Friday, July 8, 2016

getting everything from her

These photos (from Liz at In Omnia Paratus!!! THANK YOU LIZ!!!!) have been edited and ready to publish for... oh basically since the day after our clinic with Stephen Birchall last month.

i like to talk at great length about our goings on. stephen listens patiently. isabel is less interested haha
The write up has taken longer to write bc.... eh. The words aren't really coming. I made the foolish mistake of not noting everything down right away. And then two really unpleasant schools later and I haven't even put a bit on the horse since. We have been exclusively trail riding.

hands-on teaching is effective teaching
So it rang somewhat dishonest in my head to sit down and write this gushing dressage clinic post when our rides since have been anything but. And thus, the post never got written.

Austen calls this one the "Puppet Master"
But just bc I'm bitter about my own riding shouldn't change the outcome of this clinic tho. This clinic was INCREDIBLE. I basically want to kidnap Stephen and learn every last little morsel of wisdom he has to teach.

mare worked so well
Fundamentally, we just worked on just improving the connection and improving the gaits. Compress to ride forward.

ears always listening
It was so interesting during the ride to feel how at the beginning, we had to compress so so so much before riding more forward. And that later in the ride, the same squeeze with my hand would much more instantly produce the same quickness and activity in the hind end - the same increased engagement - without needing to think as much about being 'on the spot.'

also isn't this arena so pretty?
Tho I also think that's a little bit where the lesson fell apart while schooling on my own. See, Isabel is a very quick study and figured out that after I asked for compression, I would ask for forward. So she anticipated the forward. And the compression became more braced and jiggy.

sunshine through the tail!
But during the ride, it was like magic. We suddenly had so many gears in the trot - this highly active almost-half-steps trot where the horse was so coiled up and into my hand could transform immediately into the fanciest of mediums.

we had a lot of fun motoring around
I'm not even trying to brag - Isabel was just on fire and working so well. Not without questions, and not blindly going where I told her to go, but getting it done when I managed to get myself (mostly) correct.

pretty at the canter (!) and walk
After playing so much with compress then forward, Stephen had us halting from a more working trot, then reining back, then trotting on again. Repeatedly. At first Isabel wasn't super fond of this game, and each step elicited some, er, feedback.

not to say that there wasn't any resistance tho - something i need to remember
But actually as we kept practicing, it got better. And Stephen deployed a tactic I wouldn't have thought of. In fact, I likely would have avoided it all together had I thought deeply about it. He asked for the halt and rein back in the same places every time.

bc izzy WILL have opinions (often very fair opinions lol)
My thoughts would have been to avoid associating any one place with a halt, given Isabel's history of gate sourness. But actually I see the value. She learned the locations, and figured out what I was asking more quickly. Then began to respond more correctly, after which point the same request in a different place was met with a nicer effort.

it's a conversation tho
Canter was a whole different ball game. In the best of ways. We got hands-down our best canter work EVER in this lesson. It felt incredible. Started off a little rough bc Stephen wanted me cantering from a walk. Something I get, ehhhhhh, a little panicky about. Not sure why. (And neither is Pig or Rico, for that matter - but they are just as unappreciative of it as Isabel).

and usually we can come to an agreement
So I would be big and dramatic into my canter aid bc omg canter from walk, guys. But then Stephen would have us come right back down again bc running is bad, and would tell me to thump her with my outside leg as a reminder (or use the whip if she raced off in trot), then ask again.

good mare
And whadya know, eventually she departed in the nicest of fashions into canter from walk. And we even got at least one semi-fantastic canter-trot downward transition too. It felt GREAT.

pretty awesome video clip here. you can get a very 
true sense for how Stephen teaches by listening

And it also felt so simple. I like to complicate things - make them bigger or more complex than they need to be. When, really, it's just a canter depart. It's not a big deal. But I ride it like maybe we might die or something if we don't make it happen.

Idk. I (half-heartedly) blame hunter hack classes for this lol. Like, "Omg omg the judge is probably gonna call for canter soon, better get ready, get ready NOW, omg THERE SHE SAID IT CANTER NOW FOR THE LOVE OF CHRIST!"

lots of pets
But this lesson proved that it's probably not as big of a deal as I like to make it. The horse is such a fast learner. I just need to keep up.

Oh, and Rico also just reaffirmed that so many of my canter issues are ME, and not Isabel. So those terrible no good made me wanna cry rides we had after this clinic were... ya know. Probably rider error. Le sigh. We'll see. Maybe I'll try again soon.


