Returning to the saddle postpartum

A question a lot of dressage riders face is “will I ride again after having a baby?”

This comes will a range of follow up questions like “how long will I have to wait to start riding?”, “how will I feel when I begin?”, “will my body be so different that it’s impossible?”, “will I even have the time to ride with a newborn at home?”, and “how will my confidence be altered when I know that someone at home is relying on me to be home and to be well?”.

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Starting again in 2019 

I was in the process of getting back riding after a long term injury when I fell pregnant. I had suffered from chronic hip pain for many years until finally I had to stop riding altogether to recover properly, and I had just starting riding again slowly when I made the decision to stop again during pregnancy. A lot of women continue to ride well into pregnancy , my mother rode until she was 8 months pregnant, but given I was worried how my hip would cope with the pregnancy itself I didn’t want to add more stress on top of that. I spent 9 months worrying about my hip after a doctor told me that probably given my injuries pregnancy and labor would be a struggle that may make it “hard to walk”. However, I found both pregnancy and labor to be amazing experiences and I have never felt healthier or stronger in my hip and back. 

So of course 20 days after giving birth and I started to think about riding!
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Many times over the last few years I have thought about giving up altogether, but everytime I feel a bit better for more than two days I want to go and ride my horse!

How to begin again after having a baby is tricky. First of all, waking up every two or three hours to feed leaves you feeling a bit depleted, so finding the time in between day naps and feeding and cleaning etc is a task in itself. 

Also relaxin, the hormone that loosens your joints during pregnancy, stays in your body for about a year after giving birth, making you more prone to injury, therefore it’s probably not a good idea to jump on a two year old stallion. On top of that your baby needs you, even more so if you are breastfeeding, so you are very aware that you can’t afford to get injured. 

And finally, the first time I went for a walk after giving birth I felt a bit like a newborn foal walking for the first time. It was my body but everything felt a bit wonky and sore and new. It takes time to adapt your muscles again because everything down there shifts (your butt for example in a rather dramatic downward slump) and has to gradually move back into position and regain strength. 

So once you have decided whether or not you have the time/mental and physical stamina, and confidence to get back in the saddle, how do you go about it? 

If you already have a calm horse that you trust that’s a good start. If you don’t it can be tricky. If you have been riding for a long time, on nice horses, the thought of riding a school horse is not that appealing. Typically they feel like wooden rods and I’d rather not waste my time feeling sore and frustrated! 

Secondly, for many people, myself included, riding is about the partnership, so having your own horse is important to create that bond. 

Even recovering from injury I realized that I needed a horse with experience that I could gain my confidence on, while being a horse nice enough to not feel like a wooden board. Sounds simple but as many riders will probably know finding an experienced calm horse that is relaxed and not completely “stuffed up” due to bad training methods is unbelievably hard to find! 

Once you have a horse in mind that ticks all those boxes, how and when do you begin? Typically they say 6 weeks until you can do just about anything, but of course that depends on how your pregnancy and labor were and even if they were relatively straight forward you have to start slowly, and I plan to underbid time to not just start riding but also work on the things I know need more attention. 

I think that’s something a lot of riders could use actually, the chance to start again slowly. Something I constantly come back to in my articles is the importance of working the horse at the walk, and establishing the fundamental “stop/go” buttons. It’s when the horse comes to a complete stop on the riders aid and then waits until the rider gives the lightest leg aid before again moving forward. Without this we end up seeing riders hauling their bodies back towards the horses rump with the horse constantly running into the bridle and putting weight into the reins. Without the rider’s ability to have the horse responding to light aids, and the ability to ask the horse to stop and remain still when all aids are released, the horse can never establish self carriage, using instead the rider to hold him up, and push him constantly forward. 

With this in mind I hope to begin again and work on all the things that sometimes get left behind in daily training. Also hopefully using the hormones of pregnancy to get more relaxation through my hip , something again many riders lack! 

The things we have become stuck with over time often take a drastic change or reset to overcome and correct!

Sometimes slowing down gives us the chance to focus more on those things and we can use the time to better ourselves as riders in the long run.

So I am seeing this as a positive step towards hopefully enjoying riding again, and starting each day with a more patient and relaxed approach to training. 

Motherhood…pregnancy, labor, recovery!!

I never thought about being a mother. I admire women who grow up knowing that that is their path but for me it wasn’t something I thought a lot about. I don’t gush over babies and before 5 days ago I had never held a newborn baby, or any baby for that matter.

I have the most gorgeous nieces and nephews, truly brilliant independent and fun kids, but still I never thought I would be a good mother.

I spent my life worrying and taking care of other people, trying to take care of mum at 11 years of age even though she is the strongest and most independent woman I know and of course didn’t actually need taking care of. I was so horrible to myself for so long for something that wasn’t my fault.
I worried that because of this lack of natural maternal sentiment that I shouldn’t be a mother, or wouldn’t be a good one.

But four years ago, like you read or see in movies but never believe, I fell in love with a man when I saw him. That comes with a lot of expectations, but somehow , even in my wildest imaginary and perfect version of this man and how he would be, he turned out to be even better!

Still I told him I  never thought about having kids, and he said that he thought that part of his life had past and we were ok with that.

The week we moved in together my breasts started leaking. You can’t fight nature, and we both laughed but something very strong said to me that perhaps I shouldn’t overlook the possibility of kids.

A year later and the urge was now a force and I announced very clearly one day that I actually did want to have kids, and right now would be a good time. This man, a little taken back, knew that once I decide something it’s hard to convince me otherwise, and so we decided to try.

Pregnancy for me was the most amazing experience of my life, that was up until 5 days ago when I met our daughter Madalena.

I felt so strong and calm during pregnancy, and I am usually a person who can get effected by little things and take too much on board.

I have the most amazing support team from my Pilates instructor and perhaps best friend Ana Luís Martims , who is one of the most profound women I have ever met. And I also have my fisio Jorge Pereira who is truly gifted and just a truly great person right to his core.

