Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Clinic Recap: Elizabeth Wallace

While I’m sure I’ll still sprinkle in the occasional background post, I think by now you’ve got an idea of the cast of characters that will be featured in my ramblings.... errr, writings.
This is what Topaz would have to say about my ramblings...
So this post will be a day later than I wanted, but yesterday was very full with a farrier visit as well as a trip to the Mizzou vet clinic (everything is fine, I’m just overly paranoid).
Unamused Ruby is unamused.
This weekend, Ruby and I had the chance to ride in a clinic with Elizabeth Wallace. The clinic was held at a local facility, TM Stables. Because it wasn’t far from Ruby’s home base (ACS, which will be getting it’s own blog post ASAP!), I opted to trailer over both days instead of stabling at the venue. Always good practice for Ruby to trailer on short hops, and since I’m not showing as much this year, I need all the practice with the truck/trailer I can get. 
The cows next door merited LOTS of watching.
I rode back-to-back both days with one of my good friends Hanna -- I’m sure I’ll devote an entire blog post in the future to her, because not only is she awesome, but she makes very neat wither straps and D-ring savers in custom colors (and Lord knows I want everything I own to be custom colored, haha). Having her in the next trailer over was really helpful for me, as she is a much better braider than I am (hoping to hack off Ruby’s mane next month!) and she also is a much better polo wrapper than me (velcro boots FTW in 95% of situations, but I thought color coordinated polos would be classy for our clinic). 
Master level matchy matchy.
Obvs, first day’s color was teal -- teal Highpoint saddle pad, teal Centaur polo wraps (well, almost teal), teal Ralph Lauren polo, and teal Equiture browband. Second day, I toned things down a bit and just rode in a black pad, white Equilibrium Stretch and Flex wraps, same teal browband (too lazy to change it), my fun new baroque patterned ROMFH breeches, and a tank top (hot as hell Sunday). Because why are you reading this if you don’t enjoy unnecessary descriptions of my tack and clothing on my quest to #makeallthethingsteal and be the penultimate #dressagebarbie ?
I give myself 4.8 stars on the matchy scale - some shade variations....
Anyway, back to the actual riding portion. I was able to get there fairly early both days and watch a few of the rides before mine, which was incredibly helpful. Most of the rides before mine were western riders, but the basics of dressage apply to ALL disciplines, so I was still able to pick up some good tips. We warmed up outside, and Ruby was pretty chill -- perks of showing evvvvvverywhere last year is that she adapts fairly well to new places. The actual clinic was held inside. The indoor arena was fairly small, but for the purposes of this clinic, that was perfect, because it was a lot of work on the basics. 

I have the memory span of a housefly, so I can’t give you an in-depth recap, but I got some great visual tips and tricks I can use in my daily rides to try to retrain my body to do dressage things as opposed to being an epileptic starfish and flailing uselessly. One of the best pieces of advice I took away (and I’m paraphrasing, so any mistakes are mine, not the clinicians) was that in order to achieve roundness, you need bend and impulsion -- without both of those things, you won’t be round. She also had a really great visual with a whip to show how as training progresses weight moves off the forehand and onto the haunches, but I was too busy listening to think about snapping a photo -- oops!
Some of my problem areas: actually, let’s be honest, pretty much all of me is a problem area, so we’ll start with the most basic ones -- my stirrups were a touch too long for right now, so shortening them up provided a more stable base so I wasn’t reaching for them in the trot. I wasn’t effectively using my calf for cues, so subtly changing the angle of my lower leg helped clear up the lines of communication for me. I have a tendency to tense and tighten my grip on the reins (because that’s so effective). I also needed many reminders to slow my post and to lean back -- I always feel like I’m sitting up straight, and then I see photos and I look like the hunchback of Notre Dame. 
Negative, ghost rider.
Ruby is a long horse, and one of the things we worked on this weekend was retraining my concept of bend -- when I thought she was overbent, that’s when she was finally working on a correct bend. We also worked a lot on improving her walk -- Ruby probably had the best natural walk of any of my horses, so I got very lazy about actually training it, so this weekend was a good reminder that I need to ride the walk, not just be a passenger while she ambles. 
It's easy to be lazy when the natural walk looks like this.
Starting about 6 months ago, Ruby was having occasional episodes of teeth grinding under saddle, and after her annual teeth float didn’t stop it, I played musical bits and tried changing up some things to see if I could find something she was more comfortable with. Surprise, surprise, the problem was ME (cue my unsurprised face). However, I really do like how she goes in the Verbindend, so I’m keeping it.... haha. Sorry DH! Happy to report that this weekend (after being constantly reminded to be softer with my hands), we had no teeth grinding either day.
Verbindend, I love you.
Hmmm, what else? Oh! Also learned a more effective way to switch my whip without making a huge production out of it. And I also got to watch the clinician demonstrate the technique of double lunging -- she referenced it several times and I missed her demonstration of it in the morning Sunday, so she was kind enough to have another session with it after lunch. It’s similar to what I call long-lining, but with one long line with snaps at both end instead of 2 separate lines. I do it frequently with young/green horses (or ground driving, which is also similar), but it’s something I hadn’t done with Ruby for ages -- might have to re-incorporate it into our training regimen! 
Gratuitous shot of my new show chairs. Because, teal.
Huge thanks to Elizabeth Wallace for such an educational weekend, Jessica Gifford for arranging the clinic, TM Stables for hosting, Hanna for being my partner-in-crime and trailer parking buddy (yes, yes, we all know you BACKED your trailer in), DH for showing up and grabbing some video, Jenny for all of the riding pictures featured in this post (including my personal favorite, the “ghost photo” lol), and last but not least, everyone should check out Crosswind Ranch/Spirit Riders -- this clinic was held to raise money for them and if you're reading this, head over to their website and maybe make a donation!

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