Continuing on with Mary Flood’s Clinic, we talked about working the horse next. The first part, Rider Position, is here.
I think the majority of us lunge our horses, or at least at some point lunged our horses. I learned just from watching my trainer lunge a few times, and then being handed a whip and line and being told to lunge. Basically, it’s not especially complicated. But, basic lunging is only the tip of the iceberg, and can be morphed into much, much more. It’s pretty neat how far along horses can be brought, without even getting in the saddle!
Unfortunately, my notes have vanished for this part of the clinic, so I had to base this off my memory.
This handsome guy has a whole mess of lines on him, and it amounts to double lounging. No lunging system or kit, this is just a surcingle, and two long lines.
Mary showed us how the hook-up isn’t necessarily the same for every horse. You have to test running the lines different ways and see which way makes your horse happy.
Even after the line was changed, the horse was still slightly counterbent to the outside. When asked, Mary said that because there is no inside leg to bend the horse, it will naturally be counterbend. However, that moved her right along into her next lesson, and that was teaching the horse to bend on the circle.
Mary switched up the tack by removing the surcingle, and putting on the caveson. She also pulled out her infamous bamboo stick.
Because this horse was clearly well trained on this already, I’m going to switch from this horse over to one of the horse’s brought for Mary to work with.
The horse was lunged, using the bamboo stick as a surrogate whip, however, it was used as a spacer to keep the horse out. When the horse fell in, Mary used to the stick to poke the shoulder back out, and the horse learned very quickly that it needed to bent correctly.
She also showed us how the bamboo stick could be used to move the horse’s body, reminding us not to tolerate behaviors we don’t like. If it bothers us that our horse won’t stand to mount, that’s probably something we should work on!
She used it like a whip to encourage the horse to walk with us, or held up in front of the horse to create a wall to stop the horse. This horse wasn’t staying right with his handler, so Mary used the stick to keep him with her, in both forward and reverse.
Mary also demonstrated sideways movement with the stick. The stick was held up next to the horse as a wall, and the horse learned to step over. She also worked on getting him to square up when stopped, by tapping on the hocks. The gelding lifted those legs pretty quickly! She explained to us how controlling this movement translates into working on the piaffe later on in training.
Next, Mary switched gears and showed us how versatile lunging can be. As it seemed to be difficult for a few us to understand (I admit guilt), she told us to plant our feet and stop letting the horse pull us all over the place. But at the same time, if wanted, we could work out way up and down the area. As in, when the horse comes around the long side, you walk with them for a few steps, and then let them continue past you and circle again, and next time they come around, you walk with them again. In other words, in an organized fashion, not, “I’m being dragged all over by my crazy horse,” fashion.
We all watched the FEI Schoolmaster being lunged up and down the arena, and then over ground poles. Someone asked if the poles needed to be curved for the circle, and Mary said with a chuckle, “No, they’ll figure it out.”
Mary told us she likes to build strength up over poles, and raised the poles up for us to see.
When the horse doesn’t quite understand, like in this instance, Mary told us just to make it easier for him to sort out. In this instance, one side of each of the poles were dropped, and he was sent through it again. He got it then, so the poles came back up.
Mary was very pleased with his form handling the poles and said this is ideal, and a great start to working with a green horse.
As the clinic went on, I was wishing that I had opted to bring a horse to be worked by Mary. I was really itching to test out what I was hearing!
I’m not the biggest fan ever of lunging, but I’ve always thought it had it’s place. After attending this clinic, I’m interested in progressing more, and hopefully making full use of what I can do with the horse. I think this will be really useful for working with Pony Man, especially since he’s a tiny (but mighty) pony, and my legs practically drag on the ground. I’m planning to bring Pony directly to Mary as soon as I can, and hopefully working with her directly will really imprint this all in my brain!
How often do you use lunging, double lunging or long-lining in your training program?