I was worried after the broken hips when I was young and the sacrolite dysfunction and chronic pubic pain for years, that pregnancy would be very hard on me. A dr hinted that possibly after the first 12 weeks of pregnancy I’d need a brace and it would be hard to walk.

Turns out I felt better during pregnancy than I have in years, and the morning I gave birth I was in the gym training. Sitting on the exercise bike wondering if maybe I had very bad gas lol!!

We headed to the hospital when the gas turned out to be labour and I was able to achieve my dream of giving birth naturally.

I know that I was truly lucky, and that many women have awful birthing stories, and I am so grateful for all the help and support I received.

It was honestly the most liberating experience of my whole life, and after ten minutes in the birthing room and 6 pushes the best thing that has ever happened to me arrived in mine and my husbands lives. And all my worries about being a terrible mother were erased as I found it to be the most natural thing in the world for me. The nurses asked how many kids I have because they assumed I was not a first time mother. And my husband, when he looks at our beautiful daughter , well it’s the greatest thing I have ever seen, equaled only by the way he looks at me.

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Madalena Warne Furtado

I know it won’t be easy. This is the beginning and there will be many challenges to come. I have a rather big tear and all the aches and pains, but for the first time in my life I am giving myself a break. I am proud of myself and my body. I  don’t feel the need to put pressure on myself. I love everything about the whole process, and I feel like the pain of labor is needed otherwise it would feel like it didn’t make sense. It needs to be profound to mark it, to give it the importance it deserves. And compared to broken hips and pubic pain and a life time of horse riding injuries it’s a lot better than I expected!

All this to say that after 9 months of being fed horror stories from every direction I felt like pregnancy and childbirth was the most profound and now rewarding experience of my life, and that just because you aren’t the stereotypical mum type, doesn’t mean you won’t embrace your new identity, love being a mother more than you could imagine, and want to absorb and remember every second of it!!

Now to get back riding 😊😊

Pregnancy…Horseriding, hormones, homesick

I always knew that pregnancy changes a woman. I learnt this because a lot of women I knew who rode before pregnancy stopped riding once they had kids, or rode in a very different way. I was told it was because the body changes and also that they have someone else they put ahead of themselves and they needed to be more careful.

How did pregnancy change your attitude towards riding?

Whatever the reason I knew that women were not the same after having kids, and because my life revolved around horses I learnt this in relation to riding.

07A07DE2-C343-4129-A745-ADEA4D15CE965 months into pregnancy and I am learning a lot about myself. I feel like pregnancy pushes up parts of you or your character  that perhaps you need to work on. Or it’s just that you have less tolerance and feel more aware of your basic needs…or at least other people are made more aware of your basics needs 😉 

Also I guess because there are so many changes going on all the time, you are more emotional.3CC8CB01-9F95-4CAD-B109-2F58E84C09A5

I feel homesick which is not something I usually feel, but I think it’s more that I feel different everyday so I guess I am searching for familiarity.

I have lived ten years on the other side of the world and I absolutely love it here. But home isn’t something I associate with a place, but with a feeling. I guess during pregnancy you search for comfort because your body is sending out so many different highs and lows. I left Australia not really sure of who I was and Portugal helped me find it. My family came out this year for my wedding and I realized that I still fit with them and how much I just love them and how important they are to who I am. Home for me is being with people who know you and you can be yourself around, even when you are moody or hangry (hungry/angry), and they love you anyway. Home is the feeling I used to get being on my horse alone away from the world, cantering out on open paddocks. Home is when I am with my husband and he looks at me, pregnant with his child, and I feel closer to anyone than I ever have. Home is when the baby kicks me and I know I will never be alone, or the same, ever again.

I have learnt a lot in the last few months. I have learnt that I need to keep that connection to Australia as it’s a huge part of who I am, and while my home is Portugal, I am Australian and I will make sure to visit my family more often.

I know that if my body recovers from pregnancy and I can one day ride without pain then I will. It’s a part of me and I miss my relationship and the freedom I feel with my horse!

B9D3A71C-7138-4A25-8E46-D222E7509E0DI also have a new perspective on my own childhood. My father was not much older than me and my husband when he committed suicide. An 11 year old girl sees her father as having it all figured out but as I sit here typing this I know that no one ever really does. We are all just older versions of our younger selves, still searching for ways to better ourselves, and still facing the same challenges that life presents. He was just a person, and his death was not related to what I, for many years convinced myself, must have been lacking in me.

Another thing I have learnt is that just because you weren’t always the “mothering” type doesn’t make you any less capable of assuming it. I feel more sure and comfortable with myself and my future than I ever have. I was never one to gush over babies and I never asked to hold them. However, I find myself overwhelmingly excited and happy, getting butterflies at the thought of the  toys or tiny shoes which my daughter will wear, which is extremely unlike me and something I certainly wasn’t expecting. It’s a really nice feeling though.

I realize though that being pregnant with your first child allows a sort of romantic idea of how it will go, and while everyone tells me how hard it really is and how you will never be more tired, I am going to enjoy being pregnant and understand that life is full of challenges, but that’s what makes it interesting!

Dressage…Marriage…Pregnancy…2019

It’s been an interesting year for me so far, and It’s given me a new perspective on a lot of things. I had gradually started riding again after finding the right saddle (erreplus),  but I still felt a bit lost. I have always been someone who sets something in her mind and goes after it only this time I wasn’t quite sure what I was going after.

They say dressage is a beautiful sport and it’s best it is, perhaps I just don’t love it enough. I used to watch videos of Nuno Oliveira with mum when I was little and I knew I was watching something special.

