Monday, January 19, 2015

In which we return to Florida once more

I kicked off my Florida season last weekend with some great lessons on Keegan and Dublin with Hilda.  This weekend was the Leslie Law clinic and Keegan, Keebler and Dublin were all there.  It was also great to see Cyndi Kurth actually riding Bitsy (who was a star). Extra bonus that Cathy Henderson was out from Michigan to spend the weekend enjoying some warm weather and then auditing the Chris Bartles ICP clinic today and tomorrow (Monday and Tuesday).

Saturday was SJ day.  Cathy and I got up in the dark and headed to Oakmore/Ashmore where we loaded Keegan and Dublin, who were both very good. We arrived at Rocking Horse in good time and put them in stalls that Rocking Horse Stables was kind enough to provide for the clinic.  Lauren DeNeve is preparing for an intermediate move-up so she got to have the early morning cold lesson, while Cathy helped me get Keegan tacked (amazing how nice it is having such good help). Jordan was also getting on Keebler as we were both in the P/T group.

The theme of the SJ was control within a stable position.  The idea was to get your horse at the right pace and balance while in a half seat position, avoiding the urge to sit heavy/behind (except in the rare case you thought your horse would stop). We started with exercises that included halting after the fence - first after a single fence going straight and halting, right and halting and left and halting and then after two fences in a straight line, a bending line to the right and a bending line to the left.  The idea was to get the horses listening and to give us practice in making those transitions from a light/half seat position effectively. There was also discussion of the appropriate release, most often a short release in the stadium jumping and for me, softening and dropping my hands in the last strides before the fence. In addition to Keegan and Keebler, Dr. Kimberly Keeton was riding a lovely young mare, an adult rider Tawn Edwards had a very forward thinking mare, and a young rider Ashley was on her TB gelding. There was improvement for all the horses and riders. Leslie got on Ashley's horse and rode him in the position, getting him increasingly balanced and listening.  It is great clinicing with Leslie as there is a great mix of theory and riding practice. He gives the whys of the things he is asking and points out that what he is proposing may or may not work for everyone, but he knows it works for him and tells you how and why.

Seema and Jordan listening to Leslie explain the exercise

Being able to make forward or balancing changes from the half seat means the horse always knows where your body is and doesn't have to think about that allowing more focus on the fence.  The best metaphor of the day - "if you're carrying a monkey in a rucksack on your back, it is much easier to climb a mountain if the monkey is asleep than if it is awake and jumping around."  Or as Missy says to Keegan, "we need to get your mom to quit doing the crazy monkey dance up there."

Cathy headed back to the farm after our group and had a lesson on Ashmore's Amen, a very nice upper level horse that Hilda has for the season. I watched parts of the training level and novice group, which were very similar in their goals and in the exercises.  With the training group, he had them work on awareness of how many strides they were getting in the line and then being able to adjust that - again while remaining in a half seat position. Scott Campbell also fed us lunch. Cyndi was saying how great it is to have Scott (Emily's dad) and Billie (Jordan's mom) at the clinics and events keeping everyone fed and organized. I felt lukcy to be "adopted" for the weekend.

I then got Dublin tacked up, again with Cathy's help as she drove back up following her lesson on Amen. Dublin remained his amazingly quiet self. He hacked over from the barn to the ring, warmed up a little and then stood calmly waiting for the novice group to finish, and then went into the ring and did everything he was asked.  Our lesson was very much the same, but not asking for the level of nuance. For example, we were asked to count our strides, but not to make any goal of a specific number of strides in the lines. Dublin executed 20 meter canter circles going around one fence and between another close together without minding it, he jumped and quietly halted, he jumped bending lines, he jumped the two-stride.  He doesn't always jump clean at this point, as some of his super laid back attitude, includes not being too worried about hitting stuff, but he never says no and he stays completely calm and unflappable.  The other green horses also were good and Bitsy showed them all how it was meant to be done.

After jumping everything, Dublin was much more accepting of glove antlers than Bitsy
Cathy and I loaded the boys up (both were super about drinking water, eating hay and standing quietly in their stalls all day) and headed back to the farm where we turned them out and gave them dinner. We then got dinner for ourselves at the Carmel Kitchen, a new to me and very good retaurant close to Hilda's townhouse and the new Trader Joe's. I also noticed a new sports bar - where I may go for the pro bowl next weekend.

Sunday morning repeated the up early and head to the farm, although we only loaded Keegan this time. My flight home was before the BN novice group would be jumping xc. We arrived and got tacked up and then headed out to cross country.  It was warmer than it had been on Saturday (early at least, it got warmer later). We warmed up over some smaller fences and then moved to a table to table bending line, working on the right line, lots of use of the eye (which was part of Saturday as well) and for me, keeping the hand down and keeping Keegan moving forward so he wouldn't chip to the fences. After that we moved on to the banks.  Keegan stalled (but then went) on the first try and was perfect on the second.  He was also really good going up.  Some of the other horses had some work to do with the up or the down and Lauren joined our group and also schooled the sunken road. We did the training corner (while Lauren did the intermediate), which Leslie deemed as very well done by everyone and then headed to the water. Leslie did say that the two jumps everyone should have in their jump field at home are a corner and a triple brush skinny. He also pointed out that the corner should always be flagged, and put a branch in the bracket to simulate a flag for us. Once at the wather, we walked them through then started jumpming. Lauren's mare has some concerns about jumping up out of the water, so we got to watch and learn as she worked through that.  Leslie pointed out that this is one of those things you can't do much about as a rider.  You need to stay straight and confident, but she probably also needs to try the question broken down in different ways, for example a cross-rail in the water to jump over and understand how to do the footwork in the water. Keegan stalled again at the first drop, but then remembered his job (neither of us had seen a xc fence since Radnor on October 11th). He was super jumping down the preliminary drop (thanks to Billie and Koi Duffet for the video - hopefully, I've loaded it properly). If you can't see the video, he was a star and Leslie even proclaimed it "very good"

We finished up doing the one stride skinny in and out to the corner.  I missed my line the first time, resulting in a drive-by (Keegan had no idea he was supposed to jump something) but then he was very good when I came around the second time and actually pointed him at the fence. Keebler looked fabulous throughout the morning and completely ready for the preliminary move-up later this season. In fact, Cathy said watching him that she assumed he already had preliminary experience, he looked so strong and Jordan had a big smile through the whole thing.

Hopefully, the other groups had a good cross country day. It was a great opportunity for me to knock off the rust and feel ready for the start of our show season next week. Cathy and I loaded Keegan and headed back to the farm, where she got on Maxx (a lovely young horse Hilda has), while I packed up and headed for the airport.  An easy flight and then the slightly long drive home from BWI, but in time for yummy pasta dinner with Henry.  Unfortunately both the Packers and the Colts lost their championship games so the Superbowl will be Seahawks vs Patriots.

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