Tuesday 14 March 2017

February Sandra Clinic - Next Steps

As I mentioned in my last post, Kachina and I are now further along than at the November clinic. Of course that meant I needed to get a whole new list of things to work on that match up with where we're at.

1. Stay Centered and Make Small Movements - this is probably the biggest change I need to make. For my back to basics fall/winter, I was making some aids overly obvious, especially an opening inside rein. That was okay for a while to make things really black and white for Kachina, but we're now at a point where my big movements are more of a liability than a help. I need to really focus on staying in a neutral centered position with my hands close together and making minimal aids when I need them. Think of moving my fingers instead of my whole arm.

2. Lessen Contact on Inside Rein - this goes with #1. Now that Kachina understands inside bend, I shouldn't need much inside rein to get it. Only touch the inside rein to get her inside eye and then ride more inside leg to outside rein. (I need to be careful with this progression that I don't use so much outside rein that Kachina starts counterbending again)

3. Fix My Position Every Time Kachina Gets Tense - my position is improved (yay!), but I still lose it by tipping forward and shooting my legs off whenever Kachina starts getting tense and running. This doesn't happen nearly as much as it used to, but after each incident of running I need to remind myself to immediately bring my body back into position. The faster I can make these corrections, the sooner I will build the correct muscle memory.

4. Canter but Keep it Chill - I only started back cantering two weeks before the clinic (after 4 months of walk/trot back to basics work). We can get beautiful trot work early in a ride, but whenever Kachina starts thinking about canter (like when I sit the trot or after we canter once), she gets faster and loses focus. Sandra likes what our canter looks like (in comparison to last year) and agrees that we are ready to work on it (I'm really happy to have a second opinion on that), but I need to keep it chill. I should do a bit of canter most rides if I can, but I should skip it if I can't get her relaxed first. I also asked Sandra about our canter transitions. Right now it takes us a couple strides for the transition to develop. Sandra said not to worry about that yet, as long as it's done out of a good quality trot (no racing allowed). That sounds like a plan I can work with.

5. Canter Spirals - since starting back with the canter, I was just doing simple 20m circles in canter. Sandra suggested though that doing a bit of spiraling in and out between 15m and 20m circles would help to improve the canter. It does help me to enhance the inside bend and get my inside leg on better which improves the balance of the canter.

6. Moving Canter Circles with Straight Lines - in training level, you do a 20m canter circle followed by a long side. I need to practice that straight exit out of the circle. However, if I need to I can go back into another 20m circle instead of doing the whole long side at once.

7. Keep Straighter in Leg Yields - I really haven't done many straight leg yields lately, more spiraling between smaller and larger circles. I think because of that, I was aiming for too much bend in the leg yield. Sandra got me to think about keeping Kachina almost fully straight and then she actually was pretty happy with the leg yield we produced.

8. Physio - Sandra is a registered physiotherapist as well as a dressage coach. She offers an option in her clinics for riders to get an off-horse physio assessment as part of their lesson. I ended up choosing to that option for my Sunday lesson. Sandra had noticed in previous rides and even when I walk that my right toe turns out more than my left. She examined my legs and determined that my ankle is fine and that the turning out originates in my hip (which is apparently the easier problem to address). For the most part I am quite symmetric from left to right which is good. However I am tight in my hip flexors and especially in my hamstrings. Sandra sent me some exercises to work on at home to help stretch out my tight spots. Another cool thing about the physio option is that I can submit the receipt to my health insurance and get part of my lesson paid for!

I told Sandra that I am shooting to compete at training level this year with hopefully a move up to First near the end of the show season. She seemed to think that was a reasonable plan. I still have a lot of work to do, but I'm starting to get excited for show season now!

Overall it was a great clinic and a great weekend. I wasn't able to fill the clinic completely which made the facility charge a bit more expensive, but Sandra seemed happy to make the trip down for the 18 lessons that were scheduled. 5 of us went out for supper together on Saturday night and shared a lot of laughs with a lot of horsey conversation. I'm already looking forward to the next clinic in May!


  1. so many good takeaways, sounds like a fantastic lesson! exciting too that she's in agreement about being ready to address the canter more! my trainer has suggested that i make a concerted effort to really 'ride the trot' for 3-4 laps after every canter, since my horse can also get a bit excited once cantering is on his brain. but simultaneously, if i can really channel that energy and help reestablish the trot after canter, suddenly we find our best trot work (perhaps bc the horse starts off a little stuck in his back? idk). anyway tho so cool that these clinic sessions are working out so well! i'm sure once the weather warms up they'll be easier to fill too :D

    1. I think getting Kachina's mind back to me after canter is key as well. I still need to experiment a bit to see what the best way to do that is.
      I'm hoping they get easier to fill, I have already had a lot of interest for May :)

  2. So cool that she's a physio! Sounds like you guys are on the right track :) Please share your show schedule once you figure it out ;)

    1. It gives her a really cool perspective on how both the horse and the rider move. There's a few local riders who have had past injuries that find the physio option extra helpful.

      I was actually just looking at the show schedule yesterday! Unfortunately none of the Carrots and Cocktails dates work for me this year. I'm hoping to do Claresholm and Cochrane for sure, and then maybe Tilted Tiara depending on how the season goes. How about you?

  3. Awesome take-aways, and lots of great things for you to work on. It sounds like you had an awesome clinic!!