JLC Clinic Overview

So...the JLC clinic.  I'm feeling pretty bad about myself as a rider right now.  I'm not looking for pity, I just know you guys are looking for a recap, and this is how I'm feeling about it right now.  Someday I'll watch the videos and do a detailed recap, but not yet.


It was informative, enlightening, and life changing, and it's made me sad.  Let me explain.

JLC started out by asking us to W/T/C both directions without having warmed up, and Connor was at his worst in terms of straightness, flexibility and bend.  AKA, what I start out with every ride.  So that's good, you want a clinician to see you at your worst and not your best.

All photos courtesy of my momma, who spent the weekend clinic'ing, and shopping, and eating with me!

Did I mention we had my entire barn plus outside visitors for spectators?
His comment?  If Connor continues like this, he will be lame within two years. 

Him "Something important and helpful." Me: "I'm everything I don't want to be as a rider."

In summary, Connor is doing two things: his forelegs don't go far enough forward and are then too far back in the middle of the stride, and don't give the hind end room to come forward so it swings from side to side with every step.  He's compensating for that all over his body with things that are now ingrained and will be difficult to change.



Second, his spinal vertebrae rotated so much with each stride, and in the wrong direction for the bend he's in.  It's what causes the "hole" my trainer tells me not to fall into. And when he's going well, there is no hole, his back muscles are flat.



The second day, he began my ride with a 10 or 15 minute monologue with us still standing at the mounting block, speaking directly to me.  He talked about how we cannot force horses to do what we want them to do, that we must ask and keep them engaged mentally so that they enjoy the work.

During the entire monologue, I'm thinking "Is this what he thinks of us?  Is that the type of rider I am?  That's exactly the type of rider I have never wanted to be.  I didn't think I was, but I guess I am.  Oh my God."  And he also said Connor is clearly a nervous guy, and gave a great belly laugh when Connor went from sleepy to nervous when I asked him to move off after the monologue was over.


We made progress (ending at the level of work we normally get by the end of lessons, which is what you guys last saw in the pictures from the last show) and he gave me a game plan for going forward, but the two ideas I can't get out of my mind are "You're making your horse lame," and "You're making your horse resent you."  (Although he didn't say those exact words, many things implied both.)

I've ridden once since, trying to apply those principles, and ended up just paralyzed with tears in my eyes because I couldn't get him out of that discombobulated beginning-of-the-ride feeling, and I don't trust my instincts right now.

We can do this.  I swear we can.

(Of course, after quitting the job I loved last week and moving into this crazy house, I am not the most emotionally stable person in the world right now, but still.)

So I have a lesson tomorrow at which my trainer and I are planning on discussing it all and figuring it out.  She came out of the clinic happy and enthusiastic and full of ideas from picking his brain throughout the weekend on her students.  I'd be lying if I didn't say I wanted to put him in full training for a month and just tell her to fix it, but in the end, I have to be the one that keeps him sound and happy in work, not her.

Oh also, I have an unrecognized one day event this weekend, so there's that.


Apologies for not giving you guys anything useful or interesting on the clinic so far, I'll get into the techniques and science behind what he did with us in another post!

31 comments:

  1. Ohhh Jen that's really really hard to hear - but here's what I think: you are one of the hardest working, most thoughtful amateur owners I've ever heard of. You want the best for Connor *so badly*. You fight for it. You are going to learn so much from this, and from working through it, and your toolset will become even greater and more powerful. It hurts so much because you feel strongly that you have been doing the right thing.

    I also think you are absolutely in the best place possible to fix these kinematics things - your trainer sounds unbelievable.

    Have fun at the event this weekend!

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    1. Thank you, that means so much. It does hurt because I didn't know what was going on. But it's better to know and have it hurt and fix it than to not know.

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  2. That's brutal. No wonder you're glum. (Plus extraneous life factors, yikes). Hugs.

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    1. Yeah, my life feels upside down right now, haha.

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  3. That's a really rough clinic. Before sinking into despair, maybe get a second opinion? You certainly want the best for him; that's very clear. So I'm sure this can be worked out.

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    1. I think it will get worked out, it was just a lot to take in and hard to hear. I was impassive during the clinic, but the more I think about it, the harder it is to digest.

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  4. Oh jeepers, did you have any idea this clinician would be so, um harsh? I'm not sure at this level, this is the kind of feedback that is particularly helpful, and honestly, if they thought there were holes in your training, there are nicer, more constructive ways to discuss such issues. You are in a great program with a trainer you respect and understands your abilities and shortcomings, I know it's really tough, but try to think of anything positive that you can from the experience and put those negative comments to bed. I would be doing the same thing as you, thinking I am somehow breaking my horse... but you are not. You're going to have fun at your even this weekend, no matter what. Sometimes, you just end up in the wrong hands, and while I am sure they are talented in their own right, you have to move on, dust yourself off, and work on the things you have control over:)

    Also, considering all the stress you've been under, it's not surprising that you feel crushed! Go do something nice for yourself!

