February 7, 2012

Nancy K Clinic - Overview

"Transitions are the closest thing you have to collection right now.  If you let the front end go away, you'll never teach him how to work in a space."

If my trainer has x-ray vision, Nancy K had a full body-imaging scanner around me hooked up to a computer implanted into her brain.  She caught the most subtle changes in my body and in Connor's movement, and was able to explain what we were doing, what we should be doing instead, and why that change was necessary in the most clear way possible.  I'm going to make this post generic and get more specific about the clinic through the rest of the week.

Because her big focus is biomechanics and physiology of the rider as it relates to the horse, and because we're green, we rode only large and 20m circles, and really drilled my position and what I think I'm telling him to do vs. what he's really getting from me.  A lot of it was things I've heard before, but Nancy made it clear that I needed more.  Even when I think my arms are bent, I need more, and they need to be positioned further back in order to be effective.  Even when I think I'm giving enough on the inside rein, I need to give more.  My legs need to be even more underneath me in order to be effective (made poignantly obvious by the fact that she dropped the stirrups a hole on my Beval, and made me feel like a complete beginner for a while).  Seatbones that move with him at all times, not only when I remember, is going to be very important in easing his frustrations and telling him what I want - see also my lightbulb lesson with my trainer, and our turns on the forehand.

Some of the most intense changes she made were to my upper body.  One image she used was that if Connor is tied to a pole, the rope is a passive force and the pole is an active force.  My body needs to be more like that pole: strong, and upright.  Turns out my shoulders are still quite hunched even though I think I'm carrying myself straighter now, and that's a completely ineffective position when he tries to pull forward and let the energy out through his chin.  She illustrated this by making me grab her hand when her shoulders were hunched and when they weren't, and I was nearly able to pull her off her feet with her shoulders forward, but when they were in the correct position, I wasn't able to move her at all.  Connor needs that from me, and I'm not giving it to him.

One thing she said that I treasured is that I am "an experienced rider with a good seat."  None of my coaches have ever complimented me like that before, because I've never deserved it before. I'm still nowhere close to being good, and mainly that has to do with feel I haven't yet developed for what each part of my body is doing at any given time, but I've worked so hard over the last year, I know I'm closer.

On Connor, she said he is going to have three very nice gaits with more training, especially due to the natural suspension he has at the trot and canter.  She complimented his sensitivity and reactiveness numerous times, and in fact a lot of our lesson dealt with cues so subtle that none of the horses I've ever ridden before in my life would react to them.  She faulted him only on his slightly long back, and that only in the context of how it will affect our training as we move forward in Dressage.


  1. The video looks really nice! My trainer tells me to hold in my core so that when Oliver pulls on my hands it just pulls me deeper into the saddle instead of pulling my shoulders forward. She usually tests it by pulling my reins.

  2. Yes, Steph! When I saw your tree trunk analogy right after I got home from the clinic and Nancy had just made that tying analogy, I honestly laughed out loud. What are the odds that we learned the same concept using almost identical analogies on almost the same day? We have to be some sort of equine blogger doppelgangers or something. Very good thought about the energy pulling you into the saddle instead of forward, I will have to try that on my next ride.

  3. My mom and I watched the George Morris clinic in Wellington. He was sick so different riders gave clinics. Anne Kursinski did the flat class and she talked about that exact method, put differently but same point. She even got on the a couple of the horses to show her point. I was really impressed. I am so glad you had a good ride. You both will only get better. I also appreciate the lesson via blog.