I am not one of those “critiques” or bullies, like so many dressage followers are these days. Yet when I watch the tests of Reiner Klimke and Klaus Balkenhol I feel a sort of sadness in the reflection of what has been before. That’s not to say there are not great riders today, perhaps more that the judging, breeding, and expectation has changed so much that the dressage of the past has been lost a little amongst the flash and fling ding trots. But that’s what is expected these days right?

I got married and I am now 5 months pregnant and no I am not riding during pregnancy. Pregnancy is a time in a women’s life when she gets all sorts of unsolicited advice/ horror stories/ judgment, and while I admire women who do keep riding I am taking a break. It’s been good for me, and for whatever reason…maybe it’s that I stopped putting pressure on myself or my body is changing, or that I am so completely truly content and happy and in love with a man I admire and adore, but I have had the most pain free brilliant months of my life.

 

 

 

I also have a lot of help from two people , Jorge Pereira and Ana Luís Martins, who truly want to help me and whom I lo

ve and above all I trust which is the major requirement in any sort of treatment! 

Will I get back riding? I would love to…will I go back to dressage? I doubt it.

I love training the horse and I love the partnership but I was never really made for dressage. I love riding out in the countryside and just being free. I would love to explore working equitation as I think it’s a sport where the horse has a lot of fun and the rider also. But who knows. For now I am helping people find and import their own lusitanos as I still feel that the breed deserves to be shared and celebrated around the world. (Once you have a Lusitano you can’t go back ;))

Batialo is in Australia with my mum and slowly getting back into shape with the correct training and a huge paddock to play in. Although he is completely in charge and has become a huge fan of the Australian Lucerne (tantrums when not given sufficient amounts) , it makes me so happy to hear mum talk about him. He is a special horse and one that changed my life.

I am working on keeping fit and strong and seeing how the changes over the following months will impact me.

I can say that I never imagined where my life would lead…but I am so truly grateful for never giving up on the most important thing…my own happiness!

Stretching the Horse Effectively…not just letting him get Long

Stretching is a vital element to the training of dressage. It is the reward to the horse, it loosens the horse’s body and it allows the energy to flow naturally through the horse, while confirming and testing every aspect of the training. However, there is often big confusion between a beneficial, positive, rewarding, engaged, elastic, “through” stretch; as opposed to a long, flat, out-the-back, running, “drink of water” stretch. The focus falls on the horse’s ability to stretch out his neck and while this is a key element, it is just ONE of many key elements inherent in an effective stretch.

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Iota just beginning to stretch…the amount you can allow a horse to stretch depends on his balance and strength

My trainer Miguel Ralao says that the most important thing to remember as we let the horse stretch, is not to loose the roundness and engagement of the gait, and while length in the neck is important, the stretch is actually a test of whether the horse’s energy is being driven by the hindlegs, through the horse and into an elastic contact.

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Miguel Ralao and Xenofonte…

“It is important to remember not to let the horse get long through the body in the stretch. Length in the neck is not length in the body and we must think that the horse stays round through the stretch and that the power is driven from the back to the front,” miguel explained. “If we simply let the reins out long, the horse might open his neck angle, but without engagement and the energy channeling through from behind, we will loose the power out the back and the horse will become longer (his hindlegs going further out behind him.”

Nuno Oliviera used to say that “relaxation is not lack of energy”, meaning that when we relax our horse, we must ensure that we maintain the activity and impulsion so that we can test if our horse is working correctly over his back.

How many times have we seen a rider that is holding the horse up in a collected frame and because they have not established correct impulsion and lightness, when they let the reins out to stretch the horse, the horse goes “plop” on the forehand, his hind legs go out behind him like a duck, his back gets flat and long, and his trot goes, “piddle piddle piddle, run run run!” His neck is longer, sure, but what else has the rider missed in the mean time?

If a rider has their horse engaged into the contact, “through”, with the energy coming from the back of the horse, when they gently let the reins out, they will at the same time lift and engage the horse so that as his neck lengthens, he will lift slightly across his top line, creating a lovely curve up over his back and the length will thus be seen only in his top line and not in the flat pancake across his back. I call it the “bold” stretch, as it feels as if my horse is on a gliding mission!

For the rest of the article click this link to go to Eurodressage….http://www.eurodressage.com/2016/05/07/classical-training-its-all-about-stretch

If you are looking to buy your dream Lusitano contact me at warnes@live.com.au

The horse is not ready for extension!

The horse is not ready! Seems simple enough, but this is often a phrase we don’t hear enough or we hear in the wrong circumstances.

Can we be critical enough as riders to understand if we aren’t good enough riders to teach the horse or if he just isn’t ready to do it? There is a lot to that question! 

Nuno Oliveira said that “Horses are often forced too soon to extend the trot, gesticulating with the front legs with no thought for the necessary thrusting forward of the hind legs, leading to a concave Back.”

This we see a lot, and not necessarily just with young horses. A horse that has never learnt to stretch into the contact will never be able to extend nor will a horse that has not established proper engaged collection.

Extension is about lengthening the frame of the horse, however the prerequisite is that the carrying power from the engagement obtained from collection is released into more pushing power without loss of balance and without restriction in front!

How often do we see this? 

Here are two photos. Which is good and which is bad? 

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What a ridiculous way to analyze dressage. Good and bad! Truth is there are good and bad elements to both, but typically we are trained to see one as bad and one as better.

In the top photo Batialo is not quite engaged enough from the collection. We see that the front legs are reaching out but the back legs are not pushing under and so we see a slight hollowing of the back. However in the top photo his head and neck are in a better position. My arms are also making a straight line to the bit . In the Second photo at the bottom Batialo is a year older and is stronger with better engagement. However he could be more open in the gullet . His nose is behind the vertical line down from the forehead and the highest point of his neck looks almost in the middle compared to top photo. 

Plus, I look more like I am holding him up, (see the broken line to the bit).

That being said though we have to take into account the overall tendency, and that is very uphill and expressive.

