Parklane Hawk (OTTB) winning the 2012 Rolex Kentucky CCI****.
(All pictures kindly supplied by Allie Conrad and used with her permission with thanks)
Like me you may recognize Allie Conrad's name as the author of some great articles in the the Chronicle of the Horse, documenting the OTTB at Rolex for instance, or her struggle to retrain a particular horse. Since reading them, I've been lucky enough to meet Allie at several events (we're usually admiring the same horses too!) and this week I spoke to her about her love for the OTTB and her mission at CANTER Mid-Atlantic for the Eventing Radio Show. Dedicated and driven, passionate and smart but still down to earth and a pleasure to talk to, you can hear our entire conversation on the podcast this week.
It all started when Allie was in her early 20s and her current horse had gone lame. After a little research on the internet where she learned about the New Holland Sales, she saved up a whopping $500, borrowed a trailer and set out, determined to make a difference. "I bought this mess of an animal, but I wanted to bring him home and save his life. The horse I picked up at New Holland is my lifeblood; I still own him. He's 22 now and shuffling around a bit. I built my barn for him, I built my farm for him, and he's the love of my life. He changed my life. He's a bit of an ass, but he can do no wrong. I let him get away with just about everything. His racing name was Clever Ma, so all the horses here that I've bred have been named after him. My farm (Clever Covert Farm) is named after him ... he's like my legacy!"
In the beginning though, Clever Ma's future was still uncertain. Allie detailed her doubts that he might not even be sound — "He had lymphangitis in all four legs and a huge knee!" — but to her surprise and joy, she discovered he had the most beautiful, swinging and sound trot on turning him out in a round pen on arrival at her farm. "He and I did just about everything together. He stayed very sound until just about a year ago, and then his hard life began to catch up with him. But he evented, we did the jumpers, we hunted all over the place, he did hunters, we did hunter paces, we did everything. He was my everything horse and just the absolute horsey love of my life. He's why CANTER Mid-Atlantic exists, and he's saved a lot of horses. I tell him all the time; his ego is huge!"
Clever Ma had come with his papers, so Allie was able to find out a little bit about his background. "I ended up tracking down his old owners, and they were trainers at Charles Town; they had bred and raised this horse, held him in their laps when he was born and when I told them what had happened I just heard silence and then bawling crying. They were so upset."
Unintentionally, Clever Ma's breeders had sent all their horses to the killer buyer having been promised that he would find them a good home. "This guy had them completely fooled, and so all 10 of the horses that they had sent him had been slaughtered and they were dealing with the realization of that. Thank God this one was saved, but it was at that moment that I decided to help both the Thoroughbreds coming off the track, but also people like them who wanted to do the right thing." Thus CANTER Mid Atlantic was born about a dozen years ago, the second CANTER program in the U.S.
"The more I got into it, the more I just realized they're just the coolest animals. They're thankful; they try hard. The only thing that stands in their way is soundness when they're not cared for on the track, and that's another battle I've been fighting: to try and get them cared for better, to change the drug rules and to change their future so they aren't raced past their ability to have a second career."
Doug Payne and Running Order at the Rolex Kentucky CCI**** last year
Allie is approaching her fourth decade, which means she has volumes of experience and can speak with some authority on how things are different and how much they have improved for the better since those early days. "Being involved in this for so long has given me a certain perspective, and what's really cool is the change in attitude at the tracks. When I first started and went into Charles Town or other tracks, nobody would talk to us, or they would actually kick us out of the barns. I just kept going back and the more I went back, eventually they began to give me the time of day."
The first time Allie took a horse for a trainer and sold it via CANTER Mid-Atlantic within a day, "It spread like wildfire. The biggest change was that instead of running their horse in those last few races knowing they didn't have a chance but might bring home a little bit of a check, even $100 or $200, those people don't do that anymore. They list them on CANTER where they might sell them for $1,000 instead of risking one last run and possibly their horse breaking down completely. That's been the biggest change, and I think that is influencing the track in a very big way."
Unbelievably, Allie combines her work at CANTER Mid-Atlantic with a career in project management for a software development firm that essentially manages contracts for the government. "The technical term for that is NERD! The CANTER stuff is all just a labour of love. We all do it as volunteers. On a slow week, it's about 30 hours a week. On other weeks, it can be upwards of 50 or 60, depending on how many abcesses we have — literally!"
