Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Dressage Clinic with Jaralyn Finn

On September 7th, the PVDA Charles County Chapter held a clinic with Jaralyn Finn (  One of the highlights of the clinic was actually the location -- Stephanie McNutt was kind enough to allow us to use her bright and airy indoor arena at her  farm, Cedar Creek Farm.   The fabulous footing was a treat for all the riders and horses so we very much appreciate her hospitality.

Jaralyn taught a clinic for our chapter last summer so for many of us this was a second lesson and amazingly she remembered the issues we worked on last time and were able to build on the previous lesson.   We had eight riders ranging from Intro to Third Level so auditors could take away something from the day no matter what level they were riding.  One rider, Mary Beth Klinger, remarked, "It was terrific to see Jaralyn again. We worked on having the horse more connected right from the start of the lesson. It was a very worthwhile training."

Correct Like you Mean It and Let Go
No matter what level you were riding, correct and release was an important theme of the clinic.  One upper level rider was working on getting prompt responses to her requests.   Jaralyn asked her to think of the requests as "1, 2, 3".  1 being the lightest of aids, 2 a little firmer and 3 being an overcorrection sure to bring a dramatic response.   Jaralyn was quick to point out that even though the aids were to be prompt, you needed to give the horse time to realize their mistake before you moved to the next level of correction.

During another ride, Jaralyn pointed out that holding your leg in place continually was also not the correct aid.  You needed a quick firm pulse with the leg or spur and then release.

The Rider has Lots of Responsibility
Another theme of the clinic is that it’s up to us, as the rider, to give clear and correct aids to our horse. One horse had a hard time turning in time going into the corner.  After the turn he counter bent coming off the wall.  Jaralyn fixed this by having the rider first slow the tempo down a little before each corner and then turn about a meter before the corner and leg yield over.  By the third attempt they were making a perfect turn with correct bend and flexion.   It was up to the rider to set her horse up for success going into the turn.

Another rider was having some issues with position in canter.  Jaralyn had her get lightly up in two point and then sit down.   After her lesson the rider exclaimed, "I realized how important position is.  Immediately my hands were quieter and my horse moved better. The other thing she shared was when cantering keep your feet planted down into the stirrups and open your legs and hips. Cantering was much easier when my position improved."

At one point, Jaralyn mimicked the old Smokey the Bear mantra with, "Only YOU can keep contact." Like so many things in our riding, its usually the rider that is the source of problem and it’s not up to our horse to keep the contact (or whatever goal we are attempting to achieve) – it’s up to the rider to show the way.

Rider Position is OH so Important
Several riders had some difficulty with their positions and Jaralyn did some corrections that made all the difference in how their horse moved.  As one auditor commented on what she learned, "if the rider is out of alignment, the horse will be as well."

For those that needed more freedom and energy from their horse -- Keep the knee and thigh open with a slight bowleg.   It’s important to keep the weight in the stirrup at the ball of the foot so that your seat remains light.  Another image she gave a rider was to think as if her horse was reaching for a cavalletti in each stride.

For those that needed more push from behind -- think of shifting the yielding behind the saddle rather than the front of the horse as the "better he is from behind, the better he will feel in your hands."

For those looking for more fluidity in the up and down transitions -- think of a lighter pelvis for an up transition and pushing the pubic bone down when asking for a down transition.

Clinic auditor, Betsy Hunter summed the clinic up well, "I liked the way Jaralyn was able to quickly access each rider and decide what was most important to work on.  She focused on each rider, no matter what level, so that they improved and gained confidence in themselves and their horses.  She encouraged everyone to stretch out of their comfort zone."


  1. As always- love your posts. How do you remember so much of what is said?? Wish I had your memory :-)

    1. I wish I had that memory too! I take notes and send out some questions to the riders after. Thread it all together and it sounds like I have a memory!


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