Sunday, September 18, 2011

Fantastic Clinic

Over the past two days I've had the wonderful opportunity to ride with Heather Morris at a local eventing family's farm. Yesterday, prior to loading into the trailer, Flinter had a much needed refresher course on how-to-stand-tied (yes, it got a little western for about 30 seconds) and how-to-be-polite-while-receiving-a-bath-because-it-isn't-my-fault-you-are-grey-and-chose-to-roll-the-night-before...but after this little refresher he was VERY well behaved, funny how that works. After his bath he loaded smartly in the trailer and away we went. When we arrived at the Fletcher's farm he remained calm - if you had seen him at the last clinic you would know he doesn't really "do" new places well - and settled into his stall with a quick roll. Luckily he had about an hour and a half to settle before I tacked him up and mounted - the whole time staying very relaxed which can be very much not like Flint, but hey I'm not complaining!

No "airs above ground" for us! In our lesson he was extremely rideable and Heather had us start working on leg yields at the trot and basically just standing up when tracking right. The thing that I love about this horse is his work ethic, even when he isn't quite sure he truly does want to figure out the "game." It has been awhile since I've "entered at A" Heather helped me a lot with the exact gaits that I want while in the arena and gave me some great tips on how to manage his tendency to curl back behind the bit. I even broke out the old dressage saddle (it only had about 3" of dust on it!) for the occasion and was very impressed with myself on how the old muscle memory put me right back in the correct dressage position. Overall I feel that the main goal for Holly Hill is a long warm up, especially at the walk. Naturally with Flint being an OTTB he wants to get tense through is back (big surprise right?), but when he relaxes and softens through his back and into the bridle he really does have lovely movement that I feel has the potential to be competitive in the dressage ring...if we can keep his famous "airs above ground" to a minimum!

Today we were scheduled to school cross country, which I was extremely excited about for obvious reasons, however a big ole storm system kept that from happening - don't worry I'm not complaining, I know we needed the rain! So instead we worked on gridwork and some lines in the arena. Starting out with the grids Flint was figuring out where to put his feet, but once the line built up to 3 jumps (two one strides with canter poles) he became a gridworking machine. It was amazing to feel how his confidence grew in himself as the grid grew to 5 jumps (x-rail - one stride - vertical - one stride - vertical - bounce - vertical - one stride - oxer). He naturally stayed straight and his transitions at the end of the arena just got better as the lesson progressed. We then moved on to line work, starting with a basic six stride then working in the two stride. Flint's confidence that was built up through the grid remained strong through the other exercises causing me to have to whoa more than I ever have on him before - he was eating them up and looking for the next fence! As long as I can keep his confidence growing and keep it up throughout the event I think Beginner Novice at Holly Hill should be a fun, successful first outing for us. (*fingers crossed*)

The thing that I like about Heather as a clinician is that she can have a lesson with 3 different riders on 3 completely different rides and everyone walks away learning something and feeling like they got their moneys worth. She works on the things that are fixable within the lesson time and gives "homework" that is doable with goals for the next time that are attainable. This is the second time I have ridden with her and both times Elizabeth and I have felt that we walked away with valuable information; we will definitely ride with her every time she comes back as long as our schedule permits.

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