The Clinic

Last weekend (okay, two weekends ago now), I rode in the Pam Goodrich clinic. This was a two day clinic that also included a lecture by Pam on Lateral work.

Pam Goodrich on Lamborghini

Pam Goodrich’s bio:

Pam Goodrich has competed in the World Championships in Toronto, two Olympic Sports Festivals in Europe and throughout theUnited States. She has studied with Michael Poulin, Herbert Rehbein, Harry Boldt, Gabi Grillo, Kyra Kirkland, and Klaus Balkenhol, to name only a few. She was long and short-listed with the USET and is especially proud of her students who she coached on to compete successfully from training level to Grand Prix, as well as in the Pan American Games, Olympic Sports Festivals, World Cup, World Equestrian Games and Olympics.

Not only was Pam teaching, but Rosalind Kinstler was riding right before me. Aaaaaahhhhh!

I was nervous. No, wait. Nervous is an understatement. I felt like someone had kicked me in the stomach while simultaneously pulling the rug out from under my feet.

My mare… she couldn’t care less. Totally unfazed by the 1.5 hour delay in construction while hauling up there (jack hammers pounding next to her, giant semi that hissed and banged). Even after we get there she acted like she’d been doing this her whole life. Ha. I love my horse!

If you’ve never seen Pam teach, it’s quite a shocker. At least it was to me. It reminded me of the first day in bootcamp, except with the most intense dressage trainer I’ve ever met. The second the lesson started it was game on with Pam. I don’t know how to describe it. It’s a combination of absolutely terrifying and hilarious all at the same time.

I discovered Pam is extremely nice. She wants her students to learn, understand, and succeed. Pam had no problem with me stopping her several times to ask how to do something, or what the purpose was, or to ask “what if” questions for how to fix something when we got home. She patiently handled every single one of my questions and answered them in a positive and friendly manner. Pam treated me like I was a real dressage rider even though she had some serious misgivings about my little Friesian/Paint cross at the beginning. BlueTrailerAnd I know she saw my little horse trailer that screamed POOR. But still, she gave us 150% of her energy and focus. In fact, we went over our allotted 45 minute time line for both lessons so that Pam could get the concept she was attempting to teach through to me and Ava.

The one thing that really struck me.. Pam knew right off the bat that Ava wasn’t truly in front of the leg aids. Ava’s okay if all I want to do is schooling shows and hack around, but to get to the higher caliber of training then she needs to have more forward and energy (and be self sustaining). Without that forward, I can’t get Ava honest over her back. Pam homed in on that immediately the first day. She had me change how I used the reins. Instead of continuing to shorten my reins when Ava sucked back, I kept my reins at the length they needed to be at if she were fully using her neck, but I brought my elbows backward to take up the slack in the reins. I know elbows aren’t supposed to cross the mid-line, but it’s a training tool to prevent the rider from choking up on the reins until the horse can’t possibly use their back and neck.  I was also told to widen my arms  (just the forearms, not the elbows) to kind of “funnel” the horse up into the bridle, and then when the horse was solidly on the connection then I could move my hands back to the withers and together.WarmupTrot

To be honest, when she explained it to me I was highly skeptical at first. But the whole thing hinged on making sure the horse had good energy forward and was in front of the leg. If those were in place, then the horse willingly met the hand and would follow the bit wherever I put it. It was an instant elastic connection with Ava. One I hadn’t been able to get normally on my own. I thought we had it before because Ava will follow the bit, and mostly will stretch up over her back when she’s straight and relaxed. But this was instant. This was a kind of connection that was elastic to a degree I’d never felt before. It was supple, elastic, and happy. I thought I understood connection before, but this put it on a whole new level.