What can we learn from this? For me it means that in the first photo Batialo wasn’t ready to do extended trot. However in the second photo he was ready but I wasn’t capable of riding it correctly as I didn’t have enough experience riding him, or horses with that sort of power. 

This is how we as the dressage community should learn to discuss riders and horses, instead of just pointing out what is good or bad. Even the greatest combinations are constantly searching for perfection. It isn’t static, which is why we must learn to encourage understanding, and congratulate those you seek to find it!

To contact me about articles, or if you want help finding a Lusitano in Portugal, you can write to me at warnes@live.com.au

 

 

 

 

 

Horse Buying-Not for the Faint Hearted!

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We all have a horse buying story! Either we heard one or we lived one or we are still experiencing one….horse buying is tough! 

Mum and I have been buying or searching for horses for as long as I can remember. 

And we look back and laugh at some of the interesting things we have seen and experienced that at the time weren’t that funny.

I still remember the day when I was three circles around on a young horse and the guy tells mum that it’s the third time the horse has ever been ridden.

Or when you go off to see a horse and you say it’s not what you are after, so they bring out a better horse, and it turns out they had about 6 for sale and they wanted to start you at the bottom and see where they ended up!

Over the last eight years we have learnt a few things about how to limit the possibility of ending up with a donkey/psychopath in your paddock…and I am sure others can add to this list…

Firstly…be suspicious…if they say the horse competed in 2016 and then again in 2019 when he won the championship…don’t go “oh wow he won the championship “, ask what the hell happened in 2017 and 2018?? 

Get an independent vet…not the vet who usually treats the horse.

Find one person you trust who knows someone who knows someone who might be able to tell you more about the horse.

If you found out he went to so and so for three months last year ask so and so about the horse…did they send him back and if so why? 

Ask to ride the horse somewhere else, and see it come off the float at the new place. If the horse has white foam from ear to ear, be worried! 

Don’t trust videos. I have seen people chase horses around and try for an hour with legs pressed on to get medium trot to pass it off as collected trot and make the horse seem “active”!

Don’t get on a horse if you don’t feel comfortable! Who cares what they think it’s not their body getting tossed around.

The word “calm” has many different interpretations…just because they say he is calm, doesn’t mean he is your idea of calm!

Don’t be too picky with stuff that isn’t important…if he has a white stripe that you don’t really like but besides that he is perfect…buy some horse makeup and paint it if you have to! 

Ask to see the horse before they saddle him up…see if he is already hot…have they already lunged him for two hours just to present him as “calm”.

I really really enjoy searching for horses, particularly lusitanos as I have come to love and appreciate the breed so much. I always have people contacting me in search of their dream horse and I feel honored that people trust my opinion and I have very gradually over the last ten years here built up a short list of people I trust who actually tell me “ this horse is not for a women” or “he needs a lot of lunging” or “ his price is lower because he has problems” etc etc.

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GP rider Jody Hartstone and the Lusitano I found for her in Portugal Ali Baba

My mum has taken two lusitanos to Australia and while it’s a long haul it is worth it, but just make sure you ask around, and be smart and overly cautious…

If you have any questions or are interested in finding a Lusitano please feel free to write to me at warnes@live.com.au ..and please comment your funny horse buying story below! 😊

International Dressage Trainers Club Seminar…an inside look with Frederico Pinteus

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Attending the recent two day seminar at the legendary Vorweck stud (Gestüt Vorwerk), Portuguese judge and dressage rider, Frederico Pinteus, felt it was an honor to be surrounded by so many dressage masters and a great opportunity to watch in detail some of the great trainers and riders in action.

“For me the aim of the two days was to gather together a range of top dressage professionals (trainers, riders, judges, media, veterinarians, researchers) and share experiences, ideas, knowledge and points of views, with the common purpose of promoting the correct training, the respect for the welfare of the horse and, consequently, the development of dressage,” says Frederico.

“It is not every day that you have the opportunity to watch closely such a wide range of wonderful professionals (Jo Hinnemann, Conny Endres, Katrina Wüst, Isabell Werth, etc.) working in such an expert/knowledgeable environment.”

Frederico believes that what came out of the seminar was that these kind of initiatives are of paramount importance in establishing the right understanding and development of dressage.

“It is important that all professionals can meet on a regular basis, and address and discuss, in an open manner, their ideas and points of view about different issues related to the development of the sport,” says Frederico.

Frederico says that there were so many great guest presenters it would be unfair to pick just one, and he enjoyed discussing the many different aspects of dressage today.

“Watching Mr. Jo Hinnemann working with different horses of different ages and morphologies, identifying the strong and weak point of each horse, and finding, through the equitation/dressage, the best and more correct way to improve those weak points, was simply amazing, “ says Frederico.

“The study of Dr. Rachel Murray regarding the research about biting and bridles was mind blowing. Dr Rachel Murray highlighted the importance of taking decisions based on serious and independent scientific researches Vs fashion/trend,”

I thought this was interesting. A lot of the pressure points that we assume cause more stress on the horse have actually been proven that they were not accurate and we must adjust accordingly for the comfort of the horse!

B7B04B76-818D-4E83-820E-2185110B0343“(…) while you should never have the noseband too tight, loosening it too much can cause more pressure behind the ears of the horse which is a more sensitive area.” adds Frederico.

As a result of this research Fairfax have produced the first “scientifically proven” bridle that they say reduces pressure by up to 84%!2725660C-7DC4-464F-875B-D221F4AE50F0

“It was also very interesting to hear Jan (St. Georges) talking about the relationship between media and dressage and through his speech see some paradigmas that need to be broken down”, says Frederico.

“On the second day, watching Mrs. Condry Endres leave all the audience delighted with the excellence of her children riders (13 and 14 years old) and their beautiful and wonderfully trained ponies.

All movements were so supple, relaxed, elastic, harmonious, easy and accurate. It was just stunning…

The way she gives the instruction to those young riders was so calm, precise and with such a candour in her voice – it was like “poetry in motion”,” says Frederico.

