Planning For Your Show Day…

The farm didn’t get the business that was needed to keep it going so I put it back on the market for sale. So, it looks like there will be more changes in store for me this coming year. I like to think of it as Tiny House Living, horse style. Hey, if life gives you lemons you make the best dang lemon marguerita you can possibly make, right?

While change is never easy, I am looking forward to downsizing and having more time and money to focus on my own horses and compete more when things settle down. For years I’ve been a jack of all trades, going and doing so many things. I’d like to narrow my focus, be more selective about where and who I spend my time on, and just see where that leads. While selling the farm is the end of a dream in one sense, it’s freeing and the start of an ultimate dream in another. I’m looking forward to what the year will hold.

NBHA Barrel Race

NBHA Barrel Race

Since I’ve been thinking more about competing and the coming show season, I thought I’d share some tips for showing that I’ve learned first hand, sometimes the hard way, the last few years.

The first tip, and one that I think is probably the most important is in regards to food. Food has an impact on how you think, how you react, how well you focus and yet it’s one of the most under-rated elements of competition.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to help someone not be as nervous about showing and when food is mentioned they say, “Well, I don’t need to eat. I’m too nervous to eat.” People just don’t think it makes that much of a difference but it absolutely can mean the difference between a good run and a poor run. We plan our horse’s nutrition, especially if they’re in a high performance event. Why wouldn’t we do the same thing for ourselves?

Willie Bobby & I at the barrel race

Willie Bobby & I at the barrel race

The effects of food on the body can last longer than we realize. If you’re wanting to eat better for a show day, you’ll want to start at least a couple of days early. This will allow some extra time to get the bad food out of your system, and will allow your body to adjust to the better food.

I always eat turkey an hour to thirty minutes before I compete. The protein fuels my brain and muscles so I can think and react. Turkey is also a natural source of Tryptophan which has a calming effect on the body so it helps with nerves.

I also make sure I eat some source of protein every couple of hours the entire show day. This helps keep my sugar levels regulated so I can think clearly and not get nervous. If I’m the least bit nervous, my horse will feel it and will react, so the more clear my thinking and the calmer I am the better my horse will behave and perform.

Another thing that I do is load up on water a couple of days before a show. It’s easy to not drink enough during the show day. Dehydration can wreak havoc on your mind and your reaction time just like food. The more you load up on water the day before, the less likely you’ll be to get dehydrated if you’re not drinking as much as you should. A hydrated mind is a clear mind.

Because of the sugar levels in sports drinks, I try to drink mostly water. If I must have something besides water, I’ll drink Powerade Zero that has zero sugar. I’m not necessarily a big fan of the chemicals, but it does have some needed electrolytes. You can also carry lemon water, or some of the sugar-free drink flavorings. Just be sure to read the label to know what you’re ingesting.

Barrel racing in January

Barrel racing in January

Sleep is another thing that can really impact your performance in the saddle. Make sure you get at least seven to eight hours of shut-eye the night before. If you know you’re not going to be able to sleep because you’re thinking about showing too much, give yourself a couple of extra hours to allow for tossing and turning.

Another tip is to take some quiet time the day before and the day of your show. Take the time to just be still and think about what you need to do and what is important. Don’t let your head run wild with fear scenarios. Plan your day and your strategy, and remind yourself why you’re doing what you’re doing. Connect with your goals.

This year has a lot of uncertainty and changes, but the one thing I can do is control is my own mindset, and how I prepare for when it’s finally time to step in the ring and do what I love to do best. The better mindset I have and the better I set myself up, the better chances I’ll have at enjoying my show day.

When it comes to competing, what are some of your fears? What do you think you do to contribute to those fears? How can you change your routine to lessen your fears? What is your strategy for the coming show year?

bubbashow

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The Low Expectations Strategy

LOW EXPECTATIONS…

Springtime is here and show season has begun!

It’s a time to drag and rotate pastures in preparation for summer grass.

It’s also a time to get ready for the first horse show of the year.

