Hi all,

This blog is no longer in use, however there is 3 years worth of material in the archive so feel free to spend hours scrolling through that if you want to read some interesting, informative and funny stories/experiences about my riding career.

You can head over to my new blog, Casey Stickland Equestrian, which tracks my new journey of the professional life of a Dressage Rider... Eek!!


Day out on Easter Sunday

Discussing XC strategies
I hope everyone had a lovely Easter weekend and managed to get some time to catch up with family, or even with themselves for those who run like Duracell bunnies. I was working all weekend, however managed to have Easter Monday afternoon off to have lunch with my Grandad and took advantage of my food coma to catch up on some much needed sleep.

Easter Sunday was spent doing something very new and exciting for me, cross-country and showjumping schooling! My Student Will his event horse JJ, and I took Julius out to Boomerang XC to test out JJ's cross-country skills and run Julius through a showjumping course (I'm certainly not brave enough to attempt those cross-country jumps yet, nor is Julius!).

Super-horse JJ
Will and JJ were absolutely amazing, cross-country is really where Will's talent shines. JJ is a super-talented horse too so put them together and we have a dream combination - how exciting! He is getting ready to do a Paul Tapner clinic this week which will be very helpful, and his first event is this Sunday. Full steam ahead!

Julius must have thought he was on another planet being out in the middle of a field filled with odd-looking logs and coloured obstacles. He certainly showed his uncertainty by mainly moving sideways when following Will to help him with the jumps. However he had his bit of fun out there by having a splash in the water. I was amazed he walked in first attempt, considering the second he heard a splash from the other horses going through it he had a nervous breakdown. Safe to say he didn't worry about any splashing noises once he cantered through it.

Having a paddle :)
After Will had smashed it out on the cross-country, Julius and I went into the showjumping arena to see what we could improve on when doing a course. I'm getting the hang of the whole jumping position thing and getting my lines right, now I just need to go a bit faster and Julius needs to get stronger and more uphill to be able to lift his shoulders up over the jumper easier. He is the perfect horse for me to get started on though, as he just goes over anything in any way he can. Sometimes it isn't pretty but he gets over it!

So that was our lovely day out on Easter Sunday, which we will definitely start doing more often. I'd really like to try out the cross-country stuff when I'm with my jumping trainer, Leonard, just so I don't err, kill myself!

My new inspiration - Seriously, watch the video...

Edwina Tops-Alexander - my new inspiration
WATCH!!!!! - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nU12pXEI_3c

Everybody needs an inspiration to help them achieve whatever they pursue. When I was training my pony Vinnie to FEI level in Australia, I used Lendon Gray and her success story with her pony Seldom Seen to help me keep believing we could get there. Looking towards my move to the UK at 16, I looked up to all the other Juniors and Young Riders in Europe who were competing at European level, and watched their videos endlessly.

To be honest I've been a little bit without an influential figure to look up to lately, someone who's life story really grabs me and that I can relate to, and makes me motivated to keep pushing for higher success. However, since opening my mind to the disciplines of showjumping and eventing, I found one rider in particular who I feel immediately gelled to - Edwina Tops-Alexander.

I've known about Edwina for ages, mainly because we both came out of the same area of Sydney and she's forever in the Australian horse magazines. I always thought it was pretty cool that she was sponsored by Gucci, but because I had my blinkers on and was only looking at Dressage-related material, I never realised how amazingly talented, dedicated, passionate and well-respected Edwina is.

I watched just one video of her jumping at S-Hertogenbosch 2013 and was hooked. Her riding style is so neat, precise and calm, in complete connection with her stunning horse, and just watching it makes you want to fly over the jumps with them to try and feel even a touch of what Edwina would be experiencing.

Then I watched a Eurosport Documentary on her which went deeper into her life story and her experiences. I felt like I could really relate to what she was saying about moving away from home and family in Australia to pursue her career. It just had to be done, for both of us, as the sport is much bigger in Europe. We both wish Australia was closer, that we could go back more often, to see our families more, but its a sacrifice that has to be made.

What she has accomplished since moving to Europe is phenomenal, and she speaks about it with such humility and passion. And not to mention her sponsorships with Gucci (AMAZING!), Jaeger l'Coultre and Red Mills horse feed which she earnt through all her hard work and dedication. I can only hope that I can follow a similar path and hold my own in the sport with the grace that she does!

Fun times ahead!

Over the past few weeks I've been making changes to my horses' training and their career plans. For various reasons, I'm beginning to do a lot more jumping and am looking down the path of eventing and showjumping. Is this crazy? Usually its the injured/lost-confidence eventer that turns to dressage for a safer riding experience, but I've never been one for convention.

Julius finally sound, and with a new career!
I have always loved to jump, having learnt to do it for my BHS and German exams. Those times were the only time I really got to jump as my own horses weren't suitable - or so I thought. Turns out that Julius has an exceptional talent for jumping, obviously passed down from his Olympic Gold-winning grandsire Jus De Pomme, the showjumper. I only really came to the decision to change Julius's future to showjumping because of his ongoing lameness problems. He just can't withstand the work required for PSG and the whole "in-work, out-of-work" thing is getting old. The boy is 13 this year and I just want to enjoy him and have him love life. He has done more than his fair share of work for me and has given me everything he's got, and I can see he has a true joy for jumping so that is what we shall do. Hopefully within the next month or two we can try a competition!

