Pan Am Equestrian Games 2015


I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to attend not just one but three events at the Pam Am Games this past summer. Having secured a number of tickets, we set off down the 401 for our events. The weather was ridiculously hot for all three events but that didn’t hamper our spirits. Each day we attended the games we were greeted by the most enthusiastic and helpful staff. From the parking attendants to the ticket gate people to the folks who guided us to our seats all staff was professional, polite and knowledgeable and seemed genuinely happy to be there.

The first event we saw was the dressage team competition. The caliber of horses competing were top notch, with Canada putting out some very respectable rides and scores. Alas, we were knocked off the top spot on the podium by the USA who also must be commended for great rides!

Aside from the actual competition, we did notice a few overlooked details with the exhibition grounds, perhaps you may have noticed this too. The food was such a long way from the main ring and when you did finally make it to the food area, the selection was dismal. We did manage to feed ourselves however the line ups were so incredibly long, we were late making our way back to the competition ring and missed several riders. We had also hoped that this would be a little shopping excursion and were disappointed to see only a handful of vendors at the event. I did manage to secure a couple of Pachi stuffed animals for my kids, as I was sent with strict instructions that I must return home with them.

The last two events we had tickets to see were the team show jumping and the individual show jumping. What can I say about the team competition but WOW!! What an exhilarating competition! Brazil and the United States were in top form and meant business, but it was Team Canada who came out on top clinching the gold medal! I had goose bumps listening to the Canadian anthem being played while our team members stood on the podium, medals and stuffed mascots in hand. The victory round was just as exhilarating as my heart burst with pride watching our team soaks up the glory.

All in all, the events were well run and organized. The Caledon Equestrian Park outdid themselves. The facility is world class, right down to the state of the art footing in the main ring and the massive indoor arena that was recently erected. It was an opportunity of a lifetime to attend such an event and it’s a memory that I will cherish for years to come.

What did you think of the games? I’d love to hear your feedback as well. What events did you see and what were your overall thoughts on the games?

November 3, 2015 |

Siobhan O’Connor Clinic by Kaitlyn Carter

Reece Martin photo of Kaitlyn

Before I begin this piece let me first apologize for its immense lateness. It just so happens that the day after I agreed to write this my teachers thought it would be fun to play a game called “let’s see who can assign the most homework!” while my body was like “I see you there, having a crazy hectic life. Do you know what I should do? Get sick”.

Anyways, now that I have been released from the jaws of death, finished my shifts at work, and caught up on homework (senior year sucks) I thought I should sit down and write this out. So, without any further ado, here is my take on the Siobhan O’Connor clinic at Sprucehaven Farm, which happened on September 20, 2015 (Yeah, I’m super late).
I thought I should begin by introducing my horse and myself. Hi, I’m Kaitlyn Carter (Sadly, no relation to Michelle). I’m a 17 year-old girl in my last year at Saunders! (more…)

October 5, 2015 |

Podcast Episode #9 – Michaela Pisters’ equestrian philosophy


Michaela Pisters is the owner and head trainer of Kilbyrne Farm.  A predominately dressage facility but no limited to any particular sport.  Michaela’s experience stretches from Jumpers to Eventers and even describes the details of her training philosophy as compared to the ‘Natural Horsemanship’ culture that has become popular in the last decade.  Please have a listen to our conversation and please leave a comment.

I am proud to also share that the London Horse Sports podcast is now listed on Stitcher which is available for iPhone and Adroide devices.  Please visit the link on stitcher too to leave a comment.  The more feedback you leave the more I can offer you local content. 🙂

[Download_Box]To download the podcast, right click on this link and save as: Michaela Pisters.mp3  [/Download_Box]


June 4, 2014 |

Getting started by Kellyann Forbes


Gabriel and IHi my name is Kellyann Forbes. I am 13 years old and I started riding when I was 9 years  old.  I have been at Shadowvale stables for 4 years now with my coach Rhonda White.  I am very fortunate to have  such an amazing coach and sometimes I also get lessons from Debbie McFadden which I also find very helpful.

My parents bought me my pony in the fall of 2o12, he is a palomino,whelsh/connamara pony from Alison Warwick ‘s barn named Gabriel.  We worked all winter to get ready for show season.  We went out to get Gabe from the paddock one day just before show season and he was really lame.  The vet came out and did an ultrasound and told us that Gabe  had torn his flexor tendon..  I remember  , I must of cried up in my room for hours upon hours .  Gabe was on stall rest for four months.  We went out every day and applied his medication and changed his bandages.  I hand grazed him everyday.  Eventually, I started hand walking him and finally in September, I was able to get on him and start a little walking.  That slowly led to trotting and eventually cantering.  It was a very slow process getting him strong again and back in shape.