It’s also a good time to assess your goals for the year, and your mindset. What are your goals as a rider? What are your goals for your horse? What are you goals for the show season? And, the big question is do all three of those goals align?

I’ll be honest, I’d absolutely love to run down the alley way at the Thomas and Mack arena at the NFR, or run a cow down the rail at the AQHA World, or jump a course at the Longines FEI World Cup. Actually, I’d love to do all three, but if i start my show season off thinking we’ll be hitting that level by the end the year, I’m going to be sorely disappointed!

The pattern at the State finals. Ground was awesome!

The pattern at the State finals. Ground was awesome!

Joel Sherlin who trained NBHA World Champion and RFD-TV American Semi-Finalist (2014), Bully By Design, has a saying that goes a long ways when it comes to riding horses and horse shows. Joel, who lives in Athens, Tennessee, is as down to earth as they get even though he’s somewhat of a local legend for his uncanny training ability and funny stories that all come from personal experience of course! His saying is, “Low expectations.”

"Team Blowout"!

“Team Blowout”!

You see, just like any great horseman that’s learned from experience, Joel knows you can have the best plans in the world and the biggest dreams, and sometimes things just happen that are out of your control. For instance, you’re riding a colt at a big show and he spooks at the flash on a camera as you’re making your way along the rail and you blow your class. Or maybe you’re riding a horse that’s been hauled a lot but they spook at the second barrel when the wind flaps a banner on the rail. It happens. The key is to not let it deter you from moving forward in your goals.

I’ve hauled with Joel and his wife Nancy quite a bit and I try to learn all I can about this “Low Expectations” strategy. Obviously with their track record and number of great horses they’ve turned out, there’s something to it!

We stayed in the Sherlin's trailer known as "The Double OO". It's famous!

We stayed in the Sherlin’s trailer known as “The Double OO”. It’s famous!

“Low Exepctations” is really a change in mindset that’s usually brought on by the school of hard knocks – sometimes literally – and disappointments. It’s a learning experience.

One thing that I’ve noticed is that when you ride horses that have issues or need some training, you learn very quickly to appreciate the little things. For instance, if you a haul your horse to it’s first show and you stay on, it’s been a good day – never mind you didn’t even place! That’s “Low Expectations” in action right there.

Bubba earned me THE black ribbon for the horse show for his horrendous go in Trail. The following year he won me an All Round for the day!

Bubba earned me THE black ribbon for the horse show for his horrendous go in Trail. The following year he won me an All Round for the day!

When you’re starting a new discipline, or your new to riding in general, it’s the same thing. If you get in your class and you remember your pattern, or you make it around all three barrels still in the saddle, then you’ve had a good ride! Again, “Low Expectations”.

By now, you see where I’m going with this.

Sometimes you have to take a step back and look at where you’re at and what your base struggles are. Do you have trouble getting a lead? Does your horse struggle loping small circles? Do your horse spook every time you go into an indoor arena? Those are the simple things you can focus on now. Fixing foundational problems such as these will lead to much bigger successes later on.

The same thing goes for us a riders. What are some of the things that you struggle with as a rider? Maybe you struggle with getting the correct diagonal at the trot, or being in time over a jump. Perhaps it’s getting left behind when you come out of a barrel headed to the next one, or just not being intimidated with speed. When you break it down, all of these things really relate to strength and balance. Just like working on foundational issues with your horse, you can work on the basic issues as a rider and improve your ability over time.

As riders, we always tend to look at the end picture. What we don’t realize is that it’s all the little things that eventually produce the final success, and that’s a side effect of having a “Low Expectations” mentality. Work on those small things a little at time and eventually they all add up.

If you could do anything with your horse, what would it be? What are some simple things you can do today to improve you and your horse, and implement a “Low Expectations” strategy?

Fireman at Ft. Smith futurity year

Fireman at Ft. Smith futurity year

 

 

Fuller Fillies

~ Fuller Fillies ~

A couple of weeks ago, Suzanne Wild, or “Suz” as I know her, contacted me about becoming a Brand Ambassador for her clothing company, Fuller Fillies in the UK. As I ride both english and western (and have a new eventing prospect!) and they specialize in Plus Size clothing, it seemed like the perfect fit – pun intended!