Will Faudree and Andromaque at the 2012 Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials CCI****
In any given week, there will be three or four CANTER Mid-Atlantic volunteers visiting the half a dozen or so tracks in the area that weekend. "We've been very lucky that we've been able to grow an awesome group of volunteers." Depending on the funding level at the time, if people are in a situation where they need to get rid of a horse immediately, then CANTER Mid-Atlantic will take them as donations. Once again, depending on funds, CANTER Mid-Atlantic takes in anywhere from 60 to a 100 horses a year; those horses will be turned out for three to six months depending on what they need, then re-trained and re-homed.
The extensive retraining is what probably stands CANTER Mid-Atlantic apart from a lot of other OTTB programs. "You can't truly evaluate a horse in one or two rides; you can only evaluate those two rides. We started insisting on 30 to 60 days of re-training so that we could really go about re-training and evaluating them in a very thorough, systematic way. Our success rate in placing them in new homes is at about 99 percent. I think we've had two horses come back ever that were not the right match."
Obviously this makes the process extremely costly. "It's much more expensive, but our service has to be to the horses and not the bank account, and we're not doing the horses the right service if we're placing them in a home that has unrealistic expectations of them, both mentally or soundness wise. We are extremely transparent in our re-training process. We write extensive blogs about each horse, and we document everything. I call it 'The Good, The Bad, The Ugly and The Really Ugly!'"
Funded by donations and grants — a very generous grant from ASPCA enabled them to double their efforts — most of their funding comes from donations and the sale price of the nicer horses, although "for every horse we sell for $3,000 or $4,000 or sometimes even $5,000 if it's been to a few shows, we'll probably give 10 away for a dollar or a couple hundred."
At Southern Pines, CANTER gave an award for the highest placed Jockey Club registered TB, and for the last three years they've also highlighted and rewarded the best placed OTTB at the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event. Allie started that award after being told by someone at Rolex who should have known better that she might be disappointed to find that there just weren't any OTTBs at the the top of the sport, and oh, has Allie proved her wrong!
Michael Pollard and Wonderful Will
Allie also enjoys going to events as much as time allows to take pictures of the OTTBs competing and to highlight how prolific they are at every level. "The thing that they have at the end of the day that other horses don't is more heart than anything. In my opinion, that's what wins in eventing. You can have a 10 trot all day long, but the fact is you have to go cross country and you have to be sound on the third day, and I think that's what they're good for."
You can hear Allie's entire conversation on the Eventing Radio Show this week, and please be sure to check out the CANTER Mid-Atlantic website. Thank you for reading, and thank you to Allie for chatting but especially for all her great work to help the OTTB. Go CANTER Mid-Atlantic and Go OTTBs Eventing!
Meg, Holden, Will, Ryan, Boyd and our own Jenni after a successful yoga session at The Fork
Thanks to the colossal organisation and brainpower of Meg Kepferle and Dana Romano, who collectively make up Howdaa, the generosity and foresight of Theault to get involved in something fun and exciting at the ground level by being the presenting sponsor, and to Will Coleman and Boyd Martin who gave of their time for free, the inaugural Yoga Session at The Fork was a roaring success and raised $1,000 for Area II Young Riders.
Even though the weather didn't cooperate for the scheduled date and so it was postponed by a day, there was a good turnout of about a dozen or more people ranging from complete beginners to more advanced yogis.
Ryan Stone, the instructor ,managed to teach a class that catered to and challenged all levels, but also found a way to make it fun, and frequently enlisted Boyd and Will's help to interact with the class. Ryan started yoga about seven years ago whilst teaching English in Japan. "Just being around the Buddhism and the Shintoism made me decide to try yoga when I came back, mostly for the spiritual aspect." On his return to the States, Ryan spent five years in Charleston, S.C., where he did his teacher training, and he's now in Chapel Hill.
Jenni, "I was expecting it to be more beginner level, but they definitely pushed us, which is good. It was good to give people an idea of what it's actually about. There were definitely some poses that I haven't done before, and I've taken yoga for about six months. Some of it was tough, but at the same time I feel so much better. I was super sore and tense coming into this from standing watching dressage in the rain and cold for two days, and I'm so much more relaxed in my shoulders and back and my neck — especially a lot better in my shoulders."
Amber was doing massage therapy for people in a booth at the event, "I've just done a little bit of yoga before, but this was really fun and really enjoyable, and it was actually probably one of the best yoga classes I've ever done. I haven't done very many, and I've certainly never done one outside on the grass with a bunch of jokey people before! I'd probably do yoga again now."
