An Invaluable Experience

By Lauren Sammis, September 09, 2014

My education with Kyra Kyrklund has come to an end. Kyra and her husband, Richard White, were absolutely committed to every lesson everyday, and they each had their own suggestions that I can add to my riding. Kyra has a solution for every situation the horse encounters. She is quick to offer exercises to improve the horse within that movement.   Richard is an absolute stickler about rider position and mechanics. He would explain how to use the riders body in a different way to achieve different results. As a combination Kyra and Richard really develop the rider with a new/different feel and improve the horse through different gymnastics.

In regards to position, the most significant change is in placement and use of the leg. The visual of having a spur behind the back of the knee allows the leg to work as a funnel towards the shoulder. Sitting with the seat bones below the horse's wither and using the top of the back of the thigh to motivate the horse toward engagement. When making a change in position which is "normal" to you, you can lose your feel until this new postion becomes less foreign. Focusing on your position in this way can be really mentally challenging and frustrating. However, having passed through the uncomfortable I now feel much more effective with more tools to use.

One of the most dramatic changes has been the use of the outside rein. I have always strived to be able to ride a horse on the outside rein primarily. Giving with the inside hand to the point of not using the inside rein. I have many photos of myself riding through corners or in a pirouette with the inside rein looped and riding the outside of the horse only. Well that has changed!!! The outside rein now is truly there for speed control with short quick half halts. The inside rein maintains the contact for the bend. The result is that the horse has an immediate response to being checked on the outside rein. Pirouettes now happen by maintaining the bend on the inside rein while collecting the horse on a quick rein on the outside. So much easier with a far lighter contact.

Being the seasoned competitor Kyra is, she has a very calm, quiet way about her. Not being driven by emotions in riding but finding solutions for what is happening. If something is not going the right way, she suggests going back to the last thing that worked along that path then analyzing where the breakdown in communication lies. She advises to really critic a good ride, to know how you got there so that it is repeatable.   Following a great ride, don't expect the horse to immediately feel as the previous ride ended. Instead, can you repeat the process? Is it possible to shorten that process over time yielding the same results?

This training experience has been invaluable. The horses, Whitman and Lombard V, were happy and are returning to the states healthy. The homework over the next few months is to sift through the information given. I am grateful for the opportunity and am a better rider for it.


By Lauren Sammis, August 17, 2014

The U.S. team at Hickstead was represented by Susie Dutta, Katherine Bateson and Lisa Wilcox. Lisa ended up second in the Grand Prix Special and third in the Freestyle. Katherine's horse is a hot little mare that although really talented is learning how to deal with the pressure of an international arena. It was nice to see all the riders, including all the other countries warming up and working through their own individual issues. 

Carl Hester is a master. The use of the arena and the magnitude of concentration of both horse and rider was inspirational. I was glad to be able to attend the show as a spectator (which I rarely have time for) and see the good and bad of all the combinations. Much can be learned from successful and not so successful pairs. 

The owners of Cinco are here this week visiting. I am pleased to say that they can also see the improvements that have been made in a short time. Cinco is so talented and spectacular that he sometimes offers more than he is strong enough to maintain. However, everyday I can feel the work getting a little more solidified. I am very proud of him. 

Whitman on the other hand has a little more maturity and is taking this training very seriously. The changes in this horse are dramatic. I now feel that I have a Grand Prix horse that I am improving opposed to just a horse reaching for the Grand Prix level. I really would like to get back into the ring and am trying to find small shows to enter. There has to be a judge of a certain level to judge the Grand Prix. With  Hickstead last week all the judges were busy. I am entered next week and there a small possibility of this week also. Fingers crossed. 

A Bit of Sightseeing

By Lauren Sammis, July 28, 2014

We have been to a show, I've seen the Prince, seen the Cathedral, been to the Coronation Cup.....and been to Harrods! It's been a busy week.

I took Whitman to a small show close by and rode through the Grand Prix test. It is my first time competing him. He started out a little distracted and tense but he continued to refocus
and relax. We scored a 66 percent and won the class! It had some really nice moments and some things to improve. But I am so happy with our initial outing. Cinco wanted to come, too, but we are not quite ready. There has been some big changes in him this week and although he feels super I need a little time to get used to this new feeling. There are shows ever week so there will be other opportunities.

 also went to the Coronation Cup. This is a polo match which was sponsored by Audi.   Ashley Holzer, who has been my trainer since 2007, was here for the match and invited me to join. Prince Charles was also there!!!!! Being in Wellington, I get to see some really high-goal players. It is truly remarkable what this people can do with a stick and ball...... Oh, then add full gallops to that equation.