In talking with Suz, I was immediately drawn in by her energy, her fun sense of humor, and her British manner of telling it exactly like it is.(The Brits are a lot of fun, by the way!)

What I didn’t know until after reading her interview, is that she’s a woman with an indomitable spirit that just won’t quit even in the face of obstacles such as breast cancer. I think you’ll enjoy her interview and I think you’ll be captivated by her fun personality. I’m excited about her passion in designing plus size riding clothes that fit and I’m excited to see what the future holds. By the way, she would like to start a western line!

Meet Suz….

"Suz"

‘Suz & Coco resting’- After a 6am ride (before the sun got up) Coco and me had a ‘moment’.

Suz & Alfie

‘Suz & Alfie Ilkley’ -Me and Alfie enjoying the gorgeous Yorkshire Countryside…he’s trying to work out if he can climb that rock!

What was your life like before you started Fuller Fillies?

I have a varied work background; I studied Fashion at degree level in the 80’s then worked in Bridal Design. I was offered a job with British Telecom that was too much money to ignore and so went there and recorded all their Weather & Travel dial-ups for two years. This led me into a role in Public Relations and then into Recruiting for PR Companies and Design & Advertising Agencies – I made a LOT of money and saw that I could earn more if I understood about personality types and so I trained with the UK’s leading Psychometric Company. Many years later they poached me, as my own profile had been perfect for them and so I re-trained, this time as a Trainer in Psychometrics. I LOVED that job as I went into a different business every day and made recommendations on who to promote, who to employ…and who to sack! Fuller Fillies came out of the blue really, and on the back of another business we had – but ten years on, I wake up with nightmares that I have to work for someone else!

Coco Bum

‘Coco Bum’ – this picture is responsible for the Fuller Fillies Logo – and you can see why!

Alfie & Margaret

‘Alfie & Margaret’ -Safety First Always! Three year old Margaret rides Alfie in tandem with Chris

Do you own or have horses?

Indeed I do! Alfie is a coloured Clydesdale cross (what you would call ‘paint’) and is 16 years old. Coco is a shire cross and the same age – we’ve had both for 13 years so they are like our children (big hairy, smelly ones!) We don’t compete, mainly because I think it is extremely ‘fixed’ and I would end up arguing with judges (did I mention I’m a control freak?). We have them for pleasure and love to explore the countryside with them. Our adopted grandchildren also like to ride them, although at 5 and 3 they do look a little like a pea on a drum!

 

Fuller Fillies

Fuller Fillies

What is Fuller Fillies?

Fuller Fillies is an Equestrian Brand that designs and manufactures exclusively for Lady plus-sized riders. Our sizes start at UK 16 – which is a US 14-  and now goes up to a UK 26 (US 24). In a nutshell we make everything you need from top-to-toe! We make Breeches, Jodhpurs and Riding Tights, Show Jackets, every day jackets, shirts, gloves, Boots and Half-Chaps as well as accessories like Belts and Ties. Because we only make for plus-sizes, our clothing fits well and flatters!

Reuben (2)

Reuben –This is my Cousin’s daughter wearing our CheckMates and now discontinued Reuben Fleece. My family have the right genes to provide models….

  How did Fuller Fillies get started, and what inspired you to start the company?

Whilst I was working in Psychometric based Business Consultancy my Husband Chris was consulting in finance. The Company he worked for had an insolvency division and they kept being offered ‘acquired’ stock at low prices. One day they were offered some Equestrian stuff and we had just got Alfie and Coco, and a Pony Tica, so the call went through to Chris as the resident ‘expert’. We bought around £27,000 worth of stuff for £6000 and took it on the road for a week. It was a great holiday from Business Consultancy and we returned a profit of £16000 in three days. As a result, we established a clearinghouse and bought in lots of lines which we then sold via our website (our quickly built website…)

From day one, all I heard was “can you get this in a bigger size?” As a UK size 22 at the time, I knew there was precious little on the market and so began to research the worldwide market. Eighteen months later Fuller Fillies was born! It was a good move, as I cannot think of anything else I could have done that would have made sense of my career to that point!

