Ragan Roberts Clinic, Day 2

This post will likely not be quite as detailed as the previous, simply because we worked on many of the same things. **Good news y’all! Just finished writing and I kept it under 2,000 words!**

Not using my leg or seat as effectively as I should have, but nicely bent horse nonetheless. Photo by Alie C.

Not using my leg or seat as effectively as I should have, but nicely bent horse nonetheless. Photo by Alie C.

We did the same first exercise with the poles and the cavaletti. Val started out a bit stiffer and more tense, but still decent. We had to do the canter cavaletti five or six times to the left because I was having trouble getting a decent canter from him at first. It was mostly because he was more tense and tired, and I was tired as well, so it was harder for me to give the ride he needed. But we worked it out and went very nicely to the right.

Still bent because I never correctly took away the bend. Photo by Alie C.

Tightish spot, but straight horse. Photo by Alie C.

The next exercise was similar to the one from the day before, and the concepts were the same, but the placement of the jump was different. The jump was parallel to the long side of the arena, set about 3.5 strides in from the rail. If you rode the right track and had the right size canter there were normally three strides after you came off the rail to get to the jump. It started as a small vertical and then slowly went up just like the day before. This was off both the left and right. While the first exercise wasn’t great, and we had trouble coming to the cavaletti right, this is where we redeemed ourselves. Even though my eye kept picking the long spot, I remembered to wait and keep my horse together for the closer distance, and Val was very responsive and patient which resulted in a really cute jump every time. Our halts on the backside were also much improved.

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Photo by Alie C.

Next up: Val tackles the deadly liverpool!

Remember how I keep bragging about how brave my horse was all weekend? Well this was one of those super proud moments. We haven’t tried to even hack too close to the liverpool at home (it’s not even in the ring right now) after the Pogo Pony debacle and I told Ragan we hadn’t yet tackled liverpools when he pulled one out. I made sure to walk by the jump as we were warming up and yield off my leg from both sides as we went by just so that he could see it, but still know he had to move off my leg around it. Ragan set the jump so that it was a reverse-face liverpool jump with a ground line. This helped create a “barrier” between the horse and the actual tarp thing so they don’t have to worry so much about it “getting” them. And what do you know, it worked! Val cantered right up, peeked the tiniest bit, jumped really round, and halted on the backside like a gentleman.

Once we were confident that all the horses (we had four on Sunday) in the group could jump the liverpool, we hopped through the one stride to make sure everyone was good there and then started course work.The course we did was not complicated, but was meant to help reinforce what we’d been working on. I should also mention that he may have thought we were the second 3’6 group on Saturday just based on the jump height and the fact that he did the same thing to another later group. But Sunday the jumps were set on the low side, which was nice for the tired horses who had also been taxed mentally the day before when the jumps shot up (I’m specifically talking about my brave little toaster who took the height in stride, despite the fact that he usually gets a much more gradual raise in height).

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So little. Barely trying, even though it tried to eat him the day before when it was set around 3’6. Photo by Alie C.

The course we did was the jump that was in the middle going toward the other rail with the longer approach, right turn around to the end of the ring and up the plank jump above. From the plank it was a forward six on the inside track to the one stride. Then it was back down the inside line with the liverpool on the in, and four strides down to a square oxer. Finally left around the end, and back up the brick, bending five to a ramped oxer with a lot of fill. It was a much more huntery course than we had done the previous day. Single-outside-inside-inside.

Val really did the whole thing almost perfect the first time through. The only less than stellar bit was the first bending line. The turn was misleading, and I turned off of the rail far to early, setting us on the outside track for the seven. We did the course again, with a better turn to the line, and with a bit of hurrying down the line we jumped out in six. This was still not great however, as the one stride was vertical to vertical, and on a less careful horse, or later in the course, this could have meant a flat jump and a rail. We jumped the line down the hill once to see the track better, and get the six nicely once, then we turned around and we just rode 1-2-3ab once more. I stayed on the rail past the corner this time, and we were finally on the perfect track for a nice six.

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Jumping out of the bending 5. Photo by Alie C.

