As I’m sure most of you already knew, the George Morris Horsemastership clinic took place last week, and USEF was awesome enough to put the full length videos of each session on their website for free, regardless of whether you’re a member.**Sorry y’all, that literally JUST changed.** (You can find those here.) If you haven’t already, I highly recommend watching them when you get the chance by the way. I really wanted a chance to pay close attention to each session, so I held off until this weekend, and got through Anne Kursinki’s demo ride, and the first of her flat sessions with the kids–woah it’s weird to call juniors “kids” but it feels right at just shy of 24? I watched the demo ride first while I waited for the temps to warm up a little Saturday, and then ran out to the barn feeling super motivated and inspired.
Before getting on, I let Val move around a little on the longe line, not because I thought he’d be silly, but because I hoped it would allow him to work out any stiffness a bit quicker than when I just hop right on. After I let him wtc in both directions, I popped on some side reins my mama sent home with me over Christmas on the very loosest hole. He’s been in them before, but it’s been a while and I want to give him time to adjust. After just 5-6 minutes without, and another 5-6 minutes with the reins, there was already a huge difference.
From there we proceeded to have a fabulous flat. I focused really hard on keeping my body straight, and sitting deep through my core, without digging into his back. I paid close attention to my hands and what they were actually asking, and I was rewarded with amazing work from Val. We got leg-yields and shoulder-ins where I could drop my inside rein and nothing changed, and most of the work he gave was round and soft, with minimal fussiness.
I made an effort to really vary what I was doing and utilize the whole ring throughout the ride, and before I knew it, we were 50 minutes in, and it was definitely time to call it a day after a lot of quality lateral work and heavy lifting.
Sunday, I managed to get in another lesson (what what?) and I warmed him up the same way, letting him warm himself up on the line, and again, it seemed to make a huge difference. All he needed was a quick wtc in each direction with a little leg-yielding each way and we were ready to jump.
I was worried Val might be a little goofy, since I don’t think I’ve jumped since out last lesson before Christmas. I had no reason to worry though. I guess Val knew that after your 14th thoroughbred birthday, you just have to be a grown up. I popped over a little box a couple of times with no theatrics, and then went right to the beginning of the day’s exercise, which was a trot in, four crossrail bounce on one longside. Now, typically Val is super weird about crossrails, and bounces. I was concerned he’d need a lot of leg, and possibly a second go to get through, but this sweet boy popped right through. He stared down through his knees through the whole thing, but otherwise acted as if he couldn’t have cared less.
We did that just once or twice more to get really warmed up, and then added the second half of the exercise, which was a trot in 1 to 1, with bounce rails in between and the 3rd jump not set fr the first go through, and then finally a 1 stride oxer to oxer in-and-out on the other long side, set as an oxer to a pole the first time through. Oh and the first oxer was a skinny and a brand new jump we’d never jumped. No biggee.
I shouldn’t have worried at all, because my little rockstar went on through everything no problem again. So the jumps just went up and up, and even when we struggled with getting a good rhythm between the first two grids or I waited too long into the second trot fence, Val got us out easily and cantered away without taking offense. It was kind of a blast. I loved getting a chance to really think about me for once, and I felt like I tweaked just enough that I ended really well.
Honestly there wasn’t a thing I thought he could have done better, and I’m so pleased to get to start the year on such a high note. He had a little vacation, went right back in to hard exercises through grids (which are his nemesis) set almost to our full 3’6ish schooling height, we had a crazy cold front blow through and everything felt as easy as it could and Val felt super game and easy to manage. This horse just keeps blowing me away. Don’t get me wrong, there are also days when he’s super frustrating, but those seem to be less and less frequent, and 90% of the time he’s just really cool these days.
On top of all that, I was pretty happy with my own riding (other than my perpetually too long reins) and I feel like all of the work and focus I’ve put into a correct foundation the last year really made a difference, as did working out on a regular basis.
I’m excited to think more on what Anne talked about in her sessions, and to dig into the other sessions I haven’t watched yet for more inspiration, since just the two rides already seem to have been so distinctly impacted. How are your first rides of the new year going? And how are you staying inspired to work hard?