I was waiting for pictures, but have become too impatient and feel the need to document the weekend clinic while the euphoria is still stronger than the ridiculously cold weather to which I have returned. Hopefully, some pictures will follow.
For the second year in a row, Keegan and I set off to get a jump on our winter season by participating in the Area III Adult Riders hosted Leslie Law clinic at wonderful Rocking Horse Farm in Altoona, Florida. Saturday was stadium jumping day. I arrived at Ashmore, put Keegan in the trailer and headed up. I arrived in time to watch a bit of the preliminary group prior to my ride. Last year, the theme was to develop the proper canter while in your jump position and then to not change to the fence. This year, the theme was supporting the horse (with a slightly raised hand toward your belt buckle) to a forward distance to the base. Leslie emphasized not going for the big distance you see and not softening too soon (and especially not leaning forward) as this leads to the horse chipping in and not being strong to the deep distance, making it much harder. I watched a bit of this and then tacked Keegan up and walked up to the ring (no walking about or preparing him at all this year, and he was totally quiet and focused on his work). Prior to jumping, Leslie had us do some trotting and cantering. The cantering exercise was to canter 12 strides and then walk, then back to canter 12 strides, etc. He ended up getting on Keegan to demonstrate the effectiveness of keeping the hands in line with the horse's mouth, even when the horses head was high, and to resist with the hand while continuing to move the elbow toward the horse's mouth, creating what he described as an "elastic towline effect." Keegan looked quite good after a few minutes of this. Leslie also said to use the spur more to create reaction to the aid rather than kicking. I wear a spur, but have a bad habit of kicking rather than using it. All of this with the supporting hand. We then moved on to jumping with the theme of the raised supporting hand. To practice this technique, there were turning questions. We started with a vertical, serpentine turn to an oxer, serpentine turn to repeat the two fences in the opposite direction. That went fairly well. Then we did vertical, serpentine turn to oxer, serpentine turn to a box under a rail and roll-back turn to a triple-bar. Keegan launched over the triple-bar (though from a good canter and distance - he was just a bit impressed, having never jumped a triple bar before). I was jumped out of the tack a bit, but managed to recover to the final vertical. There were 4 other riders in my group. First was Allison and her lovely mare, making a guest appearance from the jumper world. Allison had the technique down very well and it showed as her mare reached good distances from a powerful stride to virtually every jump. She did have her head high enough that Leslie said he would definitely try a losely adjusted running martingale, though wasn't sure how it would work. Then there was Lauren on her DWB cross. This was a very honest jumping horse that simply lacked some motivation (Leslie's term). Leslie rode it over the fences a bit, adding a bit of stick behind the leg at take-off. He pointed out that it was important that the use of the stick involved minimal movement away from the rein, and did it very smoothly producing more enthusiastic impulsion to the jumps. Sandra was riding an Irish mare that whe only acquired in the spring. She had a bit of a temper, but was a very good jumper and Sandra rode her very well. Last was Barbie on her great jumping Connemara pony. They were very good at these exercises. The second exercise was to jump a vertical (the one finishing the prior exercise), turn 90 degrees to a bridge cut out jump and then do either the 5 (straight) or the 6 (bending) stride line to the triple (vertical, oxer, oxer - 2 stride to one stride) and then a 90 degree turn to the box fence. The first time I did it, I missed the distance badly, although Keegan saved me and got himself through with no hesitation, despite the poor distance and lack of power. Leslie talked to me about the position of my hands and how to ride the line and I went back to a vaguely better attempt and then on the third attempt a very successful line, including a very tidy effort to the box, which hadn't occurred the first two times. Everyone else had a better go, although Sandra did it twice to work out the best line for the six strides for her mare. We ended there and I headed straight back to Ashmore, not staying to watch the novice groups, but hearing reports that they also went well.
Sunday, my group was all back (even Allison, who had claimed that she wasn't going to do the cross country). We started over some logs, which was easy-peasy and then moved on the the log on the lump, which went very well for everyone. I seemed to be riding better cross country than I had in the stadium and the raised, supporting hand was really working well for Keegan. We continued on to the ditches. After a bit of hesitation at the small one, he was great over the bigger ditch as were the rest of the group. We then did the bounce bank up, which was excelent. Barbie was a bit nervous about this one, but Leslie explained that she needed to trust and support as her pony needed to take a longer reaching stride to make the distance, and they looked really good the second time up. Keegan was careful as was Sandra's mare on the first go, but they both attacked the banks enthusiastically on the second go. Then off to the water. Small drop and log drop great. Drop with funny footing a little shuffling, but off he went. Of course, I slipped my reins too much and really missed the line to the (quite big) chevron out, leading to Keegan trotting over it from two strides away (good super-Keegan). The second time, I managed my knitting better and it was super fun. Leslie got back on to school Lauren's horse down the bigger drop as he was having a bit of an issue with it (none of the rest of us did that bigger drop). It got well sorted and Lauren was also able to take him down the drop. We finished up with a bending line question that all the horses were very good to. It is always surprising how well they jump those questions (if they don't have run out issues). I think we get more nervous about them as riders than we need to.
For xc, after getting Keegan put away, I headed out to watch the novice groups jump cross country. Leyna was there with Mr. Binx, looking very grown up and jumping well. Johnna and her guy were there from last year. He also seemed more settled and not rushing the fences. Sam was there on a big guy who wanted to run to the fences a bit. The raised hand seemed to help with him as well. I don't remember as much about the other two riders, Patricia and Maureen, but both had good sessions as well.
I then watched the final group which included Jordan riding Keebler. After only 10 days together, they were ready to tackle the clinic. Leyna was also back with Riley, her new young TB/Clyde cross. Lauren was there on her lovely Chase (they were in our group last year) and Dena was there on her (relatively) new guy. Very impressively, this group went off and tackled almost all of the questions that we did. They did the lump on the log in both directions. They did the little ditch and the big ditch. They did the bounce bank up. They did the log drop into the water (although they didn't do the drop to the chevron). They also did some additional galloping fences and a slightly different bending line as well as some other turning exercises. I was amazed at how good Keebler was. Leslie described him as "totally genuine." He and Jordan looked like seasoned partners and everything looked quite effortless. Leyna had to work a bit harder as her guy is very green, but he is quite a good jumper and was very brave to ditches and water. The turning was the bigger issue than the jumping as is so often the case early in the training process of a young horse, but Leyna handled him very well and they ended up jumping everything. Lauren and Dena also had excellent rides, both of their horses having the occassional "cheeky" moment, which they quietly sat through and proceeded from. Cyndi was there taking video and photos, so I hope to be able to add some soon. Jordan's mom was there a bit nervous - but absolutely no need. It was altogether a wonderful day, with perfect weather, a super clinician and great horses. Thanks to the organizers, Rocking Horse and especially Leslie.
There were two loose horse episodes on Sunday, but neither invovled a clinic horse. No falls at all for anyone participating.