  1. It sounds like a great clinic. I think that sometimes a clinic like this changes so much so quickly that when we return home it kinda falls apart because it's not solid yet. But you now have the pieces to put it back together.

  2. Sounds like a really fantastic learning experience!

    I also have mad arena envy!

  3. I hate it when I have an awesome lesson and then can't replicate it on my own. Hopefully things will start looking up.

  4. Izzy is SO FANCY in that video!!!! I love Stephen, I hope he comes back to our area again soon. Or maybe I'll come down with Penn and visit you guys when he's down there next! I always find the wheels fall off the bus in the week after really good, progress making lessons. Something about the work is harder and a repeat, so the horse anticipates, and then I'm like "You did this last time, WHY WON'T YOU DO IT NOW?!?" and things deteriorate as I get in a hurry to make things happen. Usually I need a tune up a week after... which is what we're going through now.

    1. He's coming back the last week of July. COME SEE US! (Actually, 100% come see us. He needs to fill rides.)

  5. Holy CRAP. I had forgotten just how fancy da Fancy Mare Stare got in this clinic. Ah! So happy I got to see this.

    Of course, the downside of great clinic rides is dealing with the mediocrity of rides on your own. Or ... at least that's my problem. Ha!

  6. Oh yeah, I used to love to panic and chase into the canter from walk. Sassy British Trainer had me put my legs in the position for the canter cue while staying in walk...forever. Only once bobby and I were done having fast thoughts would she have me just close my leg-nothing more!-and bobby would step right into it.

    Also hot DAMN is that one fancy mare!!

  7. Wow, Izzy really looks amazing *sunshine through tail pic*! Feeling you on the ups and downs crap. It can be so discouraging when trying to apply new information on your own and it just doesn't.
    On a totally unrelated note, where did you get your brown tall boots? I'm on the search for a pair. :)

  8. Wow, definitely sounds like a phenomenal clinic.

  9. Wow, definitely sounds like a phenomenal clinic.

  10. Clinic rides are great because they push us out of our comfort zone. The thing is, we built that zone one ride at a time and when it gets pushed, we have to rebuild it so we can do it again.

    I dunno. That's how I look at it at least. Also kinda wish my horse did trails/I had access to them.

  11. Your description of hack classes is spot on! Haha. Sounds like you guys picked up some great tools. I completely understand the struggle of the hot horse that anticipates. It's tough, but eventually it will maybe work to your advantage.

  12. Some really great photos there! If you find the easy solution to rider error, please let me know, I could really use it myself

  13. God Damn that mare is fancy! I know it's not your jam, but have you considered doing a few straight dressage shows to get your fix?

    I can totally relate to the whole - panic, cue canter NOW production. Asking for canter from walk seems like kind of a big deal in my brain, for some reason.

  14. Sounds like it was a good one. Keep working at it and you'll get there again.

  15. MOAR!!! lol

    Damn you guys are so fancy! Awesome job and I also have mad arena envy.

    I'm sad I missed you on your trip to Cali, but hopefully we'll get the chance to meet up again soon. :)

  16. Look at you go! You guys look GREAT!

    We've been working on walk to canter transitions as well. Cosmo has them, but was running into them for a long time and I never took the time to fix it. So it got worse. Then I got anxious about it and just fumbled into it. Not helping. I am working on being more organized and clear in my ask and making it more of a demand. Cosmo is picking up on this (of course, he knows what he is doing) and our departs are much crisper and without drama if I do need to follow up with my whip.

  17. Oh boy - that video is awesome! You guys look great!

    After I have a mind-blowing clinic I often times seem to regress. It's like the way you ride changes, but you aren't skilled enough in the new thinking to be able to think on your feet enough. You know?

  18. Video was very fancy! I'm still stuck in "hello, this is contact" land and there is no fancy for me. It is slow going, but we have another clinic this weekend. Maybe there will be learning. I remain hopeful. :)

  19. You guys look amazeballs in those photos & the clinic sounds fab with great takeaways and improvements ☺☺☺

  20. You are so very welcome for the photos. =) They're some of the last that camera took before promptly dying in Maine. #sadface #butitsokay #causeiboughtafancierone

    Izzy is basically the fanciest ever. And I know you're going to get through the mindblock that's going on now. All of the pieces are right there; you'll arrange them in the proper order really soon!

  21. Sounds like an incredible experience, I think some really great nuggets are going to come out of these rides in the future, you just don't know where it will lead yet!

  22. Wow.... mare is on fire in that video!

    I'm sorry things aren't going so well in the meantime... HUGS<3

  23. Love the media! You guys look great.


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