This was the second clinic I have been able to attend with Dr. Deb Bennett, who resides in CA. She is the founder of www.equinestudies.org and has written many books and published lots of articles for Equus magazine.
This year the clinic was a full three days of work. We started each day with riding and finished with riding, with lecture in between over lunch. My brain feels so completely full of information, I'm not even sure where to start blogging about it...so, I will dive in, but not promise continuity or clarity. I will let the material speak for itself. All of the people who came this year were at the clinic last year. We didn't have as many people and we had a much larger arena so it was more like having mini private lessons intermingled with group work.
The farm where the clinic was held was in Mineola, TX. It was a former Quarter Horse farm that had been given up in bankruptcy and then taken over by another family. There are 100 acres and trails and a covered arena, a very nice barn in front, a smaller barn in back, a house no one lives in (the guest house) and an apartment on the back of the small barn that is big enough I could live there! We stayed in the house. I would love to live in that house. It's just a simple farmhouse with a master bedroom at one end, open living room, kitchen, dining area and 2 bedrooms at the other end with a bath between. The floors were old wood. It was so comfy...and uncluttered--which, of course, is nothing like my own house.
When Betsy and I arrived on Thursday we immediately saddled up and went for a ride out back. I was trying to get Liberty used to his snaffle bit, which I had borrowed from Betsy. I have several snaffles, but I'm not fond of any of them, so Betsy has loaned me her spare Baucher snaffle. Liberty seems to like it, fighting with it way less than other bits I have used. However, I have grown stupidly used to pulling back square on both hands to get a stop with the S hack. (I have now been told not only to never use my S hack again, but to never pull back with both hands at the same time EVER, EVER and especially not ever again--I know better, but I lost my way) So out in the woods we had a nice, quiet ride. Betsy had brought her other mare, Jahara with her as well since April has had an injury and she didn't know if she was ready to work for three days in a clinic. So Jahara and Liberty set out very nicely and quietly. Riding with Jahara is so much easier than riding with April. April is very competitive and needs to be first. Jahara is more like Liberty and doesn't care where she falls in the pack. We rode for about 1:30 hours, weaving through the trails, trotting a little and just generally letting them stretch their legs. Some of the other clinic folks had come and they sort of seemed to be laughing at us when we told them we were going to be going riding...after all, we had three days of riding ahead of us.
The first day was similar to last year. We started just with walk and with letting the horses get used to being together as a group. She told us that this is the herd they would accept for the weekend. We were 7 riders. It was my friend Betsy and her morgan, April, Cheryl (the clinic coordinator) and her TWH, Rob and his racking horse, Jim with his Paso Fino, Mauri on her QH, her friend Jan on another QH, and me on Liberty. After the horses got settled in the walk we began weaving small serpentines along the long wall. She had us all outfitted in either sidepulls or snaffle bits (which was completely new for us b/c Liberty hasn't been in a bit since I switched him to his S hack last year) We were to use our legs to change the bend from left to right to left as we wove around the arena. Eventually we grew our serpentines into circles and then we began to learn leg yielding. The leg yielding became turns on the forehand with a nifty little exercise. She would put the group to work on an exercise and then call us into the middle one at a time to work on that exercise or something more specific to our horse in the centered. Typically whoever went first didn't have much of an audience as we would be practicing our figures, but as the 1:1 time continued, folks would generally start to watch...this was always my downfall. Liberty was doing beautiful leg yields when no one watched me, but the minute I had to ask him in front of the class he tried to trot off. Of course, I'm sure that I had NOTHING to do with that and it was all his attempting to get attention (yeah, right) but the worst part is that I had the snaffle and all I could do was wind him down into smaller and smaller circles whenever he charged off. However, in spite of me, but the end of the first day, Liberty was doing some very nice turns on the forehand and leg yielding exercises.
What we learned on what day is really kind of a blur. Each day we had lecture time during lunch and the middle of the afternoon. The first day we watched a series of movies that talked about the process of training. The first movie on her clip was the Loan ranger and showed how he had no process in teaching his horse anything. Then we moved onto a clip by a gentleman name Ostomeier (think I spelled that right) who was a Hungarian showman in the 40's through the 80's and taught lots of horses lots of classical riding...it was all the process of how to train Piaffe and Passage in a certain way, but it was also all about the successful process. Then we segued into many different horse movie clips which were all very cute. The Rustlers Rhapsody had some good trick riding and then there was a Bob Hope/Roy Rogers movie called Son of a Paleface with Trigger Jr. I have put them in my netflix queue.
Oh, so much more to tell, but I'm pooped and have a long day tomorrow, so I'm going to sign off.