|This pic from day two. No day one pics need to exist.|
The pictures are in, so it's time to properly recap an incredibly educational and informative clinic.
The first day we spent a lot of time on pace. It was like learning a new language--I guess I didn't realize that H/J folks have their own words and definitions for everything. In case you are wondering, it's like this:
Walk is 4 mph
Collected trot (is ALWAYS sitting) and 6 mph
Rising trot is 8 mph
Canter is 10-12 mph
Hand gallop is 14 mph
We also had to work on the four different seats:
Light - doing courses, downbeat of post, sitting trot
Half - up beat of post, jumping
Full - walk, canter
Driving - at a sticky fence
|Day two, but I love his expression|
I'm happy to learn new terms and understand a different world, but then she had us practice. In formation. We had to maintain a set distance between each of us, about two strides as we did ring figures. We were working on precision and decision making as we demonstrated the various seats. I kept having to cut corners to keep the pace with our very aggressive leader.
I'll be honest. Cuna completely lost his marbles over having horses chase him and all he would do was fling his head and prance on the forehand while trying to race. While an 8mph trot is not normally had for us, we struggled. Badly. And didn't do well at all. I was beginning to question the point of the whole thing, when we finally started jumping.
Cuna was a nutter. His brain was pretty fried from all the "racing" we'd been doing, so pretty much all he would do was dance around and then CHARGE anytime I put the slightest bit of pressure on him. I was hoping we'd jump through a big, built up gymnastic that would settle him, but not so! Instead we trotted over a crossrail, 4 strides to an oxer, 3 strides to a vertical, headed towards home.
I was like, "Well, this is why we're in a clinic. Either she can help us or not." And wouldn't you know, she did.
Basically, she said that I have to change the rider's balance in order to change the horse's balance. Instead of holding Cuna up and pulling against him, I have to completely let go after the jumps, regain my own balance, and then try to influence his with a big half halt on both reins.Given that I knew I wouldn't screw my horse up if I tried,I gave Julie's way a shot.
Wouldn't you know, it worked. He certainly didn't settled, but I was able to be a lot softer and more effective with him.
|Giant bit making things smooth|
I decided to be smarted on day two and I pulled out the giant jumping bit. I thought she might ask me about it and why I changed it, but I guess that was probably pretty obvious, haha. Forward girl and the nutter horse obviously needed something.
On day two, we talked about releases. I've read George Morris' book on them, but honestly? No one has ever demonstrated them to me, taught me what they feel like, or explained how to do them correctly. The closest I'd ever gotten was being told, "We don't give releases on XC" in an attempt to keep beginners from launching their upper bodies at solid fences on green-at-best horses, haha.
|Cantering over the wall|
Here's a rundown of the releases Julie had us do:
Mane - several strides out, put both hands in mane. Keep them there until several strides after the jump. It's the most basic and it allows the most freedom.
Long crest - Once horse commits to jump, put your hands about 2/3s of the way up his neck. Keep hands up for several strides past the jump. This allows horse to move up after the jump.
Short crest - Hands about a third of the way up the neck. Less loop in the rein than the first two. This gives control after jump and is the most common release on course.
Automatic - Keep contact with the horses mouth, hands off the neck for upper body balance is independent. This release gives rider the most control, but is the hardest to do.
Oh, and in case you are wondering, a simple change is through the collected trot or walk, 3-5 strides. Only ever. This may have come up. Ooops.
We moved on to courses. Well, actually to a single crossrail. We demonstrated each release over the cross rail and talked about why it would be used, then did them in courses.
|Only spooky if you're chicken|
First we did a mane release at the teeny brick wall, just to practice doing it. Then we did a long release over a little oxer, to encourage the horses to open up their strides and gallop forward to a green vertical. We did a short release over the vertical because we had to bring them back for a right rollback over a spooky looking jump at which we did an auto release.
|Nothing to run away from|
The funny part was that Cuna responded SO WELL to what Julie was having us do that his stride actually got way too short. Usually, I can count on him to be a little rushy (since I gun him at jumps) and to get longer and longer as a course goes on. Giving him a loopy rein after the jumps was making him really happy and the teeny jumps didn't scare me, so I didn't rev his engine. In fact, we had to do the last course several times because I was putting five in the four.
|Long release over the tiny oxer. My fav shot of the weekend.|
I was thrilled that he had this little SJ canter and that we were just loping around and Julie thought maybe we should you know, actually DO THE EXERCISE. The last time we galloped through on a loopy rein. It was lovely.
My take away? I would love to ride with Julie again. I audited the sessions I wasn't riding in, and she taught something different to every group. As an auditor, that makes a clinic 100% better. Different ideas, different exercises. She was direct, but when riders did as she said, their horses improved. She has an excellent eye and a sympathetic view of horses.
I will say that if you think you're hot stuff and you don't actually want to learn, but just want to show how awesome you think you are, don't bother signing up. ;) Not worth either of your time. If you come to ride and learn, she is great.