The Road Trip (of a life time)

To read the notes I took during the clinic, go to “Notes from the Charlotte Dujardin clinic“.

Post about how I got the tickets for the clinic: Once in a Lifetime

Although I only had one ticket for the clinic, my wonderful husband ended up going with me. Lucky for me he did!

Hubby was driving, and we had just pulled onto the off ramp when he casually says “We have no brakes”. Totally calm about it. I, of course, have 20 seconds of “What’d he just say?” followed immediately by extreme panic!

Hubby got us safely off the highway and coasted into a gas station. That man can seriously drive!  And then he was able to patch the brakes up enough to allow us to carry on with the road trip.

Yay!

The awesome handy man!

Brake fluid trail

Plugging the leak

He was coated in brake fluid afterward. Poor guy. Head to toe covered. And he broke his favorite tool. Not a good trip for the poor hubby, but boy was I glad he came!

The entire drive there and back took much longer than we anticipated. We left the house before 10am Friday. Google maps said it was less than a five hour drive to the clinic. That should’ve put us there about 3pm. Clinic rides started at 4:00.

Plenty of time…

Well, even though the brake issue took up an unexpected 30 minutes of our time, it still took us 6 hours and 42 minutes to get there. That included one short bathroom break and the brake line fix.

It was such a loooonnnnggg drive!

Since my hubby is a night owl,  we headed home right after the clinic.  He can’t sleep at night anyway.  Plus,  I was antsy to get home.

The ride home wasn’t much shorter. We ended up getting home about 4am. Left the clinic around 9:30pm.

The other funny thing that came out of that trip… I had asked the next door neighbor (who also owns horses)  if she could feed mine Friday evening while I was gone.  I set all the food next to their doors so that all she had to do was dump each bucket in to the feeders (access from outside of the stall) and kick the hay in.  Quick and easy.

However,  I knew my neighbor’s boarder was also coming. Nice guy, but he loves to get in Ava’s stall and pet her.

If I’m there,  I can usually nip Ava’s evil side in the bud before she escalates. When I’m not there, Ava can be downright evil.  I didn’t want to come home and hear about how Ava kicked him,  or bit him,  or trampled him…  (all things she’s done with other people before). So I left instructions for the neighbors not to go in Ava’s stall, at all.

The other two horses? Knock yourself out. Hang on them, lay under them… do what ever you want. Those two are saints.

Ava? Nope. Kick the hay in, slam the door. Do not go in.

So… Of course they went in anyway.

I didn’t find any dead bodies when I got home  — as if i wouldn’t have immediately implemented the “Shovel and Shut Up”  protocol if I had!

Ironically, I only knew that they’d gone in to Ava’s stall because they made sure to specifically let me know they’d gone in Ava’s stall.

Oh, and they were offended that I’d asked them not to.

tenor

 

 

Horse people are freaking NUTS! 

 

 

 

Notes from the Charlotte Dujardin Clinic

Part one: Once in a Lifetime

“If you fall, it’s sand, you’ll bounce” – galloping a horse to create forward desire.

“Slap the rider, pat the horse”

Stages of training:

  • First – Leg Yield
  • Second – Shoulder-In
  • Third – Travers

Straightness:

  • Keep VERY straight.
  • When too bendy on one side – straighten. On side that is less bendy – bend more.
  • “He gets stuck because he’s not straight. The inside hind comes inside” (fix with shoulder-fore).

Forward:

  • Forward/back in canter – allow the forward in the hand. Bring back enough to where the leg is on loose, the hand is on loose, and the rider just sits there without holding. SOFT.
  • When you get the forward, have a loose leg. No clamping. Take leg off.
  • Quality of canter improves just from forward. Create forward and use half-halts to re-balance.  Use forward/back transitions in gait.
  • You want the horse thinking forward.
  • If you have a lazy horse, legs off. A hot horse, legs on.
  • To start work, Charlotte said she starts in canter instead of trot. Then works in trot after that. She said it makes the trot work looser and more supple, and it’s easier to get the engagement.

Stretchy Trot:

  • Aid for stretching is low, wide rein. To pick the horse, hold hands higher and closer together.

Transitions:

  • When too much hand, horse will be abrupt in transitions and fall on forehand.
  • Transitions should look super smooth from canter forward to walk.
  • Hind leg forward!
  • No hands. Hands make horse shut down in transitions. It’s the last step of the transition where the horse was always shutting down (stutter step, or stopped completely).
  • Transitions are so important. Need to be done right.
  • Do LOADS of transitions (correctly).
  • 1,000’s of transitions a ride. Not just a few, not a dozen, thousands a ride.

