Are YOU focused on the right things as a rider?

So many young, as well as adult riders, are preoccupied with ribbons, ‘how big was that jump’, what a fancy horse ‘Suzie’ has or can I go in more classes at the show. To grow as a rider it is important to redirect that energy in a positive direction.


With that in mind, recognize the capabilities of your horse. What is best for your horse? Often times we want to do more as a rider and don’t take the time to listen or recognize our horses limitations. Is your horse capable of more? It is easy to push a horse beyond its physical capability. When this happens your horse more than likely will start feeling sore, unhappy and may start refusing to do his job. Your trainer should help you out here, so, listen to your trainer for feedback and accept there input. Remember that you have hired a trainer for their expertise. In the end, if you want to jump/practice more than your trainer lets you, don’t blame your trainer, but think, maybe it’s time for a second horse. If owning a second (or more) horse is out of the question, than it is important to keep your expectations in check. YOUR HORSES well being comes first!

Next, do you hope and pray for blue ribbons? Would you rather receive a blue out of 3 riders or have the ride of your life and get no ribbon? If you just want the blue you may only be focusing on the end result. Don’t get me wrong, blues are great to get! BUT, learn to enjoy the process of riding. Riding is like playing a musical instrument. There are so many notes/details and so many pieces to put together to make your ride feel amazing. Enjoy the small moments of success; a beautiful lead change, an amazing jump, a light feel and an accepting horse.

This leads me to discuss a riders reactions to a particular ride in the ring. Just recently, I had a young rider come out of the ring miserable. She had a bad jump, yep, ONE really bad jump, but the rest of the ride was beautiful. Her comment was, “that round was horrible”! Hmmm, really? This rider could only see that one jump in her head. It is important to recognize the parts that felt amazing and remember them! Next, discuss what could have been done differently on that “horrible” jump so that you can have the tools to create a different outcome; Were you too slow? Was your horse balanced? Did you have the right amount of impulsion. After your discussion, LET IT GO and MOVE ON!

And about ‘Suzie’…you are not her! Every rider has limitations too. But, keep in mind that every rider has great qualities too, and not very often does one rider HAVE IT ALL! Some riders are calm and cool under pressure…some have an open check book…some have an amazing work ethic…some have that natural feel with a horse. Know your positive attributes and work even harder on the attributes you struggle with. I’ve had riders with amazing natural talent and no work ethic…riders that have an open check book, but struggle with a feel on the nicest of horses…and some with an amazing work ethic, but crack under pressure. Your trainer has seen it all! This isn’t bad news! I would not say I was a natural when I was a younger, but I had an amazing work ethic and a thrived under pressure! I rode every extra horse possible and with out irons. I studied the best riders when I was at shows for hours by the ring. In the end I developed a bond with horses that created a natural ease with them. Again, embrace your positives and find ways to enhance the other areas. For example, if you crack under pressure, there are several wonderful Sports Psycholgists that can give you mental strategies for mental toughness. This is a great discussion to have with your trainer, as they should really know you!

In the end, you will never grow as a rider without failure. Learn to turn failure into a positive! I love self talk. I feel like I get jumped loose…’I’m going to start doing my hacks without irons’. I go into the ring and my mind is a blank…’I’m going to close my eyes before each class and ride every piece of my course’. I rode perfect and didn’t get a ribbon…’I’m going to work even harder, cause nobody is perfect and I can always be better’.

Enjoy the process, practice, study and ask questions…and most importantly, remember that you and your horse are a team!!!

You Need to Practice to Progress

We must not forget that riding is a sport. To progress and grow, you MUST practice. I was watching The Voice last night and one of the competitors said that she thinks of singing as a sport. She talked about exercising her vocal cords and being able to breath while on stage. She would get up in the morning and stretch her vocals and practice practice practice. I love this!

Often in this sport, new riders will take one lesson per week and wonder why they are not strong enough to start jumping or even progressing. As a trainer, safety is so very important. In order to be safe, we must be strong. In order to grow, we must practice practice practice.

As a young rider, I lived at the barn. I struggled, I worked, I cleaned stalls, I braided and I rode every horse possible . I didn’t care if it was a school horse, a grumpy pony or a wild ride. It was important to me to learn how to ride every kind of horse. It was also important for me to be strong so that I could compete in the Big Eq classes, as these were my goals.

Not every rider is going to have the same goals as I did, but your rate of growth will always depend on how much effort and practice you put into your riding. It is so important to goal set and to set expectations.

If you are only able to ride once per week, then your goals should reflect that. With this amount of riding, the rider should expect to work on flatwork and maybe some pole work. Strong flatwork is the foundation you will need for safe and quality jumping technique. If you don’t have a solid position on the flat, you will struggle over fences and often make your horses job more difficult.

Those riders that want to grow and move to the next level, jumping up to 2′, will then have another set of goals and expectations. This rider should expect to ride at least two times per week, preferably three. Typically, this is the level that school horses are comfortable at. A rider at this level should feel comfortable lengthening and collecting their horses gaits, have a solid jumping position on the flat and feel comfortable cantering.

Heading into the 2’6″ ring! This is the time a rider should begin to 1/2 lease a horse/pony or purchase one. This rider needs to become even stronger in their position. A rider at this level may begin riding in rated shows and should feel comfortable doing flatwork without irons, understand counter canter work and lateral movements.

The big step into the 3′ ring! Riders at this level will get pushed much more in their riding. It is now time to full lease or to purchase a horse. This rider should be riding at least four days a week, preferably five to six. This rider also needs to have a clear understanding of the previous flat movements, but should now be able to jump a small course over fences without irons, understand the quality of their horses canter and how it impacts the jumps. The list gets longer!

