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Lucinda Green Clinic - Day 1

Fun. Focus. Footwork.  Those were the key words of day one at the Lucinda Green clinic at Eventing Canada.

The weather was cold, windy, rainy, and generally miserable, but being eventers we sucked it up and rode outdoors anyways.  You don't have to be crazy to participate in this sport -- but it definitely helps!

Today's focus was on using stadium exercises to improve and train for xc.  All the jumps were set super-low, and we were told they would remain that way with a focus on accuracy and complexity rather than height. After all, height is easy; technical separates the riders from the passengers.

There were skinny fences scattered all around the ring as well as two arrowhead jumps with the points directed at each other several strides apart.  We started with a free-for-all warmup with the instructions to jump anything we wanted, with no concern to equitation.  The only rules were "no runouts and no cantering".  Everything was to be under complete control -- tricky with several OTTBs in the group!  And the jumps were low enough that should they need to, the horses could walk over them.  A stop is acceptable and can be dealt with; a runout is rider error.  You keep them straight and they jump - that's the deal.  If you don't hold your end, why should they hold theirs?

After we'd all jumped around a bit there was a discussion about the key requirements for jumping skinnies -- or jumping at all really.  Basically it came down to leg, hand and eye.  Simple right?  And that was the point -- it's *not* complicated, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's easy.   Hold them with your leg, fine tune with your hand and make sure you're looking where you're going (Lucinda borrowed Pat's "beaming" energy analogy).

We did some practice over the arrowheads -- something Athena's certainly never seen before!  But she figured it out and by then end was jumping it confidently.  Then onto course work -- with instructions including what gait to be in at each fence.  Cantering a trot fence or vise-versa was unacceptable and would result in repeating the exercise.  Got horses AND riders sharpened up pretty quickly!

After that it was all about turns and skinnies.  Lucinda was quick to correct any rider's position that was unsafe (ie jumping ahead) but otherwise the focus was entirely on effectiveness.  Gait was open to choice at this point and the courses included lots of bending lines with very skinny fences and fun combinations.  Athena was VERY confused at first but she kept trying and eventually got a really lovely course and was even calmly cantering it.  I was pretty thrilled with her.

Then the focus changed and we started working on walk-fences.  Walking up to a barrel jump and hopping over it.  I think I only *truly* kept her in a walk twice; every other time we got at least one jog step *sigh*  But it was a HUGE difference from the first time we jumped in in w/u and cleared it by about 3' :)   The walk jump exercise led to practice with the "emergency contact" -- which I suspect will come into play in tomorrow's xc adventures.  This is basically after you've slipped the reins for some reason, holding your hands wide and your body back to maintain the contact over the next obstacle.  This exercise very quickly differentiated between those with event experience and those without *g*  "Make it ugly!" was the quote of the day.  Which of course raises the question - if it's ugly and it's supposed to be, is it beautiful?  hahaha oh dear - the 4h of sleep is starting to show through :)   Since after too many years of riding babies, my number 1 bad habit is slipping my reins, this was one exercise I could do in my sleep *g*  Athena was a little puzzled, but we got it done :)

Throughout this adventure there were a few random theoretical discussions (cause we were all just enjoying the weather so much!).  Appropriate tack -- the softest bit that enables control (Lucinda changed a couple of them with the rider's permission to softer ones).  A crop is obligatory.  Martingales should be properly fit pony-club style.  That is, when the horse's head is raised it should come about to where the jaw meets the neck.  Most were far too short.  Gloves should not be leather as leather slips.

There was some discussion about the use of studs -- whether or not there should be one on the inside; tradition says yes, but Lucinda presented several reasons why that may not be truly the best situation.  Risk of inside stud hitting the opposite leg and disabling the hoof's ability to turn as it should being the top two.

Let's see...  Also discussion about how to retrain a horse who runs out (one of the more challenging issues -- better to just never let them learn it in the first place!), discussion about jumping form and how the horse has to move its head to view and evaluate the fence and how that can or should be a consideration in your riding.

Basically it was an awesome clinic -- both from a riding and a theory point of view.  I unfortunately only got to watch one other class as we had to get back so I could teach tonight!   But tomorrow I'll get to see most of the day, so quite looking forward to that.

HUGE thanks to Stephy for coming as groom/ring-crew and surviving the brutal weather.  Poor Steph always seems to be with me on the particularly horrific days!   And to Rebecca who took care of everything at home so I could go play :)  AND on top of that to Jamie and Arthur who fed and checked on Athena this evening so I could go teach and not have to drive an extra 3h to feed my horse.   Having horses in two locations an hour and a half apart is tricky!

There's a ton of other stuff I'd love to write, but the alarm's going to go off again in about 6h, so I think I'd best be off.  More tomorrow.  Hopefully!


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