Road Trip!

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It all started with an invitation. My wife’s cousin was having a graduation from high school party and they live in Mississippi. My wife turned to me and said “oh well, wish they lived closer. Would be nice to go”.
My reply: “Then let’s go!”
As it turned out there was no way we were making the party. Our work schedules simply would not allow it. But the seed was planted and we were both already excited about traveling to Mississippi. Then I had the idea of traveling to other states and visiting some landmarks along the way. I also figured we would come back home a different way so we could see even more.

While I was planning the trip and putting it all together, one day my wife said that Louisiana is very close to Mississippi, and that wouldn’t it be nice if we took Jocelyn with us to go visit her family. Jocelyn is our neighbor. But she is so much more than that. In fact she’s family. My girls love her and there is something about her personality that fits like a glove. I don’t say this about many people especially those who aren’t blood related, but I love her. We ALL love her! So the idea of her coming along on our road trip only made it sound that much more fun. My wife and I were delighted to hear that she was looking forward to some vacation time from her job, and my kids jumped up and down when they heard Jocelyn was coming with us!

The trip was planned and the hotels were booked. We would rent a van to take us on a 3,000 mile road trip across the country. Our trip would start down the East Coast, and hug Florida on our way to Mississippi. Coming home we would visit Jocelyn’s family in New Orleans then come up through Tennessee, Kentucky, and into West Virginia. We would spend one night with my wife’s family in South Carolina, 2 nights with her family in Mississippi, then a hotel in Tennessee and Kentucky.

Driving down to South Carolina was a lot of fun. And of course we stopped along the way to get our pictures taken at all the state signs, only we didn’t realize you could do that at a visitor center until we ended up in Georgia. But we arrived at Heather’s aunt’s house at around 11:30pm, and she thankfully had pizza waiting for us! She was a awesome host and everybody slept well that night. In the morning we had a big breakfast and a short visit. We will definitely be coming back to visit and staying for a few days.

In the early afternoon we made our way to Atlanta. We drove past the Olympic Village and I got a really cool picture of the Olympic torch. Georgia is famous for its peaches so I had to get some! As we drove on the interstate we saw a sign that said Peachtree City Exit. It was 10 miles out of our way but what better place to get a Georgia Peach? I managed to find some and couldn’t wait to have a taste. Disappointment. This was the same darn Peach I would find at my local grocery store. Then it dawned on me that the peaches are grown here but shipped up to me. This was my duh moment! I also lost my GPS signal so we got alittle lost. We drove through an old ghost town that looked like it hadn’t been touched since the early 50s. It was pretty creepy to say the least.

We managed to find our way and we were back on the interstate heading towards Mississippi. As we crossed into Alabama I saw the most incredible sunset of my life! If I didn’t get to see anything else the entire trip but only saw this sunset, then this made it all worthwhile! It just got done raining so the clouds were rolling through and the mist was coming up off the top of the trees as we drove over the bridge. It was a very spiritual moment and a reminder of God’s beauty.

We arrived into Mississippi around 10pm and as we drove down my wife’s cousin’s street, all I could hear was the loud crickets and frogs echoing all around me. As we unpacked to go inside, my wife’s family  had a Taco dinner waiting for us, and my 14 year daughter Elizabeth couldn’t get enough. Tacos is her favorite! We all stayed up pretty late drinking and talking, and having a few laughes. They also have 3 Boxer Dogs that we became friends with. In fact, the one dog and my 7 year old Gianna were inseparable!

The next day we woke up earlier and followed their car to a beach in Florida. But first we stopped so we could see The Gulf Of Mexico. It was another incredible sight. So beautiful! Then in about 2 hours we were sitting on a beach in Florida. Beautiful white sand and water so clear and warm, it felt like bath water! If there is such a thing as heaven on earth then this was it. And the kids along with Jocelyn we’re having a blast! None of us wanted to leave but a big storm was rolling in forcing us off the beach. I’m not a beach person. I hate the beach! But this was different. Everything here was much cleaner then the beaches I was use to in New Jersey, and much less populated. This beach I could live at!

That night was another night filled with good laughes and good food. I’m not a seafood person but my wife and kid’s are. My wife’s cousin picked up some shrimp and crawfish and they all really enjoyed it. The next morning they took us to a Waffle House. I never been to a Waffle House before but I’m hooked now! Such a shame we don’t have these up north in Pennsylvania. After breakfast we said our goodbyes and promised to visit again soon. I’m looking forward to it! As we drove over to Louisiana, Elizabeth started freaking out in the back seat screaming that she had a spider crawling on her. We pulled over and couldn’t find it. This is the absolute worst feeling in the world to any arachnophobic. I started unpacked the van. No way was I driving with that thing crawling around! Just as I pulled out the last suitcase I saw it crawling up the side. I jumped 10 ft in the air which had everyone laughing hysterically! Heather crushed it with her shoe and people could not stop laughing at me. Even I was laughing at me!

