presently in.

Winter is finally at Oakhurst farm - all at once on Feb 16th.
Winter is finally at Oakhurst farm – all at once on Feb 16th.

To support these phenomenal individuals, we have contracted the skills of Sport Psychologist Paige Mattie who has been helping our athletes with goal setting, visualization techniques and best performance practise.  This week brings our 3rd session with Paige and I can’t wait to see what we learn this week!

To support this endeavour of making our athletes holistic competitors we have also reached out to Registered Dietician Heather Mackinnon to work with our athletes and parents.  She is coming in on Sunday March 6th from 1-3pm and will help to educate us all on what to ‘Eat to Win!’, talking topics such as:

  • foods to eat before, during and after training and competition
  • Making good choices while eating on the road
  • Do you need vitamin, mineral, protein supplements
  • Hydration and sports drinks
  • The vegetarian athlete
  • Caffeine – help or hindrance?

Check out the information on our website to sign up.

We are headed into a very exciting season, and once we dig out from this blast of snowy fabulousness we will get started on the pathway to an adventure of amazing Champions and Championships!  ‘TEAMO’ is on the hunt for a great year, will you be part of the movement?

Stay warm,



They are super swag slightly sparkly extra long leg warmers.  Oh yes, it’s a fashion thing here in Ashton!

Before you get too jealous of my fashion sense and style I should let you know that I just spent 10 days in the sunny south.  First, visiting an alumni student who is now running her own Equestrian centre in Saratoga, New York.  Then on to Ocala, Florida to visit friends who are there for the winter.  Finally, on to a cruise ship with my husband of almost 20 years to swan about the Caribbean as tourists.

When you think of tourists you probably think of people who sleep until late morning… lie by the pool and drink Bahama mamas all day and party all night long.  For those of you that have been away with me before already know that there is a schedule that has to be followed!!  C’mon people, you know that feeling of power when you whip out a fresh highlighter and place that first awesome bright stripe on a cruise newsletter of the days’ events.  Breakfast starts at 6:30am, don’t be a slacker, the day has started!  The day can be packed full of informative and educational opportunities if you are up to the challenge.  We attended Port Tour talks, Morning Trivia, Scavenger hunts, Afternoon Trivia, Musical Trivia, Nap time (Mark said it was mandatory), evening shows and so much more…

But none of that is what you should be jealous of.

When returning home to the not so warm north I planned my outfit according to the outside temperature for my first night back teaching, which of course included my super long length leg warmers.  Oh yeah, now your jealous.  They are black and have a hint of sparkle to them and let me tell you that worn with a long coat they take the edge off the -25 wind chill!  Of course the heaters in the arena help too 😉

We wonder as coaches what kind of lasting impression we will leave on our athletes and although my leg warmers are smile worthy I hope there’s more than my odd sense of fashion that gets left with a student.  Getting the inspiring glimpse into the lives of athletes we have worked with, and what they are doing after they leave our nest is not only moving but should also serve as a source of motivation to stay invested in the athletes currently in our program.

On our way to Florida, having the opportunity to stop in on a young woman who is working her tail off to make a go of a fantastic Equestrian business with her fiancé was a treat.  She welcomed us with open arms, gave us a tour, and sat with us and talked as a peer in this great industry.  It was a definite pleasure to see that the work and dedication she has made her life is paying off.

She is one of so many young individuals that I get to look up to and feel honoured to have had the chance to work with.  Some have stayed involved in horses as trainers, coaches, jockeys, farriers, and vets and some have moved in other directions to pursue their vision of becoming teachers, accountants, mothers, business owners, psychiatrists, lawyers and so so so much more.  I hope I speak for all coaches when I say that the respect, integrity and empathy you learned in sport help you in whatever direction life has taken you. Now just promise to stop aging you guys, you are making people think I’m old!  No worries my new flashy leg warmers are counter acting that, not to mention the exciting program we have planned for the winter!  Don’t forget the following dates:

Saturday January 23rd – NCHTA Awards Banquet

Sunday January 24th – Mental Training Workshop and the start of Drill Team Session #2

Sunday January 31st – EC Rider Level Stable management session

Sunday February 14th – Oakhurst Show Team Meetings

See you there!



 P.S.  This is a very young Sam Mackenzie and Mr. Rudy… 14 years old at her first CCI 1*.  Thanks for taking the time to give us a glimpse into your life, keep running hard kiddo, you are making dreams come true.

On the 1st day of Christmas my true love gave to me:  One super fun barn movie night!

  • This past weekend marked the first ever Oakhurst Farm movie night!  Held in the indoor arena complete with big screen, sleeping bags, tailgating and lots of laughs courtesy of the movie Elf!.  A definite new tradition in the making.
The Oakhurst Movie Crew - enjoying some fun at our first ever Oakhurst Movie Night!
The Oakhurst Movie Crew – enjoying some fun at our first ever Oakhurst Movie Night!

On the 2nd day of Christmas my true love gave to me:  Two sand rings completely void of snow!

  • The sand rings are both currently wet but definitely have no snow!

On the 3rd day of Christmas my true love gave to me:  Three fabulous Eventing phases to base my lesson plans on.

  • Oh yes, the greatest sport ever has three wonderful phases which provides us coaches lots and lots of lesson plan ideas in the off season.  No worries folks I have lots up my sleeve to get us through the winter 🙂

On the 4th day of Christmas my true love gave to me:  Four awesome coaches to work with!

  • We have an inspired group of coaches at Oakhurst who I am proud to be a part of.  The opportunity to bounce ideas off 3 other professionals who understand our program, our philosophy and the long term benefit of us working collaboratively for our athletes is a true joy.

On the 5th day of Christmas my true love gave to me:  Five months until show season in Ontario!

  • No time to waste, we are already planning for the 2016 season.  The Oakhurst Show Team meeting will be held on February 14th, 2016.  Details will soon be found on the Oakhurst website, stay tuned.
The dusting of snow Oakhurst saw this week was pretty minor and is now all gone - looked pretty while it lasted!
The dusting of snow Oakhurst saw this week was pretty minor and is now all gone – looked pretty while it lasted!

On the 6th day of Christmas my true love gave to me:  Six Amazing school horses!

  • The notion that the horse will be the greatest teacher we will ever have as equestrians is so cool.  We can learn countless lessons from our horses if we pay attention.  Some lessons are more obvious than others and some of my school horses are more obvious about teaching them.

On the 7th day of Christmas my true love gave to me:  Seven months until Daisy pops out a new life!

  • Its true… although Daisy looks like she will be giving birth to an elephant already, she still has a while to go.

On the 8th day of Christmas my true love gave to me:  Eight horses in Drill Team #1, and Ten horses in Drill Team #2!

  • Sunday December 27th at 2:00pm will be the big performance for both Drill Teams. Come and cheer them on and join us in the house after for pot luck drinks and appetizers.

On the 9th day of Christmas my true love gave to me:  Nine Degrees of warmth outside!!

  • Who could have imagined that outside on December 23rd would be 9 degrees Celsius?  Definitely not me, but it does lead me to my 10th point…

On the 10th day of Christmas my true love gave to me:  Ten completely un-frostbitten toes!!!!

  • I own heated insoles, high tech socks, and super warm boots all of which I haven’t used so far this winter and I have 10 completely un-frostbitten toes!  Although I would like for the mud to freeze up, I can honestly say that my toes look prettier this Christmas than in previous years.

On the 11th day of Christmas my true love gave to me:  Eleven days until the Oakhurst Christmas Awards Party!!

