Clinic of a lifetime- William Fox- Pitt!

That’s right, not only was I in Kauai for a holiday, but I had to rush back to attend the William Fox-Pitt clinic in Chilliwack the next weekend! (I am a hunter rider who dabbles in bad dressage, but hey, you can ALWAYS learn from an Olympian!).

See a bit about his story here.

William Fox-Pitt

William Fox-Pitt

I literally did rush back, took the red-eye flight from Kauai, hopped on the Skytrain, went to the station and got on the Greyhound. Rode the Greyhound into Chilliwack, called a cab, and cabbed to the Heritage Centre.

The first day- the day I missed the majority of- was dressage, and as much as I hate to say it, dressage in my view is more of a personal victory type of riding. Not so flashy, not so thrilling and difficult to describe to other people why you’re so excited about it…

So, the first day I got there around 2 p.m. and watched the upper-level riders work on their dressage and it was a bit boring. We left around 6 p.m. to head out for dinner – I was hungry- it was a LONG DAY and I needed a bellini or something to clear my head, haha.

The next day we got up super early (for me, ugh was still tired) despite my protests that I was SURE we didn’t have to get up to go that early…We didn’t, by the way. HAH!

Jumping was much more interesting. So interesting…Here’s what I picked up.

  • Horses need to ‘lock in’ to a jump. Ears pricked, looking interested.
  • By keeping them on their toes, they learn to anticipate the jump. This means doing warm up jumps at a trot and walk (eek), and doing strange things like all skinnies, and bounce skinnies!
  • Reins are pretty much always too long.
  • Rider bodies need to stay back. The bigger risk is jumping ahead or leaning up the neck. If in doubt, wait it out. Be still.
  • Hands mostly need to come down. I’m bad for this one jumping too, my hands raise up really high.
  • Watch the track- you mostly always have time in a line to turn, so don’t swivel your body to turn too early. Riders mostly turn too early than too late.
  • Jumping one handed-particularly on a tough track with tons of inside turns- REALLY makes you keep your body back!
  • Dressage is so important (I know I just said it was boring, yeah to watch, but the flexibility and bend developed there helps with the aforementioned inside jumping one-handed..)
  • People who look very impressive online seem to ride totally psycho horses that look extremely unpleasant to handle and ride. That was a real surprise.
  • A lot of horses in the clinic were pro rides and very tough looking to ride. There is a good reason I am an amateur!

If you’re interested in more clinic recaps by the riders, be sure to check out Eventing Nation’s article on it.

Installing the ‘go’ button NOT the ‘eject’ button??

Today’s recap is going to be about the clinics I watched with Jan Ebeling and my lesson yesterday on Oats (hence the ‘go’ button not ‘eject’ button. He gets those confused, apparently. Or maybe I do?).

Jan is funny, erudite and very nice. His clinics were forward-focused (funny it was definitely the theme of the entire weekend- how do you fix riding/horse problems? MORE LEG LEG LEG! (as per every clinician, all weekend.)

I am starting to see that a BIG problem in my riding is that Oats is not forward off my leg, and let’s face it- not at all broke to the leg very well.

Hm…definitely something I have either caused, or let happen through laziness/attrition/ not wanting to rock the boat too much.

Jan was very interesting to watch- he schooled riders to ‘push’ and then ‘let go’ when they got what they wanted from the horse. He believes strongly in warming up and transitions through the gaits- big trot, small trot, then walk, then trot. If your transitions are unschooled, your other work will suffer.

He also was a big believer in FORWARD to the downward transition, rather than letting them ‘schlump’ through it.

Check him out here

He is fair and very kind to the horse/riders combos. His big takeaway is to be flexible, and be fun about what you’re doing- it’s not ALL bad. Ha.

(He should have seen Oats yesterday!)

So that take me to Oats, naturally. He felt sucked-back and pissy on our first ride on Monday, that I sort of solved by cantering immediately over poles and working over crossrails instead of doing the usual walk-trot-canter warmups. That worked pretty well actually.