Chad, my 5 year old, was bred to do Grand Prix dressage. I have no doubt he could make it to Grand Prix, but I also think he would make an incredible eventer. He's had two jumping lessons with my jumping trainer Leonard Goerens and is making huge progress. We have already jumped a filler, a water-tray and a gate. Admittedly, I did fall off once when I was trying to do the filler, but the water-tray and gate seemed like he'd been jumping it his whole life! It is a bit difficult for Chad and I to do this jumping thing because I have limited experience and he has no experience, so its like the blind leading the blind. But it is doing wonders for our relationship, our trust of eachother is stronger than ever and that has been one of Chad's weaknesses - his trust in the rider. Not for long though!

I've taken him galloping once and he does need to be a bit fitter for fast work, but that's not major. We are going cross-country schooling for the first time this Wednesday at Boomerang which I'm really excited about! Last time Chad saw a cross-country jump back a few months ago he hastily span around and ran the other way. Let's hope he has grown up a bit since then. It is so nice to think that he started off as only ever going from his stable to the indoor school in Germany, and now he is out and about doing everything!

Good lord I forgot to even post to say that I did an elementary test with Chad (skipping the prelim and novice, as you do :/) and we won! He got 64.4% and that was with 2 or 3 mistakes, and me only looking at the test the morning of the competition and realising he couldn't do half of what was in it. Medium canter? Um, all of our canter is medium canter at the moment haha! But hey, if you don't go out there and try you never know.

So now jumps are pretty much permanently set up in our school and even the dressage horses pop over a few poles to loosen them up. It's so much more fun, and the horses love it. I used to think that I couldn't dare do any poles or jumping with the good dressage horses like Seb out of fear they would become lame, despite how much I wanted to. But now I realise its a load of rubbish. They've stepped on poles and gotten the wrong stride and everything and not once have they gone lame, if anything any tightness or stiffness comes from too much dressage training, like canter pirouettes, half-passes and medium trot. I think a healthy balance of both is perfect, and creates the ideal, happy, holistic horse.

Re-post - Surviving Germany

This is a really good snapshot of how hard I found my first German training experience. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, and when the going gets tough sometimes pure passion is the only thing that can save you. I found this out after a lot of thinking, and I still regularly have a good think about my motives and my path in Equestrian. It constantly changes along with my feelings and attitude, but one thing stays the same  - the passion. It is unmistakable, especially when you look into your horse's eyes and see part of you looking back...

Uncertainty, Tears, then Fun!

The fun just doesn't stop here! Yesterday was Martin's birthday and his girlfriend had organised a surprise cocktail party for him at the apartment. It was so much fun and luckily a lot of people spoke english, so Steph and I talked to a couple of girls who worked at Heike Kemmers' and some other non-horsey people. Unfortunately my head wouldn't let me forget it this morning, but I sweated (yes, you can still sweat at 3 degrees) and rode the toxins out by lunchtime.

The days at the barn get better and better. When I first started there was a stage of uncertainty of whether I was doing things right or not, then there was a stage of being a bit of a lost cause because I didn't really know my place or value there, but now I am really settling in however I only have one more week to go.

The lost cause bit was the hardest and I do admit I shed some tears back at the apartment. Sometimes I didn't feel like I was good enough, sometimes I was just sick of riding horses with so many bloody problems, and sometimes I was just tired and wanted to be with my friends who were having the time of their lives at our year 10 formal. Mum and Nan gave me a big lecture and after that I was motivated again.

If one thing is certain, it's that you will not make it here if your heart isn't in it. I had to think about why I actually rode, why I loved it and why I put my whole life into it. Is it because it has always been available to me? Or do I do it for the love of horses and riding? I have been thinking about this over the past week at the barn, and have found it is a mix of both. It is only because horses have always been there in my life that I have developed my passion for riding and working with a horse as a partnership. To be honest I don't think I would do it if I weren't able to own my own horse and had to make do with riding other people's problem horses, but I would work hard at a barn in order to keep my horse there and have lessons.

I admire Martin so much for his dedication. He has worked up to being a Bereiter, and although he doesnt own his own horse he still works on other horses at Leonie's and then after work he teaches lessons and gets home late at night. There is certainly some serious passion there.

It inspires me to want to ride every horse the best I can despite it's problems. It is my job as a rider to work with them, not against them, and handle it the best I can with patience and tact. With this mentality I warmed up a horse today with multiple physical problems, made him feel the best he can possibly feel, so that when one of the head riders hopped on after, she went straight onto one-time changes and piaffe and gave some (rare) praise for how well I rode him.

Things like this have given me the satisfaction and a sense of value that I have to the barn and other than to ride Julius (the highlight of my day) it makes me want to keep going back, to keep pleasing the people and to keep helping the horses. Along with this is the fun I have now that I know every one better and that Steph is there to have a good talk to and have a tea/chocolate cappuccino break with at about 1.30 whilst hiding in the tack room and feeling guilty that we should be doing something. There are no more tears now :)
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