Sunday, January 11, 2009

Clinic Report, Part I

I took Pandora to a Pony Club clinic yesterday. I had a fantastic time and made some excellent progress with Pandora. To give you an idea of how happy I was at the end of the day (while Pandora was less than impressed with how much work she'd had to do), here is a visual aid:

Here's the way the day went (and it was a long day: thus, a long post).

Two riders in each session. One flatwork session before lunch, one over-fences session after lunch. About an hour for each ride. More than Pandora's used to in one day, but with a long several-hour break for hay, water, and relaxing in between, she was fine.

First off - I really, really liked the clinician. She clicked with me, and from what I could tell, a lot of other riders too. She listened to what I told her about what I was working on, combined it with what she saw, and put us to doing exercises that would help.

Key: she fixed me before she expected me to fix my horse.

She was big into body awareness, and she helped me fix the consistent problems I have - without me having to tell her what they are. I tend to lean forward, especially over fences; when I try to keep my chest up, I round my shoulders and roach my back, but when I try to keep my back flat, I duck my whole upper body down. I also ride without enough bend in my elbows. She fixed all of this at once by using one of those time-honored pony club 'punishments': the good old crop-behind-the-back exercise.

We didn't get any good pictures, but basically the crop goes between your back and your elbows. Your arms are thus pulled quite a ways back, forcing a bend in your elbows (and making me grateful I had long reins, cause damn, it was hard to reach the reins from there!). It's pretty easy to remember to sit up when you're contorted like that.

It didn't hurt, but it sure made me aware of how much I tend to slouch forward when I ride. Here's a picture of the middle of the crop-riding process (notice she also had us riding without stirrups - the horror!):

You can see in this picture that I'm still a little forward and rounded with my shoulders. It doesn't feel like it looks, and that's the problem: when I was riding like this, it sure felt like I had my shoulders opened and back. Not until I increased the motion until it felt ridiculous did she tell me that I was, in fact, correct. This is why eyes on the ground are important.

She later used the single best mental image I've ever heard to help me fix the derivatives of this problem over fences. Gotta save it for later, though.

Throughout all of this, we stayed on a large circle doing lots and lots of transitions while working on our body position. And you know what? When I sit up and keep my leg on, Pandora's transitions get a lot better. She leans on her forehand. A lot. So this is important, because her transitions usually involve diving to the forehand, not pushing with her hind end. The instructor used "forward into the walk" (from a trot) to help us retain the feeling of forward movement even in a downward transition.

Very cool. By the end, I was getting much better trot-canter transitions than usual, and our walk/trot and trot/walk transitions were just awesome.

Oh, and she also had us do the "bicycle exercise" to get the feel of the sitting trot, which I won't explain to you until I can show you. I never thought a riding exercise could take more careful balance and coordination than the sitting trot...but boy, was I wrong. I was laughing so hard (at myself) during this exercise that I could hardly breathe. I felt absolutely ridiculous. Unfortunately none of it was captured on video, but I promise that the next time I ride, I'll have my mom film some trot-bicycle-exercise for your enjoyment.

Then, break for lunch and other lessons and so on. Pandora got to hang out in a nice comfortable stall with plenty of hay and water.

She looked pretty sleepy.

Then it was time to tack up for round 2. She was not particularly enthusiastic about being tacked up again ;-) But she tolerates me and my Unreasonable Demands.

I'd like to get this up tonight, but I just don't have time to go over the second half of the day - so you can have this part now, and I'll post the second bit (including video of our awesome last fences) in a day or two!


Cara said...

That sounds like a fun day. Can't wait to read about the jumping!

Sydney said...

Awesome. Can't wait. In the mean time


And anyone else who wants to do it. It's fun.

Meghan said...

Ah, so you hunch, too! xD That is an ongoing problem for me. I know exactly what I need to do to correct it, but it's just no fun to be the "position police" for yourself.

I love reading about your progress with Pandora. She's a lovely mare and if I lived anywhere near you, I'd come and try her out. ;)

manymisadventures said...

I know, being the position police for yourself sucks ;)

But it's good discipline!

I'm working on a short video from the second half of the clinic, I'll hopefully get it up today.

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