This past weekend, I went to a Lunging and Long Lining Clinic taught by my dressage trainer Mary Flood. Mary has all three of her USDF Medals, and was on the USET Long List, and competed in the 1992 Olympic Screening Trials. She’s also just a cool, cool lady.
I will admit that I haven’t taken a dressage lesson in ages, but when I am planning to make more of an effort to go. I started going to her when I had Evee, my ex-thoroughbred that was half spoiled, half conniving opportunist, and she got her under control, using the techniques I saw in the horse working part of this clinic. (I still got rid of Evee, and that’s because riding is a hobby for me, and she made riding not fun.) Later, I took Berry there when she was a wee little baby, and she did some work with her on the ground, although not as extreme, because Berry doesn’t have a shriveled black heart. I’ve also taken Vintage there for lessons. Now I just need to take my pony, and then the circle will be complete, Mary will have worked with all my horses (leaving out Clay, because frankly, he no longer walks among the living) I’ve also taken lessons on the horse featured in this post, the super cool Lance.
But I digress, that’s enough background information.
Mary began the clinic by talking about all the reasons to lunge.
Exercise (and increase fitness).
Learn to move on a circle, bend.
Observe how the horse moves.
Rider seat development.
She told us that overall, lunging creates balance, rhythm, cadence, and overall a strong horse. She told us that because there is multiple reasons to lunge, she understands that horses will act differently on the lunge. For example, since lunging is used for exercise, she won’t punish a fresh horse for acting fresh. Playing on the lunge is okay!
Mary also talked about the reasons for in hand work, some of which overlap the lunging.
Development of communication for green horses, and prepares them for lunging.
Teaches collected work.
Mary talked to us about the equipment she recommends and uses.
Lunge Line – Obviously you’re going to need a line, but she specifically recommends the soft cotton ones, because for some reason, they don’t tend to catch on things. As in, if your horse gets away from you, the line won’t get caught on the fence, farm equipment, ATV, etc. I can actually vouch for this, because just this week, my hormonal mare went crazy on the lunge long and got away from me. I didn’t have the arena gate closed, and she ran all over my field and back to the barn. And nothing caught. I didn’t know it was because of the cotton line, I just thought I was massively lucky. But apparently, cotton lunge lines are pure magic.
Whip – Mary talked about how the length of the whip effects its use. The longer ones are heavier and less accurate, but can have more of an impact. The shorter ones are lighter, more agile, and can be used with greater precision. The horse should determine the whip. A dull might need the impact of a longer one, while a hot horse might need the precision of a shorter one.
Bamboo Stick – I’ve known about the bamboo stick from the days of Evee needing an ass-kicking, but it was unexpected to many participants. The bamboo stick, which should be longer than the horse’s leg to get you out of kicking distance, is primarily used as an inside leg to teach the horse to bend, but also to teach the horse to bend at the joints, eventually leading to teaching piaffe in hand. More on that tomorrow.
Sturdy Boots – For you, you don’t want to be tripping over yourself.
Sturdy Boots – For the horse, as in, polo wraps, dressage boots, whatever your preference. Don’t let your horse hurt himself.
Surcingle – She recommends the kind with rings raised, not the kind where the rings flop around loose, to ensure there is no interference in the line.
Leather Caveson – She likes the ones that fit snug, with no padding, and not too big or bulky. She said that all that padding interferes with communication with the horse.
There were a few controversial items talked about:
Side Reins – Mary clarified that she doesn’t entirely hate side reins, but yes, she kind of hates side reins. It can be dependent on the horse, but overall, she doesn’t like a device that just sticks the horse’s head in a position. She explained to us that they just drop the horse’s head, but do not make them through, and it does not develop the muscles on the horse’s back, it weakens them. When someone asked about riding with side reins, she shuddered and told us never to do that. It’s unfair to the horse to expect it to hold itself up like that. She added that control of the shoulders is way more important that position of the head, and once the shoulders are control, you can put the head wherever you want.