Alissa also gave it a glowing report
All in a day's work for USEA's Frankie Theriot
Ryan's partner, Jes is also an Area II rider and is aiming her horse for the one star at Virginia, "I have a bad shoulder and yoga has been really helpful in strengthening that and for flexiblity."
Amazing props to Meg, who manages to keep Sinead's horses looking and feeling fantastic, run a business, (actually, it may be several!) stay smiling, be the life and soul of all the parties, the brains behind creepy videos and God knows what other innovations, Area II's shining star, a fitness freak, a dancing queen, a hip-hop gangsta ... basically the best friend you dream of having but never imagined existed: Meg's that girl!
Speaking of Sinead...
Chris, "My daughter is in the Young Riders Advancement programme, so of course we want to support that. I thought the class was terrific; I've never done yoga before and I might do it again if I had enough time — right?! Too many ponies to ride, but it was fun."
"Riders can be quite stiff and my goal is to develop an actual sequence specifically for riders, so I'm learning more from Jes and other riders that I talk to all the time," Ryan said. "I just met Boyd and Will for the first time at Southern Pines a couple of weeks ago, and they're great guys; I've enjoyed working with them. I would love to do more of these, it just depends on how many shows Jes goes to and how many I go along to with her."
I'm not going to lie, there was definitely a certain amount of competition between Will and Boyd.
But I couldn't possibly tell you if one was better than the other. You can, however, order a video, beautifully shot, edited and produced by Josh Walker and including interviews with Boyd, Will and Ryan by going to the Howdaa website and practice in the comfort of your own home amongst the company of the stars! It will be available shortly, and we'll let you know as soon as it is. Howdaa would like to make yoga a staple at events and will also have a presence at Rolex — more news soon.
Many thanks again to Meg, Ryan, Will, Boyd, Theault-America and everyone who showed up. Thank you for reading, and thank you if you donated to Area II Young Riders. Go Downward Dog and Go Eventing!
The Event: Yoga with Will Coleman and Boyd Martin at The Fork to benefit Area II Young Riders presented by Theault of America
Where: The Fork, NC. To be more specific - probably either on the lawn right outside the main barn by the flags, or in between Rebecca's old house and the ring, but it will be somewhere fairly quiet, and this is a closed event. In case of bad weather it will either take place in the main barn, or one of two available tents. More details will be available next week.
What time: 6pm, but plan on arriving a little early to get situated. After introductions and a brief chat, the actual class will probably take about 45 minutes, but you may be there for up to an hour or even longer.
Meet your instructors, above: Ryan Stone, in the middle, has been teaching yoga in the Charlotte, NC area for some time. Will, on the left, and Boyd, on the right - the less said the better! Ryan will be leading the class, but Boyd and Will will also be mic'd up and I'm sure providing helpful hints and a running commentary!
How much does it cost? $30 and you can sign up here.
Do you need to have had experience? All levels are welcome. Meg Kepferle, one of the joint-organisers, and founders of Howdaa along with Dana Romano told me that Ryan will cater the class for beginners and more experienced and flexible people alike, and they are expecting a mixture of both to attend.
What do I need to bring? If you'd like to bring your own mat, then by all means do; if not, Ryan will have some available.
Who should I thank? Theault of America for being the title sponsor, and then of course Meg Kep and Dana Romano, the brains behind the operation. Of course it's always polite to thank your instructors after a lesson - and if you'd like to stay longer and chat about it for an EN review, well....!
Thanks to Meg Kepferle for giving us a little preview of what to expect, and I can't wait to sit in and observe, all in a hard day's work! Please sign up to attend if you can, or for the video if you can't, and we'll bring you a report next week. Thank you as always for reading, Namaste and Go Eventing!
Before you read any further, I would like to thank Lucinda for helping me write the article. I sent off my drafts to her to critique/correct because let's face it, I have yet to master the English language and any sort of comprehension of riding theory. A huge thank you to Lucinda! Also a giant thank you to Sue Slocum for hosting and organizing the clinic.
Hello Eventing Nation!
I had the pleasure of attending my first Lucinda Green clinic ever! I drove 90 minutes each way to catch the last 45 minutes of the last group on the last day of the clinic in Minnesota. It was definitely worth it!