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    1. Thank you. He didn't frame it in such a harsh way, but his thing is preventing lameness through good biomechanics, so that is the way he said it. He was very nice to clinic with, my takeaways were just...harsh. Thanks for the vote of confidence!

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  5. Oh no :( I'm really really sorry to hear this is how you're feeling. If it makes you feel any better JL has said the same sort of thing to me. The bad news is, he's right. The good news is I highly doubt he thinks you're doing things intentionally.

    JLC is so radically different from anyone else out there (that I've experienced anyways) that I think it's hard to wrap your head around his concepts and theories because they sometimes contradict everything we know. He has absolutely changed the way I ride my horse, and 100% for the better. There was actually a time where my horse WAS lame. I never had the vet out, never got things diagnosed, but I got really strict with myself and forced myself to "Jean Luc" my horse for every step, every day. And I'm telling the gods honest truth when I say she quickly became sound.

    The reality is, there are a whole lot of people out there that ride their horses to lameness. Do any of them intend to? Absolutely not. But when people don't know all the ins and outs and science behind what is going on, they sometimes (over long periods of time) can help bring weaknesses out in a horse, which could cause lameness.

    I'm sorry I'm prattling on and on, but I just remember feeling so woefully inadequate after my first ride, post JL. I couldn't replicate the same feelings that I had during the clinic until much later. Luckily you have a trainer to help you navigate this new way of riding. You can so do this!!

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    1. Totally in agreement with you. If it's there, it's there, and I'm glad he pointed it out, it's just hard to digest. I'm glad you understand!

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  6. Hmmm... factoring in personal stress + clinic stress + a very blunt style from JL could help temper the message a bit. Sounds like his delivery was more horse-centric than rider-sensitive.

    Though what he said was hard to hear and possibly exaggerated somewhat, isn't it good to get a heads up if Connor's future health could be compromised? Clinics are sort of geared to tear you down in order to build you back up again, and often over such a short period of time.

    My (one and only) bnt clinic was five days of (mostly) feeling completely incompetent - which you most certainly are not - while (unsuccessfully) holding back tears. After I got some perspective on the (bootcampish) experience which took weeks, I could see how beneficial it was.

    I hope you trainer will help you feel better about the weekend. You and Connor are a great team :D




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  7. I may be in the minority here ... but I think you should tell that guy to go fuck himself. Well, maybe only say it to yourself. You should NEVER feel bad about yourself as a rider. Do not let anyone EVER make you feel that way. I don't care who the fuck he thinks he is. Whoop de fucking do. You are a great rider and Conner is a wonderful horse. You two will go far. Sure, take some of the tools he gives you and applies what works. Of course keep the horse's health and soundness in mind. But I think he is full of shit.

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    2. ^^^ Sorry, typos.

      I kind of agree with Karen. I was reading your post thinking also kind of thinking "who the f does this guy think he is?" We're amateurs. We work our ASSES off for our horses. We compromise and sacrifice in every other area of our lives to give our horses the best life we can possibly offer. If some dude with bad hair told me I was making my horse lame with my poor riding, I'd mentally tell him to go pound sand. And if by some miracle I ruin my horse with my bad riding? SO WHAT. We'll trail ride. Seriously, I think the guy needs to lighten up a little. (Can you tell I am kind of offended on your behalf?)

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  8. I'm going to have to agree with Karen here. I have watched you ride through the blog and I've seen you ride in person and Connor has had better treatment, better riding, and better training than half the horses out there. JLC is very blunt and has a very very unique way of looking at horses and riding and I would not let one clinician make you feel so awful. You are a good rider. You are not making your horse lame.

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  9. OK, I'm not done. I was trainer hoping to try and find someone who could teach me at my barn. I'd lost a lot of confidence and was on a difficult horse. I carefully explained how I felt about my confidence, riding, etc to the instructor in person and beforehand. The lesson was awful. She practically spent the entire lesson holding me on the horse and I realized that I didn't want an instructor who told me it was ok to be afraid (even if I was afraid at the time) and it would take years of walking carefully and I never took a lesson from her again.

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  10. I'm 100% with Karen too. I'm all for bluntness, but I feel like even implying that someone who is CLEARLY working their ass off to get their horse going correctly is harming their horse is not okay. Even if it was phrased in a nicer way.

