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. 🙂

6 thoughts on “The Clinic

  1. Widening your hands and sliding your elbows back are two things that my trainer has me do to maintain the contact. She insists that I follow my horse wherever his head goes so that he feels a “steady” contact. It’s not always successful, but it does help. :0) The clinic sounds awesome!


  2. Pingback: Pam Goodrich Clinic – What I Learned Watching Other Riders | Avandarre In Dressage

    • The theory that Pam was talking about focused on only doing exercises that force the horse to place more weight on the less dominate shoulder. Since the horse spends 24 hours of day traveling with their weight on the dominant shoulder, then the 45 minutes you ride should focus on developing the weaker shoulder with little to no work done on the dominant side (not until they are more even).

      Pam started me off with establishing a big, energetic, forward trot and making sure that the horse sustained it without any rider interference. Once that was established, then we worked on leg yields toward the weaker shoulder. The key being that the trot should still be big and forward. If the horse started slowing down, ask for the big forward again. The idea being that the forward energy insists that the horse has to shift their balance toward the outside shoulder and load that leg more. Letting the horse slow down allows the horse to continue holding the weight on the inside/dominant shoulder.

      It only took about 4-6 times of big forward leg yield before Ava started carrying the weight more evenly on both legs. So then Pam worked on getting the base of the neck directly between the two shoulders. We worked on shoulder in toward the right, but going left. That forced the horse to not only place the weight on the left shoulder (weaker shoulder), but also stretched the muscles on the left side, and brought the base of the neck more evenly in front of the shoulders. Once the base of the neck was lined up I could feel the trot improve and become more free.

      It’s been several months since this lesson, and I still struggle some days with Ava falling onto her right shoulder. However, I’ve found that if I start off having Ava bent a little too much toward the dominant shoulder (right) and really work to loosen up and stretch out the entire left side of her body, then that helps resolve the problem. Mainly it’s a tightness issue, and it helps me to think of stretching out the weaker side rather than try to push her onto the weaker side. The leg yields still work, and I only do a couple of those every few rides if she’s really tight. Otherwise, I mainly stay in a shoulder-fore right position while going left, and I ask her to lengthen the left side of her body and relax (for maybe 7-10 minutes) before we start any real work.

      I have video from the second lesson with Pam where we’re trying to fix the issue. It’s kind of hard to hear.

      Let me know if you find any exercises that really help your horse. Ava’s better, but we still have a loooong way to go with this problem.


      • Wow, that’s a lot of information – thank you so much! I am definitely keen to try this as Copper is so unbalanced and weak. I can feel it when we try to change direction at a trot, he finds it very hard to transfer his weight, and he really gets stuck on circles because he is not working evenly on both sides.

        I’m fairly certain his left side is his strongest- he sucks back and kind of hollows on the right rein so that the contact is uneven – left rein tight, right rein droopy, whether we are doing circles or straight lines. Leg yields have helped this, and actually I find that his trot improves immensely after doing some strong, slow, uphill cantering – particularly on the right rein so that he is leading with his weaker leg.

        I will try the leg yields at a trot – going slow will not be a problem; I can’t slow him down at a trot even if I want too – he just doesn’t seem to be strong enough to carry himself properly at a trot – or else he finds it too hard and won’t try! I don’t know quite what it is, but we are working on this. I’m finding it very difficult, so anything new is worth a go. Thank you so much for you time and help. 🙂

        bonita of A Riding Habit


  3. Pingback: I’m having issues… I hate issues. | Avandarre In Dressage

Leave a Reply to Bonita Vear (@bjvear) Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.