Thursday 29 September 2016

Elaine September Clinic - Days 2 & 3

Day 1

Day 2

My legs were feeling the intensity of Day 1 a bit when I swung into the saddle on Day 2. That was actually a bit of a benefit though as I could easily feel when I was engaging the right muscles to get myself back into the correct position. I worked on keeping my legs there while I warmed Kachina up.

As soon as my actual lesson started, Elaine complimented me on my leg position, and basically said that she didn't need to drill me on it anymore so we'd work on new stuff.

The theme of my lesson on Day 2 was bit responses and having Kachina soften at her poll. This was certainly building off of the first clinic I had with Elaine earlier this summer.

We worked on the same principle of Kindergarten (halt), Grade 1 (walk), Grade 2 (trot), where you can't move onto the next grade until they are doing well at the grade below, and if you lose the softness at Grade 2, you must go back to Grade 1, etc. I have been doing some work on this on my own, and we were able to spend a lot more time trotting this time around (though not ready for canter yet).

In the last clinic, Elaine had me giving bigger exaggerated releases to Kachina when she got things right. This time, she had me give smaller releases and to ask again more quickly. We actually got some really nice circles of fairly consistent contact.

Going between Grade 1 and Grade 2 in the softness exercise meant a number of walk-trot and trot-walk transitions. My leg position was doing pretty well in general, but I would lose it in the transitions, so we worked on that. My tendency is to push my leg forward and sit deep when asking for a down transition, I need to not do that.

For this day, we worked on getting Kachina to give at her poll and be soft in the contact at halt, walk, a slow trot, and the transitions between. Elaine suggested that I work on getting better consistency at these, then build on it by doing the same at a larger trot, transitions within trot, and while doing lateral work. Only once I have those down should I move onto canter. Elaine wanted me to not even try to canter for a few weeks, but to expect soft transitions (no giraffing or running) once I do ask for the canter.

All clinic I tried to get a nice conformation shot... and failed
Her feet are square here at least but that giraffe neck *cringe*
At least she's shiny?

Day 3

Again Elaine was happy with how I was maintaining the new leg position.

The theme of today was the rider creating rhythm.

Last time I rode with Elaine, she had me ride with a very still and almost rigid body. I wasn't completely sure about that concept, but apparently there is the second part to that lesson. First, Elaine likes to get riders to try and ride with stillness, to stop us from completely following the horse's motion. Next, she wants us to re-introduce movement to our position but in a way where the rider is creating the rhythm that the horse should follow, rather than the rider following the horse.

It's like how you can post faster or slower to speed up or slow down your horse, but in a more subtle sense that you should use at all times to set a clear steady rhythm.

There is a difference between pushing the horse with your seat, and just creating a feeling of movement in your seat that the horse follows. We are supposed to aim for the latter one, but it's a fine line and one that I had trouble getting a feel for.

It sounds like such a simple concept, but it's really really hard to not move with the horse. I heard several riders who are better than I also talking about how much they struggled with putting this idea into practice.

This theme was one that I had heard Elaine work on with several other riders over the course of the weekend. I don't think the lesson is a bad one, but on this day I felt like I was riding with a clinician with an overall theme, rather than one who was tailoring the lesson specifically to what me and my horse needed at that time. I get that a lot of clinics work this way, but I was still a little disappointed. It seems that this is a really good lesson for horses who like to vary their rhythm, but Kachina actually has a pretty steady rhythm as long as I am correct in my position and don't screw her up (that's just a very big if at the moment!)

One bright spot at the end of the lesson was where we went back to work on my position a bit more, this time adding in the upper body to the leg position. When my legs are correct, my body wants to curl forward. Elaine had me think about making the front of my body long, and my back short, while still pushing back against an imaginary chair back. This visual really helped me to sit back without arching my back or curling my shoulders. I don't have the strength yet to hold a correct position with my body and legs at the same time for long, but knowing what the completed puzzle should feel like will help me a lot with developing the pieces.

Overall I was very happy with the clinic. I was thrilled to get to work on my position in my new saddle. I have some clear direction on what I need to work on with both myself and Kachina when we're on our own. I really can't ask for anything more from a clinic.

Unfortunately I have no media of me riding. One girl offered to video for me on the last day, but unfortunately not until after my morning ride time was already finished! I will take her up on her offer next time though :-)

Elaine is coming back on the (Canadian) Thanksgiving weekend, but the combination of family obligations and two weeks without riding mean that I'm not sure if I will go to that one. I will definitely ride with her again when she comes back in the spring though.

Even with help, this is the best confo shot we could manage


  1. Sounds like a really helpful clinic!

    1. It was! We covered a lot in one weekend... now to put it all into practice on my own

  2. I've been having a lot of giraffe mode engaged lately. And his is way worse than hers if that makes you feel better.

    This is really interesting. I have a lot of similar struggles. I don't know if you have ever done any exercises for your hip flexors but that might help with the lower leg/upper body problems. I know it helps me. :)

    1. She's not generally a giraffe when grooming etc. (just for canter transitions =P ), but I can't get a good confo shot at home because the ground is unlevel. The ground was nice and flat at the clinic so I was trying to get photos there but apparently she can't stand nicely at a new place

      I have tight hip flexors and also really tight hamstrings. I keep meaning to do daily stretches but I'm not very good at following through. I'd love to hear any stretches that you find good! I'm also going to start back into pilates in October so hopefully that will help as well.

    2. Get a foam roller. You will hate it at first but stick with it and it will really help.

  3. Pretty amazing to make such great improvements on leg position over just one clinic! Sounds pretty awesome :)