Even Ragan didn’t have much to suggest; Val was perfect, and did everything I asked. I made a couple of errors in the one bending line, but otherwise made really good decisions, and put into practice everything I was told. In fact, after our session was over I asked if he had any suggestions for things we should work on or exercises to help get us ready to move up and just be better, but Ragan told me that I had done really well all weekend and to just keep doing what I was doing with him. I have put probably 90% of the rides on this horse at this point, and though I work with a trainer in lessons, I’ve put most of the flatwork on him, and she jumps him only if I need him schooled at a show because I’m stuck at work or something. Because this horse is basically a product of my own riding, I was floored to hear this.

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Photo by Alie C.

While I learned a ton in my own sessions, I also learned a lot in all of the other sessions which I stayed to audit/set jumps for.

  • A simple change should be organized, and should created a balanced and organized canter. You should ride a proper canter to trot transition, and then a proper trot to canter transition other wise you create more mess in the canter. This means (just like with the halting) using your seat and leg to keep the horse’s hind end under him rather than using tons of hand and getting the horse unbalanced and heavy on the forehand, then letting him “fall” into the canter again. All of this = simple changes are a good tool, and not just for a horse than can’t do a flying change. Ragan even had most of the horses who had auto changes do a simple change before they changed on their own in the warm up to ensure that the horse was listening and not just on auto-pilot.
  • Once you identify the right track, don’t change it to fix a distance problem. Fix the size/quality of the canter, or the bend/straightness, and the distance will generally fix itself.
  • It is crucial to take away the bend when the horse has left the turn so that it’s momentum is forward and not still in the turn. This one is hard to explain the way he did without a visual. But if your horse is still bent it makes sense that his momentum is not all forward.
  • If your horse is going to stop, DO NOT let him run out. A stop can be trained. Once a horse has run past the jump it is more difficult to train. On that note, the horse generally makes its decision a stride or so out. Keep this in mind on the approach, but also keep it in mind once the horse has stopped. That area just in front of the jump is where he is really forming an opinion or making a decision. Make it count. One tool Ragan gave us for stops was to have the horse back up straight away from the jump so that it can never take its eyes off of it. Once you are far enough back, pick up a trot or canter and come straight to the jump again. It worked for the green horse that was scared of the liverpool, and the kid whose horse just wasn’t playing nice.
  • When a green horse jumps something weird or straight up in the air, keep cantering like it was no big deal, and the horse will not remember it as such. If you haul up, the horse suddenly realizes something bad happened. This may cause the horse to be even more hesitant the next time. Ignoring the shenanigans and simply coming around again reinforces that it is no big deal and the horse will even out.
  • When things do start to get bad or messy, go back to what you established at the beginning of your ride or the exercise you did, because both you and the horse know it is something you’ve already accomplished.
  • In riding, like many sports, a small change can have a big effect. If something was really bad or ugly, it’s quite possible there was something small you or the horse did wrong. You don’t have to change the whole ride; think back and think “did I hold the bend too long,” “did I keep my leg on too much so the stride kept opening,” etc. Before you make a huge change, see if you can identify something small instead.
  • Always ride with more leg than hand (approximately 60/40 depending on the ride) and use the outside rein, especially on turns.
  • I also noticed that he did not say anything about stirrup length or position in the air, but this may just not have been a priority this time around.

This was so much fun, and Coraggio was amazing for hosting this clinic. I don’t know about y’all, but I think I had more fun at the clinic than I had at the past few shows. I love learning more, and clinics like this one remind me why I work so hard to be good at this sport. I was still on clinic high until like Wednesday. Of course I left my bridle at Coraggio, so Val is having an easy week until I get it back. Turns out he’s not a fan of the french link eggbut I had lying around.

All smiles all weekend - One of the other trainers/riders even pointed it out. Photo by Alie C.

All smiles all weekend – One of the other trainers/riders even pointed it out. Photo by Alie C.

3 thoughts on “Ragan Roberts Clinic, Day 2

  1. so many great takeaways (and pictures!) – Val sounds like a total superstar! i haven’t ridden in too many clinics but this makes me want to try it out again haha

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