Leslie Law clinic report--day two!
I'm riding at the Leslie Law clinic up at Hunters Run this weekend. Apparently we are having biblical floods back home--7" of rain in my little town and the entire town is underwater! :eek: My husband and son got stranded on the way home and couldn't get back; they had to spend the night at a hotel. Thankfully the farm is fine--driveway a bit washed out in a couple of spots but all the critters high and dry.
The clinic is 180 miles east of there and we got serious rain last night, too. I've never seen Hunters Run under this much water! :eek: The lower water jump is, umm, underwater. :lol: Like FOUR FEET underwater. They are pumping like mad but everything is saturated. There are only about 12 horses in the whole clinic and the upper fields are in good shape so I'm REALLY HOPING they'll let us do XC tomorrow as planned. This is our big "tuneup" for going Training "for real" and my poor trainer, who's poised to move up to Advanced, has gotten rained out of every show and XC schooling session so far this season except one easy Prelim.
Anyhow, today was SJ day and I'm in a group with my trainer on her green horse and 2 other riders. Bonnie's the "veteran" in this group with two Trainings under her girth. We started with just some easy w-t-c where Leslie wanted the horses pushing from behind and using themselves. Bonnie was feeling a little lazy (I'd loaned my spurs to my trainer) but eventually got nice and up and round and Leslie said she was nice. :) He gave us an interesting spin on "put your thumb on top" by saying it should be on top but the last joint is "steepled" like a roof on a house, not flat on top of the rein. This keeps us (he explained) from squeezing and pinching the hell out of the rein with that one very strong part of our hand, thus keeping the entire forearm more relaxed. I don't know about the biomechanics (gotta think that one through) but it was sort of an interesting thing to focus on and in any case Bonnie was quiet in her mouth and not pulling so I was happy. :)
Jumping was a seemingly-easy but very fruitful set of exercises that I really liked because you can do them and reap large benefits with only a few low, simple jumps. After popping a few little warmup jumps, we began jumping 2 small verticals on a circle of approximately 30 meters, building a routine where we would, one or two strides out from the fence in front of us, LOOK hard at the fence on the other side of the circle, not taking our eye off THAT fence until we were 1-2 strides in front of it, then we'd look hard at the OTHER one. Not glancing, he wanted us to turn our head and LOOK and lock onto that one, before we even jumped the one in front of us. This was an odd and very enlightening exercise--the horses (lo and behold!) jumped perfectly well without the rider staring at the jump in front of them, and more often than not landed on the correct lead and made a nice, quiet, steady canter away.
After we'd done that in both directions (Bonnie was quiet and good and got all her leads) we then had to start counting out loud down from what we thought was eight strides out from each fence, ALSO continuing to turn our heads and look at the fence on the other side of the circle as we approached each jump. This was, he described it, like patting your head and rubbing your belly at the same time, and took every bit of fiddling, fussing, chasing, picking, and screwing around out of the main, conscious parts of my mind. :lol: Each rider and horse did well, improving all along, and even the fussy, rushy horses were quiet and steady because they were in a rhythm the whole time, being left alone.
Then we did a little course with bending lines and Bonnie got a little more "up" because she's getting to be a little aggressive and bold lately but if I really focused back on counting and looking she went fine. To carry the one exercise over into the other was a little tougher with Bonnie pulling, but I can see where doing more of the former will transition over into a quieter, rhythmical horse doing courses better than just pulling and whoa-ing. :D
We finished with a line of five verticals, all one stride apart, set at 18', 19', 20' and 21' with the horses to canter through quietly with us making an attempt at an automatic release with each jump. I admire and envy people to whom this comes naturally, and am not among that number. :) But we did try, Bonnie jumped nice and straight and steady, and I could hear her bit jangling because my reins were nice and soft and loopy so that's a good piece of feedback! Like every other skill this has to be learned, and this was a good exercise to encourage it, along with being a chance to get the horse thinking for itself and sorting things out. Everyone did it really well, and we ended on that.
Looking forward to watching the upper-level horses try all of this at greater heights this afternoon, and hoping like crazy that the rain is done and the ground allows us to do some XC tommorrow!