Draw Reins – I expected Mary to hate draw reins more than side reins, but she surprised me. She informed us draw reins could be okay, if used for a very limited time, and only one side of the draw rein. She informed us the sliding effect doesn’t teach the horse connection, but if a horse was having trouble understanding connection in normal reins, using just one side of the draw rein could help explain it to the horse. She emphasized this should only be done for a very short time, and only under supervision. She showed us how the draw rein would attach to the first strap of the billet, and then come through the bit. Someone asked her about having it attach between the legs, and Mary replied, “Never, that would bring the horse down on the forehand. Try sticking your head between your legs, and see where your butt goes.”
The first demonstration was exercises for the rider. She emphasized that an independent seat and hands are extremely important, and riders don’t deserve to have their reins if they can’t do these exercises. She gave us a whole bunch of exercises to work on, all to be done at walk, trot, and canter. The amazing rider from yesterday’s post was the demonstration rider.
There’s many variations of these exercises – they should all be done at walk, trot, and canter, and there’s three different positions to do them in. We are all familiar with deep seat, and 2-point, but she also talked about vertical position. For this, you would strand up completely straight in the saddle, with your leg completely straight with no bend. There was also alterations of dropping the stirrups, and crossing the stirrups up. She’s serious about that independent position!
Before she started the demonstration, she told us it’s important to be safe, and because of this, don’t tie up the horse’s reins in a way that the rider can’t reach them. The rider should always be able to reach down and grab those reins if something went wrong. On Lance, she ran the reins through the bucking strap to keep them from falling forward, but did nothing else with them.
Boxing the Air
Like it sounds, you continually box the air in front of you, alternating hands. This is an exercise in creating independent hand movement.
Rotating your entire arm backwards in circles. This opens up the shoulders and the chest. Mary says most riders have too much tension, and relaxation is a good thing! A variation of this is shoulder rolls, rotating both shoulders around front to back, and dropping your shoulder when it’s in it’s heaviest spot.
Stretch up to the ceiling with one side of your body, raising your hand, and lengthening your leg.
Done in a sequence of every four steps or strides (depending on gait), riders go from arms to the side, to arms above the head, to arms in front.
This can be done independently, or as above, in combination with one of the other exercises. The rider lifts the leg up from the thigh, using the horse’s push to create the motion. As in, the horse’s belly will push out, that’s when the bicycle is done. This exercise teaches the rider to learn the footfalls of the horse. When the horse’s back leg pushes against the ground, the corresponding side of the rib cage will push out. This is when the leg is lifted.
As a further exercise, Mary also recommends using a ground person to watch the leg, and having a rider say “Now”, when the inside leg is lifted into the air. The leg is at it’s most influential at this point, so the rider needs to be able to feel the footfalls to time her aids.
After going over the exercises, Mary told us there are too phases to doing these rider exercises.
Lunger controls the horse’s actions (Walk/Trot/Canter/Halt).
Rider controls the horse’s actions (Walk/Trot/Canter/Halt).
I’d venture to say anyone who can do phase two of these exercises/variations at w/t/c probably has the greatest seat known to mankind.
Later on in the clinic, it was time for the attendees to give it a try. Not unsurprisingly, it was harder than the talented, just had a baby, rider made it look. The first rider was tense, and her horse was tense. Mary had her bend at the hips and lean all the way forward, reaching for her horse’s head. It was an exercise intended to relax her, and it worked. After stretching out a few times, she sat up, and began the exercises. She did beautifully after that, and there was even a noticeable positive change in her horse’s stride.
Mary showed us exercises to work with the horses, and that’s coming up tomorrow!
As I said before, this clinic is super informative and well worth it. Here’s just a few more tidbits of the day.
As you may vaguely remember, and I remember vividly, my horse had a really, really bad clip job this past winter. Like so many things in this clinic, this was another segment I was so happy to see.