Lucinda has been doing clinics in Minnesota for the last several years, and this is the first time she was secured a June date instead of the usual October date. The clinic was held at Sue Slocum’s Wake Robin Farm in Waconia, MN.
Now, I’ve been stalking Lucinda since I found out what eventing was, especially after I heard her voice on the Equestriad 2001 video game as a commentator. I had to ride right by Lucinda! Since then, my stalking has taken me to Youtube videos, online horse forums reviews of her clinics, and the Lucinda Green Facebook page. Lucinda is all about developing the “fifth” leg in your horse. Everything I had always read about her was to not miss a clinic. Even on the ground auditing for 45 minutes, there is much training and theory I can take away with me. This recap is just that, a general overview of the theory and exercises presented. For more in depth theory, attend a clinic. You’ll be glad you did!
Truthfully, I missed the flat and beginning of the warmup (that whole family obligation thing, you know? Gets in the way!) I digress. In person, watching Lucinda’s style of teaching was like a breath of fresh air. She told you what needed to be achieved and praised you when ridden correctly and reminded you when you were falling in to old habits. No hand holding, but more than the usual “Good. Fine.” comments you hear from trainers. There really is no description that will do her style justice, and I could go on for days about it, so you’ll have to experience it for yourself. Back to the warm up. There was a corner made of show jumps, skinnies and barrels set up as well as some blocks. The riders would stay in the middle of their horses and guide their horse over the fences, keeping the designated gait. Once through for each rider, and she’d move the blocks to a new spot, keeping both the horses and riders on their toes (preferably heels). The fences were kept low, and the emphasis on footwork was most important. The horses needed to start analyzing the question at hand as early as possible.
After several rounds of this we moved on to the bank area. The riders were told to walk their horses up and down the banks, and then rode an exercise of skinnies incorporating the banks. Again, fifth leg training of having your horse figure out the striding and where to put his feet was stressed while the rider guided the horse and stayed balanced.
On to the ditches and trakehners next, again start with walking back and forth starting with the smaller ditch and working up to the trakehners. This made me a bit nervous the thought of walking a trakehner, but the benefits from the training completely outweigh any nerves, as the riders (and auditors) soon saw. Lucinda commented that if a horse gets lazy (mentally) and steps a foot in a ditch and there’s a bit of a disaster, they won’t do it again. The rider’s job is to stay on through it.
Water was up next, where the riders were given an option of jumping in cold turkey or walking through it first. This is one tough group that opted to test out the waters by diving in feet first. Horses and riders headed in confidently, albeit a bit cautiously, but the horses were attentive and thinking, a good sign of developing the fifth leg. Throughout the clinic at various times, Lucinda reminded the riders to keep their horses focused. When the horse is not focused, the rider is left with that horrible feeling of no connection.
After mastering each complex, the riders were told to put a course together of the jumps out in the field. Anything they had jumped the previous day and today as well as anything else they wanted to try. The giant log you see the riders take in the video is 3’6” on the one side and 4’+ on the other end.
At the end, the riders were very pleased with the results and were looking very sharp. Lucinda recapped what each horse and rider should take away from their two days together as well as some general knowledge. Personally, I’m a chanter. I need short phrase “gems” to think about as I ride. I shall share with you a few of the gems I took away:
“Why worry about striding?” This was in reference to when you see horses do so many different stride patterns within same complex. “They do what they like.”
“Keep spring coiled. Forward not flat.”
“Please don’t make it difficult. Sit late.”
“Clear your mind.”
“Ride to be in the right place on your horse.”
“Come (to the bounce question) like a set of planks in show jumping.”
“No excuses for being weak and feeble.”
And the most important for riding and for life in general:
“Never waste an opportunity.”
I shall say though, I like a trainer that’s going to give me a good swift kick in the pants especially when it’s backed by exercises that are set up to be successful. Had I been riding, Lucinda probably would have done just that. I feel that riding has gotten a bit overcomplicated as of late (in my experience due to my lack of confidence) and Lucinda gives you the tools you need in a systematic straightforward way. You will gain lots of confidence riding with Lucinda as the main point of fifth leg training is to learn how to deal with and get through the messy bits on course.
Go Lucinda and go eventing.
It's every horse person's dream to create their mount from the ground up. To successfully breed, raise, train and compete a horse of your own is truly an amazing accomplishment. However, it is exceedingly hard, and very rarely achieved. From a statistical point of view, the odds are daunting, yet the reward seems so phenomenal that many of us cannot but help to try our hands at creating some little monsters of our own. I always fantasize about the babies that my mares could have, the offspring that I could grow into world beating athletes, and the pride that I would feel seeing something that I taught from it's first breath achieve greatness.
