Skyeler Voss Turns Quarantine into “Quarantraining” Time
Everyone handles the downtime associated with COVID-19 differently, which is why Skyeler Voss, team BioStar rider and professional eventer, has created an atmosphere at her Morningside Eventing facility that respects the desires of each of her students. While some might choose to stay home and save the riding for another day, others wish to continue on in as normal of a fashion as possible. With that in mind, the team at Morningside Eventing have used this downtime as an opportunity to build upon their program and introduce their horses to some unique training tactics. Find out what skills Skyeler has been emphasizing during this time of “quarantraining” and see if you can incorporate any into your daily routine:
What are some things you have been working on at home?
“During this COVID-19 downtime, our Morningside team has taken this opportunity to grow as a program and train with personal goals in mind rather than competitive accolades. Morningside Eventing Team LLC is a large program with 35+ horses and over 75 eventing students of all levels and ages. We have decided to stay open during this downtime but with strict protocols set forth by our Virginia governor. Each boarder has online scheduled visits, lessons and ride times to keep our numbers at the facility under 10 at all times.
We spent the winter in Aiken gearing up for the spring show season. Like many competition driven programs, it is easy to think from one show to the next. However, this forced break in the show schedule has allowed us to grow as trainers and riders and become stronger in the fundamentals. Using quarantine protocols, we have been able to connect more consistently with each individual rider, laying out goals for improvement outside of the show ring. We can spend more time developing the young horses and improving the upper level athletes. Morningside prides itself on being an all encompassing program with focuses on groundwork, horsemanship and riding lessons. This time has allowed us to step back and talk to each rider and communicate with every horse. It has helped us to further formulate individualized goals for each specific partnership.”
What has the extra time without competing allowed you to do?
“Morningside has combined the expertise of our three trainers, myself, Erin Murphy, and Cali Johnson, in order to provide a “quarantraining” program that satisfies each rider’s needs and expectations while prioritizing health and safety. Every client has individual feelings and concerns regarding the COVID pandemic. We have listened and supported our students’ thoughts to come up with plans that make everyone comfortable. We have kept Morningside open under strict scheduling and social distancing protocols, but we also understand that every person has to do what makes them feel confident and safe. Some clients have chosen to not ride at all, some have chosen to focus on flat-work and forgo the risk of jumping, while others would like to keep their training to a normal routine. Each rider can set an a la carte schedule for the week that incorporates Cali Johnson’s expertise in her rope work, Erin Murphy’s focus on training rides and conditioning, incorporated with my individual lessons in both dressage and show jumping. We have taken a step back from intensive XC schooling in order to minimize risk. Instead, we have substituted Cali’s XC roping to make the horses self sufficient and improve upon their natural instincts without the rider. Erin and I have also included fun XC exercises over show jump questions in the ring to keep our riders and horses sharp without the additional galloping and pounding.”
Has your focus had to shift from your original big-ticket goals this year, and if so what is next on your agenda?
“Our barn has multiple upper-level athletes whose goals included CCI’s, CDI’s, and the North American Youth Championships. While it is disappointing to table these short term competition goals, we are looking at the long game. We have kept the upper-level dressage and event horses in normal work with less focus on the conditioning, dressage tests, and jumping height and more emphasis on the quality of training. We have taken this opportunity to learn new things and better our weaknesses. We hope that with this additional time to focus on the fundamentals, our horses and riders will be able to step right back into a successful fall season when it is safe to compete again.”
What exercises would you encourage eventers and other riders to incorporate in their daily riding during this time?
“Our whole team believes strongly in ground work. This is an incredible tool for strengthening horse and rider relationships. We are so lucky to have Cali Johnson’s roping work as an integral part of our training program. Her skills have become more widely appreciated during this COVID-19 crisis, as more riders have found time to enjoy her wealth of knowledge. Cali has started all of my event horses on the rope, teaching them self-confidence, self-preservation, and allowing the rider to understand each horse’s instincts and mechanics. Erin and myself are busy teaching during the day, but we have taken extra time to work with our young horses on the rope. I have a young horse that is anxious about sounds and activity, so I have been teaching with this horse alongside me. This gives the young horse a chance to be introduced to show-life experiences while on the ground where confidence can be instilled.”
What would you recommend for people who cannot go to the barn or ride right now?
“We have recommended that all of our riders focus more on becoming a better student of the sport. This can be done by watching competition or training videos and visualizing and understanding differing styles and methods. One can read about the lives and journeys of some of our sports greatest athletes. We have encouraged watching athletes outside of our discipline and expanding horizons to understand horse sport on a greater level. Everyone should take this time away from the barn to better yourself as a horse person by educating your eye and mind to the theories and philosophies that have produced some of the greatest horses and riders before us.”
Besides riding, what else have you been doing during the quarantine?
“I have always loved teaching horses and riders, but I never thought I would find myself homeschooling. My appreciation for teachers outside of my profession has grown exponentially. I have a 4-year-old daughter in Pre-K who is doing online school. This has proved an interesting challenge balancing a full-time job with home schooling and I have so much respect for all the parents who are finding this a “new normal.”
Skyeler Voss is an Advanced level/4* Event rider based out of Morningside Training Farm in the Plains, Virginia. Skyeler has ridden multiple horses to top placings at the FEI levels of Eventing, while simultaneously, moving up the competitive levels in Dressage. In 2019 Skyeler achieved her USDF Silver medal and took home the BLM 4th level Championship. Morningside is home to over 40 Event horses and numerous students ranging from beginner novice through the international FEI ranks. Skyeler Voss has trained many young riders to podium finishes at the North American Youth Championships and Morningside continually has riders of all ages and levels on the USEA National leaderboard.