Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Clinic Updates

Hey all, as promised, this next post is about clinics I have and will soon be attending. The first, the JP Giacomini clinic I attended last weekend.
I traveled down to Bulls Gap, Tennessee (my first solo road trip!) on Friday the 6th of May. I stayed at the nearby Mendin' Fences bunkhouse while the clinic was held at my friend Maria's farm. It lasted through Monday, and I learned a lot from Mr. Giacomini. He is a french classical dressage rider who has an unbelievable understanding of the horse's movement, and he knows how to relax a horse so as to calmly obtain high end dressage movements without force. I would consider his nitch to be his endotapping technique. He has specially designed sticks, similar in size to a dressage whip, with a rubber ball on the end. By rhythmically tapping a horse with this stick, the horse releases endorphins and their natural response is to lower their head and relax. Though you may have to help condition this response in your horse, this technique proved to be quite valuable with several of the horses at the clinic. This stick allows for you to ask your horse to relax at any time, but particularly when you are riding.
JP was able to get nice changes in all the horses he worked at the clinic, and showed that teaching your horse a leg yield, side pass, or collection did not have to be force and fear based. He amazed me with his timing and feel of and for the horse, and I would recommend him to those interested in doing dressage in a more natural way.
Here are some of the notes I took while at his clinic:

* Transitions and turns help slow down and organize a horse’s gait
* Changing the size of a circle changes carriage of weight on the horse’s different legs. You get the effect of changing the direction of the circle without actually changing.
* Change sides often... it promotes learning.
* Lateral flexion MUST be present for vertical flexion to occur. 
* On a left bend - withers tilt to the right; On a right bend - withers tilt to the left; vertical movement - withers stay straight.
* If there is difficulty with flexion... tap!
* You should push forward when you encounter any stiffness.
* The more transitions you do, the more progress you make.
* If a horse is in side reins, it is their job to release the pressure, not yours. 
* The flexion of a horse creates impulsion because it frees up the hind end. 
* When you ask for a canter, NEVER ask when the horse is falling out of a circle; push the horse towards something so she can “bounce off it” and pick it up straight.
* Draw reins used properly help you obtain flexion.
* To stop rearing, you may use draw reins to get good, bended circles and to get the forward impulsion created from the flexion.
* When a horse rears, address the back end... if the hind end is moving, the front hand has to be on the ground.
* On a lunge circle, its important to get the inside hind foot to step OUT and UNDER
* If a horse starts pulling away, unload the inside shoulder (pull them towards you).
* A horse must understand the push forward of lungeing without leaving you or evading the pressure.
* Prevent the evasion.
* When circling a horse, getting the inside hock to flex is crucial. 
* With your own speed and skill, make a dent in the big picture (or tree trunk, in analogy). 
*More energy for a flighty horse (like Jeanine) equals more tension.
* When your horse is afraid of a scary object, take his croup, then body, then face to the object... I.E. shoulder in. By doing this you give the horse the feeling he is able to leave. 
* If a rider is leaning in to one direction, drop that side’s stirrup to discourage the dependance on that stirrup. 
* Position for a shoulder in = outside ear above outside foot, every part of your body facing the inside of the ring, eyes looking straight down the ring in the direction you’re going, and hands cross over the neck to position the shoulders toward the inside. 
* Draw reins prevent the evasion of the horse lifting it’s head too high.
* When sitting the trot, open your knees so you sit underneath yourself rather than behind yourself.
* Tapping the inside hind leg when the inside front leg hits the ground encourages the horse to stay on the diagonal.
* Always use the right leverage to prevent the evasion and fix the problem at hand.
* When the horse turns its head away from you, thats half a release, compared to putting its head all the way down. So reward that release!
* Your body should be in agreements with your horse’s body, but your gaze should be in agreement with your direction. 

This coming Sunday Mom and I are packing up to head out to Rogersville, TN for our annual Harry Whitney clinic at Mendin' Fences Farm! I can't believe summer has already rolled around again, but I can't wait for this coming week and for Harry to finally meet my Stormy! The most important thing I'd like to address at the clinic is her crookedness in her gait. Outside of that, I'd like to know how to collect her without her getting worried (she begins grinding the bit and throwing her head around), and also what to do when she begins cross-cantering. I have a big ol' list, I know, but the most important thing is for her to settle in next week so we can start learning! I'll keep everyone updated, and surely there'll be a big long post when I return! Until Next time!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Spring Fever

Hello all who still bother to come and read this neglected blog! I have allowed many things to come between me and maintaining this blog, and for that I apologize. I have been nothing but busy for the past several months, but the most important thing is that I am here today to update you all!
All of the ponies are doing swell. They are all shaping up nicely, shedding their winter coat, and putting some muscle back on from the exercise they have been getting.
I have begun giving riding lessons, and Woody has been deemed the residential lesson pony. He is taking his new job in stride and helping two women, so far, better understand and communicate with stubborn, hard headed ponies like himself. He's been a doll for these ladies though, and they've really enjoyed their weekly lessons. On top of being a school pony, Woody has been learning more and more about collection and using his body properly whilst being ridden. More to come on that later.

Charlotte is back in work and being ridden at least once a week by my mom. She's been being ridden for the past two months, and so far, there is absolutely no sign of her lameness. At this time, Mom is planning on taking her to the Harry Whitney clinic at the end of the month. Fingers crossed she stays sound!
Teddy has turned into a little work pony as well! Last month I was working with him quite often with getting him used to a saddle, bridle, and bit. That's right. My little Teddy is turning into a riding pony. He is a large sized mini, and I'd love to be able to give lessons to some kids around here on him. It is a slow process, but so far he has accepted everything quite well, and even allowed my brother to sit on him while I lead  them around. We still have a lot of work to do, but this little one has a promising future.
And last, but most certainly not least, is my girl Stormy. Stormy has continued to settle in quite nicely, and is really finding her stride on our farm. I've been riding her a great deal, and though there are still some things I need help on, we have been able to chip away at a lot of her issues under saddle. She is now able to take a 2'6" jump calmly without rushing and galloping afterwards, and she picks up upward transitions easily and calmly now. We have done a lot of trail riding with Mom on both Woody and Charlotte, and she LOVES when I take her galloping in our hay field. All in all, she is making huge changes in her mentality and work ethic. She is simply an amazing horse.

Now that I have filled you in on all the equines featured on this blog, I'll let you know what's going on in my own life!

I have recently made some big decisions regarding the direction of my life, and I am VERY pleased to inform all interested that I am going to be an incoming freshman in the fall of 2011 at Bridgewater College. I had my heart set on VT once I was accepted, but after visiting Bridgewater as a formality... I changed my mind. Bridgewater College is located in the small town of Bridgwater, VA, right next to Harrisonburg. There is a total of 1700 students, and the campus is small, intimate, friendly, and VERY horse focused. They have a beautiful barn and facilities, and they also offer a large minor in Equine Studies. I am going to be a business administration major with a minor in equine studies. I also am going to take two lessons a week at the Bridgewater barn, however I will be leaving Miss Stormy at home for now.

Because of her condition, it is recommended she have maximum pasture turnout, with very little stall confinement. At the BC barn, stall time is required, and the boarding fee is outrageous anyways. Until we can find a better situation, Stormy will be staying home to take it easy with her friends, and I will be coming in on the weekends to give lessons and ride her.
I am very excited for what this fall has to offer, and I am really pleased and content with the decision I have made.

Up Next : Notes from a JP Giacomini Clinic and more details about the Harry Whitney clinic coming soon!