What do you think makes Fuller Fillies unique from other companies, and what do you think are the company’s strong points? 

Firstly, there are no other brands that concentrate wholly on plus-sizes in either Equestrian or Country Wear markets. Most will make their standard sizes a little bigger, that really does not work, and results in the ridiculously shaped garments we see on the market.

Secondly, what I hear makes us unique is the instant access the consumer has to me! I hear this all the time – it is rare to find a Brand where you can speak to the Designer of the Collection. From day one, I was adamant that the consumer would be part of my design team and would be consulted at every stage – and that is exactly what happens! I think our main strength is that we know and understand who our customer is and so we can design for them without fear of being led down a fashion-conscious blind alley.

Musketeer

Musketeer -My Sister Joanne wearing the Musketeer Jacket and ShowPro Breeches with Huggy Half Chaps.

What have been some of the struggles that you have had as a business? How did you work through those?

Well, there have been several major hiccups that should have seen us finished – but I’m proud to say we weathered the storm and are still here!

Even before we launched we had a huge upset. We had partnered with the UK’s biggest Distributor to sell our Collection to the Trade (we didn’t sell direct until a few years ago). On the basis they would take half of everything we made, we put 12 lines into production…they subsequently went into receivership and we were left trying to find finance to the tune of £100,000! Luckily, Chris’s experience working with the banks put us in good stead and we marched onwards.

Our second major hiccup concerned our relationship with a US equestrian retailer giant; Due to the sheer volume of clothing we needed to carry ‘just in case they wanted it’ we had much of our stock in a Bonded Warehouse (this way we didn’t have to pay VAT and neither did the giant and eventually, the customer).

The large retailer decided they would handle their own shipping and so dealt with the Bonded Warehouse directly – and ran up some huge invoices that the warehouse incorrectly assigned to us. When we refused to pay it, they froze all of our stock and the only way we could get it back was to pay US retailer’s invoices or go to court. We did the latter but settled before the court date – that cost us almost £30 000 and we had nothing to show for it. Needless to say, we moved our stock!

Then in 2014, I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. Whilst I thought I would be able to work through the treatment, it became evident that was not going to work – 2014 was my year of temporary retirement!

When I came back to work in January 2015 the business was about three months away from closure as no new lines had been designed, no advertising or promotion had been done…then one week later we were burgled and 80% of our stocks were taken!

In a way however, it was the best thing that could have happened because it allowed us to essentially start over. My chemo-fuddled brain really had to work hard to come up with new designs quickly but again, that worked well for me – I have never been one to feel sorry for myself!

I now have an assistant Sarah, who I involve in as much as is physically possible – after all, I’m 52 and it would be nice to retire properly one day.

 

Since Fuller Fillies is located in the UK, are there any difficulties in shipping to the US? What is the average shipping time? Can you provide rush delivery? How long does that normally take? 

Absolutely none; in fact we offer ‘next day’ delivery on anything (in-stock) ordered before 10am (UK time) Monday – Thursday AS STANDARD! Even the large US retailer we dealt with can’t offer that. I don’t think rush delivery is an option – we would have to offer it yesterday to be quicker 😉

Any order received across Friday and the weekend is processed on Monday so worse case scenario is a three-day wait. Our website will tell you if something is on back order (this is when we allow customers to order as the new stock is en-route) and of course, these are dispatched as soon as they come in.

Fitting Guide

Fitting Guide

Make sure you check the fitting guide

What is your return policy? What is the craziest reason you’ve had someone return an item they purchased? Any good stories?

We have stringent laws in the UK appertaining to purchases made online; the customer must notify us in writing if they wish to reject the products (for whatever reason) within 14 days of receipt. They then have another 14 days to get the item back to us (at their cost).