    You're clearly doing an amazing job with Conner, even if it feels like progress is stagnated at times (I've felt this way on every horse at every level). He's come so far! Your understanding of the direction you are going with his training is very apparent and your dissection of your lessons/rides is incredibly well thought out. Just showing up to a clinic like this proves that you're dedicated to making changes, no fear mongering is necessary.

    I've ridden with some very cold/blunt instructors. I haven't fired them for telling me I was riding poorly or yelling at me endlessly about my left hand. But I did fire a very well known trainer for basically telling me that I was ruining my horse. Then we went Grand Prix and got a 65%. Not what I'd call ruined. Try to get out of your head and stay positive, as long as you're doing the best you can for Conner, he'll be happy and healthy. Have fun this weekend!!

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  11. Sorry, I have to agree with the above. We all have bad rides or bad clinics, but if a big part of your take away from this one is feeling so awful and negative, he's not the guy for you. It doesn't matter whether he's right or wrong or somewhere in between, or even whether you've interpreted what he was saying correctly. If he's not communicating in a way that you clearly understand and that makes you feel motivated for positive change it's probably just not going to work. That of course doesn't mean he's a bad coach or you're too emotional or sensitive or whatever it is you're thinking - it just is what it is. My advice would be to try not to over analyze it all too much. It sounds like your regular coach got lots of good things to take home and practice . I bet you're going to feel way better once you get a chance to talk things over with her.

    Also, for the record, add me to the list of people who believe in you and Connor :)

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  12. The right answer said in the wrong way is just as bad as the wrong answer said in the wrong way. IF this individual is correct about preventing lameness (and I certainly do not know enough to make that judgement call), then he should not dump the weight of the world on you at a CLINIC. (If he's going to revolutionize the way people ride, he's going to have to work with them for years on end regularly.) He gets a very small amount of time to see you and the horse and saying "oh hey by the way, all the things are wrong and bad" is NOT helping ANYONE. Connor was better off with you riding him before and now, thanks to this person, you are too full of guilt to ride your horse. How does that help Connor? It doesn't. I'm not an expert and I'm sure I'll never have the knowledge this trainer does in his one pinky, but I do know that tearing you down is counterproductive and wrong - regardless if what they're saying is true to any degree. Ok, hopping off the soapbox. *hugs* Trust your regular trainer and ride Connor. It will be ok.

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  13. It is so hard to hear that, I know. But never think you are going to lame your horse on purpose. You are not that kind of horse person (and I label you that because you are more than just a rider). Use what he saw to strengthen your training regime, but don't focus on it. You have a great trainer who sees you more often than he does and she is not leading you the wrong way. Plus I had a vet tell me Barry should not be jumping and would be lame if we did because of how his confirmation. And yes we did not do a lot of jumping with him, but he competed eventing up to 2' 9" and schooled over 3'. He was never lame from the area the vet worried about. I take nothing away from JLC, but you know your horse. Trust yourself and the team you have built to train you both. And remember I trusted you to ride Roscoe, my super green four legged child. You have my confidence.

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  14. most of how i feel reading this is already written above - i'm somewhat revolted that a professional would bluntly tell a hard working ammy that they will lame their horse, and also can see how the biomechanics perspective that makes him think that is valuable to know NOW vs later.

    but really, don't let it get you down. you are a great rider doing wonderful things for Connor and he does NOT resent you!

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  15. I came to comment exactly what the last few commenters have. I've been in your shoes, and I know exactly how awful it feels, and the liberating feel of saying "you know what? fuck that guy, I love my horse and I do my best by him."

    So yeah. Fuck that guy. Keep working hard, keep doing your best by your horse, and you will be ok.

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  16. I personally find it completely irresponsible of him to tell you that your horse is going to be lame and that your horse hates his job. He cannot predict the future, and shouldn't try. You're doing the absolute best you can by Connor, and you have an excellent thing going with your trainer. Connor is also happy with his job, you can tell by his expression in the zillions of pictures you post!

    Our horses can always go better, and we can always ride better. However, any trainer or clinician who cannot help YOU ride YOUR HORSE better is not doing you any favors, no matter how big of a name that person may be. Take whatever he said with a big grain of salt (or a big ol' eff you, whatever works!), hug your horse, talk to your trainer, and try to take any nuggets that were actually constructive and apply them. And if there weren't any constructive nuggets? Move on. Put Connor in full training if you think it would help you both. Take a gazillion longe lessons on a different horse so you can develop a better seat and feel. Whatever you think is right. And maybe don't take any more clinics from that person again.

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  17. I'm jumping in with all my peers and seconding everything everyone is saying. All of it.