The key to victory is a well cleaned horse. You will clean your horse so well, you will be able to do it in your sleep. Not that you’ll have time for sleeping, not with all the horse cleaning you’ll be doing.
Bathe the horse before, empasizing on the rinse. Cat says people usually don’t rinse enough. Rinse, scrape it all off, rinse again, scrape it all off, and repeat until the water coming off is super, super clean. The underbelly is where the grit likes to move to, so make sure that area is rinsed well! If it’s winter, get a bucket, put a few drops of dawn dish soap, a few drops of a cooking oil, and scrub your horse with a towel. You want as much of the grit off as possible. Make sure your horse is bone dry before beginning the clipping progress.
The most important part of clipping is caring for the clippers. They need to be clean, and well lubricated. Cat’s clippers of choice are Andis cordless clippers, because she feels cords are the most dangerous part of clipping. If you have cords, she encourages running the cord along the wall so there’s minimal chance of the horse knocking into them. She oiled her clippers multiple times during the clip she showed us, probably 10 times during a 30 minute session. If you feel the clippers starting to catch on the hair, or if the noise of them changes, they either need to be oiled, or the horse is gritty.
I’m not quite sure how to describe the actual process of clipping, but I did learn I’m supposed to go against the hair mostly, although there are some occasions to go with the hair. Cat said it really depends on the individual horse which way goes better. One hand should be used to keep the skin taunt while clipped, because nicking your horse makes it unhappy.
Cat recommended giving your horse a haynet to keep them occupied, and doing everything behind the shoulders while they happily munch away.
Also – clip the sheath. There were lots of giggles about that one. Surprisingly, they don’t mind it so much, and sometimes even seem to enjoy it. But beware the teats of a mare – they can get pretty grouchy!
She told us a couple of stories about various horses that disliked having different parts clipped, and once again, emphasized compassion and that sometimes, it really doesn’t matter is a spot gets missed if it’s a spot that makes the horse uncomfortable. Sure, try to get it, but don’t make your horse hate you, it’s not worth it.
She also mentioned that if you can, leave the saddle area long. It can be irritating to the horse to have a saddle on top of short, clipper hair, so if possible, just leave a spot. To make it precise, drop your half pad on there, and use chalk to trace an outline of hair to leave on there.
Cat told us to stop using the ears as a guideline of how far to clip the bridle paths. Bridle paths should be clipped to accommodate the strap of the bridle, and no further. No more pushing the horse’s ear back to clip a 4-7 inch long bridle path. Just don’t do it, okay?!
After you are done clipping, put baby powder on a brush, and brush the horse down. Clipper oil is an irritant to the skin and the baby powder absorbs all the clipper oil you smeared all over your horse. Follow that with a mitt sprayed with witch hazel. Both of these things together should give you a pretty happy, not covered with bits of hair, horse!
Someone asked what they could do about their horse’s bleached out looking coat. Cat told us a good coat starts with good nutrition, so to look at the horse’s diet first. But during the summer, she constantly uses Weatherbeeta’s Kool Koats to keep her horses’ coats from bleaching out.
She also mentioned that during the winter, rubber reins against a horse’s neck can make the neck dry out.
Cat started by showing us the proper way to pull a mane. A pulling comb has sharp tongs, and a blade on the spine so it can be used for both pulling, and shortening. For a horse that truly hates mane pulling, she uses clipper blades (detached from the clippers) to cut the hair. Beware how you use it though, if used too generously, and too high, you end up with spiky hairs sticking up in your braids. She recommended alternating hacking at the outward facing side of the mane, and then the neck facing side to create a natural appearance.
Depending on what discipline you do, the mane will be different lengths. Dressage is the longest length, but I’m not sure what the other disciplines should be. I think Cat pulled the above horse’s mane to eventer length, and hunters would be a little bit shorter.