  • On January 2nd, 2016 we will celebrate the 2015 season with an Awards party at the Glen Mar golf course.  We will have delicious food, an funny year end video, some super cool door prizes (shhh, Mark told me not to tell) and lots of awards to recognize all of the fabulous achievements made by our Oakhurst friends.  If you don’t have your tickets yet there is still time.  Check out the website or email me and I will hook you up.  Whether you are an Oakhurst student, boarder, alumni, friend or just a horse person looking for a fun night we look forward to greeting you there.

On the 12thday of Christmas my true love gave to me:   Twelve cups of coffee!!

  • On a personal note, one of my favorite times of the entire year is Christmas morning.  However, I have a terrible habit of waking up SUPER early and then I have to wait (noisily) for the rest of my family to wake up while I drink a pot of coffee.  Last year I was on my second pot of coffee when I finally made enough noise to wake everyone up… kids these days 🙂

From the entire Oakhurst Team, may your holidays be filled with love, good health and lots of horsey presents under the tree.

What is your pony getting for Christmas?


Hoe down spins, pinwheels, thread the needles, you know what I’m talking about – it’s Drill Team season!! Although we are a facility that is deeply entrenched in the world of hard core Eventing (lest we not forget our Dressage team) I definitely look forward to the time of year that I turn my creativity to our world renowned (in my eyes) Drill Team! And much to my delight this year we are turning the musical ride competitive. 2 teams duelling for the title of supreme champion!!! I actually feel like it might make a gripping reality TV show… ‘Duelling Drill Teams’ or wait, what about ‘Oakhurst’s got talent’ or how about ‘Prancing with the stars’? Okay, lets table that for another blog.

This past weekend marked the first practice for our two drill teams who will compete for the supreme title of most fabulousness (not really a thing). One team of 8 riders and one team of 10 riders practicing the same routine using different music and costumes, with the vision of putting on the best performance they can on December 27th at 2:00pm (spectators strongly encouraged). The coolest thing for me is that each team represents a huge range of athletes from the 10 year olds in the Learning and Training stages of Long Term Equestrian Development to our 60-year-old Active for Life athletes not to mention two of our very own coaching staff. A whole array of athletes at totally different biological, physical and developmental stages of their athletic life and yet all working together to produce a successful outcome. For me, watching these groups of riders work together towards a common goal is in itself a huge victory. I can’t wait to see the costumes that will accompany their performances and look forward to the practices that promise more laughs, entertainment, and enjoyment for all involved, including myself.

Since I know that most people don’t actually read past the 10th line of any blog I feel safe at this point telling you my secrets of why we run Drill team:

  • It provides an awesome Long Slow Distance workout for the horses
  • It is fabulous Warm-up ring training – It teaches riders to look up when they ride so the whole routine doesn’t up as a ‘musical collide’.
  • The entire experience requires encourages athletes to have compassion and understanding of where each member of their newly formed team is coming from in terms of their athletic ability and experience.
  • FUN. Oh yes, gossip about it, I just used the ‘F word’!!! Watching this hugely diverse group of individuals share a common experience, laugh, joke and enjoy themselves is FUN! Reminding us all why we joined in on this amazing sport in the first place.

So, there it is, deep dark secrets of our musical ride… minus the costume/music tips… p.s. I have 4 glue guns and an awesome be-dazzler when it comes time guys!

The ‘off-season’ is an amazing time to introduce new skills and techniques and with the inspired coaching staff we have at Oakhurst I am so excited that we can offer to our athletes this 4 part Mental training series – download the information here.

We talk often about the physical, technical, tactical and mental training aspects of our sport and are quick to deal with the first 3. Having the guts to decide that although we are fabulous coaches and horse trainers we just don’t have the years of training and expertise to give our athletes the absolute edge in terms of sport psychology and mental training was a big leap of faith. However, after talking to Paige Mattie for 2 minutes on the phone the first time I was 100% convinced that she could give our athletes a leg up on the competition.

Paige Mattie, MHK, BSc., Mental Performance Consultant

Paige came out and met with Helen, Blair, Megan and myself this past weekend in order to get a complete picture of what we think are our athlete’s areas of need. I am so thrilled to bring her into our team and look forward to the doors she will open for us all in terms of our mental skill building.

In other news, maybe you’ve seen that our very own Helen Richardson is now an Ontario Horse Trials Association Board member! The belief that any opportunity to give back in the sport runs strong and true in Helen and I am eager to watch her in this new role. I have no doubt that she will continue to endorse and embrace the tremendous work that the OHTA carries out. Congratulations!


And speaking of Congratulations, did you hear that Oakhurst is the site for the 2016 Ontario Horse Trials Association Championships??? Mark your calendars: September 3rd& 4th, 2016 in Ashton, Ontario! Check out the work we’ve stated to prepare the site… Oh yes, there will be awesome competition accompanied by a competitor’s party to rival no other… let it be said that I have heard that there will be, live music, awesome food and I have been told to leave the rest as a surprise (much to my chagrin).

12249793_959459637434136_6250893716346597768_nWelcome to the Nations Capital, Eventers of the province, we promise a fun, quality event!

Read the article Eventing Connect published yesterday about Oakhurst being the site for the 2016 OHTA Championships.

Although the ‘off season’ for me is normally one that I dread for fear of not getting a competitive rush, this one has been action packed and full of excitement. Bring on winter, I am ready for you!! We have skills to perfect and an electrifying 2016 season to come. Watch the Oakhurst calendar for the date of the Oakhurst Show Team meetings!

What are you doing to get ready for 2016?




I’ve heard it said that while standing on the podium, the best in the world, with the gold medal around their neck are already trying to figure out how to better their next performance.

We arrived home early Monday morning from an amazing trip to Lexington, Kentucky where we participated in the Hagyard Midsouth Team Challenge. We had 3 fabulous teams of riders from the local area who worked together as one for the past few days.

I’ve outlined some of the trip highlights from my perspective:

  • The trip down and back were incredibly smooth. The ponies travelled well and the weather was very cooperative.
Always helps if you have a friend to follow - Matt Kidney & Leah Vrieling are in front of us!
Always helps if you have a friend to follow – Matt Kidney & Leah Vrieling are in front of us!


  • Breakfast at the Cracker Barrel after an overnight drive somehow tastes better than if you hadn’t driven 13 hours.
  • Getting all of the Canada flags on stalls and then giving the riders their swag bags of Canadian gear is a total thrill! However with the amount of work that Helen puts into getting all of our swag together she definitely needs to be here next year to hand it out.

    The team decorating stalls with as much Canada stuff as possible - everyone knew where we came from!
    The team decorating stalls with as much Canada stuff as possible – everyone knew where we came from!

  • The Cross Country courses for this event are so well thought out and presented it really is like being at a mini Rolex. There are no short cuts in terms of decorations, brush and flowers on the course. And watching the first time Midsouth competitors walk around the cross country course wide eyed is fun. As we walked through the Head of the Lake with the Novice riders on their first tour around the course there was a definite feeling of quiet anticipation and excitement about what was to come.
A little pause after walking through "The Head of the Lake".
A little pause after walking through “The Head of the Lake”.
  • I love working with dedicated and professional coaches! There were 3 of us coaching riders from the 3 teams with us and all worked collaboratively to attempt to get the best performance possible out of all 11 riders. What a great experience for us all to course walk together and provide input into what we saw. I look forward to the next opportunity to work with Casey and Matt again!
The Novice Team - The Eh! Team after 4 perfect Cross Country rides. Champions!
The Novice Team – The Eh! Team after 4 perfect Cross Country rides. Champions!
  • All of our riders were awesome, but without a doubt watching all four of our Novice Riders come across the finish line with huge smiles on their faces after posting a clear run inside the time was amazing!

