All posts by Janet Sturgill

Summer Guest Instructor, Ellen Eckstein

HC Equestrian student Michelle talks about her first lesson with Ellen…

Michelle and her Anglo Arab, Firefly
Michelle and her Anglo Arab, Firefly

As a horse-loving and horse-owning adult who is always trying to better her riding for the benefit of the challenge and the workout, I jumped at the chance to take a lesson with guest instructor, Ellen Eckstein.  Everything I’d ever heard about Ellen encouraged me to take the chance if it ever came – “She will change your riding” was the sentiment I’d heard from all my fellow HC Equestrians who had ever trained with Ellen.  I had initially signed up to take a lesson on another horse I’ve been riding in lessons for the last 6 months or so with HCE – a big moving, 7-year-old Hanoverian with fabulous training and beautiful gaits.  When I found out that he may be unavailable during the week that Ellen would be doing her HCE lessons, I regretfully emailed Ali to cancel.  Her reply was one that I had not expected … Do my lesson with Ellen on Firefly.  “Firefly!?” I said to myself.  “But he will only have about 30-45 days of under saddle work!  How can I do that!?”

Firefly is my 4-year-old Anglo Arab that I purchased as a long 2-year-old during my search for a eventing prospect.  I knew I wanted a horse I could bring along myself with the help of some fantastic trainers.  Our training has been going well but I never thought I’d be taking a lesson on him after less than 60 days under saddle.  Ali encouraged me to use my own horse for the lesson and I can’t thank her enough.  He is not the first horse I’ve started under saddle but is the first I’ve started using dressage principles and the first I’ve personally brought along this far.

Ellen’s lesson expanded my toolbox in ways that I could not have expected.  I honestly had no idea what to expect going in.  She focused on teaching him what the bit truly means and refining my cues to get the response that I’m looking for.  Ellen was in the arena with us during the lesson, helping from the ground – a strategy that I really value when starting a young horse.  Coupling my rein aids with her encouragement from the ground to augment my aids, Firefly quickly picked up on what I was asking for.  After just 15 minutes, he was traveling forward better even without doing a lot of work on the actual act of going forward.

Ellen’s philosophy, particularly with a young horse, is to teach more of a “come with me” approach, giving a young horse direction, instead of “we’re going forward now”, using body language and cues.  I’ve had a few more rides on Firefly since our lesson and I really feel like our lesson with Ellen led us to a breakthrough.  Firefly, being part Arab, loves a good puzzle and seems to be enjoying the challenges I’ve put before him.  Every ride yields better balance and movement.  Ellen is due back to HCE at the end of August and I can’t wait to ride with her again!    I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to get some insight on my young horse from her.  It’s a long road ahead for Firefly and I (we have big dreams!), but I know that Ellen has made it at least little bit easier.

 

HC Equestian hosts clinics with Ellen Eckstein in addition to the summer guest instructor sessons.  Go here to learn more about Ellen.

Summer Guest Instructor Sarah Vernlund

Sarah was Ali’s eventing trainer for 8 years, and her employer for 4 years. She took Ali from her very first jump, all the way to preliminary level eventing. She has competed internationally in eventing and was long listed for the Olympics in 1984…on a 15.2h Quarter Horse. She has brought several of her home-bred horses from foals to Intermediate level eventing, and she has coached riders from beginners to advanced level competitors, B level pony clubbers, and 4′ A circuit jumping champions. Sarah is a USEA certified instructor through preliminary level.

Ali credits Sarah for being responsible for her affinity for crossbreds, as she works well with all breeds and combinations there of!

Check our calendar for lesson dates with Sarah.

While Ali is on maternity leave, Sarah Vernlund is stepping in to keep the jumping riders sharp. Thanks, Sarah!
While Ali is on maternity leave, Sarah Vernlund is stepping in to keep the jumping riders sharp. Thanks, Sarah!

 

 

International Helmet Awareness Day

Callan and Pixie

Today marks the 5th annual Riders4Helmets International Helmet Awareness today.  At HC Equestrian, each of us agrees to wear appropriate safety apparel, including a helmet, every time we take a lesson, and we encourage each other to wear one every time we ride.

Having the right gear has been made even easier today because many helmet manufacturers are offering discounts on their products. To find out where to purchase a helmet, please visit riders4helmets.com/ihad/ for a list of retailers participating in this discount program.

Dressage Camp at The Monkey Tail Ranch

Getting ready to embark on an orchard trail ride at HC Equestrian's dressage camp at Monkey Tail Ranch
Getting ready to embark on an orchard trail ride.

This year’s HC Equestrian camp deviated from the usual eventing format to focus on dressage.  The Monkey Tail Ranch in Hollister graciously hosted our campers for 3 days of riding, including private lessons with Ellen Eckstein, obstacle course training, trail rides, and an introduction to equine bodywork.

Carla and Feety practice lateral cervical flexion.
Carla and Feety practice lateral cervical flexion.

Campers also were able to enjoy puppy socialization with Monkey Tail’s young service dog hopefuls. A continental breakfast was provided each morning, and teams of campers worked together in the kitchen to provide some scrumptious home-cooked meals.

We asked our campers to share some of their favorite parts of dressage camp:

Having three lessons in a row with Ellen; stuff was really staring to click. Hanging out with a really nice and nonjudgmental group of Horse People.”  –Kathie

Getting to see Elise, finally taking a lesson with the amazing Ellen, getting to ride Boo, and of course the puppies!”  — Annalisa

Everything! Horses, puppies, spending time with great people! Can’t wait to do it again!”  –Erica

 

Erica tacking up Blackberry
Erica tacking up Blackberry
Carla and Feety taking a lesson from Ellen Eckstein
Carla and Feety taking a lesson from Ellen Eckstein

 

 

 

 

 

 

Belle's tarp training goes easily
Belle’s tarp training goes easily

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ellen gives Shayanna some pointers
Ellen gives Shayanna some pointers