Monday, January 23, 2012

in which Keegan rocks the Leslie Law clinic

Off I went to Florida for another weekend with forecasts of sunny weather and highs in the 80s. As winter was just making a serious bid in Philadelphia, this was a very good thing. Thursday, I had a stadium jumping lesson on Keegan that went very well. As usual, never mind that I have a green horse, what needed work was me. So, lots of work on keeping eyes up over fences and shoulders up around corners. Then on to a dressage lesson on Godsend that was a lot of fun. He has become quite the trained silly pony and we were able to do shoulder in, half pass, turn on the haunches and get some very nice compression/lengthen at both trot and canter. Then back to Maitland for the next culinary adventure, duck with plum sauce. Quite good, even though I am not the biggest fan of duck, this was nice because it was very lean and well cooked. Friday, after I worked all morning, I tortured rode Finn and then had a dressage lesson on Keegan. He was a bit distracted when we went down to the front arena, but still good. Every time Godsend moved to a different position around the outside of the ring, Keegan cantered a bit faster, though would always come back when asked. We ended up cantering a fair bit and working on the halt a bit, which along with the canter transitions are where I feel the most work is needed at this point. That will no doubt change on a regular basis as green horses always manage to find new things to make you work on. I was also able to get to RDV on Friday evening and take a yoga class. Biggest fitness facility ever, but nice staff, good yoga instructor and it will be a nice fitness opportunity when south. Saturday, was the Leslie Law clinic stadium jumping day. Hilda and I had a slow start morning as I did a bit of work and then was treated to a quail egg breakfast sandwich ( Then headed to Ashmore to pack up the trailer and load Keegan for the Leslie Law clinic. Keegan is getting very good at loading although he is still a bit unclear on the concept of standing on the trailer once loaded, so it helps to have assistance to put up the bar behind him (we took the two horse trailer). Off we went, with me hoping for no repeat of trailer issues from last week as a) I was driving and b) Keegan and I were alone, but all was uneventful. We arrived at Rocking Horse and I was able to put Keegan into a stall next to the lovely Ned Divine, who had just finished the training group at the clinic. I went up and watched a bit of the novice group to let Keegan settle in. Leslie was working with all the riders and horses on the canter. There were jumps, but the idea was that if you could get the right balanced canter, your distance would appear far away and then you could just canter down with nothing changing - neither your horse's tempo nor your body position. Leslie pointed out that he rides a bit more forward than many and advocated a position with the hip over the heel, and the shoulder slightly forward of that, but for small fences over the toe and no further forward than the knee. Once that position (and the canter) are established, the focus is on being still, "sponging" the rein/s a bit if needed for keeping rhythm or line and landing in the the same canter, using the corner as needed to balance, repeat. After watching for a bit, I tacked Keegan, and prepared to lunge him, but given that I had to chase after him smacking him with my bat (hadn't brought a lunge whip) to keep him moving, decided it wasn't necessary and got on and walked and trotted him around a bit. He remained quiet, although very alert. He had lost a shoe earlier that morning, but seemed sound, and the ring at Rocking Horse is lovely, so off we went. Leslie had us trot and canter to warmup and Keegan was very good trotting and cantering with 4 other horses in the ring. It was a big ring, but I was still pleased. Keegan was quite enamored of the motorcycles on SR-19. He wasn't spooky about them, but rather kept staring at them as if trying to figure out if they were friendly and whether joining their "herd" was an option. When it came to the jumping, Keegan was a star. Leslie reminded me to keep my eyes up and my shoulders up (gee, where have I heard that before - or more appropriately is there anywhere I haven't heard that), but Keegan's pace was great, he went straight to the fences, he jumped, I followed, all was good. After a few trips over a vertical with placing poles front and back and a couple jumps over a single gate, next was the line. Vertical, three strides to liverpool, two strides to oxer. Leslie has a nice technique for showing the greenies the fence. You walk up and "chivvy" them a little toward the fence with leg or stick, but hold them from jumping. When Keegan went down the line, he jumped the liverpool as if it were the 100th liverpool he had jumped not the first and only one of the horses had an issue and that particular horse had a pretty significant "go right instead of over" issue not limited to the liverpool. The picture was taken by Cyndi Kurth who came to audit and was kind enough to take and share pictures.
