Can a one hour clinic lesson teach you enough to make it worth it? Does the knowledge learned in such a short time transfer into skills? The answer is yes, at least in my case. In June I was fortunate to have a lesson with Jennifer Roth, and you can read all about it HERE.. I learned a lot, and felt as though I was given the key to the secret dressage vault. (lose and relaxed is the way) The question lingered whether I could take that knowledge and build on it. Two months ago I moved Pippi for convenience sake, and I no longer have a Trainer to keep an eye on things. But I kept in mind all the things Jennifer Roth told me, and tried hard to relax, drape my legs, and still my hands. I was pretty sure I was improving, and Pippi and I were enjoying our rides.
Last weekend Jennifer Roth came to our new boarding facility to give a one day clinic, and I was more eager than a kid on her birthday. This was the test, would Jen think that we had improved and had we taken her knowledge and turned it into true skill? I was not nervous to find out, because Jennifer is very kind, but I was excited to see whether we were on the right path. And I was excited to learn more!
|Buck n' Roll|
We started our ride at the walk. Jen likes to watch the warm up and asks that you do what you normally do. So we walked on a lose rein for a bit, before shortening the reins and then we started our trot work. As we started our trot Jennifer explained the difference between contact and connection. She said: “A lot of people will use contact and connection interchangeably, but they are different. They are the same kind of idea, but they are a different meaning. Contact is what we take on the horses face, what we all learn to do in the beginning. Connection is what the horse takes on us. So it’s the energy that they are pushing from the hind legs, pushing out to the bridle, and taking a feel of the bit. We want her (Pippi) to connect. We want her to make a connection from the hind legs to the bit, not just you taking contact and pulling backwards.” As I was riding and listening my mind tripped over itself, and I was very happy knowing that my daughter was recording every word. I knew that those sentences were key to the next step for Pippi and I. (And quite frankly I was super excited that right off the bat we seemed to be building on the lesson we had in June, rather than work on the same things.)
As I trotted around Jennifer zeroed in on another homework item; Tempo. Pippi and I do have varying speeds, and I must learn to keep my horse going at the same tempo. I was told that I should not have to work hard to make her go, and to use my whip if needed since I bothered to carry it. I should also bother Pippi enough with it to get a reaction. (Pippi knows I am a giant softy and is quite oblivious to my little tickles) The trot Jennifer was looking for was a bit faster than I expected, but one that Pippi seemed happier to keep going. Next was keep that bit moving, make the horse chew and drool. It’s not a matter of sawing the bit back and forth, just a flutter of the fingers to keep it sliding a bit which will encourage connection, but discourage the horse from leaning on the bit. There were moments at this point that felt so light and forward that I wanted to exclaim “Holy Guacamole, you guys should feel this!” I was that excited! I am pretty sure that Jennifer has in fact ridden lots of horses that were easy flowing like that, but for me this was a first. I liked it, a lot, and now that I know what we are going for we will work towards that being the feel for all rides.
After trotting in both directions working on these things and a few adjustments to my seat, Jennifer said I could canter when ready. I immediately said “Great, see you next month.” Our canter has actually improved a lot in that we have a true canter, and I can sit the damned thing. I still struggle with keeping it going, as my unbalanced seat has taught Pippi that a circle or so was fine before dropping to a trot. After watching that mess for a bit, Jennifer said “use your inside leg to keep her going.” It never ceases to amaze me the things I don’t know! When I would feel a drop I would ask again with the outside leg, and it was not working, but the moment I used the inside leg as instructed we just kept going. We kept going, and going, and it was easy. It’s amazing how easy things are when you do things right. We cantered long enough that we could work on body positioning and weight placement, and hands and everything. After doing that in both directions and finding out that I lean in when in right lead canter, we took a walk break. Jennifer went over all that we had just covered, which is so handy, and asked if I had any questions.
We then started the trot again, and Jennifer said she thought I would get a canter easier now. Pippi was giving me some Pippi’tude (shaking her head a bit, and grabbing bit) and I knew that Jennifer was right and answered “Oh, I think I will” before asking for the left lead canter. I asked, she ignored, I asked with whip and she showed me she was ready to “buck n roll.” But we cantered off, and I had to laugh. It was not at all a danger move, just Pippi saying that after walking we are done! The rest of the lesson was great as we made some more progress on sitting and leaning back in the canter. Don’t ask with your legs to canter, but ask for a halt with your hands. “Don’t apply both the brake and the gas at the same time.”
This was only my second lesson with Jennifer Roth, but I take away so much that we can grow with from each one. Hearing her say that she was very happy with our improvement made me beam, and when she declared she hoped that we compete next spring I was just ecstatic. High praise indeed. I feel very fortunate to have access to such positive lessons, (and the best horse ever) and we will work very hard to get ready for the next one. There is so much I do not know, and I just love that!