Although we don’t have to offer this outside of the UK, we do however; the cost of getting product back to us usually means that ladies simply re-sell the item on a Facebook group like ‘Fuller Fillies pre-loved’ or ‘English Plus-Sized Rider’. We are working to find a partner in the US to whom returns could be made cheaper; they would inspect the goods and advise…however; it isn’t always that simple.

We have found that quite a few customers will claim that a product is faulty because it doesn’t fit them (I think because, if it is faulty then the cost of return is ours to bear)! Truly, 99.9% of the time it transpires they didn’t consult our fitting guide on the home page.

Whenever the guide is consulted and we are happy to clarify anything that isn’t clear- it results in a perfect fitting garment and a happy customer. I know this to be the case and will stand by that absolutely!

The craziest thing is how many customers just order the biggest we do – regardless of their measurements! I think so many have been accustomed to HAVING to buy the biggest to be able to breathe/walk/ride in them that they just assume we will be the same; we’re not! We know plus-sizing and I would venture we are the Worldwide EXPERTS on the topic. Some ignore our advice at their peril…although I suspect many like to say, “I need a smaller size!”

 What are future goals for Fuller Fillies? 

We scaled down our sales to the Trade when the recession hit as stores stopped buying for stock and began to order the odd thing here and there for a customer who wanted them. We are now in a position to go back to the Trade and get it built up again. We can now offer discounts for bulkier orders (10 or more of an item) and have found that selling to the consumer has been the best advert for the Trade Stockist as ladies are going into their local store and asking them to stock us.

I would eventually like to develop a Western Range for the US and Canada because larger ‘Cowgals’ need clothing too! In addition, the US is a lot more welcoming on the topic of larger riders than the UK – I’m sure it’s something to do with great hulking Cowboys riding tiny little ‘saddlebred’ ponies.

Is there anything that we don’t know about Fuller Fillies that we don’t know? 

One example, if you create an account on our website BEFORE you shop, the website will not only adjust the shipping as you add to the basket AND let you shop in $USD (or $Canadian), but it will also take 20% off the sale price which is in respect of the UK VAT.

Also, so long as you keep an order under the $200 mark, you don’t get charged any Stateside duties! This has been a well-kept secret by your Customs people and something we found out accidentally – add all of this together and you’ll find that in many cases you don’t pay any more than our UK X-Lovelies do…

Jo and Suz (1)

Jo & Suz – an informal shot taken after the other model didn’t turn up so I stepped in.

Any parting words of wisdom? 

Get to know our website; every scrap of information you need to know is on there! We are currently having it overhauled so very soon it will be even easier to find the info you want. In the meantime, if you don’t find the answers you need to order is absolute confidence then PLEASE use the ‘Contact’ function at the top and bottom of every page to send us a question! We’ll answer it with way more information (of the correct variety) than anyone on Facebook (unless it’s us!) Facebook is great but; nobody is interested in reading/listening  – they are all about their own opinions…so before you take someone’s word ask them what experience they have of buying from us directly – what did they buy – and when? You’ll be amazed how often the answers are, “Oh I haven’t ever made a purchase,” “Nothing’, and “Never”.

Here’s the links where Fuller Fillies can be found –

FACEBOOK –  https://www.facebook.com/FullerFillies/

WEBSITE  – http://www.fuller-fillies.co.uk/

TWITTER – @FullerFillies  LINK: @FullerFillies

PINTEREST – https://www.pinterest.com/fullerfillies

 

 

The Days Are Getting Shorter…

Being the horse girl that I am, I can’t post without sharing the latest horse news!

Beavis, the young Dash For Perks barrel prospect that I posted about last time, is back home at the Sherlin farm where he’s being used for riding lessons. The horseman in me wouldn’t let him go back until I got one last decent run actually around all three barrels. So we ended on a good note and I feel truly blessed to have gotten to borrow such a terrific young horse to ride. Lots of great lessons learned!

