Well, I completely fell off the wagon afterwards, buut – I was able to go to the clinic I was tentatively planning for before work
literally last month! I’ll probably never do it again, but this time was worth it. Last week was it’s own set of hills and valleys, so I’m glad I wrote down notes. And no media. Because it was cold, rainy and I was numero uno to go, though naturally, people creeped out of the office as I was cooling out.
I had mentioned in the last post that I was also hoping I’d be able to get out and ride at least once more before the clinic and that worked out swimmingly. I rode the River pony that Tuesday (note the SUNSHINE in the back of his picture. gah how I’ve missed it) who was feeling that good weather (his winter coat, not so much) and then ended up getting a lunge lesson with Jillie on Thursday – which I’ll also try to write about soon/at some point.
Now, the clinic.
All the horses were inside, but poor Jillie and being in her stall for any length of time do not mix. She gets stiff in the left hind from her old injury, but this time she was also super stiff and puffy in her left front (likely from playing in the mud). Trainer and I got her and the other mare out who was having similar issues and walked and trotted them in the arena to see if moving would help. Jillie is the type that the more she can move, the better, which thankfully was the case that day. Other mare, not so much.
What progress we made from walking in the arena was negated in the cross ties grooming/tacking her up, and (unrelated) first note from clinician was to have my whip on my left side when mounting and to put it under my thigh when adjusting stirrups. Not really something I’ve thought of, but hey makes sense. Next was Jillie’s history. I recounted that she’s about 15/16, was jumping 5 foot wayy too young with another local trainer and at some point got a great deal of good dressage training from an unknown source, and also had a suspensory injury. Timeline between local trainer and most recent owner is anyone’s guess (last I knew). Appearing not satisfied by this, clinician asked how long I’d been riding her (this is the 3rd time I’d sat on her) and then commented “so you don’t know this horse very well at all.” Seeing as this is very much correct and the story of my riding life right now, I wasn’t put off and agreed with her.
She then addressed my goals as discussed with trainer (an independent seat eventually, finding what needs to improve to be more effective with the aids) and next asked me if I knew what the stay apparatus was.
Her: “So horses are able to sleep standing up-”
Me (thinking): OHYES. derp. completely forgot this had a name. BUT it’s because they’re able to lock-
Her: “- because their joints are able to lock and prevent them from falling over.”
Me: “Right” (thinking) anddd I’ve lost credibility again. sigh. onward…
Anywho, she ties this in with horses joints getting stuck more often, whether due to age or injury, and that in a situation like this, an effective seat and aids can be used like physical therapy to help our horse out. I thought that was an interesting concept, and forgetting my off-kilter start, focused on trying to see/feel if I could make that happen.
We started reeeal basic…
- Rhythm (the regularity) vs. tempo (can be longer or shorter [slower or faster]) in both walk and trot. What clicked for me was that while Jillie was stiff, the rhythm of the gait itself wasn’t right, so sure we can go “faster” and up our tempo, but it’s not helping the quality of the gait
- want corner of inside eye for bend
Then I was called out for one of my longstanding habits:
- hands! close them! –> think of holding a baby bird. also, instead of curling wrist to turn/bend, just bring elbow back
Other notes on my upper half…
- let the elbows open and close so reins are going up and down (definitely capable of this, but haven’t been mindful of it lately)
- don’t let hands (and by extension, torso) go forward when picking up/shortening reins
- in dressage when circling, don’t want to be looking so far ahead, horse and you should be looking same place
Related to supporting Jillie/the physical therapy concept:
- My right side is for sure stronger (irony because I’m left handed), and if I want to help Jillie, need to improve the weak side
- set the tempo for the trot, don’t get behind – Jillie will meet me wherever I’m at
- use pelvis to direct your corners & turns, keep shoulders level. This was one of the things that I could tell a big difference with when I got it right. Oddly, for most of the lesson my second corner was always better than the first, even if I was actively reminding myself to make sure I’m consistent through both. I was getting better towards the end, but I’m not sure why that was and will have to feel it out next time I can ride her.
- This was mainly while cantering, but can probably translate to trot as well? can support Jillie going to the left w/ outside rein and outside leg just slightly behind girth, and outside seat bone (this I sorta kinda got, but definitely want/need to practice)
- Jillie’s trot got better after cantering, which I’m not sure if it’s because I was riding better/staying out of her way compared to the trot, or if cantering just gets her moving better
- lead her from right to stretch left side
As I said, this was completely worth it. Jillie was absolutely amazing and trying so hard even though I’m a n00b and even though she would have been totally justified in giving me the bird from being sore and stiff. Instead, we had some moments where when I had my shit together, she was feathery light in my hands, but also forward and ready to respond to any shift in my seat. I dished out plenty of treats once we were done, but had to leave soon after. I’m so thankful trainer has a horse like her, because she for sure has a lot to teach and is oh so tolerant.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to take a nap between going home and getting ready for work, which made for a looong day. Most of Sunday was relax and recharge, and then the next few days were spent trying to finish up a project I’d set up with a local non-profit back in January. I presented that last Thursday and may write something on it because it actually went better than expected! I haven’t ridden since the clinic because I ended up working all but Sunday and Tuesday, but trainer texted me yesterday and asked if I’d come out and ride River tomorrow so she could get video of him – so hopefully I’ll have something to share on that end as well!