Leg Yield:

  • Push the rib cage into the other rein.
  • Can also do Leg Yield with counter flexion.
  • When the horse is straight in the leg yield then the horse has to “Push” using his hind to move over. If too bent, the horse falls over and doesn’t get the strength benefit from the exercise.

Leg Yield in Canter:

  • Good to teach horse to move away from leg sideways.
  • The zig zag starter – 6 strides leg yield and 6 strides leg yield back. (broken down its 4 strides over, 1 straight, one change)
    • Easier to do this in leg yield to work out ‘how’ to do it. I believe she meant so rider can learn how to ride the zig zag without complicating it with half-pass.

 

At 7 years old, the horse should be able to do canter/walk/canter transitions in order to develop the muscles that will help with the sitting work. Transitions will help develop him.

Canter/walk/canter on a circle:

  • Bad transitions: Gait too big for downward trans. Have to set the horse up. Canter has to be small and has to be on the hind leg and balanced.
  • Round with soft hands.
  • Keep energy
  • Allow him to step forward into the walk when transitioning from canter to walk (too much hand causes horse to jerk or not step forward into the walk).
  • Circle 10m helps collect the canter.
  • Exercise: For the canter/walk transition, do a 10m circle along the wall, when coming back toward the wall again, ask for the downward transition. The wall acts like a half-halt, makes the horse back off or shift back. Makes it easier to get correct transition to walk without pulling.
  • You need to have a really good canter/walk/canter transition, where horse is stepping forward into a walk, prior to teaching flying changes.

 

Shoulder-In:

  • Active! Round and loose in hand. Want to see shoulders turn off the track.
  • Not bent in neck, but flexion in the poll. Move the shoulders not the head and neck.
  • When going to the right “Right Leg, Left Rein” mantra.
  • Should stay in the angle you put him in.
  • Do a test by counter flexing in Shoulder-in (should have a renvers feeling).
  • Mantra for shoulder-In: Inside Leg to Outside Rein. Repeat.
  • Shoulder-In is from the shoulders, not the rein.

Travers in Canter:

  • A test to determine if your horse is supple. If he really bends. Do this before teaching, trying Half-Pass.
  • Weight on inside
  • Inside leg by girth, outside leg pushes hindquarters in.
  • Do forward and back while IN travers (3 times down long side forward/back in HI).
    • Push hip in, then forward/back.
  • If you can collect in canter Travers then it’s getting ready for canter pirouette.
  • Do on 20 meter circle – round on outside. This is thinking pirouette without the massive strain. Way to build up to it.
  • Then move between travers and Shoulder-Fore on 20m circle. Push quarters in and out to teach how to ride between both legs.

 

Collected Canter:

  • Test it by pushing hands forward. Horse needs to stay in collected canter without rein. Push the hands straight forward, if horse speeds up or quits, then not right.
  • Ask for collection and expect the horse to hold it.
  • Don’t keep nagging/asking with each step.  Ask and expect the horse to hold it until asked for something else.
  • Need to get collection in a soft way.

 

Flying Changes:

  • Need to have a good quality canter/walk/canter BEFORE flying changes.
  • If you don’t have a good canter/walk transitions then you’ll never have a good canter/halt transition.
  • How to teach Flying Change:
    • Doesn’t teach in a wide open area (like diagonal)
    • Uses a figure 8 type exercise at one end.
    • Example of Figure 8
    • This exercise uses the turn off in the corners to keep the horse engaged.
    • Most issues are a straightness issue.

Half-Pass:

  • Keep the rhythm
  • Shoulders move.
  • Round and loose in the hand
  • Rider has to position the horses body from the body and 2 reins, NOT the inside rein.

 

Pirouette:

  • If pirouette whips around then it’s because horse is not off the riders inside leg..
  • Exercise for pirouette:
    • Half-pass from the corner to X, X down center line in shoulder-fore  (to almost C) , then do 1/2 of a 10 m circle and half-pass back to X.
    • piroutte exercise
    • Make the half of a circle at the end smaller to increase difficulty (mimicking pirouette). Can get it to shoulder-fore down center, with large pirouette to end up at quarter line.
    • Always do different sizes so the horse can’t anticipate and rush.
    • Need to be able to come down the center line and not have the horse take over control in anticipation of pirouette.

Tips:

  • The short side and the corner set up the next movement. A bad short side and corner leads to a bad movement.
  • Short side is used to collect, activate, re-balance the horse.
  • A horse at PSG should be able to collect on the spot. Shouldn’t need several strides to achieve it.
  • Working Pirouette:
    • Hip in and do smaller and larger circles in traverse
  • Rider hips to rider hands
  • Keep the energy. Keep the work easy in order to keep the horse keen.
  • ALWAYS outside straighter.
  • Always do hard side first. Otherwise, have to do hard side after horse is already a bit more tired if doing it second.
  • The leg is NOT there to keep him going. That’s the horse’s job.
  • Activate the canter. Have to go forward in order to be able to collect.
  • When the horse is strong, make that correction and then SOFTEN.
  • Charlotte does stretch work and transitions dedicated days.