The drive home from any horse show for me is a time for reflection on the aspects of what went well and what needs improvement in my own performance as a coach and manager of a team. Just as the riders are asked to break down their performances in terms of the Tactical, Technical, Physical and Mental aspects, I do the same… standing on the podium thinking about what I can do to get better performances out of our athletes and myself.

Every team needs cheerleaders. Our teams brought one of the best EVER - Leah Vrieling - she even made sure the horses felt Canadian!
Every team needs cheerleaders. Our teams brought one of the best EVER – Leah Vrieling – she even made sure the horses felt Canadian!

We are heading into the post-competition season. A season of planning, re-educating and re-evaluating our best and worst performances. What are you doing to get ready for next season?

Ruth out!

Remember the other day when I said I love to win??

Here are the 10 things I learned today:

  1. Seeing team Ontario Dressage get the Gold on Sunday, and getting to be a part of it, was a total adrenaline rush! I totally thought this type of adrenaline rush was reserved for the completion of an epic cross country ride, but I was wrong. Sunglasses on in case my eyes watered!

    Team Ontario Dressage - Gold Medal Team Dressage - CIEC 2015
    Team Ontario Dressage – Gold Medal Team Dressage – CIEC 2015

  2. I have a healthy respect for our multi-coloured Ontario Dressage team. We had without a doubt the most colourful team out there. From Jenna’s chestnut, Kendra’s black and white Gypsy Vanner, Devlin’s Chestnut roan pony to Morgan’s Palomino we absolutely proved that a good horse comes in any colour.
  3. Beer is best served cold. And if we were allowed to have alcohol at CIEC I would have totally had a super cold beer after the Dressage team got their gold medals…. Did I mention that the Ontario Dressage team got GOLD????

    Team Ontario Dressage being interviewed after their Gold Medal win at CIEC's 2015
    Team Ontario Dressage being interviewed after their Gold Medal win at CIEC’s 2015

  4. 7pm after a 5 day horse show feels like midnight or later. Its true, after not walking cross country courses/teaching lessons all day I am exhausted… must be all the gold medal winning!!
  5. Every transition begins with your inside leg.

    Team Ontario Jumpers - Silver Medallists!
    Team Ontario Jumpers – Silver Medallists!

  6. The Chef’s job is of uniting all disciplines of a team/province, and Mark Nelson, congratulations on making that happen for Ontario… including going above and beyond the call of duty in lending Devlin a set of boots to wear to the final ceremonies.
  7. Every correction begins with leg. Listening to Tom Dvorak and Simone Williams coaching our dressage riders this comment came up a few times. Instead of going to the hand first to make corrections they reinforced that a riders leg should be the start of any correction.

    Team Ontario Reiners - CIEC 2015
    Team Ontario Reiners – CIEC 2015

  8. Reining is an incredibly precise sport. If you spin 4 times around and it was supposed to be 4 ¼ you get a score of zero on your whole pattern… harsh!
  9. Team competitions definitely do change the dynamic of what is normally a solo sport. The intensity of knowing that your ride means the difference between a team medal or not is exhilarating and a lot of pressure.

    Jenna Mayhew & Kinsale - Individual Silver and Team Gold Medallists at CIEC's 2015
    Jenna Mayhew & Kinsale – Individual Silver and Team Gold Medallists at CIEC’s 2015

  10. Packing up at the end of a five day competition is bittersweet. Although everyone was ready to go home saying good bye to the new friends we made over the week was moving. Hugs and congratulations all around regardless of discipline or province was the scene as we packed up. Until next time!

Team Ontario was named the most improved province from the previous years CIEC receiving a special award from the sponsors. With combined scores from the Dressage, Reining and Jumper riders Ontario finished in the Silver Medal position with Quebec in the Gold and Nova Scotia in the Bronze.

Results over the week by discipline for team Ontario were as follows:



Faith Bell & Chacco’s Boy – 2nd

Nikki Snazel & Askari – 4th

Cydney Pavan & Grabrielle – 11th

Alexa Bennett & Tenacity – 14th


Cydney Pavan & Gabrielle – 3rd

Faith Bell & Chacco’s Boy – 11th


Cydney Pavan & Gabrielle – 1st

Faith Bell & Chacco’s Boy – 5th

Nikki Snazzel & Askari – 7th

Alexa Bennett & Tenacity – 14th

Junior Individual Bronze Medalist – Cydney Pavan& Gabrielle

Team Silver Medal with Manitoba winning gold and Quebec getting the bronze.



Jorie Prow & Peppys Lil Reminic – 3rd

Ethan Stratford & Amos Willy Wonka – 16th

Gail Gimpelj & Boomin Whiz – 17th


Gail Gimpelj & Boomin Whiz – 5th

Ethan Stratford & Amos Willy Wonka – 12th


Jorie Prow &Peppys Lil Reminic – 8th

Ethan Stratford & Amos Willy Wonka – 12th

Team 4th place finish with Quebec getting the gold, Alberta the silver and Nova Scotia the bronze.



Kendra Wheeler & Sasha – 3rd

Jenna Mayhew & Kinsale – 4th

Morgan Bordillon & Raindancer – 9th

Devlin Abergel-Preston & Cinnabun – 20th


Jenna Mayhew & Kinsale – 2nd

Kendra Wheeler & Sasha – 3rd

Devlin Abergel-Preston & Cinnabun – 5th

Morgan Bordillon & Raindancer – 15th


Jenna Mayhew & Kinsale – 2nd

Kendra Wheeler & Sasha – 4th

Devlin Abergel-Preston & Cinnabun – 7th

Morgan Bordillon & Raindancer – 20th

Individual Senior Silver Medalist – Jenna Mayhew & Kinsale

Individual Senior Bronze Medalist – Kendra Wheeler & Sasha

Team Gold Medal with Quebec getting the silver and New Brunswick getting the Bronze.

Congratulations to everyone who participated!


Whoa, what a day!

So, here are the 10 things I learned today:

  1. When chocolate is left in your down filled vest all day it becomes almost drinkable… but not in a good way.Day4Picb
  2. Inter discipline respect is cool! It’s true, when I was at dressage the Team Ontario Jumpers and Reiners were there clapping politely. When I was cheering on the Jumpers the Team Ontario Dressage and Reiners were cheering alongside. And when I was watching Reining, the Team Ontario Jumpers and Dressage riders were there ‘Oh Yeah-ing’ with the best of them. Mutual respect among disciplines.

    Team Ontario tearing up the showjumping ring in the speed class today.
    Team Ontario tearing up the showjumping ring in the speed class today.