I thought this was interesting to note as we have all had that screaming instrutor and I always wondered how that helped maintain a riders centre…I agree some riders need a good shake up sometimes but i think that is unique to each student and a trainer must cater to each one individually.

“The presentation of Mrs. Katrina Wüst regarding the new developments in dressage was very interesting and helpful.

Judges normally take the “most critical” (so to say) part of the dressage sport, but in this presentation it was clearly evident all the work and effort that judges are putting in to make all the process more transparent, understandable, accurate and interesting. An example of the new system “paperless judging” was showed during the presentation.

Mrs. Katrina Wüst identified some reasons why sometimes there is some dissatisfaction among riders and judges, also some possible biases in judging, the importance of the trainers as a link between the riders and judges, and some ideas of possible solutions to facilitate the understanding between judge, trainer and rider,” says Frederico.

This I agree with as so many times you hear riders complaining about the judging without trying to understand the comments or learn from them.

“Closing the seminar we had 4 hours with Isabell Werth training horses of different ages (3 to 7 years old). It was quite interesting because we had the chance to watch different horses with different difficulties (and not just easy, well balanced amazing horses) showing not just competition aspects but also everyday training regimes.

In my opinion Isabel was very honest and straightforward during those hours and clearly showed why she is “simply the best”,” Frederico adds.

Frederico says that the major theme repeated by those elite professionals was the importance of the basics (rhythm, suppleness, connection, transitions, corners…) – “without basics there is no high competition”!

 

I think too that it’s a great thing when people from lesser known dressage nations get involved in these seminars..

“I believe that spreading the experience, knowledge and ideas can benefit all of those who are willing to listen/learn,” says Frederico.

 

“Portugal is a bit far from the center of Europe, and sometimes we run the risk of creating our own small world of “big fishes in small ponds”…

 

If we want to develop in a serious way, we need to have the eyes and ears wide open to everything that is happening in the center of Europe and in the world.

Of course that due to our geographical location, small size of the country, and reduced number of athletes, we have to allocate more time and make more sacrifices, however nowadays technology shortens the distances therefore, as we used to say, if we really want something we will always find a way, if not we will find an excuse…”

 

With two CDI’s being held back to back in March of next year in Cascais, Frederico says they are doing their best to bring the best judges and foreign riders over for what will be an amazing week in a beautiful country, with top facilities!!

“In terms of facilities (arenas, footings, stables) and organization (schedules, timetables, results, communication) we have already proved our merits. Now we have to convince the foreign riders to come to Portugal ” Frederico adds.

Back in the saddle…😊😊🐴🐴

When you start riding before you can walk it becomes something that you recognise as familiar. I got on the horse again for the first time this week and it feels like coming home.
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I had mentally given up the hope of riding again, but sometimes you are lucky enough to find people who are so passionate about helping you that you feel in the beginning like you have to do it for them, and then suddenly you are doing it for yourself.
Ana Martim Luís ( Pilates goddess), Jorge Pereira ( physiotherapist to the ultimate sporting club- Benfica) and Patricia Tiago da Silva ( Oesteopath and magician) have made something that seemed impossible, possible. I am not there yet but it definitely is much more realistic than it was a year ago.
It is so important if you have chronic pain or injury to find someone you trust to help you. What works for one person might not work for another!
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I am still a long way off but just the hope that it might work makes me so much more determined. I have more classical articles on the way and the book is being met with great feedback and I feel so lucky to have people who are just good people.
My mum who flew my horse across the other side of the world because she knew I couldn’t bear the thought of selling him to someone who would treat him badly.
It literally fills my heart to see him playing happily in his paddock with my mum laughing at him in the background! What a pair they will be…lookout dressage Australia!!
I have also learnt how nice it is to have someone who supports you. I always believed that if someone loves you they make what you love to do easier, not more difficult. It might be asking how it went or knowing when not to ask. It might be going to watch you or packing your lunch or just being there when you get home. I moved across the world alone and I thought that made me independent. I have learnt that independence is finding the line between doing it yourself and asking for help. And above all admitting to yourself that even If you don’t need anyone, it’s really really nice to have them there.
I am more hopeful this time because I got what I believe is the right saddle for me…this for a rider with problems is a must and for a rider who doesn’t want to end up with problems also a must! For information on the saddle that I am riding in, and perhaps to help you in your search for a saddle, I highly recommend you contact Julia Duffin at Saddle Kind.
Iota ( son of Rubi AR bred by mum in Portugal) was gelded this week and I will try to start very slowly on him. Classical training articles will appear on Eurodressage in the coming weeks. To everyone at Cascais riding club thankyou, in particular frederico pinteus and Valdeni soures luz!!
To tell me your story or ask a question write to me…don’t suffer riding in pain if you don’t have to!

Stay tuned for next weeks blog on the international dressage riding club seminar!

A Girl and Her Horse…

On Friday Batialo will leave for Australia. My mum, who is the only person who truly understands my relationship with horses, has decided that the only person in the world besides me who will give that horse the life and partnership he deserves is her. Mum, besides being a very gifted rider and trainer, is the person who understands that Batialo is much more to me than just a horse, and I feel so incredibly lucky that he will have the life he deserves.

I keep imagining what I would be like right now if he was heading off to some unknown place where they could treat him badly, or resell him to god knows where, and I feel so relieved that my mother understands this, and beyond her own belief she will get a lot from Batialo is her fear that if he was sold I wouldn’t be able to live with myself, and I know that she is right.

Batialo is not just a horse. He is the reason that I stayed on the other side of the world for so long. He represented my childhood dream, and he was the horse that if I had a shot at it, would have given me that chance.

I laughed with him ,and cried with him, and this week has honestly been the hardest week I have had in Portugal for the very real reason that it’s over. That voice in my head that says one day you will get back on him, and you will get back doing what you love with the horse with that very special personality , and that freedom and pure joy that comes with that will return, is having to face the reality that I have known for a long time, but that still keeps me dreaming of it everyday…hope.

