Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Weekend at Carlo Graziani's Barn

Last weekend I took Klein down to Orlando to spend the weekend at Grand Prix rider/trainer Carlo Graziani's barn.

Carlo competing:

We had a lesson with him last December at a farm in Tallahassee and I felt like we could learn A LOT from him.  I got in contact with him and he said come on down.

 Klein and I were on our way by 6am Saturday.

 Stopped at the Ag station.

First, this is a guy that is not only actively competing himself, but has a group of his students actively competing.  They have been at HITS Ocala this year and they go back to HITS Ocala next week for two more weeks of competition in the big money classes.  After that they will go to WEF in Wellington to competed.  His barn is something upward of $1,000 a month for boarding and training/lessons.






So, what incentive is there for him to have someone come in for just a weekend that is not going to board at his barn and be in his regular program?  He is just a genuinely nice guy.  His group of boarders/students are just as nice.  Everyone there was SO friendly!  In a barn full of imported warmbloods, Klein was treated or looked at no different.  Everyone thought she was such a cool horse.  One girl was completely heart broken to learn that Klein was only there for two days.  Everyone treated us like we were one of them and they all checked on us and made sure I was finding anything I needed around the barn.  Carlo made sure that I knew I had full roam of the place.  He also made sure I knew that I could hang around and watch lessons and rides for as long as I wanted that weekend and to just tell him if I needed anything at all.  What an all around first class barn.

 Klein had her own paddock too.

 View of the ring and barn from the paddock.

 Schooling one of his sale horses.  I am not sure what exact height that was but it was over 4'.

The first day I had him do a training ride on Klein.  This is a first.  I have had Klein since she was two years old.  I started her and I have done all her training.  I am the ONLY person that has ever ridden her.  She will be 11 this year.  I have finally come to the realization, after watching Carlo ride in December, that there is a point when you have to be able to recognize a potentially beneficial ride when you see one.


It was actually really cool to see.  I am so glad I had him do a training ride on her.  Plus, it gives him a feel for any habits she might have and better insight on how to help me with her.  He was really glad he rode her because of that.







He was really impressed with her.  He said that she has good balance and rideability.  She goes when you ask and she comes back when you ask.  Their warm up at first was getting a feel for eachother and she backed off a little bit, which is what I was feeling at our last show.  He said as soon as I feel that, I better get her MOVING to the next fence and not allow it again.  Well, ding ding ding ding ding, there it is.  Nothing was wrong at that show that she stopped in warm up.  I LET her do it.  I know for a fact that I don't keep enough leg on her sometimes, and that is starting to limit our ability.  I have been actively working to fix it because it was an issue in dressage to.  I have definitely improved on it in the past month or so.

Warm up course:

Carlo said that Klein definitely works better at a faster pace where I can feel her kind of grab the bit and take you to the fences.  I know exactly the feeling he is talking about so I know where he wants me to be.  He said that is when she was feeling the best during that ride and he could tell she is excited to be out there.  I think we started to go down the wrong path when I jumped her a couple times in the Pelham with a double rein.  It works for dressage but it is a little much for her to jump in.  She needs to be able to have a little freedom to GO.  Carlo really liked the low port Kimberwicke on her.  He said that is the perfect bit for her.  He had asked me why I use it in our December lesson and I said she has always seemed to like it and be responsive in it.  He said he could completely see what I meant.

Some 3'3"-3'6":

3'3"-3'6" course:


I took the stance I always take of placing all the blame on myself for anything Klein does wrong.  I told him I knew it was something I was doing that had her stop recently and that I owed it to her to bring her to his barn and learn how to be a better rider.  He was not completely on board with that idea.  He said that maybe that is part of it, but part of her duty as a horse in her discipline is to be out on that course and get over those jumps.  Obviously unless there is a medical condition, but we know there wasn't.

 I mean check her out over this 3'9".  It might have been 4', we didn't have a stick, I just put it up and he asked if I thought she would be comfortable with that.  I told him sure, I've jumped her 3'9" a couple times, and she was always great:

 3'9" nbd.

3'9" oxer with room to spare.

Klein and Carlo:

Klein baby is meticulously maintained and has seen the vet and chiro recently in the past month for routine things.  Which leads me to my next observation...mentality.

She was tired of standing around, can you tell?

The next day I rode Klein for a lesson.  We were having a bit of trouble with that backing off and getting an extra step in to a couple of the fences.  She also stopped on me.  Carlo immediately said "Now, what did I just tell you yesterday???  I told you have have to keep her MOVING.  COMMIT.  You didn't listen."  Shit, where did I lose my way and develop this habit of letting her back off.  I am not being an active rider.  Carlo pretty much told me nicely to stop being a pansy.  I have no reason for beginning to develop this habit either.  I'm not intimidated by the jumps.  It's just some creeping thing that has snuck up on me.

Anyway, yep, he sure did tell me that I need to keep her GOING, and I sure didn't listen, obviously.  At one point he said "You are probably feeling a little defeated up there.  But you know what?  Take a big breath and get going.  I can tell you are thinking too much."  Ha.  Yeah.  I have a REALLY bad habit of letting my mind run wildly out of control.  Just like with the stop in the warm up at the show a week ago.  One stop and I go into OMG IS MY POOR BABY OK?!  WTF JUST HAPPENED?!  WHAT DO I DO?!?  IF SHE IS TRYING TO TELL ME SOMETHING I DON'T HEAR I AM GOING TO FEEL LIKE THE BIGGEST A-HOLE ON THE PLANET.  MY POOR LITTLE KLEIN BABY mode.  When in reality I should have taken a breath and kicked on and got her moving and in FRONT of my leg.  There would have been no problem after that.

