Our First Clinic

I had put “participate in a clinic” on my 2014 goals because it is something O and I have never done.  So I was geared up and ready to take on the world on Oct. 26th, and also very nervous.

Anyway, we walk/trot/cantered our own warm-up while he read up on us (cheat sheet provided by trainer) and watched us with our mounts.  O was fabulous, forward but not naughty in the extremely foggy, wet morning.  After a warm-up he drew us to the center to explain our first exercise.

trot fan
Very exciting representation.

I’m sure someone out there has a name for it.  I call it the fan.  First we had to trot through it on a circle.  I admit the first time through we only managed 3 out of the 4 poles, he immediately swooped in on our need to be bending more, focusing on holding the contact on the inside, while moving the shoulder to the outside.  My biggest issue-he wanted me to stop tipping forward (opps) and keep ahold of her the whole time.

I can’t expect her to know what I’m asking if I’m not talking to her.  Big ‘ah ha’ moment for me.  A few rounds later he praised O, saying ‘he’ was a good horse, and was stretching down into the bend now.  It felt awesome the few times I coordinated enough to ask all the right questions.  We did it both ways, then adding some space between poles, gave it a try at the canter.  This was much easier, probably because we’d already loosened her up, but it was a lot of fun.  Plus I could actually feel her focus and attention directly on me.

Good pony cantering, bad me tipping forward.
Good pony cantering to poles, but bad me tipping forward.

Then we switched to do a little jumping.  O was already huffing, and my thighs were shaking!  Obviously we have some conditioning to work on.  First exercise was two trot poles to a small vertical.  The point was to stay soft, maintain the bend and halt in a straight line after the jump.

Baby vertical was baby.

Like a boss, Olive trotted through it, gave a little hop and halted nicely.  Pats for pony.

Love the artsy iPhone one.
Love the artsy iPhone one.

Then he just started building a little course, each time it got a bit longer, more intense.  Final course was this:

joe course

First words out of his mouth after we jumped a line.  “Wow, big step.”   Yeah dude, tell me about it.

It was great practice on lots of maintaining the bend with correct contact and planning ahead.  His big push was that you basically can’t do anything about the jump you’re a stride out on;  you must be thinking forward, how to ride the next part of the course.  It really helped with my micromanaging to be thinking constantly forward.  O did great, her rough lead change is the left to right which would be after jump 4, but since there was a pole there she did great getting to jump 6.  You can see her hop over the pole to change in the video at the bottom.

Focusing on bend.
Focusing on bend.
Trot pretty.
Trot pretty.


It wasn’t without issues, and even in the video you can see I lack leg in places and she breaks a bit.  Plus we had an awkward stop (like 2 strides out) heading to the end of the rings jump (above photo) which she hadn’t seen before (no video footage though).  She went over it fine right after.

But overall I was thrilled.  It was hard work, but getting an outside opinion really opened my eyes to some big things to work on this winter. The clinician deemed me “Mrs. Smooth” and said that I ride very smoothly and consistently while on course.  I have been trying so hard to quiet my body and hands lately, it felt great to be validated.

Bonus: my friend took a video of one of our last rounds!!


Main takeaways: Be present and riding constantly.  Lean back and hold the feel.  Think forward, you should always be planning the next move.

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