Monday, April 18, 2011

We Love You Conrad

I was lucky enough to be invited by my instructor to audit a 3 day Conrad Shumacher Clinic.  She was invited to bring Zoe (owned by the fabulous Sherri H.) and ride on Saturday, Sunday and Monday.  So I made some quick arrangments for my puppies and packed my bags.  Yes, that means two days away from my horse and missing chances to ride, but the opportunity to learn from one of the Dressage Masters was too good to pass up.  I warned Bastian that I would be back on Monday, ready to try out all my new knowledge on

I learned so much, got so many ideas for exercises, saw lots of awesome riders and horses and met some totally awesome people!  The hospitality of the barn we were at was spectacular, delicious food and very good company, you couldn't ask for a nicer group of people.

Here is some of what I picked up this weekend:

1) "Making a decision with confidence will turn out right 95% of the time, but making a decision without confidence is always the wrong decision."  Conrad said this at our dinner lecture on Saturday and I whole heartedly agree.  This is one of my shortcomings, I have a little bit of baggage concerning horses and me resulting in seriously painful injuries and all totalled, about 15 months sitting on my couch with some mending bones and muscles.  So when things are starting to happen and a decision needs to be made, I either stop altogether (Bastian has a wicked emergency brake) or I panic and freeze and make no decision.  Either way, it always ends poorly because it reinforces my lack of confidence (when I stop) or becomes dangerous (freezing).  I totally used to be up for riding anything and while I was not a high quality rider, I was a confident, crazy rider.  Now I play it very very safe.  I digress....When I do make a decision when things start happening things go well.  So basically I need to believe in my ability to make the right decisions while I'm riding, I mean for goodness sakes I'm riding Bastian and doing dressage, its not like I'm riding some crazy stunt horse and acting like a cossack.  How hard can my decisions really be? lol

2)Slow and steady wins the race.  Conrad did not say this, I just had to give the concept that I took away a name and an easy one at that.  Kristin has had me work on this before too, but then I forget about it and go back to my normal ride.  Anywho, its this whole idea of really slowing the tempo down at the trot and canter while maintaining lots of roundness.  The neck has to stay down, it can't come up, this really makes the horse come through his back.  He had everyone at the clinic working to slow the tempo at some point for various awesome upper level reasons.  The result was collection and horses that were really working hard and improving their gates, it was very awesome to see the change in the three days we were there in the horses.  So while Bastian and I are eons away from canter pirouttes, piaffe and passage (should we ever see fit to make it that far), getting him to slow down will make him so much stronger through his back and hind end and make our gaits prettier.

I got to ride him today and was armed with all of my new knowledge, I used this idea and the next one I'm going to talk about today.  I slowed his tempo way down, way way way down, like western pleasure down.  While not competition "speed," it gave us the opportunity to really focus on doing it right, you have to crawl before you can walk, right?  The canter was really hard, but we got 2-3 strides each way where he was so collected and slow it would make any inbred quarter horse jealous.  It was awesome.  But then when I let him out into his regular canter, wow, what a difference.  I mean it didn't last long, but with some more work, bing, we'll have it!

3) Ride with your seat, not your reins.  I think this is something that all of us riders tend to do as some point, especially those of us that are lower level riders.  I am so dependent on my reins, I mean ah, how else do I get from A to C or B to K or anywhere else in the alphabet that I need to get to?  So all weekend Conrad kept saying steer with your seat not the reins, making tiny voltes and diagonals, etc. etc. 

So I really focused on trying this while I was riding today, I can't say I entirely stopped steering with my reins, but I was hyper focused on it and trying very hard to just make sure my weight was in the right place and I was using my legs properly and while Bastian was not entirely unfussy with his head, he was less fussy than usualy while doing our figures.  It was actually pretty cool, I didn't try it at the canter yet, I want to make sure we've got it at the trot and walk first and it was all going well until the end when we were walking to cool out and I was taking him across the diagonal.  I must not have had my weight and legs right because he pretty much walked right into the wall.  :-D   And this exercise worked well with the slow tempo idea too, I mean how could we not make a turn when we going at turtle speed?

4)  Lots of figures and exercises, that while I might not be able to do the level of collection and awesomeness associated with the movement or we're not ready to learn that specific trick yet, we can still gain a lot from doing the exercises.  Like this cool leg yield to walk pirouette and 10 meter canter voltes towards the "board"  (wall!) with simple changes and the like. 

Its not every day you get to see this quality of horse and rider at a clinic, you see them at shows but you don't see them working towards that end result, you don't see them struggling with some of those same issues that everyday joe rider goes through.  Most clinics that people like attend are training level and walk-trot marathons, which are very important and worthwhile in their own right, but seeing this caliber of clinic is totally different and gives you a very different perspective.  It reminds you of all the possibilities that are out there. 

In other news, I've sent in my entries for the NODA Grand Haven Schooling Show on May 7th.  I'm showing in Training 3, First 3 and the Dressage Seat Eq. Class (which I probably won't do well in due to my floppy legs, but I have always wanted to show in this class and for $10 who could pass that up?  Should be fun!)  That will be our prep for the WPDA/Grand Haven Show in the beginning of June.

My Para-Equestrian hopes are not completely lost just yet.  There may still be a chance I end up at HITS Saugerities this September, we will see where that road leads. 

Me and Conrad!!!  (and the gorgeous diva Zoe Isabella)