Sunday, February 3, 2013

Cavalletti Clinic with Judy Whyte

Attended a cavaletti clinic today with Judy Whyte.  Luckily it was held in a local indoor as it snowed the entire day.  And it was COLD!!  The forecast said it would be in the mid 40's but it never broke 33 and with the snow it stayed cloudy too.

I was the last rider at 1:15 pm but came around 9:30 to watch some of the other riders and learn from their lessons.  It was a good group of riders ....  a range of riders from Intro to schooling second level and mounts that ranged from OTTBs to even a mule that my friend is training in dressage.
Walking Poles

For my lesson we started with walking the "walking poles" to help loosen their back and get them used to covering poles.   For some of the horses this was a bit of change for them and they had to give the poles a quick sniff before they traversed them.   Golly didn't think much of them but didn't give me much impulsion over them either.   More of an amble.

Elevator Poles
We then spent some time trotting and walking without poles.   Golly was pushing his inside shoulder in as usual but Judy was encouraging me to not use too much rein and to keep me legs loose.   I was a bit confused on how to fix it if my legs had to be loose and my hands had to be free as well. I stopped to ask and the answer was that I needed to send him forward into the rein.  My arms were too tight and restricting him.  My knees were also restricting him so I wasn't getting the freedom of movement.  Basically it came down to the dressage pyramid.  Get the freedom of movement first and then it would be easier to control where the shoulders were.

Next we went over what she called the "elevator poles" at the walk - two poles with a raised pole in the middle.    Golly hit the middle pole so hard the first time I thought he knocked it clear but it stayed put.   Judy  reassured me that he wasn't the only horse to give it a good knock today.   The second time around he seemed to understand and picked his feet up a bit more.

After a bit, Judy asked us to trot the "trotting poles" that were approximately 4 1/2 feet apart.   She instructed us to make sure the horse was straight coming into the poles -- head in front of chest, straight down the middle of the poles.   As we turned toward the poles, Golly knew he was going over them and I could feel the tempo increase.   It felt very similar to how he feels when he is heading toward a jump -- like there is a strong magnet pulling him to the other side.   As we approached, I tightened my reins thinking he may try to jump them rather than trot them.  He briskly moved across them (without jumping) -- lots of impulsion and lift from below.   I didn't do the same and got a bit left behind.   As I finished, myself and the auditors all laughed because as Judy exclaimed, "you didn't trust your horse!"  She was right.  

He did everything he was supposed to do over cavaletti -- create impulsion and lift from behind. I had to trust that he would do it right and be there for him.
Trotting Poles

The second time he had a little less impulsion, probably because he didn't trust that I would go with him.  The third time around we were a team and both of us sailed over with lightness and the feel of a sailboat skimming over a lake.  Yeah!

Over subsequent poles, I started to nag him over the poles.  Judy reminded me that I needed to open my knees and allow him to go over.  If he was already doing it well, it wasn't my job to tell him to give me more. It was my job to keep up with him and stay out of his way.

Near the end of the clinic, Judy raised the first, middle and last pole a few inches to get the horses to lift even more.  It worked.  Really got the feeling of lightness, push and movement.  Now to translate that feeling to the times when we aren't trotting poles.

Overall a great clinic.   We had a great group of riders and auditors so even when I wasn't riding I had a nice group of people to talk with.   Judy is a very engaged instructor and even though she was teaching two of us at once, we kept busy the entire time.   She is going to be giving another clinic in a month on Getting Back to the Basics -- looking forward to it!

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