My mom & me with Beavis in the barns

My mom & me with Beavis in the barns

At the end of September, I wound up with Dynamic Host, aka “Louie” thanks to Prancing Pony Farm owned by Julie & Justina Faunt in Riceville, Tennessee. He’s a 17.1 hand, 9-year-old Thoroughbred gelding by Dynaformer. Dynamic Host won the Tokyo City Cup while in training with Art Sherman who trained California Chrome. I’ll be putting some foundational training on him as an Eventing Prospect so it looks like I’ll be pulling those breeches back out that haven’t seen the light of day in several years!

With an added horse that’s big and needs a lot of training, and days that are getting shorter, I’ve been thinking a lot about time management and how to save time. With a 45 minute commute to a full-time job, giving lessons, and 9 head of horses – 6 are stalled – my days are always full.

My husband has to be at work at 5am so most mornings I’m up at anywhere from 3:30 to 4am. The mornings are usually when I’m catching up on social media and book promotion. Sometimes I’ll get in some writing. That’s also when I fix my lunch, get in a real quick work out, and fit in my prayer time. If I’m really industrious, I might even throw in a load of laundry or unload the dishwasher! Then I’ll start feeding and cleaning stalls, which normally takes about an hour to an hour and half – it depends on whether or not everyone cooperates coming in! Donkeys can be cantankerous at times!

On the days that I don’t get up early, not only do I not get as much done, I also feel like I’m running behind. So getting up at least a little earlier not only helps me accomplish more, it also helps to keep me more focused and prepared.

Doing all my barn chores in the morning is a critical piece  of the day as well. Sometimes my husband will pick stalls in the evenings but most of the time I’ll pick stalls and spread manure in the mornings. This frees up my time in the evenings to ride.

I also try to prep in the mornings for the evening feeding as much as I can. I feed soaked cubes and beet pulp before evening turnout so I’ll pre-load the feed tub with the dry cubes so only water has to be added. I’ll also mix feed for any horses that get special feed.

I do my feeding out of a wheelbarrow — that wheelbarrow was the best investment ever! Instead of making multiple feed trips to the feed room, I can just load up and dump feed as I go down the hallway. This saves a ton of time!

I usually don’t get home from work until a little after 6pm, at which time I’ll quickly get in a few updates for the social media pages before I start working horses or give a lesson. I’ve learned to give myself a time limit on the evening updates and usually try to keep it at around fifteen minutes. Otherwise, I’ll spend too much time on that and not get my riding done!

Horses learn by repetition. So even if they’re only learning something for ten minutes, if they do it the same way three times they’ve usually got it. Over the years, I’ve learned you can accomplish a lot of long-term training  in short intervals, which works great for people who are busy, or if you’re like me and have a lot of horses to work. Those short sessions over time add up if you’re consistent with what you’re doing.

I try not to do long marathon sessions with a horse. I’ll set a goal for the ride and the second that horse meets it, we’ll quit and either take a little trail ride around the pasture for conditioning, or we’ll quit for the day. Not only does that save on time, but it gives me a better chance of ending on a good note with my horse.

There are three tools that I use as time savers for working horses – ponying, lunging & ground work, and riding bareback. All three of those allow me to accomplish a lot in a short amount of time:

  • Ponying not only allows me to condition two horses at once, it also helps them to learn to traffic, and work on their reining skills.
  • Lunging is more than just getting the edge off of a horse. You can work on things like balance with transitions, speed control, and just paying better attention. Working on lateral movements from the ground can definitely help improve the lateral responses you get under saddle.
  • Riding bareback saves a lot of time because you don’t have to tack up. You’ll also improve your riding and your horse’s responsiveness.
Trailer load demo at Circle C Cowboy Church colt starting competition and clinic 2011.

Trailer load demo at Circle C Cowboy Church colt starting competition and clinic 2011.

Getting up early, preparing ahead of time, and maximizing your ride time can all help you to be efficient in working with your horses.

What are the special things you do to help save time and be more effective with your horse? What are the things that you struggle with?

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