KPG Clinic Write-Up

When I walked into the ring with Connor, last of the day, a chorus of "awwww"s went up from the audience and KPG turned around and squealed when she saw him.  I swear she went from professional rider to 10 year old horse crazy girl in a second, it was so cool!

All photos in this post by Leah unless otherwise stated.

"What is he?!" she asked.  "Welsh Cob," I said.  She squealed louder.  "I have a Welsh Cob!  Here let me show you pictures of mine!"


In the end, it meant a lot to have someone that understood the breed teaching us.  Not only because they need a slightly different approach in general, but also because Connor started out the lesson being kind of a twit, and given KPG's experience with the breed, I was totally chill about it.


He was quiet as could be all day, but when I rode him into the covered he started doing his "Connor being ridden in a new place" thing - whinnying, running through my hands, and one short bolt.

KPG is not like any other clinician I've ridden with.  You can tell she does more riding and training than teaching, and that she's pretty far removed from the lower levels of Dressage in terms of knowing the tests.


But that said - none of that mattered one bit.  I loved riding with her and I'd do it again in a heartbeat.  It was so cool to see how an Olympian would approach riding and training my horse, and it was also nice to get some validation that our approach is correct.


She started us off on a 20m circle, just a lot of transitions - mostly walk and trot because every time we cantered he got strong and started whinnying.  But she didn't avoid the canter completely, just had me do it in short intervals on a smaller circle.


Once he'd settled down some and had a brief break, we moved on to using the full arena, transitions within gaits, and leg yields off the centerline in both directions.  Up until the leg yields, he was still running through me, and I was pulling against him.


She said she wanted to get him to lift from the base of the neck, and her feedback for me was to sit more deeply in the saddle, and that "with a hot horse, you need to keep your leg on, he needs to learn that your leg isn't going anywhere."


This was about the time I also got my biggest takeaway from the clinic.  We were on the left rein coming into a corner and she told me to "close your outside hand".  I know that seems minor, but it isn't, and I have a whole other post coming about that.


Finally at the end, she asked me if there was anything else I wanted to do.  I said I didn't know, that there's a lot we need help with but it all goes back to what I told her in the beginning and what she understood better than most people: that a lot of my problems stem from the fact that this is a breed historically bred to pull with their front end rather than shift weight onto the hind.


So she asked if we wanted to try half steps.  Neither one of us have ever done anything like that before in our lives - sure!

She had me revisit what we did earlier in the lesson - transitions within the walk, forward walk, slow as you can go walk, forward walk.  When he was suitably slow and I had enough contact to keep him in place, she had me "tap tap" lightly with the whip.

PC: Karen

This was interesting to me, because I've heard other upper level Welsh Cob dressage riders say they need to introduce the half steps to Cobs sooner than most breeds, because until they have them, they don't understand collection or develop a true lengthening.  Whether that's true or not obviously I'm not experienced enough to say, but I thought it was neat that KPG had me do them.


I had no idea what I was looking for in the half steps, but with KPG next to me telling me when to praise him, I developed a feel for it.  It felt like his whole body went up instead of forward for one second.  Not something I'll try without someone like NK next to me anytime soon, but it was really really cool to have tried it!


In the end, this will go down as one of the coolest horse experiences I'll ever have in my life.  Cannot thank Karen enough for giving us the opportunity to do this!

37 comments:

  1. Those first pictures are everything - I love her smile.

    Sounds like you had a great lesson. What an incredible experience.

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    1. Thanks! Yeah her enthusiasm was so genuine, even though I know it had been a long day for her by then. It was cool!

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  2. Ahhh I'm just so excited for you 😁 sorry I didn't get better photos of the half steps, but you guys looked fabulous and I'm glad you got some good takeaways!!

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    1. That's ok! You did amazing :) Karen's half step pic ended up perfect anyway.

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  3. Sounds like it was everything you could have hoped for! You guys both look fantastic!