I have never been to London before and spent the entire day walking around the city. I saw the changing of the guards which was so special. I also visited Westminster Cathedral, Picadilly Circus, Hyde Park and, of course, Harrods. What a beautiful city. It was such a treat to see the sights that I have heard about for so long.

My time with Kyra and Richard is going so fast. I fear there isn't enough time to learn everything that I need to learn and not fast enough because I want to get to the other side of the learning process. So now it's time to get back to work. I continue to work on the changes to my position that Richard has made. Although it is becoming more comfortable. The horses are in great health for this I am grateful. We are headed in the right direction!!


Insightful Advice from Kyra

By Lauren Sammis, July 20, 2014

Kyra has given me the best advice in my career. "When you have a really good ride/show go someplace quiet to think about why it was good and how you got there. Typically at show if you have a good ride everyone is congratulating you and you go off to have a tea or wine. When it goes badly no one wants to talk to you and you are left alone to brood about what went wrong. Ultimately putting more thought into the bad ride than the good. If you don't know how you got to the good feeling it's not really yours, it's just circumstance."
What a insightful piece of advice. Also, typically when someone has a really good ride they want to start that next day with the feeling they ended with the day before. Instead one should think about HOW they got to that great feeling and our job is to try to shorten the amount of time it takes to get there.
Kyra and Richard are both such descriptive instructors using all sorts of imagery to explain different concepts. A lot had been discussed on the riders back and the use of the back of the upper thigh. Although I ride MANY horses at home everyday, after two days of riding in this way I was very sore. The first thing they also did was shorten my stirrups. Hmmmm. All that work stretching my leg. However, it has given me a much more solid base of support with the ability to keep my legs from sliding back. Another thought is to ride with the back of your elbows without ever actually moving your arms. This too was a mental challenge!
For myself, I have a good or perhaps bad trait when taking lessons. I am so eager to hear their advice and want to answer exactly what is being asked I become a passive rider. I need to continue to ride as I have and allow them to make tweaks or changes but not stop riding altogether. This is a learning process all around.
On the bright side the horses feel great. I have had some really excellent work in piaffe and passage with both horses. They are healthy and happy. The stable is so is a horsey retreat!

Training with Kyra Kyrklund in England

By Lauren Sammis, July 09, 2014

C Fraser
Credit: C Fraser
Thru some unbelievable fortune I have been able to train with Kyra Kryklund in England. What a trip it has been so far. 

The horses left the barn on July 1 at 11 am. Luckily I am about one and half hours from JFK where they were flying from. My assistant Nicole VanderVliet made the first leg of the journey with Cinco and Whitman. She stayed overnight with them to insure that they were as calm and rested as they could be for the flight that was to depart the following day at 10 am. They were loaded onto the truck at 8 and taken to the runway where they were then loaded onto to a pallet, which was then driven plane side and put on a lift and slid into the plane. All went smoothly.  


We took off soon after 10 am and we landed in Leige, Belgium at 11 pm local time. There was a slight delay unloading, but the horses
 were quiet. From there we went to the vet inspection and were released quickly. Unfortunately, it then took three and a half hours for my equipment to clear customs. Whitman and Cinco literally hung out at the airport with their heads hanging out of the side of the van as they munched hay and drank lots of water.

We eventually left at 3:30 am and drove two hours to Stable Feichter to have a little rest. The truck to the UK departed at 9 am! We then went three hours to the ferry to cross the English Channel. While I was quietly freaking out about having two very valuable horses on a boat, they propped a leg and ate hay. It is amazing what horses will do for us.  

After our ferry ride we then drove two hours to Snowhill Farm, home of Kyra Kyrklund. It was now 7 pm on July 3rd. Our total travel time door-to-door was 50 hours! The horses settled right in and never missed a beat. I rode them very lightly the first two days— maybe 15 minutes of walking. But by day three they were squealing and ready to work. 

I am excited about beginning lessons with Kyra and her husband Richard. I am still pinching myself that I am here.

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Lauren Sammis is a two time U.S. team medalist having won team gold and individual silver at the Rio de Janeiro Pan Am games in 2007. She is also a USDF gold, silver and bronze medalist. Lauren runs a training and teaching business located in NJ and travels to Florida for the winter season.

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