For horses who have long manes, she recommended putting up hair in a running braid while being ridden, and taken out afterward. She empasized that the hair should be loose along the crest, and the braid itself be a few inches below the crest. This is because the horse’s neck can expand so much, it will end up ripping its own hair out if the braid is too tight.
She emphasized this again when we started braiding. The hair collected for the braid should never span more than a few inches of neck, or half the width of a pulling comb. The braids should be tight, but not tight on the crest. The braid tightness is not created by pulling hard downward, but rather pulling hard sideways, using the thumb to keep the tension.
She showed us the different kinds of braids for different disciplines. Dressage, show jumping, and eventer braids are essentially the same, just the size differs, with dressage braids being the biggest, show jumping a big smaller, and eventer braids the smallest. Hunter braids are in their own world entirely, and are quite small, the same size as eventer braids, but should all line up touching each other.
Cat also showed us how to braid a lovely tail, and discussed tail pulling. There were definitely some shocked murmurs at this discussion, but Cat explained there’s a practial purpose for tail pulling – The are around the tail gets overheated when in work, especially on those long cross country rides. Pulling the tail enables horses to cool of significantly faster. Braiding the tail serves the same purpose, although clearly the hunters are more attached to their dock hairs. Cat surprised us all by telling us some horses really love getting their tails pulled, even ones that are sensitive to mane pulling. She told us about a horse that hated mane pulling with a passion, but would back that thang up to get some tail pulling, even when she pulled the tail into a bloody mess (it bleeds when you pull the tail!).
Cat showed us a lovely, fancy mud knot that can be used while riding. Back in the day, (whenever that was), mud knots were commonly seen used on cross country, but nowadays, they are out of fashion. Cat felt like this was unfortunately, because the slapping of a wet, heavy tail, back and forth, from leg to leg, while riding cross country, can’t be very comfortable to the horse.
She also showed us how to do a practical mud knot that could be left on for up to a month. She told us she braids up her horse’s tails during the winter to help prevent breakage.
Another Berry tidbit – Berry sits on her tail while trailering and rips it out. Her formerly beautiful, full tail, has now been reduced to a straggly rat tail. Cat showed us how to wrap the entire tail to help prevent this kind of breakage, emphasizing not to make it tight around the tail bone, because that’s a good way to lose the entire tail, bone included.
There was another segment after this, leg wrapping, but unfortunately I had to leave as the clinic was running late. I’m really sad I missed it, because not only am I terrible at that, I also know the sheer amount of information would have been worth it.
If there was another World Class Grooming clinic in my area, I would attend it again. It really was that good. I’m really excited about trying my new techniques, and I guess we will see how effective they are going forward. Feel free to judge me super harshly if Berry still looks gross in about a month (I think that’s a reasonable amount of time to get into my new routine!)
I’m on a clinic attending spree, and attended another one this past weekend. Inspired by the fact I truly am the worst at grooming my horses, I decided to attend a clinic from the co-author of World Class Grooming, Cat Hill. The clinic was set up by my new riding club, Tri-State Riding Club, and while this was the first event I attended with them, I’m pretty excited about more!
Cat Hill provided an extraordinary amount of information for us, sprinkled with stories of famous horses she took care of. The clinic was all day, broken up into segments of horse care. Unfortunately, the clinic did run long, so I had to leave before it was over, and I missed the last segment on leg wrapping. I was disappointed that I had to leave, but the vast quantity of information I got prior to that was certainly worthwhile. Overall, the clinic was great, and I’m so glad I went. It was extremely valuable, and I think my horses will be looking way better now! I highly recommend it for anyone who wants their horses looking their best.
I’m going to provide a general overview of the clinic, as well as some tips I found super useful/interesting, but I can’t possible post all the notes I took. I would end up writing a book myself! Plus, Cat Hill was so great at presenting this information, I think someone really needs to attend her clinic in order to fully grasp everything.
Cat started by talking about general safety. Since I grew up going to 4-H, and reading all sorts of horse instruction manuals, I thought I had heard it all already, but it turns out, I have not. Cat brought up some really great points.
