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The Greenhorn Chronicles 1: Joelle Froese on Abbotsford, Bradner Hills Farm, and In Stride Equestrian Training

2022-01-08

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interviewer: Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Numbering: Issue 29.E, Idea: Outliers & Outsiders (24)

Place of Publication: Langley, British Columbia, Canada

Title: In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Web Domain: http://www.in-sightjournal.com

Individual Publication Date: January 8, 2022

Issue Publication Date: May 1, 2022

Name of Publisher: In-Sight Publishing

Frequency: Three Times Per Year

Words: 4,020

ISSN 2369-6885

Abstract

Joelle Froese has been riding since 7 years old. In 1999, her family moved to Bradner Hill Farms. She has been riding and caring for horses for a long time. She has competed in show jumping at HITS Desert Classic, Rocky Mountain Show Jumping, Sonoma Show Park, Spruce Meadows, The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, and Thunderbird. She won Bronze at the North American Young Riders (senior division) on Condor, her first grand prix horse. Condor and Froese, in the same year, won, as champions, at amateur jumpers and third in the National Talent Squad Finals at the Royal. In 2013, she founded In Stride Equestrian Training. She won her first grand prix in 2016. It was on her mare, Romeos Child,  for the $15,000 Kubota Grand Prix at Thunderbird. Also, she and Romeos Child won the BCHJA Luigi Grand Prix Horse of the Year award in 2017 & 2018. Froese trained with Olympians Jill Henselwood (Canadian), Buddy Brown (United States), as well as Susie Hutchinson (US Nations Cup rider) and Kate Perrin (British team rider). Froese has competed in Third Level dressage and is an Equine Canada certified Competition Coach Specialist. She discusses: riding at 7; The Lower Mainland of British Columbia, Canada; the family move to Bradner Hills Farm; the process of working and training; competitive show jumping; medals, ribbons, and positions; In Stride Equestrian; the different types of competitions or show types for show jumping; show jumpers or hunters who have made the most positive impact on the career in equestrianism; main lessons or takeaways from Henselwood, Brown, Hutchinson, and Perrin; the state of the industry in the Lower Mainland; the international scene; haves and have-nots in Canada; the sense and feel of working with a horse; Bradner Hill Farms; camaraderie; an apparent gender split in the industry in Canada; and advice for younger people getting into the industry.

Keywords: Abbotsford, Bradner Hill Farm, Canada, dressage, equestrianism, Equine Canada, equitation, Joelle Froese, Langley, North America, show jumping, Thunderbird, Thunderbird Show Park.

The Greenhorn Chronicles 1: Joelle Froese on Abbotsford, Bradner Hills Farm, and In Stride Equestrian Training

*Please see the footnotes, bibliography, and citation style listing after the interview.*

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: Naturally, let’s begin at the beginning, as I intend this as an educational series beginning with Canada and then moving into the international scene of equestrianism, I figure the narrative entering into the equine will be helpful. What were the first inklings of an interest in horses for you? Most of the equestrians with some facility or competing seem to have begun in the single digit ages. You started riding at 7. 

Joelle Froese[1],[2]: Love of animals goes at least as far back as my grandfather. My mother is an animal lover and I have carried on the tradition. You typically think of little girls as playing with dolls. I didn’t. I played with stuffed animals. And toy horses. Lots of toy horses. I owned one Barbie doll – it was the one that came with a horse, a truck, and trailer. When I was 7 years old, my piano teacher’s daughter invited us to see her horses and gave me my first unofficial riding lessons. I was immediately hooked. My parents bought my first pony from her. My sister and I were supposed to share her. That didn’t last long. As a kid, I played T-ball, figure skated, took painting and pottery lessons, but there was no comparison. While I liked skating, I hated waking up at 5am for Saturday morning sessions. But I never begrudged early mornings for horse shows. Spending time with horses was the most natural thing in the world for me.

Jacobsen: The Lower Mainland of British Columbia, Canada is an immense opportunity for any young, aspiring equestrian. How did Abbotsford provide the training grounds or the opportunities for growth as an equestrian for you?