    Girl. If Connor did not like his job, you would sure as hell know. And his spinal rotation? COMPLETELY FIXABLE. His nervousness when you walked off after that monologue? I'd be such a bundle of nerves after whatever it is in life you are going through combined with the subconscious processing of the clinic that Dassah Mare would have flipped me the bird and flipped the fug out as soon as we walked on.

    (on a side note, I just had a 40min lesson w/ two BNTs and almost puked after watching a video my ride right there with them - my two thoughts? "I'm the worst rider ever, what am I doing to my horse?")

    You are not ruining your horse and he does not resent you. He obviously thinks the world of you and is practically the best horse/pony ever. You are the epitome of the best owner/rider and you are doing a great job of keeping him healthy and happy.

    If it were me, I'd feel a lot better once I got a training plan flushed out and could get moving on it. You might find yourself w/ a different perspective once that happens. :)

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  18. I hate that you are feeling this way, but I fully understand why you are. I suspect that you are not the only one of our riders who feels this way. It was a very heavy clinic. I respect how vastly different the experience is auditing versus riding in a clinic so please don't feel like I am trying to diminish your feelings on this- because I don't want that. I do think that much of the "shock and awe" "black and white" "everything you've been told or been doing is wrong" is aimed at EVERYONE and the monologues are too- I do not for a second think that speech was aimed at you and Connor, even though he chose to bring it up during your ride. According to JLC everyone is making their horses lame and everyone is making their horses resent them. (That’s obviously a load of crap and a terrible way to teach, even if I fully agree with the biomechanics.)

    For what it's worth, from an observers perspective, here's what I saw: JLC really liked Conner- the second you guys stepped out there, he couldn't help wanting to touch him and something about the way he rubbed his eye I thought was very tender. He could tell Connor is a thinker with a ton of personality. You rode beautifully. He pointed out a lot of things to fix, but said Conner is well built and capable. I mean, if you think Connor is going well now, just imagine how he’ll feel as you help him move more correctly and comfortably. Having audited JLC’s clinic once before, it seemed like he was much harder on you guys than the riders in the other clinic I watched- or maybe I just felt it more, since it’s like watching your friends get yelled at. Sadly, I think JLC’s clinics offer a much better experience for the auditor than the rider.

    Mostly I just want to say, take heart, you have a wonderful trainer who truly cares about you and Connor. Rome wasn’t built in a day, but it didn’t fall in a day either… Ride Connor- and don’t stop trusting your instincts.

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  19. I've never met you in person or seen you ride other than what you've put on this blog but I can tell from everything you write here that you are an extremely concientious person and you alway have Connor's best interests at heart, and I'm sure that plays into how you're feeling after this clinic. Maybe I live under a rock or don't know enough about biomechanics or be dressage world or something, but I've never heard of JLC. I'm sure he's a great rider / trainer / whatever but maybe he needs to work on his communication skills. I'm glad you have the opinion of an auditor from Equinovice above and that it seems like you have a great trainer who can help you work through this. We're ammys, we work as hard as we can and we do the best that we can and that's all that we can do. Basically I'm just trying to say don't stop doing what you're doing and take his words with a grain of salt. You're doing great and don't let anyone make you feel otherwise.

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  20. Wow. I don't know exactly what to say.

    Is he a clinician or a fortune teller? I've never met any vet, trainer or rider that could accurately say "This horse will be lame (or sound even) in two years." I think based on that alone, I'd have a "Thanks but no thanks" mentality for this clinic.

    Trust your instincts. Trust your trainer. Trust yourself. You are not going to make Connor lame and you are not going to make him resentful. I've seen riders do both, and you are NOT one of them!

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  21. I am really sorry that a clinician who cost you big bucks made you feel so terrible. That is far from effective instruction. My teacher focuses on biomechanics and soundness, but her lessons always make me like I have tools to work with and that my horse is more than capable of working without breaking down. This clinician must have misread you, at the very least. You do not seem to be one of those riders who needs to be taken down a notch to learn something.

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  22. Coming back again to comment again and say THIS is why I blog, this community is awesome.

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  23. I agree to what everyone is saying above (all of which is worded far more eloquently than what I would come up with). You are one of the most biomechanical conscientious riders I've ever "known" and every single time I read one of your posts I *wish* I could ride with the attention to detail that you have.

    I've never seen a single picture or video of you and Connor in which he even remotely looks like he resents his job. Or is moving in a way that is going to make him lame in a few years.

    I'm sure that there were some good take away points from the clinic, but I agree with everyone else that you should throw the negativity away (I know easier said than done) and keep on doing what you've been doing.

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