NM is a Florida based, Puerto Rican FEI rider who has represented her country in several international competitions. She's gotten rave reviews from people at my barn, and 5 of us made our way to DT's barn to participate in the clinic. I had not ridden with her before because she doesn't have GP Trainer's upper level experience, despite participating in international competition. I wanted to see what other people thought first!
I started by warming Penn up with Megan's homework- halt/walk/halt/walk, then mixing trot in. I felt super stupid doing that- it was silent in the ring as NM watched us warm up. I was like, "OK, stick to the warm up you know works." She understood what I was doing (as I was told she would, having done something similar to BO's daughter M), and then asked me for a little bio and what we're up to and where we want to go. I told her that I've had him for 2 years, got him green broke, and we did "baby third" this year, just 3-1, so the goal is to make that work better for next year and then maybe ride 4-1 at the end of summer. I said we had spent the last month going back over the basics- Penn needed to be light in my hand, stay engaged, and use his hind end. I also said I started schooling half steps on my own, but I really wasn't sure what I was doing. I told her that he knows his changes but I haven't really touched them in a while because I haven't really touched the canter a whole lot in the last month.
She wanted to see the canter next, so I showed her the slight train wreck I have going on (though it was much better than it's been). She immediately pinpointed my perching and gave me solid reminders to sit down and sit up, and not to let Penn pull me out of the saddle when he gets rushy or when his balance changes. She had me add a smidgen more step to the canter too, which I'm not entirely sure he's ready for. I'm kind of neutral to the canter work we did- I think he could use a lot more collection because I could not have asked for a walk out of it and gotten it. However, we did focus more on me sitting properly than him really sitting properly. I needed the reminder badly!
We spent the rest of lesson working on half steps!
NM worked with a whip from the ground tickling Penn's rump to encourage sit (she barely needed to apply any contact), and I was to hold the small walk and encourage the "jig-jog" steps. When he gave the right answer, she'd feed him a sugar cube. She likes feeding horses a sugar cube when someone works them from the ground with a whip so they don't get worried about people holding whips. Basically she wants them to think: People on the ground holding whips while tickling them = BEST THING EVER.
|The best one! We asked, he gave right away!
|"When to quit and try again" - We trotted out at the end of this one.
NM loved Penn. He caught on so quickly, NM was very happy with his brain and try. She helped me identify when to move on from asking him for half steps (aka it has gone bad and you need to start over), and when to allow him to move forward just a hair more while continuing to ask. She suggested I find a longer, very bendy whip that I could use minimal hand motions to wiggle over his haunches to help me school half steps by myself.
|Weee and he's stuck, haha.
We quickly moved on to applying the half steps to make the trot better. We did a lot of trot/halt/trot, focusing on keeping him active and sitting. She identified the right hind as the leg to get after both directions, and to keep my leg slightly more back to encourage sit. I needed to sit and apply leg into the halts, and release him a little out of the halts. She described it as him getting stuck sitting by sitting too much, and he can't get himself out of it.
|Asking for sit, then going.
Here's a link to all the video I have of us working on the half steps, plus trotting out of them, plus doing the trot/halt/trots. You can hear NM's instruction too. Sorry it's so long, if you click to about the 5 min mark, you'll get more of the trot/halt/trot.
Overall, it was a good, worthwhile lesson. Nothing ground breaking, but I got my "Sit down/Sit up" that I needed, and I got help with the half steps so I can continue messing with those as desired. I was really excited to get help on applying the idea of half steps to the regular trot. My half halts were much more effective in finding sit, and Penn found a new lifted trot gear which was really cool.
NM really liked Penn, and asked about the Oldenburg side of him. I explained that his mom was a registered Oldenburg, but was actually half Thoroughbred and half Dutch Warmblood (Alla Czar), so he's actually 75% Thoroughbred. She was like, "Interesting, I didn't realize they were making them like that again!" She also thought he would do better at higher levels because there will be more things that play to his strengths. We laughed about how I struggled with riding him in 1-3 after riding 3-1 a bunch of times. She seemed to think he'd progress up the levels nicely- he should have a super piaffe and good passage, he's probably good at laterals (yupp), and then the only thing that's left are the changes... which he's probably good at too (getting there!).
Of course while we chatted at the end of lesson, Penn was snuggling with NM and looking for more sugar cubes. She loved his in-your-pocket personality and joked about stealing him and putting him in her carry on home.
I got a few irksome comments from someone (not online) that really took away some of my excitement about my lesson. They praised the ground NM walked on, and how nice Penn looked because of her instruction, but between the lines trashed GP Trainer. In reality, NM told me the same thing about the canter that GP Trainer does, and I have had zero prior instruction on half steps, but I expect GP Trainer would have me do something similar based on watching her GP students. There wasn't anything truly ground breaking here, I just got an excellent idea on how to really apply the half steps to the trot (which is a really good lesson, don't get me wrong). I have to remember the comments come from someone who has only ridden in a handful of schooling shows a long time ago at training level, and basically audits clinics and bebops at home and is content to move at a glacial pace with zero competition goals... which is not really GP Trainer's style. That's ok, that's why there's a bunch of trainers out there! It irks me that I get these undertones that I shouldn't work with GP Trainer because she doesn't work for this person.
I believe next time NM is here, my barn is going to split the clinic time with DT's barn. We'll have NM out for 3-4 days instead of 2, and 1 or 2 of those days will be at our home barn. Either way, I'll ride with her again!