So, to satisfy my craving for foals, I help handle and break young ones for an old mentor of mine every year, and each year I learn new tricks. He raises thoroughbreds on his farm in Virginia, specifically for racing, but odds are that they will need more skills later in life, so I try to prepare them accordingly. Especially for homebred thoroughbreds, the transition from living in a field untouched to being broke at the racetrack can be a confusing and sometimes traumatizing experience. The ultimate goal of my basic training is for them learn to learn, which will carry them further in life than any one skill. Just the same as any human child, a young horse with a willing mind has much more potential than one with a defensive or fearful approach to life.
Babies should be handled every day in some capacity from the moment they hit the ground. Horses, unlike puppies or other babies we encounter, are not naturally inclined to cuddling and trust. Even leaving a baby on its own for the first few days can really set you back in your training. They are, after all, flight animals, and their instincts are to be suspicious. Today, for the first time I got to touch a young filly who I'll be working with, and she was born on Saturday and already she is a bit timid about interaction. While they are still attached to their mothers, it is important to let them understand that daily activities such as grooming, walking, and entering the stall or paddock are normal. For the first six months, I like to let them be horses, let them learn social interactions from their peers, but also introduce them to their relationship with humans.
With weanlings, it is important to make a special effort to teach them to lead like young ladies and gentlemen. Beware of adorable antics that could become dangerous once they aren't so small! All of their future jobs will involve ground manners, and they must learn confidence and discipline early. They should walk in and out of different locations like wash racks, stalls, trailers. Teach them to be accepting and not fearful of new places and sounds. It is good to show them how to stand at attention and be confined for a small period of time. You can save yourself a lot of trouble down the road if you teach them that it's normal for you to lean on them, rub your hands all over their bodies, touch their legs, lift and handle their feet, and generally hang all over them. A comfortable baby is a cooperative baby.
If you aren't training horses for the track, you can let that stage simmer for a while. However, my young thoroughbreds go to start training at two or even before that, so I start the next stage when they are yearlings. Free round-penning is a really good way to allow them to experience things like tack without the constraints and torque of lunging. Lunging at this stage can cause sore muscles and bone problems on a young form. By nature, horses like to gallop and by imposing a little discipline on that natural activity, you can start to train them to focus on you when you aren't immediately in their personal space. I like them to gallop about and frolic, but also to be able to come to the center and be caught and touched and handled, and follow me with their eyes as they settle into a routine.
The next stage is tack. Beginning with a headstall and a bit (no reins) is a good idea. Choose a nice soft bit that they can mouth and fiddle with. I have a bit that is a loose ring with some doo-dads attached to the center so they learn to fiddle with the bit and let it soften their acceptance. It gives them something to focus on, something to think about playing with instead of straight defensive actions. Leave the bit on for an hour or so in the stall, increasing the amount day by day until the horse drinks and eats normally over it. Be sure to baby proof the stall! There cannot be anything that he/she could hang themselves up on and create a bad memory. Eventually it will become second nature to the horse.
Now they can graduate to a surcingle or a bareback pad. I have a really old, soft pony bareback pad that has weathered many years and many babies. At this point, they should be comfortable with you touching all over their backs, and placing towels or light saddle pads on them at the halt. Attach the surcingle or bareback pad lightly, but not so loosely that it can flip around underneath the horse. Use a fuzzy on the girth area so that it doesn't feel so tight. Next, turn him out! I like to start the first few days in the round pen, just so I can make sure they don't go completely bananas. After that, I will turn them out with the bareback pad firmly attached for a few hours every day. When the student accepts this, he/she can begin working with a saddle. A light jumping saddle shouldn't really present that much of an issue at this point, and I only use this in the round pen. I don't want my saddle to be crushed under a rolling baby! I start without stirrups for a few weeks, and slowly add the stirrups after that. I have some really lightweight stirrups that I like to begin with before throwing the really heavy metal ones on there.
Some trainers tend to be too aggressive and demand too much, too soon. It is vital to remember that young horses have very short attention spans, and your daily physical activities should be no more than 15-30 minutes. Remember that they do not become fully developed for riding until their third year! It is a very logical and easy process, if you have patience and do not force him/her physically or mentally. All horses progress at different rates, and you simply have to feel what yours is telling you in terms of new material.
