Day two of the Daniel Stewart clinic almost didn’t happen… Coach Stewart went out for a jog Sunday afternoon and was almost hit by a train, LOL! Apparently where he’s from trains are almost nonexistent and when he went for a jog on the tracks he didn’t expect to actually encounter one (fun fact: 13 people were killed by trains in Washington state last year). Luckily, he took his headphones out at just the right moment and was able to get off of the tracks…
Anyways, prepare for adorable barn cat pictures, because I forgot to take pics Monday morning. 😉
After telling us his train story, Coach launched right into his opening speech. He wanted to address a common misconception that most riders have: that equestrian sports are a solo activity! He talked a lot about the unseen team behind every horse and rider pair—the diligent trainer, the strategic farrier, the supportive parent, the hardworking stall cleaner, the caring veterinarian, etc. In reality, equestrian sports are a team activity. Being able to communicate with your fellow team members is a key part of being successful.
Coach Stewart told us the story of a young girl who was taking virtual coaching sessions with him. Despite having a great horse at a fancy barn, she wasn’t progressing as well as she should have been. Everything appeared to be in good shape… until Coach asked her trainer if she had friends at the stable.
“Of course not,” her trainer said, affronted.
“Barns that separate and create competition are no good,” he told us.
The ideas of teamwork and friendship led right back to one of his main points from Day One’s seminar: we perform better when we’re happy! On top of that, Coach also asked us to expand our idea of what a teammate looks like.
“Everybody you learn from is a teammate, even your opponents.”
With that thought in mind, Coach Stewart explained Day Two’s game: Cracking Codes! Riders were told to set aside the changes and links they had been working with on Day One. Instead they would be competing in teams of two, with their goal being to systematically discover the two numbers that he would write on his piece of paper before each game began. Each rider would be given a number of jumps and an optimum time (plus they had to count up to all of their jumps), then the first two fences they went over would be counted as guesses towards the code.
Confused? IMO, this game was more complex than the Chain Link Fence. It was hard to keep the numbers straight, especially if you were without pen and paper like the riders were.
Here’s an example of cracking a code in four rounds:
Rider #1 starts her course with fences 2 and 4. Coach tells her “nothing”—neither of those numbers are in the code. Rider #2 knows it can’t be 2 or 4, so she starts her course with 3 and 1. Coach tells her “one in”—one of the numbers is in the code and in the correct place. Rider #1 has to narrow down which number (3 or 1) is correct, so she starts with 3 and 5. Coach tells her “one out”—one of the numbers is in the code, but not in the right order. Rider #2 knows that both 1 and 5 are out of order, so she does 5 and 1.
Coach tells her that both numbers are correct and she’s cracked the code!
Now do that without a spreadsheet while cantering a course of jumps without going over/under optimum time—and don’t forget to count down to every jump, too. 😛
The penalty for picking up faults? MORE SIT-UPS, OF COURSE. 8 to 10 faults would earn the team 50 sit-ups and 11 or more faults would add 100 sit-ups to their total (with all of the sit-ups to be done after their session was complete), BUT 3 or less faults would remove all of the team’s potential sit-ups. Of course, the team that cracked the most codes was relieved of their punishment, which put more pressure on the participants to play the game to the best of their abilities.
Day Two was all about TEAMWORK.
I’m going to be real with you guys, by the time Day Two kicked into gear my brain was fried. I got the concept of the game, but my execution left something to be desired. Apparently the Show Buddy was in the same boat, though, because once she and her partner started riding, it was pretty clear that they didn’t get how Cracking Codes was supposed to be played. Their courses looked good, but their guesses were far off the mark, to the point where Coach Stewart heavily criticized their teamwork.
I wish I could say that tSB and her partner made a comeback, but the other team trounced them. But while it was sad that team SEC didn’t represent in Group One, I was super happy to see that Pilot and his rider made huge improvements! They were so much more confident, it was amazing to see someone make so much growth after only one session with Coach Stewart.
Honest moment: I don’t remember Group Two. 😳
Group Three, on the other hand, was unique. Coach Stewart let both riders (there were only two in Group Three on Day Two) play the Cracking Codes game once to get warmed up (while counting to their jumps, of course), then this happened:
We ended up confusing each other, to the point that not a single one of us heard Coach give a ten second warning when it was Instructor A’s turn to ride. The other team stole a point out from under us. We were furious! But Coach challenged us to rise above our anger and use the tools we’d built the night before to get back into our Goldilocks Zone, and Instructor A found her rhythm so that she could come back with a last minute victory, tying up the game and saving us all from doing sit-ups. 😎
With the riding portion complete, we moved onto the
(Fitness isn’t really my forte and I didn’t take pictures, so enjoy a cute picture of Instructor A hugging Kody’s handsome face and a pic of Mrs. Potts, a Belmore pony that was on a diet.)
Coach Stewart sat us all down in the tent for a brief break before we really got into the “bootcamp” part of Day Two. He talked about how equestrian athletes aren’t really recognized because they don’t have an “ALSO”. Soccer players don’t just play soccer, they also run drills. Football players don’t just play football, they spend hours tackling dummies. Equestrians need an “also”!
“We focus so much on taking good care of our horse that we forget to take care of ourselves,” he said. “If we want to be treated like athletes, we have to act like athletes.”
But working out isn’t enough. If we want to truly become better riders, the exercises we do have to have what’s called “sport specificity”—they have to look like our sport! That’s why all of Coach Stewarts exercises 1.) resemble horseback riding (especially the two point), 2.) overload the muscles specifically used in riding, and 3.) are pliametric (involve jumping).
Coach Stewart took us out to the back of the barn, where he had a circuit of thirteen exercises set up for us. One of them simulated leg yielding a horse, one of them had you twist your hips like you were doing flying lead changes, one of them put you on a board that balanced on a tennis ball (in two point, of course), one of them used a resistance band to simulate going over a jump, etc. Even the wall sits were in two point!
All of them, unfortunately, made the joints in my knees and feet feel like they were threatening to disintegrate into ash, so I wouldn’t recommend them for someone whose family has a predisposition for early onset arthritis. 🙁
At the very end of the day, we all gathered back under the tent and took a P21—a pledge to live the next 21 days focusing on our health and happiness by looking into our lives and finding behaviors that don’t belong (battling for the closest parking spots, drinking soda pop, eating any and all junk food that ends with the letter ‘o’).
“Ask yourself: ‘Would I let my horse eat this before a clinic?'” Coach Stewart advised. “We have to treat ourselves the way we treat our horses.”