Early Days

Clinic Lesson with SM

Over the weekend my trainer was away at a show with another client, so I took the opportunity to clinic with local hunter/jumper trainer SM on her excellent schoolmaster Malibu at our old barn. It was nice to visit with former barnmates and enjoy the lovely weather and great facilities.

Malibu is possibly the tallest horse I’ve ever ridden. I don’t know his exact height, but over 17 hands for sure. He’s sweet, safe, and dependable. But he does require his rider to ask correctly before he responds. An excellent quality for a lesson horse. 

The flat exercises were basic but effective multi-part exercises to get better engagement and connection: trot circle followed by a few steps of walk followed by trot on the straight, leg yield in followed by leg yield out followed by canter depart. 
SM had me working on lifting my hands up – at bellybutton or higher! – basically at all times, to help get Malibu’s shoulder up. She especially had me use lifting hands for down transitions (moving my hands up and not just back), as we traveled downhill toward jumps to help prevent us getting on the forehand and strung out, and also as we approached fences. I’m used to planting my hands in the neck on the approach but she had me keep my hands up off the neck throughout jumping. It made a huge difference in how Malibu carried himself.
SM also had me maintain a half-seat throughout jumping instead of full seat on the approach to a jump. A light seat helped Malibu keep a bouncy canter and stay off the forehand especially when heading downhill. 
She used the concept of “holding leg versus driving leg”, especially when going downhill or heading to a jump. Just enough leg to keep the gait going nicely, but not too much such that it drives the horse onto the forehand or accelerates them or get strung-out to a jump. This was new to me: using just enough leg.
She also had me wiggle “left finger, right finger, left finger, right finger” to ask for more connection and roundness without changing pressure on the bit, and it worked nicely. Overall Malibu takes a heavier contact to the bridle – not so heavy that I was sore or anything, just more than I’m used to. 
She also focused on my position after the jump (whereas I’m probably too concerned with my position over the jump). Specifically for me to focus on heels down, and eyes up, and long torso with long neck. It made me wonder if I hunch at jumps and don’t realize it.  
Overall the lesson was very nice. It was completely relaxed and pleasurable. It highlighted some small but important differences in jumping style between hunters and eventing (as I’ve been taught, at least). I have lots of takeaways to try with Hannah. I think that riding “like a hunter” will help me deal with my over-defensive habits including ones I may have but wasn’t aware of (driving seat? hunching torso? hands too low?).  Clinic lessons with other trainers on occasion is super helpful and I would love to ride again with SM sometime, maybe on Hannah.

8 comments on “Clinic Lesson with SM

  1. What a great opportunity to work on your riding. I always love working with hunter trainers. I feel like my posture is so nice afterwards.


  2. Ooh, sounds like a nice lesson. Lucky is the same way–you have to ask correctly, but when you do she responds beautifully. Sounds like what I am working on: jumping position so that I can jump later.


  3. What a great opportunity! I've been working on focusing more attention to how I'm riding after the jump as well, and when I do it correctly, it makes a HUGE difference.


  4. What an awesome opportunity to ride a schoolmaster! They have so much to teach us and there's something really awesome about getting to work on yourself vs. training your horse!


  5. Always helpful to get to ride a horse with buttons that only responds correct when you ask correct. Great way to learn!


  6. I always leave clinics feeling so much more confident, a new set of eyes can really highlight the good and the bad. Sounds like an awesome experience, and that Malibu was a gem.


  7. Sounds like a great lesson on a great horse. :-) Eventers have a “git er done” attitude that the sport requires, but sometimes then they lose finesse. This sounds like a great balance.


  8. fun lesson! i love getting a slightly different perspective on my riding – esp when a new trainer says something or makes some minor adjustment and suddenly everything clicks haha.


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