Testing, testing.... :::tap, tap, tap::: Is this thing still on?
I realize that my prolonged hiatus from blogging may have caused some of you to remove me from your RSS feeds or delete your bookmarks... but hopefully, you'll come back? I've got lots to tell, and I am done making up excuses for not blogging. I have been great at making excuses though. It started off with being too busy to write. And then I was too busy to ride, so I had nothing to write about. And then it had been a while, so I thought I had better make it a good one, and I didn't have anything exciting to tell you. And then I just got writer's block. And then... Well, you get the idea. But the point is I'm back and I've missed all of you. (Not only have I not been blogging, but I've not been reading either, and I have lots of catching up to do with you and your horses.)
My next couple of posts will recount the Jeff Cook Clinic that Tucker and I did this weekend, which was fantastic. Jeff is an amazing teacher, who made small adjustments to my position that had a huge impact, and gave us creative, different, simple but challenging exercises that got our horses responsive, sharp, light and engaged. He also has a way -- mostly through positive reinforcement I think -- of instilling serious confidence in his riders. I rode ten times better with him than I usually do, and mostly because I wasn't going around wondering if I would be able to do it. After the second day I thought... if I win the lottery, my horses and I will just follow this man around the country.
So here are the highlights:
1) At some point during the flat phase of Day 2, Jeff repositioned my seat so that I was sitting deeper in the saddle. As I tilted my hips forward and scooted my bum underneath me a little more, Jeff said to me: "There you go, you can sit a little deeper on him, don't worry, he'll allow it. You ride well." Thank goodness he turned his attention to someone else at that point because I literally started beaming and the only thought in my head was, "okay, I can die happy now."
2) Throughout the clinic Jeff made general observations about the sport of riding in general. My favorite was: "Do you know why the highs are so high with horses? Because the lows are frequent." Words to remember. He pointed out that he could make a nice easy course and tell us all we're wonderful for two days, but unless he gives us a chance to make mistakes, he's not going to be able to help us out. Took the pressure way off. At least for this little perfectionist.
3) Jeff repeatedly emphasized making the horses' jobs easier and more pleasant. For example, when we first got on in the ring, he wanted all of us to walk the horses around for a good 10 minutes or so, on the buckle. I got on and did what I usually do, which is ask for a long and low frame and ask him to walk forward, but Jeff corrected me. He used Tucker as an example to show how much bigger their step is behind when you drop the reins and let them walk around on the buckle with their noses poked out vs. when you ask for an "artificial" frame right from the start before they have a chance to loosen up through their backs. He then had us warm up at the trot with no contact with the horses' mouths at all for the first 7 minutes. Of course, Tucker started out with his head straight up in the air, but after a few minutes settled right down into a nice relaxed frame, all on his own, just from me sending him forward and asking him to be straight using my leg. I was impressed.
4) I love the way Jeff helped us out in front of the jumps. If we needed to come forward he'd just say, "Stay on it!" and if we needed to wait he'd say, "Now cool it." Maybe cause I never play anything cool, ever, I kind of liked being told to "cool it." Just seems like the right image to me. And when we got it right, he'd yell out, "GOOD RIDE!" and there was a conviction in his voice that just made you believe him.
5) After the flat phase on Day 2, when I had finally figured out how to quiet my hands and get Tucker to reach and relax through his back, Jeff looked at me smiling and said, "You're really right there on the edge of it with this horse now. He really wants to do it right. If we had another couple of days together to start adding some shoulder-ins and lateral work to what we've been doing, you'd have him exactly where we want them to be. Nice job." (Pretty sure I didn't hide the beaming that time.)
Stay tuned for a more detailed account of the exercises and courses from Days 1 and 2. It's nice to be back.