As we drove into Louisiana and crossed into New Orleans, the devastation of Katrina smacked me in the face. It looked like something out of a Zombie Apocalypse movie. They talk about rebuilding and yes that’s true, but there are still several areas that are completely devastated, and you don’t really appreciate the gravity of the situation until you see it. Empty buildings that are completely destroyed for miles. Houses that are boarded up. Trees without branches, just sticks sticking up out of the ground acres wide. It’s as if a nuclear bomb went off.

We passed the stadium and drove into the historic section known as The French Quarter. We parked next to The French Market. With my guitar in tow we walked to Bourbon Street, where I found a blues street artist playing saxophone. I sat down right next to him and we had an incredible jam session! I originally brought my guitar because I wanted to play the blues on Bourbon Street, but him being there was the icing on the cake! People stopped to take pictures! How cool!
New Orleans looks and feels exactly as it does in all the movies. Then we walked over to the Mississippi River and watched a steam ship go by. At that time Jocelyn’s mom notified us of her location so we all met up. I met her mother once before and she is just as warm as a person as Jocelyn is. She graciously took us out for some authentic Louisiana Fried Chicken, and it was delicious! I couldn’t get enough and never ate so much chicken in my life! But here it was yet again. An awesome time with an awesome person, and the feeling of wanting to stay.

After New Orleans we drove all night to Memphis Tennessee. At 1am we arrived at our hotel, The Guest House At Graceland. Yes, we stayed at this Palace right next to Elvis Presley’s Graceland! Too excited to sleep, my daughter and I walked right next door to the front Gates of Graceland. I had to see the place first in order to sleep that night. Our hotel was all Elvis theme, and our shower was double headed. It had a faucet from the top and a faucet from the side so you were engulfed in warm water. At least that’s how it was supposed to be anyway but not how it was for us. No, our shower’s cold water was broken so we never got to enjoy it. I overheard another guests though say they were in their shower for over an hour not wanting to leave. The next morning we learned the cold truth that no continental breakfast is offered and you have to pay for all of your meals. Then we got hit with a $10 parking bill in order to leave. We paid $235 a night when honestly we would have gotten much better service at a Holiday Inn.

Jocelyn, Heather and the kids, had no interest at all to walk through Graceland. Instead they went off to do some sightseeing while Elizabeth and I bought tickets, and waited for the tour bus to take us through the gates. Once again I brought my guitar. I was telling people before the trip that I was determined to play my guitar in Elvis Presley’s living room, but no one thought I could do it. As we got off the bus at the front door, a security guard held back the line so I could get my picture playing in front of Graceland. As I played, a group of old ladies kept taking my picture for some odd reason. I didn’t care. I thought it was funny.
As the tour took us through I ended up in the living room. Here was my chance. Just as I said I would do, I grabbed my guitar and started playing Heartbreak Hotel. Elizabeth took a picture and so did the old ladies again! Walking through Graceland seems surreal. This was the king of rock and roll’s house and I am literally touching the walls! But it was sad. Very very sad. If felt like going to a funeral. Everything is laid out exactly as it was, and just like in anyone else’s house, they have candid photographs of themselves with their family. Seeing Elvis with Priscilla and Lisa Marie, really brought it into reality that these are just people trying to live a normal life, and that they were a family. A family devastated by tragedy.
As the tour continued I ended up out by the pool. The inspiration struck me again to play my guitar. This time I played a slow blues rift and everybody stopped to listen. And you guessed it, more pictures taken by the group of old ladies!
By the pool is the burial site of Elvis Presley, and I sombrely gave my respects. Still, I couldn’t help but feel like if the King was there, we would have had a hell of a jam session and a hell of a good time! I just know it!
As we waited for our tour bus to pull up, I entertained everyone by playing some Elvis songs. Again I had my picture taken outside of Graceland. This was no doubt a once-in-a-lifetime experience and I was savoring every moment.

After the tour, my wife and Jocelyn picked us up and we were off to Kentucky. Heather couldn’t believe that I actually played my guitar all over Graceland. Neither could my mother who is a huge Elvis Presley fan. She was very excited to get my pictures text to her. My mother said that Graceland is on her bucket list and that I have inspired her. I hope so.

The interstate driving through Memphis is incredibly dark at night. There are no street lights or reflectors. It’s like that all the way into Kentucky. I hated it and actually had to pull over for 20 minutes because I was feeling disoriented. But just before midnight we made it to our hotel, The Embassy Suites. This place was only $150 a night and 10 times nicer then The Guest House At Graceland. We had a living room area with pull-out sofa, a kitchen area, and a bedroom with a double Queen. We also had an indoor pool and a buffet style continental breakfast that had everything you could think of!

Everyone but me wanted to go swimming after breakfast. I just wanted to make it over to see the Horse Park. But this was everyone’s vacation not just mine, so I put on a happy face and hung out by the pool for an hour while they all enjoyed themselves. Jocelyn and Elizabeth seemed to really enjoy the hot tub! By 12:30pm we were all packed up and ready to leave to go home, and to stop by the Horse Park along the way.