  3. The concept of CIEC is seriously groovy. The fact that we have so many provinces represented and ultimately coming together to improve our athlete development is so breath-taking, and to have the opportunity to take part in it in any way is a privilege.Day4Pic3
  4. +9 feels cold this time of year. Its true… in March +9 is short and tube top kind of weather, but this morning at +9 I saw toques, mittens, blankets and lots of layers on everyone!
  5. When Jumpers decide to angle jumps, boy do they angle them! As Eventers we practice angles often, but wow, in the speed class today I saw angles that even Eventers would look twice at, OH YEAH!
  6. I love my province. I am sure that every person from every province feels the same and that’s why every province fights their hardest to win… but let me tell you, that the level of support from Team Ontario and the OEF has been unsurpassed… and I am not just talking about the coffee/chocolate aspect, which of course I appreciate and should not EVER end!Day4Pic6
  7. Moms are amazing. Oh It’s true (dad’s you’re cool too). I watched moms of all disciplines today perform extraordinary tasks and not bat an eye lash.   Dressage moms wiping slobber off horses legs.   Jumper moms setting fences. Reining moms pulling braids out of tails to make a Reiners tail look crimpy and cool (not just a 90’s thing ladies). You ladies rock and I am hoping you are holding seminars of tips on how to deal with my soon to be teenage children 🙂 Day4Pic7
  8. Announcing is an art form and truly sport specific. I announce at all of our horse shows, but after this week genuinely aspire and feel competent to announce at a heavy weight boxing fight… true story.
  9. Be all that you can be. This is such a cool competition because little do most people know that there were also Coaching Evaluations happening in conjunction with this competition. And why not? We have an amazing venue at our disposal, evaluators from across the country here as coaches and the opportunity to grow coaching and the sport in a massive way. Congratulations to those involved!

    Oakhurst Head Coach Ruth Allum, Simone Williams and Tom Dvorak. Photo by: Cheryl Denault Photography

  10. Honesty. Yup, #10 is honesty… deal with it. Is that too blunt? I feel like maybe Event coaches are possibly more blunt than other types of coaches, however Tom was more than accommodating to my wishes and Jenna was in the lead until the last few riders today. This experience has been insightful, educational and so much fun. I am looking forward to tomorrow where we will once again bring our best foot forward and let the chips fall where they may.

    Jenna Mayhew & Kinsale – Earning a 68% in their test today – note the bonnet Kip is wearing…Team Oakhurst pride!


Ride times are below. Be there or be square (so 80’s but the sentiment is still groovy!).

C’mon…. who doesn’t want to win????

This morning while team coach Tom Dvorak was preparing to coach my athlete in the dressage warm up he asked me, ‘is there anything you think we should work on specifically’. So my answer… ‘I think we should work on winning’.

I feel like maybe Event coaches are possibly more blunt than other types of coaches, however Tom was more than accommodating to my wishes and Jenna was in the lead until the last few riders today.

Day4PicaThis experience has been insightful, educational and so much fun. I am looking forward to tomorrow where we will once again bring our best foot forward and let the chips fall where they may.

Ride times are below. Be there or be square (so 80’s but the sentiment is still groovy!).



So, although it is Day 3 of my CIEC blogs, it’s actually Day 1 of competition… If you know me at all you know that math is not my strong suit – sort of like the many cooking or sewing skills that I do not possess. However I do know that day 3 here at CIEC is definitely day 1 of competition. 🙂

So, here are the 10 things I learned today:

  1. Good coaches are worth listening to and sometimes even worth quoting, hence: ‘My job is to empower you to be better’. Said by Trish Mrakawa this morning when talking about athlete development.
  2. When you have been at a horse show since early in the morning some things are just funny. Long-time friend Julie Cull who works at Equine Canada drove past me on a golf cart late this afternoon with a show jump rail and all I could see was a jousting golf cart. (See picture for confirmation)… p.s. going to suggest to organizing committee that all golf carts for coaches be outfitted for jousting.

    Golf Cart Jousting at CIEC's - It's a thing....
    Golf Cart Jousting at CIEC’s – It’s a thing….

  3. The debrief is crucial. Getting to work with such awesome coaches this week has reminded me that the post-performance analysis of any competition is so important and insightful. Spending some time with Tom Dvorak and Jenna this afternoon to talk about how today’s performance will impact our preparation for the next day was fascinating. We have a game plan and are excited for day 2 (or day 4 however you are doing the math).

    Debrief for Jenna Mayhew and Kinsale after their first Dressage Test.
    Debrief for Jenna Mayhew and Kinsale after their first Dressage Test.

  4. Long days are exhausting! Team Ontario was captured by me waiting for the end of day ribbons presentations napping, even superstars need their rest 🙂

    Team Ontario taking a well-deserved break at CIEC's!
    Team Ontario taking a well-deserved break at CIEC’s!

  5. OEF employees get sassy when you rush them! Although there was still chocolate in the team Ontario tack room I was reminded to take the time it takes to write notes on the whiteboard in preparation for the next day’s adventure.

    Brandon Hall of the OEF – reminding Ruth to take her time!

  6. Ribbons presentations are fun. Watching our team Ontario riders get their ribbons for the first round of competition was so much fun!Day3Pic6
  7. Coffee and candy cure all. Have I mentioned that there is an endless (in my dreams) supply of coffee and candy in team Ontario’s tack room? Stop by and say hi!Day3Pic7
  8. Tomorrow is another day and now is the time to do some much needed analysis of what went well on Day 1 of competition and create a tactical outline of what the rest of the competition looks like. Being a genuine 3 Day Eventer in heart and mind I am a true believer in not resting after day 1, its time to take a move!
  9. Every single member of a team is important. From the athletes themselves (horse and rider) to the parents, grooms, coaches, chefs, support staff, farriers, vets, volunteers, judges and organizers: none of this would be possible without them. Have you thanked them lately?

    Brandon Hall, holding a sign that says “You is Smart, You is Kind, You is Important”. The Help, Abilene Clark. Team Ontario!

  10. Fans are everywhere, and thank goodness! In the chilly morning air while watching Jenna warm up for her test I looked around and saw some familiar Oakhurst faces respectfully watching. I was so thrilled to see all of you there cheering and supporting the team. You are without a doubt the best.

Ride times for Dressage stay the same for Saturday. I would love to see a sea of blue and yellow (Oakhurst) cheering us on the red and white (team Ontario)…

See you there,


So, as promised in yesterday’s blog here are the 10 pearls of wisdom I learned today – some coaching, some just genuine pearls:

1. Using your inside leg and outside hand really does work to straighten a horses way of travelling and helps encourage balance and self-carriage (bet you’ve never heard that one before – but truly, to see Tom Dvorak teach it and to have a conversation with Simone Williams and Ellen Dvorak about it made me feel like I was at the most awesome analyse performance clinic designed just for me!)

Ellen Dvorak, Simone Williams and Brandon Hall, enjoying taking a picture of Tom Dvorak in the Equine Canada Horse display!
Ellen Dvorak, Simone Williams and Brandon Hall, enjoying taking a picture of Tom Dvorak in the Equine Canada Horse display!

2. Schedules are always tentative. It’s best to roll with it when the ever changing schedule of the day changes again… that’s why there’s a bowl of candy in our tack room! Chocolate cures all.

3. Reiners are really a lot like Eventers. It’s true!! Okay so they don’t jump solid obstacles or do 3 different phases but… they love it when you yell ‘Oh Yeah’ when they do something super cool (which is most of the time).

Team Ontario Reiners. The Team that makes everyone say "Oh Yeah!"
Team Ontario Reiners. The Team that makes everyone say “Oh Yeah!”

4. Good coaches can learn from any discipline. I was quietly sitting watching Team Ontario’s reiners do cool things when I looked around and found the area was surrounded by a sea of red team Ontario jackets, amongst them were our team coaches from Jump and Dressage along with a huge contingent of our team Ontario athletes and parents watching and discussing technique, biomechanics and of course shouting out the well-deserved ‘Oh Yeah’s’ when earned.

Team Ontario's "Oh Yeah" shouting supporters!
Team Ontario’s “Oh Yeah” shouting supporters!

