I apologize in advance for any weird grammar or typos. It’s currently 5 am and I’m typing this while I wait to board my plane to Virginia, after having already been up for two hours. I meant to prep this yesterday, but, procrastination is way more fun. I really wanted to ride in this clinic, but I’d already spent my show/clinic budget for the year, and Val ended up hurt for some reason or another the week of so it worked out. plus I had to work on the second day. I didn’t want to miss out on the opportunity for more knowledge and tools for my bag of tricks though, so I made the drive out to Coraggio to audit and be Ragan’s jump crew. Plus I took photos for the people riding in the clinic. Gotta earn my keep!
As always, I did a lot of learning. Not, big, brand new concepts, but things I hadn’t heard in a while that I really needed to hear. And Ragan is just such a great clinician; since I was making the effort to be there to learn as much as possible right there in the ring, he took the time to really expand on some of what he was saying to me while riders were doing the exercise, and I appreciated that immensely.
So here are the big takeaways!
- If your horse is heavy, it’s because he isn’t pushing from behind.–This is something I know, but its always a helpful reminder. Even though it’s tempting to play tug of war, find ways to get their hind end more engaged and the problem will fix itself.
- A horse that wants to rush the jump may just have strength issues. Rather than rocking back on their haunches to really push over the jump, they want to simply use forward momentum to end up n the other side of the jump. He mentioned that helping to create a moment of suspension in the canter with canter poles was a good way to help strengthen the horse and teach them to use their bodies correctly for the jumping mechanic. He also explained that pole exercises help teach the horse to transition from canter to jump. I wish I remembered his expansion on that bit.
- Set 1-stride canter cavaletti at 19′ rather than 24′ since the horse won’t land as far in over the canter pole, and you want to encourage a more packaged canter so that they rock back and flex those hocks a bit.
- There is a difference between loose, forward, and long. Know the difference and be able to ask for all three separately.
- There was a big emphasis all day on preparing your horse to jump before the approaching turn, that being the turn before the jump. Once you come around the turn to the fence, it’s too late to pick your canter. Recover from the fence and begin to prepare in or before the departing turn (the turn leaving the jump) and by the team you leave the turn to the next jump, have the canter you want and a canter you can successfully jump from. Be proactive.
- Remember that a short stride doesn’t mean a slow stride. A short stride should have jut as much–if not more–power as a big open stride.
- When practicing canter to halt transitions, don’t haul your horse up right away. “Ride down through the gears” going from a big canter, to a small canter, to a posting trot, to a sitting trot, to a walk that is coming from behind, and finally into the halt. The horse will get sharper on its own if you use your body correctly through each of the gears. The transition is about how well you can halt, not how fast.
- You can be forward with your body and getting ready to go over the jump without leaning. “Leaning” really means that you tipped your body forward and took your leg off. Keep your leg on and supportive while your upper body goes into jumping position, and you’re golden. You don’t have to be in the back seat to accomplish this, and in many cases you shouldn’t be in the backseat at take-off.
- On that note, your leg should be confidently communicating to them that it’s time to leave the ground. Don’t chase, but tell them to go. He mentioned that this sometimes applies more to colder blooded horses like warmbloods than it does to a hot-blooded thoroughbred, who will likely take you to the jump and over on their own, but they should still be able to take a lightly supportive leg without getting too reactive.
- If you need t pull on the back side of a jump, make sure to do so with a light seat. A heavy seat can easily turn into a counterproductive driving seat.
- Your hand and leg should be independent. The way he helped demonstrate this issue was over trot poles on a curve. It was tempting to pull on the inside hand when the outside leg encouraged the horse across the pole, but the more appropriate answering was a guiding hand, not a pulling one. The hand needs to give the horse a place to go when the leg sends them somewhere.
All of this is actually quite timely. Tomorrow morning I’ll have a lesson at Ragan’s farm which is just a little ways from my parents place. I’m pretty excited to get to have a private to really get some great feedback, and in the mean time, I’ll be reviewing my notes from these clinics to make sure I’m prepared. Does any of this speak to your or inspire you to work on something?