My personal opinion of the Kentucky Horse Park is that it is a huge waste of money. Let me explain. Driving through it is like a maze. There aren’t many signs directing you where to go. I wanted to visit The Roemer Foundation and the USEF but they were closed! I was so disappointed! And this made absolutely no sense because other organizations were open and their gift shops were packed with people. I’ve always been a glass-half-full kind of person, so I tried making the most of it anyway and had a look around. I got to see the Man O War Memorial and also Secretariat. I thought that was pretty cool. And I walked over to the Rolex Stadium where there was a  showjumping competition so I thought that was pretty cool also. But you have to walk and walk and walk. Everything is spread out from each other and not very well organized at all. They even put up fencing around making your walk even longer instead of it just being a straight path with easy access. Personally I didn’t like it much and I feel like Gladstone is sufficient enough. I also feel it’s much prettier and much more organized.

Feeling exhausted from all the unnecessary walking we did at the horse park, we decided to stop for lunch. I was delighted to see that Waffle House is also in Kentucky! I ordered a double cheeseburger and hash browns and could have kept eating if I allowed myself. I love Waffle House!
As we left Kentucky we entered West Virginia. Don’t ever let anyone tell you trees are endangered. The whole save a tree expression is an absolute fallacy. West Virginia is nothing but rolling hills upon hills, with acres of trees for hours and hours, and miles upon miles. And actually starting at about Virginia all the way down to Mississippi is nothing but trees along the highway for hours and hours. Trees are not endangered. It’s simply not true. And I’m actually shocked as to how much undeveloped land there really is!

Not wanting to stop and eager to sleep in my own bed, I kept driving through the night. By 2:30am we arrived back home. All of us were ready to be home because as we crossed the state line into Pennsylvania, we all let out a cheer! There were plenty of moments during the vacation where I wished we could have stayed longer, but while I drove on those dark highways late at night, all I wished I could do was take a nap on my big sofa in my living room back home.

This road trip really gave me a feeling of accomplishment. It’s an accomplishment in knowing that I’m living my life to the absolute fullest. We traveled through 13 different states and over 3,000 miles. That’s incredible! I have memories that will last my entire life and I got to experience this with my wife and my children and also our best friend. It was an absolute perfect experience that I will never ever forget. It changed me. I can’t quite explain it but it changed my outlook on some factors in life, and I feel that I’ve grown as a person.

The Pain Of Horse Boarding

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In my quest to feed my passion of dressage, I seeked out a qualified sponsor. After several meetings with those of potential, I eventually found one. They gave me a budget to stick to, and other financial matters were agreed upon. But now I had to find the right horse. Horse shopping, and the scams that await a would be buyer, are issues I will blog about at a later date. But after many months of searching, I finally found the horse to fit in my new training program.

Carpathia was a beautiful 16.3 hand all legs type Thoroughbred. She was a beautiful mover with a wonderful loving personality. I could see the potential in her so I contacted my sponsor about making the purchase. Excited, my sponsor agreed and arrangements were made to have Carpathia shipped to my new stable within 30 days. I now had to find us a home.

I put my feelers out on social media and was immediately bombarded with farm names and telephone numbers. Over the next two weeks I searched for the right barn to board at. Some barns gave off a weird vibe or felt like a slaughterhouse with their low ceilings and narrow hallways. Some places I wouldn’t step into unless I was carrying my firearm because it literally looked like a dungeon. I was at one Barn that was underground and made out of cinder blocks! Other barns I’d have a look at the horses and it reminded me of something out of The Walking Dead-furry skeletons just thrown into a pasture. I was amazed at what people try to pass off as a horse friendly environment and equally amazed at the fools who boarded there.

After almost a month, I did finally find a barn I felt comfortable with, but the night before Carpathia was due to ship in, the owner of the farm told me they were booked with no vacancy! Mind you, I called THEM to make sure things were still on the up-and-up because I know how finicky horse people can be, and we hadn’t spoken in about a week. So at this point I literally had less than 24 hours to find a home! Luckily I anticipated how indecisive the horse industry can be, so I always have a plan B C D and E. It’s sad to say but I am always prepared for disappointment when it comes to anything to do with horse people.

The barn I would be boarding at reminded me of something out of a fairytale. It was an old barn that had big archways, beautiful stalls, and beautiful landscaping throughout the property, complete with large iron gates at the entrance. They didn’t have an indoor or even a real riding ring, but they did allow me to put up a make shift dressage arena in a field using my dressage letters. Carpathia arrived and for the first month everything was going great. But then I noticed the nice fluffy stall I once I had was now down to a thin coating of shavings. When I inquired about this I was told that they have rubber mats in all of the stalls, so they don’t need a lot of shavings. I was told that if I required more, I would have to pay extra. This was no doubt a sales gimmick to get me in the door, by showing me a nice fluffy stall. It worked and I agreed to pay extra. Then one night I decided to pop in late around 11pm. Carpathia had no hay and no water! Again I alerted the farm owner of a situation and was told it wouldn’t happen again. Throughout the month I would pop in periodically to find the exact same scenario. By the 4th or 5th time I was rudely told by the farm owner that if my horse required more water and more hay at night I would have to pay extra. This was the last straw for me, and my sponsor agreed it was time to move.