Other:

  • Charlotte said she thinks all lazy horses should be police horses.
  • Short  reins.
  • Bum down – horse has to be in front of leg.
  • Keep the rider’s upper body soft. The movement flows through the upper body.
  • Let the horse make mistakes and then correct. Pat the horse for effort.
  • Difference in what it takes for a horse to “sit” or to “push” i.e. passage is push. Horse is usually better in one than the other.
  • The horse was jumping into a canter when asked for a more forward trot. Charlotte said “she canters because she’s on the forehand”. The horse couldn’t go forward, so broke into canter which is easier than actually pushing from behind to go forward.

First Jumping Lesson

I went to my first jumping lesson last Wednesday night. No pics,  sorry.  I went by myself. 

I was so nervous before it started! Really nervous! Sweaty palms,  heat racing, type nervous. 

They brought up 2 horses, and a pony. Guess who got the pony? 😂 

Actually,  it was a super cute pony who was about the size of Joy. 

There were three other ladies close to my age in the class.  All at about my level of riding (bit more experienced in jumping).  I was worried about riding in front of them at first,  and making a fool out of myself,  but they were so incredibly nice.   

I haven’t 2 pointed in 30 odd years. I couldn’t seem to get the mechanics of it down.  It seems so simple,  and yet I was either tipping forward or falling back.  I couldn’t stop posting in 2 point.  What’s up with that?!? 

Instructor had us go over a line of poles on the ground first.  The lesson pony,  Willow, handled them with ease. I just clung on and focused on my body position while Willow did all the work.  

When the instructor was satisfied with our pole work she let us jump a single cross rail.  

I had mixed emotions about going over the first jump.  Excited, with an undercurrent of feeling nauseous.  Part of me wanted to quit,  but the other ladies there weren’t scared.  They weren’t even phased.  It made me feel like I could do it too.  

The first lady rode over the cross rail easily and then it was my turn.  Those jumps seem so big when I’m on the back of a horse.  They also seem to get massively larger the closer I get to it.  What was a 6 inch jump, started looking like a 4 foot oxer in my mind by the time we got to it.  

I closed my eyes. 

Willow jumped over it easily and with a nice fluid effort.  Easy to ride it.  I got scolded for ducking my upper body down (oops),  and i made a mental note to fix it next jump. 

Second jump was easier.  Jump seemed a lot smaller this time.  I kept my upper body as still as possible.  I had issues holding 2 point though and wobbled backward a bit. I wasn’t quite in balance. 

Then the instructor changed things up and had us jump the first cross rail the opposite way, and continue down the line to the 2nd cross rail.    
I tried to watch the other ladies as they did their jumps.  They made it seem easy. 

Then my turn…  The first cross rail went well,  but as soon as the pony landed she started cantering.  I’ve never cantered over a jump before and the second jump was coming up very fast!  I was freaking out.  I was mid-debate with myself about pulling the pony back to a trot or not when suddenly we were at the next cross rail.  It seemed so massive.  At least a 6 foot wall.  I grabbed mane.  Pony soared over it and landed gracefully on the other side.  My heart was thudding in my chest.  I almost wanted to quit at that point.  And yet..  OMG it was fun.  Scary,  but fun! 

Instructor had us come around and try it again.  This time it didn’t seem quite as big of a jump,  nor as terrifying when the pony cantered up to it.  Not quite the smoothest approach to the fence,  but I felt like we stayed in sync a bit better the second time. 

We did that line a couple more times and by the end I felt a lot braver about jumping.  

I’m still not really confident in my 2 point position.  And I had issues with keeping my upper body up when I closed the angle of my hips.  I think it’s lack of strong back muscles.  I was really feeling every back muscle after I got off the pony.  Those were the only muscles that felt sore afterward.

I go back for my second lesson on the 11th. I’m really excited about it.  Really fun group of ladies and I get to challenge my fears and learn new things.  I can’t wait! 

Oh,  I was really pleased that the instructor praised me for staying balanced when the pony jumped the second line of cross rails. She said the strides were off,  or something,  and so pony had to jump from a bad spot.  Instructor said I did a good job of staying out of the way and not messing up the pony’s balance.  I was thinking..   “My motto in life: stay out of the way and keep the peace” 😂 

All in all,  a fantastic group of ladies to ride with,  a safe and well trained pony to learn on, and a knowledgeable instructor who pushed me just outside my comfort zone but not beyond. It waa an exhilarating experience.  Scary, but exhilarating.