Finally we are now starting Gabe out in the schooling hunters on the Trillium circuit.  This is his fist year showing so I am getting him comfortable going around the courses and working on his pace and his stride.  We will start jumping higher at some Prelude shows to get him ready for the larges next show season.

I am having alot of fun with Gabriel and I love him so much.

I am volunteering at SARI Therapeutic riding this summer.  Its going to be a very busy summer filled with horses.  I’m very excited.

In the future I would love to work with horses in some capacity.



May 24, 2014 |

John McPhearson Ride-A-Test Clinic


It has been a very long time since I last blogged! We can blame school for that- getting in the way of my horsey life. 😉

Okay, so the ride-a-test clinic was April 27th and it was very good learning experience. For those of you who haven’t heard of a ride-a-test clinic, this is how it works. You warm up just like you would at a show for your dressage test. Then you ride your test, John judges it as he would at a show and then he works with you on things you could improve on in the test, then finally you ride it again and he re-judges it. It’s a fabulous learning experience.

I rode Murphy in this clinic and he was great. The first test was okay. When John asked me what I thought of my first test we agreed on everything. Murphy definitely needed to be more forward (and for anyone who knows Murphy, this is not a new comment for us), my circles needed a little bit of fine tuning, and I had a change in direction where you go straight across from E-B that John would have liked to see more bend. It was a very intense 20-30 minutes of riding after my first test, and it was very forward. Murphy wasn’t quite sure what was going on honestly. I think if he could talk he would have said “What the heck? This is a new way of riding me!” We were both pretty tired by the end of it. It was more forward, more forward, 10m circle, change of direction, canter, circle, more canter, more canter, trot, more trot, more trot, 10m circle, change direction, and so on. It was go, go, go like it always is with John. When I rode the test the second time it was much more forward. I did get better marks on the second test but at the end of it John said I could still go for even more. Where we are at right now, the way I rode the second test is probably about as forward as we can go due to strength, but once we get comfortable with the more forward pace and get stronger I know we can go for more. I’m glad that I know what I have to work on now for my dressage tests for pretty much the whole season. I’m very glad I did this clinic with John as I learned so much. Looking forward to show season now! First show at Twisted Pine this weekend! 🙂


Photo courtesy of Ian Woodley

May 22, 2014 |

John MacPherson Clinics by Nadia Brown


Hello everyone, my name is Nadia, and I’m absolutely thrilled to write a bit about my recent experiences at the John MacPherson clinics at Sprucehaven Farm. I have ridden in two of his clinics this winter, and have had the good fortune of riding with John in two clinics last winter as well. There is a reason I come to his clinics as often as I can. I am one of those used-to-ride-as-a-kid-and-keep-waiting- for-that-‘natural’-feel-to-come-back-type riders. Well, although riding certainly does take a bit of belief in the impossible at times, I think I’ll be waiting a while. A long while. In the interim, there is no substitute for hard work, consistency, and great coaching. John fosters all of these. I’ve now ridden four different horses with him (I know. Consistency, right?), and with each horse, the specific exercises have been quite different, but the results have been the same: a horse that moves and feels incredibly better by the end of the lesson. And I mean, so much better that I don’t want to get off, so that it doesn’t end. With each horse, John zeroed in immediately on what the problems were that I hadn’t even been able to articulate to myself – let alone ask for help with – and quickly established ground rules for the partnership that never wavered, exercise after exercise.

In the most recent clinic, I rode a nine year-old Hanoverian gelding that I’ve been part-boarding. John immediately asked me to lengthen and shorten stride, turn on the haunches, do transition after transition both within and between gaits, recognizing the innate expertise of this lovable horse to conserve as much energy as possible within his hind end. The ground rules for me and this horse are now very clear – we start working as soon as we enter the arena, we focus on getting his hind end moving more with every step and build on this with clear and immediate transitions. John has a way of fostering a rapport between horse and rider that makes it seem that he has been working with you for years. He just knows what is needed. And there is no question about the purpose of the lesson – to work, to work, and then to work harder until the horse is more supple and active than ever before. With every horse I’ve ridden with John, the focus has always returned to the same principles: activity of the hind end, establishing clear communication, accuracy, and understanding the impact of my position and aids on the entire process (the good, the bad, and the ugly). One of the most beneficial parts of these clinics is that they have been held over two days, with the opportunity to ride both days. It is an very positive experience to build on the previous day, and to recognize the start of a greater understanding between you and your horse as you both ‘remember’ the lessons of the day before. John ‘layers’ the understanding and the focus in a way that makes the building process very clear for each individual horse. Who knew one could put ‘lengthen stride, shorten stride, shoulder-in, leg yield, halt, and ‘trot on’ into a single feel’. And actually have a glimpse of them all together, even just for a second. It’s something to keep striving for, along with shorter reins, quieter heels, and the insight to sometimes just laugh and shake my head at that ‘natural’ feel and flow that we all strive for. It’s layers of understanding, hours of work, and buckets of ‘natural’ sweat… but having a glimpse of the path through wonderful horses and – not only great, but wise – coaching, makes it instantly worthwhile. I have just purchased a new horse, and the experience of these clinics on all of these horses gives me a sense of direction as she and I get to know each other: activate the hind end, learn each other’s language, and be precise. Oh, and videotape, lots of it! But above all, John’s lessons have encouraged me to believe that my horse and I will be able to reach beyond what we think our capabilities are, and be better today than we were yesterday. That’s a powerful belief.