I also have a really bad habit of being incredibly hard on myself in everything I do.  From work to riding to CrossFit, etc...  I am a perfectionist and if I can't get something correctly I will feel like an instant failure.  I am all or nothing.  Do it right or stop even trying to do it at all.  Half assing is not an option.  I can't even junk food because I will feel like a complete failure at taking care of myself and be disgusted with myself.  I can't even eat cake on my own birthday.

I told Carlo in the December lesson that I feel like sometimes Klein deserves a better rider and he was not EVEN about to hear that kind of negative bs.  So um, Carlo really woke me up this weekend to the fact that I have to chill out with that shit.  It's good not to half ass things, but you can't feel like a complete failure at everything in your life if something doesn't go right.  If something doesn't go right in a ride I don't get after the horse, because they are only doing what you tell them to.  I get after myself and start basically berating myself for not being able to ride better that day.  The Other Half has witnessed this several times, poor guy.  

I remember one time in particular that I was out on XC at a recognized horse trials at Novice level in Arizona and Klein and I were just hauling ass and having a great time.  I was just letting her fly.  We came through the finish flags and I was pumped on having such a great XC run on the championship course, until I heard my watch go off.  Then it occurred to me, I hadn't even checked it.  I thought FOR SURE we had gotten speed faults for being too fast.  Of course it took a while for them to post the scores and the whole time I was in the trailer with my friend talking about what a dumb ass I was for not paying attention to my watch.  I just kept saying what a stupid, stupid mistake it was and that I didn't deserve to even be out there if I couldn't accomplish something as simple as looking at a watch.  How I let Klein down, etc, etc...  Well, the scores were posted.  We did not get speed faults.  We were about five seconds from getting any, close but safe.  Ok, maybe I wasn't that much of an idiot, but I am sure I sounded like one after having such a fit for no reason.

 Anyway, I know negative thinking is not a good habit to have on any subject.  What didn't really occur to me until this weekend is that being that hard on myself still qualifies as negative thinking and it needs to stop.

The next problem we identified is my lack of counting.  I put six strides in a five stride line and he was like "You aren't even counting are you."  Nope.  Sure wasn't.  I can count three to five strides from fences but rarely will I count through lines.  Fail.  Sometimes I like to try to blame these loopholes on being self taught.  I have taken lessons here and there but I have never been in any regular lesson program.  But, I couldn't teach myself to be consistent with counting?  Yeahhhh, there is no excuse, there is no reason I can't do that.  Counting will now be a part of at least every jump school.  What a coincidence that EN just posted an article Doug Payne (aka my FAVORITE event rider) wrote on the subject just YESTERDAY:


He had already told me that one thing I need to be aware of with Klein is that her habit is to actually close her stride and it's her instinct to close her stride.  So, when I let her get six in the five he said "What did I tell you yesterday?  You have to keep her stride OPEN and GOING.  Her instinct is to close it and that is what just happened there."  He actually said that Klein requires an accurate ride because of that tendency, she's not the easiest ride because you have to have balance yet be GOING.  If she gets too going then basically she will just start flailing around with this giant open stride.  But, if you bring her back too much too soon that stride is going to start closing up.  Which is fine if you need that but I didn't need it.  Bottom line, Carlo validated the canter Klein NEEDS to have on course and even with that canter, we still need to be counting.

P.S. the TFS Jumping girth broke in to use with the half pad no problem.  I am still going to the next appt the fitter has here in the local area.  I also had a CWD rep that happened to stop by take a look at Klein and I think she may stop by our barn on her next trip up to our area with some saddles for us to try out.

Toward the end of our lesson I got Klein moving and into the canter she should be in, and we had a great round.  We were right where we should be.  I'm excited to apply everything I learned both for Klein and myself mentally from here on out.  I am definitely going to go back to that barn for another weekend.  I didn't get any video of our ride.  Carlo was too busy for that.  He gives you 110% of his attention every minute of the lesson and there is NO time for small talk.  You are WORKING every minute of that lesson.  He is a really nice guy, but in his ring there is only room for work.  He definitely makes the most he can of the lesson.

One last thing to note...The Other Half sent me pictures, that I should have posted, of Wes and Mochi's dinner that he fixed while Klein and I were gone.  He hooked them both up on a little more grain and put granola bars in there for them.  Best horse dad ever, I'm telling you.  He was right there when I pulled into the barn too waiting with a grease gun full of moly grease for my trailer jack.  I have meant to bring it to the barn like three times in a row now and forgotten it every time.  I'm serious when I say THE BEST.


  1. What an absolutely outstanding weekend! Terrific write up - it's really nice to hear about a barn full of wonderful people, I feel like we often only hear about the negative. It is so refreshing to hear about the positive regarding a trainer and his students! Sounds like you took a ton away from the experience, too. I really admire the way you're able to break down your learning and mental breakthroughs of the weekend.

  2. As an ammy owner with one going horse, it is so, so hard to stay on top of what's a training issue and what's not. Glad you have access to a great trainer like this! Sounds like a really productive session.

    PS I even watched your videos. ;-)

  3. Amazing write up! What a great point about hyper-critical thinking being the SAME as negative thinking. Yep, been there, had to learn it too.

  4. Klein is such a badass!! Look at both of you go. This was a really cool post to read. :D