My next trick is the best one I have, so pay close attention. I call this one, "Mr. Bluejeans", and it has saved me a lot of mouthfuls of dirt in my day! Take an old pair of sturdy, hole-free jeans and tie or sew each leg at the bottom tightly closed. Fill them with sand. When the legs are full, tie it up at the waist and ta-da -- your new 80 pound rider for your baby horse! Once Mr. Bluejeans is mounted, you can easily secure him by tying his legs to the stirrup flaps. Sometimes I tie him at the thigh as well as the calf. Then, off he goes! Let your baby gallop about with Mr. Bluejeans for a few weeks, and you'll be one step closer to mounting the horse yourself.
Starting to ride young horses is a whole other kit-and-caboodle, so I'll leave that for another post one day, but these tips for preparing your baby are essential. Mostly, your dedication to patience and your feel for what your horse is telling you will lead the way. As long as you firmly teach respect, you can proceed to create a confident, willing partner who will be able to fulfill his or her full potential in whatever sport you choose. There is really nothing more satisfying than seeing the comprehension dawn on a young horse and watch them progress through their education.
In what seems like a very long time ago, we introduced a monthly series of reader-submitted training tips presented by SmartPak. We got a bit busy with Rolex, #FantasyBadminton, Jersey Fresh, and other recent events. But never fear, we are back to bring the best advice for you, by you, Eventing Nation. This month's featured tip comes from Emily Mungovan, who will receive a $150 gift certificate to SmartPak.
My trainer always encourages us to sit down at the canter rather than stand in equitation on the flat. She forces us to do this by competition in group lessons. She will give me and a friend each one of her gloves. We have to sit on the gloves at the sitting trot and the canter, seeing who can hold the glove between our butt and the saddle for longer. This works especially well on rainy days when my trainer tells us we'd better not get her gloves all muddy by letting them drop to the ground! These pictures show how beneficial this activity is for making you stronger and better at sitting to the canter.
If you have a training tip, exercise, or advice to share, write it down and send it to email@example.com, with "SmartPak" in the title. Diagrams, photos, and/or video are encouraged! We will select at least one entry each month from our pool of emails to feature on the site and each month's winning author will receive a $150 SmartPak gift certificate.
Eric Horgan taught a clinic in Durango, Colorado at the end of April. EN reader Helen Guidotti attended and was kind enough to send us this clinic report. If you have a submission to share, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks to Helen for writing, and thanks as always for reading!
I just wanted to share with Eventing Nation the fun and exceptional learning opportunity we had when Eric Horgan came out west to help us out. I have been working with Eric for over 10 years and have thoroughly enjoyed every single ride. I might not have liked them ALL at the TIME but learned from the ride so that looking back, I can say, I have enjoyed every single ride. I have been lucky enough to attend his Developing Rider Session in Aiken SC two times now. And counting. Should the Gods deem it so, I will go back to Aiken again. Eric typically heads west 2 or 3 times a year and we are so lucky to havsuch a fun, talented, observant, creative teacher here in little ol' western country. Or the big wide west if you prefer. Durango is definitely off the beaten track for Eventing, the closest recognized venue a mere 5 1/2 hours away. On a good day.
This is a picture of Elisabeth early in the ride.
Melissa and Ticos, trying their hand at a Training level show jump course. Melissa has brought Ticos (OTTB) up to Training level and they are looking forward to competing soon. Melissa has learned much more about riding from the core and allowing the horse to move out in front of you, a lot of which she picked up in the Aiken Developing Rider Program Eric holds each winter.
Sara and Cane having a blast. Sara is riding the 7 year old TB/cross, Cane in the exercise Eric set up where you strive for 6 equal strides. It is all about the canter and if there isn't a great canter going into a jump then how can the jump possibly be successful? (Meaning, not JUST getting to the other side with the shiny side up and the frog side down!) We did lots of getting the canter right exercises, having the horse move forward and then bringing them back using your back, not your hands.
Janet on her beautiful new OTTB, figuring out forward vs. fast. Janet is from the Hunter/Jumper world but appreciated auditing Eric's clinic last fall, bought Cory and was able to ride in the clinic this spring.
Jessie and Pache take on the 6 equal strides exercise. Pache was bred to be a race horse but since food and lethargy are his middle names, he did not deem it necessary to run fast. Jessie has brought him along to the Novice level and has him going beautifully.
