dancing horses

dancing horses

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Clinic Day 2: Awareness

I spent Friday night at the home of friends. They are generous with their hospitality and I always enjoy spending time with them. We don't chat often enough but it's nice to catch up when we do get together. My only complaint I have is that many of my horse friends live a long distance away. I slept very well that night and even had a kitty for company.

I was excited for my ride in the morning. It felt luxurious to sleep until 7 and let someone else feed my horse. Carmen seemed happy to see me- it was a beautiful September day- sunny but not hot.

Carmen was a bit girth when I tacked her up. I took her to the outside ring to lunge. She was looking around but listened to me fairly well. The outdoor ring had no fence but there were bushes in each corner. Carmen was quite suspicious of these.

At the start of our lesson Johanna asked if I had any questions. I didn't. She asked me what I wanted to work on and I said that I wanted to carry on with what we were doing and I really wanted to focus on getting my seat in the saddle and using it correctly. I started by walking her around and warming her up while Johanna was quiet and watched us.

I did my best to keep her listening and not worrying about the ring. The sun on the metal sides of the arena was causing it to expand and it was making noises.

looking out the door checking for trolls
A friend had my camera and was taking photos of us. To be honest I was really worried to look at them later- I hate photos of me riding. But to be honest although there were some where I look awful, overall I wasn't as awful as I thought. Except for here- what the heck am I doing?

perched seat, piano hands, could I look more awkward? 
You can tell by Carmen's expression that she is not so impressed either. Johanna was reminding me to breathe (honestly, how can that be so hard?). Johanna is what you would call a 'classical trainer'. Which means that she believes in working slowly, with the horse and that it must be harmonious. It can't be rushed. I cannot tell you how many times I heard the phrases 'calm your breathing.' 'ride with your seat' 'stop using your hands' 'soften your aids'

We were working on 10 metre circles and then shoulder in up the long side. I know how to ride a shoulder in.

Except I don't. It seems that I know how to use excessive amounts of tension with an over use of hand and leg to do an awkward shoulder in that was in no way acceptable. Johanna chewed me out for using my rein to pull her around on a 10 metre circle. She was right but I honestly didn't realize that I was doing it. I took a deep breath and focussed on using my seat and inside leg to get her to bend. Turns out that I really was not getting enough bend on my circle.

 Getting better with the bend.
And then there is was:
with easy aids and no stress she did it. I actually laughed when we got it (dressage riders are the nerds of the horse world).

Then we tried to trot and the wheels came off- Carmen began to throw her haunches to the inside.  Johanna told me to stop doing what i was doing but I didn't know what I was doing so it was hard to stop. We talked about and I shared that I thought she was being resistant. My friend made the observation that I was tightening my left leg and hip (which you can see in the photo).

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I couldn't feel it. I dismounted and Johanna took Carmen for a walk. 
Carmen explaining her troubles to Johanna
She then got on and rode her for a bit at the walk (no photos because it's not fair to share photos of others without permission). Carmen was good and demonstrated lovely flexibility.  

I was disappointed- things had been going so well and then they were not. My fellow clinicians were very supportive and tried to get me to focus on the positives. I tried but inside I was not so thrilled. I wanted to do better than better.  

Not that I have achievement issues. Nope not me. 

That afternoon I had planned to ride again. I had brought with me a western saddle to try but unfortunately it didn't fit (back to the drawing board). But I put on my english tack and took her out. We lunged for  bit and then I got on. Let me sum up my ride- Carmen was spooky and bolted twice. Both times I managed to stop her and go back to work. I kept focussing on my seat and helping her relax. Finally she settled and listened to me. One cute thing- where the ring was not fenced I decided to walk her in and out of the ring. She was a little weirded out by that- in her mind there was a fence. But she trusted me enough to go in and out. 

I spent that evening thinking about what happened at the end of my lesson. I wasn't arguing that I was tensing but the truth is that I didn't think I was riding different then usual and I hadn't had that happen for a long time. Later that night (well around 3 a.m.) a theory started to form.



  1. "Johanna told me to stop doing what i was doing but I didn't know what I was doing so it was hard to stop."

    This. This sentence. This resonates so much with me I feel like I'm a gong that's just been struck.

  2. You guys look so good in the early pictures - especially the shoulder in. I'm sorry it went downhill after that.

  3. I had the same experience in a clinic with Sandy Savage a year ago. She said I was using too much inside rein. I didn't think I was using any. She had me loop my thumb into the bucking strap and not move it.at.all. ...and Lucy quit being resistive. Oops.

  4. Riding in the Western tack really helped me - I was much more aware of where I was when I went back to the dressage saddle :) fingers crossed you find the perfect fit for Carmen!

  5. I want to be better than better too, definitely relate to that haha! It's just such a slow process and my horses seem to have a way of calling me out right when I think I've managed to skip ahead. Frustrating. Regardless tho Carmen looks fantastic in the pictures and it really sounds like the clinic was a net positive!

  6. Repeat after me " this is a test, this is only a test!" You can get past this.

    1. ha ha ha! given my academic history that might not be helpful!

  7. All in all I think the clinic was a good experience for you and Carmen. We would all like to be better than better truth be told but I look at it from a different perspective. When we go to a clinic or a show it's a good learning/ teaching experience for us and our horses. We are there to get feedback and learn new ways of doing things or learn what we need to work on. Once we realize we're not perfect or the shining star of the day we are able to concentrate on what needs to be done to make us better riders. I find that if we turn our minds around and not try so hard things start to come more naturally and we can relax and enjoy the time spent in the saddle. If we were all perfect we would be the ones hosting the clinic and not the ones there to get help. Carmen is beautiful, I love grey horses. I'm sure every new experience is making her more receptive to learning and with time she will be a joy to ride.

    1. Yes I think that it was really good for us- especially after day 3

  8. I also really know how to use too much tension to get an awkward shoulder in. lol! My body is so pleased with itself for all its quick reactions--pulling here/squeezing there--and making a hot mess of it all.

  9. Keep your chin up!

    It's always frustrating when progress is slow - esp if you and the horse as a team regress. You will get there!

  10. Dressage riders are the princesses of the horse world--I always think anyway. Their horses are the most elegant, their posture is the most elegant. It all seems like a story book from my perspective. I feel like western riders are the Cousin Eddies of the group--of which I'm one. LOL. I like your instructor's perspective, but I know it can be slow going. I can also relate to not knowing what you're doing wrong. There are so many things to think about in the saddle--and then the trainer adds more--it's kind of overload until something clicks.

  11. This sounds so much like me and Katai sometimes. You guys do look brilliant in the earlier photos :) Learning is sooo hard!

  12. Hey there!

    Just wanted to let you know that I'm hosting an equestrian blogger contest and you've been nominated!

    Here's the post with the details: http://horsehack.com/2016/09/27/horsehacks-equestrian-blogger-contest/#more-1400

    Let me know if you accept the nomination, I hope you do!! (to accept, please e-mail me at info@horsehack.com)

    Don't forget to spread the word about it and nominate some blogs of your own! :)

    Aryelle Stafford

  13. I've loved this clinic recap - much to think about that applies to my own riding too, thank you! BTW, you two are looking great!

  14. I love love love the shoulder in photo! Hang in there! I hold all my body's tension in my elbows and shoulders (but mostly the elbows). Letting go of that is the hardest thing I have ever done in my riding! Excited to hear your further thoughts :)


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