Monday, May 16, 2016

B.S. Clinic aka I Went Fast, Jumped Big, and Didn't Die

**Since this is one of my less favorable clinic reviews, I didn't want to post the trainer's name. I don't think he is necessarily a poor trainer, just that he wasn't a good fit for what I needed. He seemed to do much better with people riding made, or better behaved, horses, or riders who were already very competent riding green horses. Basically, we didn't mesh, but I don't want to hurt a reputation based on my opinion alone.**

One of my barn mates trains with a Hunter Jumper A-circuit trainer (ACT) based in Georgia. She asked him to come to Auburn to host a clinic. I love riding with new trainers, and my trainer, H, loves when I go to clinics since we usually come back with new tools to help me progress.

I was a big girl, and signed up for the 0.85-0.95 Jumper class. I had heard ACT was putting jumps up all day, but when I entered the ring, the courses were set medium crossrails (0.65-0.75 in the middle) and a few 0.75-0.8 oxers. Lexie was a mild fire breathing dragon, so during the warm up I focused on lengthening and shortening to really ask her to listen, and to figure out what strength brakes she wanted that day.

It started out nice enough- just a trotting approach to a ground pole, medium cross rail, ground pole focusing on being balanced as a rider, with open shoulders. We were supposed to land and turn in the opposite direction to make a figure 8, but it turned into land and turn the direction of the lead. After a few go-rounds at the trot, we cantered it. Lexie was lovely the whole time- relaxed and soft.

We then made a small course out of a grid of medium crossrails ( 1 stride, 2 stride, 2 stride) and then cantered the medium crossrail in the middle. Still lovely- a bit of a wonky turn after the crossrail because of ground poles, but do-able.

We added onto that course- the grid, followed by a long turn to the crossrail, 5 stride outside line of 2 medium crossrails, long approach to a fan, long approach to a swedish oxer. Now- I had jumped this fan on Friday, knowing I get nervous about new fences, and wanted to school it on a good Lexie day. And at 0.65, it rode lovely. As I turned that corner to begin my long approach to the fan though, ACT jacked the jump up 3 holes- we were approaching a 0.85 m fan with no warning. I haven't schooling 0.85 or higher outside of a grid in over 4 months, but Lexie was locked and loaded. Definitely yelled, "Oh f*cking hell", sank into my heels, grabbed mane, and wrote my obituary. We cleared it, Lexie was JAZZED, but on the long approach, I got her collected for our 0.7 swedish, which was lovely.

This course set the pace for the rest of our clinic: ACT would jack jumps up randomly for all students, and it got to the point that when I was faced with a 1.0 m fan, a crossrail at 0.95 m in the middle, and a 0.95 m vertical, I finally told ACT, "I can't do this. She's tired, and I'm not ready for the height." He was nice enough to drop everything back down to 0.95 m, but I was frustrated.

I finished the clinic in good spirits- Lexie was a maniac, but I rode everything comfortably and I jumped above my comfort zone, and didn't die. I was frustrated with the clinician though- Lexie is athletic, and was a former 1.10 m horse, but she has stifle issues and fused hocks. We're working back up to the 1.10s as soon as my confidence, and her fitness are ready.

I think it was a difference of fundamentals. He saw me as staying on, seeing the distances, and riding a saucy mare as "doing really well" and kept raising the fences until they couldn't meet the challenge physically. I saw a horse who was not athletically ready for full 0.95-1.0 m courses, a nervous rider who is getting there, and figuring out a head-strong, aggressive mare. He made the statement several times that riding is 75% mental, and I agree- but the 25% is just as important. I value my horse's joints, tendons, and muscles more than I value jumping big as fast as I can.

Every clinic has an up side, and I took from this clinic that the pieces are there, I am still physically and mentally capable of jumping "larger" fences, and Lexie will take care of me when I ask (and on several approaches- I did just that, softened the reins, and said, "Take care of me, mare."). H and I are trying to figure out a plan for getting fitness on a 4-5 day a week riding schedule- it's a gradual process, and we're getting there.

- K & C & L


  1. First your disclaimer was super classy. I had my first real jump trainer jack fences on me when I was first learning and it set me up for years of remedial work, so I definitely understand your frustration though our circumstances were different. Glad you guys made it through.

  2. Not all clinics and lessons are going to be great and leave you feeling awesome. You should be really proud that despite the fact you and ACT didn't quite "click" that you still accomplished a lot!