Saturday, January 7, 2012

I'm turning into a clinic hussy!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

So... This weekend we went to Paradise Farm in Aiken, SC. And know.. it really is Paradise. I'm soooo moving there!!! The sunsets were phenomenal, the sky a gorgeous blue and I even saw a shooting star admist the thousands!!! Seriously.... GORGEOUS place.. again, sooo moving there! And as Lellie said the cross country course was like "riding on clouds" after their rain. They must have gotten a huge amount of rain but the footing was perfect!!! And..there is abundant wildlife!! - deer, armadillos', and even a woodpecker! ;)
So anyways... back to the clinic. It was with Robin Walker, from England originally! And WOW!!! He is FANTASTIC!!!! Those who didn't go sure missed out. It was amazing the knowledge and skill he had and how easily he could teach it to us! So Saturday was dressage first. We lucked out because the clinic didn't fill but because the person organizing it needed Robin to assess her for getting her ICP status, it still went on. There was only us 7 riders and then Lellie joined in with her three devils. So anyways, since it didn't fill we were awarded the dressage lesson as a "freebie"! Very very lucky because it was a fantastic lesson for us all. Fleck and I came in and he was being pretty good. I told Robin that our issues were straightness at the canter (him throwing his haunches in) and that we both tended to just get fast. Fast in general! He asked if Fleck had an "agenda" and I told him no, but...maybe he does!! So anyways... Robin let us "have a go"! (that's british talk!!) and watched us for a few minutes and then dived right in. He told me that I was weak in my core and let Fleck pull me out of position. And then Fleck got heavy. And that I was riding Fleck just a bit faster than the tempo he would be most athletic in. So we worked on slowing my whole body down. It wasn't just slowing my post, but slowing my core down! So that seemed to help a bit. Then we jumped right into the canter. And HOLYMOLY if we didn't end up with the straightest canter ever!! But before that.. it got pretty awful! hee hee... He had me ride a 20 meter circle than down the quarterline but focus on straight ahead and a slight shoulder-in. I had to keep Flecks' head and neck straight, which was difficult cause I tend to put too much bend in his neck in an effort to get the shoulder-in. So...that went okay. Then he had me ride a square at the canter. Almost a canter pirouette in each corner. Well that showed very very quickly that going right was the easy side! I expected it to be the hard side cause that's his weak side and my weak side and I thought he would fall in on me and collapse. But actually, he was fairly decent on that side. Then we went the other way and Robin told me that he fully expected it to go like this "canter, you'll collect him, and turn, then he'll bolt out a bit, get frazzled, you'll fight him, and end up jumping out of the ring"... or something along those lines. So we started and Wow.... definitely showed the holes! Fleck totally blew out the outside... I basically have no outside aids going right! I am guessing it's a combination of my weakness, Fleck's weakness, and....not realizing I need them. So Fleck totally blew out the outside aids and we both got all frazzled. The Robin tells me to drop my stirrups because he's still pulling me off balance. Argh!!! But I put up a pretty good go! My thighs are still screaming though ;) But it did help cause I was able to sit more because I wasn't bracing on my stirrups. So anyways... we're trying to get through it and Robin tells me to quit trying to be so perfect... to which at the very next corner Fleck promply gives me the finger and jumps out of the dressage arena!!!! ACCCKKK!! It was almost exactly how Robin predicted it. I was mortified!! What do i do?!?! So then...I turned... and trotted him and jumped back in and then I couldn't help it.. I started to giggle. Well....apparently that set Robin off and he started laughing too. Phew! So it was great... hee hee. So anyways... then we got back in and actually did a fairly decent job. So then... we went back to the full arena and did the straight lines again. And WOW!!!! Fleck was straight and up and soft in both shoulders. No collapsing on one side... and he started to wiggle a bit... not throwing his haunches or anything.. just wiggling, and I was able to correct it!!! And I could be wrong, but I swear at one point Fleck started to wiggle/drift one way and I shifted my weight and put my leg on and he did a flying change!!! It was marvelous!!! Now maybe...maybe he didn't swap behind, but ... I can pretend can't I? So it was fantastic! And then I was done! Jeffie laughed that we finally found something to wear me out. And apparently Fleck too!! He was a tired boy. It was just fantastic to say "I can't get him to canter straight" and then BAM!! it's fixed!! Now granted, I realize I will have to continue to do those exercises and work my butt off but atleast we know he can do it!!!

