It has been a HOT summer. I decided to give my horse Eddie some vacation over the months of July and August since the ground is so hard. But now I have Eventing fever. So what better way to sooth my withdrawal symptoms than a fun DIY project in preparation for the Fall Eventing season?! Eddie will be entering the Waredaca Training Three Day this October, so I have a lot to be excited for. It will be his first turnout and jog inspection so I want him to look sharp! I’ve been inspired by some of the cool quarter mark designs I’ve seen over the past few years (particularly the NZ feather), and wanted to do something unique for Eddie.
Eddie’s show name is Crossfire, named after the Stevie Ray Vaughan song… Sounds a lot better than his Jockey Club name “Excess Liquidity.” He was born April 13th, which makes him an Aries. I’m not into horoscope signs and what not, but I do like the designs and iconism behind them. For example, the Aries is also the Fire element. Which is perfect for Eddie’s name! So I decided I would design my own Aries or “Ram” icon to transpose into a quarter mark stencil. It will be unique to him, and look very elegant!
I will outline my design process, along with the tutorial for creating the stencil.
Step 1: Brainstorm and Sketch
This is the most important stage. I would recommend designing your own mark. This is always safest when it comes to copy rights. And it makes you unique!
Do some research on Pinterest, Behance, or anything online you draw inspiration from. When thinking of designing or choosing an icon to represent you and your horse, you want to be sure you explore all ideas and possibilities. Likewise, you want the final product to look polished. You want something that is dynamic/strong but also subtle at the same time, as not to distract the judges or officials. Creating logos and iconography are long creative processes.
Once you have a theme of what you want to achieve or convey… Put a pen to paper. Start sketching dozens of thoughts, doodles, and icons. Put all of your ideas down on paper, even the crappy ones. Maybe after you have 15-30 sketches, you can narrow it down to 3-5. Then make a drawing or mock-up of those favorite selected ideas.
Next, take a poll! Ask a few close friends to pick their favorites and give you feedback. Sometimes we get married to one idea, but an outsider’s perspective helps us see new possibilities. Hopefully, after a few new opinions, you can narrow it down to one option.
My final best four, narrowed down to my final option.
Step 2: Refine Your Quarter Mark Icon
If you’re and artsy fartsy freak like me, maybe you have access to Adobe Illustrator. If not, a good old fashion, pencil and paper will do just fine. (Or tracing paper if you are just copying a printed design) I designed my icon in Illustrator and then printed.
This is really where some freehand drawing skills come into play. You will have to draw out your mark on a larger scale, about 10 inches wide. Or if you’re not a great artist but have great ideas, ask a friend to help you draw your mark!
Also remember your final design should be relatively simple and also take advantage of negative space. If it is too complex or has narrow sections, it could end up being a muddle to create and read.
Step 3: Transpose your Mark to Vinyl Sheet
This might be the trickiest step if you’re not handy with an X-acto knife… Or have never heard of one before. First, a sheet of your vinyl that is large enough for your icon/mark, with a little room to spare on the edges. Then you will need to tape the drawing of your mark as flat and as tight to the vinyl sheet as you can.
Next you will begin cutting with the X-acto knife on the border of your design. Remember to go very slow. If your design has curves, and you don’t have steady hands, you may want to invest in a set of French curves (ask your local art store). Use one hand to steady your vinyl on the cutting matt, while the other holds the X-acto knife at about a 45 degree angle to cut. That way the hand holding the vinyl can help pivot the sheet as you go.
Be careful as you pull sections of vinyl apart, as not to rip anything!
Step 4: Transfer Onto Your Horse
If you have ever participated in a jog, or groomed for a jog, you might already know how to transfer a quarter mark… or even create a freehand quarter mark. First and foremost, make sure your horse is freshly bathed and clean. Use a rag to remove any excess dust before you start.