Froese: I think I had two huge advantages living where I do. First is that I live half an hour from Thunderbird Showpark. T-bird is beautiful and has been moving steadily onto the international scene. It gives local riders something to aspire to. It allows you to watch international and Olympic riders and competition up close. I live a stone’s throw from Langley – horse country of BC. It offers access to horses, horse trails, show barns, trainers, and shows of various levels and disciplines, so there is something for every equestrian.

Jacobsen: Why did the family move to Bradner Hills Farm?

Froese: My parents came from the prairies. My mother grew up on a farm, where they raised nearly everything they ate. My father is a visionary. Neither of them is afraid of hard work. Their support is why I got to ride, train, travel, compete, and live on a farm. They are the backbone of everything I have done with horses.

Jacobsen: What is the process of working and training with – and loving – a horse from birth to full maturity for show jumping competitions?

Froese: Well, first of all, it is a long one. Horses don’t reach their prime until around 10 years old. A decade of going to the barn every day in hopes of fulfilling a dream. Horses have to be taught everything: to halter, to lead, let them groom you, let you put on a saddle, bear weight, understand a rider’s aids (cues). Some are spooky and have to learn to be brave. Some are hot (high energy) and have to learn to be calm. They need years of conditioning and strength training to be fit enough to compete in upper level jumpers. They are prey animals that have to focus on its rider and its job at a busy horse show. To gallop, not knowing where they are going on course and in a moment, without hesitation, to sight in on a jump, judge it and make the effort for you. It’s amazing what they can learn to do. And, of course, part of that process is making mistakes. Training a young horse requires patience, knowledge, co-ordination, and a good attitude. I think you appreciate them so much more for the process, for realizing everything they do for us. It can be tough; a thousand pound animal is incredibly powerful. Yet sensitive. They are masters of body language and we have to be too. We have to learn to communicate in ways they understand. Each horse has its own personality. This makes each horse a unique challenge and opportunity to build a unique partnership.

Jacobsen: What facilities tend to garner the most positive reputation for competitive show jumping?

Froese: What I like about show jumping is that it is an objective sport. It is about time and not knocking down rails. People will always remember barns that consistently produce winners. But there is more. People also notice progress. Everyone has bad rounds. But you see the same people year after year, show after show, and you can see who can train. You spend a lot of time with the same people at horse shows. You are stabled beside them. You set jumps side by side in the warmup ring. You try their horses for sale. You see how people treat people and how they treat horses. People remember who was a good teacher, a good person, and a good horseman.

Jacobsen: Of the medals, ribbons, and positions earned at show jumping competitions, what ones make you feel most proud, as they were earned?

Froese: I will always remember my first Grand Prix win – the Kubota Cup at Tbird. There were good riders in that class. It felt fabulous to be among them. But I may be even more proud of what I accomplished with Onyx. He had incredible scope (ability to jump high and wide), but he was high strung and needed someone really good to train him. I had to become that person. It wasn’t enough to be a good rider (get on a well schooled horse and pilot well); I had to become a trainer. I had to learn how to reach him, to communicate with him; something I discovered no manual can teach you. He required feel: the ability to read and react with just the right pressure and right timing and right exercise to help him learn. He required me to find incredible horsemen and women who had feel and could teach it. I call him my best teacher. It took years of work, but he turned into a fantastic horse. I won classes, championships, a saddle with him. Not everyone believed in him when I first got him. But he had heart; he was always willing to try. And he always made me try hard. That partnership will always be special.

Jacobsen: What motivated opening In Stride Equestrian in 2013?

