Monday, October 30, 2017

Zoebird Goes to a Clinic

I signed Zoe up for her first-ever fancy dressage clinic for last weekend. I mean. The mare is W/T/barely C so it seemed a bit preemptive to be like "yeah totes I'll pay $$$ to have someone tell me she's not broke", but I'm really, Really, REALLY picky about instructors I'll ride with and I wanted to support the clinician coming in. (Background: last time she came, a friend who has a hot, sensitive off-breed horse rode with her and the clinician went through stuff it took me MONTHS to work out on my own with C in about 30 seconds. WUT TAKE MY MONEY.) 
tired clinic baby

Anyways. I went to audit/check out the route and parking conditions on Friday and watched lovely riders on lovely horses have lovely rides and while I still liked the clinician, I was kinda like, "What am I doing here?" 

I mean. As much I as love my smooshy mare, a finished dressage horse she is not. We like toodling and adventures. We aren't super cool and good at stuff. 

The organizer kindly offered to let me come a couple hours early so Zoe could hang out and acclimate before our ride. 
open bars=social hour

I need to start getting used to this, but Zoe was so low-drama that it was absurd. She's all O HAI EVERYONE IM ZB and that's that. Literally put her in the stall with hay and didn't hear a peep out of her. 
MUST SMOOSH

It was the first off-property "work" outing for both of us and one of us was definitely having some OTTB PTSD (me) and so got ready plenty early just in case there was shit to be lost (also me). 
stall+paddock

Zoe was all "O HAI CHICKENS IM ZB" and "O HAI HORSES" and that was pretty much it. I did put her on the lunge line and then I saw ZOEWILD.

Which means.

She cantered TWO CIRCLES with her tail up. 

Then was am "AM TIRED WALKIN NOW".

Time to go! I hopped on and was having an almost out of body experience like OMFG AM I DEAD BUZZING AHHHH and Zoe was like "Y R THIS EXCITING WE R WALKIN". 

Giggle. Baby mare. 

The instructor had us doing some interesting stuff:

1) Diamond shape - circles, especially on babies, kinda get all over the place and aren't super useful. Instead she set out 4 markers and had us make a diamond shape around them. This made me be very honest about where we were and where I was placing her feet. Leaning in/out was super obvious and the straight lines between the markers were telling. 
go around markers

2) Following her nose - Zoe isn't trained/balanced enough to really understand moving off my leg to correct straightness issues at this point, so instead, I had to keep Zoe's body in line with her nose all the time. If we leaned in, then point her nose out and steer out. Or the reverse. The diamond shape was helpful for this. If you're bulldozing cones, you're leaning in. FYI. 

3) Shoulders up - At this point in her development, ZB is a bit downhill and pulls herself around with her shoulders. To help her overcome this, it is critical to keep her poll the highest point. If I ask her to stretch down at this point, she'll just trip over her own head (it's... happened) and run downhill. The stretch will come after she learns to lift the base of her neck. For now, head up. 

4) Giving - at the halt ONLY because of aforementioned tripping-over-own-head issue, we did a cool exercise where I'd ask Zoe to halt, then hold one rein steady and give the other forward. This isn't a seesaw on the mouth thing or whatever--just give one rein and wait for her to soften. If she went backwards, I'd ask her to step up and halt again because we never pull or go backwards onto the bit. If she lost ambition, I would "fluff" her with my leg but not have her step forward. Once she gave on one rein, we'd switch to the other. 

5) Forward - I love toodling and it showed. "Walk to the rhythm of the trot" was something I head a lot. Also MARCH and ONETWOTHREEFOUR. At this point, I need to be very concerned with rhythm for Zoe and that rhythm needs to be CONSISTENT and GOING FORWARD. --This one is kind of funny for me because I have so much baggage with C that I had some anxiety about really moving out. In the context of this lesson though, I got tools to manage the forward (HANDS UP REINS SHORT) and it all felt really comfortable. 


6) Half Stop - at a more polished stage, it would be a half halt. At this point, we want Zoe with me and listening to me so when it feels like she's lost her balance forward or is pulling down on the reins, ask her to stop and then the moment I feel her slow down, go on again. This was tricky for me, because again, I'm used to hot horses so I kept asking for a BIG stop and she'd stop. And then we were stopped. Ooops. I definitely need to get more sensitive and release AS SOON AS she gives vs getting too excited about whoa. 

7) GoStopGO - Clinician had us canter left HANDS UP GOING FORWARD and it actually felt really good. Then she's like CANTER RIGHT and I definitely did not tell her we'd never cantered right before. Zoe gave the same effort she's given at home--plowing forward at the trot and almost falling down, but not quite cantering. Clinician wanted her quicker off the leg with her hind end going quicker. Aka. Make her hotter. This is something I DEFINITELY would NOT have done on my own because again, OTTB PTSD. But instead, we did a series of very crisp, prompt W/T/W/T/W and revved the engine, creating a desire to go forward. Then we attempted to go W/T/C in about 5 strides and if she didn't get it right away, came back and revved the engine a little more. It took a little bit (mostly for me to accept that this wasn't a scary idea) and then BAM canter right. What's more, with the front end lifted and the forward moving thing, it was actually a super fun canter to ride. 
canter!
After the first canter right, we did the giving exercise again. Zoe had a full-blown Zoemeltdown. 

