• Alanna Flax-Clark

An Amazing Winter of Competition and Training

This is something that I wrote for Mane Stream and thought I'd share with you all. You can check it out on their website here, or scroll below. Check out their website and FB page anyway for all the great work they do in NJ!



My routine the past couple years now has been to head down to Florida at the end of December, have an action-packed Winter full of competitions and learning, then come back to New Jersey in April and reunite with everyone at Mane Stream. When I headed down to Florida after Christmas, I had no clue that things would turn out so different.


This winter was especially exciting and intense as it was the big build up to final training and qualifications for the Paralympics in Tokyo 2020. When Taco and I got down to Wellington we had two back-to-back CPEDI3* (international qualifiers).Instead of moving into our barn with the rest of the horses, we basically moved into the Adequan Global Dressage Festival and spent the month of January competing.These competitions were some of the biggest shows I’ve been in as far as competition. There were riders from the USA, Canada, Mexico, and South Africa! They were long days and weeks. Overall, Taco and I did really well.We were always in the top rankings. For only our second year competing together, I couldn’t be more proud. I saw our scores increase every ride, the judges were pickier on things to improve on, and our partnership continued to get even more harmonious. We even got scores over 70%! I was competing against riders who have ridden their entire lives and I was right up there in the rankings. My hard work, dedication, training from my Sara, and support from my team was paying off.


We spent the rest of the season balancing training with other exercise like Pilates and stretching every single day. I continued to show and push myself against my fellow competitors. Taco and I were continuing to improve. We’d set goals and push past them. We’d watch our barn friends succeed and cheer them on. We were having such a great season with everyone.


I was competing in the last national show before the FEI/USEF/USDF cancelled all shows. They were ahead of things with many sporting events. There was a big group of para riders that weekend and I went out with a bang. The first day I set a big goal for myself and I came in 1st out of all 7 riders, across all grades (in para, we’re classified in grades according to our functional level, not disability. This puts us on an equal playing field). After this is when the IOC started talking about whether to continue with the Olympics/Paralympics as is, cancel, or postpone. A necessary and difficult decision to postpone to 2021 was made in order to prioritize athlete, staff, and spectator safety and health during this challenging time. While I agree with the decision, it’s still difficult to digest after coming off competing and training at such a high level all season and year. Even though Taco and I have met the baseline qualifications for Tokyo, we will be going through this entire process again over the next year once we’re able to get back out there and start training again.


We’re all living day by day to see when this will calm down; if shows will open up again; when we’ll be allowed to go to friends and relatives again. It makes me even more grateful for all that I was able to take advantage of, learn, and accomplish this winter. The biggest thing I’m proud of myself for is pushing myself out of my comfort zone with my riding. I tried new things and trusted both Sara and Taco (and myself) that it would be ok. Every time we tried something new it lead to bigger improvements.


I know many of you are missing your time at Mane Stream, whether it be volunteering, for therapy, or riding. I’m definitely missing my barn time. I am in that high-risk population and have to be very careful. However, sitting around not moving is also very hard on my body. Have you found things you can do at home to continue to stay active? It’s been harder for me to stay active, but I’ve been turning to the resources I have like friends, trainers, and PTs to help brainstorm ideas. It’s important that everything is safe for your body. I’d love to hear your ideas. This is the time to stay connected and help one another!


Here are some things I’ve been using at home that have helped me!

1. Big Exercise ball—sitting on it somewhat stimulates what it’s like to be on the horse. I like to sit on it while working on the computer so I can really use my core.

2. Resistance bands- we’ve been using them together at the house. They even have videos online. I like them because they are easier on my joints.

3. Yoga mat- I love getting out of my chair and doing some yoga and stretching each morning and night.

4. Foam Roller- I’m still experimenting with this as it’s a bit harder for me to use, but I’m trying to use it for my tight muscles.

5. Music—put on some fun music to keep your mood and energy up!

6. Cooking- great group activity and fun to put together meals with what you can find in the cabinet. Friends have been generously going to the grocery store for me, but I know you may not always be able to get what you want!


Let’s get a Mane Stream List going of what you’ve been doing during this time with your family! Exercise? Good Books? Movies? Recipes? Keep them Coming!


Soon we’ll be together hugging one another and riding our ponies again!






  • RSS - Black Circle
  • Facebook Basic Black
  • Instagram Basic Black
  • Twitter Basic Black
  • YouTube - Black Circle

© 2016 by Alanna Flax-Clark 

Califon, NJ, USA

Contact: aflaxclark@gmail.com 

U.S. ParaEquestrian