March 9, 2014 |

Escaping the Winter Blues By Claire Nicol


Oh my! It’s been quite the winter hasn’t it!? With all this terrible weather it has made it difficult to make it out to the barn for many. I know for me, I board at Sprucehaven and from where I live it is normally a 35 minute drive. In this terrible weather we have been experiencing it has been hard to get out and one time it took us more than an hour to get there! Also, these cold temperatures. -40!? What!? I may only be 17, but in my 17 years I have never experienced a winter this cold or snowy. I must say I have enjoyed all the days off of school with this winter, but I haven’t enjoyed the lack of riding time.

How do you keep motivated for the winter? I know for me, I love goal setting. The past few months I wasn’t able to get out to the barn much because of school or the weather but I have finally set some more goals with my new semester starting at school. For example, I want my dressage to be more consistent with Murphy. I also want to increase my core strength and improve my sit trot. Also, I would like to improve my course riding. Sometimes I tend to “fall asleep” or go on “auto pilot” when I go around a course, and then things don’t go well. I really need to work on staying awake and riding my whole course start to finish. I have many other goals, but I try to set attainable goals and I focus on the ones I believe are most important to me right now.

One great thing about the winter is there isn’t much pressure. I have had quite a few bareback rides this winter. Another way to escape the winter blues is to do something fun! I love riding bareback! It’s easy for the horse and somewhat easy for me. I even jumped Murphy and Callee bareback just for fun! It doesn’t all have to be serious work, take a fun break! Also, something we did at Sprucehaven was Sunday Funday. Danielle was very generous and set up some groups and did group lessons for free. We didn’t do super hard stuff, we just had some fun! It was a great idea and I can’t wait for our next Sunday Funday! There are endless possibilities in the winter. Another thing I want to do is just one day when no one is riding I just want to take my horses into the arena and play. Horses are like big dogs, they like to play too! It’s also great bonding time. And finally, I also want to free jump my horses. It’s really good for them to jump a grid on their own without the interference of a rider on their back, that way they can figure it out for themselves and we can see how they move in the hopes of learning how to ride them better.

The winter sucks sometimes, but really, you just have to keep it fun! I know even in the cold, I still look forward to riding and seeing my horses and I try not to let the winter get me down. So set some goals, have some fun, silly days do whatever you want, because you don’t have to be serious all the time, winter, summer, fall, doesn’t matter! But it is especially important to keep it fun in the winter for the benefit of both you and your horse.

I am not one of the lucky ones who gets to go down south for a month every winter, much like many of us, so lets make our own fun!

February 17, 2014 |

Canadian vs Dutch Dressage by Savannah Rijk


Hi , my name is Savannah Rijk and I am a dressage rider. This is the first blog post I have ever written I will tell you a little more about me, and my goals for this year (2014).

To start off, I was born in The Netherlands and I have been riding my whole life. I sat in front of my mom on her horse when I was a baby, I started walking around on a horse when I was 2 and had my first lesson at 3. At age 5 my parents got me my first pony named Bouchka. He was a Welsh section B 3 year old gelding, just castrated and green broke. We had many interesting rides both bareback and with tack on. I have landed in the water trough a couple of times, and seen the fence come at me. But you know what, he made me want to be a better rider and have lots of fun.

In 1999, my Mom got the first two Welsh B mares and started a breeding program. I got to start riding one of the mares just after she was backed and going walk, trot, and canter. When she was going good enough to go to a show, we took her everywhere. She was a very interesting mare who had trouble with brakes and taught me how to ride off my seat.

In 2003, (more…)

February 17, 2014 |
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