Which is to say. 

She stood there and flipped her head for a while. And then she was like FINE and stopped. 
#zoewild meltdown

When we finished, we were both completely exhausted but Zoe had a big, soft learning eye and my little mind was blown. It was so good to push ourselves a little and find out what we were capable of and working towards. I needed someone to a little bit hold my hand and a little bit kick my butt to move us forward. Plus, Zoe is just such a different horse from anything I've ever had--it was so good to get more input on how to ride her more effectively. 

And because I am just so proud of my baby mare, here are things the clinician said about her:
Oh, she's really smart. 
She's going to be so easy to get on the bit.
She moves forward so nicely! 
She is going to be a really fun one.

Oh yeah. That's just a grand prix dressage trainer saying lovely things about lil Ms. ZB. 

It was a great experience for both of us and I'm excited to do our homework to get ready for next time. 
and now we are so tired

46 comments:

  1. SoMuchCuteOmg! This clinic experience sounds so amazing and positive for both of you. Definitely stealing some of these excercises for my toddler turtlebred ;)

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    1. I’ve never had to “make a horse hot” before. It’s a whole different ride for me.

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    2. I’m working on this too. It’s so weird to throw your hands up and forward but I’ll be darned if it doesn’t get a prompt canter upwards every time! Such fun things for you two to work on!

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  2. OOoh! I like that revving the engine idea. I think that would work for me.

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    1. There is video—https://youtu.be/1Kdve9hgQcU

      If you want to see it in action.

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  3. Glad you had such a good/productive/mind-blowing clinic!

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    1. Me too!! Definitely gave me the tools I need to move forward. :-)

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  4. She looks so wild. Like, whoa, insane mare. Really though, I'm glad you're having fun on something a little less PTSD-inducing.

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  5. She is a lovely, lovely horse and I'm glad you had such a good experience. Moving past the PTSD is hard, but it will get easier!

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    1. Definitely. It is getting easier, but I just need to get out there and do stuff with her.

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  6. Yay for a successful and educational outing! Miss ZB is such a good egg and I'm so excited for you 😁

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  7. Zoe has the best brain. Also that trot is amazing.

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  8. so many excellent takeaways! sounds like a super productive ride, esp in developing the tools to keep the mare engaged and learning!

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    1. She is just so different from anything I've ever spent time on.It's a learning curve, but a fun one.

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  9. Love the ZB and SB too. I'm so happy you guys had a fun lesson!

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  10. Glad you guys had fun and learned a lot :)

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  11. You guys look amazing and it sounds like a really incredible experience especially for a baby horse.

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    Replies
    1. Auditing clinics is nice, but damn there is nothing like riding.

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  12. That's so fantastic. As you get to know and trust her more, you'll be making serious progress in no time. YAY for ZoeBird!

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  13. Sounds like she was absolutely insane during the clinic. :) Seriously though, lots of super learning and GREAT progress!

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    1. Well when the wind picked up suddenly, she did have to turn and look at the table cloth blowing in the wind. So I'd say things are getting pretty serious.

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  14. Yay, awesome clinic! And lol aww, tired mare-face. I've experienced one of those - took BO's mom's mare to her first ever clinic, and I'm honestly not sure which of us was more exhausted at the end of the day; she had her nose in the dirt and I fell over hilariously when I dismounted.

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    1. Omg. I was SO SORE the next day. It was bad.

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  15. Woohoo! Excellent instruction is so worth the money. You and Zoe are rockstars!

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  16. I loved everything about this post. Like EVERYTHING. You, ZB, the clinician, the cones, how happy you were, how sweet Zoe is. I think this clinic came at just the right time.

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    1. It was the perfect outing at the perfect time. I'm not used to things working out so well.

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  17. And I'm betting the clinician DIDN'T say "I want one like her only nicer"... Go you - sounds like a really good lesson.

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  18. You two are going to be a team to watch out for with a little time and miles! She sound so perfect, Aimee. I'm so freaking happy/excited for your journey together.

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  19. Haha I used to have to make Pig quicker on the aids with similar exercises, but it was such a careful line between quicker on the aids and OH GOD TOO HOT! Glad you got so many great things to work on and the kick in the pants you needed! Sometimes we all need those.

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    1. Yeah it definitely makes Zoe a little different ride that I'm still wrapping my brain around.

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  20. What a fantastic lesson! Sounds like it was pretty intense compared to the norm and she handled it great!
    I use the holding and giving a fair amount with young ones and/or distracted ponies kind of a lot. It's a surprisingly useful tool!

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    1. I'm so proud of her--we step up the work load and she's still right there trying.

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  21. LOOK AT YOU GUYS. LOOK!!! Your internet fan club going wild over here!! That lesson sounds so fun! And legit! Clearly the exercises worked because you look like you could march right in at 1st level tomorrow!

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  22. I haven't been able to read blogs in almost a year so I had no idea that Courage was rehomed or that you bought Zoe. I'm sad to see Courage go, but it sure looks like Zoe is a lot of fun. I can't wait to learn more about her. Congrats on your successful clinic.

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