Saturday – Last Practice before Reining Clinic
Saturday was wonderful – the weather cooperated with temperatures around 90 and fairly low humidity. Although I still ended up pretty sweaty and dirty by the end of the day, (LOL) it was still much better than the 100 degree weather we had a few weekends ago. And the sun was out, the sky was a beautiful shade of medium blue and a lovely breeze wafted over us.
My anticipation and eagerness grew as I drove to the barn. Upon arriving, I saw people everywhere - weeds were being trimmed, grass mowed, everything was being tidied up for tomorrow’s clinic.
Fast forward to ground work. When I went to Buckshot in his pasture, I decided to do one groundwork game with him, before bringing him to the barn to groom and tack. We did a game I call Bingo. I lead him to something in the pasture – a tall weed, or a tree branch, or a tree stump – and say “touch this.” When he touches it with his nose, I say “Bingo!” and give him a treat. He loves this game. We have a lot of other groundwork things we do, but I haven’t been doing them lately, as I am more focused on getting a little bit more time riding. But it is good for him that we do groundwork – it gives him variety, and some new kinds of work, and purpose, and treats!
Fast forward to riding Buckshot. I had a list of my exercises and patterns to work on, and I planned to work on the canter. We did pretty well, he was attentive and willing during our ride. On the canter, I did my “twist” reminder and stayed well in the saddle. Someone blogged recently that she had worked on giving soft canter aids, because otherwise her horse thought “we’re barrel racing, so I’d better go, go, go!” (I’m sorry I can’t remember who said it; I want to give her credit.) But as I gave my aids to the canter, I couldn’t for the life of me think of how to make them soft. Driving home I pondered this again. Perhaps I could whisper the word “canter.” Perhaps I could make a very small kiss-noise. I’ll try this and see if it helps.
We didn’t get to canter much because another rider, whose horse is a bit unpredictable, came in the arena. And shortly after that, other horses came in, for the 1:30 lesson. For our lesson, we did a trail ride. This gave both Buckshot and me a break from the arena work. By the time we finished up the trail ride, I looked at my watch and realized we had been riding non-stop for almost two hours! Buckshot did great for such a long period. After I untacked him, I gave him carrots and took him to get washed. Then back to his pasture, eating grass on the way.
Sunday – Day of Reining Clinic
The clinic was great! We had good weather, and about nine horse and rider teams. We had several trained reining horses in the mix so it was neat to see them doing some really impressive lopes, spins, circles and sliding stops. But we also had several non-reining horses, including mine, Buckshot. The trainer had each of us work on a square pattern in which we focused on steering the horse straight on the rail, turn, straight again, etc, and end with coming into the center of the arena to do a stop and roll back. The first rider who rode the pattern had a very nice lope on her horse. “Gosh,” I thought, “I don’t know if we can do that at the lope- it’s such a small square, hmmmm.”
Two riders later, the trainer called my name. As I rode by him, he said it was fine to start with the trot. Buckshot did a nice trot, that I posted to, and we did nice clean turns and straight lines. By the time we had done a full revolution, I felt good impulsion from him and decided to try it at the canter. I gave the aids and away we went!! I got decent turns, helped by sticking my inside elbow up in the air, and my butt stayed pretty well in the saddle. We did our roll backs and picked up the canter again. Then we repeated it in the opposite direction. It felt pretty good, not as smooth as a controlled lope, of course, but I felt in control the entire pattern, and not like I was flailing around. Which is progress for me! As I finished, the trainer gave me the nicest compliment – he said he was very glad to see my improvement, and that I had done really well at controlling Buckshot, much better than a few months ago, when Buckshot called the shots. I even got applause, led by my instructor! I felt so happy and proud of myself! To get such a compliment from a real expert reining trainer. And compliments from the other riders who have watched me practice over and over. Wow! That was the highlight of my day (week, month)!
As the other riders rode the pattern, the trainer gave feedback and encouragement to each. I was all ears, as he tends to give insights during his various observations that are terribly helpful.
One such tidbit was: when you give aids to the lope, open the horse’s inside front leg, so that he can reach out with it and get the correct lead. And if needed, raise the inside rein a touch, to help keep his inside shoulder up. I am going to give this more thought – it sounds like good advice. I am not sure if he means to keep your inside leg off of the horse, or not. Off of the horse would seem to me to signal more “openness” to the horse. Also, he mentioned to kick with your outside leg, which is the traditional aid. But he specified how to kick. He said stick your toe out to the side a bit, and kick with just the heel. I will work on that. I tend to lay my foot on his side and squeeze it a bit, and then keep it there – and I call it a kick! (That’s really called gripping!)
In all, it was a fun, satisfying clinic, and I am looking forward to practicing more with Buckshot and showing more improvement when the trainer returns.
One other tidbit – I had the opportunity in the last few weeks to get on one of the trained reining horses at our barn. The first time I rode him, I felt like I had two horses under me – such was the sense of power and muscle! And this was at the walk! I was awed by sitting on a young, impressive quarter horse reiner. The second time I was able to ride a few strides at the trot. Very impressive!
Lastly, I finally got some photos of me riding Buckshot during our practice session that I’ll be able to post. I'm glad a fellow boarder was willing to take pictures of us!