Froese: By the time I was 13, I knew I wanted to be a trainer. I don’t know when I decided; it just seemed automatic to me. In 2009, I went to Young Riders of North America with Condor. He was my once-in-a-lifetime horse. The magic unicorn that makes the impossible happen. Horses with that ability are expensive and hard to find. I was thrilled to just be there. Winning bronze was more than I could have dreamed of.  In 2012 Condor died. He was only 12 years old. He had sudden neurological symptoms that caused him to fall and break his neck. No one ever figured out why it happened. I was devastated. I knew I couldn’t replace him; couldn’t compete at that level any time soon. Maybe never. My options were give up or move on. I had spent the previous winter as Jill’s barn manager and done a little bit of teaching under Jill’s mentorship. I got certified in 2013. Opening a business seemed like the next logical step.

Jacobsen: What are the different types of competitions or show types for show jumping?

Froese: First of all, you can divide jumping into hunters, jumpers, and equitation. Hunters is subjectively judged on the horse, its way of going, the quality of its jump. It derives from fox hunting and uses naturally colored obstacles or mimics logs and brush you might jump on a fox hunt. Equitation is subjectively judged on the rider and how well they pilot the horse around the hunter or jumper ring. Jumpers, or show jumping is judged on time and faults, which you get for knocking down rails, going too slow, or refusing to jump a fence. Jumps are colorful and built very light, so they can be knocked down easily. The most common type of jumper class is a jump off. It has a first round, typically of 10-12 jumps, where the goal is to jump clean (occur no faults). There is a time allowed. If you go slower than time allowed, you incur time faults. If you knock down a rail or stop at a jump, you incur jumping faults. If multiple riders finish with the same number of faults, they jump off. In this case, you jump a shorter course judged on faults and time, so fastest round with fewest faults wins. Speed classes are also common, which is one round based on fastest time with fewest faults.

Jacobsen: Which show jumpers or hunters have made the most positive impact on the career in equestrianism for you – either as signifiers of the virtues to aim for or as individuals who have, simply put, impressive professional resumes?

Froese: The people who have had the biggest impact on me have been my family and my coaches. Those are discussed more in other questions. One rider that gave me something to aspire to was Kyle King. He rode Onyx for me for 2 years early on. To this day, I love watching him because of his brilliant use of track. He makes it easy for horses to jump clean. I wanted to ride Onyx as well as he did. Years later, when I felt like my progress with Onyx was stalled, I happened to be at the ring and watch Patrick Snijders on this one horse. I knew that horse wasn’t easy. I was amazed how different that horse looked by the end of the week. Patrick turned out to be the person who could explain to me what Kyle did on Onyx that made him so successful. He put the final pieces into our partnership that enabled me to finally turn Onyx into a success. Patrick is an upbeat guy with a great sense of humor. He proves better than anyone that you can be winner and have a lot of fun at the same time. Lastly is Sandra Verde Zanatta, she is my dressage coach. I dropped in for occasional lessons for years and she was extremely patient and adaptable with whatever horse, whether it was for competitive dressage or just making a jumper a little more rideable. She is like a walking textbook of knowledge, easy to understand. I began training for a dressage show during Covid; it really helped motivate me when there was little else to do. I am really grateful that I now love dressage.

Jacobsen: You have trained with “Canadian Olympian Jill Henselwood, US Olympian Buddy Brown, US Nations Cup rider Susie Hutchinson, and British team rider Kate Perrin.”[3] What were the main lessons or takeaways from Henselwood, Brown, Hutchinson, and Perrin, individually?

Froese: I credit Jill for getting me through Young Riders. I had never jumped 1.50m before and neither had Condor. Talk about a longshot. The thing she said to me more than anything else over the 3 years I spent with her was, “Hey, missy, jump the jump in stride or slightly collected” (I was notorious for picking the long distance – leaving the ground too far away from the jump). That’s where the name In Stride Training came from. Buddy is particularly special to me. He taught me riding theory  – which I desperately needed at the time. He would sit down in front of a computer (this was before we all had phones that videoed rounds) and would watch my rounds; he would pause and point out where my horse’s leg was at an exact moment in the canter stride and where it needed to be. That amount of time was well above and beyond what trainers typically do. Add to that, this was after Condor died and I was at my absolute toughest time with Onyx; training sessions were long, and, frankly, a mess. And he sat there pleasantly through it all. He helped me believe in myself again. Susie Hutch made winning easy. I always tell my students to do their detailed work at home and not overcomplicate it at shows; trust your training. The first thing I remember about Kate that made me sit up and take notice of her was that she set smart. She set courses at home that would do most of the work of schooling your horse for you. I still trot jumps to this day! For simplicit,y I listed on my website a few of my coaches whose resumes have an international success that is easy to convey to people who may not know show jumping well. There have been many more who are just as good, and each deserves their own paragraph about how they have contributed to my riding.