So anyways... the ponies got a bit of a break and we had lunch. Then was our stadium lesson. This was a group lesson. Robin set up a giant circle of jumps. It was about 6 or 7 jumps in a circle with a stride or two between each one on the ring and then a 4 stride line between each jump. There was multiple options as far as which line we wanted to take.. straight, bending, or straight diagonal. And it was great because you could just weave in and out of them all and pick at your random pleasure and keep the horse guessing. They stopped rushing and anticipating and started waiting. And..the other bonus as Robin pointed out, you could keep jumping after knocking one or two down...didn't have to get off until you knocked them all down! hee hee. So we did that and everyone did great. Fleck and I were having issues a little bit. He was tired and I'm so used to checking him that I wasn't quite sure how to ride him more forward. So we had a bunch of awkward distances but eventually sorted ourselves out. The bending lines tend to get me. I either started turning too early or waited too late. But I eventually got the feel for it and had some nice lines. We even threw a skinny into the mix. It was a good day!
We ended up staying at the Days Inn about 15 minutes away. It was super nice and had the best shower ever!! So we slept good and I complained about my sore thighs.. and then we got up again for XC day :)
The weather was PERFECT!!! It was sunny... not a cloud in the sky... and a fantastic 75 degrees with just a slight crisp in the wind that was very mild. Perfect for schooling XC. We got started and warmed up and got Fleck listening and paying attention. It was a little easier for me today because the normal Fleck was back... the Fleck that wants to go, go, go! But he behaved himself really really well and was very responsive. So anyways.. we then went to the banks and I told Robin that I have a hard time with my position. So he told me to "land on my feet" (meaning.. keep the weight in my heels, not land on my feet instead of my butt!) and to "soften the reins". The first time I held too much with the reins which made Fleck launch.. which of course, you can't ride nicely at all. So then I "softened the reins" instead of throwing them away or holding too much. For some reason, it finally clicked. I don't have to drop them completely... just open my fingers and let him take what he needs, which isn't too much. So that was great and seemed to really work well. I was also better with my position and landed in balance which meant that even though I actually had my reins... i really didn't need them. I wasn't scrambling around on top of him trying to get settled, I was already settled and able to steady him. It was great. So we did the drop to a brush and then moved on to the ditches. Next was the roll-tops 2 stride combo. Which we all just rocked on!!! Fleck was fantastic and Robin actually told me I needed a bit more the first time. Wow!!! When was the last time we heard that?!? never!!! We always hear...slow down!! less!!! So it was great fun. Then we did that to a sharp left turn, slight drop down the hill over a log, then down the hill to the ditch. And it was a pretty steep hill. The first time we did it we sorta went careening down the hill... like a slalom skier... we drifted left, we drifted right... and we managed it, but it wasn't pretty. So I asked to do it again and holy straightness!!!!! We nailed it!!! And Fleck and I went straight as an arrow down that steep hill and sailed over the ditch. Even Lellie was impressed!!! yay! So then we moved on to the water. We jumped in and out and worked on the position on the drops. Then at the very end Jeffie asked to do the training level combo at the water and we both did it! It was a big hanging log, one stride, then a jump into the water. (jump/drop into water.. there was a log at the top of the drop). Then we turned through the water and jumped a hanging log that wasn't in the water but was..out. So the first time we did it I sorta wimped out and just crept up to it and Fleck put in two strides and...managed, but it wasn't that pretty. So the second time I came into it with a bit more and WOW!!! Fleck sailed through that combo like a pro!!! It was fantastic!!! And I realized that maybe... the drops everywhere would be a bit easier if I got brave and cantered in with a bigger (still not BIG... bouncy canter but a bit more ooomph) canter.
So all in all, a very fantastic weekend. I attacked two of my biggest issues (well.. two of my most annoying issues at the moment) head on and got them pretty much sorted out. It was gorgeous weather, great friends, great farm, and great teacher!!!
I will definitely do whatever I can to ride with Robin again!!

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