5. When a beautiful young lady sings ‘O Canada’ with absolute heartfelt abandon at the opening ceremonies of a sporting event there is nothing else to do but be left feeling pride, hope and inspiration.

6. Golf carts are fun. It’s true, horse shows are definitely a lot more fun when you have a golf cart… However, I would like to formally encourage all horse show organizers to always include optional golf cart races for coaches to participate in.

7. Reining horses can hold your coat. True story, I watched a team Ontario reiner take off her coat and lie it on her horse’s hind end and tie it to the back of her saddle. She did it all at a standstill and the horse stood like a rock. She then proceeded through the majority of her ride with her coat over the horse’s hind end with horse never batting an eye. Oh Yeah!

Because reining isn't hard it with a flappy jacket tied to the back of YOUR saddle!
Because reining isn’t hard enough…do it with a flappy jacket tied to the back of YOUR saddle!

8. Stall displays. Team Ontario’s stall display rocks and it makes me feel proud every time I walk (or golf cart at high speed) past it. Again, I would suggest there be an award for this, especially because there’s chocolate and tomorrow I am bringing twizzlers.

9. Horse Inspections still make me nervous. I can’t even count the number of horses I have had a hand in putting through a horse inspection at a competition, but I can definitely tell you that the sense of relief that I feel when our horses are accepted is immense no matter how well prepared we are.

Jenna Mayhew and Kinsale (Kip) ready for their first Horse Inspection!
Jenna Mayhew and Kinsale (Kip) ready for their first Horse Inspection!

10. Every opportunity is what you make it. I am so proud of Jenna for embracing every opportunity available to her at this competition. She has gone into this with an open mind and welcomed the chance to be coached by people new to her, make new friends and to accept the challenge of being on a team. I love the saying, “What got you here won’t get you there’. If we are constantly evolving our program with new ideas and information we will continue to move our program forward. I am so excited about this opportunity to gather new information to incorporate into our program and feel like a coaching sponge trying desperately to soak up all the cool ideas and tidbits I can while being here. Oh Yeah

Who knows what I will learn tomorrow!

See below Friday’s Dressage ride times,

Come watch, learn and absorb.


Dressage Schedule for CIEC - Fri Sept 25th
Dressage Schedule for CIEC – Fri Sept 25th

What a fun day! We moved Kip into his home for the remainder of the week – show stabling at Wesley Clover Parks. Once Kip was settled in, everyone turned to setting up and decorating Team Ontario’s Meeting area for the week, and it looks awesome! Notice so many of the homier touches like the bench off my front porch 🙂 .

Team Ontario's meeting space - desined by Mark Nelson, assembled by Ruth, Mark, Angelique Homan and Brandon Hal of the OEF and Jenna Mayhew!
Team Ontario’s meeting space – desined by Mark Nelson, assembled by Ruth, Mark, Angelique Homan and Brandon Hall of the OEF and Jenna Mayhew!

Once all moved in and decorated up Jenna took Kip for a ride in the Dressage warm-up ring. The pair were brilliant and looking in super form for the upcoming competition. This evening I had the opportunity to meet our team dressage coaches, jumper coaches and reining coach, what a wealth of information and expertise this group encompass!!

For instance one of the Reining Coaches taught me this vital piece of coaching brilliance at dinner tonight. :-)
For instance one of the Reining Coaches taught me this vital piece of coaching brilliance at dinner tonight. 🙂

Tomorrow is an early start with both the Ontario Dressage and Jumper teams having their ring familiarizations starting at 7am, with our reiners following on at 9:15am. We have a quick team Ontario meeting at 8:45am, a practice jog at 11:15am and then the official Horse Inspection at 1:30pm. Opening ceremonies and a welcome dinner will round out the day.

Stay tuned for updates from day 2!

Go Team Ontario!!!

P.S. To celebrate National Coaches Week, I have made it known that I plan on picking up at least 10 gems of coaching wisdom a day starting tomorrow…


It was within a fabulous conversation last weekend that the discussion of ducks came up.

If you watch a duck swimming in a really strong current it looks from the surface like not much is going on. However if you were to look beneath the surface of the water you would see that the duck is paddling his butt off!

This resonates with me hugely.

We get up every day mostly excited about what’s coming up… I say mostly because I’ll be honest, Monday’s are rough :-)… but I continue to haul myself out of bed and am better for it.

My next day off is in November I have mixed emotions about it… it saddens me that the end of the show season for many people is coming close or has happened. I am 100% honest when I say that I feel horrible for my family when the ‘down season’ (if there is one) comes because, I HUNGER for show season; I LIVE for horse shows; and I CRAVE the next outing!!!

This past weekend we had 10 horses and riders compete at the Robinson Horse Trials in Sutton, Quebec. The views from this Horse Trial are staggering:


Where else could one find such a beautiful setting for an Event?

Here is how our little ducks did:

Jenna Mayhew & Kinsale – Pre-Entry – 2nd

Rebecca Walker & Rookie – Pre-Training – 5th

Kristina Toppari & Top Gun – Pre-Training – 6th

Alexa Bresnahan & Aragon – Training Jr. – 4th

Darby Delle Donne & Silver Lining – Training – 3rd

Michaela Robinson & Devil’s Advocate – Training – 4th

Laura Gravelle & Yarraman – Training – 6th

Blair Nicol & Chasing Liberty – Training – 10th

Chelsea Arden & The Sky’s The Limit – Training

Shannon Holmes & What Happens in Vegas – Preliminary

I can’t express how much I will miss the ducks that will be migrating back to University this fall. They have once again exceeded expectations and they have been paddling upstream and making it look effortless to bystanders. You know who you are and I am delighted to have been part of your journey this summer.

On a completely separate note I am eager to announce the Oakhurst athletes that have been chosen to represent Ontario as members of the Dressage Team at the CIEC in September (Canadian Inter-Provincial Equestrian Championships) Congratulations and all our best wishes to JENNA MAYHEW and KINSALE. You can check out all the details of the competition here:


My first experience with having a rider named to a provincial team was back in 2001 when Colin Campbell and The Warlock were named to Team Ontario for Eventing at the North American Young Rider Championships being held in Chicago.… I was very pregnant, Chicago was very hot and I generally had no idea what to expect from a team atmosphere or what my role would be when working with a team coach. Colin was young, green and I am sure he would agree with me when I say that the first year he went to NAYRC we both thought he was a long shot to getting on the team. That said, Colin had quite a few aces in his pocket: a set of incredibly supportive parents, the best groom to have ever existed (his sister Soupy), a horse that he trusted implicitly and a quietly fierce competitive nature. It was a steep learning curve for all of us but without a doubt an amazingly positive event.


The opportunity to ride as part of a team is definitely a thrill and although I will of course be there to support and coach my riders through the experience, I am equally delighted about the idea of an expert teaching me to watch my rider, as will happen at CIEC with team coaches Ellen Dvorak and Simone Williams. We should all be so lucky as to have other coaches watch our riders and give us input. After all, I have faith that what I have taught my athletes is correct and will absolutely stand them in good stead so what they may gain from another set of eyes may provide them (and me) with even more brilliance… isn’t that part of the idea of LTED (Long Term Equestrian Development)?

