On to day 2!
I arrived at the barn on Sunday very excited to apply what we learned on the first day. I showed up a little early so I would have time to be a human lunge line (meaning hopping on and trotting in circles 4ever) just in case PonyBeast was feeling particularly beastly again.
Thankfully, the Beast had mellowed out from a combination of hard work the previous day and shivering through the night outside. (Don’t yell at me, she had plenty of blanket on, I’m exaggerating about the shivering).
We continued our work on the flat focusing on straightness and balance, and this time Addy and I were actually able to focus on those things instead of getting into a detailed discussion of just how fast is “too fast” and why I don’t ever let her do fun things because I’m the worst mom ever.
We started out by cutting straight across the ring, being careful to square each corner and half-halt through the middle to maintain the balance. Then we started some other patterns- one of my favorite exercises was one that forced us to rethink our use of the corners in the ring and got the horses really tuned into where we were going next:
I found this exercise immensely helpful and plan to use it often. We had to be very conscious of our outside rein around the turns to help balanced, stay very straight down the quarter lines, keep a subtle bend around the circles, and I found it to be a refreshing departure from the usual circles and turns around the ring. There were so many elements in play to make this flow smoothly and Beastly rocked it!
Moving on to canter work, we continued the trend of mixing up our patterns so the horse couldn’t anticipate and would stay tuned in and thinking about what their rider wanted. Part of this was working on relaxing through lead changes. To do this we didn’t actually do any lead changes, we used the following shape:
In this example you would start on the left lead, then go across the diagonal as if you were going to change direction. Then about 3 strides away from the wall you would turn left and continue on the left lead. The key here was maintaining absolute straightness across the diagonal and balancing around the turn using the outside rein. This got some of the automatic-swappers thinking hard and listening instead of anticipating the change. Luckily for me, Addy is indifferent to changes and just saw this as a lumpy circle.
Jumping time! We warmed up the same way as yesterday- trot pole set out in front of a small vertical, then halt in a straight line afterwards. I am pleased to report that our halts were much more civilized this time around.
Then we applied everything we had worked on so far to a mini course:
We were to pick up a trot, then canter a circle until we were happy with the quality of the canter, then come up the gray oxer, down the outside vertical, up the yellow planks, and down the outside oxer (which I forgot to make an oxer in the diagram, so sue me). He watched us do this first and then tailored the exercise for each of us.
Since Addy was being so awesome chill and a total rockstar, our exercise was simply to halt in a straight line after each fence. Then I would do a canter circle and approach the next fence. One of the other girls would halt after each fence, then circle towards the wall before resuming the course in order to stop her horse from anticipating and getting hotter throughout the course. Another one didn’t halt at all, and worked on building up more of a gallop between fences.
We ended by doing all four jumps as a mini-course once more to see how the exercises helped. And honestly? It felt fantastic. Addy was soft and elastic in the bridle, let me balance and collect her deep into the corners, didn’t rush at the jumps, waited to the base, and came right back to me whenever I asked.
She still tried to lean in through the turns and speed up to the jumps- she is, after all, the DragonMare- but the big difference was that she listened when I corrected her. I wasn’t struggling to get through to her- she was tuned in and waiting for my cues. I couldn’t have been happier with her!
Overall thoughts on the clinic: the focus was much more on how to train the horse properly than it was on equitation. The only remarks he made on our position were related to how it affected the horse’s way of going. This may have been different in other sections, but for us the focus was clearly on the horse and how to get the best ride possible out of the horse you were on. I absolutely loved that! As you may have read in my past posts (over and over and over and over….), that’s really what I’m trying to learn at this point: how to encourage the best ride possible from Addy. I’ve already seen a huge response from Pretty Girl from these exercises and have plans to include them regularly into our work moving forward so we can continue to develop. The combination of training tips and mental training tips from the sports psychology seminar was the perfect mix for me.
Overall rating: 5 stars. Learned a TON and was worth every penny.