The Charlotte Dujardin Clinic.

Remember how I told you I was excited to get learn-ed? Well, here is my take from this great clinic.

The Charlotte Dujardin educational tour. A through the levels masterclass. Presented by S H Productions. Five riders from Training/First Level through to Grand Prix.

To say I was excited is an understatement. As a rider who has a strong desire to improve skills and who does not get to take many lessons despite my best intentions (still something I want to change and I have been reinvigorated since this clinic), I jump at as many opportunities to learn as possible. Needless to say, when I first learned of this clinic, I purchased my auditor ticket directly.

I will try to keep this short and direct. To the point. Ha. Well. I will try at least!

I was most interested in young horse to training/first level, so that is what I took the bulk of my notes on. Reasons being, I do not have a desire to rise up the levels, just to improve my horsemanship and riding, and because the basics are EVERYTHING. If your foundation is good, everything else will come. Everything is built on the basics.

Given that fact about basics, you will not be surprised to hear Charlotte said that exact same thing multiple times to each rider, no matter the level achieved (Some of my favorite horsemen say this all the time). Along with a few other things, but it all stems back to basics. Everyone had to work in transitions and really moving forward and through. Going for a ‘yehaw’ as she said. Picture a British person saying yehaw for a good chuckle.

It turns out my favorite pairs and rides were also the lower levels.

I had a general admission ticket which granted me a seat on the outside. I was able to get a seat in the middle of the long side to be able to view and be as close to as much of the action as possible and I was not even the first one there.

However, while I was indeed not there the minute they opened the doors, I was there early. After I secured my seat, I had ample time to have a look around the grounds. I had yet to visit this equestrian center and was eager to see the place. They host many open and schooling shows throughout the year.

After my own personal tour, given by yours truly, I went to see if I could manufacture ways to spend my hard earned money. The vendor village left a little something to be desired and I really did not need anything anyway. Which really was a shame if you ask me, but alas, it was not meant to be.

Apparently an autograph signing was scheduled before the clinic began. I missed that little tidbit, but I am not really into autographs anyway…one of the few given the long line of autograph seekers. My seat was however, right next to where Charlotte would be signing. Naturally, I did a creeper stalker shot instead. Way better than an autograph.

I got tired of hanging out, so I went to see if I could find the first rider warming up. I love to watch riders warm up. I found them, but unfortunately for me he was basically finished.

On my way back to my seat, I grabbed a glass of bubbley, because why not, and got comfortable with my note pad.

Now is time for the nitty. My notes on Charlotte’s teachings by lesson/level (both to that rider and general comments to the public) as I wrote them…repetitions and all. There are a lot of notes, so…sorry to my non equestrian readers! If the details are not interesting to you, go watch the 500 Mile video on the AHAmoments Facebook page. You will not regret it. It is what true horsemanship is about. How horses make us better humans. Then skip to the bottom of this post for the take aways and how it all relates.

OK.

For the young horse.

-Look for…3 good gaits/paces. Especially the walk and canter because you can not really change these. Not too big of a walk (which can be hard to collect) and good jump and rhythm in the canter. Get a marching walk through hacking out and doing hill work. You can improve the trot. Not necessarily the flashy and well bred…the do not always make winners, especially if they do not have a good walk and canter. Look for the easy, flowing movers. That have good mechanics, good stretch, and swing. Good use of the shoulder. A good hind end so you have a good engine.

-You need to focus on developing yourself and being even. It is not just the horse. Your strengths and weaknesses show on your horse. Work on your position make sure you are in the middle.

-The basics are more important than the tricks. The tricks come through the basics. Be consistent in seeking the right.

-Can you give the the rein away and have him stay? Self carry. Not speed up or slow down.

-Do not ride in a frame all the time. You have to let them stretch and decompress. Take the pressure off. Take them out in the field. Stop looking perfect or trying to look perfect all the time.

-Wait to sit the trot till they have developed the strength. Till they do not stiffen through transitions.

-Make ALL transitions straight and forward. Focus on them. Are they good enough. Are you in control of the tempo. Do not let them anticipate. Do not settle for less than correct.