Grab a fine haired dandy brush, and a spray bottle to get started. I like to fill my spray bottle with a bit of oil or shine product. First, spray and bush all of the hair on your horse’s hind quarters towards the back, to create the smoothest surface possible. Now you have created a wet surface to stencil on. Place the stencil strategically on the hind quarters where you want the mark to appear. Be careful not to aggravate any of the hair. Now, gently brush down on the hair exposed in the stencil. Hold the stencil in place so it does not move. This is what creates the mark, the differing pattern or direction of the hair.
Finally, gently remove your stencil and take a peek at your masterpiece! You may want to even give it a spray with hair setting spray or something like it. Use your finger or a cloth to fix any stray hairs the stencil may have aggravated.
And there you have it! Your own stencil quarter mark! I hope this was helpful for any of the creative minds out there!
Don't forget to hashtag #EventingWizard if you try it out yourself and post!
With all of the historic and unprecedented performances from the Rio 2016 Olympics, it’s hard not to feel inspired in your own endeavors. While we may not all be Olympic heroes, many of us have our own interests and hobbies that we are striving to better ourselves at. For me, the Olympics have always been something to get excited about. I have always been able to draw knowledge and inspiration from my favorite athletes and their performances.
I grew up as a dual-athlete through high-school and college. I ran cross-country and track while simultaneously sustaining a very active riding career. While I don’t claim to be a superstar, I have a few modest accolades to my name. I won one state championship title in the 800 meter, as well as a runner-up in the 1600. Then I decided to give collegiate running a go. It wasn’t until I reached the FEI level in Eventing that I realized I had to devote all of my time to riding if I truly wanted to be my best. But as a dual-athlete, you’ll never forget the lessons you’ve learned in both sports to aid in your progression and success. I will often reference my experiences in track and field to help paint the bigger picture.
So this got me thinking… What is it that makes an Olympic champion? Well, I started to make a list. A list of characteristics they all have in common. Things that I thought could help me in my own riding and training practice, as well as anyone else in sports across the board!
Physical and Mental Toughness
You can bet that each and every Olympic athlete has put their body through hell to get to where they are. That goes for Equestrian riders as well as their horses. Athletes like Phelps and Bolt didn’t achieve world record performances through sheer talent. They worked day and night. They have a close relationship with pain and fatigue. A champion can break down physical and mental barriers. They have come face to face with the invisible wall that blocks many athletes from running or swimming just a fraction of a second faster. And they have obliterated that wall; they’ve become comfortable with the pain and exhaustion they may be faced with on the other side.
This is what sets them apart. Most of us would be inclined to quit when our mind tells us our body has had enough. But there is always more in the reserve tank. My track coach used to say, “If you run past that wall at the end of your race, you will hit a whole new gear.” Each year when a new flock of runners came to tryouts, he would have us run 400 meter repeats at the very beginning of the season. The veteran runners (myself included) HATED this work out as it was absolute cruelty. Nevertheless, we would run ourselves to the ground each set. Many puking our guts out just in time to get back on the line for the next set… By the second week of practice, he would have successfully diminished our field of runners to about a quarter of its original size. We were the athletes left who were willing to push themselves past those physical and mental barriers.
Check out this Under Armour commercial starring Phelps to get an idea of what those barriers look like:
So how does this translate to Equestrian sport? Well, for me it has always meant that I will hold myself to the same physical fitness standard that is demanded of my horses to compete. As humans, we have the choice to push past barriers of our own physical limitations. However, our equine partners often times do not. We break the barrier for them. For example, we decide for them at the end of the course if we are down on the clock and have to push them faster. This is why it is important for you as a rider, to experience the pain and fatigue you ask of your horse. Go for a run, and when you get exhausted and feel like you’re going to collapse… start the timer over and keep running.
Mindfulness and a Positive Attidude
It’s easy to become mesmerized by the performances of athletes such as gymnast Simone Biles. She exudes such confidence and radiance throughout her routines, where even non-gymnastics fans can recognize and appreciate her brilliance. She has already encapsulated the nation by gaining our affections through her adorable yet competitive personality. But behind all of that glitz and glam, is a fiercely intelligent and composed athlete. She is able to perform under extreme pressure and expectations. How does she do this?