The next barn we stayed at lasted 3 months. It wasn’t as charming as the last barn but it had nice size stalls, a small indoor and a nice big out door ring. My daughters were able to take lessons here, and my wife and I became good friends with the lady who rented the barn. But unfortunately she lost her lease and now in the middle of winter I had to move yet again. I relocated to what appeared to be an excellent facility at first, only to find this place was worst of the last two! They offered a large indoor arena with a big barn connecting, and this was ideal for inclement weather. Everything was fine for the first two months, but the weather was changing and Carpathia’s blanket had to put on at night and taken off the next morning. What I found was Carpathia in her stall, wearing a heavy blanket in 75 degree weather! When I confronted the barn manager about it, I was told he had 30 horses to look after and he doesn’t offer individual attention. When I alerted my sponsor to the situation and the risk of colic and death that could result from an over heated horse, again I got the okay to relocate. But after the blanket confrontation I noticed her stall not getting cleaned properly and she appeared to be losing weight. Again I brought these concerns to the barn manager, only this time I was threatened with physical violence! Being a bounty hunter by trade, I don’t fright easily nor do I appreciate being pushed around so I stood my ground. When I began screaming back at the barn manager, he was taken off guard. He apologized and started redoing her stall shortly after our little discussion. But it was to late to apologize and I was scheduled to leave in the next few days. Later I learned that I was the only one in 15 years who ever stood up to him in the barn. Boarders were literally afraid of this man and he was used to throwing his weight around.

Our next barn at first seemed very accommodating and an equestrian dream! They had big turnouts, big stalls, and a huge brand new indoor arena and outdoor. The level of care also appear to be first class. But time goes by and we feel safe too soon. I have come to recognize it as something out of Jurassic Park. First everything is all wow look at that, but then later there is yelling and screaming. It’s a shame to have such intrepidation but with over 30 years in horses, I live and breathe. I live-and-breathe.

For the first month (yet again) everything seemed wonderful. But then I rode one time while  the barn manager was in the indoor giving a lesson at the same time. As I left the indoor she literally came running up behind me holding a broom, telling me to sweep up the barn aisle after my horse. Some footing from the indoor was drug in. Clearly this woman had a compulsive disorder. I politely informed her that I will be happy to clean up after myself once my horse is put away and cooled off. She insisted that I stopped what I was doing to sweep. I ignored her and continued to care for my horse. She then fired back with a comment ” I’ll let the farm owner know you’re leaving in 30 days”. This led to a confrontation between she and I, with myself yet again having to stand my ground. What is it about barn managers that gives them a God complex?

After our confrontation I got a phone call from the farm owner apologizing. He said that the barn manager can be a little much at times and laughed it off. And in the spirit of cooperation and because I really loved the facility, I agreed to stay and act like the whole thing never happened. Besides, shortly after in about another month, show season was about to begin.

Despite all of our interruptions I still managed to train Carpathia to 4th level dressage. I couldn’t wait to show her off this coming season! Everyday I would practice parts of our test in the indoor, and on nice days I would take her for a hack around the property line. One day I arrived at the barn to find a big sign on her stall door that read “If you take down the jumps in the indoor, put them back up!” Not only was this sign unprofessional, but it was instigating another argument. A text or phone call would have been much better. Not wanting to have another confrontation, I contacted the farm owner. He again apologized and said there’s only supposed to be two jumps up in the indoor anyway,  and she knows that if there is more she has to take them down. Two jumps up I could live with. I had no problem taking two down and putting two back up after my ride. But then I woke up one morning to a text message from the barn manager. She sent me a picture of the indoor with a full course packed inside of it! She said that if it’s not set up exactly how she left it, that I would be thrown off of the property!

That night the farm owner contacted me. “Nick I’m sorry but my hands are tied” he told me. “This feels like shaking hands with the Devil. I know she is instigating you, but she is also threatening to leave and take her clients with her if the indoor is not left exactly as she has it”. How immature and how unprofessional! And to think that this was a grown woman with several years my senior acting this way! Her odd behavior lead me to do some digging on her, and I discovered that she doesn’t have many friends and seems to have a pattern of behavior. Basically she has a major inferiority complex and if she feels that someone is a better rider or a better trainer then her, she will find a way to eliminate the threat. What she has done to me she has done to many others in the past, and the farm owner keeps her because he is afraid to lose her rent check.