We have a tendency to guard our programs so closely as coaches and entrepreneurs of this equestrian sport but if we are real and genuine and true to our athletes we should be open enough to allow them the opportunities that will take that athlete where they need to be. I respect that this is a somewhat unpopular view, after all, our paycheck is our client, but in a true sport view, by being open enough to work collaboratively with a coaching staff that can fit an individual’s needs in that exact moment is an ideal model. This idea is what we continue to work on within our own coaching model at Oakhurst. Helen, Blair, Megan and I all have a different set of expertise when it comes to our teaching style and what we look for which is a definite plus for our athletes. We can watch each other’s riders and see different areas of need and then collaborate on how best to go about improving them. I am looking forward to what I will learn from my time at CIEC in order to bring that back to our home team.


This weekend we have 2 shows happening at Oakhurst: The Upper Canada Derby on Saturday and the Silver Dressage show on Sunday, we also have a beautiful new secretary and scoring chalet to check out!

Never a dull moment, and if we are good, it won’t even look like we are swimming hard at all :-).

See you there!


You know when you watch survivor and the first 2 minutes of the show go like this:  “Last time on Survivor”.  Well, it feels like so much has happened since my last blog that I would like to call this first segment:  “Last Time Ruth Blogged about Oakhurst”… bet you were worried I wouldn’t recap the last month.  🙂 !!

• Upper Canada Derby at Meadowvale – rocked it!
• Tandalee Horse Trials – we were awesome!
• The Pan Am Games – WOW, what a team!
• Oakhurst Summer Camp – so cool!
• Numech Silver Dressage Show – amazing!
• Jessica Phoenix clinic at Oakhurst – totally educational!!
• Starlit Farm Silver Dressage show – Champions!
• Grandview Horse Trials – Total Teamwork!

So, along with all the regular stuff like teaching, doing hay, mowing and that’s what we’ve been up to over the last four weeks.  

Barb Eamer and Coach Blair Nicol showing off Barb and Black Magic’s (Candy) prizes at the Starlit Silver Dressage Show on July 25th.

This past weekend the Oakhurst Dressage team went to the Starlit Farm Silver Dressage show and wow, did they triumph!  Talk about taking the bull by the horns, they did that and more, check out their results:

  • Cindy Moore & Gemini – 2nd & 3rd Places
  • Barb Eamer & Black Magic – 4th & 1st Places + Training Level Reserve Champion
  • Kristin McLaren & Panamerra – 1st & 1stPlace + 3rd Level Champion
  • Devon Svoboda & Abbigael – 2nd & 3rd Place
  • Jenna Mayhew & Kinsale – 1st & 1st place & 1st Level Champion, High Point Champion
  • Cheryl Denault & Bright Holiday – 5th Place & 5th Place

In the words of Joe Dirt, “Life’s a Garden, dig it.”  This Dressage team is definitely digging the winning spirit!

Meanwhile at Grandview Horse Trials there was equally brilliant work happening with the Eventing team…

Chelsea Arden (2nd in Pre-Training with The Sky’s The Limit) and Laura Gravelle (3rd in Pre-Training with Yarraman) celebrating their success at Grandview HT!
  • Chelsea Arden & The Sky’s The Limit – Pre-Training – 2nd
  • Laura Gravelle & Yarraman – Pre-Training – 3rd
  • Becky Allen & Da Vinci – Training – 7th
  • Michaela Robinson & Devil’s Advocate – Training – 13th
  • Shannon Holmes & What Happens in Vegas – Preliminary – 12th

It was an incredibly hot weekend interspersed with some rain which made the humidity awesome for those of us with curly hair.   It proved to be a bit of a challenge for the young trying to keep up on course walks but the effort was there and thanks to Bob and Sarah at Grandview for providing these beautiful benches to rest/pass out on.

Tatum Nelson finds a rest spot on the Cross Country Course at Grandview HT.

The upcoming weekend marks an exciting and educational experience for everyone in the area.  When else do you have at your fingertips some of the key players in the sport????  I can’t express my excitement at having Ozzie Sawiki, Peter Gray, Kara Edwards, Pam Coburn and Brandon Hall here for an Athlete Development clinic on Monday August 3rd.  Seriously, in our own back yards we will have the greatest minds in athlete development across the country???  Athletes, coaches, grooms, parents etc… are all welcome, details can be found here:

What an opportunity to eat, get educated and school a flagged and prepped cross country and show jumping course… did I mention you get breakfast???

I would love to say, ‘How lucky are we’, but I am constantly reminded that we make our own luck…

Where will you be Monday August 3rd?  I will have my ass glued to a chair attempting to absorb the collective wisdom of the masters within sport.

Ruth Allum and Mark Nelson taking a small rest stop during their busy Pan Am Games 2015 Officials schedule.

Take every opportunity you are given.  Run at the wall.  Do things that no one ever expected you to do.  And in every day, find a reason to smile… not just a little smile but a really big one.  I am blessed to get up every day with the knowledge that I don’t always have to be popular, but with the feeling that today I could make a positive difference in someone’s life.

Life is short.  What if… just what if you made someone else feel great about themselves today and what they accomplished.  Would there be a greater gift??  Someone asked me this weekend if I missed competing.  When did I stop?  Watching athletes that I have helped cross their finish line is beyond words.  I am a coach.  I crave my athlete’s next conquest and I am grateful to be allowed in to their victory.

A small group of the Oakhurst Show Team out spectating on the Cross Country course at Grandview HT. L to R: Cheryl Morris, Chelsea Arden, Tatum Nelson and Michaela Robinson.

This weekend we have our Horse Trials on the Sunday and the Athlete Development clinic on the Monday.  Do you feel lucky?

See you there,


So, one sleepless night I lay awake thinking about Dressage… c’mon, Eventing fans, don’t stop reading!  Its common knowledge that I have been an Eventing coach for over 20 years and Eventing will always remain my primary passion.  However, last year we hosted the Eastern Zone Silver Dressage Championships and as the whipper-in for the day I was obliged to watch an entire day of dressage… non-stop… with no cross country phase imminent.  As I watched and watched and watched, I was struck by a light bulb moment (or sun stroke, whatever):  we do dressage at Events all the time, maybe, just maybe our dressage would be competitive at dressage shows too!

Zoe Richardson & Nike, Tatum Nelson & Oh Chez

Once I’d recovered from the sunstroke I started in on the research required to recruit, instruct and outfit a team of Oakhurst Prancers.  I even made a PowerPoint presentation in order to entice some of my Event riders (potential prancers) to the team.  Once conscripted our team began practicing.  I think it’s important to note at this point that our Dressage team ranges from athletes as young as 9 years old competing in the Walk/Trot divisions at ESD shows to horse and rider combinations on the Silver circuit working towards competing at Third level within the next month.

Chef de Mission: Cheryl Denault & Bright Holiday Photo Credit: Alexa Bresnahan

I am going to be honest, when we first started this journey I had only a basic understanding of the names and requirements of the varying levels of Dressage competition… heck we have Training level in Eventing and there is Training level in Dressage, maybe they weren’t that dissimilar.  After reading through the rule book for the first time I decided that a Chef de Mission for this team was required.  I drafted a super smart person with an exceptional knowledge of the rulebook and thank goodness I did!  The uncanny thing is that at 3am when I have questions about how scores translate from percentages to penalties, or what the heck Renvers is I get a response almost instantly!

Due to conflict with the Eventing schedule, this weekend marked the first Oakhurst Silver Dressage team outing that I was present for and wow it was noteworthy.  We took 5 horses to the Dewmont Silver Dressage show and the first couple of times I was jokingly asked by another coach if I was ‘at the right show’ it was cute.

Kristin McLaren & Panamerra – 1st Place in both Second Level tests and Champion of both Second Level tests!

