“There are not enough hours in the saddle to waste!” – George H. Morris
As I come into my final week before the George Morris clinic I am very much inclined to agree. There always seems to be something left to buy (regular stirrups) or school (lateral work) and my days before the clinic are slowly getting numbered.
The nervous episodes of nausea I get every time I think of the clinic or the dreaded liverpool is a familiar feeling for a teacher this time of year. I firmly believe there is a special place in heaven for teachers who survive the month of May. Every day you don’t end up on the 10 o’clock news is a win. So it’s difficult to tell if its work stress or clinic stress that is getting to me, but either way my confidence is flagging a bit.
Not necessarily confidence in my growth mindset or my riding ability, just the typical amateur doubts—whether or not I belong in this clinic.
My weight is something I worry about, but I can only work with what I’ve got… and it’s more than some. I am making it a firm health/riding goal to lose some weight this year. I just wish I could have done more of it before the clinic. But it’s the time of year in my profession where chocolate, wine, and carbs gets you through till summer.
In other news, I am feeling proud of my work and preparations so far. I’ve been riding almost every day I have Capone available. His half-leaser gets him three days a week and I another three days. Occasionally I sneak in a fourth ride on his typical “off” day if I know she hasn’t ridden her full three days.
Capone’s treadmill workout has been great for his stamina and no-stirrups has been great for mine. However, his workout has changed his musculature and my saddle no longer fits. I’m going to borrow one for the clinic, but I’m a creature of habit. Every little change to tack (boots, saddle, stirrups) makes me ride a little differently. Which isn’t a big deal unless you are carting around an extra 30 pounds—then the difference can be noticeable.
Our schooling has regularly included transition work, adjustability, and promptness to aides. Sometimes I wonder if I’m just not prompt enough with the aids since we are always working on it. I’ve added in lateral work, counter-canter, and changing of my seat during canter work (two point to three point) and no-stirrup work.
Let me tell you something about no-stirrup work. I’d say it’s magical—except that it isn’t. It’s something we all know we need to do, yet never do, unless we are preparing for something huge. Maybe I didn’t ever do it because Capone is a leg ride, and my leg is pretty strong, or because I thought it was too elementary. But the difference in my riding ability and seat is astounding. My trainer mentions it almost every lesson we have—how much better my seat has gotten since I’ve been on this no-stirrup mission.
Seriously people. I don’t know what I’ve been doing my whole life. I’m actually looking forward to no-stirrup November this year—bring it!
In other preparations, Capone and I school the liverpool every lesson. Let me introduce you to Exhibit A:
I’m still debating if Capone suffers from short-term memory loss or long-term memory retention. EVERY time we school this jump it’s like I’m introducing it to him all over again. It doesn’t matter if we are simply passing it—in what Capone considers too close proximity—or attempting to jump it. It’s a big deal. I try staying quiet in my seat on approach, firmly closing the leg, not making a bigger deal of it than he is but the result is always the same. Like clockwork….
Five strides out—eyes up, ears up
Four strides out—switch lead
Three strides out—switch lead back when I apply outside leg and suck back
Two strides out—apply crop and Capone decides to charge it.
One stride out—tries to stop/ends up dodging out the side
I feel bad for him, because in all my amateur glory I have difficulty staying with him and not catching him in the mouth. As you can tell my body automatically wants to revert back to my eventing days, back of the seat, in front with the leg, although I’m not sure what my leg is supposed to be doing here. Eventually we kept at it until he started relaxing over it, but each day is a new day when we’re schooling the liverpool.
I have one lesson and four rides remaining until the clinic. A lot of you have shared your GHM clinic notes and I’m planning on working on some of those exercises this week as we prepare. I’ve been re-reading Hunt Seat Equitation for 10 minutes before work every day and during the occasional lunch break. My clinic preparations have even included schooling my husband in proper GHM auditing etiquette since he is wanting to come for moral support. He won’t have a clue what’s happening but I love that man and everything he does to support us.
You won’t be hearing from me again until I am on the other side of the clinic but I’ll keep you posted. If you’ve been along for the journey this far thank you so much for all your positive tips, advice, and encouragement. My last blog post came from a very vulnerable part of my heart and it seems to have struck a chord with a number of you. It’s nice to know we aren’t alone.
Until next post…. Wish me luck!
Tiffany Elmer, 30 and from Texas, balances her work as a teacher with riding her homebred horse, Capone. She’s been riding since she was 11—through high school, college, dating, marriage and her career—and has competed in the hunters, equitation, jumpers and a bit of eventing. Capone is her “forever” horse. “I bred for a paint eventer mare, and got a lovely chestnut hunter gelding!” she said. “We currently are working on cleaning up our 3’6” hunter rounds with an end goal of international derbies.” Tiffany’s current goal is a George H. Morris clinic in May.
“Capone’s favorite hobbies include asphyxiation—he likes to roll his tongue, put his head in the air, and suck on it. I always have to leave a sign up at shows or people will call me thinking he’s choking (weird, right?). And he also likes to torment the elderly gentleman in the gelding pasture,” Elmer said. Read all of Tiffany’s COTH blogs.