If you’re ready to shake the frost off your riding program, head to Carol Kozlowski’s gymnastics clinic this weekend, April 9 and 10 at her Avon, NY facility, Mothersfield. The riding slots are full, but there is plenty of room to watch, listen and learn – and auditing is free.
Not all Twin Tiers equestrians know that we have a top-level rider sharing her knowledge so nearby, and Carol’s list of accomplishments as both a rider and coach is impressive. A nationally recognized equestrian, she is renown as the rider who took the great Connemara stallion Hideaway’s Erin Go Bragh to multiple championships in the 1990s, and she has been short- and long-listed for the biggest equestrian events, such as the Olympics and Pan American games, as well as recently earning leading horse and rider honors in FEI area 1. Her students have also achieved high honors, earning top medals for their area in ’04 and ’05.
As lofty as her credentials are, Carol’s goals for those attending the clinics are down to earth.
“I really try to make both the rider and the horse braver and more confident,” Carol said. “My objective is not to frighten them, or to show them what they don't know, but take what they do know and improve it.”
This goal may be what keeps her clinics full every spring, at a time of year when locals are getting ready for the riding season.
“I have so many people say, ‘That was just what I needed to get up and running. I feel so confident and my horse is in front of my leg.’”
Riders of all abilities are the right level for her clinic, and this is a great time of year to get inspired by her training.
“I don’t care what level you are,” she said. “I do everything from intro, where horses are just trotting poles and haven't jumped much, to some prelim horses that are going to get back and running.”
Those attending the clinic can expect the first classes on Saturday to be the easier level for horses and riders, and as the day progresses, the classes will become more challenging, with more difficult jumps.
"I try to make the jumps interesting enough so the horses will at least look at them,” she said. “In competition, we are running into more jumps that have the spook factor. Without scaring the horses, I do like to catch their eye a little bit. As we go, there will be a need for more accuracy, liverpools, skinnies, bounces, something to give them an introduction to what they'll see in the season.”
On Sunday, the format reverses, with the more challenging classes going first while the jumps are still set up, then decreasing in difficulty as the day goes on.
So, if you are like many Twin Tiers riders and this past, hard winter did nothing to advance your riding skills, get out and audit Carol’s clinic. It’s just the right time for a little inspiration for those who are ready to ride.
For information, contact Carol at (585) 226-6287 or email@example.com
For information, contact Carol at (585) 226-6287 or firstname.lastname@example.org
SIDELINED BY INJURY, KOZLOWSKI TALKS TRAINING, HORSES
While an injury has temporarily grounded Carol Kozlowski, this nationally recognized equestrian is making the best of her recovery time.
She said she felt something strange in her arm a few weeks ago while transferring a crop from one hand to the other during a ride, and although it didn’t feel quite right, she kept working and even rode in the Southern Pines three-phase event, held North Carolina in March.
It wasn’t until after the event that she learned she had ruptured her distal biceps tendon and had to quickly have it surgically reattached or face losing some capability in her arm. The surgeon told her that the tendon had been damaged previously and the small movement she performed was enough to rupture it.
Carol is back in Avon, NY after a couple of months in Aiken, South Carolina where she trains during the winter with international superstars Philip Dutton and Mara DePuy.
Carol said will use her downtime to increase her lessons with her students. She said her training sessions are more cautious than those she had this winter, with Dutton pushing her farther than she thought she could go.
“The lessons I do in Aiken are so mind-blowing,” she said. “I come out the other side saying, ‘I had no idea my horse and I could do that!”
Some of her students are training at the preliminary level and competing well, she said, but she gets just as much satisfaction from watching students of any level have a “lightbulb” moment.
“I like it when people feel confident and happy,” she said. "It's just as rewarding to me to hear a rider say they have developed a skill and they feel happy and confident in their riding as when they compete well.”
When asked about some of the challenges she experiences with students and horses, she said there aren’t many difficult sessions, just occasionally.
“One of the most difficult things for me is having someone come into a clinic when they seem like they want training, but what you're doing is so outside their comfort zone that they don't want to try," she said. “Every now and then I run into a student that just won’t go where I want to take them.”
Another challenge she encounters, but rarely, is the rider who is “over-horsed,” meaning the horse is too much for the rider’s experience level.
“I don’t see that too often. Most people are practical,” she said. “But sometimes someone new might not even realize that they are out of their zone with their horse."
She says in cases like this, she will talk to the student privately and often the student is relieved to hear that the problems she is having is due to not being a good match for her horse, as opposed to some other riding problem.
As for horse-related challenges, Carol said that a problem she sees is pain preventing top performance.
“One thing I run into more often than others is a horse that is struggling to do the job, not because it’s a ‘bad horse,’ but because they are in pain," she said. “Sometimes the rider has no idea. I can't tell you how many people come in on a horse with teeth problems, back problems, hock problems."
She explained that in these cases, often the riders think the horse has a behavior issue, when it is actually a physical problem.
“Horses don't try to be non-compliant,” she said. “If they are disobedient, it's up to us to figure out why. They are incapable of plotting and thinking, but they'll talk to us, we just have to speak their language.”
She said in her experience, about 50 percent of equine compliance issues are behavioral and 50 percent are pain-based. A rider who brings most of her competition horses along herself, Carol said she is currently riding a pony that came to her as a very difficult mount. Treatment from a chiropractor in Pennsylvania helped improve the pony’s attitude.
"He was one angry pony when he came to me, and I treated him fairly and he's coming to the table now,” Carol said, adding that she has high hopes for this pony, called Maestro, once her arm is healed. The delay comes at a tough time.
"The kicker of it is, I have a bunch of young horses ready to go and would have capitalized on the spring events,” she said.
Other horses she will be competing with when she is fully recovered include a 15-hand half-Connemara, half-thoroughbred mare named Good Earth Bit o Honey (“Honey”), an Australian Thoroughbred named Mr. Snuffleuffagus (“Sniff”) and another half-Connemara mare named Hidaway's Ness (“Nessie”) sired, as you might have guessed, from her famous former riding partner, Hideaway’s Erin Go Bragh.
“Holy cow, can she jump!” Carol said of Hideaway’s Ness.
Besides increasing her lessons while injured, Carol’s doing some of the mundane things we all tackle when we can’t do what we want to do, such as sorting out closets and organizing paperwork. With some riders she works with able to keep her horses in training, it’s just a waiting game for Carol as she heals. Be watching for her and her young horses out at some major league events, starting sometime in May.