I feel a mix of many things, but most of all I will miss my friend.I haven’t seen him much in the last year, mostly because I worried that one day we would have to sell him, and I couldn’t bear to think of it.

Also because I thought if I dedicated myself fully to my recovery I would get back on him more quickly, and this would just be a very important learning curve, that was in the past.

Unfortunately, despite my best efforts, and I can honestly say they were and are my best efforts as I did absolutely everything I could, I am still not back riding, and I am not sure when and if I will be.

What I do know is that it hurts me to think of a Portugal without a Batialo in it, but I smile to think of an Australia that has one 🙂

For him of course it’s the best life possible, a huge paddock to roam in everyday, and my mum who rides the same as me but with far more tact and knowledge.

But it’s always hard when a horse that has changed our lives leaves it, for whatever reason, and I have honestly never been this upset about any man ;)… but Batialo isn’t choosing to go, and in a perfect world I would still be riding him everyday, but…well…that’s life.

I will love sharing his journey with my mum as she has shared mine with him over the last 7 years, but this week I am reminded again that there is something very special about the love between a girl and her horse.

 

 

 

Polish Expat in England

“England is better organised and not so bureaucratic like Poland. You have better roads in England. The English don’t have many national dishes, whereas in Poland we have many! 

England is multicultural, Poland  is not! Poland has got better weather. We have a proper summer- England does not! England has a royal family.
 
The Polish people are better at saving money… English spend what they have and then complain that they don’t have money!”

When she was 22, Polish national Jolanta found a job offer online and headed off to England alone in search of something “different and exciting”!


“I had to go to Warsaw to sign a contract and I was a little cautious as I had never heard about that agency and didn’t have anyone to ask.” says Jola.

“I found some reviews about it online, which were positive, so I knew if there were reviews that at the very least the agency actually existed!”

Jola admits though that it was a risk to just sign up to an agency and leave her home country, and of course her parents were far more worried than Jola…

“They worried about me, that the agency could be a human traffic mafia… you never know,” adds Jola half jokingly.

“When I went to sign the contract I had to choose the city I would go to. I had 3 options, 3 cities to choose from. I didn’t know any of them so I chose Sheffield because it sounded nice.

Later on I discovered that there were many agencies out there recruiting Polish young people for work abroad, in countries such as England, Germany, and Holland etc.”

Choosing England because she had studied English and wanted to practice and improve her English, Jola was also driven to move overseas because she wanted to do something different and exciting with her life.

“The most difficult part for me was telling my parents that I was going! They were shocked and I knew they worried about me.

But it was not difficult to get to England. Once I signed the contract with the Polish work agency they secured a job for me, a place to live, and also transport to England.” says Jola.

Arriving in England Jola quickly realised the English she had learned in school, and the English in Sheffield was vastly different, among some other things that were not how she expected…

“You have two separate taps in one sink, for hot and for cold water, carpets in the bathrooms, no electric plugs in the bathrooms, and English people wearing shorts while I am wearing a coat and hat…Because it is winter!,” Jola jokes.

Heading off to England alone I wondered if Jola ever felt scared or unsafe, and Jola says that while she was technically alone, many other Polish people came through the same agency, and  there were ten of them living in one house.

“We travelled to work together so I didn’t feel alone. I felt quite safe. Every second week we finished work at 10 pm, so at this time I didn’t feel very safe to travel back home on public buses, but I would feel that in every country I guess.”

At first Jola went to England on a 3 month contract, but returned to England again when she was 23 to stay for 5 months, and then made her final and longest continued stay in England when she was 25, living and working there for 6 years.

“On the first contract I worked a lot, I wanted to save a lot of money. Gradually with time I made friends, people I cared about, so I spent my free time with them. However, I still always counted the days to go on holiday, usually to Poland or Portugal.”
I felt like I didn’t live in the moment but was always waiting for something. The job I had didn’t give me much satisfaction so I decided to do something interesting in the afternoons.

That was when I started Zumba classes, Portuguese classes and acting classes, which was the best thing I did in England.

I love the people I met in England, I loved the freedom and independence I had in England. I didn’t like the weather and there is mould in almost every house.”

I wondered then, once she made friends and had something to feel passionate about, did England ever feel like home?

“I got used to the country and I felt comfortable there, but it never felt like home in England, “ says Jola.

“Maybe I didn’t let myself feel at home there. I knew I went there only for a while. I always missed my family, my real home.”

Jola says that home for her is a place with her family, and after living in England for 6 years Jola returned at the end of last year to Poland, the “place where she feels safe, a place with traditions”.

Moving overseas at the start of her 20’s gave Jola a lot, and changed her a lot,  and she is certain she will never be the same.

“ It gave me independence. I have learned many new things. I have met many different people. I see the world in a different perspective. I believe I am an open minded person now.”

 

If you are looking to move to Portugal or invest in property here I work with a real estate company for a more personal and fun approach to finding your dream home…contact me at warnes@live.com.au for more info, or any advice on living and loving this great country!

The Final Step…Dual Nationality!!

Next month I will put in my application to become a Portuguese citizen, and will hopefully become part of a rather rare group of people in the world who own both a Portuguese and Australian passport.

Home in Portugal

I will very proud to call myself Portuguese, because Portugal has become so many things to me, but most of all it is my home.

It’s been quite the journey to become Portuguese, a country of which I knew not a single person, and absolutely nothing about when I arrived in Europe 8 years ago, in the hopes of becoming an Olympic horse rider.

When I realised that I couldn’t live in chilly Germany, mum asked if I could just stop by Portugal for a week before I came back to Australia to see if I could find her a Lusitano horse.

