Sunday, September 24, 2023

First Clinic with Cruise

So we did our very first ever clinic yesterday and it was so informative.  SW brought in HP, someone she had worked with previously, who is a USDF silver medalist, and somewhat of a young horse specialist.  I tacked Cruise up in a stall adjacent to the arena and got to partially observe the lesson before us which was really nice.  Cruise was very “up” and we did lots of TRT in the stall and as ground work while the previous lesson finished up.  I introduced myself to HP and explained our back story while we did some more groundwork and then she filled me in about herself while I got Cruise chill enough to get on.  I really appreciated her patience while I got him down a bit, something I wasn’t sure about a dressage clinician being ok with.

Once he was under saddle he was pretty reasonable, we did a few TRT patterns, walked around HP on a 20m circle and she gave me her thoughts.  Three big things emerged and none of them had to do with my biomechanics.  Shockingly.

Firstly, HP asked if all the groundwork and under saddle patterns I was using are western world oriented.  I said, basically, yes.  The problem with that, she said, is that western horses don’t need as much go, so the emphasis is on slow and dressage horses need go.  She doesn’t want me to give up slow but for every slow there should be a go, so that we are practicing go as much as slow and go is fluid.  That way we aren’t slow slow slow, super excited GO.  Or completely non forward and non matching energy go.  Makes total sense to me and within 30 seconds of a slow footwork exercise and then asking for much more forward right after, we had better engagement.  This is something SW has been saying to me but in a different way.  SW kept saying more forward, but the idea of for every slow, a go, really resonates with me for whatever reason.

I explained to HP how Cruise is lazy at home and fired up on the road and she had a great response to that.  The more he pays attention to me at home and is 100% on my aids the more he will focus on me in tougher environments.  By letting him give a half response at home, I’m letting him only have half his focus on me.  He does stuff  at home but very half heartedly.  She said that by improving his responsiveness and focus at home I will make my life much easier at lessons, clinics, and shows.  Hmmmmmm…this really hit me about being much pickier at home leading to better focus other places.

And speaking of focus, she said that she would ride him by keeping him constantly busy.  Shoulder fore, forward and back, circles, haunches in and out on the circle, counter bends, leg yields, the list goes on and on.  She had me ride him like that and within 1-2 minutes, even with another horse in the ring, he was totally focused on me, rhythmic and flowing.  At the walk and the trot.  HP said, basically, I’ve installed all these buttons on this horse and then I sit up there and allow him to focus on other things than me when I have the tools to have him paying attention to me and not the environment.  I can’t even tell you how mind blowing this was for me.  She had us shoulder fore or counter bend or haunches out and he easily did it even though he’s never really done it before.  I’ve been riding him like a total green bean after having installed all these buttons he has no problem with me using.  Feeling a little dumb.

So anyway, you can see how this was a super informative clinic for me.  I probably only rode for 15 minutes and she totally pegged us.  I hopped on this morning and did a go for every slow, kept him busy and changed things up constantly, and he was so much more responsive and focused.  Some of the work was the best he has ever done.  Excited to implement these changes and see where it leads!

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