Riding for Christian Kennedy, part 5

Last week in Wellington has been bitter sweet. I am so excited  to go back to Ohio and start again with my horses and clients, and of course see my dog Lake! But also cannot believe that this program is already over! I cant keep saying this enough, that this whole season for me has been a dream, because it truly has been. With that being said I have some great news! Our last horse show at Global we were able to get one of our scores toward our gold medal with a 61.8%!!! So proud and excited that we were able to score that and brings hope that we can definitely do it again! My horse has been working really hard and he deserved that, and he is teaching me how to ride a test with no mistakes!. We don’t have a ton of wiggle room in the test just knowing how the scores will be since he doesn’t move as big as some of the others. But we can have an accurate test with no mistakes because he can do all the movements. We are also getting more comfortable in the test and becoming more seasoned at the Grand Prix! We have come such a good way this season and I have so many good ideas and things I want to keep working on to improve our scores!! 

Other great news is that I passed the Instructors Certification Exam!! I couldn’t have done it without the girls that went through it with me and the great examiners! That was a great experience preparing and going through the exam. I think that it is a great way to expand your knowledge and to become a better horsewoman. Becoming a better rider/teacher/lounger is something very important to me and I always want to improve my skills. Going through this program I believe has really helped! I am so excited to get back and share my knowledge with everyone! 

With all this great news happening it was a great way to be ending the season and heading back north. Unfortunately had to have my last lesson with Oded, who has been a huge asset to my training along with Lendon. I am forever grateful to them both. I am also thankful to all the riders in the WIT program, it has been a special time getting to know everyone which made it pretty difficult to say goodbye to the family we created.  

So as I write this in the truck on our first day of travel back home, thank you everyone who followed my journey and to all the support along the way. It has been a great honor to have been riding for Christian this season and I plan to keep riding for him. 

Riding for Christian Kennedy, part 4

Where do I begin? What a fun week it has been. Sadly, we are wrapping up for the season. With only about two weeks left, its hard to believe how we got here and how it went so fast? 

Emily Gill at Kahlaua at a horse show

A huge highlight for me was going down the centerline at Global with my best boy, Kahlua. We showed last weekend in the Grand Prix and it was an experience of a lifetime! It was really a blast being able to prepare at the barn and then take a hack to the show grounds before I rode my test! So much fun showing here! And to top it off, Kahlua really felt awesome in the arena, I was really proud of both of our tests seeing as we are still chipping away at this test, and getting stronger and more confident each time. We are getting better at the Piaffe and the second day had some better on-the-spot steps. Also I am working to make our one tempis bigger and bolder. Also, preparing with more sit in the canter before the pirouettes, especially to the left. Of course being a dressage rider, nothing is ever good enough (hehe!) but that is the beauty of it, there is always room to grow. We did not get as high of score as we would have liked, but I have no fear that we will get there. We just have to keep chipping away and that is the best part. The journey is more fun then the destination. 

Emily Gill in Annies Fashion show

After such a fun weekend showing, to top it off, Sunday I was in a fashion show! I went down centerline alone this time and it was definitely a different feeling. It was such a fun evening modeling for Annie’s Equestrian Apparel, and having some fun while doing it. We were able to add our own version of pirouettes, spins, and cat walks to really show off all the beautiful bling on the clothes. I also fell in love with all of the clothes. I was covered head to toe in Annie’s clothing. I loved all the jackets, the tasteful bling and the pretty colors. Everyone looked so fabulous and they fit all of us wonderfully. I swear I am not getting paid to say all these nice things, but I truly love Annie’s clothes, and what they have to offer for their products as well as an overall business. 

As a group we got front row seats to join and watch the Challenge of Americas competition. We helped sell raffle tickets and helped put on admission bracelets. And once everyone was settled we were able to watch all the performances. You could tell all the groups worked really hard; their horses looked amazing under the lights! That was a great night to see all the support to help support research for Breast Cancer as well as spread awareness. It is heart warming to see how many people are willing to support this cause. Hopefully one day soon, we can finally kick cancer to the curb!

