Tuesday, October 8, 2013

October is the Month for Clinics

Last time I attended a clinic was last October, so it is only suiting that the next clinic I attended was in October! Finding reining clinics around here (or really anything I am interested in...) is pretty hard, so when I heard about a Reining Fundamentals clinic being held by a local reining trainer who scaled back her operation by the time Milo and I were ready, I was eager to sign up!

I arrived at the clinic, which was at a nice facility I hadnt been to before. Very well kept, but the arena was a little small for the ten participants and clinician. A lot of the clinic taught things Milo and I had already learned and worked on from Sarah including body control. The clinician broke it down into "five easy pieces", however, which gives me a nice little set to practice during each ride. They run like this: basic circle, horse in a banana shape and moving with forward energy. The best thing I got out of this was to continue to encourage Milo to move off my leg more energetically and to remember to keep my legs quiet. The majority of this small exercise is with the reins. Exercise one moves into two; a counter bend - horse travels in the same arc but going in a circle the other way. She emphasized that when working on these five pieces to work the same arc. I got reminders for my rein position to "open the door" more with my hands then I do, which was helpful. Exercise three is probably the hardest, a true half pass or two track. We learned this with Sarah as well, and I was surprised to see how well Milo executed it as we havent worked on it much. As a reminder, a two track, or half pass, is when the horse moves laterally in the direction of the arc in his body, unlike a leg yield where he moves away from the arc. Three moves into four, which is moving the hip around, again in the direction of the arc. A good way to work on this is standing parallel to the arena wall, then practicing moving the hip in a 180 degree turn and facing the other way. Milo, again, pleased me with how well he executed this maneuver. I was happy to see how well he remembered these! Step five is backing in a circle, same direction of the circle as the arc in the body of course. I already dismounted for lunch by this point (I thought we were covering it after lunch), but I'm quite confident in Milo's capabilities for this maneuver as well.

After lunch we worked on the lope departure and the spin. She teaches the lope departure as most trainers do, with the "hip to the eye" as she says it, with the horse arced in the direction of the desired lope departure. This is initially how Milo was taught, but after work with Sarah we worked on loading the outside hock rather then bringing the inside hock in. I explained this to the clinician, and showed her, but to be nice I practiced "her way" as well, and Milo loped off nicely both ways.

I was rather surprised by the abilities of the others in the clinic. I understand it was an intro to reining, building fundamentals clinic, but many of the pairs there had basic control like loping, and basic body control. I think that had the group been closer in training we might have gone a little deeper, but the clinician I think recognized our ability a bit and asked to see our lead change which she didnt go over with anyone else. I showed her a lead change on a counter canter, as the arena was small. I hadnt practiced a lead change with Milo in some months, I dont have a proper arena at home, but he was fine and changed pretty well. She pointed out some things I was aware of (leaning forward in the change, looking down) but otherwise said we were good. She laughed and said "we need to be taking lessons from her!" which was encouraging.

We finally got to the spin work, which is where I was really able to take my money's worth away. As I watched a few other people try before me and listened to the clinician, I already was getting a better idea of how to fix our problems. First, we were told to "wind the horse up" before the spin. Per normal, working in an energetic circle and bringing the circle tighter and tighter until the horse begs to spin - an exercise I have worked on before, but an excellent reminder as often I find myself working on the spin from a straight line, lacking a lot of impulsion from the get go. I got a really good cuing tip from her too: normally I kick my inside leg forward, unintentionally as an effort to "open the door", but my bringing it forward and not just off the side, I'm giving Milo a visual block with my leg too far forward. Also, if I keep my leg on him in neutral as we "wind up", when I take my leg off of him to cue to spin it is a much more receptive cue, which I found totally true as we practiced in front of her. She also pointed out each time I needed to push him back out of the spin when we lost forward motion or he switched to the outside leg. I was letting him take a few steps before getting after him and I was usually just adding more outside leg rather then really pushing him back forward energetically out of the spin.

It was a great clinic, and a rare time when I can walk away from a clinic really feeling proud of what we already have accomplished. :) I am planning on attending her next clinic which is already in the works!

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