Snorkeling, Horses Who Wear Hats, and Very Scary Rocks: 24 Hours with Collegiate Riding Coach Sally Batton

It is a privilege at TSB to get to know so many horse people from such a variety of backgrounds. The common thread is that ALL of them are busy, with days full of teaching, training, and expanding their own understanding of horses and horse sport. More often than not there’s some travel thrown in there, too. We asked former Dartmouth Equestrian Coach Sally Batton, author of THE ATHLETIC EQUESTRIAN, to share one of her clinic days with us, and we hit the jackpot with a glimpse at a day in her life while visiting the oh-so-beautiful Hawaii.

6:00 am  After a long day of travel yesterday, I wake up to the sounds of blowing palm fronds and exotic bird calls that we don’t have back home in New Hampshire. It’s my eighth trip to teach clinics on Oahu in the Hawaiian Islands. I started my trips to Oahu when a prospective student visited Dartmouth and went home and told the Hawaii Pony Clubs and various barns that I was willing to travel to Hawaii to teach. (I know, I know–tough gig!)  I’m staying in Honolulu at a private home with a rooftop view of Diamond Head and an easy walk to the beach. I come downstairs to a beautiful display of fresh fruit put out by my host and friend Sherry, and accompany it with my usual rice cakes with almond butter. Oh, and I don’t drink coffee…my morning caffeine-delivery system is in the form of Coke Zero! 

7:00 am  I spend about 30 minutes by the pool at the house on my computer. Most of my clinics on the mainland are planned by the clinic hosts, and they do all of the scheduling and organizing for my clinic days. My Hawaii clinics are a bit different…I do all of the day and time organization myself, so the half-hour on my computer is for any last-minute questions and add-on clinic times.

Breakfast! Photo courtesy of Sally Batton

7:30 am I clinic at all three Hawaii Pony Clubs–Lio Li’i, Malu’Olu, and Na Lio Kai–as well as the farms/ranches where the Pony Clubs are located and many of the private clients at each farm/ranch. I jump into my car and drive the 15 minutes to my first clinic location along the southeast shore of Oahu, passing Hanauma Bay and the Halona Blowhole, two famous tourist spots on Oahu. Although the temperatures are in the 70s and low 80s, my New-England-pale skin is covered head to toe in a wide-brimmed hat,  a UPF 50+ long-sleeved shirt, yoga-style breeches, and my Hoka hiking boots…oh, and SPF 50 sunscreen that gets applied throughout the day!

Halona Blowhole view. Photo courtesy of Sally Batton

8:00 am I arrive at Koko Crater Stables located near Hawaii Kai off the Kalanianaole Highway.  Koko Crater has a rich history dating back to 1960 and sits on 8.5 acres inside the Koko Crater. Koko Crater Stables is a municipal facility owned by the City of Honolulu and operated by Horse Haven. I teach Lia, a youth rider new to me, for an hour in the sand arena, which is made of black sand due to the volcanic nature of the area. I start every clinic explaining that I teach my clinics similar to how I taught my varsity Dartmouth Equestrian Team for 30 years. I work on my coaching principles such as Attention to Detail, Mental Toughness, Ride at Show Attention, as well as introduce my various teaching tools and work on position at all three gaits. I also introduce Lia to working on her two-point position with no stirrups, an exercise that I feel is invaluable to all riders to increase their riding fitness.

Working with Lia at Koko Crater Stables. Photo courtesy of Sally Batton

9:00 am I finish up at Koko Crater and head to my next clinic, which is 15 minutes farther up the coast road to Malu’Olu Ranch in Waimanalo. Malu’Olu has some of the most stunning backdrops to their outdoor, lighted arena. Almost all arenas on Oahu are fully outdoors with only a couple that offer covered arenas. The general rule is that if it rains, we all get wet and the clinic carries on!  Luckily for me this trip had beautiful weather, mostly sunny, with gorgeous trade winds that blow in off the ocean and keep both me and the riders and horses cool! At Malu’Olu I’m teaching a couple of youth riders who I’ve taught for years. My first session is with Quinn and her horse Romeo, who has a penchant for hats…yes, I said hats!  Apparently he has quite the selection of hats that have been converted with ear holes and a string to keep them on his head, even while jumping! Quinn and I focus her session on what it will take to do well at collegiate team tryouts when she’s ready to head to college in a year. We also work on keeping Romeo working forward off her leg over jumps to prepare for an upcoming Hawaii Horse Show Association (HHSA) Hunter/Equitation show.