The last thing I wanted to share with you… I’ve been struggling with Ava plowing around on her right shoulder for over a year. It’s become Sisyphus rock. I fix it, next ride it’s exactly the same. Spend the entire ride working on fixing it. Next ride we’re starting from square one all over again. Every day for a year. EVERY DAY. I get so frustrated that I want to scream. I have literally broken down in tears, sobbing on Ava’s back because I can’t fix what’s wrong. The Goodrich clinic… Five minutes with Pam and the shoulder is no longer an issue. Done. Gone. I didn’t even realize at first what Pam was doing because I thought we were just working on connection. But then it hit me like a rock when she explained how we had to get Ava off the right shoulder before we could work on engagement. It was like Pam had identified the main issue and just went after it like a Pit BullPam Goodrich Canter. It was awesome. And Pam gave us really good exercises to rebuild Ava so that she travels on both legs evenly. The second day’s ride I was expecting Ava to be leaning on that right shoulder again, but she was just a touch heavy on the right rein. Pam has it fixed in two seconds. I went home expecting to struggle with the right shoulder again… I get on Ava, she’s a touch heavy on the right rein, we do the exercise Pam gave us. Not an issue. I was so relieved.  I’m sure I’ll muck it up over time, but even to have some new tools and a taste of success is a huge relief.

This is a video of our lesson on the second day. The sound isn’t the greatest, but I wanted to capture Goodrich’s teaching style.

Before we left for the clinic I told my husband that for the amount of money we spent that it better be a mind-blowing event. The kind where you come back a level higher than you left.  Well, I seriously was mind-blown. That was worth every penny. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

Break down of costs:
$400 for clinic (2 lessons).
$440 for new tires for the trailer.
$80 to get the new tires put on the rims.
$105 for a hotel room (tourist area).
$100 (+/-) in gas.
$50 shavings, & misc necessities for clinic.

Total of $1,175.00 to go to a clinic.

This was the total amount of discretionary spending I had available to me for horse shows, clinics, etc. So probably going to be a quiet rest of the year for us. 🙂

Liebster Blog Award

I was nominated for the Liebster Blog Award!  Bakersfield Dressage nominated me for the award. If you haven’t read Karen’s blog, you need to. She’s a brilliant writer who is documenting her journey from Endurance rider to Dressage competitor (serious competition in dressage too).  I have so much admiration for her determination, courage, and perseverance. Thank you for nominating me Karen!
I copy and pasted the “how to accept part”.
HOW TO ACCEPT THE AWARD: The Liebster Blog Award is a way to recognize blogs who have less than 200 followers. Liebster is a German word that means beloved and valued. Here are the rules for accepting the award:

  • Thank the person who nominated you and include a link back to their blog.
  • List 11 random facts about yourself.
  • Answer the 11 questions given to you.
  • Create 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate.
  • Choose 11 bloggers with 200 or fewer followers to nominate and include links to their blogs.
  • Go to each blogger’s page and let them know you have nominated them.
11 Random Facts

  1. I am 4’11” tall. I have been stuck at this height since I was 11 years old. I am still waiting on that growth spurt.
  2. When I was 29 I fractured my T10 – T12 vertebrae and broke my arm. My back still causes me an immense amount of pain.
  3. I was in the Marine Corps for 4 years. Honorably discharged as a Lance Corporal. I was activated for Iraq, but never sent due to a broken back.
  4. I didn’t go to college until I was 30. I wrote my first computer program at 32. I got my first programming job at 33.
  5. I owned two coffee shops with my sibling when I was in my very early 20’s. I learned that being your own boss is far harder than being an underling.
  6. In my 20’s I decided to move to Texas. I drove 2 thousand miles with just my dog and a backpack. I moved back north a month later when I realized how hot it is there.
  7. I once ran 3 miles in 23 1/2 minutes. I now run 3 miles in approx 45 minutes. This is supposition since I can’t run a full 3 miles anymore.
  8. I once had a pet woodchuck named Chucky. He chittered when he was happy and followed me around like a puppy. He loved being petted and would crawl on your lap and snuggle with you.
  9. I am severely introverted. I’m not shy.
  10. I had a beer with Jeffrey Deaver (author) once.
  11. I own my own house, have a dog, two cats, a horse, and a brilliantly kind and wonderful husband. Life is good.
11 Questions Answered