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  4. I have never seen Conner look so good! So proud of you guys. Don't be afraid to play with thoughts of half steps on your own girl! You won't ruin anything!

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    1. Thanks for the vote of confidence! It's more that I just don't know what I'm looking for and less that I'm worried about ruining anything

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  5. I have been so excited to read this recap! I've basically been stalking my blog feed looking for posts from you! He looks fantastic! That second to last picture in this post is just money. :)

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    1. Haha, thanks! Yeah it's my new favorite picture of all time :) We do get there most rides, it just takes a while.

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  6. Woohoo Connor looks amazeballs! What a great clinic!

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  7. Looks like you had a great time. And who wouldn't squeal when they see Connor's cuteness. Half steps sound interesting, I could see why you want eyes on the ground making sure you are doing it right.

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    1. Yeah, it's one of those things where you're just not sure what you're looking for at first I think.

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  8. I loved your pictures! He looks like a Grand Prix dressage pony with his braids, polos, and white bell boots! What an amazing experience!

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    1. Leah did an awesome job on the pictures! Thank you! Definitely no regrets on deciding to get fancy, it's probably my only opportunity in life to get photographed by magazine photographers, time to go all out!

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  9. How awesome!! It's so extra cool that KPG has experience with Welsh Cobs!!

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    1. Yeah! Her first "big" horse (they made it to PSG) is a Welsh Cob. She still has him and rides him!

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  10. This is so cool! You two look awesome. What an incredible opportunity. I forget how lucky I am to be able to work with JW with her cob experience.

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    1. You really are lucky. They're amazing horses but they're different from what most Dressage pros are used to riding, so it really benefits you to have someone used to them.

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  11. love the pictures - you guys look fantastic and it sounds like a lot of really good work and good feedback. yay half steps too!!

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    1. Thanks! It was awesome, wish I could do it again someday!

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  12. What a cool experience. I'm glad you had fun in addition to learning from her.

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    1. Thanks! Yeah me too. It could easily have been terrifying or embarrassing but she made it fun.

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  13. So enjoyed reading your write up - and love that she has a Cob too! I believe you are right that the trainer has to understand the breed to teach effectively. We are working on the lifting at the base of the neck now, esp in canter.

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    1. Thanks! Yeah, I don't think people not familiar with the breed can't teach us, but I do think people that are familiar with the breed will be more effective with us. Can't wait to see the progress you've made over the winter!

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  14. I have been waiting (im)patiently for this write up!! So, so cool that you got to do this.

    Interesting especially about the half steps! This is exactly what I've learned about Haflingers, too. Crumble started them around First Level, and it did wonders for him learning to lift through his withers, stand up taller, and sit behind. My trainer said the same thing about our extended trot - it's something he probably won't quite get until he can passage and is able to achieve that level of suspension.

    Anyway...super awesome experience to read about :) Thank you so much for sharing!

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    1. That's so fascinating, thanks for sharing that! It's nice to get some validation on that approach. Whatever you're doing, it's definitely working for you!

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  15. Cobs can seriously make kids of anyone! Very cool to read your write up. After my show, the "close the outside rein" comment hit home for me. Super experience.

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  16. So cool, sounds like a wonderful experience! That last trot picture is lovely!

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    1. Thanks, that's my new favorite picture ever! Nice to have someone capture a moment that nice.

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  17. You guys look amazing and I’m so happy for you! What an amazing experience and it’s so great that she had some cob experience. I feel like that sort of thing is so helpful with clinicians!

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    1. Thank you! Yeah, it could not have been any better, all thanks to Karen for picking her (and winning!)

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  18. I remember in 2013 after I put Carlos down I put one of the lessons he taught me was that a hot horse still needs leg. So many people commented that they didn't believe that sentiment but it's so very, very true.

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    1. Yeah, I've heard that before too. I thought it was interesting that she said it and that her impression of him was that he's hot (from only meeting him the one time) even though he's usually anything but. It was definitely something to chew on.

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  19. That is super cool!! So glad you got to be a part of this.

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