The giant leap into the 3’6″ ring and up! Now your riding in the big leagues and you will either be full leasing or purchasing a quality horse. At this level, riders will typically have multiple horses so that they can practice even more. Unfortunately, one horse can not handle hours and hours of practice. For the rider with one horse, as I was, my recommendation is to beg for extra horses to ride and practice on. As the jumps get bigger, there is less room for error. This rider really needs to develop a relationship with their horse and trainer to make sure that there is clear communication in regards to their horses health, fitness and soundness.

Hopefully, you have set your 2012 goals and set expectations that match your level of commitment along with the abilities of your horse.

So, PRACTICE AND PROGRESS and have fun doing so!





“Professional Pop Quiz” for Horse & Style Magazine

Horse & Style: How do you keep your program fresh in the long/rainy winter months?

Kelly Maddox: Three things come to mind during the winter months: exercises, goal setting and clinics.

Winter is a great time to get back to focusing on fun challenging exercises in the arena. It’s not about jumping big jumps, as our horses are ready for a break, so, setting lots of poles and exercises that incorporate various transitions along with small jumps helps us work on our position and the flexibility of our horses.

Secondly, it is time to get excited about the show year to come…goal setting! I plan meetings with my juniors and their parents to review the next years goals…short and long term. The juniors have a packet to fill out to help them prepare for a productive meeting. This is also a great time to sit with parents, answer questions and develop a strategy to help the riders achieve their individual goals.

Lastly, it is always fun and inspiring to have or attend a few clinics. Luckily, this year, several of my riders were drawn to attend the NorCal Sponsored Stacia Madden clinic. Stacia had a great teaching style which all my riders thoroughly enjoyed. In addition, we had Connie Buckley come to our facility and give a Judges Clinic. We had a large group attend this clinic, from riders to parents to spouses. Everyone came home with a different perspective of the show ring and a better understanding of what a judge is looking for in the hunter, equitation and under saddle rings.

In the end, winter seems to come and go quickly and I can confidently say that we are ready for 2012! Good luck to all!!!

Enjoying the Process

Often times in sports we work towards goals. These goals motivate us to work hard so that we can look forward to a positive end result. This end result in the equestrian world could be as big or as small as you make it; maybe you are learning to canter, qualifying for a Medal Final or riding in a Grand Prix.

Over the years many lessons are learned. As a junior rider I rode with several amazing trainers and one of the most important lessons I learned was to ENJOY THE PROCESS. When I look back over the years and at my personal highlights, what I remember and truly loved was the process of growth. I remember how hard I worked on a daily basis…riding with out irons, begging for extra horses to ride and sitting and studying the professionals showing. Now don’t get me wrong, it is a great feeling winning that medal final…what a rush! But, let me tell you, that is only a moment in time and if you are not truly enjoying the process to get there, you are missing out.

Enjoying the process also pertains to enjoying the challenge of problem solving. What this means to me is leaving frustration and negative emotions out of the process. In other words, when you come out of the show ring and had a bad fence, work at losing comments like, “that was horrible” or “that was such an ugly round”. First, this is a time to problem solve. Again, go back to the process. In other words, how can I solve the problem of the “fence gone bad”. Was I too slow? How was the path I took? Was I in balance? Did I lose a contact lens on the approach? Remember, it was just a fence!

In the end, you will become much less disappointed when you learn to find value in the whole process of riding. At the end of the day, you will become more productive, less emotional and a more confident competitor.

So, the next time you ride, look forward to perfecting your rides by problem solving in a more positive way…and, ENJOY THE PROCESS:)

2012 Goals

2012 is here and I feel inspired to write about goals. A month ago, my assistant trainers and I headed to Cabo for a short and relaxing trip. Prior to the trip, a couple of my clients gave me a book called, “The Happiness Project”. At first, I was concerned that it was a self help book, but was pleasantly surprised. This book, I feel, was a turning point in my life as I started to reflect on my business, health/fitness, friends/family and my home.

One quote I took away was “happiness is growth”. I thought about this…and a light bulb went off. I am happy when I am growing, whether it is training a new young horse or going to the gym and getting stronger. I also feel growth through my riders as they grow. I love seeing the smiles on the faces of my riders when they have an ‘ah-ha’ moment or when they feel successful in the ring, whether in the show ring or at home during a lesson.

Over the years, I have to admit, I have not been good at goal setting. I have set small goals for myself in the past and I have always achieved them. So, if I can achieve small goals, why not get more detailed in my goal setting, which this year, I geared towards GROWTH.

In my business, I think it is critical to do goal setting for all the riders and their horses. I love sitting with my juniors, even the very young ones, and discussing goals and expectations with them and their parents. We are all on the same team and need to work together to accomplish our goals. For younger riders, their goals may be as simple as learning to canter…as for the older juniors, they may have huge goals, such as qualifying for medal finals. So the question becomes…how do we achieve these goals and are they within our financial and our horses capabilities?

I am excited about 2012 and look forward to many areas of growth. As it pertains to my business; it is continuing to support my riders by helping them to reach their goals, by developing new riders in the Riding Academy and expanding the KMT Schooling Show Series.

So…start setting your goals…writing them down…and GROW IN 2012!!!


Welcome to Team KMT’s Blog! I, Kelly Maddox, look forward to sharing all the exciting show news and barn happenings with everyone. I decided to create a blog so that I could share horse show updates, write about lesson ideas and to keep everyone in the barn loop. I encourage everyone to leave encouraging comments and thoughts. Furthermore, if you have an idea or something you would like to share with the barn, let me know…let’s get it on the TEAM KMT BLOG!!!