Fortunately my sponsor is incredibly understanding and agreed to once again relocate. After all, if I am going to compete and have a successful show season I’m going to need an arena to ride in, and the use of the amenities we are paying for. As I write this a big  show season is about to begin jam-packed with wonderful expectations. I was never much into competing but at this point in my life I am very excited about it! I have now been at the barn I am at for a few months without any issue. All of my needs are being met and I have finally found a professional staff.

What an experience! Barn managers need to realize that it is the boarder that keeps them in business. Simple request must be met. And if you cannot provide adequate care you really should be looking at a different profession. Your boarders do not owe you a thing, nor do they work for you as employees. Your boarders are your customers, and it behooves you to bend over backwards until you snap to accommodate their every desire to the best of your ability.  If you are unable to do this and have a rotten attitude, the smart boarders will leave very quickly and they will be taking YOUR money with them! And if you are a farm owner with a nasty belligerent Barn manager, it is to your best interest to fire them and get someone in who is a professional. They might be paying you now, but you are losing far greater opportunities in the long run, and risking a hurt reputation. Horse trainers are a dime a dozen. If you have a nice facility, you shouldn’t have any problem filling the stalls and getting in a trainer who will do things right while remaining customer service friendly.

I hope my experience is an eye opener for any horse owner who pays board. I hope I can set an example of how your horses welfare should never be compromised. When I was searching for a barn to board at, I was shocked at what I was seeing in what other horse owners felt was appropriate. Horses not being fed properly. Horses without enough turnout or turned out in deep mud. Horses with blankets left on in the blistering heat and stalls without any shavings for a horse to comfortably lay down in. Our horses look to us to provide them with a comfortable lifestyle and care. If you would not want to live in the same condition don’t expect your horse to! And if you don’t feel that your needs are being met, do not allow a barn manager or farm owner to intimidate you in compromising care. You write the rent check. You have the upper hand. By all means remain polite in your request, but you shouldn’t be afraid to stand your ground either. Chances are, you are one of the few (if not the only one) who ever has.

ISO Permanent Residence

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The horses have all been loaded up in the trailers. They are to be taken to the airport, where they will be loaded up and flown to Rio for the 2016 Olympic Games. The excitement can be felt by those on the ground, those watching the games at home, and those fortunate to be competing. The Olympics is the world’s largest stage when it comes to sporting events, but this type of travel and atmosphere is nothing new to an accomplished equestrian competing at the international level. Several times throughout the year, several riders from different countries go head to head in the show ring. There is The World Cup qualifiers, The World Cup championship itself. There is the WEG held every four years, and there is Aachen held yearly. Let’s not forget about Rotterdom, and of course the winter show circuit in Florida. This is of course not to mention all the other shows held in between. So, something like the Olympics, (as big a stage as it is) is really just another sand box.

Traveling brings on stress to itself, but lets look at some bigger concerns. ISIS wants to destroy all things that represent freedom, and any thing representative that is not radical Islamic terror. Certain parts of the globe are more vulnerable than others, and having such major competitions in these parts only creates more opportunity for the terrorist. There is also the threat of contagious diseases. Not every country has the same standard of vaccination or elimination of diseases like the United States has. This opens up yet another threat, and puts people and horses at risk. In fact, just before the Rio Olympics, two horses kept at the same stable as those competing in the games, had to be put down due to Glanders. Glanders is a bacterial infection which causes ulcers and lesions. These lesions are found on the skin and in the lungs.

Competing is important to the equestrian sport, and when we start living in fear, and we begin to avoid the things that make us happy, that is when the terrorist win. I would like to suggest the idea of a permanent residence to hold all the major equestrian championships! Such a facility would become the hub in the equestrian world. I envision a facility large enough to house every horse competing, from all the different countries. Living quarters would also be provided to both grooms and riders. Large communal eating areas could be arranged, and sponsors could join in by opening up temporary stands such as McDonalds, Pizza Hut, Subway, or Panera Bread. There could also be fine dining restaurants, or even casual. I envision equestrian aimed retailers having several shops as well.

The facility should be beautiful with eye appeal. It doesn’t have to be brand new, but it should be state of the art and modern. It should stand out as the ultimate equestrian center, and I would even suggest it be used as a breeding hub. All of the worlds top stallions could be kept there on lease. This of course could only help the sport, as it would be more convent to show the very best of what sport horse breeding has to offer. A potential customer with a mare wouldn’t have to travel the world looking for a great stallion to breed to, they would all be under the same roof! This concept is nothing new and we see this in Germany and in Holland. But my idea would place horses from those national studs all together in one convenient location.

Such a facility would be the ultimate goal to compete or have a stallion housed at. But how could such a facility be maintained and financed? There are many ideas actually, with the main idea as that this is something great and helpful, so every nation’s equestrian foundation should pitch in. I like the idea also of housing every nation together as well. If the teams are already training there, and the horses are used to the grounds, well I say all the better! This facility would become the training location of every top rider around the world, with many as permanent occupiers. Sponsors would be needed, though something so large and of this magnitude, I doubt you’d have a problem finding any.