Who’s seen the movie Happy Gilmore?  Watch it if you haven’t so you are up to speed, but for those of you who have, do you remember when Happy goes to his first big golf tournament and introduces himself by saying, “I’m a Hockey player, but today I’m playing golf”.  This is definitely how I felt as I began the day, an Eventing coach playing Dressage coach for the day… however as each of our riders sashayed down center line and tests were executed as we had practiced I started to feel like my golf swing was improving.  And then as scores got posted and it was obvious to the world (and me) that Eventers can prance, I began embracing my inner golfer, however I draw the line at goofy pants.  We learned how to putt, UH OH!

Leah Vrieling assisting with equipment and pony holding

Other than all the ribbon winning (which I enjoyed greatly), one of the cool things that happened at the show on Saturday was the constant trickle of Oakhurst Eventing fans that came out to the show to support to their friends by holding horses, watching dressage tests taking pictures, holding water bottles and cheering!  Their encouragement did not go unnoticed.

Our gang of fearless supporters clearly enjoying themselves. Left to right: Cheryl, Megan, Mark, Jenna, Eric, Helen, Tatum, Elisa

Oakhurst Dressage team results from the Dewmont Silver Dressage show:

Barb Eamer & Black Magic

  • Training Level Test #2 – 2nd Place and Reserve Champion

Devon Svoboda &Abbigael

  • First Level Test #1 – 2nd Place and Reserve Champion
  • First Level Test #2 – 4th Place

Cheryl Denault & Bright Holiday

  • First Level Test #1 –5th Place
  • First Level Test #2 – 5th Place

Jenna Mayhew & Kinsale

  • First Level Test #1 –3rd Place
  • First Level Test #2 – 1st Place and Champion

Kristin McLaren & Panamerra

  • Second Level Test #1 – 1st Place and Champion
  • Second Level Test #2 – 1st Place and Champion
Barb Eamer & Black Magic Photo credit: Emma Richardson

Without a doubt, the thing that makes me the most honoured in this voyage is that my riders have had the confidence in me to help lead them to their prancing dreams.  Although there has been a steep learning curve for me personally (which I have enjoyed immensely) I stand by my unwavering commitment to making my riders the best that they want to be whether they are playing hockey or golf or a bit of both.

The pride that I feel for the athletes who have faith in me to prepare them is abounding, they continue to exceed my expectations and constantly push me to be the best I can for them.

This weekend we are off to the Upper Canada Derby at Meadowvale where we will be all about jumping and galloping, pucks on the ice ladies, we’ll be there to play!

June30Pic7I leave with a quote from a genuine genius, Dr. Seuss:

“You’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting,
So… get on your way!”

Enjoy every day and push yourself to be the best you, you can be.


When I ask my son (13) or daughter (9) what they want to be when they grow up they either come up with what may at first seem like an outlandish idea (bush pilot, Russian spy etc…) or I get the simple, ‘I don’t know’. As if to say, ‘WOW, how could you possibly think I have any idea what I want to do with my life at this age’… I remember a distinctly defining moment in my life (approximate age – 10 years old) when I asked my uncle Paul (early 40’s at the time), what he wanted to be when he grew up… without missing a beat he said, ‘rock star’. I remember feeling so relieved that there was no age limit on when you had to figure out what you wanted to be, and that the sky was the limit in terms of choices!

Laura Gravelle and Yarraman (Yogi) at the Meadowvale Derby 2015. Pic by: E.M.Richardson Photography

I can absolutely say at this point in my life that I know what I am good at. Exploring this can be a valuable exercise in introspection that I think we should all do. I’ll start us off with a few examples from my life:

CheckDisney trivia: I feel like I could hold my own against Cinderella, I mean seriously she’s not as smart as she looks.

XMath: When faced with even the simplest math equation my mind drifts off into grocery lists and lesson plans.

CheckBoard Games: I have an unbelievable ability to win board games by simply outlasting the competition. No one leaves my table until I win, success!!

XCooking: Even the most simple of tasks in the kitchen can turn into a flaming bag of popcorn for me. True story, at the last horse show the hotel we stayed at had complimentary bags of microwave popcorn… somehow after only a minute in the microwave, mine turned into a terrifying fireball of flames as charred popcorn smelling smoke filling our hotel room. Don’t worry, everyone was fine (except the popcorn). Let’s be realistic, I can’t be good at everything, it wouldn’t be fair to everyone else J

CheckCoaching: If you look up the definition of ‘Coaching’ one of the explanations you might find is that the term coaching is brought into play, ‘to describe the process used to transport people from where they are, to where they want to be’. For me coaching isn’t a job I went into in order to subsidize my own riding dreams. I made a very conscious decision to be trained, evaluated, certified and then to continue training in order to give my athletes the best I can possibly provide them. I wake up at night thinking about how to help move my athletes forward, and the feeling when one of them crosses the finish line (figurate or literal) is absolutely indescribable. The biggest adrenaline rush for me is being a participant in helping transport people from where they are, to where they want to be.

Chelsea Arden & The Sky’s the Limit (Skylar) at the Meadowvale Derby 2015. Pic by: E.M.Richardson Photography

I remember reading once that 2% of the population is PASSIONATE about what they do in order to make a living. I am so glad/relieved/lucky that I get to say I am in that 2%.

This past weekend we took a group of 14 riders to a local Derby as a training competition opportunity. For some of the riders it was chance to get to know a new mount before their first Horse Trial, for some an opening to school over some different fences and for a few it was their first break into the world of showing. Our athletes ranged from 9-29 years of age, and they were entered in classes varying from cross poles to 3’0” and yet they all worked together, they all cheered each other on and they were all active participants in each other’s successes. To say that I am proud of them is an understatement.

Kieryn Davison and King Stag at the Meadowvale Derby 2015. Pic by: E.M.Richardson Photography

Oh yeah, and I haven’t even told you how cool our coaches are!! Over the last month we have read blogs from Helen, Blair and Megan that have been informative, thought provoking and entertaining! Keep up the good work ladies, I am thrilled to have the opportunity to work with you and am impressed with how you have stepped up to the challenge… wait until you see what I have in store for you next month!

Just an FYI to the 13 riders we have going to the ‘Eventing at the Park Horse Trials’ this weekend… When I say we are leaving at 8:00am (for example), I actually mean 7:45am. 😉

This weekend we had 10 horses loaded on 3 different trailers in under 10 minutes, team work makes the dream work… the pressure is on!

Until next time, I leave you with this:

Coaches: Make your athletes better at whatever already makes them good.

Riders: Be patient, Excellence takes time.



When we hold our Show Team meeting in January, I sit in the room feeling an awesome rush of adrenaline that carries me through the whole show season.  The feeling of excitement, anticipation and genuine delight that fills me when riders who affiliate themselves with our program leave the start box/ turn down centre line/ or realise the dream in whatever way is important to them is indescribable.  And I am lucky to have surrounded myself by an inspired group of coaches that drive these students and myself to be better every day.
May42015pic1In my fictitious world of rainbows and unicorns I had always hoped of having a pool of coaches who have amazing expertise that I could draw on to make me the best possible teacher my students deserve.

Well shut the front door!!!  I am blessed with Helen Richardson, Blair Nicol and Megan Jenner to draw on to make me sharp, current and critical of what I do on a daily basis as a coach.  All certified.  All invested.  And yes, all hopefully planning on replacing me one day.
My hope/dream/passion/drive is to create coaches who will surpass me.  It seems defeatist right??  In my opinion, success has been achieved when we teach someone else to be better than we have been.

