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In Loving Memory...
~ Gogo Fatale ~

6/2/01 - 10/11/11
~ Forever the Marest of Them All ~

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Eric Horgan Dressage/Jumping Clinic 7/22-23

Forgive me, readers! I have been remiss in my blogging this week. In my defense, between getting the facility ready for the clinic and trying to move my entire life back into my newly painted and carpeted room (yes!!!!), there's not been much time at night to sit down and write! Also, since the messy breakup with my fiancee, I've not been particularly interested in other human beings or seeking out what they have to offer, but as fate were to have it, the very attractive tranny that works at the Dunkin Donuts that Gogo and I always ride to (and who also always gives Gogo a donut when we get there) has been hanging out with me quite a bit this week, and we've really hit it off. Unfortunately, he gets off work at 10pm, so I've been doing a lot of staying up til 5am and getting less than an hour of sleep a night. Yeah, I know he's a tranny and I'm gay and that's all complicated, but hey, I'm flexible ;) I intend on getting to bed by midnight tonight, I swear!

I also apologize for my lack of commenting on all my favorite blogs, and for not yet picking up my Honest Scrap award that a couple of you have sent my way. My next post I will, I promise :)


After the past two weekends of fail, I was feeling pretty lousy and not looking forward to the fact that we were going to host a private clinic at our barn with Eric Horgan that was decided fairly last minute and that I was not going to have the funds for, seeing as I had not known about it far enough in advance to set aside some money for it. Thankfully, one of our boarders came to the rescue, and asked me if I was planning on participating. When I told her I wanted to but just didn't have the money for it, she told me not to worry, and that she'd cover two days worth of lessons for me as a sponsorship. I about fell off my chair. They really are a wonderful bunch of people here.

And man, the clinic was so helpful. Wednesday was my jumping lesson, and while I got on feeling still stressed and miserable (and totally hormonal... seriously, I almost started crying for no reason when he asked me a simple question, who does that?), the lesson went on for over an hour and a half and I got off my horse beaming. She was a superstar. We had to ride in the indoor unfortunately, because it had rained so much that our outdoor was a lake, but it all worked out just fine. Eric had me start over a simple vertical at the trot and canter coming from both directions, just to see what was there, what I knew, and what needed to be addressed. The first thing he addressed was my 2-point. Now, coming from a dressage background, I've really struggled to maintain a half-seat in any way, and my lesson with Kerry helped to address that. Unfortunately for me, my overachiever self took it too far, and I've been unknowingly clamping down with my thighs and calves in order to maintain the position. Eric noted that my right stirrup leather squeaked against my saddle, and when I told him it always does that, he smiled and said "Well, it won't by the end of this lesson." Apparently, that comes from keeping my legs clamped like vices onher side! What he had me do was to think of my stirrups as my base of fluid support, and to keep my legs in contact with her but very relaxed all the way down, so I could easily flow over her back in balance while still allowing her to move underneath me. This had quite the effect on Gogo - her normally ewe-necked self came very round in the canter, rounder than I think she ever has during our jumping work. It felt very much like she felt very unrestricted, and had the ability to really let her energy flow forward through her back from her hindend. It was very cool.
We jumped the single vertical back and forth from both ways, and I had significantly more trouble jumping off the right lead, which is my much weaker way. As a right-side dominant person, I tend to really let her slip through her left shoulder if I'm not paying attention, a fact that isn't helped by the fact that she is also right-side dominant. My position in the air needs some significant addressing, but I already know the issues with that - letting my lower leg slip, ducking, and unfolding too early. Eric thought the bigger problem was in how Gogo and I approach fences. She tends to put her head very high in the air before every fence, and he wanted her to maintain a sense of roundness to each fence, seeing as good bascule comes from a proper approach. While we never stayed totally round to every fence, she did maintain a nice sense of soft self carriage, and jumped very easily out of every spot we found.
At some point Eric mentioned the fact that travel in a straight line for horses is very hard because they instantly want to fall on their forehands, and I asked him how one would counter that in a line. So, he set up a line and said let's find out! I was asked to maintain a more forward canter (which gave us a pretty good spot every time), to stay off her back (struggled with that a bit), to set her up before the fence and then let her find her own way (not riding her right to the base, which I tend to want to do), to tell if the spot to each fence was short, just right, or long, and how many strides I got in the 6-stride line. A lot to remember! By the end, she was jumping 3'6" easily, and I felt no need to push her to anything, which is my natural inclination when the fences go up. In the bigger, rounder canter, she maintained her own energy, and I never felt like I had to help her find a good spot. She found them herself.