The above picture is of myself standing in the arena at the USET in Gladstone New Jersey. This location has held major championships before, housed horses from around the world, and has operated as a training location on numerous occasions. Many United States teams have trained and prepared for major competitions there, so the idea of this on a much larger scale shouldn’t seem so far fetched. It would be a great convenience for the riders and horses to not have to keep traveling, and instead compete in the same show ring they are schooled in on daily basis.

The location of such a equestrian hub would have to be extremely safe, and in a country with a strong economy.The risk of infectious diseases should be extremely low, and the over all countries living conditions should be above the average. The country should possess a stable government, and a modern culture. I recommend The United States but that might offend the Europeans. However, with all the ISIS attacks in France, Zika virus found in South America, and the failing economy of Greece, I think The United States is a viable option. Other nations might be Canada, Sweden, Norway, or even Australia. I would also recommend building a brand new facility with several large, climate controlled barns, and connecting indoor arenas. Acres of turnout would be needed, as also would a 3 day event course.

This is of course just a dream of mine. I do believe it is a great idea, and one that should be seriously considered. I have no clue as to who anyone should contact to help see such an idea come to fruition, but something is telling me that if I am thinking about these ideas, perhaps others with more influence are as well. Maybe they have in the past. Actually The Glock Horse Performance Center comes pretty close! Taking a closer look at Glock’s success could planet the seeds to a permanent international training center. We could even get David Hasselhoff to sing at our opening ceremonies like they did!

Hey, it could happen….

Nick Peronace, Methods And Training Philosophy

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Lightness. It’s all about lightness. It doesn’t matter if you have the most flashy mover in the world, if he isn’t light, it is incorrect. Everyone seems to have their own definition of lightness and what it is or means to be light. For me personally, I believe in a few kinds of light riding. The ultimate goal of course is to have long reins and self carriage, with the reins allowing gravity to loop them. But this end result takes time. It doesn’t take years, weeks, or even days, it simply takes time. Every horse is different, and every horse has different confirmation that might either help with self carriage or hold him back. However, once the horse is free of all constriction only then can he be light.

To many times we see horses rushed along and not really in true self carriage. People tend to look at what they see in the show ring as being perfect dressage. They think how could it be wrong because so and so just scored in the 80’s or 90’s? But what people are missing are the basics that have never been developed, but instead hidden by trick movements. An example would be the Extended Trot. If you go back and watch a few clips of some of those top named riders riding the Extended Trot, in some cases you will notice the arms flung way forward or straight out. Do you know why? It’s because the horse was never taught true collection and the rider is in fact holding the horse up. A proper Extended Trot is ridden with your seat, a soft lower leg, and relaxed fingers. The arm or shoulder both should not move! The rider has to over exaggerate the arms as a way of releasing the horse to send him forward.In the riders defense it works, but it’s the method that is telling that false collection is present, and it’s the method telling of a horse held together and not in true self carriage. These scores are way over inflated, and the judges are promoting bad riding.

When I was 12 and first got interested in dressage, I was captivated with what I perceived to be a rider just sitting their while the horse danced. Such riding is becoming lost as time goes on. the idea behind dressage is that it’s to make the horse better, yet we give gold medals and world cups to riders who press the neck back and cut off circulation by using Rollkur! We watch them go on and on, around and around the warm up arena with horses heads pressed against the chest, and blue tongues handing out. This is not dressage!

I have a friend I enjoy watching ride because she does so bridle less. All movements even Levade, all performed without a bridle. She trained her horses this way from lower level on up to FEI. I like this style of riding because it reminds me of what we once saw as the norm at a show, in terms of lightness and effortless riding. That is to say, that not every rider we see in the show ring over rides as described above, but how many do you think could really take that bit out of the mouth and still perform perfectly?

Chevy remains so far to this day, as the only horse I ever trained to perform all Grand Prix movements. Chevy could also perform a few airs above ground and on my website, I have a picture of Chevy performing without a bit: http://www.nickperonace.com/#!horses/cpt3  For me, that is the proof of training well done. That is the proof of correct riding. In looking at my pictures, you will notice long loose reins and a horse in self carriage. Oh we absolutely still see this style from time to time in our FEI show rings, but it is becoming more rare with each major competition.

Now, I understand that I have my critics, and people this day in age with social media are likely to become keyboard warriors and cyber bully. But the truth is an unshakable object. The pictures on my website do not lie. People can say all they want, but the pictures of my riding all show the same level of lightness and self carriage. Not everyone follows my lightness philosophy and that’s fine. To each their own. But I have nothing to prove and will keep on training and riding the way I believe to be correct until the day I die or can no longer ride.

