A Clinic Today Keeps the Cobwebs Aways

Working across the street from a show barn has its benefits – like regular clinics to help tuneup my riding. However, it took me two years before I actually signed myself up because I figured that others who were competing could benefit more. Thankfully, Linda was my trainer when I was a junior and insisted that I participate at least once – for old time’s sake.

Since I moved to Connecticut, my rides have averaged a total of 25-30 minutes and take place at either 6:30 am or 5:30 pm (before or after work hours). When it came to the day of the clinic, I felt somewhat out of shape and worried about my horse’s stamina (or maybe just my own!).

If you seriously competed – in any sport – I’m sure you still have your coach’s voice in your head, yelling certain “words of encouragement”. For me, that voice has always been Linda’s and those words of encouragement include:

Get it done – TODAY! Impulsion, Impulsion, Impulsion. Do it again to make sure it wasn’t a mistake. Don’t just keep going, understand what’s going on.

Those words in my head, and the words I suddenly experienced myself hearing in person again pushed me through the two hour clinic no matter how much my back was screaming at me.

Walking Through theĀ  Clinic

We started the clinic warming up – working on transitions, circles, pace, bend, light seat, and impulsion. After a few serpentines at the trot, we stepped into the canter and completed the shallow serpentine in the new gate.

This challenged our horses to maintain their balance and their canter lead, especially at the top of the serpentine when the horses had to hold a slight counter-bend. For my horse, Honey, it’s much easier for her to do a lead change than hold a counter bend or lead. While this exercise was more difficult for her, it forced her to balance using her hind-end and she became much softer and more supple.

The next exercise was a set of two ground poles set six strides apart. Honey loves to run and pull when it comes to anything she can jump, poles included. I tend to hold her back on the approach to offset her “go” on the landing. Instead, Linda encouraged me to ride her out of pace and correct her in the middle of the line to make the six strides work. I was allowing the bad behavior to occur by covering it up instead of correcting it.

You can see my correction in the middle of the line during the video, as well as her grabbing the bit and leaning against my hand after the second pole. Below, Linda works on my canter corrections, coaching me to “elevate my hands higher than what’s comfortable” to keep Honey’s head up and shorten her stride.

After working through our canter corrections and canter poles, we began warming up over a single fence. The reason I included our warmup jump video is because you can see where the corrections we practiced on the flat clearly apply to our work over fences. As soon as I land, you can hear Linda say, “elevate your hands – higher, higher!”.

Next, we started on a combination down the other long side. It was set to be ridden in a quiet four strides to an even quieter four strides with an oxer in the middle. Again, you can see the flatwork interwoven in this combination as we jump in out of pace (a little long), make the corrections between the jumps, and then do our flatwork on the landing. Linda wouldn’t let us walk until Honey had shortened her stride and come back to me because, the training after the jumps is just as important as the training over the jumps.

What I love about Linda’s lessons and clinics is that she’s purposeful in the sequence of exercises. Each exercise builds on the other and eventually they come together to create a course of jumps that shows you how much of the lesson you have retained and mastered.

We continued to build the course and challenged ourselves to maintain our position and our integrity despite fatigue in a final course of the clinic. As you can see in the video below, Linda adds a circle before we finish our final line of the course. Honey was building in pace and beginning to get away from me; Linda always tells her students, “every time you get in the saddle you are teaching your horse something – you are always training”.

I cannot stress enough how important it is to ride the ride you get. A circle wasn’t part of the course, but my ride got away from me. Had I kept going, our last line would have been a fight to get done. The same goes for the halt at the end – typically you finish a course with a closing circle, but I had to fight to get the last four strides so allowing Honey to continue building would only teach her that it was okay. By using a halt as a correction, she will [hopefully] learn to come back to me after the jumps.

I hope my clinic videos have been able to help explain a few things:

  1. Flatwork is just as important as jumping – and should always be weighted equally.
  2. Whenever you get on, you teach your horse something – make sure it’s something good.
  3. Clinics are beneficial for all riders, even if you don’t compete!

P.S. For those of you adults who also experience back pain while riding, I highly recommend consulting a chiropractor. Since I started my adjustments I’ve been able to ride without pain for the majority of my rides.