Except on Tuesday, our challenging lessons with Karen Brain, his sucked-back pissyness was definitely on display.

It was interesting (and frankly scared me and wigged me out) we are in a BIG grey area. Oats is finding other behaviours- rather than straight out bucking- to get around what I’m asking. So…instead of forward trot with bend, he’s trying to canter. Sometimes throws a buck- in all fairness, he only did that one yesterday to the left. It’s not all ‘bad’ but it’s also not all ‘good’…It’s just…there.

He’s trying these other behaviours, and Karen felt like he’s slowly getting ‘there’ but bringing up these other attempts to see what he can sort of get away with. So, I guess I can’t punish him for trying??

It was funny though and SO EXHAUSTING when I was like, forward-trot-bend and he’s like…canter-suckback- neck in air. He does this funny ‘prop’ up when he was trying to canter and it felt like when he tries to launch me, so I got kind of grabby…which is the wrong response. I had to ‘fix’ it by either circling, or letting him canter but really working the canter- left bend right bend left bend right bend. He doesn’t just get to cruise.

Over and over and over and over…

We did circles, oh, did we ever do circles. I felt dizzy!

Then our circles weren’t forward enough (jesus lady, I was getting tired at that point haha) so Oats thought a circle meant a chance to suck back again. ARGH.

My butt and leg cramped up. We were soaked in sweat. It was frustrating, I got annoyed and kind of mad, and Oats was just barely, grudgingly, giving me what I wanted. PHEWWW.

(oh and you should have seen our ‘discussion’ about picking out his hooves nicely before my ride. Apparently Oats feels like he should be allowed to snatch his hind hoofies away from me, rudely. I had another idea about that !!! Nothing pisses me off more than that. Frig!)

I am feeling sore today and think I will give him a day to think things over (and I need a break to go for a run maybe).

Horses. Why does it always feel like 1 step forward and then 3 steps back???

The Great George Morris

I know I posted some funny (and snarky) memes of George Morris last week, but let me tell you- I really enjoyed his sessions- but woooah he is a tough one.

He is also personable and has some funny stories- did you know he was the gas station attendant in the film ‘Psycho’? And he was involved in acting (after his father, the Wall Street stockbroker, called him a ”horse bum” for his equestrian career)? Well, I guess I should add that he ‘was’ involved in acting, and did perform in a few Edward Albee plays where he was onstage naked!

Psycho

Psycho

His dad asked him about that horse career, anyways…After that performance, I guess horses didn’t look so bad!

I don’t want to write and write about the clinics- I filmed a few clips, that I will share instead. I think it’s better to hear it from his voice anyways.

Check them out here

They were great, it was good to watch nice riders actually having issues with their horses- not just perfect, by-rote horses and riders. So that made it a bit more interesting, watching them overcome challenges- they all did, by the way. Riders fell off, got refusals, had bucky/hot/rearing horses and they all got over themselves and figured it out.

Good coaching!

I was lucky enough to attend a Q&A session after with George Morris and Jan Ebeling, which was funny and interesting, and gave me some hilarious insight into the life of a professional equestrian.

Oh and a quick Oats update- rode yesterday after Oats had three days off- he was a bit pissy/balky when I got on, so I immediately rode him forward and went straight into my ‘eye’ exercises (counting down to poles and then x-rails) and that woke him up. We didn’t even do any trot really…He was too pissy, so I went straight to canter, and cantered over poles. We moved back down to trot/circle/transition work once I felt like I had him more cooperative.

All in all, a fairly good ride.

Lessons learned from the Mane Event! (Part 1 of many)

So this past weekend I attended the Mane Event in Chilliwack- mostly because George Morris was going to be teaching a clinic, and you do NOT miss a George clinic if he comes to your area (or near you at all, as it were).

Was it worth it? SO much!

I’ll probably break this down over a few days, as I do have some Youtube videos I want to upload to add to my posts.