My philosophy is all about light riding and freeing a horse of all stiffness. If you would like to get to know the philosophy I follow in training, please contact me via my email. I have helped many people where a lot of other trainers could not, and you can read about what my students have to say here as well: http://www.nickperonace.com/#!horses/cpt3

Congratulations Lisa!!

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Sorry for the delay, this was actually from Dressage At Devon 2014. I only now got some free time to blog and post.

Chevy’s Cup is certainly an honer to present each year, and I’m proud of Devon for holding a class for non warmbloods. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve regretted not competing more with Chevy, and for allowing one low score to shake my confidence. But I was only 17 at the time, and even at that age I had strange artistic feelings for dressage, and didn’t care so much about the show ring. But if I could do it all again, I would have kept pressing and kept showing up at events. Maybe Chevy would have qualified for prestigious shows like Devon. Chevy was very smart and very brave, and to have an Appaloosa performing Grand Prix plus Airs Above Ground is quite an accomplishment. So perhaps Chevy never rode at Devon, but he did in fact achieve some phenomenal skills and beat a lot of odds.

There aren’t a lot of horses who make it to the level I was able to train Chevy to, and like a close friend of mine who is a strange supporter at Devon has told me: “You did what you did and have the pictures to prove it. You don’t have the ribbons but you exchanged that for greatness. You were just a teenager and had already trained a school master. You did what you did, and there isn’t a soul on earth who can ever take that away from you.”

It is a privilege to present Chevy’s Cup each year at Dressage At Devon, and I look forward to seeing all the amazing horses and rider who win it. I hope in time we see more and more non warmbloods in the FEI show ring, and I hope Chevy can inspire someone to keep competing even if you don’t feel you are getting anywhere. I also hope Chevy’s Cup gains the positive attention it was intended to receive, and I hope more websites report on it like PS Dressage did. See you at Devon!

Anyone interested in training please contact me on my webpage. http://www.nickperonace.com/#!horses/cpt3

Deep Riding

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In light of my amazing day I had yesterday at the USET WEG selection, I’d like to take this time to post a short blog about “Riding Deep”. In the past I’ve tried to show the difference between Deep Riding and Rollkur. To some it made perfect sense but to a few others it did not. That’s perfectly okay, but I would like to encourage questions rather then harsh judgement. Also, I’m not saying this is the only way to do something. Instead, I’d like it to be understood that I am only saying that this is how it works for me and many others. When I tell you that every single rider at the WEG selection warmed up in a deep frame, I mean that in a literal sense. It’s a technique that brings outstanding results, and if you can try to keep an open mind, perhaps you will learn something and improve in your training?……

First we start with a website and it’s “a little lost” comments about me. They used this picture here to try and show what NOT to do, when actually it is a perfect representation of the method. But what are the arrows suppose to show? A bit confusing, but the picture shows a deep horse using himself nicely and his neck flex muscles bulging through. He is reaching down with a long neck in a lower level frame type. This is right where you would want him in a Training Level test but not behind the vertical. He is behind the vertical as part of the exercise.

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When you ride deep it allows the horse to stretch his back and round himself over so he is not hollow. It helps free up the movements also and allows the horse to become more flexible. When we look at the neck in a deep horse, we see the top Flexor Muscle bulging out and this is exactly what we want. Why? Because the neck is connected to the shoulders, and the shoulders are connected through the back. When we see that Flexor Muscle we know we are improving the horse every step he takes. Think of a body builder and how they lift weights. The muscles extend to reach for the weight, but flex to lift it.

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Here is another picture. Not sure why they would show me riding deep in canter and compare it to a rider doing a completely opposite movement. I’m riding a working canter in a deep frame while the other rider is in flying change. But, I’d like to point out that the exercise is the same method at canter. As the horse becomes more supple he will reach further with his neck and that will improve the whole picture. My seat is a little up and maybe if I was as seasoned a Grand Prix rider as the one they compare me to I could sit every stride deep. This is also a freeze frame when in fact I was NOT up out of the saddle every stride as they wish to imply. I never claim to be a master or the best rider on Earth. I have had students praise me, but I have never called myself great. I can’t help it if others do.I feel I’m right about average.Dressage is only a hobby for me and I don’t ride everyday. To my credit, the website in question thinks this is a trained Grand Prix horse. That is not true! This horse was hardly on the bit when I first rode him a day before this picture was taken. So I guess I should thank them for the compliment? He has won some lower level stuff but that’s the extent of his education. With the right rider and right trainer this horse has the potential to be a real Grand Prix champion one day. I was only called in for a clinic, and rode him twice.

Here are some more pictures of riders riding deep. These pictures were taken from the USET WEG selection and show the very best riders in America. it is a proven method and I am available for lessons and clinics if you would like to learn how yourself.

I can be reached at: contactnickperonace@gmail.com

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Wizard warms up

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Steffen Peters

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Jan Ebeling rides his Olympic horse Ralfaca and Steffen rides also, both are deep

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Here are some pictures without those red lines and some more pictures of me riding other horses in a deep frame.