While you can clearly see the faults in my jumping position and just how much that hinders her upon landing, you can see how rateable she was and how easy she found the work. And how darn cute she is over fences :D
I came out of the lesson feeling like I really had a lot of homework to keep in mind and a lot of tools to help us both out. Eric seemed impressed with the amount of information I retained, and at one point said, I'm throwing a ton of mud at the wall, and it all seems to be sticking! Which, I assume, is a compliment :). The bigger canter, the position work, the way we ride to each fence... all these things are really going to help us. I felt very satisfied and looked forward to the next day.

The dressage day was also just as helpful. I told him about the lack of brilliance behind, and after we warmed up, he had me really push her forward. There is a definite line with her where you can easily cross into rushing, but it's really fun to get to that brink of brilliance/insanity and try to maintain it for as long as possible without heading one way or the other. He also had me do a similar thing to what I had done the day before - relax my thigh and really let her back move underneath me. When I did that, I felt my leg slip into the most natural and balanced position I think it could ever be in, and her back really started to swing. The other really big thing he pointed out, aside from how crookedly I was sitting in my shoulder-ins (took some work but we got it straightened out, literally!), was that in my sitting trot and canterwork, I am weighting her forehand instead of releasing it by... well, I don't know exactly how to describe it. By riding down instead of up. And there was a definite difference between the two, a definitee lightening of her forehand. I wish I had a better way to describe it, I really do. It's just something in the way I sit and move my body that is very supple. We're going to have to see if this aids in achieving a little more in the way of collection.

All in all, she was fabulous, and I felt like I made a lot of progress myself. We've got our homework cut out for us, that's for sure, but there is always something to learn and always something to work on to better ourselves. We're slated to really get out and do several intense XC schoolings, as well as maybe picking up a few schooling jumper shows, just to get out over some courses and work on our homework in a low-pressure environment. I sent out my entry today for Huntington Farm H.T., in late August, as one final reprieve before the AECs in September. I feel that we will be ready by then, and our little spinning issue will be resolved. The Lyme titer hasn't come back in, but with how marvelous she's been these past few days, I'm not really suspecting it any longer. We shall see, we shall see.

We've back into our heavy training schedule without show interruptions: Sunday 2-hour conditioning hack with 25 mins of trot, Monday jump, Tuesday-Thursday dressage, Friday gallops, Saturday off. We'll adjust for XC schoolings.

I am very, very excited and very refreshed. Bring it on, world! We can take it!


Anonymous said...

That's awesome that you got to attend the clinic! It sounds like it was really helpful for both of you! I'm glad you enjoyed it after having such a crappy couple of weeks! You guys rock :)

Albigears said...

Fun stuff! And I love that dressage pic. She is gorgeous.

Anonymous said...

Someone sponsored you for the clinic - how amazing and wonderful! Great write-up - you and she look wonderful and the progress you describe is awesome - a really good clinician who can see what's going on and work with you to make the small adjustments that you and your horse need can really make a difference.

S. Lauren said...

That seems like it was a lot of fun!

SmartAlex said...

Small-town straight-gal reader catches up... Tranny=Trainee?/Transmission?... Ooooohhhh I get it. LOL!

jenj said...

I took several clinics from Eric years ago when I lived up in Troy, New York. He was AWESOME! I wish he made trips down to Texas...

purpleshamp2 said...

Good for you! Sometimes a couple good rides is really all you need to fix a problem. I doubt even if Gogo has lyme that thats the problem. Sometimes mares just need to remind us that they can be special sometimes. Paige is doing something similar now too. It just takes patience to figure out and solve.
And Ah... how old school jumping touches my heart. I like this Eric. He preaches exactly what my trainer here and the trainer I had in Ireland do. Keep a good forward canter where the horse carries themselves and just let them find the spots while you maintain a nice relaxed and light seat. Let the horse do the work.
Interestingly enough, I think that finding the "perfect" distance and riding hard to fences is what some of the trainers at LEC teach. Counting the last three strides to the fence etc, etc.most of these make you anticipate that take off so much that you over ride it.