Melanie O’Neil kindly sent us this report from a clinic with Andrea Leatherman a couple weeks ago. We had a bit of delay in publishing this report, awaiting the use of photos. It’s worth it, though– photographer Alec Thayer from Ab3 Photography captured some beautiful images from the lessons. [Click here to view gallery] Many thanks to Alec for the photos, thanks to Melanie for writing, and thank you for reading. If you have something to share with Eventing Nation, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org!
A brief bio from Melanie O’Neil: Viggo (Fly You Fools) and I have been together for 8 years. Last year the stars aligned and we managed to win an event – Novice at HP of NJ. I am a mom with 3 kids and at least 3 part-time jobs so have no hope of getting to training level. I am also secretary and on the organizing committee of Bucks County Horse Park horse trials.
Andrea Leatherman Clinic Report
Winter felt like nothing but setbacks but I was determined to get an earlier start this year so I signed up for Andrea’s Clinic. I had a cross-country lesson with with her last summer. It was held at the Martin’s lovely facility, Buckwampam, on a warm spring-like day just a half hour drive for me. I must say I don’t usually do clinics so I didn’t realize what bad students my horse Viggo and I are! This was my Chestnut TB ‘s first time out this year so I knew he would be up, and he was. Our group of three – Tanya with a new TB, Remmie and Deena with Bobo all started a little on the frisky side. Of course they are young horses and Viggo, well he’s a forever young 16 years.
Andrea had us start with 4 poles on a bend, walking through then trotting, then changing to canter poles both directions.. Who knew this was exciting to a 16 year old horse!? He wanted to let me know he didn’t like the stuff in the corner and definitely didn’t like the photographer, dear, brave Alec Thayer. Andrea talked us through it, helping me find my jumping position after a long winter. Then she raised the poles to a low bounce gymnastic, still on a bend(!). In his younger days Viggo was well known for doing bounces as oxers so I gulped and put on a brave face. I think this was my theme for the clinic – going outside my comfort zone. My regular trainer would not give us 3 bounces because she knows our history (and that I’m a chicken!). It was great to work in the group as everyone including ground people were supportive and kept it fun. I was proud of my boy, even though he was still pretty excited, he managed to put his feet down between each pole. We had more trouble the second direction as I had difficulty seeing the line but got it after a couple “steer-outs”. Andrea’s theme for the clinic was to keep our shoulders square with the horse, I was over compensating for the bend with my shoulders. When we did it right I stopped and announced that once he does something right I don’t do it again. (why did everyone laugh here?!) Andrea said great, pat him and go through again.
Next Andrea had us do lines starting with the bounces (She never gave up on those-SIGH!). One was a bending line and the other was two 2 strides. It was hard to reorganize after the bounce to get the fence 4 strides away. Brave Alec sat on a block 2 or 3 strides out at the end of the bending line to get the head on shot. What the guy won’t do for his art! No one who knows Viggo and me would dare stand anywhere near a line that we are barreling down. But once again Viggo surprised me, he didn’t spook at the fence but waited until he was on top of Alec to spook around him. The line itself was a five and Andrea had us try to do it in six after the first time. OK I admit it, whenever anyone talks counting strides all I hear is blah, blah, blah. I do walk lines and combinations but then I think I need to either wait, be quiet or kick. Why bring numbers into a perfectly good sport? So when we went through nicely Andrea asked how many strides we did the line in, I answered – you wanted me to count strides? Why did everyone laugh at this?! We had done 5 and managed to get 6 but then couldn’t get 7 when she asked us to try that.
Next we put the lines into courses with the bounces as part of it. Any mere fences seemed easy after everything else we had done. This time brave Alec lay on ground after the first fence of the bending line. Viggo jumped fine then spooked violently to the side and I lost my stirrup. I thought, well we will just do that over. But Viggo had already had his eye on the next fence so I had to go with him, knowing that pulling out would have been much worse. Everyone cheered my dedication and being an “eventer”. No one knew that it was not my choice at all!
The clinic was a great way to start my show season. I will be more open minded to them in the future. It was well organized as well. It has to have been a good weekend when you can’t walk Monday morning, right?