Monday, October 13, 2008

Sweatin in Paradise

On Oct ober 4-5 we had another fun "Sweatin In Paradise" clinic for the Aiken SPCA. This day is always a great excuse for lots of laughs and we are able to make a donation to help our town's animals. Betsy Minton did a fine job of organizing it and we had bodies from all over come once again.

This time we focused entirely on cross country riding rather than a combination of cross country and show jumping as we had done in the past.

I have to say that I was always opposed to the tadpole division in eventing, but now that I have built a tiny course, I am using the baby jumps quite a lot for the cross country teaching.They are small enough to walk and pop over and are great tools for getting a rider's confidence up at every level.

Lucinda Green taught me about walking over jumps and I think it is one of the most important cross country tools I have ever been given. Walking over the jumps teaches horses to simply sight the obstacle and pop over, to wait, to avoid using speed as any aid (actual detriment) and it is the best at teaching the riders WHERE TO BE! Balance and the USE OF THE SEAT is critical for this exercise.

So we startred everyone with that at the walk - then on to trotting and cantering. As usual, I bellowed "STRAIGHT STRAIGHT STRAIGHT!" so a lot of time was spent with a very hot iron trying to straighten out all the wobbles and kinks of this great batch of enthusiasts!

We had wobblers, crumplers, stoppers,bolters. over jumpers, under jumpers,f ast, slow, big, little.We also had grunts, groans, moans.... but mostly laughs.

Teaching is by far most effective when done on at least a 2 day scale.This way everyone can start the second day with their guns loaded.They have NO DOUBTS when they come back for the second day what their issues are and where their focus needs to be. And of course, if they are in anyway doubtful, they shall soon be reminded!

The first day is always a reintroduction to concepts and ideas. Specific tools are introduced and employed in a repetetive basis to try and solidify skills.The general idea is to get everyone to try and ride by knowledge and not by luck.

On day two, we always begin with a review of the previous day's tools. Then and only then if everyone "owns" their newfound skills they are allowed to fly out of their cages and go out into the real world. This is where the fun begins!

Once the little birdies begin to fly on their own, the doors open and everything starts all over again!

After two very serious long full days, all our participents were blasting around up and down the hills at Paradise. Again it is such a great sight to see these people use this incredible land this way - exactly why I bought this farm in the first place.

There are many, many tears out in the cross country field at Paradise.It is HUGELY difficult to keep that back field up alone.The TEARS and frustrations associated with the mowing and the machinery and the MANPOWER!(Grumble Grumble)

But,when I see the people out there jumping and having the time of their lives with their horses, I am reminded that in the end, it is well worth every tear, every hour and every dollar. I am so grateful to have found this farm and grateful for every single day that we can use and enjoy it.

Thank you Betsey Minton and to all of you that came to this year's clinic!

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