Jacobsen: What seems like the state of the industry in the Lower Mainland now? I’m told ALR and other definitional and bylaw restrictions make running a full facility difficult, as one example. Is there anything the municipal or provincial governments could do to help ease financial pressures on farms and stables?

Froese: Unfortunately, horses are expensive. Boarding facilities rarely make money. Boarding is not considered agriculture and does not qualify you for farm status. People try to buy or breed horses to flip (train for a short time and sell) to achieve farm status. Here’s the problem: horses almost always cost more than you can sell them for. By the time you have paid the purchase price, upkeep, training, show fees, membership fees, you usually lose money in order to gain farm status. Allowing boarding to qualify for farm status would certainly ease some of that pressure.

Jacobsen: How is Canadian equestrianism viewed on the international scene?

Froese: I may not be the best person to answer this question. After Young Riders I was invited to compete in Europe but it was too expensive to go. My entire experience has been in North America. Spruce Meadows has long been a destination for the best riders and Thunderbird has continually been growing and hosting bigger international events. EC (Equestrian Canada) has been working on developing team competitions for junior riders to help prepare them for a future in international sport. I think identifying talent, training and funding are areas that still certainly could be improved.

Jacobsen: Another socio-economic issue impacting the sport mentioned to me: The division, growing, between haves and have-nots in Canada. Apparently, it differs by sport, too. Dressage may be more out of reach for some than the world of jumper and hunter, as an example. Is this the experience and observation for you, too, or is it otherwise?

Froese: Yes, again, horses are expensive. And sadly, prices are going up. Horses are like houses; they cost what people will pay for them. Which does create a tremendous divide between the quality of horse that one can ride. If you have modest funding, you take a chance on a young horse, usually based on its bloodlines, and spend years developing it. Meanwhile, those with more funding find one that is already at, near, or even stepping down to the level they want to compete at. If that horse doesn’t work out, doesn’t get along with the rider, isn’t quite competitive enough, or goes lame, they can replace it. The rich can constantly compete, which the modest spend most of their time training. And of course, there are those that can’t afford to show at all. It’s heart breaking to see young talent squeezed out of the industry. My understanding is that dressage is slightly less expensive, but I may be wrong. The word dressage means training. I went to my first dressage schooling show last year, and the judge wrote on my test paper that I showed correct training. It was really nice to be noticed and rewarded for working correctly. In that way, I feel it is slightly more obtainable than show jumping; although, I have never competed in upper level dressage, so I can’t really compare them.

Jacobsen: How important is the sense and feel of working with a horse? I recall reading Ian Millar speaking to this as something anyone can develop, but I suspect this may be the hardest thing to make a refined sensibility after its basic development happens.

Froese: Absolutely, anyone can develop feel. I think it is a matter of how much feel they will develop, how far they will go. There are riders that you can see immediately have good feel; they’re naturals and possess skills you never had to teach them. Those riders will develop quickly and be extremely competitive – if they are funded. Legends like Ian Millar. But work ethic can overtake talent, especially if the talented don’t work hard. There is another aspect to feel, and that’s character. It’s a willingness to learn, first from your coaches, then from your horses. I have said this many times. Your horse has never read the riding manual. It’s a good starting place, but trainers have to learn to listen to what your horse is communicating to you, even if it seems counterintuitive at times. To learn, you have to be ok with being wrong sometimes. And to be persistent when you’re right. And experience to know the difference. And we have to offer that same consideration to our human athletes. People have different body types; what works for one may not for another. Being humble and adaptable is hard. Talent is nice, but I suspect most coaches will tell you what they really want in a student is one that listens and works hard.  