Christian Kennedy and WIT part 3

It’s halfway through the program and I haven’t had time to write because I have been having too much fun! For starters, not to make all the northerners jealous, but it has been pretty toasty these past few weeks. Having temperatures in the mid to high 80’s and I have gotten the occasional sunburn here and there 🙂 And just like the weather, the riding has been great! 

Emily Gill and Dressage students at horse show
Cheering on a student at Global

I had a lesson with Louise Nathhorst last week and she is pretty remarkable. The lesson was really great, and Kahlua was on top of his game. We did most all the movements from the Grand Prix test. When we were schooling the canter pirouettes on the centerline, a great piece of advice that really helped my horse and me, was for me to turn my inside shoulder to his inside hip. Set the canter up in a way where I can collect a stride on the spot and turn the pirouette and let him do his job. And the turning of my own shoulder really helped me get out of his way so he could step under himself and turn. We also worked on our most difficult area, the piaffe, and letting him think of taking the passage on the spot. We had some really great steps and have been schooling it that way since with some more success. Also, we worked on making my corners better and to collect him more before I make the turn, that way I have better preparation for whatever I am doing out of the corner. She was so kind and I hope I can ride with her again sometime! 

My lessons with Oded have been going really great as well. Kahlua has this new gear that I call his “fancy trot’ otherwise known as the collected trot. This trot allows him to have more swing in his gait, and to take longer loftier strides. We are schooling it in some lateral movements as well and have had success making half passes in this trot. It is still new for him and he is getting stronger and more comfortable in this new gear. We have also been working the piaffe like we did with Louise in her lesson and that has built some clarity in his mind of what is a good piaffe and what we don’t want. So I am working hard to make sure everything stays black and white for him and that he knows when he is doing good! The contact from the bit to my hands is getting a lot better too, I am having a better understanding of following the contact. While still getting a clear half halt and getting him through on the outer rein. Really am grateful to work with Oded, he pushes us to be better and that is just what we need! 

I almost had a change in discipline about two weeks ago, I had a working equitation lesson with Doina Fischer,  and I think I am hooked! The first day it was raining when I had my private lesson with Diona and we still had a great time playing under the raindrops. We did activities like doing 10 m circles around cones, doing half passes moving up to flying changes between cones, doing pirouettes around cones, to side passing over a pole. We used all of the dressage tools and through these exercises and staying aware of my seat, my horse became more supple to my aids. The second lesson was on Valentines Day, and I couldn’t have had a better Valentine than Kahlua. In this lesson we did more advanced activities and even did a pattern at the end, ending with picking up a rose. It was so much fun! I loved using the poles and cones and thinking about where to position my horse or prepare before the next movement it was so great. My only regret is that I didn’t get any of it on video! So you may just have to look for us in the working equitation arena because I truly am hooked! 

Emily Gill in freestyle demo
Kahlua and I with Collier

Besides thoroughly enjoying my horse and lessons with some amazing professionals, I have gotten to enjoy all the other WIT activities with the group. We had a freestyle workshop with Collier Wimmer, and Kahlua and I got to be the demo pair. That was a lot of fun to play with some music in different gaits and movements. Collier was giving us tips on how to create a unique freestyle fit for you and your horse. And what music would be best, to showcase your horse, so much fun learning with her. Also, I am getting geared up for the USDF lounging workshop this weekend. This will be the last workshop of the whole series. And last but not least, I have some exciting news and Kahlua and I  will be cantering down centerline in March at Global. I am super excited to have fun and show for our very first time in Florida. I have recently done some reflecting and I am so appreciative of this horse and what he has done for me because if it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t be here or riding for Christian. But it has been so fun and exciting to see our improvements because not too long ago we couldn’t do a line of one tempis or passage. So I am super happy with our progress and I am excited to watch us both get stronger. 

My Morgan Story

As we all know, my heart horse, Kahlua is a Morgan and I have been given the opportunity to write an article for The Morgan Dressage Association’s Extensions, and I wanted to share it on here as well!

“To say that my Morgan horse has changed my life is an understatement; he has made my life and without him, I wouldn’t be on the journey that I am on today.