EN would like to thank Julie Poveromo for sending us this great clinic report from Area IV with Leslie Law. Julie and her friend Nora Endzel have contributed to EN before, with an article from the ICP Symposium in Ocala. Thanks, Julie, for writing and thank you for reading.
I was lucky enough to ride in the annual Illinois Dressage & Combined Training Association Leslie Law Clinic at TopLine Equestrian Center this past weekend. This clinic fills quickly every year, so I only got to audit last year but I made sure to get my entry in early this year! My horse is No Trouble, a 7 year old OTTB who I’ve had for about a year, and we were in the Novice group. I also stuck around to help set fences for the other groups and audit – once again I was very impressed with Leslie.
He started out watching each group warm up on the flat and made adjustments to rider position as needed – overall about a 15 minute warm up consisting of trot & canter with 10 meter circles and half circles thrown in to help supple the horses from the inside leg. On the first day, he took the time to go over the training scale with each group andexplained how it relates to the way we should be training our horses. The exercises that were set up for Saturday were relatively simple, yet difficult to ride well! Here is a short video of one of the exercises:
Videos by Nora Endzel and Jenna Sack
On Sunday, we worked on Cross Country related exercises. We cantered through a bounce on the short side of the arena, which caught a few horses off guard initially. Next there was a corner set up on centerline, then a coffin-like exercise with 2 one strides and a Liverpool as the middle element. Several horses were not a fan of the Liverpool, and Leslie helped each one work through their particular issue with it, breaking down the exercise so the horses could understand it better. Finally, we jumped an oxer on a five stride line to a very narrow skinny. Leslie stressed that even though we won’t see exercises like these on lower level courses, it is never too early to start introducing them to our horses.
Videos by Nora Endzel and Jenna Sack
Leslie rode several of the horses to help their riders understand how to make small changes that made the horses go better. He explained that many riders sit at the canter to encourage their horses forward, but this actually sets them off a bit and makes them more “buzzy”. He encouraged a position with the seat out of the saddle, yet shoulders only slightly in front of the vertical, and never in front of the knee. He talked about making the horse settle to your position and rein, instead of letting the horse dictate the position. On a green Warmblood that was having trouble with staying on the contact, Leslie stressed following the horse’s mouth with the height of his hands, whether his head was up or down, not taking the pressure off until the horse relaxed and gave. Another horse he rode was quite forward for the rider, so Leslie stayed very quietly off the horse’s back and let the horse settle into a rhythm at the canter. The horse found the perfect distance to the jump every time when the canter was more rhythmic and relaxed, to the point where Leslie was talking to and looking at the rider without looking at the fence as the horse jumped!
Some of the other points I took away from various groups during the weekend:
-don’t change the canter in the turn and again a few strides out from the fence, “set the canter” & rhythm and make one small adjustment to the length of stride if needed.
-the horse does what you tell it, make corrections if needed to show them what you want (asking them to land on correct lead after a fence, make it a habit so you don’t have to think about it, especially at shows when the pressure is on).
-stay in the center of balance, the only time you should be behind the horse driving is at a show if the horse is backing off from a jump. If you have to drive the horse forward at home, it’s not responsive enough to your leg.
-the horse’s center of balance is more towards the withers than people think. Sitting too far back hurts the horses’ backs and makes them hollow and run. Sit more forward towards the pommel or out of the saddle to help the balance. He used the example of Show Jumpers moving the saddle forwards a bit before their round to help the horse.
-for tighter turns, use a neck rein feeling to help the horse turn and block from falling out, don’t pull back in the turn. Keep the impulsion from the inside leg in the turn so the horse turns and keeps going forward. i.e. reining horses using neck reining and how they are able to spin from rein pressure.
-use the wall of the arena to stop if you need it, this will teach the horse that you are serious about stopping!
-press your knuckles into the neck when galloping, don’t stay against the horse with your hands and lock arms down.
-using a bridge is helpful on horses that tend to pull, cross your thumbs over top of the bridge for more support.
A group from the clinic enjoyed going to a Japanese steakhouse for dinner on Saturday night, and we all had questions for Leslie. When asked how he met his wife, Lesley, he responded that they met a Rolex, and he had just won the Individual Gold Medal at the Athens Olympics, so it made things much easier for him! It was a wonderful experience and I’d highly recommend riding with Leslie to anyone!