Jacobsen: For the facilities[4], the training is done by Bradner Hill Farms in Abbotsford with 14 stalls, paddock turnout, and “a heated indoor and a large outdoor arena,” while the “indoor ring was built in 2018.” Interestingly, the same company that built barns for Thunderbird built the ones for In Stride Equestrian Training, Spanmaster. Why select them for the construction? What was the design style kept in mind for the family at Bradner Hill Farms for the indoor ring?

Froese: Well, you guessed the answer. When we wanted to build, the first thing I did was talk to tournament manager, Chris Pack, at Tbird. We figured if it was good for Tbird, it was good for us. The idea behind fabric buildings is that they go up quickly and are supposed to cost less. They allow a lot of light in and create a bright, open environment.

Jacobsen: Another notable fact, “Footing was installed by Thunderbird Show Park”; this arose in some early conversations so far. The sharing of information, expertise, and capabilities, between equestrians in the industry. Is this sharing and camaraderie a common element of the Lower Mainland equestrian industry, in personal experience?

Froese: Networking is a crucial part of the industry. One of my students recently commented to me that there seemed to be a large oral tradition in the industry. So much of what trainers, riders, and owners learn is from talking to, watching, and working with people. For people who love horses, a lot of their friends were met, and friendships maintained at the barn and at horse shows. It connects people. Trainers typically get into the sport because they love horses, but really, it’s a people job. Every horse comes with an owner, owner’s family, vet, farrier, physiotherapist, etc. The ability to communicate well and get along with people is an advantage in the industry. Right now, I have a couple of clients that are taught by a different coach; the coach called me to ride the ponies regularly to train it separately from the rider. One because she was too tall the ride the pony (I am 5’1”); the other is an “old horsewomen” who no longer rides. I think these clients have a great advantage because their coaches were willing to work alongside someone else.

Jacobsen: There is an apparent gender split in the industry in Canada. Any hypotheses as to the gender disparities at different levels of the industry, e.g., clients, jumpers, dressage, barn managers, stable owners, etc.

Froese: There are certainly a lot more women in lower level sport than men. Years ago, a trainer (my senior) told me when he was a kid, the other boys made fun of him at school because he rode; I guess it wasn’t macho enough. A couple of years ago a student (my junior) told me none of the other boys at school would come ride with him because they were afraid of horses. I don’t know if these experiences accurately reflect the views of their generation or not, and anything beyond that would be complete guesswork on my part. I will say this. Horses are extremely powerful and extremely sensitive; as a result good riders and trainers also need to be both very tough and very sensitive. Decades ago, the value seemed to be put a more strongly on being brave or tough, likely stemming from jumping’s military roots; the risk of that is that people can become overbearing or cruel (both to horses and humans). There has been a big shift towards respecting sensitivity, keeping people safe, and helping them feel good about themselves. Which is good but also poses a risk: people become wimps. They don’t work as hard; they allow anxiety to control them and trainers can’t push them to due to liability. But people are safer around horses if they are fit and skilled. And horses are safer working for humans if their humans know what they should do and be physically capable of doing it. It’s a fine balance. Tending to one side or the other will affect what types of horses you will be most successful training. Regardless of gender, I think both qualities need to be valued highly.

Jacobsen: Any advice for younger people getting into the industry?