I started riding when I was about 10-years-old and luckily enough, I started riding Morgans right from the start. My love for riding and Morgans grew, and I quit other activities, like dance and gymnastics so I could spend more time at the barn. At the time, I was riding in the hunter and western events at Morgan Shows with my first horse, Keas Fanfield, or as I called him, “Buster.”He showed me the ropes of riding and he took care of me in the show arena, and also at home. I think we mastered every bareback move there was to conquer in the field at home. As Buster got older, my trainer at the time and my parents thought it would be a good idea to get a younger horse so I could learn and grow alongside him.

So the search began. My parents didn’t know a whole lot about horses at the time, but they tried their best and were trying to decide the best way to go about buying a new horse. Soon into our search, my parents showed me a video of a chestnut yearling, with a flaxen mane and tail, running around a paddock. I was 11-years-old at the time so I thought this was the most amazing horse I’d ever seen and was star struck. This future star’s name was Kahlua and was also a half-brother to one of my trainer’s horses I had been riding, so it seemed like a good fit. However, I tried not to get too excited about the amazing chestnut in the video because my parents told me they were unsure if we’d be able to get him.

But, on Jan. 25, 2006 everything changed. I was in the middle of science class, I got a call that I was to leave for the day. At the time I was upset because I really wanted to be in class that day. As we drove home, I was confused about what was going on and my mom kept making excuses as to why she picked me up. When we got back home, my mom handed me a lead rope and said: “Go get Kahlua.” I was upset that my mom would joke with me like that since I thought he wasn’t going to be in my life, but then I saw a horse trailer pull up to the driveway. I was in shock as I walked to the trailer and saw an adorable chestnut head pop out of the door to say “hi.” I couldn’t believe it and started crying immediately. I couldn’t believe that my horse was here, I just wanted to get him off of the trailer so I could start to get to know him. As I walked my new forever friend down the driveway, I was completely oblivious to what our future would hold.

This was the start of my new adventure. With Kahlua being a yearling and me being only 11-years-old, we had a lot of barriers to break but we were up to the challenge. Kahlua came from Cindy and Lyle Dietz of Coulee Bend Morgans in Canada. They did an amazing job breeding Kahlua, and it was easy for me to fall in love with him.

As our journey began, I had to teach him everything. Things like, standing in the crossties, lunging and wearing polo wraps, were all new to him. We still had Buster, so we often used him to set an example for Kahlua. I can still remember Kahlua not liking his legs being wrapped so I would make him watch me wrap Buster’s legs and then I would switch and do it to him. I like to believe that Kahlua was actually watching me work with Buster and was taking notes on how to behave, but who really knows. As he grew, he was figuring out lunging like a champ and I really just couldn’t wait to find out what he would be like to ride.

When he was about 2 and a half years old, I was lunging him one day with his saddle on and wanted to try leaning over him. I was just laying across his back, and he was being really good so I decided to flip my leg over. So there I was in my round pen, with no helmet on, sitting on my young horse – I was so excited! I was riding my horse for the first time! I was so happy, I called my mom to tell her what happened. She came running down to the barn and I used showing her as an opportunity to do it again. Kahlua just stood there for the second time, which was extremely lucky for me since I was definitely testing his patience and didn’t have a helmet on.

I was very lucky to have such an eager and easygoing horse since we grew up together from a young age and I changed my mind about what I wanted to do a lot. At first, we experimented in the Morgan show horse world, where he excelled at road hack and even some western classes. Then we moved into the hunter/jumper world and we even won some highpoint 2’3″ classes. Finally, we found our true calling about 8 years ago when we went to our first dressage clinic taught by my now current trainer, Francesca Nicoletti – we haven’t looked back since. I found the sport of dressage was something that Kahlua and I could fall in love with. There was always room for improvement and ways for us to move up and I loved that aspect of it. We started at first level and slowly started getting more involved in the youth programs that dressage has to offer, like attending young rider clinics with Jeremy Steinberg and other clinicians. Before we knew it, Kahlua was going around in a double bridle and I achieved my bronze medal – I still remember the day like it was yesterday.