  1. Where did you meet the love of your life?
    At a coffee shop. I was avoiding a stressful situation where I was staying at, so I was hanging out at a neighborhood coffee shop, and these two brothers walked in and struck up a conversation with me.
  2. You’ve just won the lottery. Would you quit your job?
    Maybe. Probably. But I wouldn’t quit programming. I’d just modify what I do so that I could work on things that were more in line with horse stuff.
  3. Black tack or brown?
    Black, but that’s because it looks better on my horse. If brown looked sharp on the horse then I’d use that.
  4. Where is one place you wouldn’t want to visit?
    I dislike touristy areas. I don’t particulary like big cities. Flint. I would never voluntarily visit Flint or Detroit.
  5. What’s your favorite horse book?
    Black stallion. Loved those books as a kid.
    Or 101 Dressage Exercises is good. And Centered Riding. I loved Max Gahwylers books. I met him once. Very nice man.
  6. How many riding disciplines have you tried?
    I started out western, and rode western for probably a year to two years. Then switched to jumping. The barn I was taking lessons from wasn’t the greatest (safety wise), so I moved to a new barn. They did Saddleseat. So I tried my hand at saddleseat for a while. I’ve done barrel racing, pole bending, jumping, western and hunter pleasure, halter, trail classes (fun), etc. etc. I still love dressage the best.
  7. Is there something you won’t do with your horse?
    As long as it’s safe for the horse, then I don’t see the harm with it. I’m not sure I’d ever do Eventing though. That scares the daylights out of me.
  8. Favorite barn snack?
    Apples, because they are easily portable and shareable. 😉
  9. Do you have a “guilty” pleasure?
    I love sweets!! Anything with chocolate. And laying in my pj’s watching netflix. I enjoy both those activities WAY too much! My middle keeps expanding.
  10. What’s your favorite brand of potato chips?
    I’m not a fan of potato chips, but like Doritos.
  11. Do you prefer “fancy” breeches, or just plain jane?
    Plain Jane. Well, honestly, I don’t know. I never have any money so I go for inexpensive. And I’m too self-conscious about my body and my riding to wear the fancy stuff. If I were less insecure, I think I would totally rock the fancy breeches!
11 Questions for You

  1. What accomplishments are you most proud of? Why?
  2. What was your biggest challenge? Did you overcome it yet, and if so, how? Or what have you learned from it?
  3. When training your horse, how do you (if you do) plan out what to work on for the ride, the week, the month?
  4. What is the most inspirational thing an instructor, mentor, or friend as said to you?
  5. What are your goals for the next year, five years, and lifetime?
  6. Tell us about your worst training problem that you’ve overcome (i.e. difficult horse, or some element of training that you or the horse weren’t getting but finally did).
  7. How do you stay fit for riding?
  8. If you work outside of horses, how do you manage fitting horses in?
  9. What is the one thing you want right this moment?
  10. What is one life lesson you would want people to know?
  11. How do you determine how far to take your horse’s training?

11 Awesome Blogs (in no particular order)

  1. Maris Soule
  2. Dressage Training Journal
  3. Hamrat’s Blog
  4. http://dressagerider.wordpress.com/
  5. A Horse Named Hannah
  6. Positively Riveting
  7. How Big Your Brave Is
  8. http://littledressage.blogspot.com/
  9. http://briannadressage.blogspot.com/
  10. Princess Diva Diaries
  11. http://halfpass.wordpress.com/

Rider Tests – I did them! Woo Hoo!

Ah Ha! I have completed my mission and successfully completed both First and Second level Rider Tests. By successful I mean I stayed on the horse, didn’t get eliminated, and we performed all the movements (wasn’t a zero score on any part).

First Level Rider Test

The First Level Rider Test started a bit shaky. I made Ava mad right before we went in the ring. You know those warmups where you just want to do something you’ve done a million times just fine, some small little confidence booster right before you go in, and right then is when you screw it all up. Either you’re tense, or the horse is tense, or whatever, but that one “go to” move you knew you could nail is now the biggest IF statement of the entire test. That was my Turn On The Forehand move. Except, instead of just letting the resistance go and moving on during the warmup, I had to fuss with it. Which irritates Ava to no end. So when we got to the arena for our ride and had to wait for the bell to ring… Ava decided that was just unacceptable and started tossing her head and doing little mini-rears. She so non-scary when she does a little tantrum. I know she’s trying to be intimidating, but she’s so fluffy and squishy that it’s hard to feel like there’s any real danger. That and she’s lazy, so you know at most this will go on for 5 seconds and then she’ll realize it’s way more work then she bargained for.

Anyway, Ava’s throwing a little tantrum, the bell rings, we trot on in. Watch the video.. I was laughing about her head during the first halt.