-Riding young horse is fun. You have to get out if your comfort zone.

-You probably are not doing enough transitions if your horse stiffens through the body when you slow. You have to do thousands of transitions. Both within gait and out of gait.

-Develop, develop, develop the weaker side. It is your weaker side as well.

-Do not chase them with your body. Stop kicking every stride. If they do not react when you ask with your leg, go for a yehaw and get them going. Get them reacting to your leg aid.

-The leg yield is a pole flexion, not a neck flexion.

-This is like weight training for the horse to build strength. Make sure you give them enough time to get their air.

-Get them out of the school/arena. Go out for a hack/out on trails. Climb hills. It can not all be pressure.

-Go for a yehaw! Go for a gallop in the field. You can not always ride collected. You need to get a reaction when you need it. Think forward.

-Pat and reward when they do something right.

-Think forward into downward transitions. It is still a forward movement. You can not chunk away the energy.

-Do not be greedy and ask or take more than the horse is ready to give.

-Make sure your upward transitions are the same as your down.

-Let (allow) them to reach for the contact from your hand.

Second Level.

-Sit and push.

-Forward.

-Do not slow when doing a movement.

-The shoulder in is a flexion in the pole not a bend and FORWARD on the line.

-Does the horse want to work? Does he look happy? A good character is the upmost important thing in any horse, regardless of level.

-Do not override with your leg or kick every stride. They need to react to your leg. Think forward. Be between your aids.

-Keep kicking and they will not respond.

–Always ride forward. Even in collected work. Collected does not mean slow. Or short. Or quick.

-Bigger steps. Ground covering steps. Not quicker. Not necessarily faster.

-When they are lazy, do not cover it up with kicking.

-They need to keep going they same way as if you give them the rein when you have a quiet leg/are not kicking. Need to go when you say go and stay there till you ask for a transition.

-Doesn’t matter. Do not focus on the mistake. Keep riding. Just do it again.

Third Level.

-Preparation into the movement. Set them up. Set them up for success.

-Do not settle for a bad transition.

-Every transition has to be ‘perfect.’ If it is not, so it again.

-Do not neglect the basics.

-Do not forget how important the corners and short sides of the arena are. They set you up for what is next.

-Do it till you are happy with it.

-Inside leg to outside rein.

-Keep going even when you make a mistake.

-Do not rush.

-Take your time.

-Soft hands.

-Do not punish your horse or yourself. It doesn’t matter. Just do it again.

-It is not about age and numbers. The horse is ready when the horse is ready. Learn from the horse. Stay patient. They will get there. Do not expect more than they are ready to give. Do not be greedy. Horses and riders are all individuals, do not compare one to the other.

-Learn everyday from the horse. Work hard every day. You do not need to spend a lot of money to have a good horse. The secret is in your training system. Have a good direction and follow the feel.

-It is all about about the horse. The connection. The partnership. The relationship.

-Get eyes on the ground whenever you can. Get mirrors. Set up a video camera.

-Finish how you start. Relax and stretch in all three gaits.

Prix St. George.

-It is about the exercises not the tests and movements. It keeps them fresh and on the side. Keeps them from anticipating. The exercises make the movements better.

Grand Prix.

-Do not leave the basics behind.

So. There you have it. My notes and learnings from one of the top riders in the world.

The take aways?

Each rider had the same things to work on…

No matter what level you are: More forward. Say yehaw and go for a good gallop. Focus on transitions. Work on your bad side to be balanced. It does not matter if you make a mistake, just keep your leg on, keep riding, and do it again.

Sounds a whole lot like life, doesn’t it??? I thought so too. Go figure.

Walk in love, dear readers!

Exciting.

I am going to get learned this afternoon/evening. That is right, learn-ed. And I am turbo excited about it.

A certain Olympian that even non equestrians might know of is going to be in town giving a masterclass and about a year ago, I bought a ticket to audit it. Because, well, how could I not? Duh, I had to. Life is about opportunities, and this is one!