We continued up the ranks of dressage and together we achieved our silver medal and half of our gold before I left for college. Kahlua has gone with me everywhere I go, so naturally, he came to college too. He’s so easy going that I have also been able to move him around for job opportunities and big events, like Equine Affaire. I think he’s like this because he is so smart, which has been a blessing while training him. Since he doesn’t move as fancy as some of the warmbloods we often compete against, his heart and brains have made up for that. Competing in dressage is competitive since there is no room for mistakes, so we have to be accurate in our tests since we can’t score as high for gaits.

Kahlua and I continued on the path for our gold medal while I was in school. We earned started off showing in the Intermediate II and then last October, officially became a Grand Prix pair. We had a lot to work on for this to happen; the one time changes and the passage were the most difficult to master, and we’re still perfecting our piaffe. Kahlua often steps on himself in the piaffe, so while I’m in Florida we have been working hard at correcting this. Step by step we are getting closer to our goal, and soon his heart and brain will persevere and we’ll figure it out.

This horse has given me so much and continues to do so, he deserves nothing but the best. I will probably never have a relationship like this with another horse, so I’m soaking up every bit of it that I can. I am pretty certain we are on the same brain wavelength as he works so hard for me. The mentality of the Morgan horses and their work ethic really shines through in my Kahlua. I am forever grateful to have been a part of this incredible journey we are on and hope that everyone gets to have a once in a lifetime horse like Kahlua.”

Riding for Christian Kennedy, Part 2

Emily Gill and dressage student

Another couple of days in the sun for the books and I am working hard on my farmers tan (sorry northern friends). I have been able to keep teaching the WIT girls and they are working hard on improving their seats. I am really impressed with this group and I have enjoyed helping them study for their quizzes that they take every Friday. It’s fun for me to teach anatomy, or talk about the skeleton of the horse and things of that matter. I have been making them Quizlets to help them study more and use that as a tool to help them. I have really enjoyed that, and my position in the WIT program.

Another activity I enjoy is watching my horse improve and get stronger! He has been doing amazing under the wings of Lendon and Oded. Sometimes I have to look down and wonder if I am riding Totilas or Kahlua ;). The piaffe is underway and he is actually taking steps that are not stepping on himself! I am so excited about all this, and I have been perfecting my way of riding along the way. The other day we were working on the half pass zig zag (for the grand prix) and for some reason, the timing of counting the strides and straightening then sideways was not clicking in my head until the end. Thank goodness Kahlua is a good sport and stuck with me along the way.

I also had a very special moment when I got to meet Christian’s mom Anne Barber Wallis and what a special lady she is. She was so kind and came to watch Kahlua and me at our lesson with Oded. I am looking forward to seeing her again this month when she returns for some sunshine.
Since I am involved with the WIT program, I had the opportunity to attend the USDF Trainers Conference! The girls and I were able to watch the whole thing, as well as do some volunteer work before and during the event to help out. So we also got to be a little behind the scenes! We got to watch George Williams, Charlotte Bredahl, Christine Traurig and Debbie McDonald work with two riders each day and watch them work through and progress in those two days. There were some amazing horse and rider pairs who rode with these experts. It was great to see them first hand work the horses and riders of all levels and ages. I personally was attracted to the young horse section with Christine, just because I have a soft spot for young ones. They are different every day, and there is nothing more rewarding than watching a young horse become the best they can be, or cherry on top they make it to Grand Prix!

Most recently I attended the first workshop in the process of competing the USDF Instructors Certification. The first workshop was the riding workshop, and thanks to Laura Ashley Killian who provided all the horses for us to ride. We rode two unfamiliar horses, my first horse; Shana a black Arabian/Oldenburg mare schooling third level who was quite the dream! Our task was to ride the horse and asses their strengths and weaknesses and how we will progress the rest of the workout. The first day I went through the motions and found out I needed to focus on using the correct terms. Such as impulsion and not “I squeezed her like a tube of toothpaste”. By the second day of the workshop, I felt I was more confident in my examination of the horse and proceeded with an adorable Arabian/Lusitano palomino mare that was going Grand Prix. She was such a great ride and we had a nice ride and I had a better idea of how to prepare my thoughts. It’s one thing to ride the horse and make it successful but it puts a good challenging twist on it. When you have to stop and explain. I am looking forward to the teaching and lounging workshops to come. Then the exam at the end of March, I have a goal to pass that so I can advance to the higher levels to get certified. I also found out there is going to be the first section of the L program in my area of Ohio! So I am also looking forward to that in the summertime!

