Susan Wachowich

All posts tagged Susan Wachowich

I have moved.

Published August 30, 2013 by gofullthrottle

I realized that some of you may not know that my blog has moved so thought I would update this one so you can find me. i am blogging over on Horse Junkies United. You can read all of my updates there.

I am also partnered with Phelps Media at PS Dressage so you can find me there.

I recently launched Dressage Hub so you can follow me on Facebook or watch my videos on YouTube.

I am giving back to the dressage community by creating online educational platforms! So come check out the resources I have created!


New Year, New Season!

Published January 15, 2013 by gofullthrottle

One of the many reasons to move to Wellington was the abundance of better quality training that is readily accessible in this area. When we found out that Catherine Haddad- Staller was moving in across the street for season there was a lot of excitement and anticipation about her being so close by. Nobody really knew what to expect. I was lucky enough to have the first encounter with her.

I was hacking Welmingh around the 2 mile loop that runs through White Fences. Catherine came riding up and I gained a new appreciation for how men must feel when they have to talk to a beautiful woman. A little star struck as she greeted me all I could think was “Dont say anything stupid, Dont say anything stupid,” she had asked me a few questions about hacking the area then offered to ride back to the stable with me. We had a nice social chit chat about her ponies and her plans and much to my surprise she was quite pleasant. And I dont think I said anything stupid! Phew. Encounter number one over!

Catherine has become welcome participant of the social circle that is White Fences, between horse shows and parties we have all enjoyed her presence. Now on to the more serious stuff.

She held an open training session last Friday, which I thoroughly enjoyed. She is very concise and eloquently spoken. In a land where dressage has become a lot of kicking and pulling there was an refreshing lightness to her riding. Some of the key take away ideas from her session are as follows.

Safety first! This was a non negotiable in everything she did, regardless of putting spurs on or mounting there was always a key emphasis on safe riding!

Spook training, when she brought out the young horses she would introduce a stimulus, then walk them towards it and the stimulus would go away. Positive reinforcement for good behavior. Simple and understandable in the eyes of a horse and builds confidence without creating tension.

My favorite piece was responsiveness to the leg. I have spent many years with trainers telling me to kick my horse. When I started riding down here with Susan Jaccoma I refused to do so. I said it doesnt work effectively and we need to find another way around his lightness to the aids. And we did. Catherine also has a great method for this. When training her horses she applies the spur gently. When the horse responds, she releases the spur. Again positively reinforcing the correct response.

She does not use her reins to pull, they merely position the horses head, her leg and seat are the aids of choice to move the horse around. Once the horse is readily responsive to the leg its easy turn them without steering.

She spent a lot of time talking about elevating the front instead of lowering the hind.

And lastly (although I am sure I am missing a point or two) she said to the crowd. I dont care if you dislike my training methods and want to post about them on Chronicle of the Horse, all I ask is that you put your name on it! I love how she called out the couch riders and haters. Well done.

It was a great morning for everyone involved, Catherine is eloquently spoken and has a very clear and concise manner in which she teaches. I am looking forward to soaking up some more of her wisdom in the future!

Training and more training

Published October 1, 2012 by gofullthrottle

Its hard to believe that September has come and gone. With only a few months left to season I have kicked up in to high gear, my hip is doing well and is slowly getting better as I training longer and harder.

I currently train twice a day and I wanted to share some of the cross training that I am doing. In reality I will compete against people riding several horses a day so I am doing everything I can to be competitive. I ride Welmingh 6 days a week.  Monday and Tuesday are typical training days, Wednesday is a lighter day, Thursday and Friday are challenging again and then Saturday is a hack where we train the extended walk, and its getting much better. I feel like the hack is a big mental piece for me as well in learning to trust my horse again in strange scenarios.

Now for the fun part, I train again in the evening and with access to a 24 hour gym there is no excuses. I run 5 or 6 days a week. I try for 6 but it doesnt always work out if my hip is sore. I am currently running 8 km or 5 miles each day and training to run the Disney Princess half marathon in February with my coach. I figure if Disney gives me a princess medal its official. I train upper body 2 times a week to balance out my lower body. I do abs 30 minutes 3 times a week and top that off with yoga once a week.  When I run I often add in squat jumps and a tonne of walking lunges, my goal is to walk and lunge across the draw bridge, I can almost make it half way now. I have lost 5lbs and my goal is 20 before season so I am well on my way!

I guess thats probably the reason September has flown by. I am already feeling a difference in my riding and I am having some of the best rides of my life as my horse and I both get stronger together. Its amazing how refined our partnership and communication has become through our efforts. I am looking forward to the approach of the season!


Hurricanes, Hips and Horses

Published August 27, 2012 by gofullthrottle

Well, I think technically its a tropical storm, maybe it has become a Hurricane but all in all I am still getting used to all the excitement around Hurricane Isaac. A good friend of mine checked in this morning to see if I was getting “Isaaced” I am pretty sure in any other context that term would be followed up with a “giddy up” or a “giggidy giggidy”. In this case its followed with, yes I am getting Isaaced and no I dont like it. So far everything is just very wet. Which I guess is to be expected. Kim is making sure Welmingh doesnt float away and I am hunkered down at home.  Watching the storm from my window. We are on the very edge of the mess and I am hoping that by tomorrow we might see the sun again. Its funny that in the winter up north being hunkered down at home for 3 days is not a big deal but in Florida it seems very foreign.