I have heard very good things about Charlotte Dujardin Obe‘s clinics and I am exited to see and hear in person. There will also be vendors, so there is also that. Hopefully I practice restraint and not spend too much. No promises that I will not be the first one there…

Exciting, I know.

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Do not be jealous, I will share all the details and exciting learning with you!

Can you tell I am excited???

Not your average Friday night out I dare say.

Walk in love, dear readers!

I Mean, Just All The Things.

This week is already going by super fast! I intended to write this post this yesterday, but I just did not have time. Where do I start?

I met up with an old friend for lunch. He was actually my tutor for when I took the ACT back in high school and then again for when I took the GRE. He also tutored my sisters for the same thing because, honestly, most people are not wired to do very well on those stupid things. However, that really is not the point here. The point is, we had a common bond over horses. He is a show jumper, had a few horses at the time, and did some breeding. We would usually spend some of our sessions talking horses. Not too much though, because we would get in trouble otherwise! Anyway, fast forward to the other day, he sent me a friend request from his professional, farm page. A quick flip through his page and website and he had clearly ramped up his breeding business and has some really quality mares. Naturally, I sent him a message to catch up. Yesterday, we had a lovely lunch. It is an even longer story, but he has a horse farm in France and I am planning to visit him while he is there next summer! I know that is a long time away from now, but I do not care! I am beyond excited for this horsey vacation! I have never been to Europe either! There are many day trip options near the farm. There are really nice horses. Beautiful country side. Many trail options, including a riding beach. What more could there possibly be?!

Then, after work, I went to the bank and set up an IRA. That is boring. Next.

I had dinner with an old friend, C. Technically, my sister’s friend, but she and her husband are my friends too. They are the ones I house and dog sat for back in March. Anyway, we had great fun catching up and just talking over wine and dinner, but it made me miss my sister. When I got into my car, I called her up to tell her just that and about dinner. While we were on the phone, C beeped in, no doubt to say the same thing!

I am counting down the seconds to Friday morning when R and our horses will be on our way to the Hill Country. More on that later, but I have several things to get done before then. Farrier did say my Lito was a gentleman while he got his shoes. Prayers he has them all still on!

This weekend was pretty great. It was really busy. I of course had to spend some time with my ponies.

So, I did it this weekend. I had a lesson! This is something I have been wanting to do for a really long time. So much so, that I made it a resolution/goal to take at least 5 or 6 lessons this year. It is not going to be easy, but I will make it happen.

So, on Saturday morning, I had my first dressage lesson in many, many years. To be honest, it was nothing short of amazing. I know that sounds really grand and no it was not all perfect, but it really was great. I was kinda nervous having not ridden with a professional in so long. I got to ride one of trainer’s horses, named Phantom. A gray Arabian gelding, trained to 3rd level. That was pretty exciting as I do not think I have ever ridden an Arabian.

The first lesson is always a whirlwind. New human relationship, new horse relationship, new place, etc. Trainer is super nice and fun. It took a little bit of time to get used to Phantom since he is shaped and moves so differently from most horses I ride. The biggest thing that stood out was how forward I sit/lean. This I knew she would point out and help me fix. She did not waste any time diving in on that and getting me to sit upright, which actually got me excited. It was an issue when I was taking lessons before and I have noticed in photos that I have reverted back to that. The other main thing we worked on was establishing a solid connection on my supporting rein and getting good through-ness and stretch. Before I knew it, the lesson was over. I did not want it to be, but we finished on a great note with a very nice trot.

There were definitely moments where I felt like a beginner. I am not sure quite how I feel about that, but I found myself laughing through those moments and just riding forward. AHAmoment. Which, to be honest, I am proud of myself for. I didn’t focus on those moments, I just hunted for the next good one, the sweet spot. AHAmoment.  She commented that it looks like I ride a lot of green horses by the way I ride and that is probably the source of my forward seat. I laughed and told her that was true. There were lots of smiles and laughs. There were two things she said to me that really just put me on cloud nine. That I have a good feel for a horse and that for never having ridden him before, I rode Phantom well. I mean. I think I have a pretty good feel for a horse, but to have a professional tell you that? Makes me feel like I am on the right path and doing something right!