That’s all for now, I will keep everyone updated and cannot wait to see what else is in store!

Riding For Christian Kennedy 2019, Part 1

Winter of 2019 is the first winter I have ever been to Wellington Florida. Thanks to Lendon Gray and the support from the generous Christian Kennedy Scholarship made it possible for me to have this amazing experience. I have only been here for a little over a week and the first word that comes to mind is “wow”.
Wow to the people I have met and all the girls in the WIT program that I will be helping teach this winter. Wow to the horses and riders I have already been able to see and being around them has helped me ride better already! Wow to the generous Oded Shomoni for helping my horse and me achieve great things, I have only taken two lessons and I am so excited for more! And of course wow to Lendon for believing in me enough to invite me down here. I am excited about this journey and would love to tell you all about it. I am also taking this opportunity to ride for Christian, for such an amazing rider and person and for me to be given this opportunity I believe that he will be with us every step of the way and my goal is to make him and his family proud.

So to start off my blog, a little background about myself; I am 24 years old I own an amazing 13-year-old Morgan gelding. We have shown the Grand Prix and working towards raising our scores in hopes of earning our gold medal together. We are in Wellington until the end of March and then will return home to Ohio where we reside.

Kahlaua on a walk in Wellington, Florida with Emily Gill Dressage

The journey down to Florida was very un-eventful which I was grateful for. I was also grateful to my dad who took the trip with me. We started on an early Friday morning and made it to our halfway point in Santee, South Carolina, where we would stay for the night. This is my first trip down to Florida and this was my first experience leaving my horse overnight somewhere new, and I couldn’t have picked a better place than the Santee Horse Hotel. They were so hospitable and texted me later to let me know Kahlua had drunk his water. And I was very appreciative for their kindness. Next morning we took the second half of our trip to finish in Florida. We got into the state fairly quickly and then just cruised along the coast until we reached Wellington. Also made it through the agriculture check when first arriving in Florida, which was a new experience for me as well but quite easy as long as you have the horses Coggins and health certificate. So as my dad and I changed from jackets and long socks to short sleeve and shoes we finally made it to the barn to unpack and meet everyone. Luckily Kahlua settled in just fine.

Emily Gill training dressage

The beginning of this program has been super smooth going, getting to know all the girls has been truly a blast! I think we have a really fun group and we have already been able to have some great laughs. Fitness and riding have been on the agenda every day. Also, I have gotten to ride and teach some of the girls and help them with their mounts, which has been super fun for me and I am looking forward to watching them grow throughout the next couple months. The first weekend we got to visit Ali Brock’s farm and watch her ride a horse and then teach a lesson. I loved every second of that, just because I love to watch Ali ride and to hear what she had to say about the horses and how maybe they were a little different than a ‘typical’ dressage horse. She talked about how if you have a horse that seems to be willing then why not pursue it and see how far it can go. Maybe the horse doesn’t seem to have the correct conformation or isn’t a typical breed for dressage, she still kept going with their training. That was very relatable to me having a Morgan in this sport because to me there is no ‘normal’ or ‘typical’ horse that is supposed to do it, if you have a horse with the heart to do it, might as well give it a go! So it was very cool to hear how Ali and other professionals appreciate any type of horse in the dressage arena.

Due to the Christian Kennedy Scholarship, I have been able to not only train with Lendon but also Oded Shimoni. I have had two lessons so far and I am already hungry for more! One of the biggest struggles my horse and I have is the piaffe. It tends to get very quick and he tends to step on himself. I have tried many different ways but have yet to find something that clicks. I am excited to say that already working with Oded my horse is taking the whip on the ground and stepping under himself quite well. These training sessions have already made leaps and bounds towards one of our goals, which is to achieve our gold medal together. We need two scores above 60% in the Grand Prix. After attending my first Dressage under the lights Friday evening of Grand Prix Freestyles at Global, and watching Laura Graves ride I had goosebumps all over. I am hoping that if I keep watching rides similar to that, it will help me channel the picture that I want to create when I am riding.

Stay tuned for more!

~Emily Gill