If you board, you know how you have those emergency contact cards by the door of your stall listing emergency contacts? Well, Cat mentioned that many times, the contact listed doesn’t actually know your horse, or know anything about horses, and wouldn’t be able to decide what to do in an emergency. Additionally, it’s a good idea to have an emergency contact card in your trailer, in case (heaven forbid!) something happens at an event, people will be able to figure out what to do with you and your horse.
She discussed lead chain safety, something I hadn’t really thought about before. While talking about blanket safety, she showed us how to fold your horse’s blanket – there is a true method, and she is a master of it. Her sample blanket was a thing of envy.
While she was explaining this, the adorable pony she was holding was amusing itself by wiggling its nose on her pants. She let him do this, explaining that horses have their personalities, and restricting their personalities just makes them upset. She advises letting them have their quirks, unless they are rude, and then they should be stopped. This makes me feel better about Berry’s insistence on touching everything in sight.
And on that note, someone asked about their horse that likes to touch everything in sight while being tacked up at the trailer. Cat told us a story about a stallion she groomed that liked to pull down everything in sight, until she figured him out – At the start of their grooming session, she gave him a brush to play with. He knew he could play with that one brush, so he did, and left everything else alone. She advised something similar for other horses: Give the horse a lickit, or something to play with, and either remove or spray everything else with distasteful spray to teach them they are allowed to play with that one thing.
I paid special attention to the conversation on sensitive horses, as Berry is very sensitive to touch and complains when I groom her. Some of the things recommended included jelly scrubbers, which I already have for bathing, and literally, just using your hands like a curry. Pay attention to the actual bristles of the brush as dense, natural hair, is the best for sensitive horses. However, when I tested these things, Berry still gave me the stink eye, but I think that’s because she’s in season and having a rough time with it. I’ll keep testing when she’s not so hormonal!
Cat recommended a line of brushes from Teddy’s Tack Trunk. They are well priced, natural bristle brushes. Maybe my Carebear will be more happy with these!
It was emphasized that the best time to groom the horse really is after the ride. You usually shower after the gym, not before, right? Made sense.
An important area to be groomed after rides is the brow band and ear area. I definitely did not think of that. It gets sweaty and gross, and fungus can grow. Cat recommended cleaning the area with a towel sprayed with witch hazel, a great natural anti-bacterial.
She recommended a range of products, some of which I immediately ran out to buy. A few I will have to order, but here’s my current haul, none of which is from a tack store.
Microfiber Wash Mitt from the Automotive section of Wal-Mart. Comparative to a sheepskin mitt. It’s about $5, and it’s machine washable, which sheepskin mitts are not.
Apple Cider Vinegar from Wal-Mart. Great fungal preventative, and can be applied daily. It does smell terrible though, as Pony Man confirmed for me. He was both fascinated, and disgusted. They can smell it, and it’s pretty gross.
Witch Hazel from Wal-Mart. About $3 a bottle. As described above, it’s rubbed on sweaty bits after a ride as a mild, natural antiseptic.
Spray bottles from Lowes. They’re pretty cheap here, about $1, and I was already in the area. Not a recommended product, but I prefer to apply my apple cider vinegar and witch hazel with a spray.
Microfiber Multi-Purpose Towels from the automotive section of Wal-Mart. At 8 for $5, I think it’s a pretty good deal! These are for general purpose grooming.
Tea Tree Oil from ethic hair care section of Target. Right around $2. It has anti-bacterial properties and can be applied directly to fungus spots.
Cat also highly recommended a line of products from EquiNature. They aren’t widely distributed yet, but dealers can be found at their website, or they can be ordered online. I’ll be buying some shortly. My super favorite, can’t wait to get my hands on product is No Shock, Anti Static. You know how when you pull off blankets, there is all that static? Chances are, those blankets are always full of static, you just only notice when you pull it off. So here’s a product to help. In addition, it’s a no-silicone moisturizer, so it doesn’t just make the hair slick, it truly moisturizes it.
