Sunday, October 30, 2011

an insightful clinic, and October snow

The clinic yesterday went great! I was nervous because despite my best intentions, I left my house late and was then further delayed by Lucy being wary of the step-up stock trailer that I borrowed, which made me very late to the clinic. I didn't let myself speed at all - in fact, I went 50 or slower the whole way there on the highway. It was my first time trailering alone and the trailer I borrowed was a 4-horse stock trailer, which was bigger than anything else I've towed so far. That combined with my baby being inside was reason enough to go nice and slow and just get there whenever I could.

It turned out that the clinic organizer had added another session before mine, so I was in fact very EARLY :) See? Things work out for a reason! Lucy unloaded great and the barn manager let me put her in one of their empty stalls. The weather was deteriorating already so the clinic was held in their indoor. Lucy munched on her hay while I watched most of the lesson before mine, and then I got her ready for our lesson.

The clinician teaching the lessons is also a well-respected judge around this area. I showed under him a lot as a kid and always appreciated his fairness as a judge. I was excited to get his insight on Lucy.

He immediately commented on her huge stride even just at the walk, but also said it was "hurried". We spent the first half hour making her more adjustable and also making her stride less quick. We talked about half halts and it turns out I've been doing them wrong for about 20 years! ha. His half half method was waaaaay more effective with Lucy. He said instead of pulling back evenly with both hands (as I've been doing for ages), hold your outside rein at a constant pressure to support, and "vibrate" your inside rein. I tried it and immediately her stride slowed, she dropped her head, and waited for another instruction from me. He said, "Yes! This is what it's all about! With your half halt you're saying, 'Lucy?' and she is supposed to respond, 'yes?'" This is a vast improvement over using the "old" half halt with her, because she would immediately go to fight it.

a nice "quiet" trot, and I'm not even slouching!
We did some work over small fences. It started with a small vertical line with five strides between it. Lucy and the other horse in our lesson both rushed through it and jumped very flat. Next he asked us to trot to the first fence and then bring them to a trot before the second fence. Both horses flat-out ignored their riders and bombed through the line again. He said we needed lots of grids. I was like, yes, I know, that's why I'm here! I can set up lines just fine. I want to know how to set up grids and teach her to pace herself.

To my delight, he moved the two jumps so that they made a bounce. It wasn't a very tight bounce but it was a good place to start. He mentioned something about height not being necessary to teach these things, but I wasn't upset about the small jumps at all. In fact, on my clinic application I had written "I don't care how big the jumps are - I just want to learn how to ride her through a grid!"

The first time Lu went through the line, she was very cautious about the second jump but she bravely gave it her best shot. I was really proud of her! She knocked the first jump down but I didn't even care -- the important thing was that she jumped the second jump. We haven't done a bounce like that before, AND the second jump had this weird fabric filler thing on it that spooked the heck out of the other horse in our lesson, and that horse had been showing in the 3'9" classes all summer.

First time through the bounce. She's about to obliterate the first jump but look
at how hard she's thinking about the second. Joe is saying "SLOW. SLOW!!!"
We did the two jumps as a bounce a few times, and then he added a third jump to the line, also as a bounce. We went through that a bit, and then as our final test, he tightened up the line so that the horses really had to use their brains and jump round. She did it perfectly! She's so clever :D

A video showing some of the flat work, and the progression of the bounce lines.

Watching the other person in my lesson negotiate the line on her horse. One of
the best things about clinics like this is being able to learn from the clinician
AND the other people riding. You can always learn something new!
I was really, really pleased with her for the following reasons:

-it was cold, rainy, and miserable yesterday. she didn't try any nonsense at all. I believe this time last year she was already throwing herself through the air and refusing to go forward and in general being a raging b*tch. I guess all of that GastroGard did work, afterall. I am feeling much less apprehensive about this winter.

-she behaved *really* well in the strange indoor, which btw had several stalls in it, some equipment at one end, and lots of people at the other end who were auditing the clinic. not a single spook out of her!

-she was super brave to the strange jumps, and was really a good sport about the whole thing. I was by no means riding her perfectly. It's been about ten years since I did a line of bounces and she let me figure myself out up there while she negotiated the lines. Really, really good.

-she didn't seem to mind the open stock trailer I borrowed for the day. even with the rain coming in through the slats at the top of the trailer walls, she was quiet back there the entire trip both ways. I did leave her fleece lined blanket on for the trip because I thought she'd be cold and wet otherwise.

Speaking of cold and wet, it SNOWED last night! We got just a few inches but my parents house in MA got 14" and they have trees down all over the property. The poor trees didn't have a chance...they still have green leaves on them! I texted L, Lucy's leaser today and asked if she wanted to have a snowy trail ride but it looks like the snow is going to be gone for the most part before we have a chance to ride in it ;) Oh well, I'm sure there is much more snow in store for us this winter!


  1. You guys look great!

    I loved riding with Joe when I lived in New England. That half halt trick is one of the best things I learned from him! He's very insightful and just so GOOD at what he does. I never left a lesson or clinic without having learned a bazillion things to work on.

  2. You guys looked great! Clinics are such great things and it sounds like you learned alot. That half halt will help in so many ways.

  3. Good clinic, you guys look awesome. That is a great exercise to get them using their brains instead of their afterburner.
    I was always taught to half halt on the outside rein, which works fine, but experimenting with Nina (EVERYTHING is an experiment with Nina) she is quieter and more responsive when I half halt on the inside rein. I like it better too.

  4. Good girl, Lucy! Brave and smart.
    Terry at Moondance

  5. You guys looked good. That fabric filler looks very spooky. I might have to made one to try at home to make Scarfie be a bit braver, since he is a giant chicken.

    Joe looks like a great clinician!

  6. thanks everyone! I had to laugh re-watching the video when she knocked the first jump in the bounce line over because she was concentrating so hard on the second jump. I patted her when she jumped the second "scary" one and said "good girl!" and Joe was like, "good girl is right...she knocked the jump over!" Hey, I was just glad I didn't go a** over teakettle over the second jump!


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