I found her Lusitano ‘Alancelot’ who happened to be the first Lusitano I ever rode. I then went on to ride 100’s more Lusitanos all over Portugal, only to tell mum that the first one was indeed the best ;).

At the end of that week I called mum to say I was cancelling my flight to Australia and I was going to this town that I really liked about 30 minutes from Lisbon, called Cascais, for a month.

I arrived there as the sun was setting, and had to walk up a hill with my bag searching for the hostel that I had booked that day. I remember how good it felt to unpack my bag that night, and go to sleep with nowhere I needed to be the next day.

And the next day I started again. And Portugal became my home.

People say I am brave to move across the world. Out of curiosity I checked the exact antipode of where I lived in australia, and it’s a little bit inward from Portugal, but pretty close!

I tell those people you have to want something different for yourself badly enough, to go through what it takes to get it.

It’s the same in all aspects of life. People stay in unhealthy relationships with people because of the hassle or difficulty associated with having to step out alone again. People stay stuck in awful jobs that make them terribly unhappy because they don’t want to study, or take the risk of finding something better.

Portugal could have turned out to be a terrible place for me. And there were many months before I knew anyone, where I felt incredibly alone. But in a good way. I had nothing to prove, and no one to feel guilty for. I could just learn to enjoy my own company, and I gradually learned to love it, and that’s the best lesson I have learnt in my life so far. People will always disappoint you, so the best you can do is to try not to disappoint yourself. People are so afraid of change, but everything changes. As soon as you get over one hurdle in life there will be another one. But that’s what makes it interesting!

What is Portugal to me? It’s the place where the people, the food, the weather, the attitude, the culture, makes sense to me. I feel more Portuguese now than I do Australian, and I will feel extremely privileged to officially say I am of Portuguese Nationality!

To all the people who in some way helped me during the last 8 years, who introduced me to someone, or advised me in some way, or simply came to one of my dinners that were typically chaotic but with nice wine…I thank you…It’s not just where you are, but the people you are there with, that makes all the difference. VIVA PORTUGAL!

If you are looking to move to Portugal or invest in property here I work with a real estate company for a more personal and fun approach to finding your dream home…contact me at warnes@live.com.au for more info, or any advise on living and loving this great country!

 

Retraining the Mind…Retraining the Body…Training the Horse!!

This has been an interesting year for me for several reasons. I tried to ride again and was hit with the reality that my body just wasn’t going to accept the pressure. I was told to have surgery to fuse my pubic bone back together, and I decided to ignore that and try the long way round.

I had to not just gain physical strength but regain confidence, and relearn how to engage muscles, and relax others, and this takes time. They say that you have to do something 1000 times before it becomes habit.

I had to try to do exercises again in a different way, and every time I pushed a bit much come back and try again. I realised why people just have the surgery. It takes a lot of mental and physical patience and determination to continually put your muscles into positions they don’t like, and then mental strength to breathe through it and learn to relax within it.

This for me brought to mind a very distinct point in our sport of dressage today…Special gadgets,  short reins,  tight legs, and pulling/pushing bodies at 45 degree angles back towards the horses bottom, has become the ‘surgery’ of today’s dressage.

It’s the quick fix, the put everything together, the squeeze and haul approach, that sees horses at Grand Prix at 7 years old, only to disappear after two months of competition…

Why does this happen?

Because of course the time, patience, money, technique and tact required to actually start a young horse, and take it up to Grand Prix, via all the necessary steps of balance, contact, engagement, suppleness, and finally collection, takes well… ‘too much’ time.

People want horses at 6 who can do passage, and horses at 5 who can do flying changes. There might be some horses at 5 and 6 ready for that. The problem is the horse is not a manufactured product, but an animal, and each one is different. One that matures early may have the balance to do a flying change at 4, while another who hasn’t yet learnt how to canter on both reins without falling onto the shoulder might need two more years, or (god forbid) might not be ready to start flying changes until they are 8 years old!!! (gasp!)

When we look at a 6-year-old we should ask, is he in balance? is he into the contact? is he supple, forward and engaged? Is he with the weight out of the shoulders?

If he is all of those things, call me, because these days, I am afraid to say, that 99% of 6 year olds are not! But they continue to Grand Prix without these essentials, and then they are lame at 10 and their career is over.

Why are the horses pushed into collection, hauled around the arena, and rushed into Grand Prix? Why do we rarely see lightness, engagement, and relaxation in competition?

I can’t answer that…But I will ask..If these horses finished with low marks time after time, and judges commented that the horse was not working over the back, was tense, and being held in the mouth and pushed with a driving seat… would riders have to stop and do it properly? If an average horse that had the correct basics was marked above a flash horse that was doing “boxage” with the rider, would this change how much time was invested in the horses proper basic training?

 

The joy of dressage for me is watching someone train their horse without pressure and expectation. The rider who is harshly critical of themselves, but who does everything in their power for the good of their horse. The rider who might have pottered around for two years without much visual advancements, and yet to those that are close with said rider the horse is everyday more confident, and rider also, the horse is everyday more balanced and happy and relaxed. May we all strive to be that rider.

Finally, I will start again slowly riding, and it might take a long time, but everything in life worth doing, is worth doing properly, and worth putting everything into 🙂

 

 

Cru Swim Wear- Created and Owned in Portugal-100% Handmade!


In 2016 Catarina Gil, pictured left, returned to her home in Portugal after a 6 month stay in the Netherlands, and was inspired by the Dutch people to start her own business.

“I started the company ‘Cru Swim Wear’ after living in the Netherlands because I realized the people there create a business based on what they like and what they believe in, and not to follow trends.” says 23 year old Catarina.

“When I arrived back to Portugal, I started putting on the table the things I love the most in life; fashion, summer, sustainability, nature… and I decided to create Cru Swimwear as a small project and business.”

Catarina says that due to the great weather in Portugal the swimwear market works pretty well, and it was not that difficult to start the swimwear line.