10:00 am Still at Malu’Olu, I also teach Hope, who moved up from a pony to a horse last year, and we’ve been working on getting The Governess to land on the correct leads in courses since her flying changes aren’t quite reliable yet. We work on keeping her moving forward and also the coordination of the aids to ask for the new lead.  Hope’s family brought “Guvvy” over from Maui a year ago. Some riders in Hawaii are able to import horses from the mainland, but many are bought and sold either on Oahu or from one of the neighboring islands, and they come across by boat. 

11:00 am  I leave Malu’Olu and pick up a quick vegetarian lunch at the Ohana Grill and sit and eat on the Waimanalo beach overlooking Manana, or Rabbit Island. I then head farther north and inland to Maunawili in Kailua. The majority of my sessions for this trip will happen at Maunawili; they have a thriving boarder and share-boarder population of riders, as well as numerous trainers and the Lio Li’i Pony Club.  Maunawili is located over the Ko’olau Range on the windward (or eastern) side of Oahu, and tends to be wetter and greener.  Driving to Maunawili is like driving through a lush, tropical rain forest with beautiful and exotic vegetation and flowers. 

12:00 pm I teach a couple 30-minute sessions to Maunawili riders, including one with Lynne and her new four-year-old OTTB “Boss.” Lynne was my host and clinic scheduler on my very first Oahu tour and has become a good friend. I work with Lynne and Boss unmounted, simply working on leading and various scenarios that could cause alarm in a young horse and best practices to deal with them when they occur. For the most part, I’m impressed with Boss’s calm nature and can tell that there’s already a bond between him and Lynne, even though she only imported him from the mainland six months ago. When we come across a grouping of large rocks in a circle, Boss startles and then won’t go forward. I teach Lynn to turn his head away from the rocks, tell him to “walk on,” and then circle the rocks about five or six times until they become “boring” to him, and he can walk around them on a loose lead.  

Lynne and her OTTB “Boss.” Photo courtesy of Sally Batton

1:00 pm I leave Maunawili and drive the hour north to North Shore Oahu to Kawailoa Ranch in Haleiwa. Although it isn’t the norm for me to hit all four of my usual clinic spots in one day, it takes less than an hour to drive from Kailua to the North Shore, and there are few highways so I don’t usually get lost! My usual clinic pattern is to teach the southern and southeast clinics for a few days and then teach on the North Shore for a few, and then back down to another spot for a few, but occasionally I have days where I hit them all. The North Shore has acres and acres of pineapple fields and abandoned sugar cane fields, with the sugar industry shutting down on Oahu due to the mechanization in mills on the mainland. North Shore is also famous for the surf breaks at Sunset Beach and the famous Pipeline. I’ve spent many lunch hours on the beach at Pipeline, watching the brave surfers and listening to the pounding surf!

2:00 pm I teach both youth and adult members of the Na Lio Kai Pony Club, including sessions preparing Mahea for her Pony Club C3 rating at the end of the summer and getting the others ready for the HHSA horse show. I’ll teach Minnie in the upcoming days for two to three hours each day, since she has three horses, including an OTTB that she has just started working with. Minnie also exercises up to five polo horses on any given day for members of the Hawaii Polo Club who hold their matches on the Mokuleia polo field adjacent to the beach.  

4:00 pm When the last lesson wraps for the day, I sign copies of my new book THE ATHLETIC EQUESTRIAN and answer rider questions.

5:00 pm I change into my swim gear, head south to the Honolulu area, and arrive at Waikiki Beach to get on a sunset cruise…it’s not all work on my clinic tours! I do manage to get in some “play,” too. As much as I can on my Hawaii tours, I’ll hit the local snorkel spots to view the beautiful tropical fish and my favorites, the “Honu” or green sea turtles. Honu are a protected species and it’s illegal to go within eight feet or them or touch them, and many Oahu beaches have groups of volunteers that rope off areas of turtle nests from tourists. My sunset tour starts off with a crew member blowing through a conch shell, and once we get well away from the beach, they hoist the sails and we’re off! We sail for about an hour with amazing views of Honolulu and the Waikiki hotels and also Diamond Head, Hawaii’s most recognized landmark, and take in the beautiful sunset.  

8:00 pm After a full day of teaching and sailing, I meet my host Sherry at a beachside restaurant where we enjoy drinks and pupus (appetizers), and I have fresh fish for dinner. We enjoy the tiki torches and the sounds of the surf and a local musician playing Hawaiian favorites.

9:30 pm After we return to my host’s home, I tell Sherry “mahalo”(thank you) and then head to bed, exhausted but ready to get up tomorrow and do it all again!

Dinner view. Photo courtesy of Sally Batton

 


Sally’s book THE ATHLETIC EQUESTRIAN, written with Christina Keim, is available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information or to order now.

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and videos, is small business based on a farm in rural Vermont.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s