Froese: I can’t stress enough that you need a good coach. A little time with a quality coach will make you much safer and more successful than many hours under poor coaching just because they are cheap, close, or you just can’t imagine anything else. The hard part is you don’t know what you don’t know. How does a beginner judge what is a good coach? Being a talented, successful rider doesn’t automatically mean you are also good at teaching. Running a large barn might mean you’re good or might mean you don’t have much time to invest in each student. There are 3 things I think anyone can look for in a coach to help them get started: 1. Match the student’s learning style with the coach’s teaching style. Some students are visual and like demonstrations; some are auditory and need explanations and dialogue; others are kinesthetic and need exercises that allow them to feel and do. A rider will learn much more quickly if information is presented the way they most easily understand it. 2. Match personality type. A coach could be loud, quiet, high energy, calm, intense, laid back, competitive, etc. A loud, intense coach might be just the thing to motivate a laid back student. They also might give a timid, sensitive student PTSD. An ambitious student will want to be challenged; a weekend warrior will want to have fun, stay safe and be less concerned about results. 3. Watch for progress. There will certainly be ups and downs but overall there should be a trajectory towards the goal. If it stalls out, maybe that coach did its job, taught you what he or she knows, and it’s time to move on.

Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Joelle.

References

In Stride Equestrian Training. (2022a). About Joelle Froese and In Stride Training. Retrieved from https://www.joellefroese.com/about-joelle-froese-training.

In Stride Equestrian Training. (2022b). Facility Highlights. Retrieved from https://www.joellefroese.com/facility.

Appendix I: Footnotes

[1] Founder, In Stride Equestrian Training.

[2] Individual Publication Date: January 8, 2022: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/froese; Full Issue Publication Date: May 1, 2022: https://in-sightjournal.com/insight-issues/.

[3] In Stride Equestrian Training. (2022a). About Joelle Froese and In Stride Training. Retrieved from https://www.joellefroese.com/about-joelle-froese-training.

[4] In Stride Equestrian Training. (2022b). Facility Highlights. Retrieved from https://www.joellefroese.com/facility.

Appendix II: Citation Style Listing

American Medical Association (AMA): Jacobsen S. The Greenhorn Chronicles 1: Joelle Froese on Abbotsford, Bradner Hills Farm, and In Stride Equestrian Training [Online]. January 2022; 29(E). Available from: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/froese.

American Psychological Association (APA, 6th Edition, 2010): Jacobsen, S.D. (2022, January 8). The Greenhorn Chronicles 1: Joelle Froese on Abbotsford, Bradner Hills Farm, and In Stride Equestrian Training. Retrieved from http://www.in-sightjournal.com/froese.

Brazilian National Standards (ABNT): JACOBSEN, S. The Greenhorn Chronicles 1: Joelle Froese on Abbotsford, Bradner Hills Farm, and In Stride Equestrian Training. In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 29.E, January. 2022. <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/froese>.

Chicago/Turabian, Author-Date (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott. 2022. “The Greenhorn Chronicles 1: Joelle Froese on Abbotsford, Bradner Hills Farm, and In Stride Equestrian Training.” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 29.E. http://www.in-sightjournal.com/froese.

Chicago/Turabian, Humanities (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott “The Greenhorn Chronicles 1: Joelle Froese on Abbotsford, Bradner Hills Farm, and In Stride Equestrian Training.” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 29.E (January 2022). http://www.in-sightjournal.com/froese.

Harvard: Jacobsen, S. 2022, ‘The Greenhorn Chronicles 1: Joelle Froese on Abbotsford, Bradner Hills Farm, and In Stride Equestrian Training’In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 29.E. Available from: <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/froese>.

Harvard, Australian: Jacobsen, S. 2022, ‘The Greenhorn Chronicles 1: Joelle Froese on Abbotsford, Bradner Hills Farm, and In Stride Equestrian Training’In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 29.E., http://www.in-sightjournal.com/froese.

Modern Language Association (MLA, 7th Edition, 2009): Scott D. Jacobsen. “The Greenhorn Chronicles 1: Joelle Froese on Abbotsford, Bradner Hills Farm, and In Stride Equestrian Training.” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 29.E (2022): January. 2022. Web. <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/froese>.

Vancouver/ICMJE: Jacobsen S. The Greenhorn Chronicles 1: Joelle Froese on Abbotsford, Bradner Hills Farm, and In Stride Equestrian Training [Internet]. (2022, January 29(E). Available from: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/froese.

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