Goals for a Successful Summer

By Megan D'Andrea | May 22, 2015

For most kids my age, summer means relaxing and hanging out with friends. But for me, it's all about working with my horses and preparing for competition. Summer time is when I'm able to ride more horses and get more practice in without worrying about schoolwork.

To get the most out of my summer of riding, I've set a few goals for myself. My competitive goals include trying to qualify for the 2016 AQHA Youth World Cup and the 2016 AQHA Youth World Show. The Youth World Cup is an international competition for Western and English riders from around the world. It's held every two years, and in 2016  it will be in Australia. The Youth World Show is also through the AQHA, and you must qualify in your event to compete. 
That's my 2-year-old palomino, Willow, that I'm ponying. I plan to start her under saddle this summer.

Outside of competition, I plan to start my 2-year old palomino, Willow, under saddle. 

I also want to try to introduce more youth riders to horses. I think that there are so many kids who want to get involved, but do not know how or don't have any guidance to start somewhere. I plan to help encourage other youths by inviting them to small 4-H shows so they can see what the horse world is like.

I'm going to try my best to reach these goals. I find that staying busy keeps me the most focused! 

What are some of your summer goals or plans? I'd love to hear about them.

My Juggling Act

By Megan D'Andrea | May 05, 2015

From staying up late to do homework to getting up early for horse shows, I often get asked how I am able to balance school and horses. Ever since I was a younger girl, I was able to learn the benefits of strategizing and prioritizing each aspect of school and riding. I learned that I can’t get everything done at once, and I must make a schedule that is both achievable and successful.

Even though at times it can be rough balancing everything out, I wouldn't trade the horse-show life for anything.

Showing horses and keeping my grades up in school is definitely no easy task. Horse showing has taught me time-management. For example, while I’m at a horse show and waiting for my class, I do homework. Also, I use extra time in class to get assignments done, or even look over the reining pattern I have to run the next day.

Many of my friends are in sports and tell me that my riding takes up way more time than their sporting activities do. Additionally, sports don't require stall cleaning, caring for another athlete, and the many other activities that come with horse showing. All of the maintenance and care for the horses take up the most of my time.

Even though at times it can be rough balancing everything out, I wouldn't trade the horse-show life for anything. It has made me who I am and has taught me so much about the real world around me.

 What tips can you share for balancing school (or work) with horses? Share them in the comments below, or email them to HorseAndRider@aimmedia.com with MEGAN’S BLOG in the subject line.

My Role Model

By Megan D'Andrea | April 27, 2015

Every rider has an idol or role model who they look up to. This person might encourage you to do better and try harder each time as a personal mentor, or maybe he or she is someone you admire from afar. Either way, they inspire you to be the best horseman you can be.
Here I am with my horse hero, Dan James.

My role model and inspiration is Dan James. Dan is an amazing and very talented horseman—he always brings something new and exciting into the pen. Dan always takes his time while training, never confusing or frustrating the horse. Additionally, Dan cares so much for each of his horses and has a true bond with them.

I had the privilege to meet Dan during the 2013 Road to the Horse competition, when team Australia took home the championship.                

After watching Dan's performances, I was inspired to teach my horse to sit down and do tricks. As soon as I saw one of Dan’s horses sitting in the middle of the arena while music was blasting and he was riding another horse around it, I was hooked. It was one of the most amazing sights I had ever seen. Dan made horse training look like magic to me. I had already taught my horse to bow and lay down, but Dan made the sit look so easy. After a couple months and lots of practice, I got my horse to start sitting also! 

Dan also has a gift of explaining his techniques in a way that make them easy to remember. I most admire Dan’s humility and understanding. Even though he has a lot of experience and many accomplishments, he talks to everyone and is truly in it for the horse. Dan has many clinics for horse owners during the year and great performances. My favorite is his Facebook page with all the pictures of his horses doing cute tricks. I hope to be half the horseman he is one day.

Who are some of your role models, and why do you admire them? 

Win Prizes Without Competing

By Megan D'Andrea | March 24, 2015

Is it really possible to get prizes, gift cards, and rewards from going out and riding you horse? You're probably thinking, “no way;” however, you're wrong. 

There is a way, and it's called the AQHA Horseback Riding Program. I am involved in this great program with my show horse, Craig. This amazing program allows you to log your riding hours on any horse you ride, registered or not. The prizes are really cool in both divisions—buckets, caps, apparel, gift cards, and gear. Courtesy of Megan D'Andrea
Credit: Courtesy of Megan D'Andrea
I'm enrolled in the AQHA Horseback Riding program with my gelding, Craig.

You must be an AQHA member, and you pay $35 to enroll. You are in the program forever until you reach 5,000 hours. I'm sure you've all had one of those days when you need a little motivation to swing a leg up in the saddle. But when every hour counts, there's no time to waste. Saddle up! This program has shown me how fast horse-riding hours really do add up!

As of right now, I have just logged my 3,500th hour. Can you believe it? Neither can I. It seems as if I had just logged my 100th the other day. With spring and warmer weather comes more time in the saddle, whether you're hitting the trails or the show pen. Every hour counts, whether it be a lesson or a short trail ride. Additionally, this isn't a program just for youths; get you mom, dad, trainer, and friends involved! Make your own competition out of it! Last one to 100 hours has to take early-morning feeding chores for a week! 


In It for the Long Ride

By Megan D'Andrea | April 08, 2015

“What keeps you so involved with and interested in horses?”

This is a question I’m often asked when I talk about showing or spending time with my horses to my non-horse friends.

Horses are very interesting, complex animals. Think about it, I tell them, I ride a 1,000-pound animal that at anytime has the power to hurt or even kill me. Yet, I trust that my horses Willow and Craig would never do so. The thought of this intrigues me.

They also have something of a sixth sense. For instance, Craig can tell when my five-year-old cousin is riding him, and that she doesn’t yet have the ability to sit the trot or maintain balance through sudden, tight turns. So, he doesn’t make these maneuvers.

Horses give friendship and a sense of security that no other animal can. A dog or cat can be very comforting; however, it just isn’t the same as having a 1,000-pound horse friend that’ll allow you to ride him. When I’m having a bad day, my horses can always tell. They sense on these days that I’m just in the mood for a comforting, slow stroll around the pasture or through the woods. But when we enter the show pen, they can also sense my excitement and nervousness. After a couple deep breathes, we’re both ready to give 100 percent to our performance. They’ve also provided friendship to other types of riders, to, opening doors for many disabled and troubled kids and giving them the confidence to get through each week.

Horses are like no other animal on earth. They have hearts full of compassion and embody everything a girl could dream of.  

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