My hip is getting better. I have been doing my physio daily. Basically over the past 6 months my life has been very unsettled and I have not been in the gym as much, with the residual imbalance from my broken foot my hips are now not equally as strong. So getting them back to being even is my main focus right now. Lots of stretching and strengthening.

As for Welmingh he is getting stronger every day, he has finally started sweating more and we have been out hacking to develop a bigger and stronger walk. We are working on the zig zag for the Intermediare currently, that placement is a bit trickier than I expected it to be but he is a super star and very patience with me. Now we just need the rain to go away so I can get back in the saddle!

Training and the evironment

Published July 20, 2012 by gofullthrottle

I started my ride today with my daily hack around the field, looking and the blue sky with a few fluffy clouds in it, as I took a deep breath to enjoy the smell of the tropical plants around me I cant help but believe that the perfect training environment can be created.

The weather in Florida has its challenges but so does everywhere else. No its not always perfect yet I never hear anybody complain. Now I would love to make this a post about the weather but I can assure you it is not. I have boarded a just a few barns throughout my riding career Always trying to find the perfect balance between coaching, horse care and other horse owners.

Today, I am happy and thankful to have found an environment that is almost a perfect balance. Often the politics of a barn can make even pony paradise miserable. I have never boarded with a group of people who are so genuinely happy for the success of others. In a positive learning environment, other coaches and riders has been positive in telling me when something looks awesome. They have also been supportive in helping me fix mistakes that I am making. Today I had a breakthrough in the self carriage of a half pass. In that moment as I checked out the mirror to see how awesome it looked, the other trainer at the stable to a brief second out of the lesson she was teaching to mention what a big change Welmingh had just made in his self carriage in that moment.

As any rider knows you can have moments of delightful feel but it is always nice to have it validated. Even more so by someone that you are not funding their pocket book.

Welmingh has made another big improvement over the past couple of weeks and a lot of people are noticing. I dont need my ego fed, but again the positive reinforcement is always nice when you are feeling like things are headed in the right direction.

Everybody gets along so well, and opinions are respected. Nothing catty or bad is ever said about anybody including other trainers or stables. My horse is happier and more vocal than he has ever been, Kim monitors his feeding program carefully and makes recommendations as she see’s fit. The grooms are great and never miss a thing. Especially when it comes to a white horse that I am pretty sure is cleaner than my white riding breeches. (How awkward if I had to show that horse!)

Everyone at our stable comes from the north “somewhere” and in having discussions about training environment it sounds like what I come from in Alberta is common across the board. I am happy to have landed in a place where the environment is right for learning and I can focus on doing my best with a support team of friends and riders who are all on my team!

Finding the Feel

Published June 22, 2012 by gofullthrottle

Feel is often a mystical conception among dressage riders. Everybody has a different interpretation and preference. Since my feeling has come a very long way over the past 6 months I decided it was time to write about it.

I remember watching Anky’s half pas on Krack C and it almost appeared as though she didnt have any leg on her horse at all as he gallantly reached across stretching both legs to the max. Well I can say that I get it now.

When Welmingh arrived back from training he was so heavy in the hand that I could not even ride him in the snaffle. today I ride with mere ounces of contact in my reins. In order to do that, I have had to make Welmingh more accountable to my legs. He now responds to the leg with mere ounces of pressure as well. I am really enjoying the lightness of this ride. It enables me to carry my hands lower and for my aids to be completely effective and unnoticeable. The second he starts to get heavy again my hands rise up in order to balance the contact so its an indication that something is going on behind.

He is quieter in his mouth than he has ever been. I would imagine with limited pressure on the reins he is far more comfortable in his contact. The most amazing part of all of it is that he is carrying himself in true self carriage he is lifting from the shoulder when I apply a bit of leg, instead of burrowing into the contact. It is very much like night and day to ride. And quite exciting as he starts to develop a true extended trot for the first time.

I know that when I learned to ride dressage I was often told that I needed a heavier contact and the rule of thumb was 3 to 5 lbs. Today I am throwing out the rule book and riding my horse with lightness, feel and connection. And I LOVE it!

Going the distance

Published June 13, 2012 by gofullthrottle

I posted a video of my ride last week. Sadly I still feel like I have so far to go to get where I want to be. It is funny however, how the universe tells you what you need to hear. My friend Maureen who was by my side through my concussion, and my journey in getting back on my horse. A true friend as far as I am concerned because I am fully aware that even my cat deemed me a bad person on a few days where the pain was intolerable. She watched the video and said he looks nice and relaxed. And the comment stuck with me, I thought, “Why would she say that?  He is always relaxed. So random. Can’t she see how awesome his canter is? ” Well, the joke is on me.

Maureen is right. She is one of the few people that saw how he was going before he left. He was hot, tense and spooky. The tension was ruining the quality of the gaits and creating problems throughout the higher level movements. Before I left for Florida I had not yet ridden him on a long rein even in the arena when warming up and cooling him out.
So as I warmed up today in our 20 minute wander around the field on a long rein and a palm frong (palm tree branch) fell to the ground and I shortened my reins in anticipation of something bad happening, Welmingh continued to saunter along like this was no big deal. He has also become accustomed to large flocks of birds flying at head height.  And other random animals.

So she was right. He is very relaxed. And sometimes I need to look back to appreciate how far we have come instead of obsessing about how far I have to go.