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Here I am on the same horse without those annoying red lines

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USET WEG Selection

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I didn’t tell my daughter where we were going. She thought she was late for school. As I turned right instead of left to take her to school she said “Dad your going the wrong way……wait a second, are we going to the WEG selection?” Smart kid! I answered her yes and to that she replied “but I don’t have my USET hat!” I reached in the back seat and grabbed her hat that I placed back there earlier. Surprised she said “Dad, your the best Dad in the whole world! This is awesome! Thanks for surprising me Daddy!” The last time I watched a show at Gladstone was the 1996 Olympic selection. I was 16. Now I’m 34 and taking my daughter. Where does the time go?

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When we got there I was excited to find out that not only was parking FREE, but aside from the barns, the indoor, the breeze way in the barn, and the indoor warm up arena was open to the public! As I walked up to the indoor There was Steffen Peters riding an outstanding Piaffe about 2 feet from where I was standing. Perfect timing! The other riders were also warming up and I heard a “excuse me” from Michael Barisone sitting on Ellegria, and behind him was Jan Ebeling on Rafalca! I stepped aside and watched as these champions warmed up. They used Baucher flex of the neck and rode in a deep frame. Steffen Peters also kept going back to flex the neck and would ride deep in between piaffe/passage.

ImageIt sure gave me a big dose of self-esteem and confidence seeing the very best riders in America warm up in a deep frame. I also like to warm up in a deep frame, and I’m not in anyway saying I’m anywhere near riding at the same level as these champions I saw today, but knowing that we use the same method to warm up, puts a big smile on my face, especially when so many people are so critical of the technique of riding deep, and using the Baucher neck flex. I thankfully did not see Rollkur.

 

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picture below is Steffen Peters on Legolas and Jan Ebeling on Rafalca riding deep while Roffman rides passage

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After watching the warm up of so many talented riders and horses, my daughter wanted to go watch the actual show. Her 11 year old mind is lost to the fact that the real riding is right here in the warm up. But I wanted her to enjoy herself also, so I agreed to go up the hill and have a seat in the stands. We watched a few riders then a break for lunch. They had only ONE food provider. UGH! But after waiting in line for almost 45min we finally were able to place our order. Sort of. They ran out of practically everything on the menu but thankfully still had grilled cheese. Not a shinning moment for the USET but what they lack in food service they make up in performance quality, so I guess I can learn let it go…..

The bell rang and the show was back on. I had noticed out of the corner of my eye, Steffen Peters hanging out by the in gate. I saw this as a great opportunity for a photo so I quickly got up with my daughter and made my way over to him. He had a friend with him who agreed to take the picture. We spoke briefly about training methods and found that we agreed on much. Funny because I don’t really consider myself a “German Rider”. It was a short but pleasant conversation and I look forward to taking a clinic from him one day, should I ever get the opportunity.

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As I stood there I could see other riders walking into the indoor at the bottom of the hill. I made a deal with my daughter that if she just gave me 15min to watch some more warm up, I would come back and we will watch the rest of the show. She agreed saying “I want you to enjoy yourself to Dad.” My girl is all heart. Such a good kid!

We watched Michael Barisone warm up again, this time on Victor. Victor put me in mind of Winston from Iron Spring Farm. Same sort of low to the ground but powerful movements. Shelly Francis was riding Doktor who has a lot suspension in his stride. We watched Adrienne Lyle warm up deep with Wizard, and Robert Dover came in to give a short lesson to Tina Konyot riding Calecto, who ALSO warmed up in a deep frame. Calecto has an amazing stallion neck and a big, BIG passage. Robert kept having them collect in and up then push out and forward.

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As they called riders to the ring, I found myself walking with Robert Dover. I asked him if he remembers me from way back in 1994 at Devon. He said that he did not but was happy I was able to take so much from the experience. I told him how it was a life changing day for me and showed me that if I wanted to make it to Grand Prix, that I really needed a Grand Prix trainer with school masters. He tried to engage my daughter in conversation but she was to nervous to speak. We had a good laugh over it, but Robert was very kind and seemed to really enjoy speaking with us.

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We went up to the ring to watch Tina on Calecto and after her ride we could tell rain was on the way. My daughter agreed that it would be a good idea if we left soon, so back down the hill and out to the parking lot in a paddock we went. Who do we meet along the way but Michael Barisone! I told him what great horses he is riding and he thanks me, and graciously in his very deep voice that scared my daughter, agreed to take a picture with us.

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It was a memorable day with the very best dressage riders in America. The USET really put on a nice show and it was all 100% FREE. I’m very proud of that fact so I will be sending in a donation. I encourage everyone else to do the same so we can keep once in a life time meet and greet events like this open to all riders, of all levels and of all income brackets totally free.

I didn’t just get to see great riding. I didn’t just get a wonderful memory. What I got was bonding time with my daughter, and that automatically makes this a day I will never forget……