Mindfulness is by definition, “a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.” This is the act of remaining in the present, with a positive attitude, free of negative judgement.
Mindfulness is perhaps one of the most underutilized terms I have encountered in my own riding career. During one season of track, our university team underwent a study in which two PhD students taught and performed meditation exercises to us. But the study had far more of an impact on my riding than it ever did my running. It taught me how to be present, rather than just go through the motions. And it taught me how to ride with a more positive outlook.
Michael Jung is a master of mindfulness. He is the first rider to win the Olympics on his dressage score, and he has done that feat twice over. Not only is he the best, but he is the best on multiple horses. You can watch how he rides a dressage test, or attacks a jumping course, that he is ALWAYS present. He lives in the tiny moments of each jump and each stride. He rides each stride as if it were his first. In his Olympic dressage test at Rio, he and Sam made the mistake of swapping leads early in the counter canter (Probably the first mistake the Terminator and Sam have ever made…) receiving a low 4 mark. He immediately corrected his mistake and was back to business throughout the rest of his test. He never let the mistake negatively affect him or his outlook. Mindfulness is the difference between having a mistake, and letting your nerves rip you apart at the seams… Or moving past your mistake and getting back to your typical 7-9 marks.
Mindfulness takes hard work. It’s just like exercising any muscle, except it’s your brain. It’s a slow and steady technique that will greatly enhance your performance.
Never Ease Up Before the Finish Line
With the exception of Usain Bolt, who is notorious for being able to casually stride across the finish line ahead of his challengers… You will rarely see a champion ease up before the finish of a big race or performance. There is simply too much at stake. In track, we learned this lesson the hard way. Countless races are lost by simply thinking you have it in the bag, but somebody with more grit will be high up on your heels to clinch the win. It simply comes down to… Who wants it bad enough?
One of my favorite Olympic moments from the coverage in Rio, was during the Women’s 400 meter final. While I had my hopes in favor of Allyson Felix, I was inspired by the passion that Shaunae Miller expressed by diving across the line to win the Gold. This mentality is something that I have carried over into my riding as well. Ride every stride, and don’t leave a single point on the table. After all, you don’t want to leave the track or exit the arena feeling like you didn’t give it your all.
Charlotte Dujardin certainly didn’t leave a single point on the table when she scored an Olympic record of 93.9 in her musical freestyle. Granted, she has loads of experience at the level. But its how she approaches her test, which helps her rack up so many points. From the moment she comes down the center line, to her final salute… she and Valegro are BRINGING IT.
I’m not advocating that you should sign yourself up for the next marathon, or that you come FLYING down your center line at a blazing speed to salute. But rather, I hope some of these analogies can help you in your own endeavors or Equestrian sport. Make a point to incorporate little things in your daily routine that remind you of your favorite athletes and champions. Start breaking down the tiny barriers that hold you back. Keep working hard, and success will follow.
I have decided to start a blog to document my life with horses, as I simultaneously fumble my way through adulthood. For those interested in following, I hope to include various updates on my own horses and competitions, my thoughts on the ever-changing sport of Eventing, as well as some fun tutorials and DIYs. I’m a creative horse woman on a budget; why not share my ideas with everyone! I also know my OTTB Eddie has a small following as well. So I will be sure to document his journey along the way!
Bear in mind, I was an art major… NOT English major. So while writing is not my forte, I still enjoy sharing my thoughts and experiences. Transitioning into adulthood, while maintaining a full-time job, caring for horses, all while trying to chase my competitive dreams, is not easy. And for myself, I know I am inspired most by like-minded people. I hope to inspire, educate, and make people laugh by starting this blog and sharing some of my personal experiences.
I also aim to make this as interactive as possible through social media. I am very active on Facebook and Instagram. You can find me through my social media links on this page. Once I post a few DIYs, you can also hashtag #EventingWizard so I can find your posts!