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. 🙂

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.