July 8, 2013

Chris R Clinic Wrap-Up (Or, Photos Not Taken with a Cell Phone For Once)

This weekend I was able to clinic with Chris R at home.  He's been here a few times before, but Connor and my wallet weren't ready for him.  Connor was ready for him this time, and thanks to a generous offer from my mom (who also came for the weekend, along with my best riding friend Mary!) I could afford to make it happen while Nick is still job hunting.  Thanks to my mom for all of these awesome photos!

I'm not sure what I'm doing, but Connor looks this happy in every photo.
My ride can be summed up in these two bullet points:
1) Less hand
2) Compress the canter

It was a really tough ride in general, Chris is hard, but absolutely correct in his criticisms.  In the beginning, he focused on getting me to "breathe through my hands," and stopped us to demonstrate what he meant with me holding the reins as the horse and him pulling on the reins as me:

After I implemented his suggestions, Connor got really light and started going around like this:

Way exaggerated here, but he was really light in the reins - with proper contact.
I would like to stop here and ask you to look at my crotch in the previous photo - ha!  I was riding in a borrowed saddle again, which was WAY TOO WIDE for me, in addition to putting my leg in front of me.  My hips hurt for a full day after this ride.

After the lesson in lightness, the rest of the lesson was spent working on compressing Connor's canter and jump.  He likes being on his forehand and pulling himself along in the canter, a gait his breed was not bred for, demonstrated here:


...and on the forehand.
We had previously been working on this by putting the poles closer together during gymnastics sessions to get him to fit his stride in between them, but Chris lengthened the poles to achieve the same.  It was a real lightbulb moment, as he started jumping like this:

The poorly placed red block only sort of hides the fact that he's using his hind end SO MUCH here,  his takeoff point is very close to the jump, and his whole jumping frame is neat, tight and in a smaller "box" than normal.  Normally he drags himself more horizontally and long-ly over fences.
This was a clinic put on by my barn, and one of my favorite things about my trainer is that she stood in the ring with Chris for every ride her students had this weekend, asking questions, comparing notes, coming up with new ideas on how to work with us, and learning right alongside me.  It's the clinic that will keep on going in my lessons in the coming weeks:

My trainer (red sweatshirt - it was cold and wet!) studying me over a fence.
To be honest, when I got off, I was feeling pretty crummy about my ride.  None of it felt good, nothing I did improved my eq, and I couldn't understand that since my jumping has improved so much lately.  Then I talked to my trainer about what Chris said (about how he liked the way Connor jumped and put the poles closer together to make it harder for him) and I not only felt better, I understood that it was hard for me because it was hard for Connor, and we'd been inadvertently making it easy on him in my lessons lately.  As Mary said, quoting the CoTH thread from this week, "We've forgotten that it has to look ugly before it looks pretty."

His almost-famous ears up fence check-out one stride before takeoff.  What a goober.

This is my ugly, this is my honest, this is what riding a green horse is like for an intermediate rider.  When it's easy for him, I start to look good.  When we place new puzzles in front of him, challenging puzzles that will eventually improve him, my sins come out.  It took until I looked past my own poor equitation and saw in the photos my mom took how much improvement HE made over the course of the hour for me to understand that and come to terms with it.  The reason that "made" horses are purchased - and the reason I'm enjoying bringing Connor up so much - never made more sense than when I looked at those pictures and realized all this.


Where do we go from here?  Well, my trainer and I agreed that Connor and I are at one of those points like last summer where she needs to put a couple of rides on him, but I'll need to be there for them, setting fences and listening to her as she rides him and talks me through what she's doing.  I love those lessons, I almost get more out of them than I do riding myself.  She'll get him going in the right direction and I'll learn how to carry it on.  I'm going to change my Tuesday hacks out to Tuesday conditioning rides with lots of cantering.  As she says, he's already REALLY good at trotting, time to work on his weak points.

Trotting...we got that...
I have also been told that we'll almost certainly be moving up to BN by the end of the season, and also that, "The season runs through the end of October, of course."  So it's not soon, but it's on the horizon.

Team Cob Jockey


  1. Awesome! What a great experience!

  2. He looks really good! Super Kid does the same thing she pulls herself forward in the trot instead of pushing off. It's really frustrating to deal with, I am glad that you are dealing with this now instead of later

  3. It almost sounds like you were riding Comrade in the clinic. Those boys are so similar. Now if only I had your trainer...
    So glad you had some breakthoughs.

  4. Great photos, you should be really proud of yourself for the improvement in your little horse :D
    Flurry has the same Cob Canter as Connor, long and flat, and he just looooooves to lean on the bit and let me carry his front end! All the dressage work we did was towards improving that. It got better, but never great, maybe in the autumn we'll start schooling again.

  5. awesome!! sounds like a great way to get some breakthroughs. I love that your trainer was there the whole time keeping an eye on things.

  6. Nicole, sounds like you need to come visit!

    Martine, that sounds very familiar. And we both ended up in Micklems! Anything to get him off my hands.

  7. What a great opportunity and yeah for wonderful moms!

  8. Awesome! What a great clinic and I love how engaged your instructor is. :)

  9. Awesome! What a great clinic and I love how engaged your instructor is. :)

  10. Great post. Riding a green horse isn't always pretty, but you guys are an amazing team. You'll get there!

  11. Great post and pictures :-)