I can not wait for my next lesson which I scheduled for Wednesday of next week! My homework is to focus on sitting upright, which to me, feels like sitting back. The plan is to continue riding Phantom and get solid on him while fixing a few things with me, and then begin with lessons on Cheetah.

After my lesson, I went to visit a friend at her ranch. She just pulled her horses out of boarding and brought them home to the ranch. I stopped at a little Mexican restaurant on the way to have lunch and celebrate. Because, why not?

That is all for now, dear readers…and that is a lot!

What is new with y’all? Anything fun this past weekend or this coming weekend? Or big plans for the future? New Year resolutions/goals getting crossed off the list? Or just good times with good people? I hope your week is off to a good start!

Go get out there and celebrate the little things!

Walk in love!

Tuesday Toodles

Spring has officially arrived! The sun is warm. Horses and dogs are loosing their winter coats. Everything is yellow, including the nastys I have been coughing up in the morning...er…The pollen is exploding on the trees. The air is soft, both in feel and temperature. Besides the nastys, it is glorious.

I have decided on a schooling show to work towards at the end of April, have submitted payment for a working equitation clinic in June, and am going to audit a Charlotte Dujardin Through The Levels Masterclass in November. I am really excited about these! Making good on my 2017 goals! Just need to make lessons a priority now.

I am a little under the weather because of these allergies (seriously, these never used to be a thing for me, ugh)…and possibly, maybe, because I have been staying out too late, but oh well, you only live once.

I am house and dog sitting for the rest of this week. All the dogs are played out and enjoying basking in the sun. This past Sunday (how is it already Tuesday??!), I loaded everyone up and headed out to the farm for the day.

The day started out extremely foggy. Quite literally in a cloud. Once at the farm, I decided to wait out the fog before riding and convinced my mom to come on a walk with me and the dogs after I fed the horses. As per usual, my Darcy girl had a grand time doing her thing and running circles around the other two. These city dogs though! They had the best time being dogs! Their coats were sopping from the dew and covered in pollen within a few minutes.


We walked down to the pond first where they waded in to prime their coats to get really good and dirty. Deciding it was best to avoid the cows with the newbies, we turned around to walk back up to the front gate and back again. With all the rain we have had, there was a big muddy hog wallow by a group of live oaks. You an probably guess where this is going, but I will tell you anyway. They all promptly got in and laid down with the biggest panting grins on their faces. After a good chuckle, we called them out and continued back to the house. A good run through the tall, wet grass got all their coats moderately clean. They were so dang happy. There is nothing like a happy, dirty, and tired dog. Except maybe three of them! Impossible to smile.


I put them all in the kennel and went to grab Lito for a ride. Darcy is always with me when I ride, but I put her up with the other two to make sure the others would stay safe. A quick groom session and I had Lito tacked and ready to go.

I have stopped counting his rides, but we are somewhere in the neighborhood of 15. He continues to amaze me with his incredible mind. In an ideal world, I would be riding him around 3 times a week. I have still only been able to ride him every two weeks or so. I was worried that it would be a problem and I would have to bring him somewhere closer to town so I could ride him more. It is not only not a problem, but he continues to get better. I might still have to do that somewhere down line, but for now it is working.

We did a little arena work and then went down to the cow pasture with my mom (she is the best) to have a little trot and then back up to the front gate. I am so proud of him. We are pretty consistently forward and have pretty good rhythm. He is continually reminding me, since he was born, to be relaxed and open. He is so sensitive and responsive in a very good way. If I remember to think and ask first, I almost do not even have to do anything. He is such a blessing.

After lunch I spent the rest of my time there helping the horses shed some winter hair before heading back to town. Now is it the end of Tuesday and work is work and it is busy. Most everyone was out of the office last week, so it is back to the normal hustle. Which is not really normal, incidentally.

That is all for now. Super exciting stuff, I know. Please, try to contain yourself over there. This week is going by so fast, hence the lack of posts! Sorry about that!

Walk in love, dear readers!