Cat told us that wetness is truly the hoof’s enemy. It’s a wet hoof that is brittle and broken. She recommended coating hooves daily with a product to keep the moisture out. Even though the product will rub off, it will still last most of the day in wet conditions. Since I have the queen of abscesses, I was very interested in this. Her recommended pick is Absorbine Hooflex, which I will be picking up on my next trip to the tack store.
One of the attendees asked a pretty great question – For those of us without temperature controlled setups, do products go bad when they are left out in cold/heat? Cat said that it varies by product, but pay attention to the consistency/smell when you buy the product, and if it seems the same, it’s probably fine. However, any medicine that is injected into the horse should never, ever, be used unless it is kept in the recommended conditions.
This little nugget hit me so hard, I feel bad for my previous actions. Betadine is commonly used to clean wounds – HOWEVER, have you been using Betadine solution? I have… and I shouldn’t have been. Betadine solution is for cleaning industrial surfaces. Betadine Scrub is used for cleaning live tissue. Betadine solution should not be used on horses.
Rubbing alcohol should truly only be used in an emergency, when literally nothing else is available to clean the wound. Hydrogen peroxide should NEVER be used, because it kills live tissue. Additionally, Cat recommends not using Blue Kote, or Frioine, which causes cancer in humans. Yikes. Her recommendation is SSD, or Silver Sulfadizine. She gets hers from her vet, but may be over the counter in other states. *Spelling might be off, I’m not positive on these products.
Cat tracks her horse’s pulses all the time in different situations, and was able to tell the vet when something was wrong when the vet couldn’t detect it. That’s pretty amazing. I have never, ever taken my horse’s pulse, but I think this is something I need to start doing.
Cat recommended another EquiNature product for small abrasions.
Cat told us to be careful using vet wrap, as it’s very easy to pull it too tight. The correct tension should have wrinkles in it.
She showed us the best way to make a hoof poultice, which will be super useful for my abscess queen. She didn’t use the ton of materials I usually use either. It was an efficient use, and it was snug on there. Yet another skill the rest of us were super envious of.
Throughout the entire session, Cat emphasizes compassion for the horse. For example – make sure the horse is standing square before applying the poultice, because it’s hard for them to stand in an extended amount of time crooked. While she discussed blankets, she mentioned some horses run hot, some run cold. Don’t just throw on the heavy blanket and assume they are fine, sometimes they might still be cold, even though we may assume they are just fine. She told us about a horse she took care of that required 3 heavy weight blankets to be comfortable, while at the same time, another horse was hot with just one.
We got a bag of some samples and information to take home. I love it when I get a little gift bag.
This wasn’t even close to the amount of information Cat gave us, and it was just Session One of a five part day. Seriously worthwhile clinic!! (Come back tomorrow, I’ll just a little bit more to say!)
I am not an eventer at all, but I decided to audit a Boyd Martin clinic because I am actually interested in riding cross country. Not competitively, because I am a still a huge weenie, but it’d be fun to go schooling, or take on some jumps on trails or hunter paces. Why not get my introduction to it from an Olympic rider? Seems like the obvious thing to do! But I was not ready to ride in it yet. I like to put my toe in the pool before I jump in, check out the situation, see what happens at these types of things. I don’t even know what size the jumps are for beginner novice, but I feel like Berry should be consistent at 2’6″ before we do it.
*Note to self – find out heights of jumps as to not sound ignorant.
After a few days of lovely warm weather, the morning of the clinic was bitterly cold and windy. Winter had decided it didn’t make enough of an impact and decided to return. There was even a small bit of snow on the ground. For once, I took this at face value and actually bundled up. But unfortunately, it was still not enough and the cold was a definite deterrent to standing out in a field any longer than the two hours we were there.
