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! 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! The lower water jump is, umm, underwater. 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. 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.
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!
Last edited by deltawave; Jun. 21, 2009 at 09:35 PM.
Wow-that sounds like a great clinic! The thumb "pitched roof" analogy is a great one-hopefully I can remember it the next time I ride!
It didn't sound too scary until the count down 8 strides from the fence-that would totally freak me out! I think it's a combination of math-phobia and never having to count strides outloud in my early days. If you want to raise the fences, fine but don't ask me to count aloud!!
I hope you get to go XC tomorrow. I've heard such great things about Leslie Law. Have fun!
I was there with Cathy H. - she's stabled right next to you! I didn't see you all day, but I had a nice chat with your horse! Loved the clinic, and you really described the stadium exercises well. I won't be there tomorrow but will look forward to your description of the xc! I'm sure it'll go - we walked a bit of that upper part behind the stadium ring and it looked ok. Thank goodness for their hills - they drain quickly! Have a blast tomorrow!
In between Cathy's rides we went down the road about 3 miles to a combined driving event and watched the "marathon" phase a bit (the equivalent of our XC). What fun! Really amazing what those carts can do! BTW, the water element was about 2 feet deep, and those "war wagons" would slog right through. Very exciting!
Riding: The art of keeping a horse between you and the ground.
Today was definitely the more exciting of the two days.
The footing was actually pretty darn decent, considering, but I actually put studs all the way around, which I normally NEVER do. In fact, Bonnie's stud holes in front I usually just ignore, but my farrier--bless his heart--apparently put cotton in them the last time he did her feet (I had to leave early that day) so THANK YOU to him! We all warmed up near the start box and hung around--in hindsight I should've done a LOT more warming up because of the hills and the soft spots, but it was hot so I just sort of kept it very light.
We started over the first couple of jumps on the course, real easy logs, and then he had us do the weird looking red log that's on the Training course, one end of which is carved to look like the front half of a horse. Bonnie gave that the HUGE hairy eyeball when we hacked past it, and when it was our turn to jump it she did a HUGE shy sideways, definitely not liking it. We circled around and I made the mistake of picking a stupid line which took us under a tree--the sound of the branches brushing against my helmet apparently set Bonnie OFF and she jumped the log semi-sideways (close to the creepy horse end, which I thought she'd have jumped away from) and landed in a HUGE BUCKING FIT. Holy crow, I have sat through some exuberant bucks before, but Bonnie was doing a full-tilt BRONC act: head down between her knees, cracking her back and GRUNTING she was bucking so hard. I was scared to DEATH I'd be launched 15 feet in the air and just hung on for dear life. I've always been pretty stickable, but today took the cake--if cowboys have to endure for 8 seconds, I had to endure about 30, and right now, hours later, I can feel the whiplash starting up!
What set her off? I'm not sure. A combination of her being geeked up a little about jumping, jumping back towards the barns, the creepy branches, the creepy horse, and the footing being inconsistent--who knows? My saddle, which I'd thought was girthed PLENTY tight, also slipped forward a little and she has some bug bites on her belly that have been itchy--I wonder if that also made her a bit nuts. In any case, I got off with my knees shaking and readjusted the saddle, then went right back around with my heart in my THROAT and she jumped it just fine. (different line, no branches) One thing I can say about Bonnie--she does NOT hold a grudge, that mare. Every time I make a mistake or we have a crappy fence, she plops right back around the next time and tries again, no baggage, no drama. Which is a trait I really love.
She was a little sticky to the next couple of fences, but as the morning went on she got her groove back and did everything else just fine, no excitement. I, on the other hand, was a little bit of a basket case. One thing I can say about Leslie as a clinician--he is a straight shooter, and if you say you want to do something and think you can, he's right behind you. If you say you can't or don't want to, it's fine. I didn't chicken out of anything, but had a couple of "backwards" moments riding to the drops (we did a TON of drops) and he made me laugh by picking up a big jump pole and threatening to bonk me on the head with it if I didn't stop being a sissy. He didn't go on and on about it, but he clearly had sized me and Bonnie up and knew we could do it, so without that actually being talked about I sort of took confidence in that and we were able to get everything done the rest of the morning with only small crises of confidence on my part. We even did the double down-bank, my personal terror point with Bonnie-the-launcher. Who, I must say, did not launch a SINGLE bank all weekend.
The theme of the day was to be a smart rider and SHOW the horse the proper line, so he can see it, figure it out if he knows the answer, and if not be in a position where you can make it as easy as possible for him to get through the question. Sounds very obvious but it is a big responsibility for the rider who has to do all this AND contend with the horse he/she has underneath him that day, that moment, that footing, that terrain, that course, that level of fitness, etc. Something to ponder as we walk courses.
We did a Training-type semi-corner, amodification of the training coffin which involves a pretty steep downhill jump from a log to the ditch, the double down-banks, jumps into and out of water, and lots of other stuff that Bonnie handled just great. The thing I'm learning about her is that if there is inconsistent footing, she gets more anxious and just needs to keep cantering and relaxing. I can't skimp on warmups when there are footing issues.
And oh, how I regret not using my sticky-butt spray! Even though I stuck on pretty well without it, if I do say so, I had PLENTY of time up there in the air to think about my oversight. In the "making lemons from lemonade" vein, I figure if I can stick on through the bronc-fest, a big jump off a Training bank is a piece of cake!!
So it's Motrin and a hot shower and a long day of SITTING DOWN tomorrow, which will be marvelous. At one point when I was in a tizzy over a bigger down bank Leslie asked me what made me mad so I could think about that on my way to the bank--I said "tomorrow's schedule at work". But like I said, sitting down inside in the AC will be kind of nice . . .
Last edited by deltawave; Jun. 22, 2009 at 02:36 PM.
Oh DW!! That freaky-freak jump with the horse head carved out of it! Last year, I saw this poor rider have a terrific round ALL the way around the course and then she got to that jump (last jump on training course I think) and her horse would have NOTHING to do with it. I felt so bad for her. She was doing a terrific job trying to coax her horse near it and it just was having fits. That jump is definitely one that can make your horse take a peek (or have a complete drama queen moment). I'll bet Bonnie was just wound up about that jump and when she had to go to it the 2nd time--she *knew* she had to jump it (being the obedient event horse that she is) but she wanted to let you know that she didn't like it at_ALL. Good riding though. Glad you got to practice lots of drops (face your demons sister!)
Sounds like a great clinic--I was wondering about the clinic with all the rain. It is so flooded by our house. Yep, biblical proportions.