And hey, the big news from our coaching staff this week is that our coaches will be wading into the blogging experience!  Every week we will be rotating through our amazing coaches in order to tap into what they are doing, and what excitement they are finding throughout their week. Keep an eye on the “Coaches Journals” section of our website for weekly updates.

For me this week, I am of course excited to have jumped into our show season with a clinic last weekend with Diana Burnett, and this coming weekend with a huge extravaganza of Dressage fabulousness at our ESD show on Saturday and Derby awesomeness in our Upper Canada Derby on Sunday!  Summer is definitely feeling close, signs of spring are everywhere.

Blairsfilly2Speaking of signs of spring – I’m sure you have heard by now about the arrival of this little lady last night… A few weeks early, with the most impossibly long legs you have ever seen, Jasmine’s filly caught Blair by surprise this morning.  Even though we wait and wait for them, the surprise of seeing the foal that has been growing for 11 months is always sweet, and the exuberance and innocence they bring to the farm always makes us feel like summer is knocking on the door. She’ll be fun for all of us to watch grow this summer! (Better pics to follow once she gets a little more comfortable in her surroundings!)


Personally one of the biggest spring fancies for me is the daffodils that adorn themselves throughout the property.  The guy who planted those around the property was my dad… Robert F. Allum.  And to be honest, every time I wear the OAKHURST flag I thank my parents… my dad from ‘MILE OAK FARM’ and my Mom from ‘HURST GREEN FARM’, hence OAKHURST Farm.  The daffodils were my parents planting originally but I propose that this fall we all plant some.  Who’s with me?  Who else has their parents to thank for their ability to indulge in this sport?

I am eager to see everyone this weekend at our ‘Spring into Summer’ shows and am delighted to watch the Mother’s Day celebrations that will take place!

2015May4pic3P.S.  Who has heard of the Oakhurst Dressage team?

Are you scared??

You should be!

We have team jackets!!!


I have heard about people who go on ‘vacations’… they sound interesting but I can’t quite get my head around what happens. I assume you relax, eat, drink and socialize… Don’t I already do that now combined with work? … and I wouldn’t trade it for anything!

This weekend I was in Ste. Justine de Newton, PQ with 14 horses and riders at Harmony Horse Trials. Our dinner reservation on the first night was for 40+ people and the second night one of the families travelling with us (The Brown’s) graciously cooked for all of us. There are 4 campers, a couple of tents and others staying at nearby hotels. We will socialize, eat, drink and collectively kick ass at an Event… doesn’t that sound like the best vacation ever?

Harmony 2014 Group
Oakhurst Show Team at Harmony Horse Trials 2014

One of the most logistically amazing parts of the whole weekend for me was that the secretary of the event (Rene Dumont) arranged my riders times so that I wouldn’t miss any of them at any phase of the competition. I assume that it must take him days to figure out how to not only set the times so I have no conflicts but also to make sure I have time for lunch? Total Genius!

There is a long list of factors influencing competition and competitive spirit and in my opinion, the format of multi day events taps into the best scenarios of those. The time for competitors to focus on the dynamics that ignite them is hugely beneficial at a two day competition such as this one. They can put their best foot forward and take the time to excel at each phase. As a coach I have time in a multi day competition to warm up, watch and de-brief riders with the intention of setting them up for the following phase which is something in my opinion we miss in the one day format.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Oakhurst riding school and me coaching as a full time job. My goal in the first couple of years was to have a student compete at the Training level… This weekend our team took home 1st and 2nd place in the Preliminary division amongst a host of other top 5 and top 10 finishes. To say that I got a little teary a couple of times watching our riders crossing the finish line would be a complete understatement. For me, seeing the team of people that believe in the spirit of the competitive nature is unbeatable. From my 9 year old niece (Zoe) to our chief cheerleader this weekend (Laura Gravelle), there was no lack of fighters maintaining the fire for the team.

I am honoured to work with dedicated athletes, parents and supporters… you guys make the team, I just get to chaperone. My role as coach is an absolute privilege and I can truly say that I am ‘Livin The Dream’. To those of you who were there this weekend: ‘ Thank you’ for riding your asses off. Your rewards are well deserved. For those that have come before you: I get teary when I think of the times you reached your personal best, no matter the level. For those who are still to come: I cannot wait to see what you will be able to achieve, it’s going to be awesome, and we’ll do it together.

One student said to me on the way to the start box yesterday, “Thanks for the support you always give me, no matter what”. You know who you are, and rest assured that if any student of mine, past, present or future needs support I will do my best to give it.

Speaking for all coaches who are passionate about the athletes we work with, we live your wins as deeply as your losses, and every day I am delighted you let me be a part of both.

What an amazing team of people I get to help guide. Livin’ the Dream.

Where will your next vacation take you?


With the hustle of show season being well under way it can be easy to forget to take a breath.

Monday was a perfect day.

After starting the day Sunday before 5am in order to take 14 students to an Event, there is nothing I like better than sitting on a tractor for over 4 hours cutting grass the next day… Maybe some people wouldn’t see a half a day spent on a bumpy, sweaty, loud tractor as the perfect day, but for me, I can’t think of anything better.

I joke that I am retired on a daily basis because if I was retired I would do exactly the same things I am doing now. For me, riding the tractor with the world drowned out by a set of ear plugs the day after an Event gives me the perfect time for reflection. I encourage my students to fill out a ‘Post Performance Analysis’ worksheet after a competition and in my head I always do my own. Sunday I got to witness some amazing wins. Some were reflected on the score board (3 in fact) and others were reflected in the character and tenacity of our riders and support staff.

Yesterday I had with me 3 coaches (myself included), a brand new working student, a husband that drove the trailer back and forth from the farm to the Event site and vice versa 3 times, not to mention the parents, spouses, friends, grandparents and other fans that accompanied our 14 team members. I have a feeling that some people laugh at my colour coded spreadsheets with rider times for the day of an Event… I have no doubt it’s a cute joke amongst some of the other coaches! However, for those that know me well, you understand that I am a planner, a list maker, and I love organization. I like to tell myself that I can plan for every eventuality… life sometimes however seems to make its own plans.

One of the greatest things for me is to watch one of my riders make a mistake and correct it. One of my favourite quotes is stolen from Albert Einstein: “A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.” The whole point, in my opinion, of Long Term Equestrian Development (which is what our coaching system is striving to move towards) is to teach our students to be able to answer all of the questions they will be asked by the course, or their horse without our help.

To make them independent athletes.

This must be scary to some coaches, to see their students, (their pay check) grow independent of their hand being held all the way into the show ring. For me, to see my students and past students move on to realize their potential is awesome! I strive to have my students be able to answer the questions without me at some point. It makes me proud of the job I have done…

Truly I am a coaching junkie. I was asked at a local Event recently if I missed competing myself… The answer is so easy for me and always has been, I get such an adrenaline rush from watching my students succeed and learn and conquer… why would I go back to competing myself. I am passionate about trying to figure out how to make each horse & rider achieve their very best. I am a coach.

If I can impart one sentiment in my ramblings it’s this: I once had the father of a student take me aside at an event and explain to me that in his opinion the sport of Eventing was a lot like fishing. You can buy the best boat, the fanciest rod, awesome bait and then you can sit in the best fishing spot ever, and some days the fish just don’t bite…

Some Events the fish don’t bite, but this weekend for me, I caught a whole school.


P.S. Riders: Post Performance Analysis Sheets are hanging on the bulletin board in the barn 🙂