Having purchased my own pair recently from Catarina, I was so very impressed with the quality of the piece, so I asked Catarina if I could interview her about the brand. I later found out that every single piece is 100% hand made, which of course is why I was so struck by the quality of the garment.

“I believe my swimwear is special because each individual piece is made by one unique person to another unique person, and so no two pieces are exactly the same.

This way each piece is completely unique and becomes an expression of your own identity; highlighting the best in you!”

The brand Cru Swim Wear also supports nature in every way it can, and is a company that cares about their foot print and tries to follow a sustainable policy in every aspect.

“Creating a product related to the fashion industry but using natural materials and 100% handmade, that is our philosophy.” says Catarina.

As to why you should invest in a pair of hand made Portuguese bathers…

“The form,  the color, and the concept, of each piece is designed to bring out the best in each of us!

Clients like the way the swimwear fits, as all of our products are elastic and are lined with Lycra.

Then they enjoy the color palette which is based on thorough research and feedback from cliental, and then chosen carefully to represent the colours and feeling of nature; the beach, the ocean, the sand.

And finally, when clients read the concept they realize they are not only buying the product but the brand behind it; a small piece of Portugal, hand made and different.

Above all, our swimwear was created for the human body to get in contact with nature and immerse itself in water, to enable us to swim, and look and feel good while doing so.

When people purchase from Cru Swim Wear they notice these aspects and of course how good the quality of the product is.

In the end it is these pillars that justify the purchase.” adds Catarina.

While the brand is still in its early stages it is growing, and Catarina has been surprised more and more every year just how much it has expanded, not just in Portugal but internationally.

“It over came my expectations in so many aspects, and because of good social media communication we sell a lot to customers outside of Portugal via our website CRUSWIMWEAR.

As for the future…Catarina would love to make Cru Swimwear grow, as a Portuguese brand expanding into new markets, and ultimately bringing a small piece of Portuguese artistry and nostalgia to the rest of the world.

Sharish Gin…Gin for those friends who “don’t like gin”!

Have you ever found yourself sitting around a dinner table, and you ask your friends if they would like a gin and tonic and one or two of the people say “I don’t really like gin”.

After you make a note not to invite them again, you then ask them what gins they have tried and they list the most common gins like Gordons or Bombay.

Neither of these are bad gins, but for me it reminds me of avocado. I grew up on an avocado farm and my friends at school would say they hated avocado because they had tried to eat it straight off out of the skin with no seasoning. Typically you increment avocado slowly into things; on bread with salt and pepper, or in smoothies with honey, until gradually you find the taste itself to be delicious!!

Well, Sharish gin is like the toast, the salt and pepper, or the honey. It’s the gin that eases those ‘non gin lovers’ into loving gin because it is just so refreshing that you can’t tell you are drinking alcohol. Like a good Alentejo red wine it can be dangerous as the taste is so good you can be three gins down before you realise you are tipsy. But as far as Portuguese gins go (and world gins for that matter) this one is unique and very good.

Started in October of 2013, Sharish Gin is produced in the Alentejo by António Cuco and gets its name from the nearby village of MONSARAZ.

Used during the Muslim occupation, the Arabic term “sharish”, means xara or jara, the term for estella alentejana (Cistus ladanifer), which is a scrub found in the region, known for its wonderful scent that is often used in perfumes. (pictured right)

Sharish gin gets its unique taste and smell from a range of uniquely Portuguese ingredients, from Apple Bravo de Esmolfe DOP to oranges and lemons from Alentejo, passing through fresh Lúcia-Lima, together with the traditional juniper and coriander seed, complemented with cinnamon, clove, and a soft touch of vanilla.

All these ingredients are distilled separately in a traditional Portuguese alembic,(pictured left) and then submitted to a final blend.

 

 

 

 

I approached the founder of Sharish, António Cuco, for a chat recently, and he said the project started quite by surprise, and took a lot of work to get off the ground.

“I was challenged by a group of friends to create a gin at a dinner at my family restaurant. They wanted to try a new gin and we didn’t have any, so they suggested that I should create one,” says 35 year old Antonio.

“It was not easy in the beginning. I needed to make lots of research into gin and gin making because I had no background in the area and gin making is not a Portuguese tradition.

I started with an initial investment of around 100.000 Euros.”

With a degree in Tourism from the University of Évora, Antonio was formerly a professional teacher, and without assignment for the academic year, he took advantage of IEFP’s support to create his own job, and became a distiller of Sharish Gin.

Antonio says that his goal during the research phase was to create a gin and brand where everything was chosen for a reason, and everything added to the overall concept and idea.

“Even the shape of the bottle fits perfectly to the silhouette of Monsaraz, chosen for the logo. Nothing was left to chance in this production, everything has a reason for being, and the main one is a passion for gin, linked to the conviviality among friends. As they say in the Alentejo, “que vos faça bom proveito!“.

 

Currently the best-selling Portuguese brand in the world, and in the top 5  in sales in Premium Gin in the Portuguese market, Sharish exports 65% of their annual production overseas, to nations such as; UK, Ireland, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Luxembourg, Austria, Macau, Hong-Kong, Angola, Mozambique, Cape Vert, Sweden, Norway, São Tome e Principe, and Australia ;).

With a number if different varieties of Sharish Gin, Anotonio says that Sharish Gin Laurinius is his favorite.

“It’s a special edition with 12 months aging in Oak barrels previously used in Aguardente da Lourinhã aging.”

My personal favorite, and the gin to turn those non gin drinking friends into believers, is the Sharish blue gin…which magically changes colour as you add tonic water.

“To create the blue gin I knew that the Clitorea Ternatea reacted to citric acid because a French friend introduced me to the plant, I simply used this principle as a base for the gin.”

Antonio hopes that Sharish will continue to grow and increase their exports of this unique and tasty gin all over the world…

“And from this May forward we will be having our visitors center fully operational.” adds Antonio.