Because I don’t have them uploaded yet, I will start with the one that I didn’t video- the Trainer’s Challenge session that I watched with Brandi Lyons, the daughter of famed horseman John Lyons.

The Trainer’s Challenge gives the trainers a young, mostly unhandled and unbroke colt, and gives them three days to work their magic for the audience in 1-hour sessions each day. At the end of the three days, the judges watch their demonstration of what the colt can do, and tallies up the points awarded to them throughout the weekend to determine the winner.

This was day 2 (I didn’t watch day 1 or day 3- have to work) and I was pretty impressed. She did some basic groundwork, leading, slapping around the saddle, hopped up and worked on getting bend and response. The colt was definitely one of the fussy ‘make me’ types.

She said something that really resonated with me- shared a story she heard:

One woman who was having a baby said ”I really hope my child and I can be friends. I hope they like me when they grow up.”

The other woman said, “When my baby grows up, I hope I like THEM.”

And it’s true, so true for horses. Train the horse you want to ride, want to see, want to be around. Don’t train in hopes the horse will ‘trust’ you and ‘like’ you. If you are very clear with what you want, the horse will like AND respect you more.

Horses like boundaries. Keep a horse around that does what YOU want. Goes when you want it to. Stops when you want it to. Bends when you want it to. Is nice, friendly, doesn’t bite, doesn’t say ‘no’ to you.

After all, you’re nicer to someone that is nice to you. You’re not nicer to your husband, friend, or parent after you’ve had a fight with them, are you? Horses are like that too- you’re not nice to one that you’re fighting with.

I really liked what she was saying and as an owner of a sassy pony that definitely has a big NO button and knows how to use it, it only reminds me more that I have to work on developing him as a pony I WANT to ride, enjoy and have fun around. And that means consistent handling, fair treatment and fair expectations. He works when I say he works, he is done when I say he’s done–not when HE says he’s done.

So even from the most basic colt-handling lessons, I’m learning from them. It was a looong day but man, did it fly by!

More tomorrow! Maybe George Morris or Jan Ebeling?

Friday Fun- Halloween, and the Mane Event!

Yes that’s right- THE George Morris is going to be teaching a clinic at the Mane Event in Chilliwack this weekend, and yours truly gets to attend! (note: not ride in. I do not have the money, talent or pony appropriate to not get a serious strip torn off me by George, hah).

George Morris

George Morris

I am SO looking forward to it! The trade show, watching the clinics (Jan Ebeling is presenting as well) and meeting up with the horse girls at the barn too. Yeah!!

It is also my husband’s 30th birthday tomorrow- so happy birthday to him! hahah.

Oats was very good for my lesson yesterday and pretty good for my ride on Wednesday (though a bit spooky I don’t think he liked the hammering-down rain!).

We worked on canter poles (10ft) and then to a small course, then back to the canter poles- it was all about maintaining a rhythm and letting him ‘figure out’ what to do when things went sideways (and boy sometimes it was clumsy! And awkward!) but I’m learning to ‘sit chilly’ and let Oats figure it out. He can, he is well capable of it when I don’t get grabby and interfere. I am pleased to say our canter rhythm was very good and we met our spots nicely (except for a tricky left-turn, which is our nemesis- you can get pace OR straightness- not both!) aha. It was mentally exhausting for me though, to ‘let go’ so I wimped out a bit early –but yet having felt pretty good about how the exercise went for us.

I hope to do more work like that next week, and really build on my ‘mental toughness’ and also my ability to let go and let Oats handle more of the work, as he well capable of.

It’s hard feeling like I am ‘giving away’ control to Oats.

Mr. Oats as 'himself'

Mr. Oats as ‘himself’

I feel like sometimes I reach a stage in my riding with him that I get ‘too successful’ and then start failing immediately (usually in jumping. hmm). It’s like I’m afraid of success, and let myself fail spectacularly.

Some things to ponder!