March 23, 2013

Clinic Wrap-Up

"Hey there, how's the Super Pony?!"
"Well, the answer was 'napping' until a half-hour ago..."

Have I mentioned how much I love Cathy?  This is my fifth ride with her since May of last year, and it's so productive to have a super accomplished set of eyes on him that sees him once every few months.  She was there last May when he couldn't really canter, last fall when he couldn't turn left and was launching every fence like there was a pit of sharks underneath them, and so it meant something when she noticed that he was much softer and was taking the fences like a reasonable, mature horse.

In fact, that's what I told her when she asked how the Super Pony had been.  I said that he had matured a lot  mentally since she last saw him in September, that he rarely had those moments she identified when he didn't know where his feet were anymore, that he now has a canter that we are working on making adjustable, that we had hit the lateral stuff and Dressage hard over the winter, and that he still tended to be heavy unless I was really on top of things.

She had me focus on keeping my lower leg still with my toes turned out in order to give my core the stability I needed to not let him lean on me.  I warmed up with the exercises from Thursday which helped so much, but I had to keep doing them when she turned to work with the other girl in my lesson in order to keep him soft.

Earlier rides today
He was AWESOME over fences.  Awesome, awesome, awesome.  It was ho-hum routine to him, but he was locked-on and happy on every approach, and we were communicating about the distances and hitting them, for the most part.  He went over them smoothly and efficiently, if a bit wiggly, but I fixed that.

At the end, I asked Cathy what my biggest priority needed to be with him heading into a show season that will likely see us at Starter for a while, and she said (I am paraphrasing, my memory is terrible), "He's a careful guy.  He's matured a lot, but he still has that startle reaction, and I love a careful horse with a startle reaction, but you have to pay close attention while training them.  You want to take him over so many different, little fences that he gets bored.  You don't usually want to do that, but with a careful one you want him to be confident in himself.  You have to make sure to never overface him with height, never present him with something HE thinks is impressive, especially since you are inexperienced over fences yourself."

What this tells me is that we're doing it right with him.  We may not be presenting him with as many fences as we should because of our focus on Dressage making for a better jump round, but I'm not pressuring him to move up fast, and I'm taking it at his pace.  My husband losing his job and causing the cancellation of our 2012 season was such a blessing in disguise, because looking back on it, he was NOT mentally ready for it.  This year, the Welsh Cob's "magical 7th year", he's like a new horse.  He's an adult horse with a job that he likes and knows and he doesn't get flustered and he's really not spooking as much.  We've got issues, but I feel like he has the brain to work through them now.

Afterward we hacked out with a friend on a training horse around the field, such a perfect end to a perfect day - yes, that is an IU (Indiana University) on one side of her rump and a #1 on the other.  Go Hoosiers!

I'm currently waiting on photos and will share when I get them!


  1. sounds like an awesome ride and some great advice! You are lucky to have 2 great coaches available! You guys will do great this show season.

    Cute pic - when I first looked at it, the log looked like a horse leg just lying there! lol

  2. I love reading your posts! It really helps me gain some insight with Rory.
    I am having lots of fun and challenges with Rory now too. I have moved to a new barn and trainer. We are going to start some jumping now to add to our dressage program. This is a barn which centers around eventing and jumping, as well as some dressage so it is a huge change for us! I have a lower leg issue myself which I am working on. And I need to be more confident with him too. We are working with Rory on getting that super walk before any trot work as well. Lots of transitions and better lower leg on me helps a lot.
    His canter is pretty wild right now and he is a bit spooky-did you say 7 is the magic year?! Hope so! I feel like he somewhere in later adolescence...he tends to get distracted easily these days. Could just be this long, long winter! This is my first Cob, but I love the breed and I ADORE him! Like you, I feel I need my trainer's help on a consistent basis so we are doing two lessons a week now. She also started lunging him over cavalettis (sp?) last week and he did well! Keep posting Jen!

  3. By the way- what is the "startle" reaction? Sounds like Rory..

  4. You had a super day for a lesson - weather wise - love seeing the sunshine in those pics! Great lesson and advice from the clinician. Looking forward to seeing you both next month too :)

  5. Hey Liz, glad it's helping! Yes, Cobs take a lot longer to mature than other breeds, and I know exactly what you are talking about. I've had Connor since he was 5 1/2 and just now he's getting to the point where he's really able to focus and doesn't get flustered when I ask for something new. He also took forever - like until a couple of months ago - to really understand where his feet were and how to get information from my aids to his brain to his feet. Walk-canter transitions were a lot easier for him than trot-canter transitions for a long time simply because there was so much going on, he couldn't coordinate his feet when they were moving that fast already. You just have to go at their pace and understand that it will be worth it! I love taking it slow with them.

    The startle reaction is less of a Cob thing and more of a Connor thing, I think. He is hyper-aware of his surroundings and will do this in-place spook at things. Like he did it coming around the corner of the judge's booth at our last Dressage show, he didn't realize there was a person in there and it surprised him. Things like people walking straight up to him really unnerves him too, I once ended up halfway across a field after my friend walked up to me to give me my water bottle while mounted. It's weird, but makes for a sharp ride.

  6. Hi Jen,
    Rory has a bit of that startle factor too! So often he isn't spooky at all though! It seems to be mainly when we ride indoors- like he was terribly afraid of water spots on the arena wall!
    Or water buckets being cleaned in the aisles..stuff like that. My biggest problem with him is getting a response off my leg! I have to work hard to get him forward, but when he finally listens he's great. This is the main issue we are working on now!

  7. Really good advice from her with jumping, and I think applies to lots of horse/rider combinations. Glad you had a good clinic!