The clinic took place at Hunt Club Farms, located in Berryville, Virginia. The facility is gorgeous, and had a lovely lounge where I hung out to get the feeling back in my legs.
We got goodie bags for auditing. That was a nice perk!
It came with a bunch of products from Effol for both horse and rider, none of which I’ve tried before, so I’m really excited about getting to try these out.
I planned my day to come see the beginner novice group go, which was the first group. Since I am basically an elderly woman at this point, and use mapquest/written directions/my memory of a map, I ended up getting lost on the way there and missed the introduction. But my friend who I convinced to come stand out in the cold with me filled me in. Boyd Martin was introducted, the riders and horses were introduced, and he had them start out in the main arena. They jumped a single, I think for him to get a feel of where they were, and then they moved out to the cross country field.
Hunt Club Farms cross country field is insane. I have never seen so many cross country jumps in the same field. It seemed as though they had at least one of every kind of obstacle, and in some/most cases, had many different sizes, options, and positions of them. It was quite impressive.
Unfortunately, a major downside to the clinic was the wind was so loud, we frequently couldn’t hear Boyd Martin talking. So much of it was watching the gorgeous horses and riders ride wonderfully, and talking with the other auditors. At one point, several of us hid behind a bush to block the wind, and just discussed the pretty horses.
We stayed for the entire beginner novice lesson, and part of the novice lesson. It seemed like Boyd Martin had a general plan he followed for both of the groups.
Introduction in the riding arena
Riders jumped a few jumps for Boyd Martin to get a feel for their riding.
Introduction to the cross country field
Riders started with a single log, and were then given a course that took them pretty far away from the group over several coops, and then came back around to jump a bench, and a brush jump. I heard him discussing striding with a rider, telling her to get a short 6, but unfortunately I did not understand the context of this.
We all moved over to a bank complex with a many different options. The group was started by approaching the bank at a walk or a trot and worked on just getting their horse to jump up it. The group did this all in a line, following each other over the jump. Boyd explained that this was the one jump you absolutely cannot be left behind on. It’s extremely important to stay with your horse, and he had them grab mane and hang on for dear life going up. They got one test of trotting up it, and then were told to approach at a slow canter.
Then it was time for the down jump. Boyd told everyone the horse is used to upward jumps, and needs to learn to jump downward. Therefore, everyone needed to keep their hands low to emphasize the downward jump.
Once they had done the down jump a few times, Boyd immediately added in other jumps and made a full course. They started with a nearby log, and then an upward bank on the opposite side, the down bank they’d been practicing on, circle back to a different option next to it, and then down the field for some coops/houses. Everyone did well, although a crowd favorite decided the additional jumps were not her thing, but Boyd told the rider to follow another horse and she did fine. Good to know that is an accepted method coming from an Olympic rider.
They moved over to a different section to began work on ditches. Everyone did really well on them though, with no visible issues. It was hard to tell though, because this is when we hid behind the bush.
Again, once the ditch element was introduced, Boyd had everyone add in other jumps to do a course.
Boyd said he likes to start all horses with just walking into the water, so they all went quietly in. Once they were in the water, he wasted no time in telling them to trot out over a small bank.
They all did the trot bank in a line, and then circled back for the return to the water. They all went through it a few times, and then he added in various jumps from the surrounding area. He gave them the option of doing the bigger banks, which several of them took.
After they had all done the course a couple of times, the lesson was over. The hour and a half went by in a flash.
Now I want to take one. I was talking to someone from Hunt Club Farms afterward, and I asked her if Boyd Martin would be back next year, because I think I’d be ready then. She told me he’d likely be back later this year, and also he really liked working with green horses, so she was sure I’d still get a great experience from it. I believe the gray was green, and she did great. That is reassuring. Still need to check the heights of BN though….
I really wish I had been able to hear though. It kind of stinks I only heard snippets from the lesson. But the riders all did great, so I think that speaks a lot for the level of instruction.