Last Sunday, I took Emmy to an obstacle clinic with Tim Austin hosted at a nearby farm. This farm has Tim in every year around Halloween, and the clinics are always super well attended. Apparently I didn't write about it last year, but I had several friends attending so I went up to photograph. Tim and I have a similar sense of humor (be afraid lol) and we spent the whole weekend taking jabs at each other, and by the end I was determined to bring a horse to his next clinic.
|Have you missed cute noodle photos? If not, too bad lol|
Originally my plan was to bring Ruby, but then I figured Emmy might enjoy it instead - she has done obstacles before, and from talking to her previous owner, sounds like she really enjoyed them! Plus she's been hauling out exclusively to dressage lessons lately, so I figured we'd break up the cycle of all work and no play. The weekend of the clinic was absolutely disgusting - highs in the low 40s, wind, rain, just miserable. Saturday I was spectating a schooling show/auditing a Betsy Steiner clinic, so I only took Emmy on Sunday. After bundling up in my warmest stuff, we headed off!
|Tim just sort of chuckled at our commitment to matchy matchy lol.|
All the clinic sessions are group sessions and last around two hours - my group had two other ladies in it, and we all sort of slowly got our horses (and ourselves!) warmed up. Tim came and asked me about Emmy's history, and immediately called out that in my warmup up I was being Type A and really trying to make everything perfect instead of being really THERE for my horse. This is an ongoing struggle, and I was zero percent surprised that it was my first takeaway. This also led into the oft-repeated lesson (that I will apparently NEVER learn) that instead of micromanaging my ride, I need to let my horses make mistakes, and then make the correction.
|Brrrrrrr! Having the ear warmers under my helmet made it sit a little funny.|
|We had spectators! Until Penny's sweater was insufficient and they needed to head home to warm up.|
After that we moved on to obstacles! There were a wide variety, including a giant ball, two foam mattresses, a ball pit, a bridge, a teeter totter, a pool noodle curtain, a pool noodle gauntlet (separate things!), a bag of cans to drag, a bucket on a barrel (filled with water, to pour into a bucket on the ground), and the grand finale (brought out halfway through) - an ENORMOUS inflatable dragon Halloween decoration.
|Dragon in the background, haha. Tim got on Emmy at the end to demonstrate a concept to the barn owner and I giggled because his legs are actually long enough for these flaps.|
Even during the warm-up, Emmy was laser focused on the obstacles, and if I let her walk on a free rein, she would immediately drag me over to them, it was hilarious. Once everybody was ready, Tim started sending everyone over individual obstacles, and then stringing them together. As expected, Emmy gave absolutely zero shits about any of it. She was super obsessed with the giant ball (might need to get her one of her own!), and then once the dragon came out, she tried to climb on top of it and I legit worried she was going to pop it haha. The only obstacle she didn't immediately do pretty much perfectly was our first attempt at the teeter totter, I didn't line her up well and she sort of wandered off the side. But when I backed her up and re-presented her, easy peasy!
|Sticking her tongue out at Tim behind his back, haha|
|Bridge to ground poles|
|Oh I forgot, there was an L shaped corridor made with poles on hay bales - the hardest thing about that obstacle was keeping Emmy from snacking!|
|Crossing the mattresses - in honor of Halloween, they were embellished with red splotches and "die" spray painted across them, haha.|
|She was SO cautious through these - you can tell she has done extensive bushwhacking on trail rides :) and that shoulder freedom!|
|After I had to physically pull her off it so she didn't pop it.|
Everyone in our group got through the obstacles pretty quickly, so Tim pulled back to some of what we talked about in the warm up - he had asked me to put Emmy through her paces so I had done some (sloppy) half pass and told him she has a flying change in there somewhere but I don't usually get it when I ask (and frequently get it when I DON'T ask), so we went back to work on that. The biggest building block was (and again, I apparently need to learn this lesson 12938357 times) - DON'T NAG WITH MY AIDS. Apply an aid, get a response, take it off. On a sensitive horse, if the aid never comes off, they assume they're not doing what you want. Not sure how many times I need to internalize that lesson for it to stick, but bless my very patient horses. We worked through some half pass that got better, and then he wanted me to use that concept in asking for the flying change. I'm not going to explain it well, but basically a few steps before asking for the change, think half pass into the new direction. (also standard disclaimer that Tim is a cowboy, not an UL dressage instructor, so YMMV lol)
Took us a few tries, but we got the hang of it!
Video DH took of us just toodling around while Tim worked with another participant
Emmy and the ball!
"curtain of death" lol
Dragging the bag/crossing the mattress/our first teeter attempt (that I screwed up)
And my favorite video for the commentary alone - in less than a minute you get to hear Tim say I don't deserve this horse (I don't!) and that my attempts with the water bucket were "good enough for government work" (he remembered I worked for the government and wanted to twist the knife a little hahaha.)
It was such a fun day - Tim must have said at least 20 times what a good girl Emmy was and how much she had to teach me.... and both of those things are 1000% correct! Tim is a fantastic clinician in terms of breaking things down and not letting any of the horses get overfaced - it wasn't an issue for Emmy, but there was a verrrrrry fancy WB mare in our group who needed several of the obstacles broken down in smaller chunks. 10/10 recommend riding with him, and next year maybe I can take both Emmy and Ruby!