I put the movements on the video so those of you unfamiliar with the test can follow along. Hopefully it’s not too annoying.

Read (or skip) the purpose statement on the test to better understand what is being judged during this test.

Purpose of Test: To confirm that the rider, in addition to the requirements of training level, shows correct alignment, posture and mechanics in sitting trot, including maintaining a steady, elastic rein contact. In turns on forehand and leg yields the rider remains centered and the responds willingly to the aids. The transitions are ridden in better balance and with more throughness than at training level. In response to the correct application of the rider’s aids, the horse moves actively forward showing a consistent tempo and correct rhythm in each gait, shows bending, lengthens, and shortens the stride in trot and responds willingly to both longitudinal and lateral aids.


Final score: 71.000%
The final comments were:  Great test riding of this demanding test. Good basics too. Hurray!

I have never received a score so high in my entire life, so I was thrilled with the score.  This score was from a USEF r judge.

Second Level Rider Test

I was dreading the Second Level Rider Test. We just started showing Second Level this year.  In fact, our simple changes are non-existent. I have to say, I was sweating bullets about them for the last few weeks. We can occasionally get a really good canter/walk transition if the sun and moon align perfectly, but normally it’s a hard fall through a trot. Watch the Second Level test. You can tell a few of the transitions were just crap, but there were a couple that were just, almost, sort of, getting there.

And I was proud of Ava’s medium across the diagonal into counter canter. If you realized what an immense struggle it has been for the two of us to get a relatively balanced counter canter, then this video would absolutely amaze you. Last year at this time we couldn’t even do the shallow canter loop from wall to X without falling over. Let alone go from full on lengthen canter to counter canter. I was so proud of my little girl! Please ignore the down transition after the counter canter though. Those sucked.

Here’s the video.

The Purpose: To confirm that the rider, having achieved the requirements of First Level, is able to ride the horse reliably on the bit with an uphill tendency. The rider lengthens and shortens the horse’s stride in trot and canter while maintaining correct alignment, posture and mechanics. In lateral movements the rider stays centered and demonstrates an appropriate angle and bending of the horse. As a result of the correct application of the rider’s aids, the horse shows a greater degree of straightness, bending, suppleness, thoroughness, balance and self-carriage than at first level.

Final Score: 63.000%

The final comments were: Have a stable position [rider]. Level “Challenging” for horse so trans often tight and abrupt. Traver now is 4 track.

You know.. they don’t introduce shoulder-in to traver until I1 in the regular tests, so when I say this test was hard… I mean, HARD. But om my goodness it was a BLAST to ride! I’m so tired right now all I can think to write is “it was like bam, bam, bam”. hahaha

Anyway… watch the video’s, and then everyone needs to go try these Rider Tests. They are challenging (they’re the hardest test of every level), but I really enjoy how these tests are put together. I had so much fun riding them today.

Rider Tests – I’m doing them

I’m competing this Saturday at a schooling show, and I signed up for the First and Second Level Rider Tests. I really like how the tests flow. I like the difficulty levels. I like that its not about my horse’s gaits, but about how well I ride and how responsive my mare is. I like those aspects… but dang those tests are hard! As a rider, you have to stay balanced and proactive at all times. There are only a few spots where you have time to set the horse up a little. On the other hand, my mare didn’t have time to get bored, and she was forced to pay extra attention.

In my quest to learn more about the tests, I researched videos of Rider Tests. I can only find two (2) videos anywhere (for 1st and 2nd). Either no one rides those tests, or no one is willing to post their videos after they ride them.

Both tests have changed somewhat since these two videos were taken.

Here are the videos I found:

First Level Rider Test

Second Level Rider Test

Links to the Rider Tests:

Training Level: https://www.usef.org/documents/disciplines/dressage/tests/2013TrainingLevelRiderTest.pdf

First Level: https://www.usef.org/documents/disciplines/dressage/tests/2013FirstLevelRiderTest.pdf

Second Level: https://www.usef.org/documents/disciplines/dressage/tests/2013SecondLevelRiderTest.pdf

I am determined to post any video I may get of my Rider Tests, regardless of how piss poor they may be. This void of Rider Test videos needs to be rectified!!

If you know of any First or Second level Rider Test videos, post the link in the comments section.