We finished up over another couple of lines, including a five stride to a decently sized one stride. We were then treated to a demonstration of Leslie riding Zenith and telling us a bit about his training process and principles. Zenith is a lovely and talented horse, with both a buck and a spook and apparently a lifelong distrust of liverpools. Leslie did the small vertical several times, raising it higher and higher. Neither the canter nor Leslie's position changed with the change in the fence. Amusingly for those of us watching, neither did the "happy bucks" on landing after every effort. Leslie very quietly sat through them, saying he would never punish a horse for just being happy. Zenith jumped the liverpool by itself first (at the same height as we had in the BN group) after the same bit of chivvying, although he was much spoookier about the liverpool and Leslie had to work fairly hard to get him up to it. He did jump it the first time and each time subsequently, but each time overjumped it and clearly did not really like it. Leslie says he jumps a liverpool at home 3-4 times every week when in work. We are all looking forward to seeing Leslie and Zenith out at the intermediate at Rocking Horse next weekend. Keegan and I headed home (he stood better during loading) and he got turned out with Gizmo and I had a promise from our ever accomodating farrier Mark Male that he would meet me at 6:30 am to get the shoe on before we headed out Sunday morning. Sunday was an early start, as Grace was riding Eddie up at Longwood and had a 9:38 dressage time. Gage was going along for the ride and Keegan and I were getting dropped at Rocking Horse en route. Loading onto the head to head was a bit easier and off we set right on schedule. I pulled Keegan and our stuff off at Rocking horse and put Keegan back in the same stall, where he proceeded to roll and then eat hay. I left him to it and went off to watch the preliminary xc group. There were two riders, Laura Duhamel with her lovely Patrick and Megan Mitchell with Natural Light who is for sale Once again, the focus was on rhythm. Find that canter tempo and keep it. Keep it right up to the fence and keep it as you land and go away from the fence. The horse should only go faster when you close your leg (at which point they should respond immediately). Keep them in front of your leg, but right underneath you at the same tempo whether that is 350, 450, 550... Both riders and horses did very well. It was very interesting watching them figure out the double drop bank, getting better and tidier with each repetition. I then went back and got Keegan out of his stall we walked (both of us) and grazed (only Keegan) while watching the training level group go through the same set of work. There were a couple of horses that were quite keen and one that was a bit slow though always jumping. Leslie worked with the riders on the same ideas. The culmination was at the water jump where all the training riders jumped roll top, two strides to biggish log drop into the water, very impressive. One young rider had gotten into a bit of muddle with the question previously, and Leslie ended up schooling her horse. One lesson he pointed out here was that it is important to get the horse light in your hand so that when have access to their mouth through the reins for steering purposes. They also worked on the up banks with the plan of balance in the bottom of the hollow so you could be riding forward to the banks. Same to the water question, even tempo over the rolltop, then press to the drop. It was fun catching up with Cynthia and Denis Claramunt who were down with Chimene (who had one in the training group) and hearing about all of their horses including their race horses. After his 100 minute walk, Keegan went back in the stall to chill while I caught up with Steph and Gretchen Butts. I then got on Keegan (no attempt to lunge) and headed off onto the xc course. There were six in our group today, the five from yesterday and one addition and our goals were the same. Find the rhythm, keep them straight (especially key with the younsters) and let them jump. And jump we did. We started over 2 logs and a log pile, easy peasy. We then did a little bench to coop. Then the same coop to a log with a tiny bit of terrain to a fox trap. All fine so far. Then we headed to a "log on the lump" type question. Quite an easy one, but with some definite terrain, making keeping the rhythm a bit harder, requiring a little press up the hill. Leslie reminded us to press with our legs, keeping our shoulders up especially at the top as we approached the log so that we did not end up on their neck if they took a little peek or chip. Olivia had a tumble off Louie (the run out right boy), but was unhurt and hopped right back on and made it work. It was almost a fabulous save. We then headed to the ditch. Leslie doesn't like walking the youngsters up to the ditch, but rather has them walk alongside the ditch, where you can leg yield them closer and closer. Keegan was a bit leery, but moved over as I asked him to and jumped both the super tiny side and the BN side of the ditch bravely. Leslie had several in the group jump the training ditch and said he was sure Keegan would do it, but that there was no reason to abuse his generosity. We then headed into the big central field and put some together, working on the steady pace. Keegan jumped around the 5 fences including the kind of scary novice mulch box like he had been doing it all his life. Johnna and her mare looked great, but needed to turn down the speed as Leslie said and so they worked hard on keeping the slower pace with speed adjustments being Johhna's idea. Olivia had great success keeping Louie centered. Lauren and her boy continued to look super, Sarah and her young mare did a great job as did Leyna's great jumping OTTB, Binx. We finished at the water, with no particular new lessons. All the horses were great there and I was really proud of Keegan who jumped down not only the little step into the water, but also over the medium log drop down. All in all a really successful weekend for us. I can highly recommend riding with Leslie and am really looking foward to next weekend and Keegan's first event. Leslie had parting comments to everyone, very personalized to what they had been working on and I really prized his to me, "just keep doing what you've been doing. I see no reason to not just keep moving him along. Just be careful not to abuse his generosity"


Sonya said...

Sounds amazing! The Longwood show was great but I do wish John and I had been at Rocking Horse! This time of year there is so much to choose from! We are so lucky!

Seema said...

So true. I am trying to figure out how to get one horse to Rocking Horse and another to GOJHA in 2 weeks. Will you be at RHI next weekend? Hope to see you there